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All eight of us crowd around the chronostasis pod. It doesn’t take the entire crew to revive someone; we could work a lot faster if we split off into groups of three, but no one, event he captain, has suggested doing that. It’s not like we’re on a time limit. And sure. If something goes wrong, having so many extra people around won’t actually help, but… here we are.

“Sam Sareff,” the Public Universal Friend reads off the pod terminal. “Thirty three years old, astronavigator. No health complications relevant to revival, no DIVR-32 geneset. Chances of successful revival… sixty five per cent.”

Captain Sands nods. “Begin the process, doctor.”

It’s not long before the revival alarm sounds and the pod opens. Most of us move back to allow the doctors to work; the Texan non-doctors all awkwardly avert their eyes. Sam looks unhealthily thin under all the wires and tubes, the drugs apparently insufficient to maintain their fat and muscle mass during chronostasis. We wait with bated breath as Lina disconnects the cerebral stimulator. It comes out easily, as expected. The doctors get to removing the lines and, when the Friend pulls the oxygen mask mask from Sam’s throat, they breathe on their own and I start breathing again, too.

The doctors lift them onto the stretcher and clip a monitor to their finger. “Regular pulse, expected blood oxygen,” Lina reports.

“So it’s successful?” the captain asks.

“We won’t know for certain until they wake up. Even then, there’s a risk period of several days where organ failure is a possibility. But they’re alive right now, yes.”

The doctors wheel the patient away, leaving the rest of us just kind of standing around awkwardly in Chronostasis Ring 3. We’re not going to revive anyone else without doctors, obviously, but nobody really wants to leave.

Denish clears his throat awkwardly. “Who will be next?”

“Our only other target in this ring is one of the engineers,” Captain Sands says. “Sunset of Sirius.”

“Sunset?” Tinera asks.

The captain shrugs.

Lina returns after about five minutes to help us revive, ah, Sunset. The engineer’s finger and toenails are well overgrown – old nails, Martian nails – but she otherwise looks like she’s simply sleeping. Large holes line her earlobes, the kinds pierced and stretched deliberately for decorative purposes. Free from jewellery for the moment, of course. Some of her hair had tangled in them; Lina carefully avoids it while she disconnects Sunset from the pod, loads her onto a stretcher, and wheels her out.

Captain Sands claps his hands together. “Alright, everyone. Somehow I doubt either doctor is going to want a third patient until they’ve run all the tests for those two, so, thirty minute break. No lurking around chronostasis rings waiting and stressing yourselves out; go and do something else. Check supplies, clean floors, read a book. Then we’ll revive the doctors.”

“Two successful revivals in the sixty per cent range,” I say, voicing what I’m pretty sure we’re all thinking. “We’re probably due a failure.”

“No, that’s a fallacy,” Tal pipes up. “The successful revival of those two doesn’t affect the chances of the next revival in any way. Besides, Amy’s revival predictions are unreliable, and also we don’t know if those revivals were successful; the chances of them never waking up due to brain damage or even post-chronostasis organ failure are still – ”

“I know, Tal. I’m just saying that we feel lucky so far, which makes me nervous.”

“Oh. I have a solution for that.”

“You do?”

“Yeah. Computer games. Come on.”

Tal wants to play some kind of base management thing, but I talk kem down to Atlantean Checkers. My negotiation is wasted, because ke still soundly kicks my arse, no matter how unsportsmanlike I am at cheesing the doublestrike rule.

Reviving the first doctor takes us to Chronostasis Ring 5. The Friend is still in the medbay supervising the two new patients, Adin steps forward to help Lina with the patient.

“Zale Hemmorin,” Lina reads from the pod terminal. “Age 22. Revival chance, sixty nine per cent.”

“Nice,” Adin says. I shoot him a curious look. “That’s a really high chance,” he clarifies. “You know, for a non-DIVR.”

“Starting revival process,” Lina announces. The rest of us shuffle back to let Lina and Adin work. As the chronostasis fluid drains away, Adin starts pulling lines from Zale’s body, and Lina reaches for the cerebral stimulator.

The blood drains from her face faster than somebody enduring a high-acceleration orbital launch. “Stimulator’s stuck.”

“How can the stimulator be stuck?!” Captain Sands asks, but the rest of us are already moving. Tal runs to get the Friend just as Zale begins to convulse. I dart forward to help Adin hold the head still and prevent Zale from tearing his cranial port out while Denish, always prepared with his tool belt, draws something to hack into the base of the chronostasis pod and cut the power. He doesn’t look up as Tinera pulls a pair of bolt cutters from his belt and cuts the lead leading to the cerebral stimulator. Zale immediately goes slack; we disconnect the remaining lines (roughly, speed is more important than delicacy), and then drag Zale out onto the floor, where Lina immediately begins CPR.

The rest of us step back to give her space. We already know it won’t work. It didn’t work for Ro Da-Bin. But she continues chest compressions while Captain Sands kneels down to breathe for Zale, and the pair keep his blood oxygenated and moving until Tal returns with the Friend and a portable respirator system. The Friend jams the respirator tube down his throat, disinfect the spot under his sternum and carefully slide the needle of the cardiac stimulator into his chest right there on the floor with the placid expression of a trauma doctor who’s done this before, and not even Tal says that it’s pointless. Even though it’s pointless.

It’s not fair, this time.

Zale Hemorin wasn’t in the ten per cent revival group. There’s not supposed to be anything wrong with his cranial port. Sure, he had a thirty one per cent chance of dying during revival, but not like this. This isn’t supposed to happen.

Something’s wrong with our ‘computer-hijacked brains’ theory.

“That was an excellent emergency response, crew,” Captain Sands says as the Friend wheels the patient away.

“We’ve lost a lot of people during revival.” Tinera grimaces at the blood streaked over the floor and chronostasis pod, evidence of our rough and rushed removal of Zale’s input and output lines. “Excuse me, I need to go throw up now.”

“Are there any more in Chronostasis Ring 5?” I ask.

Captain Sands shakes his head. “Rings 2 and 4 for the others.”

The rest of us all relax slightly. Maybe we were wrong about the ten per cent category, but so far everyone with a bad cranial port has been in rings 1 and 5, so maybe… well, no, that doesn’t mean anything; we’ve only encountered a few with ports like that. We assumed they were all in 1 and 5 because the ten per cent revival category were in 1 and 5, but Zale had a sixty nine per cent chance and still had a stuck cranial port, so…

We can puzzle all that out later. We already have a list of candidates, so unless I want to halt everything and explain the whole brain-hijacking computer thing to Captain Sands here and now (which strikes me as a phenomenally bad idea), they’re either revivable or they’re not. The question of how we could’ve been so wrong about Zale can wait, whether or not it happens again.

I really, really hope it doesn’t happen again.

“Hopefully we have more luck with the other doctor,” Captain Sands says. “Chronostasis ring 2, everyone.”

Lina brings a portable respirator with her this time, just in case of another failed revival, but it isn’t necessary; she wheels the correctly revived sleeping doctor to the medbay and returns to revive the other patient in Chronostasis Ring 2, the Public Universal Friend Three.

This is the potential crew member I’m most curious about. Physically, it couldn’t be more different than the Friend I already know; it’s small, dwarfed by its own chronostasis pod, with coal-dark skin and hair as tightly curled as Tal’s, the kind of hair that people wear in afros or twist into locks. The scars along the back of its jaw on either side of its head are too neat and too symmetrical to be accidental; some kind of long-healed surgery. It’s easily lifted onto the stretcher.

“How’s our medbay capacity?” Captain Sands asks.

“We put Zale in the other medbay,” Lina says, “so there’s room for this one in our other Friend’s medbay. But then they’ll be at capacity for that medbay.”

“So if the next revival goes off without a hitch, there’ll be a delay before number seven because you’ll need to supervise them.”


“Alright. We’ll do the last engineer next, then.”

Clover Dais, the engineer, is a DIVR, so we’re sort of surprised when ke doesn’t start breathing after kes oxygen mask is removed. (We shouldn’t be, of course; even DIVRs have almost a one in five chance of dying.) Without a stuck cerebral stimulator and with a portable life support system on hand, getting kem on life support is much easier than with Zale, although it’s obvious that this kind of field work isn’t Lina’s area of expertise; she bites her lip as she forces the needle of the cardiac stimulator into kes chest and looks somewhat surprised when it works. Clover doesn’t require any more supervision than Zale once on proper life support in the medbay, so Lina is able to come back to revive our last new crewmate.

Renn Sunn. The psychologist. My replacement.

Well, that’s not an entirely fair statement. I haven’t exactly done much work as the ship’s psychologist; most of my work so far has been as the captain and head gardener; I’m already replaced as the former and probably still hold the title of the latter. But having an actual psychologist that isn’t me is going to be a huge relief.

I hope he survives.

Dr Sunn is a tall man with prominent, angular cheekbones and skin like polished oak. I’d have called him pale, if the Public Universal Friend’s skintone hadn’t permanently altered my idea of what pale skin looks like. He has a natural beauty and symmetry similar to that of our captain, the kind common to Tarandrans. Although unlike the captain, he has a full complement of fingernails. Like Tinera, he had his head depilated at some point, and there’s no stasis-grown hair to complicate the removal of his cerebral stimulator and breathing mask. I’m almost expecting something new and horrible to happen, like the ship will save some dramatic, disastrous change in our situation for the very last patient, but he’s removed from the pod and wheeled out to the medbay without trouble.

Five survivors, assuming all goes well. We were lucky. Or one could way we were unlucky, as more crew might be a threat to my existing crewmates, but Captain Sands is going to fill the ship regardless, so less deaths can only be a good thing. A new astronavigator, an engineer, another Public Universal Friend, a doctor, and a psychologist. Captain Sands is right about one thing – it should make the ship easier to run.

“Which two of you have the most medical experience?” Sands asks. The five of us (the two doctors already gone) look at each other.

“I do much first aid,” Denish eventually ventures.

“Great. Anyone else?”

“Um,” Adin says. “I know some biological theory. But I don’t have much practical – ”

“Good enough, You two are Lina and the Friend’s medical assistants until our new crewmates are ready to be up and about. Aspen, parcel out Denish and Adin’s normal duties among us non-doctors, I want the medbays to be their primary focus.”

“Yessir.”  I take that opening to leave, but there’s no way I’m going to be able to focus on the job I’ve just been assigned. I had thought we’d had this place mostly figured out, but since the cooling system failed and we woke Sands, there’s just been more uncertainty. Why was a hull panel disturbed on Chronostasis Ring 5? If it was our spaceburied engineer, what did he do? Is there anything we can do for our two ‘dead’ crew members, beyond letting the machines keep their bodies alive indefinitely? Most worryingly, how does somebody with a revival chance of sixty nine per cent have a structurally compromised cranial port? Is our entire hypothesis on the ten per cent revival group wrong?

What is going on?

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