NaNoWriMo 2009: The Cryonaught
This is a piece of writing I did for NaNoWriMo 2009, it’s very raw and completely unedited. I’ve done a little bit of formatting so that it appears okay on this blog but aside from that it is as it was written in November 2009. I didn’t write this with Chapters in mind so it’s split up into a series of scenes rather than chapters some are a couple of line long some much longer. If I were to go through this and edit it I would probably break it into chapters.
This is an unfinished work, it’s 9,351 words which is some way away from the target for a NaNoWriMo. I’m hoping to finish it off or at least round it off at some point. If I do so I will say so here.
Bubbles… A faint, muffled beeping noise… The warmth slowly seeping into his limbs… Where is he? He’s floating, his vision blurry, all he can see is blue.
Suddenly a gushing noise, he’s being sucked forward, he falls to his knees. Whatever he was floating in spills to floor and he’s bathed in air, it’s cold but he can’t breathe. His gag reflex is kicking in, instinctively he reaches to his mouth, there is something sticking out of it, a long pipe. He pulls at the tube, it’s stuck in his throat but slowly it comes out, it feels like he’s throwing up, he is.
His arms instinctively go to his chest as he takes in his first breath of fresh air, there are wires stuck to his chest and tubes sticking out of him, he rips the wires off, the beeping becomes a solid tone, then is silenced.
In the background there is a voice, someone is talking to him, but he can’t make out the words. He looks up his vision is starting to clear. He can see colours and shapes but no definition, the room he’s in is white, there is a person shaped thing in front of him, it’s moving towards him and it’s speaking to him but he can’t make out what it’s saying.
He tries to stand up, but his legs aren’t having any of it. He falls to the floor, the person moves quickly towards him steady’s him and tries to help him to his unwilling feet, they fail.
More talking, shouting this time, it seems not to be directed at him this time though. Other person shapes enter the room his eyesight is clearing up and he thinks he can make out lab coats. He’s manhandled into a chair, and someone is fussing over him, checking him out, he notices that he’d been starting to feel cold when someone drapes a towel around him.
They are talking to him again, he can hear them he can even make out the words but they don’t make any sense. He tries to respond, but he can tell that all that is coming out is gibberish.
Slowly he comes to his senses, his vision clears, he can hear the people around him just as he hears another gushing sound come from in front of him, there is a rush of blue liquid from a large tube on the wall, a man follows the liquid and falls to his knees, there are tubes and pipes connected to him. The man is looking around as if he is seeing the world for the first time.
His last thoughts before he passes out are, where and who the hell am I?
* * *
He wakes up lying on a hard bed. His eyes slowly open, he can see clearly now.He’s in a well lit room the area around his bed is cordoned off by a light blue curtain.
He tries to sit up, he’s a little stiff but he succeeds.
“Hello? Is anyone there?” He calls out.
From behind the curtain a voice pipes out “Ah, you’re awake! Fantastic”
The curtain parts and a man wearing a lab coat with thick rimmed glasses comes in. The man’s hair starting to gray, he thinks he’s in his early fifties but he be sure. Most importantly he has a friendly face and somewhere deep in the recesses of his memory there is a spark of recognition, he knows this man, he likes this man, he trusts this man.
He doesn’t know what question to ask first, where is he, why is he he and for that matter who he is and why can’t he remember anything…
“I don’t remember…” Is all that escapes from the cloud of questions buzzing about his head.
“Er, I’m not sure I understand.” The man in the lab coat looks at him oddly. “What don’t you remember”
“Anything” It’s the best answer he can come up with.
“You don’t remember anything? What nothing at all?”
“No… Not really” He wishes that he could explain better but without knowing what he knew he isn’t quite sure what he can’t remember.
“Well you remember how to speak that’s a start, do you remember your name? How old you are? Your favourite colour?”
“No… Wait” Something is coming back to him, he can feel a memory surfacing like a bubble rising slowly to the top of a lava lamp. “My favourite colour, I think it’s… Red…” His face screws up in confusion. He’s elated that he has at least one memory to hold onto.
“Hmm, that’s odd I was only joking when I said that we’ll have to run some tests to see if it damaged your brain…” The man in the lab coat looks away as if in though and absent mindedly pushes his glasses up his nose with his index finger.
“It?” He’s worried now what could he have been involved in that might have damaged his brain? And why they hell would he voluntarily be in a situation that in which his brain could be damaged, he liked his brain or at least he was fairly sure he did.
“The experiment? Oh of course… You don’t remember… Where do I start.” He looks away again his hand moves to his chin and stays there for a few seconds there is a sharp intake of breath followed by a slow exhale.
“You volunteered for an experiment for NASA, we’re studying the effects of putting people into cryogenic stasis…” A smile creeps onto his his face “In fact you’re one of the first human subjects and it looks like you’ve made it through with only minor side effects”
“Cryo-What? The first human… Wait what side effects?”
“Cryogenic Stasis is uh… It’s basically putting people into suspended animation by freezing them, it’s dangerous so obviously we didn’t start with people, that would have been unethical. Me started with frogs, then we moved onto mamels: mice, then I think we did a dog and a chimpanzee… But you and Andrews were the first people we’ve tried it on, you’ve been frozen for 6 months”
“Andrews? Who’s Andrews and what about the side effects?”
“Airman John Andrews, he’s the other person who volunteered for the study. As for the side effects well the only one I’ve noticed so far is your amnesia, or had you forgotten about that” He chuckled to himself at the awful joke and continued “Of course now you are awake we’ll run some more tests to make sure everything is hunky-dory” this was accompanied by another smile and a fist pump in the air. “I’ll have to write up a report for Colonel Fletcher, afterwards I’m sure he’ll want to debrief you and Andrews”
“Wait… Airman Andrews? Colonel Fletcher? Am I… in the military?” Another memory starts to bubble to the surface he has a clear image of himself in the cockpit of a plane. “I’m in the Airforce aren’t I?”
“Does any other organization have Airmen?”
Another bubble rises to the surface “Yes the Navy and I think the Coast Gaurd”
“Well look at you being all smart, I guess you are one of those amnesiac who can’t remember thier own name but can recite the state capitals in backwards alphabetical order”
“I wouldn’t go that far… I don’t rember much, but sometimes stuff just comes back to me, it’s weird, I can’t explain it. And on the subject of remembering my name. Who the hell am I?”
“Oh, I’m sorry… It didn’t occur to me to introduce er… Yourself to you, how stupid of me.” the man in the lab coat scratches his head smiling innocently “You are Roger Moss, Sergeant Roger Ross of the United States Airforce”
“And while we’re on the subject of introduction who exactly are you?”
“Sorry how rude of me, I’m Dr. Ben Wilson see it says so right here” He points to the badge on his lab coat, it said Dr. B. Wilson “I’m the medical advisor to the reaserch program, you can call me Ben if you want”
“Hi Ben, It’s good to meet you” Roger puts his hand out to shake Ben’s.
“I guess it’s good to be met by you, I’m not really meeting you, I met you about 8 months ago… Anyway I’ll let you rest for a bit, I need to check on Andrews. When I’m done We’ll need to run some tests. If you need anything just push that button over there, it’ll call a nurse. I’ll tell them to send some food through for you, you’ve not eaten in months.”
* * *
“We’ve scanned your brain, and there doesn’t seem to be any sign of brain damage, we can only assume that the memory loss is temporary. You’ll probably be back to normal in a couple of days of so, the fact that some stuff is starting to come back is a good sign though. The amnesia must just be how your brain is coping with having been put on ice for 6 months. We don’t really know if the animal subjects lost their memory or not, you can’t ask a chimpanzee what it’s name is can you?” Ben chuckled to himself. “We do want to keep you under observation for a week or so, to make sure that nothing untoward happens to you and to give your memory a chance to come back. But after that we’ll let you get in touch with your wife and you can go home”
A dark sense of foreboding came over Roger at the mention of his wife, but he didn’t know why.
“My wife? I have a wife?”
Ben picks up the clip board and scans down it. “Yeah it says here that you are married to a Stacy Moss. You’ve got two kids too Randall and Sophie, oh and it looks like Sophie’s birthday is only a couple of weeks away!” A look of excitement filled Bens eys at the mention of Sophie’s birthday. “Wont that be great! Daddy coming home for her birthday I’m sure she’ll be thrilled”
“My kids… I… Do you have any photo’s of them there?”
“Sorry Roger only photo I have is the one we took of you just before you were put on ice, and you litterally haven’t aged a day…” Ben stopped and frrowed his brow in thought. “We do have your personal Items though, you might have a picture in your wallet? And if you don’t shame on you what kind of dad doesn’t keep a picture of his little angels in his wallet?” Ben was wagging his finger accusingly at Roger regardless of the fact he had no evidene one way or the other as the the existence of said photograph.
“Where are they?” Roger wondered why he hadn’t asked for his stuff beforehand, then thought to himself that is was probably because he’s forgotten that he’d ever had any.
“Two secs I’ll grab them” Ben jumped up and strided out of the room and came back a few minutes later carrying a large red box the size of a shoe box. “Here you go” He handed it over triumphantly.
Roger took the box from Ben and looked at it, it was metal box with hinges on the back and on the front a combination lock. “Shit! It’s got a combination lock on it.”
“Oh yeah sorry, we did that for security, I guess we weren’t expecting you to lose your memory while in stasis… Do you want me to call the Janitor, I’m sure he’d be able to break it open for you”
“No… Wait a second” Roger could feel that familiar bubbling feeling in the back of his mind. He was remembering something, fingers crossed it was the combination to this lock. “I think it’s got something to do with a memorable date or something” He looked at the lock it was a simple combination lock with a dial that went from 1 to 100.
“Maybe it’s a birthday? Your’s or one of your kids?”
“Whats my birthday?”
“It says here you were born in 1984 Sunday the 24th of February”
For some reason Roger knew that wasn’t it. “No that’s not it”
“Aren’t you going to try it?”
“No I just know it’s not it, how about the my kids when were they born”
Ben started leafing though the sheets on the clip board. “Um it looks like Randall was born on the 4th of June 2006 and Sophie was born on the 17th of November 2007″
Roger started furiously spinning the dial:
“Maybe you used the brittish data system for the combinations? That alwas made more sense to me, they are in the right order?”
Roger tried again:
Then it hit him, the bubble hit the surface of his mind and he knew:
12-17-86: Click the lock opened and Roger opened the box, Inside was a set of keys, a mobile phone and a wallet. Roger picked out the wallet and gingerly opened it. There were a number of credit cards and his drivers licence but he didn’t see any photos. Wait… The wallet had a flap, the credit card holder flipped backwards and revealed two plastic windows to his past, one a picture of Stacy his wife, she was smiling and her smile almost brought a tear to his eye, he recognised her, and he knew that he was head over heels in love with her. The window held two pictures one of a one year old girl with a stuffed bear that was almost as big as she was, and one of a little boy in his pyjamas in mid air jumping on a trampoline. They were his kids, and like his wife he recognised them, the three of them were a part of him, and as he wondered how he could ever have forgotten a tear came to his eyes.
* * *
Roger spent a week being put through test after test to ensure that nothing was wrong with him, the only people he had any exposure with were Dr. Ben and Ingrid, the nurse who brought him his meals, he was never told her surname.
Roger was told that they’d decided to keep him mostly in isolation to monitor the return of his memory, reasoning that someone could mention something that might create a false memory which would not be ideal.
Over the course of the week Rogers memories returned to him, at first slowly, but as time went on the his rate of recall accelerated untill by the end of the week he was pretty sure he was back to normal, or at least he couldn’t think of anything that he couldn’t remember that he would have remembered anyway.
The strongest memories came back first ones with particular emotional significance, his wife his kids his home life. He remembered meeting Stacy in the diner she worked in “The Box Car Diner” a racing themed diner just a few miles down the road from the airbase he was stationed at. He was on leave from the base and on his way home to visit his dad in Conneticuit, he stopped off at the diner for a cup of coffee and a burger and when he left his heart stayed there.
Stacy and Roger hit it off, whenver he could find an excuse to leave the base he’d go to the diner for food, it took him twoo weeks to pluck up the courage to ask her out.
He remembered thier first date, dinner and a movie, they’d gone to a fancy chinese restaurant called the “Lucky Empress Restaurant” then theyd gone to see a Horror Film at the picture house, his ploy worked by the end of the film she was clutching onto him for protection and jumping at every sound and shaddow.
He’d been a gentleman and dropped her off at her “Grandma Annabelle’s” house where she stayed, he remembered thier first kiss on the porch, and it being inturrupted by her grandma opeing the door. He’d tried to leave but she invited him in for pecan pie and he didn’t want to screw things up.
He remembered staying up till 2 in the morning chatting to Grandma Annabelle. Her late husband, Stacy’s grandpa Billy, had been in the Airforce, he’d fought in the “The War”, and grandma Annabelle repeatedly told Roger how much he’s have liked Roger.
He remembered thier first night alone together, he’d rented a suite in a fancy hotel, they’d had dinner and champagne, they made love, it was Stacy’s first time.
He remembered the phone call… Stacy telling him he was pregenant, with his child, he remembered the joy, the fear, the confusion, how it was happening too fast for him. Sure he’d loved her then, as he did now, but this was too fast.
He remembered going home to conneticuit, to tell his dad that he was going to be a father. He remembered meeting up with some old friends from school. Matt, Debbie, Joel, and Beth. He’d had a huge crush on Beth in highschool.
He remembers the first beer of the night, the second, the third. He remembers that there were more than three but not how many. He remembers waking up naked with a naked Beth next to him under the covers. He remembers the fear, the guilt the remorse.
He remembers the phone call, the confession, the argument, the crying. He remembers the appology, the promises. He remembers proposing to Stacy over the phone. He remembers flying back to her that night and giving her his grandmothers engagement ring. He remembers tears and joy.
He remembers the wedding, how beutifull Stacy looked in her dress white as snow, the baby wasn’t showing yet. He remembers Stacy’s belly swelling like a giant balloon and her looking all the more beautiful for it. He remembers the trip to the emergency room, he remembers every minute of the 12 hour labour he remembers those magical words: “Congratulations Mr. Moss It’s a Boy”.
He remembers the look in Stacy’s eyes, falling in love with her all over again as she held Randall in her arms.
He remembers the shocking realization of how much it cost to have a baby, all the extra things you needed. He remembered Stacy telling him that she was pregnant again. He remembers the discussion, it wasn’t planned, should they keep it, could they afford another child so soon. He remembered Stacy adamantly refusing to even considder giving the baby up. He remembered all his aprehension falling to the wayside when he saw his little angel Sophie.
He remembers the meeting with the bank manager, the loan, having to scrimp and save. He remembers not being able to afford the presents he wanted to get Randall for Christmas, the shame he felt.
He remembers argueing with Stacy because they couldn’t afford to go for a meal in a restaurant for thier anniversary. He remembers leaving kids at grandma Annabelle’s and cooking for her instead, and it turning out better than a restaurant.
He remembers seeing the poster on the notice board in the base:
Participants wanted for experimental research, participants will be well rewarded.
He remembers applying to be a participant, them telling him that they’d pay him $10,000 dollars over his salary. He remembers them telling him just how well his family would be looked after in the unlikely chance of anything happening to him.
He remembers them telling him that after a month of prep work that he’d be out of touch with his family for 6 months.
He remembers telling Stacy, her eyes lighting up when he mentioned the money, and then her mood darkening when he said how long he’d be away for.
He remembers the argument, the shouting the screaming. The money didn’t matter he was thier father, he’d miss Randy’s birthday, how could he do that? He remembers storming, staying in a hotel, he was doing the right thing, he was sure of it, they needed the money, he’d seen the state of thier finances, they really needed the money.
He rememberes going into the base, signing an non disclosure agreement and some release forms, the phone call home, the silence, telling Stacy that he loved her and that he was doing this for her and the kids and just hearing her sobbing on the other end of the line. He remembers her barely managing an I love you too through her tears. He remembers how happy that made him feel and how sad he was that he wasn’t going to hear her voice again for 7 months.
He remembers being introduced to Andrews, the only other person selected for the experiment. A boistrous man, said he was the son of a senator, that he’d refused promotions that had been offered him, said he’d wanted to earn his rank himself and not have it handed to him based on who’s son he was.
He remembers the vigourous training, more intense than his airforce training, it was the same training they put astronaughts through, he remembers going to bed every night for a month broken hugging a picture of Stacy.
He remembers being introduced to Dr. Ben Wilson, and having the experiment explained to him. This was to be the first stage of the Human testing, if it was successfull they would do more. They were testing a stasis chamber that would put Roger and Andrews in suspended animation. It was completely safe there hadn’t been a single fatality in the animal testing since they’d perfected the technique.
He remember how excited Dr. Ben was, how he talked about using this to explore the stars, to go further than any man had ever gone.
He remembers being shown into the room with the stasis capsules and entering the capsule, the last thing he remembers is the capsule filling up with a blue liquid and him drifting off to sleep.
* * *
Roger is driving home from the airport, he’s passed by a toy store and a florist and picked up an action figure for Randy, a doll for Sophie and some flowers and chocolates for Stacy. As he nears his house he can feel the apprehension building up inside him, he thinks back to that phone call with stacy, to him that was a week ago, to Stacy half a year, she’s had time to deal with him being gone, he’s not. Is she angry at him for abandoning her and the kids? does she understand that he did it for them?
He pulls into their driveway, Stacy’s car isn’t there, she’s not in. A paranoid thought creeps into Rogers mind what if she’s moved away, would he ever be able to find her? He gets out of the car and walks towards the door, his hands trembling with the keys, maybe she’s changed the locks? He sighs a sigh of relief as the keys slide into the lock and smoothly turn unlocking the door. He opens the door and enters the house. He is greeted with only silence.
“Hello? Anyone home?” There is no response.
He looks around the house, there are toys strewn on the living room floor, and there are lefovers in the fridge, somone is still living here. As he closes the fridge door he see’s the calendar.
Monday 9th November “Lunch With Grandma Annabelle”.
Thats where she is, with her gran, and she’s probably got the kids with her too. He leaves the house gets in his car and drives to Grandma Annabelle’s house, as he nears the house he see’s Stacy’s car parked outside, she’s here, she’s defniately here.
He gets out of the car, picks up the chocolate the flowers and bag with the toys and walks slowly up the driveway towards the door.
His finger pauses hovering in front of the doorbell, he’s not brought anything for Grandma Annabelle… He decides he’ll give her the chocolates and Stacy the flowers. He pushes the doorbell and waits…
* * *
As the door slowly opens he sees Grandma Annabelle through the widening doorway. The look of surprise on her face turns to a heart warming smile.
“Hi there Granny long time no see, Is Stacy here, I brought you some chocolates” Roger presents the chocolates to her, and smiles sheepishly.
“Roger, oh Mary mother of God I wasn’t expecting to see you. Yes yes of course Stacy is here with the kids we were just about to have lunch. Come in, come in I’ll set a place for you at the table”
Roger walks into the house stacy is at the dinner table Randy and Sophie are there too in thier high chairs. Stacy looks up and see’s him, her jaw drops, for a moment she looks like she’s seen a ghost, then her expression turns into the biggest smile he’s ever seen. She one her feet and within seconds she’s in his arms hugging him.
“ROGER, you’re back it felt like we’d never see you again!” She’s holding onto him tightly as if he might run away or disapear if she let go, he returns her embrace and kisses her on the cheek, he’s missed her too but to him he’s only been away a month or so and for most of the last he could only barely remember her.
“I’m back sweetheart, I love you, I’m back”
After what seems like an age she starts to loosen her grip and looks him in the face. “Where were you I know you said you’d be away for six months but you didn’t call or even write, where the well were you?”
“I’m sorry sweetheart but I’m not actually allowed to tell you where I was. It’s a government secret, and where I was I couldn’t contact anyone, I’m really sorry you know if I could have gotten in touch I would have.”
“Oh” She pauses “Right…” It’s like she doesn’t know what to say to that, probably because she doesn’t know what to say to that. “Well you’d better come sit down at the table” she beackons him to the table.
“Dadddy! You’re back!” Randy yells in joy when he see’s his father. “Where were you you were gone for ever!”
“Hey there Randy you’ve grown since the last time I saw you” Roger says tousling Randy’s Hair “I was on a secret mission for the government I’m sorry but I can’t tell you what I was doing”
“Were you on a rocket ship? Were there aliens? Daddy were you fighting aliens?” Randy shouts excitedly.
“Not exactly no Randy I wasn’t fighting aliens, but it was a secret mission and if I was fighting aliens I’d have to tell you I wasn’t anyway” Roger says with an exaggerated wink to Randy.
Randy looks confused for a second and then realising what his father was implying says “Oh” and winks back at his father like they are sharing a super secret.
“Anyway I bought you all presents!” Rodger says handing the flowers to Stacy the action figure to Randy and the doll to Sophie. As he’s doing so he realizes that the action figure he bought Randy is an “Alien Defence Force” action figure, and chuckles to himself at least that corroborates with his story.
Roger sits down just as Granny Annabelle is coming in with the roast chicken, Roger is really looking forward to this, he’s not had home cooking in months and Granny Annabelle’s cooking is some of the best home cooking he’s ever had.
* * *
Roger has been granted leave untill just after the new year so he can focus on getting his family life back on track.
For the first couple of days things are a bit tense between Stacy and Roger and stacy, but things soon settle into the old routine, it helps that they have a birthday party to organise for Sophie, a common cause for them both to rally behind.
Roger and Stacy have to juggle throwing a party for Sophie with not making Randy jealous that he’s not the center of attention. The party goes off fairly well except for the clown they hired, the minutes he enters the room Sophie starts crying and won’t stop until he leaves. Roger asks him to entertain the other kids in the back yard while they try to calm Sophie down, Stacy worries that she’s going to be scarred for life and might need councelling Roger tells her not to worry, she’s just not used to clowns it all.
* * *
Months go by Roger goes back to work, they live close enough to the base for him not to have to stay on the base, which is good for Roger as he gets to see Stacy and the kids every evening.
They decide to put the extra money into a high interest gaining account to go towards the kids college fund, it means they can’t touch it now but it’ll help the kids in the future.
* * *
Roger arrives at his desk at 8am to find a sealed envelope on his waiting for him.
Printed on the cover is “For the eyes of Staff Sergeant Roger Moss Only, TOP SECRET Destroy After Reading”
Roger opens the envelope in it is a letter from Colonel D. Fletcher:
I hope this letter finds you well, if you recall you were involved in a scientific study on behalf of the Airforce. We’ve recieved authorization to initiate the next phase of the study and you have been selected for participation in it.
You are to report tomorrow to the office of Dr. B. Wilson who will brief you on your new assignment.
We have already cleared this with your commanding officer, you may clear out your desk and go home to spend the rest of the day with your family. A car will be sent to pick you up at 0700 hours tomorrow morning.
Roger was confused, by his understanding he’d signed up for the 6 month study that was it. How could he be assigned to a new phase of the study, surely he’s have to volunteer again for that?
Roger takes the letter to the shredded and puts it through it, and then goes to confirm it with his commanding officer, Major Hughes.
Hughes confirms that he’s recieved orders from upon high that Roger is to be transfered to a Top Secret project, and tells Roger that he doesn’t know anything else, he’s tried to find out what was going on but he didn’t have the clearance to find out.
Major Hughes asks Roger if he can fill him in, Roger knows he can’t and tells Hughes as much.
Roger goes back to his desk, clears it out into a regulation cardboard box and drives home.
* * *
Roger spent the drive home wondering what the next phase of the study was going to be? More tests? Were the going to put him on ice again? He wasn’t sure that his marriage could survive him being away for another six months. He’ll just tell Dr. Wilson that he wants to opt out of the study. Dr. Wilson seemed like a good guy, he’d be sure to let Roger go, they’d find somone else to participate.
When Roger got home Stacy was in the living room reading a book, the kids were napping on the sofa. Stacy was surprised to see Roger home so soon.
“Honey why are you home so early, are you feeling okay?” She Asked.
“Yeah I’m fine, I got told to take the rest of the day off, I’ve been reassigned” He took in a deep breath he had to tell her something “Sweetheart you remember that study that I took part in a few months ago?”
“Of course I do you were away for 7 months, why do you ask” there was a look of dread on Stacy’s face as if she knew what was coming.
“Well I’ve been assigned to work on it again, when I got into the office today there was a letter on my desk it said I’d been transferred and was to clear out my desk and take the rest of the day off, they are coming to pick me up tomorrow morning.”
“WHAT!” Stacy jumps to her feet and throws the book on the floor. “So what you are just going to disappear off the face of the earth for another 6 to 7 months?”
Roger took a step back he was expecting her to upset not angry. “Sweet heart I didn’t ask for this. I just got the letter today. as far as I’m concerned I’m done with that project, I’m just going to to go there tomorrow and tell them thanks but no thanks”
“And what if they say no? What are you going to do then? Just leave me here with two kids to look after all by myself for another 6 months?” “How the hell do you think the kids are going to cope with thier daddy just up and leaving, again? Last time it was hard enough, Sophie was too young to notice but Randy was asking me every day where his daddy was, he knows you’re in the military he was worried sick you were away fighting some place, worried you’d been killed”
“Sweet heart it’s not going to come to that, I’m just going to tell them I’m not interested, I volunteered last time you remember, I’ll be back before you know it. It’ll be a couple of days tops”
“You’d better tell them that.” She was starting to lose steam, she could see they were both on the same side, and that there was no point in argueing.
“Listen honey how about for tonight we forget about tomorrow and we all go for Pizza my treat”
“We can’t, I’m working tonight at the diner”
“Well then phone in sick, how often do I buy you pizza?” He smiled jokingly at her.
“Roger you know we can’t afford for me to call in sick, I make little enough as it is working in the diner.” She paused for a couple of seconds and then brightened up “But, Denise was looking for to swap a shift for next Tuesday, she’s got a blind date with some guy she met on the internet and she didn’t check the rota before she made plans. I’ll call her see if she can cover for me tonight if I do her Tuesday shift.”
Stacy called Denise and managed to arrange a shift swap. Roger sat down next to her on the sofa, and what started as a cuddle end up with the two of them retreating to the bedroom so they wouldn’t wake up the kids.
* * *
Roger was up at 6 to get ready, he showered got dressed and briefly woke Stacy up so he could kiss her goodbye. He wasn’t worried, he sort this all out and be back within a couple of days.
He left the house at 5 to 7 and there was an Jeep waiting outside for him. He got in the Jeep and it took him to the airport.
* * *
“Corporal Fletcher I’d like to withdraw my participation from this program, I’m sorry but that first six months was just a little too much for my family”
“I’m sorry you feel that way staff seargeant but I can’t let you withdraw, we need you to participate in the program, and you signed a document stating that you would participate in the program to it’s conclusion”
“I did what?” Roger was dumfounded “I’m sorry, with all due respect Sir. I didn’t sign anything to that effect Sir.”
“Yes you did it’s right here in black and white, the release form you signed clearly states that you agree to participate in the program to it’s conclusion to the best of your abbility unless you are are prevented from doing so by a medical condition”
Roger didn’t remember signing anything to that effect, but the release for had been a long document and it’s possible he’s missed that clause while skimming it. “What if I choose not to participate”
“I’m going to be frank with you, we need to you participate, and we have a document that you signed that says that you are going to participate. Also you are in the military son we say ‘jump’ you say ‘how high?’ you don’t get to pick an choose when you follow orders.”
“What happens if I refuse sir?”
“Well if you choose not to comply with a direct order from a superior officer well have to court-martial you for insubordination. Best case you get dismissed from active duty with a dishonourable discharge and lose your military pension, pay and benefits. Worst case you get put in prison, you wouldn’t want that to happen would you?”
“No Sir I wouldn’t, is there no way I can get out of this? I really don’t want to be away from my family for anothe 6 months.”
“Oh you won’t be away for 6 months this time son”
A sigh of releif escaped from Roger. “Thats good, how long would I be away for?”
Roger was struck aback he was so shocked he it took him almost a minute to formulate his reply. “I’m sorry Sir. Did you just say that I would be put in stasis for 5 years?”
“Thats what I said, 5 whole years, oh and you won’t be stuck in that dingy lab this time neither. You see we’ve been working with the space agency, you’re going to be frozen in stasis for 5 years while in orbit around the earth”
“5 years, in stasis, in space… What am I supposed to tell my family Sir? I’ve got a wife and two kids.”
“Oh they’ll be looked after son, don’t you worry about it. You see we’re compensating your family for your time away. Not only do they get your Airforce salary, but they get $500 tax free per family member for every month you are participating in this program. You can’t beat that can you?”
“But I’m not going to see my wife or my kids for 5 years sir, my kids are going to grow up while I’m away, thats not fair”
“Listen Son, do you know who you work for?”
“Yes Sir the US Airforce”
“And do you know what the Airforce does son?”
“We provide air support in times of conflict Sir.”
“Thats it son we fight in wars, you ever been in an actual war zone son?”
“No sir I was still going through my training when the Iraq conflict was happening and I never got deployed”
“Well then you don’t know what it’s like being in the military, I tell you I’ve been in Nam, Afghanistan, and Iraq. the boys out there didn’t get to see their families either, plus they ran the risk of being killed at any moment, your going to sitting frozen on a space station, it’s the safest place you could be don’t you go complaining about not seeing your family for five years, lotta the boys that get sent to war zones never get to see thier families ever again”
Roger couldn’t think of a counter argument, he’d been stumped, he didn’t want to participate in the experiment but he also didn’t want to go through a military court-matial. If he was dishonourably discharged he’s have serious trouble finding another job that paid anywhere near his military pay, and him and Stacy were struggling to cope with just that, he’d fall behind on the housing payments which would mean the bank would reposses thier home. As the whole nightmare scenario played it’self out in his head, he resolved that he would just have to accept his fate. He had only one question.
“What am I going to tell my wife sir, if this mission is top secret and I can’t tell her about it, how am I going to explain to her that I’m going to be gone for 5 years with no contact?”
“That son is up to you, just remember that it is a top secret mission and you will be in some serious shit if you do tell her anything about it.”
* * *
Roger was dreading this phone call it took him an hour three hours to work up the courage to call Stacy.
“Hi Stacy it’s Roger how are you?”
“Roger, Are you okay? You sound really Down” She knew, she could tell, she could always read him like a book.
“Uh, Stacy I told them I didn’t want to participate in the program anymore…”
“Thats great, so you’re coming home? when will you be back? I’ll get the kids we can meet you at the airport”
“No Stacy, thats the thing, I told them and they said something about me having signed a form that meant that I couldn’t back out”
“What? when did you sign this?”
“When I first signed up, I thought I was only signing up for the 6 months, apparently the release form I sign has me in for the duration of the program”
“It what? But you said you were going to just tell them that you didn’t want to do it, you were just going to quit”
“I tried to do that, they said that I’d be disobeying a direct order, and that if I did they’d put me up for court-martial.”
“What does that mean?”
“It’s like being put before a court but there are extra rules becasue you’re in the military”
“So they’d kick you out of the Airforce”
“Thats the best case scenario, they kick me out with a dishonourable discharge and I lose my military benefits”
“Well go for that then just leave”
“Honey you know I can’t leave, no one would hire me if I ws kicked out of the Airforce, and besides now is a really bad time to be looking for a job.”
“We’ll figure out a way, you just tell them they can take that airforce job and stuff it”
“Stacy, a dishonourable discharge is the best case, there is a chance that I could be put in prison, this is the military they don’t just let you disobey orders whenever you want, I could get tried for desertion. besides we can’t afford not to have the income my job brings in, we’d lose the house.”
“Okay, so you go away for another 6 months, we’ll have to cope, at least you’ll be back after that, right?”
“Thats the other thing, they want me to be away for longer than 6 months this time, this time it’s 5 years”
“5 YEARS! How the hell can they expect you to be away from your family for 5 years! Thats crazy!”
“Thats what I told them, they wouldn’t back down, they told me I was in the military and thats what the military do. At least I won’t be in a war zone, I should be back safe and sound at the end of it”
“Oh thats a consolation, I’ve still got to raise two kids all by myself for five years, two kids who are going to forget who thier daddy is, you’ve already been away for a quarter of poor Sophie’s life, you are supposed to be there for your family! And if you aren’t going to be in war zone where the hell are you going to be that you can’t take a day or two off every month or so to visit your family?”
“I… I can’t tell you that”
“WHAT THE HELL DO YOU MEAN YOU CAN’T TELL ME THAT! I’M YOUR WIFE GODDAMIT I HAVE A RIGHT TO KNOW WHERE MY HUSBAND IS GOING TO BE FOR THE NEXT FIVE EFFING YEARS!”
“Honey… I… They… It’s a top secret project I can’t tell you more than that, the’d do worse things than court-martial me if I tell you anything about it, I could be put on trial for treason, then you might never see me again”
“Top fucking secret, right everything is top fucking secret how do I know you haven’t just asked to be transfered to another base so you can go and screw that Beth whore again?”
“Stacy… You have to trust me, you know I’d never do that again”
“You did it once, you know what they say a leapard never changes it’s spots”
“Honey, look I swear to you that I’d never do that again, I love you and the kids too much to do anything like that”
“Sure you love us, but you don’t love us enough to tell us what the hell you are going to be doing for the next 5 years”
“Stacy if I could I would. You know I would, If I told you, you might never see me again” He was probably exagerating, but he wasn’t sure.
“Look I don’t want to talk about this anymore, you do what you have to do I’ll see you in 5 years”
Click the line went dead…
On a scale of 1 to 10 on how badly that could have gone Roger figured that was an 11, he wasn’t sure what to do, he tried calling Stacy back but the phone just kept on ringing. Eventually the answering machine picked up so he left a message.
“Stacy, look I’m sorry, I wish I could tell you why I’m going to be away, I really do. I just wanted to you to know that I love you, I always will, I love you and the kids. Give Randy and Sophie my love…” He could feel the emotions welling up in him and barely manged a “Bye” and hung up the phone as he collapsed to the floor in tears.
* * *
Roger sat there crumpled up sobbing to himself for at least half an hour, thankfully it was a very busy area and no one passed by. Regaining his composure he relised that there were some other people he really should say bye to, he picked up the phone and dialled the number for his father, the call was short succinct, he’d never been close to his dad but he felt that he deserved to at least know that he wouldn’t be in touch for a while.
Next he tried to get through to Grandma Annabelle, she’d been like a mother to him and she’s been like a rock fom him and stacy, she deserved a farewell. The line was engaged, no doubt Stacy was had already called her.
* * *
Roger wasn’t scheduled to start on his pre stasis trainging till tomorrow morning had no where to go, no one to talk to, nothing to do.
He was sat on the steps of the research center feeling sorry for himself when Andrews came out.
“Hey there Sergeant Sir. how’s it going? You all psyched up for the training tomorrow? They’re gonna make us astronaughts, don’t that seem crazy to you?, going all the way out there into space just to be put on ice seems like a waste of a journey”
Roger grunted a response to Andrews and hoped he’d go away.
“Whas that, hey you look pretty down. What up with you, your dog die or something?”
Roger still refused to answer.
“Hey Sarge, you can talk to me, we should be buddies, heck we’re gonna spend the next five years sleeping within a couple of feet of each other that makes us practically married” He paused and contemplated what he’d just said. “In a purely heterosexual kinda way… Maybe ‘married’ is the wrong word but we’re definately like room mates”
“Look Andrews I’ve had a shit day, can you just leave me alone”
“Sir you can call me John, and heck if you’re feeling down I know just what’ll make you feel like a million bucks, an nice cold beer or five, come on Sir lets get lets get you off that step and behind a bar”
Roger wanted to say no he wanted to tell Andrews that he had something he needed to do, some reason not to just go out and get drunk, truth was he had no where else to go, and at the moment Andrew was the only person he knew who was being remotely nice to him. Anny port in a storm he thought to himself.
* * *
The bar they went to was a seedy joint, it was called Chuck’s Bar, it wasn’t exactly in the best state of repair some of the seats looked precarious at best, and the clientelle looked like something out of a movie, th kind of movie with really shady people who hand about in bars… They served beer though and that was the only reason Roger and John were there so it served it’s pupose.
* * *
“So whats got you down Sarge?”
“Please while we are off base don’t call me that, my names Roger”
“Sorry Roger…” He paused before he was about to reiterate his question. “Wait… Do you ever get confused when people are talking on the radio to you?”
Roger looked at him incredelously. “What?”
“You know like in that movie, uh… Airplane ‘We have clearance, Clarence. Roger, Roger. What’s our vector, Victor?’” he said nodding his head side to side in comedic fashion.
“No I’ve never thought of that, when I flew I went by my call sign ‘Bond’”
“Bond? As in James? how’d you come by a call sign like that? You Brittish or something?”
“No, Roger Moore played James Bond, My first name is Roger and my surname starts with an M O, you know how it is, once one of those things sticks you can’t shake it”
“But bond was in the Navy wan’t he not the airforce, I guess he did fly a plane in some of the movies though. And hey now you’re on a secret mission for the government all you gotta do is sleep with some pretty foreighn lady and you’re there” He said the bit about them being on a secret mission for the government a little too load for Rogers comfort.
“Sshhh you aren’t supposed to be broadcasting that for everyone to hear”
“I don’t know what you’re worried about, I don’t see any russians here, were safe as anything here”
“I think it’s not the russians we have to worry about more the press, they don’t want this kinda research going public”
“Why not theres nothin wrong with it, it’s not like they are shooting us up with drugs, or doing crazy psychology stuff to us like they did to those that fought in Nam. They’re just making us sleep for a little longer than we should. Heh, we’re getting paid to sleep on the job” He smiled at Roger, who wasn’t sharing his jovial mood.
“So whats got you down, ‘James Bond’ you looked pretty glum sitting out there on the steps all by your lonesome”
“It’s… Ah, My wife”
“Whats wrong with your wife? She cheating on you? That aint right! Marriage, it’s a sacred thing, no woman or man for that matter should ever cheat on thier other half, it’s just wrong” While Roger appreciated the sentiment, John had gotten completely the wrong end of the stick.
“No she’s not cheating on me, she’s just pissed at me for having to be away for 5 years, She’s all alone out there all she has is me the kids and her Grandma”
“Aw, I see that’s pretty heavy, you tried asking to be let off the program?”
“Yeah, I asked Fletcher today. He said there was no way, said if I did leave I’d be court-martialed. Apparently the release forms we signed at the begining implied that we had to participate in any follow up experiements, I didn’t read ”
“Woah shit, I didn’t even bother asking, I’m just in for the ride, I don’t really want out I got no one waiting fo me”
“What about your dad, he’s a senator or something isn’t he?”
“That old fart? He don’t care bout me and I don’t care about him. I reackon far as he’s concerned if I’m on ice for five years on a space station thats five years I can’t do anything stupid and screw up his chances of being reelected”
“Don’t you and the old man get along?”
“No not really, he thinks I’m some kind of screw up. Nothing I do is ever good enough for him, you know the drill. Pretty much every senators son you see on a TV show, thats my life. I know it’s cliche but it’s my life”
“Man thats rough”
“It is and it isn’t. Personally I kinda like it this way, he keeps outta my way so long as I keep outta the spotlight, I kinda like it”
Roger didn’t exactly know what to say and luckily for him he did’t get a chance to, as a bottle flew by his head and smashed on the wall behind him. Apparently they’d been so engrossed in thier conversation that they’d missed the fight breaking out between two groups of the local wildlife, Roger reasoned that someone from one pack of drunks red necks had grievously insulted the honour of one of the other group of drunk red necks by insulting his mullet or some such, whatever had happend all Roger knew was that he and roger needed to not be here pronto.
* * *
John drove them back to the barracks, he was drunk as a fish. The next day through his hangover would wonder how the hell they managed to get back without getting killed.
* * *
Training started the next day for Roger and John. Training an astronut takes upwards of 20 months, but for the purposes of this mission they were more space tourists than astronauts, also as they had both flown fighter jets in the airforce there was a lot of overlap between the training they’d gone through as pilots and the training they would have needed to go through if they were astronaughts, this was of course why the people organising the study had chosen to recruit from the airforce they just hadn’t bothered to tell the participants that they were in it to the end.
The program was a cut down and condensed version of what astronauts are put through, all the same they were pushed to thier limts, and at the end of each 18 hour training day both Roger and John collapsed into bed and seemingly woke up all too soon to start again.
One night John Joked that they weren’t letting them sleep on account of the fact that they’d be sleeping for so long afterwards.
* * *
The day came that Roger, John and Dr. Ben were to be sent into space. Roger was surprised to see Dr. Ben seated in the “Passenger section” of the space shuttle, he’d not seen him in the training and he seemed really nervous.
John broke the silence “Hey Doc Wilson, you alright there you seem pretty nervous”
“Yeah I’m fine, I’m fine, really fine. I mean It’s perfectly safe sitting on top of a few hundred tonnes of explosive being fired up into space in a metal box. I wasn’t expecting to get sent up to space when I suggested that they next stage be on the space station. I was, well, I expected them to just send a research assistant or something they don’t need me up there… They really don’t” He was talking a thousand words a minute and fidgeting like a toddler on speed.
“It’s perfectly safe, they send these things up all the time” Roger comforted them
“Yeah and every now and then one of them blows up becuse a piece of foam the size of a lunch box fell off it”
“That happend like once the chances of that happening again are like a billion to one”
“You tell that to the people who were on that shuttle”