Almost a full month had passed since Jason’s imprisonment on board the Equinox. Somehow, he was still completely conscious and aware of his surroundings even though his body was frozen solid.
He again wondered if this experience was unique to him. Not once during his research into the subject had he come across any reports of people being fully conscious while suspended.
He welcomed the moments of sleep as it allowed him to escape his monotonous existence. Every day here felt like a lifetime while time meant nothing to him anymore. This was the cruel punishment he had to endure indefinitely for his crime against the United Earth Government. “Was it really a crime?” he pondered. It didn’t matter what he thought, as he was here already, imprisoned for life, his fate sealed.
“Life!” he marvelled sarcastically.
The suspension technology would theoretically be able to keep the human body alive indefinitely, provided that the system didn’t fail. The mere thought of being stuck like this, being fully aware for thousands of years made Jason feel sick. He would probably go insane within the first few months!
His only real regret was that his actions had earned his friend, Dr Vince Singer, a place in the module next to his.
Jason awoke from yet another dreamless sleep and his thoughts drifted back to the events of a few days ago when he first discovered his ability to reach out with his mind. His lips would have registered a smile if they weren’t frozen as he thought back to the guard running out of the room in fear, reacting to his mental outburst.
Jason was quick to grasp the significance of that event and had been developing this ability during his moments of wakefulness. At least the last few days had been interesting and mentally stimulating. His new ability continued to grow stronger and stronger with each passing day. The more he flexed his mind, the stronger it got. Today, he was able to see into the guard’s mind and control him completely!
“Vince!” No response. “Talk to me, Vince!” he tried again, still getting no response. He couldn’t feel Vince’s presence the way he perceived the guard’s. Perhaps his friend wasn’t conscious like he was.
The guard’s name was Bart. Sergeant Bart Salves. The tall and well built dark haired Bart had joined the corrections division of the United Earth Government as a technician six years ago. He had a wife and a two year old daughter back on Earth whom he missed very much. He hated guard duty on board the Equinox. Guard duty lasted three months at a time and Bart had arrived on the Equinox aboard the same carrier as Jason and Vince.
“Today, we shall gain our freedom!” thought Jason to himself. Again, if he could, he would have been grinning from ear to ear.
Bart was relaxing on the lower observation deck, looking at the beautiful earth below, thinking about his young family down there.
The lower observation deck was located at the bottom of the Equinox, closer to the front. It was a large circular room with a transparent floor, about half the size of a football field. Seats and tables were arranged around the walls. With the lights turned off and the protective floor shutters open, the view was nothing short of spectacular.
This amazing view was the last thing on Bart’s mind right now however. He remained seated, aimlessly looking out to the distant Earth far below, deep in thought. He couldn’t wait for his three months of guard duty on board the Equinox to end. The pay was excellent but he missed his family dearly and was eager to be reunited with them.
Suddenly, unexpectedly, his melancholy gave way to a sensation of warmth and happiness which seemed to wash over his entire body.
Without explanation, he found himself smiling.
“Have I finally lost my mind?” he wondered.
“Why do I suddenly feel so content?”
As he pondered this strange sensation which had suddenly washed over him, an overwhelming feeling of well-being began to grow inside, filling him up with joy. It grew stronger still making him feel like he was going to burst from this pleasant sensation. He had never ever felt this happy. The sensation was now affecting his vision too. All he could see was a bright light which blotted out everything else. With this light came a compulsion to stand up and walk towards the source.
He stood up and began walking, a slight smile playing on his lips.
“I’m on my way,” he said softly to himself.
Bart was within Jason’s field of vision again. Jason watched as Bart operated a control panel on the far wall causing a red light to begin flashing somewhere in the room. Jason couldn’t tell where this light was coming from but he could see its reflection all over the room. Soon, this flashing light was accompanied by a light fog which filled up the room.
Now it was Jason’s turn to experience a strange sensation. It felt as if his entire body was tingling, as if an electrical current flowed through him. He quickly lost consciousness.
He came to a few minutes later, disoriented and groggy. The bright light hurt his eyes as he tried opening them, causing him to shut them tightly again. His head ached like never before. His mind raced trying to remember where he was.
“Where am I?” He managed a feeble whisper.
He forced open his eyes with determination and held them open this time around even though it caused his head to pound. Realising that he was lying naked on a cold floor, he tried to sit up. A wave of nausea followed. It took much effort keeping his stomach contents inside where they belonged.
Suddenly his memory came flooding back and he realised that he was free!
Bart helped him stand up and handed him a fresh set of clothes while he found his balance. The blue and red Equinox branded jumpsuit was a perfect fit and the black non-slip boots were polished to perfection.
“Thank you, Bart”, he said, with his own voice.
“Now, I’d like you to release the prisoner in this module,” he continued, pointing to where Vince was imprisoned.
A gasp escaped Jason’s throat when he saw his friend’s frozen face with its pained expression through the little glass porthole. The sight of his old friend and colleague in this state made him feel sick to the pit of his stomach once more.
He looked on as Bart fiddled with the wall mounted control panel again and a red light above Vince’s module began to flash.
He continued to watch as Bart walked over to Vince’s module which was now venting water vapour from a grille at the bottom. Through the porthole Jason could see the colour slowly return to Vince’s face while the little screen on his module indicated an increasing heart rate.
Bart opened up the module and extracted his friend leaving him lying curled up on the floor. A few minutes later, Vince slowly opened his eyes, as if awakening from a really long, deep sleep.
“Vince! Vince!” reacted Jason excitedly, shaking his friend. “Are you all right?”
Even though Vince’s eyes were wide open, he appeared to be incoherent and dazed.
“Vince!” Jason continued to call out while gently slapping his face. “Vince, wake up!”
“Jason?” responded Vince finally with a wavering and confused voice. “But how?” It took him a few seconds to fully grasp that he was free from his little prison.
“I’ll explain it all really soon,” replied Jason, “But for now, you need to get your strength back as we have lots of preparations to make and there isn’t much time.”
Bart handed Vince another Equinox jumpsuit which he had fetched from somewhere outside the room and Jason helped his friend get dressed.
“You will continue to submit your reports to Earth Command as you’ve done every day for the last month,” he instructed Bart.
“Yes, understood!” saluted Bart, and headed off to his quarters.
Jason filled Vince in on all that had transpired as they sipped coffee in the large, empty mess hall. Vince spent most of the time with his mouth open in disbelief as he listened to what Jason had to say.
“I can even move small objects by just willing it,” he continued. “Here, let me show you.”
Vince could not believe his eyes as the coffee mug which was in front of him slowly moved across the table to Jason and then back to Vince again.
“I’m sure that in time I’ll be able to do more than just move a coffee cup,” said Jason confidently.
Jason was now capable of a smug smile, and he did smile smugly, but the gleam in his eye worried Vince. He had never seen this expression on his friend’s face before. His expression seemed almost vindictive.
“So, what is the plan now that we’re free, Jason?” he asked. “We can’t go back to Earth as we are fugitives.”
“Well, I’ve had plenty of time to think and plan ahead,” continued Jason. “I’ve also solved the puzzle of faster than light travel.”
He detailed his plan to build a faster than light drive inside one of the rear cargo bays on board the Equinox and fly the ship to Alpha Centauri, the closest star system to Earth, a little over four light years away.
“We can release all the prisoners to assist us. I’m sure they won’t mind, as Earth is off limits to them too.”
“This all sounds pretty ambitious to me, Jason,” said Vince shaking his head, not entirely convinced. “What if the faster than light drive doesn’t work? And if it does, how will we survive out there?”
“Trust me,” smiled Jason. “It will work, and this ship is capable of sustaining us for years to come, but...”
“But, our biggest challenge is going to be getting all of this done before the change of guard, which happens in two months from now.”
Vince looked thoughtful, trying to digest Jason’s far-fetched plan.
“Ok, and who will pilot and navigate this gigantic ship all the way to Alpha Centauri?” he continued to quiz Jason. “I may be a scientist and a medical doctor, but I’m sure as hell that piloting giant spaceships isn’t part of my resume’.”
“I will,” smiled Jason confidently.
“Really?” asked Vince with a look of disbelief, “And exactly what experience do you have?”
“Well, I am quite familiar with this ship’s systems from all that I’ve read up about it, and there’s a simulator on board so we are going to learn on the fly,” replied Jason deliberately using a pun and then smiling some more.
Vince simply shook his head. He had no words.
“Well, what have we got to lose, Vince?” Jason persisted. “It’s either that or we get turned back into icicles.”
“Valid point, Jason,” nodded Vince, still looking thoughtful.
It didn’t seem like he had much of a choice. He was caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Besides, he had no family back on Earth. His work had been his only companion.
“Ok, Jason, I’m convinced. Let’s do this!”