1170 words (4 minute read)

Chapter 2.

“What the fuck?” Dalen asked croakily, for what seemed like the hundredth time.

It had been around half an hour since their rude awakening, coughing it out and taking their first tentative steps toward finding out what was going on. Dalen now sat at the only functioning computer terminal, a found blanket around his shoulders, struggling to focus his still clearing eyes on the words and figures coming up on the monitor.

A blanketed Jones arrived at Dalen’s side, handing him a water bottle. “Here, drink” she told him. He took it from her and unscrewed the lid, still squinting at the monitor. “What the hell’s going on, Dalen?” Jones asked him.

“What the hell isn’t?” he told her, his voice quite rough. “For some reason we’re only on battery, and its nearly out- two percent left… Shit… Everything’s shutting down. The pods are the last of it- emergency lights are next. Where the fuck is everyone?” Feeling like coughing again- his heart suddenly racing and his head pounding, he lifted the bottle, gulping in a long and much needed drink.

“Not too much yet” Jones told him, and she was about take his hand and lower the bottle, but he was already lowering it himself.

“Ppp-lurr-uck!” Dalen gasped, pulling a face. Water spilled out from his gaping mouth and he gingerly shook his pounding head. “Horrible…” he groaned.

“Like its stale” Jones said, holding up her own bottle. “No water in the taps though, so this is it. Drink it, you have to. Elevator’s not working either”. Gesturing with her bottle to encourage Dalen, she took a small mouthful. Grimacing, she swallowed it, and Dalen followed suit.

“Yeah,” Dalen told her, wiping water from his chin. “Like I said- whole place is down- water pump, elevator, net, phones, everything. It’s bullshit- they should be here for us. Where the fuck is everyone, Jones?”

Panicking, maybe… Jones thought, and she felt as if she might be starting to, too.

“Yeah, Dalen, I know. Drink” she told him, and took a drink as he did. “Just see if you can find what’s up- check internal mail, how to get hold of someone or something. And what’s up with Crash?” she asked, now realising that the robot was there, by Dalen’s bench- powered down and squat in a cage of his four legs, bent at ‘knees’ surrounding his cymbal of a head. “They wanted him to wake with the pods, didn’t they?”

“Crash? Shit…” Dalen said, now remembering too that the robot was there. He turned to the monitor, squinting close at it while moving the mouse about and clicking it a few times. “Don’t know, what?..” he croaked, clicking some more then tapping at the keys”. “No, what? Shit no, nothing” he told Jones, “Not loading- could take a while to check it”.

“Okay. Crash can wait” Jones told him. “Concentrate on getting hold of someone. Tell them to get us out of here. And drink. I’ve got to check on Bennet, okay?”

Dalen nodded, still squinting at the monitor, and Jones shuffled away in her blanket, going to the pods not far behind him.

“What’s going on, Jones?” Bennet rasped as she got to him and was taking up his wrist.

“Power’s out” she told him, “No one’s here and we don’t know why- Pods let us out because no power”.

Bennet nodded and Jones looked at his wrist, counting silently.

“Am I okay, Nurse?” Bennet asked her, after a while.

“I’m a doctor, Bennet. You know that” she told him, still looking at his wrist.

“Yeah. Sorry. “ Bennet said meekly. “Doctor of?...” he asked.

“Hmph. I was going to apologise for slapping you, Bennet, but now I’m thinking of doing it again”.

“Oh? Yes, please” Bennet told her.

“You know what, Bennet…” Jones growled at him, throwing down his wrist. “If you weren’t such an overhyped, crash-test dummy with connections, doubtless you’d have been kicked off the program for harassment months ago”.

“Hell, Jones? That mouth you got” Bennet told her. “So sweetly cruel!”.

“Fuck you Bennet” she spat at him. “Stuck here for who-the-fuck-knows-why looking after your sad arse… Why can’t you just give it rest for once? The bimbos in the office might fall for it but I already told you that I fucking don’t”

“Okay, okay. It’s okay, Jones” he told her. “They’ll come for us soon enough. Just calm down, okay? I just had a heart attack, for fuck sake”.

Angry and frustrated, Jones folded her arms and bit her tongue.

Quiet at first… she thought, Humble… but as months of training progressed and the numbers thinned, Bennet had grown more overt. He’d ‘

‘seduced’ some of the younger staff, she suspected, and had tried the same with her, a few times, before she’d outright rejected him. Continued innuendo from him though, and finally, just over two months before ‘Bed Down’, she’d overheard him mouthing about her to some of the military types that hung about the place. So Jones had made an appointment, to make an official a complaint about Bennet, on the day they announced that the three of them had been picked.

Jones never made the appointment, and with the program schedule suddenly amping up for the three of them, there was suddenly less free time for Bennet to be sleazy at her- less free time, too, for her to think about it much at all. So she’d let it slide- not interrupting the program, now, was far too important to her. So she concentrated, instead, on her part in it.

“You’re such a dick, Bennet” she told him. She was about to say more, but Dalen behind her was suddenly quite vocal.

“No way! What the fuck?” Dalen exclaimed. “Crazy, bullshit…”

Jones bit her tongue again and turned look at the engineer. “What is it, Dalen?” she asked him.

“I thought to look at how far we got through the program…” he told her. It’s saying the date is… Nah, fucking crazy… Nah, there’s nothing here at all. Computer’s glitchy as fuck, can’t find anyone- can’t get out. Shit’s all fucking crazy as fuck”.

Jones wasn’t surprised at all. Something had gone terribly wrong and they had no idea what, so now they had to wait, she supposed. Irritated, and scared, Jones turned back on Bennet.

“You’ll be fine, Bennet” she told him. “Just do me the favour of just shutting the fuck up until they get us out of here. Okay? Seriously. Shut it. And drink your water, for fuck sake” she instructed, before turning from him and shuffling away in her blanket.

“Yes, ma’am” Bennet croaked, and not too loud. If Jones heard him at all, she made no response.