Science Fiction Preparing for the next step in space exploration

Rising Cold

By Al Onia
Jun 4, 2019 · 4,955 words · 19 minutes

From the author: Social and technical advances contain risks. Who has the right to impose those risks upon others?

Cryo Corp's lunar lab was far from ‘clinical’ in Prescott Wayne’s view. It stank of chimpanzee feces, sweat and ammonia. Mirroring his mood and the outside terrain, it lacked stimulation. Reduced gravity did nothing to lighten the gloom. Everything was grey except the lab coat he'd bought. The taciturn Dr. Lorna Gautier stood near him in battleship-grey fatigues.
Beneath the oppressive atmosphere, something niggled at him. What’s wrong with this picture? Prescott mused. He studied the patient’s wristband. Lch-f-4, then underneath, in brackets: Lucie. Below the band he recognized the anomaly registered moments ago in his subconscious.
He said, "A question, doctor?"
"That's why you're here." She didn't even glance at him.
Prescott's anger welled up. He clipped his words. "Why the hell doesn't she have any thumbs?"
Doctor Gautier continued to stare at her netpad. "Hmph, what? Oh, it chewed them off. Long before it came from Earth." She stopped writing to look at him. Her close-shaven head and thin face echoed most of the Lunarians he'd seen during his first two days on the moon. "Don't worry, I've seen it before, on Earth. It won't affect the research."
"I'm not sure if you are a dispassionate scientist or a cold bitch. I'm supposed to be the iceman, Cryo's tough guy, Jack Wilson's triggerman."
"I'm shaking in my boots, Wayne. Your opinion of me is moot. You're here to evaluate the project."
He said, "I'm thinking of her. How does it affect Lucie? The chimp is an asset. An opposable thumb distinguishes simians from other mammals; and one would hope, elevates us."
"I think it's, she's, used to her handicap. She did it to herself. They don't know how to deal with stress."
Prescott looked around the stark room and thought, how long before I chewed mine off? He wouldn't let it drop, not with so much on the line. "Such stress must have been unendurable. Your suppliers may need a thorough audit."
"Talk to Wilson; they're his Florida contacts. He'd enjoy performing a financial colonoscopy but goodbye to the supply. We take what we can get. The moon may put us beyond the reach of the activists but it sure limits convenient sources."
Prescott stared at Lucie's face. The brown eyes followed him. The chimpanzee looked at him as far down as her restraints permitted. She stared into his eyes. He knew the look. Or thought he did. He'd been celibate for longer than he cared to remember. "Is she flirting with me?"
The doctor nodded, "It, she, will. Usually takes longer to initiate. She must be aware of your status in Cryo or senses a soul mate." The doctor's grin looked forced. "If you want the relationship to go anywhere, I'd advise against the white lab coat in future."
"Earthside memories, a form of White Coat Syndrome. Even in some humans, visual clues such as a medical office or even a white smock increase anxiety."
Gautier put a finger to Lucie's wrist. "Pulse is down. The sedative is taking effect. Get ready for the deep freeze, Mr. Wayne."
Prescott watched the large brown eyes dull, then lids shut. Lch-f-4, aka Lucie, slept.
Gautier explained while she worked. "I prep the animal here. Pass me the IV socket, would you? The blue plug. Now to the cryo chambers."
She wheeled the gurney through a curtain dividing the lab. The chamber reminded him of the hotel tubes in Tokyo. He flashed back to a last trip with Elizabeth, before the divorce. After copious alcohol consumption on their flight from Hong Kong, they had squeezed into a tube together. That memory had kept him from ever sleeping in one again, imagining the activities of the previous occupants.
Gautier said, "These two chambers represent Cryo's multi-million dollar investment."
He interrupted, "Outlay. It's premature to call it an investment."
"Not the way I see it but spin it the way you choose. I'm here to make us all rich." She opened the upper door and pushed Lucie against the tube. She connected a matching blue receptacle from inside to Lucie's IV socket. "These are the exchange tubes, all automatic. I key in the time duration, sixty hours, and slide the subject inside."
"Simple," he observed.
"Only on the surface, Mr. Wayne." She closed the door and the lock indicator shone red. "Two days from now, she'll be giving you the eye again. Then you can return to Wilson with a positive report."
"Do you need anything? More help?"
"No help, thanks. Give me continued privacy, safe from the fanatics down below."
Prescott knelt to peer into the lower chamber. The glass porthole was frosted over. Opaque. "Who's in here? Lch-m-2 doesn't ring a bell."
"Lunar chimp, male, two. Leroy. He has 24 hours left in a 30 day stint. You should be here tomorrow when I wake him."
"A month? Is he alive?"
"Certainly. You can monitor his vitals here." She pressed a button and four green LED's came to life.
"What if they turn red before the time is up?"
Gautier shrugged. "Nothing I can do. We designed the timerlocks to prevent tampering with the results. The foolproofs guarantee the validity of each experiment but the risk to the subjects increases with the fact I can't get them out if something does go wrong."
"I see. Thirty days, impressive. Why two-and-a-half for Lucie?"
She picked up her netpad. "Next shuttle back to Earth is in 3 days. I assume you'd want to be on it rather than be stuck here another two months. Am I wrong?"
Prescott watched the timers count down on the chambers. Everyone has a ticking clock in one form or another. He'd hoped the moon would be different for him. "My call, not yours, Doctor Gautier."
Errand runner for Jack Wilson wasn't the sole reason he had traveled a quarter million miles away from the lonely planet.

Prescott finished his message to Cryo's head office in Raleigh. It was 2 a.m. in North Carolina. Wilson's photo stared at him from the screen. Prescott took a second before hitting 'send' to study Wilson's face. "Lch-f-4 has ten times the humanity in her eyes," he muttered. "You should have come in my place, Doctor Gautier shares your emotional apathy."
Prescott keyed a second link. Connection made but no picture or video from the receiving end. Ever the recluse. He spoke, "Elizabeth, it's me, Prescott."
"I recognize you from our wedding album. Turn around. I was more familiar with your back, always leaving for somewhere on behalf of someone other than me."
"Very droll. No camera on your end?"
"I choose not to use it. I value my privacy. Why are you calling, Scott?"
"I'm here. On the moon."
Silence. He wished she would turn on her webcam. He hated talking to a blank screen. It put him at a disadvantage. Intentional, no doubt.
"Well, what the hell. That explains no time delay. What do you want, Scott?"
He fingered a fist-sized box, wrapped in white paper. "I have something for you. From my mom."
"Ida? It's been six months since she passed away, Scott. You couldn't have freighted it up?"
He put the box down. "If this trip hadn't arisen, I would have. Mom never trusted the post office."
A chuckle came over the link. "Or the phone company, right?"
"Nosey-parkers, every one of 'em, she used to say." He donned his sincerest face. "So, can I see you?" When she had left Prescott, Elizabeth also divorced her career at Cryo and fled to the moon. She became the sole proprietor of a crust-boring operation in Lambert Crater.
"I'm on my way outside right now, to retrieve samples. I remote everything in and out of Hab. Ida's spirit wouldn't trust the unmanned transports either. I can ride in and meet you tomorrow, say 1500 hours, at Selene's. It's a restaurant beside the ground vehicle docks."
"I'll find it." He broke off.
Message waiting. He opened it. "Prescott, Wilson here. Got your report."
Didn't the man ever sleep?
"Sounds positive but don't let Gautier con you. Tell her we need extended time tests. Successful tests. Those bastards from the Cape are grinding me hard. They want to move the Lowell mission ahead two years or their funding will evaporate. Which means our funding. The NSF is pressuring them to go with the Chinese; they're a lot cheaper, not having to carry out their research on the moon to escape the animal rights groups. We both know there's always a catch doing business with them and I've played that card more than once. We need results.
"There's one more item." Wilson shuffled papers on his desk. "Here it is." He looked up. "Tell Gautier I've got a line on half a dozen more subjects. A Mexican carnival that's bellying. I need to act fast if she wants them. In a week, they're slated for transfer to a refuge in Florida. I can end-run the refuge and have them for twenty grand. Pocket change compared to smuggling them moonside. Stay in touch, Prescott. Oh, and give my best to Elizabeth. All is forgiven if she'll take you back." He leered. "I know why you were so eager to go, Prescott. You can fool yourself, but not me. I can't wait to hear how love is in one-sixth gravity." He sucked his cigar to a glow and screened off.
"You sleaze," Prescott mouthed to the blank screen. His boss had hit the mark. Close enough to piss him off even more. Success with Elizabeth would have to wait until 1500 hours tomorrow.
If Wilson had been live, Prescott would have asked if the hijacked 'subjects' were chimps or Mexicans. Just as well, Wilson rarely shared Prescott's sense of humour.
Prescott sat back. It had been a long day. Without his reset watch and artificial light control, he would have no sense of time in this place. He knew exhaustion when it hit him. Wilson's offer to Gautier could wait. Prescott needed to sleep on it before passing it on. Wilson would tell Gautier regardless, to prove there was no advantage in withholding information.
Prescott walked past Elizabeth, not recognizing her from behind.
"Scott, back here," she called.
He turned, gaped, then recovered his composure. A familiar voice coming from a changed face. He sat. "Elizabeth, I never imagined you would shave your head. I looked for the blonde ponytail." In truth, she appeared older than he expected. She was gaunt. Dark patches beneath her eyes accentuated the high cheekbones. The baldness made her appear small. Still beautiful, he thought.
He asked, "You unarmed?"
She stirred her tea, "Unusual first question."
"Well, it leads to you don't want to see me dead anymore?" He hadn't meant to sound sarcastic.
"Never did, not even when we were still married. Then and now, you're just a corporate pimp."
"Pimp? I prefer 'toadie'. Or 'fixer'. Why the hair, Elizabeth? It was always your pride."
"Practicalities. Water is still precious here. Less to wash and rinse. Mine interfered with helmet seals. I tried it short but there was still the conservation deal so I went the distance."
"Hey, it looks... good."
"Yeah, right."
"Speaking of the Lunar Grail, I hear you've found ice. You'll be able to wash your hair in champagne."
"It isn't about money, Scott. Don't you get it?"
"I guess not. I believe you can do a lot of good with a lot of money."
"It's about the next leap forward. Akin to those first animals who stepped from the sea onto land. Leaving the known for the unknown. That's always been important to me."
She pulled back from him and thrummed her fingers on the table. "So, Scott, why are you here?"
"I'm bird-dogging one of our projects."
"Ahhh, the clandestine research. I suppose at one time I would have sabotaged Gautier's work." Elizabeth glanced sideways. "I shouldn't have told you that."
"You'd be in a ton of trouble. Wilson would not let the distance interfere with punishment."
"Or sending a message. Back to my question, why are you here? Are you Wilson's messenger?"
Prescott shook his head. "No. My idea, I volunteered. I'm bored with Raleigh, bored with Earth, bored with Wilson."
"Wilson bores you because you let him push you around."
Prescott's hand slammed the table. "He does not."
"Glad you still have feelings to touch. If you hadn't volunteered, he'd have sent you. Just to torque me."
Prescott relaxed his fist. "You don't seem torqued. Why would he want to piss you off? I'll bet he hasn't given you a second thought since we split. Certainly not since you moved here." Then he remembered Wilson's message.
"Don't be so sure. I left you both. I became a contrarian voice, a conscience. His executive team lost a trophy vice-president and you a trophy wife. Image is everything to him and I screwed it up."
"You were never a trophy. Not in my eyes. I mean, you are beautiful, but not what I wanted to show off. Oh crap, that didn't come out right."
"It's okay, I know what you saw, but Jack Wilson only wanted to display my public face—teeth gleaming, chest high, tongue silent. Another performance for good old Cryo."
"I didn't come to defend or debate Cryo. I came to see you. To bring you this." He slid the box across the table.
She stared at it for a moment, then removed white-knuckled hands from her cup. She struggled with the wrapping. "No damn fingernails either."
He took it and undid the wrap.
She lifted the lid from the box. "The St. Francis cross. With the opals." She ran a finger over the piece. "I'm flattered she kept it."
"You gave it to her on her sixtieth birthday."
"We shared a common passion besides you. Nature." She placed it back in the box.
"You're not going to wear it?"
She shook her head. "I think I'll wait until you're Earthside."
"Maybe I'll stay. There's nothing holding me to Earth, and you're here."
"Scott, there is no us on the moon any more than there was on Earth. If you came to reconcile, forget it. I'm long past you. If you want a life here, you will have to create it on your own."
His head rolled forward, chin almost touching his chest. "How?"
She put a hand on his. "I don't know. Push Wilson back for starters. I did. Try it. Makes you feel—"
"Righteous?" he blurted.
She stood. "I was going to say 'like your own man for once', but I'll go with righteous."
He jumped up and caught the table with his knee.
She adeptly snagged her cup from the air and laughed, "Reduced gravity, remember?"
He straightened and glared at her. "I have no trouble looking in a mirror, and at least I don't see sanctimony looking back. I don't run away. Two more years and I'm done. Then I can save the world."
"Maybe you should get a new mirror. There's more human soul in Gautier's chimps than all of Cryo combined. She and the rest of you are driven by results. Nothing else matters."
"You don't know her."
"I know the type. If she's working for Wilson, bottom line is all important. Here, see how this looks on you." She put the box on the table. "You need it more than I do."
"We're helping mankind take the next step our way. That's Wilson's vision. And I share it."
"Don't try to justify the cruelty."
People stared at the pair now. Prescott lowered his voice but did not sit. "Can you suggest an alternative?"
"Chimpanzees are conveniently 'human' for research but not when it comes to how they're treated."
He opened his mouth but didn't speak for a moment. "You're right, they are convenient. Wilson says they've been part of the space program longer than astronauts." He sat.
Elizabeth leaned on the table. "No one ever asked if the chimps wanted to be."
"How do I stop it?"
"Euthanasia. Kidnapping. Desperate times call for desperate measures and all that crap."
"Security is too tight. Gautier and I alone have access to the lab. I'm not taking anyone else inside and I'm not killing them. Besides, Wilson would ship up more."
"You're right, he would. So be creative instead of enforcing the corporate mandate. Convince Wilson the chimps are not appropriate." Elizabeth turned and left.
Prescott picked up the cross and put it back in his pocket. "That could have gone better," he mumbled. He looked at the time. Their meeting-turned-argument had taken him up to Leroy's resurrection. He wondered if Doctor Gautier was aware of her opponents on the moon. Wilson no doubt did and had warned her. He enjoyed keeping pressure on his minions.
"I began without you," Gautier said.
Prescott answered, "Sorry. I was delayed. Where are we?"
The male chimpanzee lay supine on the gurney, the vault door still hung open below Lucie's. A pungent odour hit him hard. "Whew, my eyes are watering and then some." As he got closer, he saw the diaper. He covered his nose.
Gautier said, "He's awake. Not ready to open his eyes yet."
"Do the males flirt as well?"
"This one doesn't. Not since he's been here, anyway."
Prescott stole a glance at the doctor. No surprise. Lorna Gautier exuded neither charm nor sensuality. "How does he react to Lucie?"
"He's protective, given the chance. I isolate them most of the time."
Lovely, he thought, they can't even take solace in each other. "His eyelids are fluttering."
Gautier glanced away from her monitor, "Good sign."
"Why do you have restraints on him? Is he aggressive?"
"A precaution. Last revival he awoke quite agitated. There, he seems alert now. Leroy, meet Prescott Wayne."
"Hello, Leroy. Do you like my grey coat?" He turned to Gautier. "What next?"
"He's calmer than last time but I'll keep him restrained until he goes back into the pen. He'll be usable for more tests." She turned to Prescott. "Wilson told me he can get more chimps. I can do some longer tests without worrying about losing half of my subjects."
"I heard. Circus refugees, right?"
Gautier shrugged. "Whatever. I didn't pay attention to the source. I'll tell him to go ahead, if you're okay with it."
As Prescott anticipated, Wilson had told Gautier. He said, "Let's wait twenty-four hours until I've seen Lucie awaken. Then I'll have observed the process from start to finish on one single subject. After I'm satisfied, I'll pass on your agreement to proceed. Deal?"
"Fair enough."
Prescott strolled around the lab, examining the hardware. He opened drawers, tallying costs as he went. From one cabinet he extracted the largest hypodermic he'd ever seen. "I didn't know you worked with horses?" He held it aloft.
Leroy broke into a fury, shrieking and pulling against his restraints.
Gautier shouted, "Put that away. Now!"
In shock, he let the hypodermic drop. He caught it in slow fall and returned it to the cabinet. Leroy continued to struggle. Prescott moved away from the counter. "What? I'm sorry. What did I do?"
She soothed the chimp in low tones. Leroy quieted down and Prescott moved closer. The panic in the chimp's eyes subsided, replaced by something worse. Prescott couldn't quite put a finger on it but it disturbed him more than the fright.
Gautier said "It’s the hypo. Another negative association."
"I dislike needles myself."
"You'd fear them more if you had his experience."
"Again, I'm sorry, I didn't realize. Will he be okay?"
"Sure. That's why I give them three drops of this in their water before injecting the sedative." She pointed to a blue vial on the table.
"Got it. No white coat, no hypodermic. Anything else?"
She shook her head. "Not unless you want to help me clean him up." She pointed to the diaper.
He fought down a gag reflex. "Will he bite me?"
"No, he might even forgive you for the needle."
"I've never changed a diaper before."
"No kids?"
"Not even close."
The chore was not pleasant and served to reinforce his commitment not to reproduce. When they had finished, he helped put the chimp into the cage. Leroy sat on the floor and stared at him through the mesh. The fear from the hypodermic incident had not returned, even when the door to the cage closed on the chimp. But there was a human emotion in those brown eyes and Prescott didn't like it. Worse than fear, it was resignation.
"I hope you don't mind the vidfeed, Doctor. Wilson wanted some images from my point of view." Prescott tapped the lapel camera.
Gautier peered into the defrosted observation window. "No problem." She spoke into her recorder. "Subject Lch-f-4 revival. Sixty hours in cold sleep. Vitals low but recovering to normal. Temperature equalized, pressure same, timer released, unsealing door now." She opened the door and slid Lucie's bed out.
Prescott came as close as he could. "I wish I could transmit the accompanying stench back to Wilson along with the pictures."
"I'll leave the cabinet open to air out until next test. She's moving already."
"This strap is digging into her arm. Can I loosen it?"
"Not yet. A fall before she's fully recovered could injure her. In the reduced gravity, bones grow brittle without exercise."
"Any idea what they think during recovery?"
Gautier rolled her head. "Can't say, EEG's regular, heart and respiration are erratic for a day, sometimes longer, but no noticeable long term side-effects and each has been under half a dozen times."
"How much more research do you need to do?"
"Well, with those new subjects, the longer tests will finalize this phase of the project. Then we move forward to human trials, depending on Wilson's timing." She spoke into her mike. "Subject's eyes are open and observing myself and Prescott Wayne."
"I will talk with him tonight and confirm your agreement. It's coming out of my budget so I'll make the formal request."
She stared at him for a moment. "If that's how you want it." She slid her arms under Lucie's legs and let them drop one at a time. "Subject's muscle tone normal for lunar gravity. Reflexes recovering on schedule. Check again at oh-eight-hundred hours tomorrow." She wheeled the gurney through the door into the living pens.
Leroy began to hoot the moment he saw Lucie.
"He seems excited to see her."
Gautier said, "He's jealous of you. She's watching you again."
"Were they mates?"
"Not here. Both neutered long before they came to the moon. Makes them easier to control."
"And there's never any shortage of available chimps."
"It's getting harder all the time so I may have to consider it. The main reason for not allowing them to procreate in the lab is the time lost during pregnancy."
"And post-natal nurturing?"
"We couldn't allow time for that." She closed the door on Lucie's cage. "Subject in holding pen. Leave extra water in both subjects' quarters. End."
Prescott moved back into the lab. "Allow me." He filled two water bottles. He slipped the sedative container back on the table and brought the chimps' bottles to Gautier.
"Thanks. I have an errand to run. You can stay here if you like."
Prescott nodded, "For an hour or two. Make sure I have a feel for the place and show Wilson I'm doing my job. Maybe we could grab a coffee later this evening before I check out."
"Sure, call 631 from your room and we'll pick a spot."
"Is there a place topside? I'd like to see the surface from a dome."
"Yeah, it'll take you half an hour or so to get there but it's worth it. Just ask for directions to Hab Prime."
He looked at his watch. "How's 1800, give you enough time for your errands?" And mine.
"Works for me." She pulled off her smock and cleaned her hands from a wall-mounted hygienic spray dispenser.
After she'd left, Prescott sat down at the computer station and logged into his Raleigh bank. Then he found the Florida refuge and transferred funds with a brief message, "Re: the Mexican Circus: move now, you have competition."
He dialed Elizabeth's number. Answering machine voice instructed, "Leave a message."
"Elizabeth, it's me. I'm pushing back but I need your help. I'm sending some fragile cargo to your site via a remote pod. Transfer the contents back to Earth for me. You're cleared for access to my account. Use whatever funds required. I may be persona non grata for a while." He hung up without telling her the personal stuff he'd spent the voyage to the moon rehearsing. She'd made it clear his hopes were in vain.
He checked his watch. Time to get my hair cut. When in Rome or Luna, do as they do, he thought.
Prescott returned to his room. The vidlink buzzed. Someone had an open call to him. He answered, "I'm here. Who are you and what do you want?"
"It's Jack, your boss, and I want to know what you think. Nice hair, by the way."
"You saw the video. What did you think?"
"I think we need to light a fire under Gautier. What's your reaction to the tests?"
Prescott stretched out. "I'm too tired to be diplomatic. Indignation, disgust, revulsion. Anything else? No, that covers it."
"The tests are too short. We need a longer trial and I can trigger the bonus. It's time I got a return and a chance to grind those pricks back. At Gautier's request, I moved on those new samples. Cost me forty-freaking grand. I'm deducting the excess from her next bonus."
Prescott sat stunned and angry but he had to stay calm in front of Wilson. He blustered, "Why don't you pay the guy who sold the chimps forty grand to come up here and take their place? Or better, share the bonus with Gautier and put her under for six months? She said she wanted privacy and I think I could run the procedure."
"Don't tempt me. You sound bitter. Don't bail on me like Elizabeth."
"Leave Elizabeth out of this." He took a deep breath. "She bailed on me too, remember?"
"You'll get her back, for both of us." Wilson grinned.
"Jack, you are such a dickhead. I'm going to bed. I'll talk to you in the morning."
He disconnected. A message from the refuge. "Shit," he muttered. He read it aloud, "We were too late, chimpanzees gone. Thank you for your efforts and contribution to the cause."
Gautier had end-run him. "Damn. I owe her a nasty one."
He turned off the lights and stepped back into the station's corridor.
Prescott wheeled the packing crate past Selene's and straight to the dock area. He keyed in Elizabeth's coordinates to the loaded remote pod. He placed the cross in-between the two small sleeping occupants and closed it up. He pushed the activate button and the contraption moved away on its own towards the big outside. "Sorry for the inconvenience, Elizabeth. Hope you have room."
1730 hours. Gautier would be on her way to meet him in Hab Prime. Would she come to the lab first?
In the lab, he found a fresh IV socket and proceeded to read the instructions. "Straightforward enough," he muttered. Simple, with a willing or sedated patient.
"What in God's name are you doing?"
Prescott spun around to face Gautier.
"Not His, my name. I'm injecting a little humanity back into what it means to be human. I take it we won't be having a drink topside." He moved toward her.
She backed up a step. She glanced at the pens. "Where are my animals?"
He kept the IV hidden. "Lucie and Leroy are beyond your reach. Wilson always says 'push the envelope'. I'm pushing in a direction he didn't anticipate. You shouldn't have called him on those chimps." He came closer. "I'm paying you back and doing you a favour, Doctor. Advancing your research in one great leap." He held up the IV.
"Screw up my work and I'll destroy you. I'm this close to complete success. Where are my chimps?" She picked up a rail from the gurney and brandished it.
"My experience has been we can learn as much, perhaps more, from failure as we can from success." He moved sideways, keeping an eye on her weapon. "Why'd you come back?"
"Wilson called me, pissed royal. Told me someone tried to hijack the deal with the circus. Cost him more money. Had I leaked it? I hadn't so I figured it must have been you." She swung the bar and caught Prescott on the arm. Before he could react in the lunar gravity, she brought it back the other way against his knee.
"Bloody hell," he screamed. He fell to the floor. He grabbed the gurney and whipped it toward her. It caught her midriff and she dropped the bar.
She fell to her knees, hands clutching her gut. "You crazy bastard!"
"You hit me first." He swung his good leg and clipped the side of her head with enough force to topple her over. He pulled himself up and found what he was looking for. He fell on her before she could recover. He probed the injured knee and winced. "I hope you haven't broken any bones--don't know how well they'll set in six months."
She hissed, "The moon's no place for your ideology."
"Ideological warfare got us here in the first place," he responded.
"It didn't keep us here. The quest for knowledge brought us back."
"Then I'm comfortable with my actions. Goodnight, Doctor Gautier." He drove the hypo into her shoulder and sat on her until she lost consciousness. "You'll wake up before me so clean up the place." He grabbed her lapel mike.
He limped to the tube and keyed the timer-lock to 180 days. He stood a moment then inserted the IV. "Ouch. I knew I hated needles." He took a deep breath. "This next step's a little tough." He turned to face the microphone. "Wilson, you slimy prick. If you maneuvered me into this, pray I'm restrained when I wake up and you're present."
He connected the cryo tubes to the IV then hoisted himself into the chamber.
Okay, he thought, am I doing this for Elizabeth? Or for Lucie and Leroy and the other chimps I tried to save?
He pulled the door closed. "I bet this is going to hurt." He watched the exchange tubes run red and blue as his blood drained and synthetic fluid took its place. Cold, real or imagined, surged from arm to shoulder to neck. Hope this antifreeze is good to forty below.
"Hell," he said aloud, "The moon's a perfect place for ideology. This for the part of me that's still human."


This story originally appeared in On Spec #106.

Al Onia

Al Onia concentrates on Science Fiction, mostly from the hard to the hard-boiled.