She heard a faint hissing sound, or thought she did. She wasn’t quite sure — perhaps this was just what absolute silence sounded like, the silence of death, of the void between the stars.
At least she could still see. She looked at the dim, diffuse red glow that filled her field of vision. Or was that just the way utter darkness looked if you stared into it long enough? She couldn’t remember.
The hissing had stopped. No, there it was, too faint to make sense of. But slowly, slowly, she thought she could almost hear a voice, or voices, in it. But faint, so faint. Not like voices in another room — more like voices in another universe.
She was drifting away from sanity again. Not a pleasant feeling.
The voices became a babble. She felt a crowd walking past her, but could see nothing. She heard snippets of conversation, sometimes garbled:
“So I was saying to Larma the other day, we should go down to . . .”
Larma? What kind of name was Larma?
“. . . the Billiken quotient. But over the last three days the Zukind numbers have been increasing quite dramatically. I don’t . . .”
This was not making sense.
No one noticed her here. Perhaps no one could see her, just as she could see no one. More likely, she wasn’t here at all. She felt disoriented, even more than when, during training, she was in zero-G for the first time.
Learning to function in zero-G had been hard. It felt a bit like flying, a bit like floating, and a lot like falling — too much like falling. It was the sort of thing you hoped you’d never have to use in real life, like the fire drills, or the explosion training. Or like the isolation tank.
That’s what it felt like now — being in an isolation tank. But she wasn’t in an isolation tank. Was she? She didn’t think so, and yet that didn’t seem entirely wrong, either.
Where was she? Vague, unpleasant memories were milling around at the back of her mind, but never quite wandered within reach. She wanted to remember what had happened, how she came to be…here. And yet she was afraid, too, of what she might remember.
She slept. It was not a restful sleep. She woke in panic several times, feeling unable to move. In fact, she couldn’t move. She didn’t feel as though she were in restraints, she just couldn’t move. She slept.
She woke in panic. The ship. It was likely to break apart, possibly quite violently. She had to tell them. Had to tell them now. Slowly the panic subsided to a merely unbearable fear. She slept again.
And once more she awoke. What had happened to her? She seemed to remember something about an explosion, or an accident. Yes. She had been in section 7 to check out some slightly anomalous readings. Then what? A breach of some sort, she thought. Then she was taken to the infirmary, and placed in the life-support tank. That way they could debrief her, try to find out more about the accident, what had occurred and why.
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