Pre * De * Cede: Chapter 1
My first memory was of coming awake. My surroundings were cramped and dark. There was a faint high-pitched beeping somewhere before me. I was unable to move my legs or arms. The first feeling to return to me was that of my feet. They were bare, and underneath was a cold, hard material. It was in a moment that the instruments binding my limbs came undone. I shuffled my feet for balance, and pushed out before me with the palms of my hands. The surface facing me shifted easily under a delicate touch. The pale, colorless light poured in around the edges, and the beeping stopped.
The door moved outward before folding back on itself out of the way. The exterior was as cold and lonely as the light suggested. I glanced at my newly freed limbs. My body was covered in a tight fitting polyester material, down to my ankles, up around my neck, and down back again to my wrists, all in the color brown. Before me, a different light stood out to me.
It was the matte finish of a computer screen. It had likely flickered on some time between me exiting the chamber and looking myself over. I stepped towards it, examining the features. It displayed a collection of bolded words, describing likely what was my surroundings. I pushed my finger onto the circular pie graph labeled ‘atmosphere.’ My finger made a slightly discoloring mark upon the tiny flecks of dust on the touch surface. The graphic reformed itself in the center of the screen, and the percentages appeared, bearing their labels: 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, 1% other. I stared at the numbers for longer than seemed necessary, debating whether or not they were as they should be.
A row of lights to my left flickered for a brief moment, pulling my attention away. There was a fine hallway leading away from the room. There was collection of metallic boxes taking up some of the space, piled up two and three high, just short of my eye level. More lights before me flickered on as I approached. I decided that the lights were a result of some sort of motion sensor, and not in correlation to me coming awake.
My thoughts were pushed to the side as I encountered a new source of light. This one was warm, unlike the neat, round, blinding fixtures above. I stepped before the clear material, placing my hand upon it. The exterior was of vast contrast to what was inside- rough and misshapen, unlike the clean lines and measured angles of the confining walls. I found myself needing to shield my eyes from the bright light. It seemed to emanate from a far-off source, somewhere beyond the rocks and hills and sand and dust and clouds of the landscape outside. The palm of my hand, which had been resting on the clear material, caught a sudden warmth. My toes crinkled from the cold beneath them.
I turned back in the direction of the room from which I had come. The lights were still illuminated, and the screen had gone back to its default view. The compartment from which I had exited was still open, the door folded back to the side as if inviting me. My eyes wandered up to the room’s header, where a faint red light glowed from beneath a plate inscribed with a single word: Alpha.
I had heard the word before. I spoke it aloud. “Alpha.” The sound of my voice echoed just audibly. It was the first proper sound I had heard thus far. I listened closely again in the deceptive silence. The lights buzzed with a faint resonance, and my feet made a pattering sound against the cold, metal ground. I remembered once again the cold feeling in my soles. At the rear of my compartment, I noticed several sets of doors- a short one near the ground, and a taller one up higher.
The first door flipped down from a simple latch. Inside was a pair of shoes, black rubber with black threaded sections, seemingly the perfect size for me. They fit as expected. The sound of my feet treading on the ground changed from a pattering to a rhythmic smacking. After finding my stride, I went back to the second, larger door. Inside, resting upon a metal hanger, was a dark blue set of clothing made up in a single piece, divided into sections for my legs, arms, and torso, as well as a zipper up the front for me to step into. I dejectedly pulled off the shoes so as to fit my feet through the holes at the bottom.
I felt a patch of different material as I brought the zipper up past my chest. Despite it appearing upside-down from my point of view, I was still able to make out the single word upon it: Alpha.
“Alpha.” I said out loud again. I looked back up to the illuminated plate. It was the first in the row of several more spanning the header of the room- Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon, Zeta. Under each word was a similar door, just the same as mine. I turned back to the computer screen. The default information was waiting for me.
I activated the red embossed rectangle reading ‘station power’ in the top left of the touch screen. My finger made yet another uneven print on the matte finish. The bits of interface shifted around, some fading out to make room for others. The new intelligence was displayed to me in various bar graphs. Power reserves were at 59%, and it was indicated that the system called ‘life support’ was taking up more than half of that. The green bar representing the available power jumped up another percent. I hung on the number for a moment when it suddenly began to lurch back to the baseline, a fifth of the power decreasing in a single moment. The high-pitched beep I had heard some time before chimed in once again.
There was a vague mechanical whirring behind me. I shuffled to the collection of compartment doors, tilting my ear beside each of them. The one labeled ‘Gamma’ was producing the sound. I pressed my hands to the compartment door, before stepping back instinctively. There was a faint shuffling just beyond my reach. The latches clicked, and the hatch was discharged, just a few centimeters. A pair of hands pushed outward and allowed the door to fold back to the side. The person inside blinked their eyes, first in all directions, then directly into mine. His gaze traveled down my front, to the patch on my suit. “Alpha.” He spoke.
“Good morning.” The words came out of my mouth, almost like a reflex. He did not answer, but rather looked down his own front, as if searching for his own name. I stepped in and pulled him out of the compartment, before turning him around and pointing up to the plate. “Gamma.”
“Gamma.” He echoed. “Alpha. Where are we?”
I did not know how to reply at that moment. I took Gamma’s wrist and began to lead him down the hall, and to the windows. The exterior had already begun to go dark, but the vast expanse still seemed to hold onto some of the light. It was at that moment that the words came to me. “We are home.”