Discovery part 9 by Ronald Faltus

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SUMMARY: Gareth catches up with Sands aboard the colony ship, will either survive?

As he moved, Gareth could tell by the increasing number of conduits and power cables along the sides that he was passing into a different section of the ship. The number of crates he passed began to abate, and ahead it seemed to be illuminated by a constant light. Off the main corridor, smaller openings lead away, each adding their own light to the causeway. Gareth slowed, and crept up to the first opening and glanced in. Spaced less then a meter apart were glass tubes filled with a green vapor, partly obscuring its contents. Tubes ran along both sides of the passage, each giving off a gentle radiance. Further down, the glow form the chambers merged, distorting everything into a muted haze. Cautiously stepping in, Gareth went up to the closed tube and looked through the glass; using his glove to wipe away a thin layer of dust that had formed across the surface.

There, like some haunting apparition from the past, a figure slept. It was a male of Middle Eastern descent, and Gareth thought he was in his mid thirties. The age was hard to determine because while his faced looked young, the growth of his hair and beard added years to his appearance and obscured his features. Cryogenic tanks didn't freeze time for the occupants; they just merely slowed the process of aging considerably. The anethsitizing gasses that swirled within the tubes, aside form providing oxygen and nutrients, slowed the body's metabolism to a near crawl. Instead of aging ten or fifteen years on long treks to their new homes, passengers would only get older by a few weeks. But after a hundred and eighty years marooned in the nebula, each colonists had still aged at least a year.

His name and rank were printed across the lapel of his vintage jumpsuit, indicating that he was a level four construction aid. After doing a quick appraisal of his uniform, Gareth realized that this section was reserved for the actual laborers of the expedition. These were the ones who were going to do the physical work needed to set up a new colony. That explained why Sands hadn't opened these tubes, even though they were the first he would have come across. Further up the corridor, towards the front of the ship, the aristocracy that would actually manage the colony were housed, segmented away form the general laborers. They were from the affluent families that would have been able to afford the high quality of Nasab Bracelet that Sand's was hunting for. Reflecting on the irony that this system that regulated the social structure had managed to condemn the rich and protect the rest, Gareth stepped back into the main corridor.

Hugging the wall, Gareth proceeded forward along the hall, pausing briefly at each side passage to pear in and check the status of the tubes. He also kept an eye on the banks on the other side of the causeway, on the chance that Sands was working the other side. But there was no sign of the criminal, no trace that anyone else had been here for over a century. The silence was impenetrable, his every footfall failing to make even the slightest noise as he edged toward the forward section that held the higher status passengers.

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