Upon the Horizon by Nils Durban

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SUMMARY: 1 of 5 entries in the October "vs." flash fiction competition.

Katrina awoke groggily and even though she had known that this would be the case she cursed out loud in Russian. The curse partly caught in her still gel filled throat, what remained bounced around the metallic walls of the casket enclosure.

After several minutes she attempted to push herself into a sitting position, achieving her aim at the third attempt. She wiped the mucus-like gel from her eyes and tried to regain focus. Four of the six "coffins" were still sealed shut and the steady green glow from their readouts indicated that this was not about to change. Her own panel was omitting a pulsing amber glow, she reached out and disabled it whilst noting that she'd been under for a little over three years.

She spent the next fifteen minutes rubbing life back into her numb limbs and, eventually, she was able to half climb, half fall out of the casket, the rubberised flooring preventing any impact damage.

She visited the adjacent head, braving the startlingly bright illumination from the ceiling panels in order to reach the toilet bowl where she induced herself to vomit the remaining gel from her system.

After dressing in her shipsuit, 2nd Engineer insignia upon her shoulder, she began to make her way along the pipe lined corridors towards Control. The lighting along her route graciously turned itself up and then down as she passed by. Only minimal systems were functioning then, and with the rest of the crew left in hibe that meant that something was wrong. It was the first time this had happened to her, but then, it was only her third trip. Her stomach muscles tightened with fear and she fought the urge to vomit again. She quickened her pace along the eerily quite innards of the ship.

When Katrina reached her destination she came upon Douglas, as she knew she would, sitting at his station and nursing a hot chocolate (the aroma was unmistakable) with a concerned look upon his face.

"Doug." she whispered.

He jumped, spilling some chocolate, and clutched his chest, "don't do that to me, Katrina!" he breathed.

"Is there a better way?"

"No," he sighed, "I suppose there isn't. Even a com-call from the sleeper section would have had the same effect."

She moved to sit alongside him. He was not elderly by any stretch, late fifties perhaps, with neat grey hair and a slightly portly figure. He had taken her under his wing from the start with no complaints of freshman joyriders or the newest nano-technology.

"Brief me?" she coaxed.

"I wish the ship hadn't woken you Kat," he whispered, "I don't believe there's anything you can do that I haven't already tried".

His eyes were red and sunken. How long had he been awake?

"Try me?" she smiled falteringly.

Douglas omitted another deep sigh and reached out to toggle the main screen control. The image leapt instantly across half of Control but at first she could make very little out, "what are we viewing this in?"

"Deep Ultra, it's the only way to see the full picture."

"Which is?" A touch testily.

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