Frank Poole awoke. But he did not remember. He was not even sure of his name.
Obviously he was in a hospital room: the most primitive and evocative of his senses told him that. Each breath brought the faint and not unpleasant tang of antiseptics in the air, and it triggered a memory of the time when - of course! - as a reckless teenager he had broken a rib in the Arizona Hang-Gliding Championship.
Now it was all beginning to come back. I'm Deputy Commander Frank Poole, Executive Officer, USSS Discovery on a Top Secret mission to Jupiter-
It seemed as if an icy hand had gripped his heart. He remembered, in slow-motion playback, that runaway space-pod jetting towards him, metal claws outstretched. Then the silent impact - and the not-so-silent hiss of air rushing out of his suit. After that - one last memory, of spinning helplessly in space, trying in vain to reconnect his broken air-hose.
Well, whatever mysterious accident had happened to him, he had obviously been rescued. It had to have been Dave. Good old Dave, he thought to himself. I must remember to thank-
Wait a minute. I'm obviously not aboard Discovery now. Surely I haven't been unconscious long enough to have made it back to Earth. No, that must be it. Dave must have put me into one of the hibernation pods. But if that's true, I could have been unconscious for two years at least.
Just then the door opened. In walked a nurse, wearing the timeless uniform of her profession. She was checking his vitals when she noticed with a start that he was awake.
"Hello," he said after several attempts. His vocal cords were very rusty. "How am I doing?" The nurse smiled at him and put a finger to her lips in an obvious "don't try to talk" gesture. She finished her inspection of the medical instruments and left the room.
Blackness started forming at the edges of his vision. Terrific, he grumped to himself. I only just woke up, and now I'm going back to sleep.
When he awoke again, he saw the nurse from before, this time accompanied by a doctor. The doctor noticed him.
"Ah, you're awake. How do you feel?" Poole managed a sound that was halfway between a croak and a groan.
"Thirsty," he rasped. The nurse brought him a glass of water with a straw, which he sucked slowly. "Thank you."
"I hate to engage you in conversation so soon, but there are a few important questions we need to get out of the way. Can you tell me your name, please?" Poole nodded.
"My name is Frank Poole. Are you concerned about memory loss?" The doctor seemed puzzled.
"No," was the response. "Why? Should I be?" It was Poole's turn to be puzzled.
"Well, no, it's just that I had expected to be a little more recognizable. There are only five of us, after all."
"Five of who?" Poole frowned and cleared his throat.
"Five of us on Discovery. We were world news for quite awhile, not to be arrogant."
"Discovery? What's that?" Poole shook his head, clearing his throat again. His vocal cords were very rusty indeed
"I guess you must not watch the news much. Discovery is, or was, the first manned mission to Jupiter. We left the Earth about eighteen months ago, in the fall of 1999." Now it was the doctor's turn to shake his head.
"It's April of 1999 now. I've never heard of Discovery, nor Jupiter, nor Earth." Poole turned ashy white.
"You're joking, right?" Again, the doctor shook his head.
"One of our space probes found you floating around just inside the boundary of our solar system. Seems you drifted through space for God knows how long. You're fortunate that the insulation in your suit is so efficient - your body temperature has been hovering around absolute zero the whole time. That's what kept you alive - your cells didn't have time to die." The blackness returned to the fringes of Poole's vision. His complexion turned into a mottled gray, almost like Styrofoam. "Are you alright?" The doctor was alarmed now; had he just killed his patient with shock?
"I I don't feel so well." He turned and vomited into the bedpan the quick-thinking nurse had handy. Before he could right himself, he passed out.
All That Glitters Is Cold 2 Fanfic Competition
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