One Small Step Until Tomorrow

Nearly 3 million years ago

Clarence Jones looked up at the humans locked away in their stasis tubes. His mind raced as he calculated the temporal differentials of their aging process – which was virtually zero. Smiling he adjusted his biker’s helmet, the aluminum foil that lined it crinkling as he did so. He stuck his tongue out, then jammed his thumbs against his ears and waggled his hands, forgetting he was wearing a ‘borrowed’ earpiece he had picked up from Sybil’s lab. He managed to knock his earpiece out, never hearing the message that came over.

A corridor away

It was Sybil’s voice. *Everyone, I don’t like these radiation levels. They are bad enough to affect our rad shield over time. It isn’t just the radiation. That stuff is cadmium II, which a physical contaminant that the rad shields won’t help with forever. Jake, you got You Know Who with you?*

*Absolutely! I am not letting HIM out of my sight for a second.* Jake Iverson laughed nervously. Clarence was infamous for getting him into trouble. *Copy that. I guess I better start trying to head him back to the Jules Verne. I wish there was something we could do for these people. Maybe we could wait the radiation out and come back.*

*Not a chance. Humans will have evolved beyond physical bodies before that time comes. I estimate it will take about 3 million years, maybe a little less, for the radiation to drop to a level they can be safely removed. And we simply aren’t equipped for something on this scale. We have problems of our own trying to get home. I was hoping we could find something of use for our own repairs.*

*Copy that. Heading back.* “C’mon Clar --- Yankee.”

Clarence ignored him.

Jake repeated himself. “Yankee!”

Clarence looked over surprised. “Who?”

“You? Yankee Kilo Whiskey?” Jake growled. “That’s you, buddy.”

“Oh! Right. That’s me. Yankee Kilo Whiskey.” Clarence grinned his eyes still not quite focused on Jake.

Back at the first corridor

Clarence Jones bent down and picked his ear piece up and replaced it. He never spoke on them. He was absolutely paranoid about that sort of thing. But he liked to listen in while the team was exploring. He just liked exploring on his own – and two Clarences were better than one. He looked up at an empty stasis tube it opened up on its own. Now that was very odd. Curious he studied the stasis tube. A female voice ordered him to step up and face outwards. He looked warily. He did NOT like hospitals. And this place reminded him of a hospital.

“Warning,” the woman’s voice spoke again. “Radiation at critical levels deleterious to humans. All personnel enter stasis chambers of face terminal radiation exposure.”

Clarence did not like that. He stepped up and in – though he did NOT like it. Behind him the door started closing on its own.

“Wait – “ Clarence pressed one hand then both against the glass in a vain attempt to stop it from closing. But it was too late. “Jake?” That was Clarence’s last thought.

Some 3 million years later…

“… Sybil!” The door to the tube was opening. Clarence’s eyes were wild with fear. Something was very wrong. It felt very wrong. He wasn’t all there. Jake and Sybil … They weren't talking on his earpiece. He almost said something, but paranoia prevented him from even letting out a squeak.

He stepped down and then looked first one way, then the other. Some of the stasis tubes were empty. He checked his rad field. The battery hadn’t lost any charge. And yet, he had the impression that time had passed. He turned and looked down the corridor in the direction from which he had come – the Flight Deck. He decided he should check and make sure Sybil was okay.

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