by Ruth Nestvold
Cold. No date, no location. So cold, cold and hot, my fingers are burning. Where am I?
Devlin woke, jolting and in pain, and slowly opened his eyes. He was being carried on a stretcher through a white world: not the green-tinged paleness of the sleep chamber he had expected to see on waking, but a cold, earthly white with an orange cast, a white of muffled shapes and shadows. The people carrying the stretcher were bundled in heavy coats in shades of green and orange with hoods covering their heads and hems to their ankles. Furs and thick blankets of some soft material had been thrown over him.
He obviously was not on Jordan. Of course, he couldn't be on Jordan; they had left Jordan, were on their way to Earth. After leaving the Epsilon Eridani system, the first shift crew had taken over and the rest of them had retired to sleep their way through the stars.
Something had gone wrong. Where was his crew? Where was he?
He decided to try his voice. "What happened?"
Two pairs of eyes trained on him, eyes so dark he could see no pupils in them, in faces coffee-colored like his own but hairier. Eyes that looked human but with an indefinable strangeness to them, other, different, in the middle of features that were familiar yet off somehow.
They spoke rumbling words in a language he'd never heard before. Overwhelmed, Dev allowed unconsciousness to take him again.