“Yup, this case is solid. And, I don’t think it’s like our glass – nope, no breaking it.” Isaac placed his thick space glove back on and turned away to survey the circular room.
“Is she alive, do you think?” Douglas took another glance at the petite adult female ensconced in the strange contraption they had been trying to open for the past hour.
“I don’t know.” Isaac said. “She does look it though,” Isaac turned back towards the glass, “see, her chest is moving. Maybe we’ve found our own little Snow White,” Isaac chuckled at his attempt at a joke.
Douglas picked up a sheaf of papers. Sketches of what looked like edible flowers, maize and blue potatoes that could be found on U262. “She can draw,” he said, and threw the papers back onto the desk.
Isaac ambled over to the makeshift table just off the centre. On it were several petri dishes stacked one on top of the other, in columns of five, as if to signify a grouping. Some were already fluorescent-dyed to mark the growth. “What are these cultures?” Isaac bent down to peer closer at one of the groups, not daring to touch the dishes for fear they might harbour deadly viruses.
“Could they be from the plants on the paper?” Douglas hazarded a guess. He was as clueless as Isaac, but one thing he knew, the place had an abandoned feel to it. Perhaps there was an outbreak and everyone had been evacuated, leaving behind this ‘Snow White’.
Yes, he had already begun to call her that. Somehow she seemed more than just a body lying in a glass case if he called her that. Perhaps they had rushed into their emergency shuttles, and in their haste, pushed the pod eject buttons; to only then remember that in a glass case deep in the station they had left their someone precious. But of course, by that time it would have been too late.
“Douglas, look at this,” Isaac held up more papers, this time from a drawer underneath. Douglas heard the urgency in his voice and rushed over, quickly skimmed through them, and let out a long, low whistle.
“Damn, she’s cracked it,” Isaac looked at Douglas, and Douglas returned his grim look. “You know what this means, don’t you, Doug?”
Douglas looked beyond the wide glass windows, into the vast black ink of nothingness he had been travelling through for eleven years, two hundred and fifteen days, and a quick sum from the digital display on the table, four hours and fourteen seconds.
“Yes.” He said with the finality that he hoped covered the ache of regret that was beginning to spread throughout his chest.
Isaac and Douglas moved to their tool bags and pulled out their G81s. Isaac shifted the settings on his to ‘vapourise’ and began aiming at groups of objects on the far end of the exit. Douglas quickly followed suit. The little Venus cactus, ‘zap!’, the waste basket filled with cereal bar wrappers and tissue papers, ‘zap!’, the monitor on the table flashing endlessly Snow White’s cat, holiday pictures, nephews and nieces, ‘zap!’.
‘Zap!’, ‘zap!’ On and on, ‘zap!’, ‘ zap!’ it went until the room was left with just an echo of pristine white walls.
Completed, they both turned around and faced the middle of the room where the glass case seemed suddenly smaller than it did before. “Ready?” Isaac prompted his Captain, whose eyes looked a little bit glazed, unfocused; exhausted.
Douglas raised his arm in reply. He noticed the slight tremor in his left hand as he aimed towards the head end of the incubator of the young woman. He didn’t know if he was ready, but quickly pulled the trigger anyway.