The air inside the medical facility was stale, just like the white ceiling and walls. The white tiled floors were polished to a mirror and the metal benches were just as reflective.
A whirring buzz from a speakerphone filled the room.
"#22204 and #22205, please report to the kiosk for your results".
An average height, portly built young man stood up shakily. He reached back with spread fingers to receive a tiny hand. Attached to the tiny hand was the fragile frame of a young girl. Despite her sickly appearance her face was soft and cute underneath her bulky white mask.
The two walked steadily to the glowing screen across the mirror floor. Past all the bowed heads and solemn faces covered from the nose down in white and gray masks. The young man shuddered. It was hard enough being out in public, but the drained stares were enough to send him running back home.
The overall mood was like attending the wake of an important social figure, except there wasn't a body on display.
In a way, the kiosk in the center back of the rectangular room served a similar purpose. People took turns walking up to the screen, said a few words and departed in silence in the same manner as a wake.
And now it was their turn.
The microscopic lenses that lined the screen had already scanned the two siblings. The monotone female voice of the A.I hummed from the kiosk.
" Please confirm identification #2-2-2-0-4.
Please confirm identification #2-2-2-0-5."
The screen displayed medical details underneath each identification number. The young man quickly glanced over his information then confirmed.
Name: Vander Evans
Weight: 247 lbs
The young girl did the same.
Name: Violet Evans
Weight: 72 lbs
A warning message flared over the screen. But Van swiftly tapped confirm before it could finish its display. Something about privacy of results and confirmation was needed because there was another person detected. Blah. Blah. Blah.
Van was used to this routine as he was the usual guardian of his younger sister during her medical visits. If asked, he could probably recite the aforementioned warning label by heart.
Now it was time for the results:
"Van!" A weak gasp pushed past the white mask.
" It's ok Vy,". Van turned to Violet to reassure her.
This much he already knew. But seeing the words still hit like a ton of bricks. It was a natural feeling when faced with your mortality at such a young age. This virus knew no mercy, and spared no target. Be it young or old, fit or obese, saint or sinner. No one was exempt.
That's why it was fitting that the word 'Sin' was in the virus name, because everyone was susceptible and no one could escape it. The Psyn-Virus was an ever evolving airborne viral threat that almost seemed sentient as it swept across the world. Its origins were still unknown but it was clearly a deadly threat to all humanity after decreasing the world population by 20% in just 1 year.
Thanks to this mutual enemy, world powers had united like never before in history to create a cure. The future was promising, and with their combined technology it was only a matter of time before the Psyn-Virus would be stopped.
The one thing they didn't have. The siblings shared a distraught stare at the results displayed under #22205.
Van shook off his stunned look to check on his sister. But she was already looking up at him. Her eyes smiled that same brave smile she had when they first learned of her condition.
After stage 3, there's only 2 stages left. Then…the end. Closing his eyes to hold back tears recalled visions of watching their father decay, stage by stage until
he was claimed by a painful death.
Just as the siblings turned away and rejoined hands to depart, the screen flickered behind them.
Van quickly shot back a glance at a notification he had never seen before.
"You qualify", He spoke in a puzzled tone.
[ Due to the early stages of your results you qualify for an experimental treatment program. Stages 1-3 may register for the Stasis Vaccine program. Pending acceptance you will be able to take the completed vaccine at no cost.]
As if there was really a choice. Wait and die or sleep in a stasis pod with the hope of one day being cured.
Van flung out his hand in the same swift stroke from before at the chance of a lifetime.
The screen blinks once then displays an upload folder gathering all their medical information to auto fill the registration forms. He stared at the screen unable to blink as the percentage increased 1 at a by 1.
Somewhere around 13% his mind began to wonder.
Who knows? Maybe waking up after being frozen in time would be like getting isekai'd into a future paradise.
I could wake up to a world of flying cars and have a robot best friend.
Or somehow end up in a post nuclear apocalypse filled with mutants and killer robots.
What If I sleep so long I end up in some post catastrophe stone age and have to lead humanity back to modern civilization!?
Honestly, I'd be happy with just-
A fresh start.
The doors opposite the exit of the rectangular room shot open.
In the near blinding white light coming from the open doorway emerged a single figure.
A person stood motioning for the two to enter. The siblings walked cautiously past the person wearing something like a lab coat over a hazmat suit.
A garbled mechanical voice crawled out from the speaker on the hazmat helmet.
"Due to the advanced nature of the Stage 3 registrant, we have deemed it necessary to begin the prerequisite process of the Stasis Program immediately."
And that was it. Those were the only words spoken down the long white corridor. Only the shuffling of footsteps could be heard for the minutes it took to complete the walk.
The siblings stopped short of the door as the hazmat person continued on to swipe the key card reader and reveal an elevator.
Next they went straight down for the same amount of time it took to reach the elevator. Until finally the doors opened to reveal a large facility filled with other hazmat people and amongst them, normal people looking just as confused as the siblings.
What happened next seemed like a whirlwind of questions, syringes, measurements and tests. Most days Van couldn't decide what was harder, having to talk so much or taking so many different injections.
It felt like days had gone by but it was easy to lose track of time while inside the windowless underground lab.
Just as Van had braced himself for another round of shots and questionnaires a hazmat person handed him a folded set of clothes.
Looking around, everyone else was already getting dressed behind their curtains.
Van and Vy followed suit, peeling the packaging away to put on the light gray starched pajama-like outfits.
The stiff creases were the only visible design beside the ID numbers printed across the upper right side. Van finished zipping up the shirt just as a voice erupted over the speaker phone.
"Once you have changed into your sanitized clothes, please proceed into the next room."
As abruptly as the instructions stopped a doorway was revealed.
All the registrants lined up single file and entered the room. Once inside they were directed to a pod with their ID number printed on the door just above a QR code.
The people clamored inside their assigned pods while the familiar voice of the speakerphone addressed them in person.
Van adjusted to the uncomfortable padding inside the pod, meanwhile his sister was already in a resting position. Van had to acknowledge her strength through it all. He could barely endure the rounds of shots and medications required to enter Stasis but his sister barely winced at the huge needles.
The hazmat person explaining the hibernation process and the in depth description of the creation of the pods became background noise.
Van caught bits and pieces as he wiggled in his Pod in discomfort. Something about light weight, nearly indestructible ultra modern alloy caught his attention.
Basically this coffin sized tube meant for freezing people weighed about 10lbs. Go figure. Looks like each tube adjusted to the measurements of the host as well.
Glancing around, he noticed his sister's pod wasn't much larger than the children sized pods they passed by earlier.
Violet caught his glance and put up an extra wide peace sign towards her brother.
"V for victory", she whispered across the room.
Van did the same as the pod doors closed slowly in unison around the room.
Sleep came instantly once the door was closed. And in what felt like mere moments, he awoke from his dreamless slumber.
*BEEP, BEEP, BEEP*
*BEEP, BEEP, BEEP*
That's one hell of a wake up alarm.
Van was shaken alert in an instant. The beeping was deafening. The flashing yellow light was blinding.
When his vision returned he was faced by bold words on the screen of his pod.
Van tried to touch the screen for more information but his body didn't listen.
Looking again at the screen he noticed a loading bar filling beneath the words. By his guess it was about 75% full.
"I guess I need to wait". He talked to himself but barely recognized the voice. Was it the slight echo inside the pod or the fact that he hadn't used his voice in a while?
A while. His mind started to ponder the word. Just how long had he been asleep?
There was no indication of time inside the pod and he couldn't see past the bold words on his screen.
He had regained use of his hands without realizing it and was pushing against the pod door.
Just relax. Almost 90% done. His thoughts were calm as he stared at the loading bar but it seemed like his body still wasn't listening to him.
Now he had a knee pressed against the door. Something about the big bold word 'Emergency' had his heart racing but it wasn't himself he was worried about. He needed to confirm his sister was ok.
The pod finally unlocked and lifted open. Van came spilling onto the floor immediately after. He flopped, crawled, limped and eventually shuffled his way over to his sister's pod.
A sigh of relief nearly fogged up the whole visor on the pod door. She was ok. Still asleep and with no visual alerts.
But why was he woken up?
He looked around for signs of the hazmat people but the only thing in the room was pods. And they were all open.
Starting from his sister's side he walked around the room.
Empty. Empty. He counted off every single pod and made his way back to his pod. Some pods looked like his, opened from the inside. But most of them looked like they were forced open from the outside.
And even stranger was the ID on the pod next to his. The first part, #222--, he could make out; but the rest was illegible. Maybe it was a coincidence. There were literally 96 other people that pod could have belonged to. But what if she was here?
No use obsessing over it. Van gathered his thoughts to focus on the situation at hand.
Returning to his sister's side he examined her statistics on the screen next to the pod. Everything read good except the reserve power levels.
It looked like her Pod was running purely on reserve power and it would only last 12 hours at most.
If the power ran out without a cure being administered his sister would not survive.
Van raced over to the exit and pounded on the door.
"Hey! Somebody open the door!"
No one answered. Or rather, no one was there to answer. The facility appeared to be long abandoned and there was no hope of outside help coming this deep underground.
There was a keypad next to the door. Pushing in random numbers while holding down the unlock key somehow worked. Either that, or the door was already unlocked without the power on to keep it sealed.
Van quickly squeezed through the door and raced past the vacated lab area towards the elevator.
"Yes!" Van quickly darted back to the room of pods. There was still some power left on reserves for the elevator.
Along the way he grabbed a dolly in order to load up his sister's pod and make his escape.
It felt like an eternity riding up the elevator.
Van burst out of the doors as soon as there was enough space. He felt like it would fall any second.
The wheels on the dolly were spinning much faster than their intended speed. But thanks to his haste, Van was past the door and walking out of the exit across from the rectangular room in no time.
He stopped for a brief moment to check the time on the pod and to catch his breath.
A burning smell crept up his nostril.
He glanced between the space through the damaged exit doors. Fumes from the outside choked his lungs as his eyes were met with a horrific sight.
Scorched red skies. Thick black clouds. Once great skyscrapers were now tombstones in the sands of a civilization long forsaken.
There was no other way to describe what he saw. There was no future paradise.
It was hell.