NPC: Dr. Zan Aegzgorr
Location: A hospital in a city
Darrurz wakes up in a bright sunlit room. Although tired and still a little
weak, he nonetheless feels somewhat rejuvenated. Nothing hurts and that's good.
He sits up in bed and peers through the window; the curtains are drawn back. In
the distance, he sees forested hills underneath a yellow sun, mid-morning
perhaps, however long the day here may be.
The room smells clean but his nose picks up the scent of another vargr. Looking to his left, Darrurz spots him, asleep. "You awake?" he asks his roommate, but he doesn't respond.
Always the bold one, Darrurz swings his legs over the side and discovers that he is naked. Everything that should be there still is. He examines his body for old wounds. He finds the remnants of scars from his last fight but they are faint; the hair already growing back. He feels his face. That scar is still there but it feels softened.
Darrurz gingerly slides off the bed and puts some weight on his legs. They feel tired, as if he spent all night running, but they're supporting his weight. He glances over at his roommate, who is lying on his back hooked up to a respirator, and then slowly walks to the window. His feet ache with every step but he makes it to the window without collapsing. He rests his arms on the windowsill to take some of the weight off.
Outside lies a small, modern city. The buildings are a mere 10-20 stories in height. Grav vehicles fly in the distance. The street below has electric cars. There are various shops with vargr of all ages going about their business. All things considered, it looks rather peaceful.
The door to the room opens and Darrurz hears a gasp. "What are you doing up?" It's the woman from the room he woke up in. She isn't angry, just surprised, and still beautiful.
"I thought I'd check out the view," Darrurz replies, pleased to hear his voice is working again.
"Well, there will be plenty of time for that later," she says with a smile. "Please come back to bed, Darrurz. While I'm pleased to see that your strength has returned, you still need your rest."
Darrurz complies with her request.
"Since you're up, I will keep my promise and answer your questions." She grabs hold of a monitor tethered to an arm extending from the wall and directs it so that Darrurz can face it. "First off, I'm doctor Zan Aegzgorr. I'm a specialist in cryogenic medicine. You've been in a cryostasis pod for a very long time."
"How long?" Darrurz interrupts.
She sighs. "We don't know exactly how long. The records on your unit were erased. All we had was your name: Darrurz. Since you responded to it when we revived you, we figured it was a match." Before Darrurz can interrupt her again, she holds up her paw and continues, "Once I tell you the date, I imagine you'll be able to figure out how long you've been frozen. We're just as curious as you are."
Darrurz whimpers for her to get on with it.
"Yes, going by the old Imperial calendar, the year is 1202. Fourth day of the twelfth week. Does that help?"
Darrurz's ears go up in surprise. He looks at Zan taking in her scent to see if she is lying, but he can sense no deception from her. He replies, "It does. 76 years, 3 weeks and 5 days. Although I can't be completely sure because the last thing I remember was being dosed with slow." After checking himself again, he continues, “And it looks like someone patched up the gunshot wounds." His ears come down as he contemplates that length of time. “That was the 'When'," Darrurz says and encourages Zan to continue. "Go on..."
Her ears go back and her head tilts to the right. "Most patients are a bit more upset when they learn they've been frozen for an extended period of time."
Darrurz barks at her, “Everyone I cared for was dead when I was dosed. Everything I had worked for was gone. I wished to make a new life and a new pack but those that should have followed chose to challenge. Never trust a Corsair. I'm just surprised to be alive."
Her ears droop and her head drops a bit. Her tail falls between her legs. "I'm sorry."
After a pause, her ears return to their normal position, as does her head, then she says. "You're on the planet Tagan, which is located at 2611 Gotsdzo, or Windhorn if you're more familiar with the Imperial naming convention."
Darrurz thinks for a moment "2611 Windhorn, is in the rift. Just coreward of the 17th Disjuncture if I remember correctly."
"Yes, it is. Tagan refused to join the Disjuncture as its leaders felt that destroying the Imperium was not a form of progress. They were wise not to join for when the Imperium fell, the Disjuncture clung to it like a hungry tsilgrr clinging to a narroth stuck in a prehistoric tar pit.
"Anyway, how and why you came to be in that cryostasis pod is unknown to us. Like I mentioned earlier, the data was erased. I don't know the specifics of how your pod got here. Salvage teams enter the Wilds all the time and bring back what they deem useful. Survivors are always considered useful. Cryostasis pods are brought to a quarantine facility and kept there until someone decides that the people inside should be revived. Then those pods are brought here.
"And now here you are."
Darrurz nods. "So did they shoot themselves into the dark ages? Did the Vilani fall? Is what is left the 'Wilds' that you speak of?"
Zan explains how an artificially intelligent computer virus was released by one of the Imperial factions and subsequently turned on its creators. From there it spread like a plague, corrupting computer systems everywhere. But unlike past computer viruses that just fouled up operations, this one was self-aware and sought to destroy all organic life. It largely succeeded.
Darrurz’s jaw is open and his ears are up as he listens to the events that have transpired in his 76-year sleep. After a pause to gather his thoughts he asks, "So tell me about Tagan."
Zan sighs and then wags her tail. "Tagan is a beautiful world, a sanctuary. Except for the flood of refugees, life here is much the same as it was. We're still an agricultural world, but the times have necessitated a limited manufacturing base.
"I don't know how much you know about us from your time, but back before the Imperium's war with itself, we traded a lot with the Tsougak Trade Federation, primarily our closest neighbor, Igodosakfell. She smiles. "Industrial worlds have a lot of mouths to feed."
"The trade federation was forced to join the 17th Disjuncture. As we weren't a threat, or of strategic value, we were left alone.
"We were still on friendly terms with our neighbors so when they received word about the catastrophic computer virus, we sealed ourselves in and hoped for the best. Being out in the Windhorn shielded us from the worst of the Viral plague."
She stares at the floor, her ears droop, as she solemnly says, "Other worlds were not so fortunate. When we re-connected with Igodosakfell, we learned that eight hundred million people had died from virus attacks, internal fighting, disease and starvation.
Her gaze returns to Darrurz. "Our leaders realized the sacrifice they'd made. In defending their world, they'd protected us too. We knew we owed them and we sent as much aid as possible." She brightens. "We helped rebuild their world and opened ours to them in return.
"Together we formed a new pack and have contacted a handful of other worlds. The survivors have joined us and together we are stronger. But there is much work to be done."
She takes a deep breath, before continuing, "But that is enough for today. It is good to see that you have recovered from your extended cryosleep. If your curiosity hasn't been sated, you can use this monitor here to access our Infonet, but you must rest too. Your physical therapy starts this afternoon."
"How do I work the monitor?" Darrurz asks.
"It responds to voice commands. You address it as 'Fae' and then it will listen for your commands. For example," she turns to face the monitor, "Fae, display starmap with our world centered."
A silver icon appears on the screen. It looks roughly triangular with flattened corners. Darrurz recognizes it as a Mđbius shape. It then displays a starfield with "Tagan" in the middle. It lies in a rift with its closest neighbor four parsecs away in a trailing-rimward direction.
"Thank you," Darrurz says.
"You're welcome," Zan says with a smile. "A nurse will bring you some food and then, once you're finished, bring you to the physical therapist. I have to prep for another revival this afternoon but I will check in on you later." With that she leaves Darrurz alone with the monitor.
Darrurz has no problem using Fae to learn about Tagan and the Pack's other member worlds. It looks grim out there.
After about an hour, there's a knock on the door. After Darrurz barks his permission for entry, a pretty young nurse arrives with a tray of food. Darrurz takes a deep breath, the scent of it caresses his nostrils like an old lover. His stomach growls loud enough for the nurse to hear. She giggles.
Darrurz can't help but salivate. There's a steak along with some local fleshy fruit and juice.
"Enjoy," the nurse says as she leaves.
Darrurz digs in as soon as she's gone. He's in heaven. The steak tastes like it was killed this morning. He doesn't think it was ever frozen. The fruit is good too. This is the best food I've had in years. Then chuckles at himself about how true that statement is.
After lunch and more browsing on InfoNet, the nurse returns to take his tray. She asks him if his meal met to his liking and he says so with enthusiasm. She then takes him to the physical therapist. Darrurz is able to walk there on his own, but the nurse doesn't leave his side.
The physical therapist, a middle-aged, sturdy-looking vargr woman named Unksarga, guides him into the small gym. It has various low impact equipment and several elderly vargr and even a couple humans are present. Unksarga puts him through a series of exercises. She pushes him just enough, but notes that Darrurz pushes himself harder. By the end of the workout, Unksarga praises Darrurz for his efforts and tells him that he's made great progress. "Tomorrow we'll put you through a more intense workout."
The pretty nurse, Aegazae, escorts Darrurz back to his room and shows him the bathroom. After she leaves, Darrurz takes a shower. His dinner arrives later and it's as good as his earlier meal. After some more studying on InfoNet, Darrurz grows tired and goes to sleep.
His roommate still hasn't stirred.
NPC: Dr. Aegzgorr
Location: A hospital in a city
Darrurz wakes up after someone knocks on his door. "Enter," he barks.
The pretty nurse, Aegazae, enters his room accompanied by two burly, male vargr nurses.
"How are you feeling today?" she asks.
Darrurz doesn't answer at first. He watches the males cross the room and attend to his roommate. "Fine, thank you."
"Good, I'll bring you breakfast."
Aegazae walks over to assist the males.
"What are you doing?" Darrurz asks.
"Your roommate, although stable, is in a coma. We're transferring him to the long-term care ward. Dr. Aegzgorr has a new roommate for you. She tells me that he was in a cryoberth even longer than you."
Darrurz's ears perk up. "Really. How long?"
Darrurz watches the males wheel out his now ex-roommate.
After breakfast, Darrurz is offered light clothing to wear and escorted to physical therapy. He's pleased with his recovery. He neither feels the effects of extended cryoberth exposure nor the introductory workout from yesterday, which is good because Unksarga explains that she has a more vigorous one planned for today.
As Darrurz winds down from his workout, he notices Dr. Aegzgorr enter the
room. She's frowning, but upon seeing Darrurz she smiles, wags her tail, and
"So Unksarga, how is our patient doing today?"
Unksarga nibbles something on her arm, then says, "He has recovered very well." Her tail wags. "I am pleased to say that the neurostimulation process has brought him back to pre-frozen levels of performance."
Darrurz asks, "How can you be so sure? You don't know what my pre-frozen levels were?"
"Oh, but we do," Unksarga says. She pokes his arms and legs. "Right after you were successfully revived, we put you in the scanner and ran MRI with CDI and NMSD. We can tell from the patterns in the images where you were and how much has atrophied. The neurostimulator then sends electrical pulses through your body to wake them up, and if necessary, rebuild them to their previous levels."
Dr. Aegzgorr leaps in at this point. "But we can't make you stronger than you were as the machine can not add muscle mass, only reinvigorate what was there."
"I see," Darrurz says.
"Thank you, Unksarga," Dr. Aegzgorr says.
Unksarga bows slightly.
"Time to get you back to your room, I'd like you to meet your new roommate."
"What can you tell me about him?" Darrurz asks as the two leave the PT gym.
"He's a human from your time period. The cryoberth computer says that he was frozen in 1122 and he corroborates that."
"Oh, so he's awake."
"No buts. He's just having difficulty accepting where, I should say when, he is. I'm not entirely surprised. Acceptance difficulties are common among long term cryoberth patients. But he's worse than average. I believe it's because of the circumstances of his freezing. His cryoberth records indicate that he was captured by corsairs in Lishun sector, which he also corroborates, and then sold to the Touzagh."
Darrurz's ears shoot up at the mention of the Touzagh.
She notices and says, "You've heard of them?
"Yes. Bastards, every single one of them."
"Well, you'll be pleased to know that they disbanded in 1126 after the destruction of their base on Ikhog."
"That is good news."
"After that, there are no entries in the cryoberth log." She pauses for a few seconds before continuing. "I sensed resentment from him because I'm vargr. Considering that the last vargr he dealt with were pirates, I'm not surprised. He's not really accepting my reassurances that we're not like them so I sent Dr. Patel in to see him. I'd hoped that a fellow human would have better luck with him, but she said that he was still suspicious. Polite, but suspicious.
"Maybe someone from his own time period will help too." She looks to Darrurz for a reaction. "But if he gives you any grief because you're vargr, let me know and I'll move him. Ok?"
"Grief because I work with humans, grief because I come from the Imperium, grief because I'm a Vargr, grief from a worthless pack of toothless corsairs. Story of my life. Grief from someone else? Just add it to the list.
"For all I know you could be pulling a fast one, and this could all be a simulation, but hey I'm alive and that’s good enough for me."
She stops dead in her tracks and scowls. "Are all people from your time period this paranoid?"
Darrurz stops and turns towards Zan. "It was War, everything I had or cared about was lost. I was shot, I was drugged, and I was put into cryo. Why wouldn't I be paranoid.
"The only reason I'm probably not as paranoid as my new roommate seems to be is because Llallaeknuez told me I would be needed because a great death was coming. Judging by what you've told me about that computer virus, I'd say she was right.
"I don't know if you have heard of Llallaeknuez, or if you just believe that she is a myth, but for me she is real. She saved my life and I hope to live up to her expectations of me."
"Oh, I know about Llallaeknuez. Tagan has always respected the old ways. I'm a bit surprised that someone from your generation would know of her. No offense to you but from what I understand the typical vargr from your time only cared about the hunt."
"All Vargr care about the hunt but it doesn't mean we all lost sight of the old ways. My hunt was for profit through trade. Trade strengthens packs through mutual gain. It builds societies and lays the foundations for the next generation. It's much more challenging than just turning up with a laser turret and taking what you haven't earned.
"All Vargr care about the hunt. It's part of who we are. It's part of what we do. It's part of being Vargr. It doesn't mean we go chasing gaek and killing ngoen with our teeth."
"But that's my point. While you were a trader, there was a huge increase in the numbers of raiders, pirates, and corsairs among our people. Look at what happened in Corridor and Lishun. And Vland and Antares would've been much worse if they'd obeyed Lucan's orders to withdraw their fleets to his defense. If the old ways had been adhered to, would the invaders have had the numbers to achieve what they did?"
Darrurz says, "We'll never know. What's past is past and can't be changed. All we can do is learn from it and hope we don’t make the same mistakes. If you think the old ways will make the difference then make them the new ways. Cast off the philosophies of the past and work for the good of the Pack."
Zan nods her head in agreement.
With that Darrurz turns slightly to continue walking towards his room. He asks, "Any chance of some half-decent clothes, Zan?"
"I'm sure we can find you something from the donation bin before you check out."
Next: New Roommates