Today is my birthday, and to celebrate that I wrote some flash fiction. Enjoy!
Beep beep beep beep…
Consciousness found him, but only just so. The steady rhythm came to his ears muffled, as though he were under water.
It wasn't water per se, he recalled faintly. It was a water-based solution rich with nanoparticles carrying vital oxygen to his lungs, delivering nutrients through the skin of his mouth, and removing waste products one molecule at a time. He had been blissfully unaware of this dance for the duration of his sleep.
How Long? was his second thought as he remembered where he was.
The beeping continued unabated. He now recognized it as a familiar melody, but one he could not yet name.
Several seconds later he was fully awake and beyond surprised that he felt no need to pee. He recalled the protocol that would play out as the first mechanical vibrations reached the hair on his arms, transmitted via the liquid medium.
A steady flow of warm air replaced the now-receding fluid. The nanoparticles that remained on or in his body quickly migrated into his small intestine. With a brief, satisfying cough he was breathing the ship's air again. Assuming he was still aboard his ship.
A light embedded in the transparent dome over him had shifted from red to amber, and after the soft hum of a medical scan it glowed a friendly bluish-green. The dome parted in the middle with a slight pop as pressure equalized and it hid itself within the housing of the sleep pod. Gingerly, he found purchase and sat up in the tube. He blinked, taking in his surroundings.
A grid of empty pods covered the floor of the sleep bay of the first SuperLuminal Exploration Dispatch Malamute. His smiling crew stood together at the foot of his pod. The XO held a small brightly-frosted cake complete with a single burning candle.
Recognition dawned on his face as he checked the large chronometer on the bulkhead that listed the Earth Date and GMT.
"Happy Birthday!" the crew shouted as the final electronic notes of the song faded from the ship's speakers.