The following is the second in our promised series of background vingettes exploring the world of Blue Planet. ______________________ Rolf went into hypo more than a week before the Jebel Mousa was to leave orbit. His cooler was little more than a box, two and a half meters tall and a meter wide. That was enough for Rolf to stretch out - a little. Poor Hanne would rattle around in her's, which was easily half again as tall as she was. She gave Rolf a quick kiss as they clambered awkwardly into their canisters, a single tear in the corner of her pale blue eyes. The IV they'd stuck him with must have already started taking effect. Instead of feeling bored or nervous, or afraid, or sad, Rolf was simply happy to lie there grinning at the ceiling. After a while, a medic in a bright orange jumpsuit came around and shone a light in Rolf's eyes. The tech muttered to himself. He pulled a white, round stim monitor out of a recess in the side of Rolf's capsule, and smeared it with paste from a tube at his belt. Then he stuck it to Rolf's temple. More went on Rolf's torso, arms and legs, and several on the back of his head. The medic stepped back, and pulled closed the lid. The light inside went out, and for a moment, Rolf panicked. The cooler registered his fear, however, in his elevated heart rate and breathing patterns. It sent waves of electrical current through the stims and into Rolf's body. So weak he didn't feel them, they nevertheless helped calm him down. So calm, indeed, that he was soon asleep. So calm that Rolf slept . . . for more than six months. When the light came on, Rolf made the mistake of opening his eyes. More than half convinced that the world was spinning around him, Rolf clamped his eyes shut. Now it only felt like the world was spinning in the dark. A voice spoke. "Please, do not open your eyes. Remain calm. Breathe deeply. Disorientation and nausea are normal." "Wie schon fur mich," though Rolf. Moments passed, and then he became aware of an itch. It began as a tingling in his skin under each of the two dozen or so stim pads, and it quickly intensified. He couldn't remember ever having had to work so hard just to get his hand to move. His fingers brushed one of the pads on his chest and suddenly the itch sprang to life. It ran on millions of tiny hooked feet to where his fingers had touched, clawing all the way. He pulled the round pad off his chest and tried to toss it away. It failed to even reach the panel only centimeters above him, before falling to the pad on which he lay. The itch was burning the back of his neck now. He wanted very badly to vomit, but his stomach was very empty. After a few moments, a man opened Rolf's cooler. His hands were warm as he helped Rolf to sit up. His touch was reassuring, something Rolf's poor mind could cling to. Rolf looked into the man's eyes with a pitiful expression on his face, and through drool smeared lips, rasped, "Wo bin ich?" copyright 1996, Jason Werner.