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.

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