The day I woke up, I threw up. I shook, I cried, and I almost died.
But it didn’t last.
Soon I said hello to the future.
I’m a newfound one.
On the 1st of January 2020, I died of a virus. No one knew what it was, and no one could treat it.
I was put on ice – cryogenically frozen until they found a cure.
The cryo facility wasn’t on land; it was in orbit, and over the tumultuous 22nd century, the facility broke orbit and drifted away, just another piece of space junk traveling through the solar system.
In 2420, they found us.
I was the only cryo pod still viable; space can be unrelenting. If they hadn’t found me when they had, in a few short weeks I would have died too. This time permanently.
They woke me up.
I was now referred to as a newfound one. I wasn’t the only person who’d ever woken up from a frozen sleep. Apparently the universe was full of those who’d been awakened from some kind of slumber, be it cryo or stasis or something more alien.
And all of us arrived in a strange new world.
2020 did not prepare me for 2420. Not at all.
Fortunately I wasn’t alone.
I awoke on Earth.
And there, my story begins.
“Hey, Annie, you still writing in your diary?” Mark leaned against the wall to my room, crossing his arms and smiling.
I turned around, dropping my pen onto the table.
He chuckled. “I can’t believe you’re still using pens and paper.”
“I like pens and paper.”
“They were old fashioned even back in your day,” he snorted.
“Well, I guess that makes me old fashioned too.” I stood primly but shot him a friendly smile.
He grinned. “Anyhow, you still want to go through with this?”
“Annie, you don’t need to do this.”
“Mark, I have to give back. I need a job. I have to stop skiving off the benefactors of the Foundation.”
“You’re not skiving; this institute was set up to help people like you. We all know how hard it is to adjust to this time when you weren’t born here. Christ, it took me ages to figure this place out when I was woken up.”
“Mark, you woke up five years ago. I woke up three years ago now. And look at you – you’re a lieutenant in the Foundation Forces. I’m nothing at all.”
“Don’t be so hard on yourself.” He shot me a serious look. “Waking up is hard on us all. It just takes longer for some people to adjust.”
I shot him a pressed-lip frown. “Mark, it’s time for me to be more like you. It’s time for me to move on and get a job.”
“You don’t want to be more like me,” he muttered under his breath. “And anyhow,” he said louder, “you don’t need to get a job.”
“Yeah, I do. I’ve already picked one, too.”
“Don’t tell me, pen seller. You’re going to open a planet-to-planet service, like a floating ice cream van, except you’re only going to sell pens.”
I rolled my eyes. “Has anyone ever told you you’re funny? Nope? I would take that as a sign.”
Mark chuckled as we walked along. “So what’s the job?”
“I want to work for the government,” I said excitedly.
One of his eyebrows twitched up. “… You’re serious, aren’t you?”
I nodded, my long, tousled red hair bouncing around my ears. “I researched the recruitment program. Apparently once you’ve cleared all their security checks, they’ll do a detailed assessment of your abilities, and then match you to a job anywhere in the universe.” I made a show of spreading my hands wide.
Mark pressed his lips together. “You don’t need to pretend to be brave. The thought of going anywhere in the universe scares you senseless.”
I turned from him and tucked my hair behind my ears. “I’m not scared.”
“So why’s your voice shaking?”
I didn’t answer.
“Annie, come on, you don’t want to go on a government deployment. We’ll find you a job closer to home.”
“No,” I said forcefully, and I meant it. Yeah, Mark was right, and the thought of being deployed anywhere in the universe for any kind of job was terrifying. But… I had to do it, because I had to do something.
I couldn’t stay in this facility forever.
“Are you sure… the Facility is okay with this?” His brow crumpled as he looked at me directly. “I mean, they know about this, right?”
I nodded. “Of course they do.”
“… And no one’s got a problem with it? You leaving, I mean?”
“Oh, I imagine they’ll be happy to see the back of me. Mark, no matter what you say, this is happening. I’m joining the government.”
“Alright,” Mark let out a sigh that shook his shoulders, and he shoved his hands into the pockets of his unbuttoned jacket. “But you’re lucky the future is so open minded. Back in our day, you would have been knocked back for your tats and sense of humor.” He shrugged toward my bare right arm.
I had a beautiful flower-motif tattoo along my shoulder and down my arm. I wasn’t the kind of girl to have ink, but it artfully obscured a birth mark. “You’re just picking on my tattoo and sense of humor because you’re jealous.”
He nodded and shot me a faked serious look. “Yeah, I really wish I had an enormous colorful flower pattern covering my left shoulder.”
“See, you try to be funny, but you just aren’t.”
He chuckled. “Well, now we’ve got that out of the way, if you’re hell-bent on doing this, how can I help?”
I tilted my head back. “I don’t need help.”
One of his eyebrows kinked up. “You sure?”
I shot him a grin. “Pretty sure. I’m going to do this on my own. It’s time for me to spread my wings. I’m three years old.”
He sniggered. “That’s definitely old enough to sign your life away to the government. Seriously though, let me help you. There’s a government office on Earth. I can have you there by this afternoon, me’ lady.” He crooked his arm and leaned it toward me.
I chuckled. “Mark, I’ll be fine. Plus, I’m not going to apply on Earth.”
His brow crumpled with a twitch. “What?”
“I’m going to spend a little of my savings to go to the Alpha System.”
His lips slackened. “What?”
“I’ve always wanted to see the Alpha system – ever since you showed me holo photos. So…” I swung my arms back and forth, “I’m going.”
“… Annie, are you sure the Institute knows about this?”
“Yeah,” I fobbed a hand at him. “Of course they do. They helped me book tickets.”
Mark looked confused. He even wiped a strangely stiff hand down his face, then he hid it behind his back as he pretended to bow. “Well then, who am I to stand in your way? But how about I come with you? The Alpha System is pretty mean. You’ll need someone to hide behind – someone strong.” He brought up an arm and flexed his bicep.
I rolled my eyes, determined not to let my gaze linger on his muscles. “You really need to work on your jokes. But I’ll be fine. Plus, the Alpha System is described as one of the most peaceful spots in all the universe. I most definitely will not have to hide behind anyone strong.”
“… You sure the Institute is happy for you to go off on your own to the Alpha System?”
I snorted. “Like I said – they’ll be happy to see the back of me. Everyone’s been wishing me well. They’ll probably have a parade when I leave,” I joked.
Mark didn’t laugh. “… I better check with the Institute, just to make sure you’re not doing a runner.”
I sighed, but it quickly turned into a frown. “You don’t have to keep checking up on me, Mark.”
He patted his chest, and for a brief second his usually cheery expression became oddly serious. “It’s my mission, kid. Anyhow,” his demeanor changed as he flicked me a trademark grin, “I’m also heading off on patrol. I’ll be at your beck and call though.”
I shot him a look. “Really, the Foundation Forces will allow you to be at the beck and call of some random newfound one?”
“You’re not random. And they know I have existing duties with the Institute. Plus, no rest for the wicked,” his voice dipped low.
I hit him softly on the arm. “You aren’t wicked, Mark, so that doesn’t include you. And what are you saying? You only hang around me because it’s your job?”
“Pretty much,” he joked. “The pay’s pretty good too.”
“Ooh, you’re cruel, you are. Admit it, you like hanging out with me.”
“Okay,” he put his hands up in surrender, “the day you woke up, Annie Carter, was the day I died and came back to life.”
I laughed awkwardly. “You tell the weirdest jokes.”
“It’s a gift. Anyhow, when are you leaving?”
“Today.” I pressed my hands together and shot him an excited but nervous grin.
“Well then, how about I see you to your transport?” He held his hand out to me.
“That would be nice.”
There were times I felt lost in this new world. Times the future seemed too big to ever understand.
Then I was reminded I still had friends.
Or at least I had Mark.
He’d been assigned to me the day I’d woken up. I’d thrown up on him, three damn times, but he’d still stuck around.
He was a newfound one just like me, and he was my guide to this modern universe.
He always made me feel welcome and safe, especially when he flashed me one of his handsome, cheeky smiles.
But it was still time for me to spread my wings.
It was time for me – Annie Carter – to find my place in this universe.
The rest of Betrothed Episode One is available from most ebook retailers.