The building before them rose out of forest like the ancient, all but abandoned artifact it was. Only the efforts of the ship’s autonomous maintenance bots had kept the living, evolving forest from tearing it apart.
As it was, it rose out of the ground on one side only, large reinforced doors set into a windowless wall. There was no roof as such; the building was covered with earth to provide more space for the habitat to grow and spread. The earthen ‘roof’ blended down the sides into the ground, making the building appear to be nothing more than a small hill anywhere but from directly in front.
Rose opened the door, an action that took more force than was strictly necessary for a standard door. These were reinforced, a precaution that had seemed wise in the face of unknown and unpredictable evolutionary twists and turns in the biospheres set up aboard ship.
Inside, the lab was virtually indistinguishable from the one they’d left. Rows upon rows of cryo-pods filled the space. Also like the other bay, the pods here were frosted over, the occupants obscured, and all the status indicator lights showed red. All, that is, except one.
Dann examined the sole green-lit pod. “Private Jackson, Lydia” read the name plate affixed to the front of the pod. He rubbed the pod’s transparent cover, but the frost coated the inside.
“I wonder why just this one pod survived,” Dann asked absently.
“I’m afraid I don’t know, Pvt. Chambers,” the android answered.
“You don’t have to call me that all the time,” Dann commented. “Dann will do. Or just private.”
“Alright, Dann,” she said. “Do you intend to awaken Pvt. Jackson?”
“We’d better. Her pod’s still working, and we don’t know what caused the others to fail. There’s no telling if or when hers will, too.”
“True.” The android gracefully began tapping the controls on the pod’s front console, beginning a manual revivification program.
They stepped back as the pod began to heat up and settled in to wait. Dann made sure they had clothes, food and water ready this time.
A short while later, the cover unsealed itself and retracted. “Um, Rose, why don’t you disconnect her and get her dressed. I’ll wait over here,” Dann said uncomfortably.
When Jackson was dressed, unplugged, sipping water slowly and digesting the news of the crew’s fate, Dann turned to Rose. “Where’s the next possibility?” he asked quietly.
The android cocked her head for a moment. “The next nearest possible survivor is Lt. Cobb.”
The private nodded.
“Rose.” It was Jackson. Her voice was scratchy and dry; she looked as terrible as Dann had felt. She also looked intent, staring at Rose with a keen interest. “How do you know where Lt. Cobb is? How did you know where I am?”
The android turned to her. “I have access to most ship systems, Pvt. Jackson, and from that access I am aware of which pods aren’t responding to automated command and control pathways.”