Lies & Legacy – Excerpt

Every push and pull of muscle, every articulation of bone, burnt like wildfire. Juliane had no idea how long it had taken her climb out of the metal tube or cross the raised platform housing the cryogenic cylinders—remembering her name had been difficult enough. Had it been mere minutes? It felt more like days or hours.

Her arms and chest ached where tubes once connected her to the inside of the tank. The smell of stale air, which met her upon waking, took on the scent of dirt, decay, and a hint of animal as the moments passed.

A pair of lighting fixtures dangled askew, giving her pause as she scanned her surroundings. The shadows they cast around the room made her disorientation even worse. The cavernous space should have been a familiar room. However, the image of what the area should look like in her brain directly contrasted with the reality before her.

Large blocks of stone and ceiling fragments littered the room. Pillars of steel support beams stood twisted or lay broken altogether on the ground. The floor should have been marble tile, polished to a high shine. Instead, the area could be better described as dirt-covered rubble than as a room. A cave is a more apt description. Except a cave wouldn’t have a pair of elevator doors on its far side. That exit was blocked now.

Her heart began to race. How do I know that? The memory remained locked away in her brain, and the more she tried to force herself to remember, the more a sharp pain erupted from the center of her forehead.

“Get it together, Juliane,” she muttered. The pain receded as quickly as it had materialized. “It’s just a broken elevator shaft.” Wet drops fell from her face onto the floor below. She wiped the offending moisture away. Crying would do nothing except make it more difficult to navigate her way through the room.

She inspected the ground in front of her more closely. At least there doesn’t appear to be any glass. She gingerly took another step. She didn’t yet trust her legs to keep her from falling.

She looked over her shoulder at the row of cylinders. Two lay open—the one she’d crawled from and one other. Her eyes narrowed at the second cylinder. It had to have once contained another subject like herself. Or does it?

The throbbing in her head resumed. Though her fingers itched to pry the nearest one open to confirm her suspicion, she stopped herself. If people were contained in the other cylinders and were lying in stasis like she’d been, she might inadvertently cause irreparable harm by powering them down without the proper sequence. Her current situation was enough proof of that.

She tore her gaze from the other metal tubes and turned toward the elevator doors once more as she tried to recall why she’d agreed to go into cold sleep in the first place. There had to have been some reason. However, Juliane didn’t recall being sick or having a life-threatening condition. Try as she might, her reasoning—along with the memory of the moments leading up to entering the tank—eluded her. It doesn’t matter, she decided.

A breeze caressed her cheek. Turning toward its source, she spied another door, one she hadn’t noticed before. It led to a small auxiliary room, partially blocked by a pile of boulders. Natural light shone from above, revealing a narrow tube and a dark iron emergency access ladder. The ladder’s rungs were covered in clumps of dirt rather than the fine dust that covered everything else. Had someone recently come through here? she wondered. Whoever it was, they had left her behind.

Juliane grimaced. The walk from the dais to the ancillary room had been painful enough. Climbing a ladder would be murder on her deteriorated muscles. What other choice do I have?

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