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The Outsiders

Less Than Three Press LLC

Heat Rating: SWEET
Word Count: 70,000
Available Formats
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ePub
Mobi

Ninety-nine years after going into cryo, Matty wakes up to a world he doesn't know, with no memories of the world—or the man he loves—that he left behind. This new world is full of suspicion and darkness, humanity having moved underground in the aftermath of the mysterious Event.

And as Matty's memories return, along with his beloved Arkady, instead of his life getting easier, he finds his new reality only getting more complicated—and more dangerous.

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Excerpt

Awareness came on him slowly, like a fog lifting. It wasn’t all at once; he felt as if he were struggling toward consciousness, floundering in the depths of a soft, comfortable darkness. Part of him wanted to stay in that darkness, but a larger part of him wanted to wake up and see where he was.

As he became more awake, he realized with growing horror that he couldn’t move. He was strapped down to something; worse than that, he couldn’t breathe. Fluid filled his nose and lungs, and he opened his mouth to shout, to say something, to gasp—anything! His heart thudded against his rib cage as he fought to free himself and seek out air.

For a brief moment, he wondered if his heart would pound itself right out of his body. The sensation of panic, of drowning, returned. He struggled, feeling as feeble and weak as a newborn kitten, as he battered helplessly against restraints he couldn’t fathom.

“He’s awake!”

The words were muffled yet still distinct. They distracted him from the rising tide of fear. So he’d been asleep? Or perhaps unconscious? He wasn’t sure. He struggled again, trying to no avail to beat his hands and feet against the restraints that held him fast. He was on the verge of screaming into the fluid that covered him when he felt it slide from his head. It was as if a large cork had been removed and some of the liquid had been allowed to trickle out from where he was, draining away swiftly.

He tried to take in deep, gulping breaths of air, praying to whomever or whatever might hopefully be responsible for the respite in his terror, for the simple yet profound gift of oxygen. A moment later, the fluid left his lungs and he sucked in air, his struggles easing as he became content to breathe, instead of trying to open his eyes.

His whole body felt weary and limpid. Opening his eyes was a Herculean task. He managed to lift his lids a fraction, enough to squint into the far too bright light that was above him. He squeezed his eyelids closed again as soon as he could since the brightness stabbed at his eyes like incandescent ice picks. He was none the wiser for that brief glimpse of what was beyond him—fuzzy, indistinct shapes—nothing that gave him any real clue.

“You’ll be all right,” said the same voice he’d heard earlier. It belonged to a man, and now he heard another, a female voice, this one German, unlike the male who was American. Who was he that he was able to recognize accents so distinctly? He had so many questions.

“What should we do, doctor?” asked the German woman.

“We need to drain the cryo unit then start the revival process. He’s been under for a long time, so we need to go through all five physical modules.”

What the hell did that all mean?

“Matty MacDougall, can you hear me? Just nod once. I know you’re conscious, we’ve seen on the monitors that you have eye movement and are breathing. You were managing to fight the restraints quite impressively a few moments ago.”

What else could he do except nod? He did so, the action feeling strange, almost alien. He grunted, realizing that his muscles were as useful as wet paper, probably having atrophied over time. Why was that?

“We have to administer a program to get you back on your feet. It’s going to be painful. I’m sorry about that. Like many things, without pain, there’s no gain, so while you may curse us during the process, you’ll thank us later. Please be aware that everything we’re doing here is for your benefit.”

He gave another nod; after all, there wasn’t much he felt he could really do. He knew his name now, thanks to this American man—he was Matty MacDougall. Was he Scottish?

“I’m just going to tell you a few things before we start. We’ve found that giving cryo wake-ups some light information to process, especially when they’ve been under for a long time, helps them have something to focus on that isn’t just what they’re going through in the procedure of rehabilitation. Your name is Matthew MacDougall, though you prefer to be called Matty; you’re Australian; when you went into cryo, you were 36 years old and had suffered a broken bone requiring surgery in your lower left leg. You were severely injured in a deep-sea diving accident in the southern reefs off Tasmania.

“The year is 2115. You are in the cryo rehab clinic of Dr. Johnson and Partners. I am Dr. Phillips, one of the partners here. You’re one of our oldest cryo patients, having been in stasis here since 2016.” The doctor stopped and stepped back. “I think that’s enough talking for now. We’ll begin with the treatment.”

Matty tried to shift a little, feeling uncomfortable about what that treatment might be. It wasn’t just the anticipation of something the doctor had said would be painful, it was the additional flood of information about who he was and what had happened to him. Cryo—that was short for cryogenics. When he’d been alive, just under a hundred years ago, it had been an experimental thing, joked about or used as a plot device in science fiction movies and books. How the hell…?

“Ready for module one, doctor,” said the German woman.

“Good. Commence and activate… now.”

Matty’s thoughts fled from wondering about the information he’d been given to the sudden pain shooting through his whole body. The sensation of a million tiny needles stabbing into each muscle in a precise and rapidly repeated sequence gave him the thought of being beaten by a gang of very angry acupuncturists—something else he remembered. That was good. However, the pain, that wasn’t good at all, and soon, despite parched, unused tissue in his throat and mouth, he howled, screaming into the confines of the cryo unit that held him fast, shaking, writhing, trying to get away and always failing.

As if from a very long distance away, he heard Dr. Phillips say, “Prepare module two, please. Module one has been very successful. His readings are superb.” From even farther away, Matty heard the woman reply, “Yes, doctor.”

If he’d thought module one was bad, module two was a whole new level of agony. In short order, he passed out. His last waking thought before gladly surrendering to the blackness of unconsciousness was that hopefully this wouldn’t take too long.

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