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Avalon Adams wakes up 100 years in the future in a new habitat with few memories and lots of questions. At first, HOPE (Humanity’s One Plan for Escape) habitat appears to be a well-oiled machine, preparing 5,000 carefully chosen inhabitants for a new Earth. However, a medical assistant named Ilium reveals that certain members of the habitat have been falling ill from a mysterious virus they were inoculated against. Soon, the tranquil illusion of HOPE habitat is shattered as Avalon plays a perplexing message left by her father. If Avalon is to survive this dangerous new environment ,she will have to find the strength to navigate a habitat enveloped in secrets.

This relentless, page-turning mystery thriller set in a post-apocalyptic world is the first in a series by author Nicole Stark.

Chapter One



Year 2170 
A loud siren woke Avalon up. What’s wrong? Avalon shivered and convulsed as a mysterious liquid flowed past her arms and legs. Cold air assaulted her nostrils. She was lying down on an icy metallic surface, her arms positioned on either side of her body. Am I dead? Is this some sort of out of body experience? Avalon struggled to open her mouth and scream but something was stuck in her throat, preventing her. As she attempted to rise up, she was met with impregnable resistance in the form of metal restraints. No. I am definitely alive. Although I don’t know for how much longer. Someone spoke in the darkness. “I am here,” the soothing voice said. “Don’t worry. You’re going to be OK.” Who the heck are you? Oh my gosh is this a serial killer? Avalon’s thoughts fell to her father and her stomach tightened.

Why is my mouth closed? How come I can’t see? Where is Dad? Something is wrong. Avalon continued to thrash against the restraints. “Don’t worry, you aren’t blind. It happens to everyone when they wake from cryosleep,” the voice said. “You will be able to see better in an hour as the ointment wears off your eyes.” Cryosleep. Cryosleep. Doesn’t that mean I was frozen? Her mind struggled to remember the past. She remembered her Dad. His eyes were sad as he handed her something. Before she could discern what it was, the image shifted to a long drive to a place she had never been before. Someone uncuffed her wrists and ankles and removed various IV lines. Avalon curled and uncurled her fingers, stretching them out. Finally, the thing that was in her throat was removed and she gagged.

Her throat was so sore, so scratchy. Now is the time to flee. But I still can’t see. After opening her eyes over and over again, the obscured view began to focus. When the person attached to the voice blocked her line of sight, she followed the movements with her head. But on second thought, I don’t know where I am or why I am here. Where would I go? I need to play it calm. Avalon’s once frigid body temperature quickly warmed up, and with it, more of her senses returned. What is that smell! Alcohol, sanitizer, air freshener, and the pungent odor of human sickness slapped her in the face causing her nose to curl upwards as her lips curled down. The voice laughed. Glad someone thinks this is funny. They won’t for long, though. Not once I clearly see their face. After a few more moments passed, Avalon attempted to sit up. Her arms felt a little rubbery, like they could barely support the weight, but she maintained the posture until her arms felt solid again. Something cold and metallic latched onto

Avalon’s left wrist, causing her to twitch for a minute with alarm. What is that? The voice seemed to read her mind as it answered, “Don’t worry. This is just a smartwatch monitor for your vitals. I suggest you calm down as your pulse rate is very high.” The voice wrapped a warm blanket around her and assisted her in rising from her cryochamber to sitting down in a chair. Clutching her throat, Avalon gestured for water and listened to the sound of padded footsteps leaving the room. A minute later, she sipped water from a cup. After taking a few slow sips, Avalon downed the rest in one gulp and said with a hoarse voice, “Thank you.” The voice brought her some more water before she asked for it. After finishing the second cup, Avalon asked, “Who are you and where am I?” “The name’s Ilium,” he said. His voice had a nice tenor to it, not too loud or too soft. “And I am a physician.”


You look way too young to be a physician. You are twenty-two years old max. “I know you have a lot of questions. Most people do after waking. However, I need you to remain calm,” he requested. That’s easy for you to say. You weren’t tied down, with a random stranger in front of you. “Do you remember anything about the past?” Ilium asked. Avalon racked her brain for memories. She had a hard time remembering her own name, much less the mumbo jumbo Ilium wanted. However, it wasn’t long before distorted images began taking proper shape as they resurfaced bit by bit from the deep recesses of her foggy cognizance. She remembered someone standing over her, placing some kind of mask over her face. Images of long nights staring through a telescope with her father emerged, tracking something. More images flooded her mind, like skiing down a pearly white slope in the Andes, barbecuing and fireworks on the Fourth of July, swimming in the neighbor’s pond, and crisp orange leaves falling to the ground.

Yet, uncertainty chased her about how she came to be here. She remembered the sound of someone calling out a long laundry list of names, someone her brain recognized but whose name she could not recall. That man. The one always standing on a podium or surrounded by flags. He must be important. Who is he? Avalon shuddered as her pulse raced again. Her father would never let her enter a place like this alone. Shaking her head she answered, “I don’t remember anything about this place. Where am I?” “You are in Humanity’s One Plan for Escape, otherwise known as HOPE habitat. The HOPE habitat is designed to protect you and about five thousand others from an extinction level asteroid.” She pivoted her head towards Ilium as fresh tears formed in her eyes. Her father detected the asteroid one of those times he looked through her telescope. She remembered it clearly now—he later alerted the President and media outlets to the asteroid’s collision course with Earth.


Avalon wiped her cheek with the back of her hand and tried to ignore the ache forming inside her chest at the memory of her father. “I know it’s a lot to take in. Take your time,” Ilium said. Avalon gazed around the room. “Where is Dad?” she asked. Ilium’s face looked confused, as though she said something wrong. “I’m sorry. I thought you remembered.” “Remember what?” Ilium’s eyes betrayed an emotion his lips didn’t want to relay. He took a deep breath before saying, “Your father was denied entry. Remember?” Avalon continued to examine her mind for memories. But most of her memories consisted of events far precluding anything to do with this place. “Denied? What do you mean?” Ilium’s pained expression answered for him. “Only those between the ages of eighteen to twenty-five were allowed entry, barring the President and the head scientist Viggo.”


Avalon’s lower lip trembled. Tears formed in her eyes. “You mean to tell me that my father left me in here alone?” Avalon’s mother died shortly after giving birth. Diagnosed with a heart problem which required powerful medicines—medicines that would have aborted the fetus growing inside of her, Avalon’s mother, Margery, chose to ignore her doctor’s advice and do nothing to harm her chances of bearing a child after being told of her infertility since her teenage years. As Avalon grew up, she often wondered what life would have been like for her father if her mother had lived, and she had never been born. She usually had these feelings when she caught him staring off into a distant place or caressing her mother’s photo on the fireplace mantle. Most men of his stature and rapport would have hired a nanny to help out, but her father always believed in separation of work and home. Despite his ever-increasing workloads, he prepared home cooked meals every other day.


Her father made huge sacrifices throughout his life to support her, and he never remarried. “Not alone. Like I said, five thousand others are present.” Avalon shook her head from side to side. She took the biodegradable cup and squished it in between her hands. It didn’t satisfy her anger. She wanted to squish something else. Perhaps, the President’s skull. After a gut-wrenching sob, she shouted, “You think I give a rat’s butt about anyone else? I only care about my father you moron!” “I understand your reaction,” Ilium said. “Reaction? Reaction. Oh, I can show you reaction,” Avalon said. “Please remain seated. I would hate to have to take measures to ensure your safety.” Avalon flung her arms around and screamed. He had to be wrong. The few memories she held were threatening to devolve into a pool of pain, loss, and fear. She waited for her father to burst through the doors and come rescue her.


For any signs of her friends or family. The thought that she would never see them again chilled her to the bone. “Who are you really anyways?” Avalon spat. “You’re too young to be a doctor.” Avalon’s eyes searched frantically around the room as she began yelling, “Where is the doctor?” “Please, Ms. Adams. I am the doctor. I’m young because I skipped high school.” Avalon closed her eyes. She had to collect herself. Yelling at this crazy was not going to work. Perhaps, if she asked more nicely, he would budge. “Where is the President? I would like to speak with him,” she said with a tight-lipped smile. “Don’t worry. You will be able to see the President today. But not in this state.”


Avalon gritted her teeth in a desperate struggle to suppress her frustration. Ilium reached into a dresser and retrieved brown scrubs, socks, and black combat boots. “These are for you,” he said placing them on her lap. “I am going to leave the room for a minute, so you can get dressed in private.” Avalon listened to the soft echo of footsteps as he left the room. Her eyesight was still a bit fuzzy, but she detected a few more colors and the general outline of a shirt from the clear hole in the center and at the two sides. She placed the shirt over her head first and slid her leotard off underneath it. After feeling around for the tag, which she placed on the back end of her rear, she slid her pants on. The socks were a much simpler affair. Last, she stuck her foot in each shoe to discern left from right and placed the correct shoe on the correct foot. “I am done now,” she eked out. After returning to the room, Ilium said, “Great. You’re coming around quickly.” Not quickly enough. Avalon took a deep breath. “The alarms. Why were they going off when I woke up?” “We think something’s wrong with the wiring in the building. We are trying to fix it, and our patchwork lasts for a couple of days, but the cryochambers have been prematurely opening on occasion.”


Avalon chewed on what he said for a moment before asking her next question. “Cryochambers.” Avalon looked back at the pod from which she emerged. “How long have I been in that thing?” “One hundred years.” Avalon took a deep breath. All she had ever known, all of her friends and family, were long dead. She truly entered this habitat alone. Avalon felt like her sanity was slipping, slipping from her fingers with every word Ilium spoke. Avalon cried silently in anguish over her whole world collapsing. Ilium walked over to her and placed a hand on her shoulder. Avalon knocked it off. “Don’t try to comfort me. I need to process this alone.” Ilium backed away. He didn’t look angry at her brush off, but concerned. Avalon still didn’t know nor trust this “physician”. Yet, if what he said were true, she was going to need more information.


After a few deep breaths, she closed her eyes. If her father truly had left her here in order to survive alone, she needed to remain calm. Between sniffles, she asked, “How many others are awake?” “At present, around one thousand and forty-eight members awake.” Of course, that number didn’t mean anything. She was pretty certain she didn’t know anyone here. So she was still alone, even if there were other warm bodies physically inhabiting the space. Ilium continued, “The President and the Council believe it’s best for people to acclimate to the habitat via smaller groups, without having to deal with everyone all at once.” In his calm voice, he added, “Every three months we wake up twelve hundred and fifty people. By the end of the year, all five thousand members will be awake.” Avalon swiveled her head to study the room in greater detail. Column after column and row after row of cryochambers filled the room. Avalon wiped the tears from the corners of her eyes and returned her gaze to Ilium.


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Nicole Stark