The Noble Project: PART I
Each player receives a letter from the University of Oregon indicating that he has been selected from the thousands of other applicants to take part in a groundbreaking study in extended cryogenic stasis. Participants will be put into a suspended animation for exactly one year as part of the final study being conducted before government approval for non-military use. Each Sleeper will receive $100,000 compensation for taking part in the study and must agree to regular medical exams for the year following the study and annual check-ups for three years.
University of Oregon
The players, known as Sleep Group Five arrive in Eugene Oregon by way of a chartered jet. A limousine bus transports them to the campus to meet with the director of the Cryogenics Lab, Lawrence Lipton. He has a short half hour meeting with the individuals to sign all the remaining paperwork. That night everyone attends a dinner with Mr. Lipton and two senior medical staff assigned to the study, Dr. Martha Chance and Dr. Kenneth Lauretta. Four sleep groups have already been cryogenically suspended. Sleep Group Five consists of six members: Tay Aycastle, Brad Severns, Joseph Perez, Colin Wu, Neils Benjaminson and Dawn Glass.
“Lucky” Severns has at least three cocktails before the food arrives and leaves the table at least once to grab a smoke (which draws cross looks from Dr. Chance). He is reminiscent of a middle-aged Sam Elliot. He seems amiable enough, especially after a few cocktails, and has no end of stories to recount about the numerous injuries he has suffered as a Hollywood stuntman. Everyone present has seen one of his movies.
Tay Aycastle is a good Christian man from the south. He is extremely athletic and though it takes some prodding to find this out, he confesses that he is a former Bronze medal winner in the 2004 Olympic Pentathlon. His southern drawl can be hard to understand at times, but he’s a pleasant fellow.
Joe Perez looks like he just drove in from Miami Beach. By all appearances he’s Hispanic immigrant, but his blue eyes belie some mixed family roots. The puka shell necklace and surfer attire cast him as a beach bum or possibly an extreme sports athlete. Turns out, he’s an ex-Marine Medic turned EMT and movie buff.
Colin Wu introduces himself as a software entrepreneur from Silicon Valley. He’s a tall Asian man who comes off as a bit reserved. He’s generally not very forthcoming in conversation, but any talk about technology catches his attention and garners some response. For a former dot-com VP, he’s in very good physical shape.
Neils Benjaminson is an older gentleman from the mid-west. He’s a well over six feet tall and has grandfatherly warmth about him. He takes part in just abut every conversation without hesitation. Most people cannot help but like this guy and are glad he’s not trying to sell them a car, because they’d have bought it by now. His laugh is infectious even if his jokes are corny.
Dawn Glass is a recent communications graduate from Phoenix. She’s fairly reserved in the table conversations and she exudes a youthful innocence in her manners. Her blond hair and blue eyes are disarming, but she is smart on a broad range of topics. She seems most comfortable around Neils and Dr. Chance.
The dinner is pleasant and composed mainly of light conversation. At the end of the meal Dr. Chance gives a small speech about how excited she is that each participant chose to volunteer for the study and that she personally guarantees their safety throughout the study for any who harbor doubts. She cites numerous prior studies for the military and a spotless track record.
The following morning both doctors make the trek to the Pine Mountain facility with the group. Two small prop planes take them to a remote airstrip in the central Oregon desert. From there it’s a bumpy ride to Pine Mountain along dirt roads.
The facility is a repurposed observatory at Pine Mountain Observatory. The facility is state-of-the-art and the accommodations rival most five star hotels. The facility was primarily an observatory that was expanded to include the cryogenics lab. The only indication of this is the modern structure just down the hill from the telescope building. The bulk of the facility is underground, with only the commons and office housed above ground. The facility is powered by a subterranean hydrogen fuel cell fed by an underground spring and by solar panels.
Sleep Group Five has a few days to get acclimated to the facility and surrounds. On the night of their last waking day, there is a dinner hosted by the staff in honor of the participants in Sleep Group Five. This is their first and last real chance to get to know each other before the study begins. The evening meal highlights the variety of volunteers.
The UO study is being conducted with six sleep groups, this group is the fifth. Each group is being put into suspension one month apart. Cryogenic sleep testing has been funded by the military for years and only now is it being deregulated for civilian purposes. Similar studies are being conducted at other facilities around the country, but the Pine Mountain facility is the first to begin operation. These studies represent the first long term stasis of civilians and is considered safe by the medical community.
Sleep Group Five meet Doctor Richard Noble at the Pine Mountain Facility. He invites them all into his private office for a conversation. His office is plush and well appointed. Framed pictures of his family are spread across his desk. Numerous plaques and awards cover the walls. Six comfortable leather chairs await the group. He is a distinguished man in his early fifties and beams as he describes the importance of this study; calling the volunteers pioneers. He is convinced that each their names will be written into the history books as such and no lesser title will suffice. He believes that cryogenics is the first form of time travel and we are only beginning to comprehend possibilities it will afford humanity. Doctor Noble explains how each participant was personally selected by him to take part in the study. He did not leave that decision to anyone else or random chance. His speech goes on for a good twenty minutes with the good doctor walking animatedly behind his desk. In the end he opens an expensive bottle of cognac and toasts to a pioneering spirit.
The Cryogenic Facility
The participants are offered ample free time to explore the observatory and surrounding areas. There are plenty of hiking trails for nature walks. A full assortment of board games and movies are available in the ground floor lounge. Satellite TV is running constantly with the latest sports and news. News of escalating unrest in the Middle East dominates the headlines. Governments in the region risk rebellion while tensions mount with their neighbors. Nuclear weapons are rumored to be in the hands of many of their wealthy oil-rich nations.
Three times a day they group is poked and prodded during numerous medical exams. They are told to refrain from alcohol and tobacco or face expulsion from the study; Lucky winces at the notion of this temperance. Many of the other volunteers pass the time playing cards or reading in the lounge areas.
The facility staff consists of Doctor Richard Noble, Doctors Martha Chance and Kenneth Lauretta. Each pod is assigned one medical technician; Navek Shih is the technician assigned to Sleep Group Five. She is very friendly and often spends what free time she has in lounge area getting to know the group. The other medical technicians are less approachable. Sleep Group One’s tech Roman Hirsch is a bit callous compared to the others. Navek chastises him for calling the sleepers “popsicles”. The other lab assistants are engaged in varying degrees of prep work for their groups. They are Bill Royer, Janet Paulsen, Clarence Ho and Marilyn Sheets. In general the staff is friendly, but Dr. Noble is hardly ever seen as he spends most of his time in conferences in his office. In addition to the human staff is a Sec-Med robot on each Cryochamber level. These act as mobile crash carts with limited medical diagnostic equipment and restraining capabilities. They have built in defibrillator and intubation devices. The robots are humanoid bipeds, although they lack the cosmetic enhancements of household servant bots that made to appear more human.
The two days prior to suspension, the group ingests a nasty tasting pink goo in place of meals. They are also given a series of inoculations with a broad range of antibiotics.
On the morning of their suspension they are asked to remove all jewelry and ingest some white goo that tastes nastier than the pink goo. After an hour of relaxation exercises they are led across the hall and into the Cryochamber by Navek. The chamber is bright and clean with six gleaming tubes that remind one of an MRI machine. Only one member of the sleep group is in the chamber at a time. She asks everyone to remove their clothes before entering their respective tube. The soft bedding contours to their bodies while soothing music plays in the room. Navek gives each a friendly wink and a smile as she affixes an oxygen mask. Doctors Chance and Lauretta are focused on the equipment read outs, but Martha give everyone a thumbs-up as the room dims. The glass cover slides quietly over the beds and silence takes the room. After a time Doctor Chance’s voice breaks the silence as she quietly reminds the participants to relax and breathe deeply.
She asks them to count with her;
Ten, the air tastes faintly of roses…
Nine, eyes grow heavy as light slowly fades…
Eight, muscles feel utterly relaxed…
Seven, darkness and warmth take over as they drift into slumber.