"Science fiction writers, I am sorry to say, really do not know anything. We can't talk about science, because our knowledge of it is limited and unofficial, and usually our fiction is dreadful."
- Philip K. Dick
||Morgue (Recall Stage)
||Storage and retrieval of frozen bodies.
|When they stepped onto the open platform at Thule Station, warm wind flushed from the east. The clouds had shattered under an ivory moon. Gravel and granite silvered the broken edges. Behind was the city's red mist. Before, on broken night, rose the black Morgue.
They went down the steps and walked quietly through the stone park. The garden of water and rock was eerie in the dark. Nothing grew here.
At the door slabbed metal without external light blotted the darkness. "How do you get in?" the Officer asked, as they climbed the shallow steps.
Rydra lifted the Captain's pendant from her neck and placed it against a small disk. Something hummed, and light divided the entrance as the doors slid back. Rydra stepped through, the rest followed.
Calli stared at the metallic vaults overhead. "You know there's enough transport meat deep-frozen in this place to service a hundred stars and all their planets."
“As of yet, the Customs work involved in getting ships from star to star is a science. The transport work maneuvering through hyperstasis levels is still an art. In a hundred years they may both be sciences. Fine. But today a person who learns the rules of art well is a little rarer than the person who learns the rules of science. Also, there's a tradition involved. Transport people are used to dying and getting called back, working with dead men or live. This is still a little hard for Customs to take. Over here to the Suicides."
They left the main lobby for the labeled corridor that sloped up through the storage chamber. It emptied them onto a platform in an indirectly lighted room, racked up its hundred-foot height with glass cases; catwalked and laddered like a spider's den. In the coffins, dark shapes were rigid beneath frost shot glass.
"What I don't understand about this whole business," the Officer whispered, "is the calling back. Can anybody who dies be made corporate again? You're right. Captain Wong, in Customs it's almost impolite to talk about things like . . . this."
"Any suicide who discorporates through regular Morgue channels can be called back. But a violent death where the Morgue just retrieves the body afterwards, or the run of the mill senile ending that most of us hit at a hundred and fifty or so, then you're dead forever; although there, if you pass through regular channels, your brain pattern is recorded and your thinking ability can be tapped if anyone wants it, though your consciousness is gone wherever consciousness goes..."
Rydra's hand came down on the crystal face, and the name glowed on the screen. “Mollya Twa, Navigator-One." Her coordinate numbers followed. Rydra dialed them at the desk.
Seventy-five feet overhead something glittered. One among hundreds of thousands of glass coffins was tracking from the wall above them on an inductor beam.
The recall-stage jutted up a pattern of lugs, the tips glowing. The coffin dropped, its contents obscured by streaks and hexagonal bursts of frost inside the glass. The lugs caught the tramplateon the coffin's base. It rocked a moment, settled, clicked.
The frost melted of a sudden, and the inside surface fogged, then ran with droplets. They stepped forward to see.
Dark band on dark. A movement beneath the glaring glass; then the glass parted, melting back from her deep, warm skin and beating, terrified eyes.
"It's all right," Calli said, touching her shoulder. She raised her head to look at his hand, then dropped back to the pillow. Ron crowded the Navigator-Two.
by Samuel R. Delany.
Published by Ace Books in 1966
Additional resources -
Compare to cold-sleep from Robert Heinlein's Methuselah's Children (1941), stasis from Heinlein's Door Into Summer (1951),
corpsicle from Pohl's The Age of the Pussyfoot (1965) and the EverRest Cryotorium from Roger Zelazny's Flare (1992).
See also the frigorific process from the 1879 story The Senator's Daughter, by Edward Page Mitchell.
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