In a relatively rare occurrence for me, I decided to work up a total outline of the story. It is sparse in places and does not break down word counts (pacing is difficult and the biggest impetus for revisions, in my opinion) but it gets the totality of the story across. Incidental characters, events and locations will no doubt crop up during the actual writing process, as will complete rethinking of some story elements and beats in the outline. But that is what first drafts are for, right?
The story opens with John being introduced to his new position as a full fledged Sandman at the age of 19. His life up to this point has been a squalid existence in the Sleeper Station, living sparsely and uncomfortably while learning all the skills necessary to become a Sandman.
His mentor/boss is a figure known as Doctor Somnen who is in charge of all the Sandmen. He explains each of John’s duties — flushing the waste fluids, checking the biofuel cells, keeping an eye on the Sleep system, and, most importantly, watching the Outside Scopes — and tells him that as a Sandman he is entitled to extra protein rations. John spends a very boring first day, then week, then month, manning his station.
Once John is up to speed, one of the older Sandmen is “retired” — he is actually allowed to join the Sleepers so that should the world ever recover enough to warrant waking them, he will be allowed to live the rest of his life outside the Station in the “new world.” Doctor Somnen tells John that he, too, can work toward that goal.
While watching the Scopes, John sees a figure approach the sealed and hidden front gates of the Station. It is obvious that the figure knows the gates are there, however. The figure is cloaked and hooded and bristling with weapons. This figure is Cyrus, the wasteland wanderer and crusader dedicated to making sure the evils of the World Before do not survive into whatever the next era is. (Note: the Station occupants do not know this; the fact is included here for my own benefit.) John informs Doctor Somnen, who tells him to watch and wait.
Cyrus remains at the gates, doing nothing but making himself easily apparent through the Scopes, for a week. At one point, John watches a wild wasteland critter attempt to ambush Cyrus and Cyrus kills it handily and skins it, butchers it and eats it. Doctor Somnen seems impressed. He wants to know more about the outside world and obviously this person (Cyrus) would know. John shows reservations but Somnen reassures him by saying just because they let the stranger in does not mean he ever gets out.
Doctor Somnen orders the gates opened to allow Cyrus in, requiring only that Cyrus leave his arsenal in the airlock (which he can “retrieve when he chooses to leave” the Sleeper Station.).Cyrus does so and enters the Station. He can speak the old language fluently, which strikes John as odd. Doctor Somnen assigns John to “show him around” while collecting information from him. He does this because John is young and inexperienced and unlikely able to give up too many secrets to Cyrus.
Cyrus has a neural implanted computer that contains massive amounts of pre-Apocalypse and current data which is directly wired to his brain by the god-like Artificial Intelligence Network that was responsible for the Apocalypse and is still around. (Cyrus is opposed to these beings and his access to their information is a hack by his “order.”) Inside the Station, his access is limited because of interference.
John introduces Cyrus to the Station and life within for the Sandmen. Part of the “tour” brings them to the dining hall where they enjoy their sparse meals and the tasty “protein ration” (aka meat). During the meal, Cyrus refrains from eating it and challenges John to explain where it comes from (asking if there are livestock as well as hydroponics). Un-enthused, Doctor Somnen tells Cyrus that the protein rations is produced from cellular growth systems, not husbandry. Cyrus outwardly accepts the answer but doubt has been successfully planted in John.
Later, John finds Cyrus sneaking around during the “night cycle” in search of something. During their conversation, Cyrus pushes John toward figuring out the truth for himself, but before that can happen they are interrupted by Doctor Somnen. After Cyrus leaves them, Somnen tells John that Cyrus is dangerous and may be trying to probe weaknesses in the Station for an attack by his wasteland allies. Because John and Cyrus seems to have a rapport, Somnen asks John to lead Cyrus into a trap and promises him the ultimate reward: being put in hibernation with the rest of the Sleepers to await the Utopian future of the post-post-apocalypse. John agrees.
Cyrus allows himself to be brought to the cusp of the trap — the recycling center where the Sleeps are turned into protein ration — so that in the midst of their conflict he can reveal the truth to John in order to gain his trust and assistance. Cyrus wants to kill all of the Sleepers (because they are examples of the most decadent of humankind) but John argues to just wake them all. In the meantime, Doctor Somnen and his cronies descend on the control chamber and all hell breaks loose.
During this climactic confrontation, Doctor Somnen admits that he was ordering the eating of Sleepers in order to alleviate the burden on the Sandmen. He had seen it near mutiny when he was a young Sandman and now that he was in charge he refused to allow all the Sleepers to dir and was willing to sacrifice some of them for the greater good. That sort of thing.
I am not sure exactly how I want the final act to play out at this point, but in the end Cyrus leaves to allow John to choose whether to kill all the Sleepers, leave them sleeping or wake them all. We don’t see the answer. Satisfied that the real evil of the Station — Doctor Somnen — is defeated, Cyrus goes back out into the wastes and continues on his crusade. John is left to contemplate the choice before him.