< BACK TO APPENDIX
Synthet-o-Meal is a standard ration system developed shortly after the pioneer mission to Raffas, located ~0.3 years outside Kelheim Gate Terminus 2 (KGT-2) at the maximum vessel speeds of the time.
Standard “drop-and-go” missions using cryostasis had, up to then, shown no ill-effects to travelers. However, all operations prior to Raffas were less than 2.35 years in length. Raffas itself should have been less than 124 days past KGT-2, well within the safety parameters calculated for cryostatisis. The freak appearance of cosmic debris forced the auto-navigation systems to reroute around the danger. Despite having mapped the shortest route to Raffas, the mission did not arrive at its destination until well after its projected landfall.
Sensor droids were dispatched to learn of the Raffas mission's fate after a series of missed scheduled reports.
Raffas was to become the central colony of the KGT-2 entry system and even the Conglomerate was wary of what may have happened to enough materials to supply and support 3 million people on a world so closely reflecting the environment of Old Earth.
The Raffas mission was eventually located at its proper landing coordinates but devoid of human life. Interior inspections revealed that most of the 3M had perished due to cellular crystallization in their tubes. The condition is identical to the “freezer burn” of foodstuffs where water naturally occurring in the food turns to ice and effectively “fractures,” destroying the cell itself. Those who died were the lucky ones. A handful of pioneers still alive when the computers brought them out of cryostasis suffered a myriad of unimaginably painful symptoms due to any number of their organs having been damaged during travel.
Images acquired by the droids (and manned forensic teams soon after) remain classified to this day. Ship navigation downloads revealed a passing comet field as the reason for this tragedy. Conglomerate-wide systems AI updates now mandate AUTONAV and/or android pilot(s) to awaken the primary mission crew from stasis to determine the best course of action should a similar situation arise. To date, Raffas represents the largest, non-war/pandemic related human casualty event in history.
Synthet-o-Meal was developed by N(e)utrition Corporation within five years of Raffas to provide a biological stabilization “hedge” against cellular crystallization events and other problems associated with extended cryostasis.
Synthet-o-Meal works by permeating the individual’s cells with a synthetic micronutrient that inhibits water molecules from aligning as its surrounding temperature drops. Different cells have different targeting micronutrients but accomplish the same ends: prevent freezing.
This breakthrough alone more than doubled the safe sleep duration of cryostasis. Perhaps just as significant was how much less energy was required of the cryostat equipment itself given the “priming” of the human to be stored by Synthet-o-Meal. Used in conjunction with late model V-STAT suits, cryostasis safety skyrocketed and extended continued sleep travel upwards of a decade, though no missions known to the public actually last so long. (This data is believed to have been derived from volunteer prisoners with life sentences who chose to be cryostasis test subjects to living out their years in hard labor camps.)
Still, cryostasis remains an imperfect science. The reference to Synthet-o-Meal as “the last meal” is meant to make light that even one nap in a tube can potentially be one's last.
Synthet-o-Meal began as a notoriously bad tasting compound. The ability to consume a full serving quickly and holding it down was considered a rite of passage to green Enforcer Corps candidates for years. Later iterations improved the flavor by effectively eliminating as much of the taste as possible. Addition of artificial olfactory stimulants and shaping the material into “visual approximations of real food” also added to the appeal of this life saving substance. Masking the unusual texture proved to be more difficult given what Synthet-o-Meal must do upon ingestion to be effective. Many compare the mouth feel of Synthet-o-Meal as a firm mash (upon consumption) to “pearled vomit” (as the oleic compounds take form) just prior to swallowing.
Cheap to produce and readily available, Synthet-o-Meal is now issued as standard fare and safety precaution before any travel requiring cryogenic freezing. Some still prefer to avoid the substance and risk the “Sleep Ice” (crystallization) if the duration of storage is less than one year. Enforcer and diplomatic missions do not allow for such exceptions. All participants in these deployments must consume Synthet-o-Meal before cryostasis.