Captain Folsom Mandrake of the freighter Cambro Wend showered off the stasis gel and toweled off. The off-stasis rotation’s Second Mate, Happroy Chaucer, met him on the way to the bridge. “Sorry to wake you sir. We’re in fourth rotation, mission elapse forty-three point six years. Real time December 5, 2416. Ship status is AOK and mission on schedule.” The doors opened to the bridge and they walked through.
“Captain on deck,” barked the Second Mate. The crew snapped to attention.”
“At ease,” said Folsom. Thank you, Happ. Where’s the Chief Mate?”
“A little trouble waking him, sir, but we expect him in about ten.”
“Okay. Start without him.”
A 3D star chart went up on the primary display, settlements and space stations marked in green, known vessels in amber. The course of the Cambro Wend shone in yellow with the ship’s location in blue.
“Three days ago we picked up a bogie in the Colipus Sector with a strong blue shift.” Happ touched a screen next to him and the blue blip became highlighted in yellow. “We tracked it until we could determine the trajectory and pick up a signature. We got both an hour ago. It’s a Cthulhu headed directly to Cambro Wend’s intercept.”
Folsom was familiar with Happ’s tendency to call the predatory Hisheel race ‘Cthulhu.’ This was a race that would capture their ship and reduce all living things to useable chemicals. Ships having run-ins with the Hisheel rarely survived.
“How long until intercept?” asked Folsom.
“Twenty-three point two years.” For interstellar space travel, that was quite soon.
Folsom studied the star chart, looking for alternate routes for assistance, resources, or hiding places. “Anything in the signature tell us which model the ship is?”
“Not yet,” said Happ. “I calculate the we’ll be able to determine it in three point oh-three years.”
The bridge doors opened and Chief Mate Parson Trimeme walked in. “Well, look at all the shiny faces. Nothing personal, but I really didn’t want to see you for another fifty years.”
The Second Mate repeated the problem.
“Well, that’s just great,” said Parson. “When you told me to get more acquainted with the crew, did you mean melt our bodies down and mix us up in a vat?”
Folsom probably had a little too much patience with Parson. The poor guy’s wife abandoned the mission for a space station on the edge of colonized space. There was no stasis available for her there. She chose decades of isolation over staying with him. He was a little bitter.
“It’s worth acknowledging the danger,” said Folsom. “I see at least three options. Let’s hit the boardroom and brainstorm.”
The bridge crew crammed in, the captain in the center and Happ running the interactive holos.
Escape was impossible. Any vector they chose that would escape the Hisheel would also strand them with insufficient resources to get back.
“We could go donny on them,” said Happ. “Drop our domicile module and send the rest to self-destruct when they grab it.”
“Everyone can’t fit on the dommod,” said Parson. “We’d have a third of the crew still aboard.”
“We could live out a couple decades knowing we were heroes,” said Happ.
“It’s a bad ethic,” said Parson. “Besides, if we wake them up, they’re going to have children. You going to drive a suicide ship full of children?”
“We can forbid it,” said Happ.
Parson laughed. “That’s going to work. Just ask them pretty please to live twenty years without acting like human beings. We’ll fill that void with Canasta tournaments. Good idea, Happroy.” He smiled wide.
“Any options for hiding?” asked Folsom.
“Maybe,” said Nostrand, the Chief Engineer. “It depends on the ship model. There are solar systems within range that could give us cover, but not if they have the newest model. Their sensors are just too good.”
“Okay,” said Folsom. “Everyone back in stasis. We’ll wake up again in three years for a quick decision.”