He scrolled through his reader, looking at his blog and scanning the ‘net. Captain Toes was bored. There was a meeting in a few moments to discuss his choice of destination, Frystur, a fairly large ice planet with few Stakes of Claim for Resources. His Interstellar Planet and Heavenly Bodies Guide listed it as having methane, chlorine, and oxygen ice fields. There are also minerals and ores that have value on the Intergalactic Metals and Chemicals Exchange, so he was really excited to arrive there.
After a meeting with his bridge crew and having set the ship on auto pilot they went to hyper. He walked through the ship and stopped at the mess hall. Then he went his room, and now it was simply travel time
He entered the bridge when the proximity alarm sounded in his room. The bridge was buzzing and he could see a lot of ships in their space…and no hyper.
“Captain, we have escape pods…lots of them and are about to start retrieving them.”
He looked out the window, “How many?”
” There are thousands sir. we have the capacity for 100…,” The unidentified officer trailed off, busily instructing his co-workers. The captain sat down, nothing to do but observe until the retrieval crew closed the hatches and the med department called him to the cargo hold.
After several hours Captain Toes stood in the cargo with the ship doctor as the assessment and opening process begin. Once all escape pods had been opened and survivors quickly examined they were escorted to the passenger deck. They received fresh clothes, meals and their names were recorded. The Alice Marie was rerouted towards Earth and they returned to hyper.
She stepped out of the elevator onto the empty upper passenger deck. The environmental systems were at idle to conserve ship stores.
Tori Zapps looked out at the stars and laid down. She was lonely, she missed her family; her and a hundred other colonists rescued by the IGV-Alice Marie.
Stuffed into planetary escape pods and blasted into space when it became apparent that their homeworld was doomed to meet an asteroid head-on, some 10,000 survivors were plucked from space by passing ships, many owned by the numerous private companies and mercenary groups that had sprung up in the wake of NASA’s demise.
An intergalactic agreement dictated they meet up in Earth orbit within 6 months, so maybe she would be reunited with her family after all.
The majority of rescued colonists were under 20 years of age and therefore were considered to be a valuable resource by the various independent contractors whose trading routes criss-crossed this sector of the galaxy, meaning there was stiff competition to retrieve as many of the drifting pods as possible.
Tori was, according to the tests administered by the med staff, a math prodigy, something that would stand her in good stead with whichever company secured her as a crew member.
She fiddled with her music player, found a song and pressed play. It was also determined that she was resourceful enough to be independent so she had two skill-sets that Captain Toes expected from his crew and staff. She had never experienced this kind of freedom, or loneliness for that matter.
She did have to attend some classes but mostly she was free to roam the ship; “Just read signs, respect the locks and be respectful to staff and crew.” the captain had told her. Of course, this directive wasn’t aimed specifically at her, but all the survivors of the planet evacuation. For a while she dozed, only to be woken some time later by a security patrol who feared the atmospheric conditions, markedly different from those she was used to, might be harmful to her. She was rapidly becoming used to her new environment though, one of the advantages of youth was a certain adaptability to the constantly changing conditions of interstellar travel and Tori was integrating well already.
She went to a VR gameroom and spent half an hour or so fiddling with some 3D modelling programs. She liked the idea of being able to walk inside a model of a chemical compound and alter its molecular structure, it was a little like playing at being a god. And the Ion engine simulator was really cool.
After a while she realized she was hungry and found her way to the mess hall. She tried some boudin and and ate some crawfish too; so different from colony food. For a while she wasn’t lonely, for a moment she was having fun in this new world.
Captain Toes surveyed the empty escape pods. He wondered what it must be like to blast your kids, your family, into unknown space. One hell of a way to save a colony from destruction! He would sell these used units to a salvage shop on Earth moon. Hell, it’d give him a chance to visit Earth proper and touch some famous dirt. He could visit some of the ancient ruins, maybe find some trinkets. He signed off on the inspection and left the hold. He needed to read the damage report regarding the hinge failure. There was a damage report meeting coming up soon. Hungry, he headed for the mess hall.
When he entered the mess hall he saw one of the young survivors looking at the menu. Her bright green outfit was intended to keep her safe. It swallowed her, even the smallest adult size was too large. Her name tag said Tori Zapps.
“Hello, young lady, what you ordering?” The girl stammered, visibly startled by his voice, and removed her ear buds,
“Not sure sir, never had much choice when I was at the colony…but something smells sooo good!!!” She looked quizzically at the captain, waiting for his suggestion.
Captain Toes took the cue and ordered for them. For the next 45min they enjoyed their dinner and she forgot her loneliness.