The stars gleamed with the power of light and fire. Gas giants beamed at their younger cousins and the universe smelled of raspberries and tasted of rum. It was into this that the ship Pluto’s Ghost ventured looking for treasure, excitement and a new place to hide from the planetary government. The captain knew he would miss the good life with brandy, scotch and whiskey no longer available, but if the colony he wanted to build succeeded, there just might be new treats in his future.
“Captain, we have bead on a class four planet. It seems to have earth like qualities and will only take us a year to arrive there.”
“That’s a positive start. I hadn’t thought there would be any planets for years. One year from here is a good place to begin. Start scanning for any sign of life or communications and make sure your relief continues to do so. I want to be informed of any possible higher life form we might meet. Use the SETI protocol Earth researchers set up. Make sure we have a linguist on standby. Check with engineering to make sure all is well if we head in that direction.”
“Aye, aye, Captain. Setting SETI protocols and notifying engineering. Should we wake any of our sleepers yet?’
“No, the longer we can conserve our resources the better off we’ll be.You have the com, Smithy.”
The captain walked to the mess. He picked up a meatloaf protein pack and microwaved it. Pluto had her own propulsion system. She was able to fold space. Her design was that of a rectangular box. The idea had been supplemented with solar power and had provided a safe and easily renewable fuel. The food tasted the way it always did, in need of ketchup or salt. He sat at the table eating quickly when a shadow passed in front of him. He crossed his eyes and uncrossed them. There was a figure at the table with him, a shadow but clearly defined as a living being.
“Are you really here?” he said, questioning his sanity and his senses. “I can barely see you. Can you understand me?”
The figure nodded, then pointed to the captain’s insignia. A voice filled the room unlike anything he had ever heard. “You are the captain? Your crew is in the long sleep?”
“I am. How do you know about us?”
“We have met many of your space probes, they tell a story of horror and destruction. They try to hide it under music and pictures. We have been waiting for you.”
“Are we safe? Or do you mean us harm?”
“We mean to teach you the way of peace. Your entire crew, except for one, must go to sleep now. We will take care of everything. You have no choice. If you do not comply, you will cease to exist.”
“I will need two crew to maintain the systems as they must sleep and alternate with each other.”
“That is tolerable. You, however, must sleep the long sleep. Your insignia marks you as a trouble for us. A jury will give you the chance for an explanation. Go, do what you must. Keep your heading.”
The intercom went off with its usual cracking. “Captain to the bridge.”
He ran to the bridge. There was a spaceship three times the size of the Pluto on the front screen. “Where did that come from?”
“Sir, I have no idea. We’ve been scanned and some kind of communication was attempted. They don’t seem to have weapons facing us, but we are being held in a stasis field.”
“You won’t understand, Smithy, but they gave me instructions that we must follow or we’ll be exterminated. You and Jones will alternate shifts, the rest of us will remain in sleep mode. Do as they say or we lose all 500 of us and the cryo eggs for our colony. Use good judgement, please.”
The captain caught his eyes and nodded. Orders were given in that look, trust was acknowledged. The captain moved toward the captain’s quarters and filled in the log. He entered his sleep container and closed his eyes. His dreams filled him with hope.
Smithy sat at the console. “We can do this. Maybe we’ll survive this.” His eyes closed with a memory from earth. He remembered giving his grandmother flowers. He smiled and his thoughts were of telling her about this adventure. He knew it. Trusting the aliens to do what they must, he moved to the galley for coffee. It would be a long year.