An Encounter

You’re awoken by a comm from a nearby pirate with a missile lock on your ship. Do you agree to their demands and jettison your cargo?

New contact. Small, too small to be a ship. It’s fast and heading towards you. 3 minutes to impact. You scan the system and make way for a nearby nebula; you start to charge your jump drive. Your comm light blinks on again. The pirate repeats his request. The nebula is 180 seconds away. Time to impact: 154. You jump down to the engineering deck and quickly reconfigure your generator – all unnecessary systems offline – no scanning arrays, no main reactor. We’ll run off batteries, you think.

The sound of the main engine speeding up is masked by flashing lights back on the bridge warning you that at this rate you’ll be out of power from the batteries in 102 seconds. With your scanners offline you can no longer detect the missile, but at last count impact should be in 97 seconds. Just enough time. With the increased speed, the nebula is now 96 seconds away. No good. Even if it lost you in the clouds, that missile would be way too close by the time you entered.

Plan C. Jump drive still spinning up and draining battery at a frightening rate – time to activation: 82 seconds. Time to impact: 80. You drop down to the launching bay and prepare countermeasures. Two left after your last encounter. You curse yourself for the budget loader as you manually prepare for launch. Time passing quickly. You smash the button and both payloads are delivered.

Back on the bridge now – best guess at a time to impact: 20 seconds. Jump drive ready in 22. Nebula in 19. Even without scanners you still get an active ping from the countermeasures. One light goes out. Then the other. No idea if they did their jobs or not. Only thing to do now is—

SMASH!!! Alert lights are going off everywhere. Hull breach in the cargo bay, RCS indicates a high speed lateral clockwise spin, batteries are near empty and the reactor is not just offline but was damaged in the explosion. ‘Preparation to jump’ light is on. No way of telling where you’ll end up with this much system damage right before evacuation.


Your ears are ringing. It’s pitch black, but you’re alive. All systems are dead, except for a blinking cursor on your navigation computer. Ignoring the blood you can feel on your left temple, you hastily punch in boot up commands. Slowly, the navigation system turns back on. You’re orbiting a red dwarf. Over a light-year away, and nowhere near human contact.

You thank your past self for having the foresight to stock up on replacement parts and brace yourself as you go below to survey the damage…