When we last left the story, the Valiant Explorer has gone off course. The computer woke Jim from a deep cryonic sleep to inform him that the nearest star is about to go supernova and that there isn’t time to outrun it. The captain and next in command are dead in their pods. Jim finds himself in charge and has to decide if it is his moral and ethical duty to wake the rest of the crew and tell them of their impending deaths, or if he should let them sleep – and die blissfully, peacefully unaware.
Jim knew this was a decision he couldn’t make alone. A religious man his entire life, he only knew one way to resolve it in his mind and that was to pray. In spite of the known outcome of their plight —-of the fact that there was no hope of survival, Jim prayed. He rose and headed for his quarters a while later. He sat at his desk flipping through the personnel files, one after the other.
*Baker, Thomas J., Crew Chief, 27 years old at departure, fluent in several languages. The accompanying picture showed a handsome young man with close cut brown hair and blue eyes.
*Carver, Jessica A., Crew Chief, 25 years old at departure, 5 years experience off world. Her picture showed a smiling blonde woman with pearly white teeth.
*Grant, Shane; Adams, Gregory; Miles, Stanley; Stuart, Franklin; Waller, Amelia – the names were starting to blend into one another. Almost all were young, healthy people. There were a few old-timers like himself, Bill Bauer and Marcus Holden. He thought Bill would be the stronger of the two, and so headed for his pod first.
He set the pod to slowly wake his friend Bill, making sure that he wouldn’t come back to consciousness as Jim had – awake too soon and in pain. He sat at the foot of the pod and waited for Bill. Stella materialized beside him.
“You’ve decided to wake them, I see.”
“Yes, there was no choice. Not really.”
“Why is that Jim?”
“Each person has the right to face their own death, I guess. I don’t know how to explain it.”
“But won’t they suffer anguish because of it?”
“I guess most of them will, yes.”
“Not to all?”
“I don’t believe so Stella, I mean, it doesn’t bother me so much.”
Jim shook his head. “I’ve had a good life. I’ve loved and laughed and learned. I’ve sure seen more of this universe than most folks get to. I’ve secure in my belief in The Lord, so if now is my time to die, well that’s as it should be. So no, it doesn’t bother me so much. Now, I can’t speak for the others on how they’ll feel.”
“I see,” said Stella. “What is it that you have to look forward to? Your body will disintegrate. It will no longer be. You – will no longer be.”
“Well, I believe in God, Stella. I believe he has a plan for us and when I die I will join him in heaven and live eternally.”
“I see.” Stella nodded slowly. “The others believe this as well? You do realize that God is scientifically impossible.”
“I don’t know that Stella, and I have no way to explain it to you, you being a holograph and all, but I believe in God. I know there’s something more than all of this.”
“Wouldn’t it be kinder to let them sleep on, oblivious and unafraid? To let them die without remorse, or shame or sadness? To simply have peace and dignity.”
Jim’s bushy eyebrows drew together. “It is not dignified to die with slobber on your cheek and tubes sticking up every opening you got. That’s not part of any dream I ever had, Stella.”
Stella nodded again. “Well then,” she said.
“Would you like me to wake the entire ship? Everyone? All the animals and..”
“Not the animals Stella, there’s no point.”
“Did your God not create them too?”
“He did, but they are not,” he gestured toward his head, “I don’t know, self-aware like we are. I need everyone awake though, thank you. Oh,” he added quickly. “Let them wake normally, there’s no rush.”
Stella nodded. “I understand.”
Within a few hours the entire ship was awake and showered. Most had eaten and were reporting slowly to their stations. Jim used the private intercom to call each section head for a video conference. When they heard of the impending explosion everyone tried to talk at once. Jim let them work through their astonishment and anger. Eventually they calmed and he was able to assert control over the meeting.
“We need to gather our people and let them know what we are facing. They will need to make peace with whatever God they pray to,” Jim said.
“Pray? Pray to whom, your God?” One man said angrily. “What God would let us die for no reason? God? Psh!”
“Has anyone challenged Stella’s results?” One voice spoke calmly. It was Vince Chapman, the Crew Chief of Drilling and Excavation. “Jim? What about the memory banks she says were damaged – have you looked at them?”
Jim was glad for the voice of reason. At 35 years of age Vince was a pretty sharp guy, well-muscled and fast on his feet. Jim suspected some military training in his background.
‘Vince, I have limited knowledge of that stuff and I‘m going to need some help there. I need information. I need to know exactly how much pressure this trinite hull can withstand. I need someone to look at the nearby planets and their orbits, their gaseous and elemental makeup.”
“What’s the point?” Ted Markham in the environmental section wanted to know. “I mean, we can’t outrun it, right?”
“No Ted, I don’t think we can. But we’re not going to sit here like a deer on the tracks and wait for the train to hit us either. I need to know what evasive action we can take and whether we are stronger as one whole unit or if we would fare better individually.”
“Individually? What, you mean drop the sections now, here in space? Are you crazy?” Someone asked.
“Trinite is supposed to be able to withstand the force of a supernova. Well we’re about to test that little theory. But the connections between the units are metal, rubber, composites and trinite.”
“Those will be disintegrated, no doubt.” Said Ted.
“Total dust.” Vince agreed.
“So the question is, do we separate and take our chances alone or wait to get blown apart and hope the connections hold?” Jim said.
“Maybe not,” Tank Videle said. He was the Crew Chief of Maintenance. He’d played ball in high school and was nearly as wide as he was tall, hence the name – Tank. Everyone stopped to listen. “We have trinite, and tons of iron parts. Let’s fuse enough to coat the connection points.”
Ted started laughing.
“What?” Tank asked. “We’ve got three days, right? We close the blast shields and that will hide all of the rubber and metal connections. Coat the shields and you would have a solid trinite wall.” Ted stopped laughing as Tank continued. “Coat it all the way to the seams and you’d have one solid surface.”
“Great. That’s great Tank!” Ted was certainly enthused but Jim saw a problem.
“That is a great idea,” Jim said, “but who is the last man out?” When the final segment had been finished, someone would have to stay outside of the last section to seal it. Actually, it would take two people. The others soon came to the same realization. Ted threw a book across the room.
“Great. You volunteering for that one Tank? Huh?” Ted said angrily.
“I was just trying to come up with ideas. There has to be something!”
“It’s a great plan. Come on Ted, at least Tank is trying to come up with alternatives. Everybody keep thinking, we need more ideas. Tank we’re going to keep that one as Plan A. I think it’s a strong possibility that we can do this. There is one other option I want to work on, but right now I think we need to get the forge fired up and send teams throughout the ship to gather iron ore.”
“What about Captain Beard and Red?” Ted asked. “We can’t just leave them.”
“For now Ted, the pods are the best place for them. Let’s gather those that want to for a memorial service. Do you want to arrange that?”
Ted nodded, glad to have something important to be in charge of.