Aryana woke several hours later. With the exception of the occasional beep and a few flashing lights from the control panels around the bridge, it was completely quiet. Just outside the viewfinder, the frozen darkness of space continued to drift by. Indifferent. Endless.
She reached down and grabbed the datapad to check the calculations and, to her surprise, found that it was dead. She tapped it a few times but it was completely non-responsive.
Battery’s probably dead. she thought.
Getting up from under the warmth of her blanket, she crossed the cold floor to the datapad’s docking station and plugged it in. It gave a reassuring beep and the screen flashed to confirm it was charging. It would be at least a few minutes before it let her activate it again.
Leaning down at the closest console, she flipped on the screen to check the course layouts.
While she waited for the readouts to come up, she couldn’t help but chuckle at the toys strewn across the top of the console. It was covered with a number of small action figures wearing spandex. Brown, her navigator, was a huge fan of the 20th and 21st centuries and apparently these toys were “wrestlers” from some entertainment program back then. She had always been a fan of “The Rock”, as Brown called him.
The computer blinked and started scrolling numbers across the screen. Thousands of lines of calculations, hundreds of variables and numbers were accounted for, all flashed by in an instant. She could have manually checked them, but right now she was more interested in the overall.
Course stable. Flashed in green at the bottom of the screen.
“Good enough for me.”
She flipped off the screen and made her way back to the rec room to make herself some dinner. While she waited for it to cook, she came to the conclusion that she’d have to wake her crew. It would be jarring to be woken from hypersleep for such a short period, but it would be a lot harder to explain when she woke them up just to make them refuel the ship.
The next while was spent choking down the poor excuse for a meal that she had tossed together. It was bland, tasteless, and made from what she could scrape together without rehydrating any food stores, but it filled her belly and that was good enough for the time being. She could have a real meal later.
Afterwards, back in the cryo-chamber, she went about thawing her crew. She started with Duncan. Duncan Kilborne had been her second mate for four separate ore-runs into the Capulet sector and a good guy. Next was her navigator, Hammond Brown, who always preferred his last name to his first. This was followed by Rebecca Lee, the Quartermaster, Richard Sanchez, Pilot, Danisha Folami, the ship’s Mechanic, Yoko Xi, Danisha’s Assistant, Howard Moore, the ship’s Doctor, and Franklin Toss, the Cargo Master.
The tubes opened one by one. Cryogenic gas poured out across the floors and the cool mist filled the room. Arayana couldn’t help but shiver, immediately regretting having left her blanket on the bridge. It was already cold. Adding the contents of eight freezers to the room didn’t make it any better.
For a few minutes, nothing moved except the pluming white and blue gases. Then, groans. The sound of sporadic movement. Finally, Dick was the first to speak up.
“Are we there yet?” he muttered incoherently.
No one answered.
Slowly, painfully, the crew went about climbing out of their tubes and making a beeline for the nearby showers. Men and women alike stripped off their cryosuits with no regard to the others around them and basked under the hot water. The water on the ship was rarely used and had been recycled more times than they could count but none of them cared. The hot water helped to blast away the delirium and slimy feeling that cryo sleep left them with.
Aryana waited calmly for each of her crew. None of them took too long, but she wouldn’t rush them even if they did. Waking from cryo was a horrible feeling and she had just done the same not too long ago. She couldn’t fault them for the toll the process took on their bodies.
It was only when the showers had stopped and the crew was pulling on fresh clothes that anyone spoke again.
“They ain’t paying us enough for this shit.” Frank grumbled as he pulled on his pants.
“Not enough to wake up to your face, Frank.” Dani shot back without even looking over.
“Good morning to you too, shitface.”
The two chuckled and soon the eight of them were making subdued small talk amongst themselves. Lots of insults and more than a bit of colorful language, but none of it angry. The only one who didn’t join in was Aryana, and Howard was the first to notice.
“I can’t help but think we didn’t get to enjoy the sight of our Captain’s fine ass in the shower today.” He said as he finished pulling his shirt over his head. “What do you think Becca?”
“You’re right,” the spunky little Quartermaster agreed. “I was wondering why I felt so tired. I just realized I didn’t have my coffee this morning.”
As if to empathize her point, Becca looked over at Aryana and playfully licked her lips.
“Now, do you suppose it’s because she just doesn’t like us anymore?” Howard asked, pouting his bottom lip.
“I think it’s because I had to wake up early this morning while you assholes slept in.” Aryana snapped back with a grin.
“Such are the privileges of that fat little bonus on her paycheck.” Dani said with a laugh as she tried to dry chocolate mop of hair.
“Wait a second, you guys get paid?!” Brown said with playful panic.
“Like I said, not paid enough for this shit.” Frank muttered again.
Dani reached over and smacked him in the back of the head with a laugh.
“Alright, alright.” Duncan said calmly. “Clearly something’s up. What’s going on, cap’n?”
The crew fell silent and, for a minute, Aryana hated Duncan. He always had the crew’s attention in an instant and now all of them were silently staring at her. She’d much rather just listen to everyone bullshit amongst themselves than give them the bad news.
She let out a long sigh.
“As you know, sometimes we receive orders that dictate when we need to make alterations to our course. And, despite being your captain, I have no say in those alterations…” she said. She couldn’t help but to feel defensive. “Well, it would seem that we had to make a change.”
“What kind of change?” Yoko asked, her brow furrowing.
“As it turns out, the course that we were previously heading on would have taken us through active pirate space. The company felt it in our best interest to redirect us around that quadrant.”
They all remained quiet, staring. They knew more was coming.
“They...” she scratched the back of her head and sighed again. “They’re sending us up towards Waystation Kappa-34.”
“Kappa-34?!” Frank said. The huge man stood up to his full height in anger, dwarfing those around him.
“That’s going to add months onto the trip!” Becca said, gritting her teeth.
“Yea.” Aryana agreed. “Six months out, we get to stop and refuel. Followed by another six making our way around.”
“A whole year?” Duncan asked quietly.
Her heart felt heavy as she looked at Duncan’s calm, but darkened expression. She couldn’t say anything to him. She just nodded.
The crew stared at each other silently for a few minutes. None of them wanted to say what they were all thinking. The year of their family’s life that they were going to miss out on. The extra year in the freezers to play havoc on their bodies. The extra year where anything and everything could go wrong in the reaches of space.
“I know this sucks, guys.” Aryana said finally. “But it’s either that or get buttfucked by pirates in your sleep.”
“I, for one, was hoping to meet a nice upstanding gentleman.” Brown said snidely. “However will I meet him if not through barreling blindly through pirate territory?”
Dani proceeded to smack Brown this time. Frank chuckled. Dani smacked him too.
“I figured you guys would rather know this way than when we got to the Waystation to refuel. So, if you want to go back to the freeze right away, you’re more than welcome to. If you want a few hours to stretch your legs, I get that too. One way or another, I want everyone back on ice within a day.”
“Let’s get this shit done sooner rather than later.” She said sternly.
They all nodded in agreement.