Author : Beck Dacus
Azova, Girgin, and Rastat floated through a hole blasted in the alien ship’s hull. Inside, everything was trashed. Whatever had destroyed this ship had been thorough. The computer systems were all but disintegrated. The ship was in complete vacuum, in fact sparser than the interstellar space outside. There was no gravity, caused by linear acceleration, rotation, or otherwise.
And the crew was frozen.
Their corpses were hard to identify at first, but the statuesque structures sitting in the middle of all the halls were unmissable. Once Girgin had examined them thoroughly, he concluded that they were frozen organisms, most likely the sentients in control of this ship.
“Well, why are they frozen?” Azova asked. “What could’ve done all this to their ship, in addition to *that*?”
“I don’t know off the top of my head, Azova,” Girgin replied. “It’ll require an investigation. I’m going to do a biopsy on one of them and analyze the substance encasing them in my lab.”
“Just one small sample,” Rastat said. “We don’t want to disturb the site. Treat it like a crime scene.”
“Yes, sir.” Girgin took his sample, chipping off a piece of one of the organisms, and they all returned to their ship.
The next day, Girgin rushed into the mess hall, shouting for attention. The other two were having breakfast, along with Crimien and Tsafon, the astronomer and computer specialist who had stayed behind during the other three’s jaunt. Girgin was holding the sample.
The rest of them were utterly bewildered. Tsafon, however, soon understood what he was referring to, and tried to catch on.
“Are you saying that… that they were silicon-based, and the heat from their demise melted that silicon and, uh, vitrified them?” He gasped. “That’s it, isn’t it?”
Girgin gave him a look. “What? No. It’s biological. It’s a protein that encases them when they dry out!”
“A bioweapon, employed by their attackers?” Azova guessed.
“No! They did it on purpose!” While the rest of them gawked at him, he explained: “There are terrestrial animals called tadigrades that entomb themselves in this protein-based glass when the environment can’t support them. When conditions become favorable again, the glass breaks apart, and they resume their metabolism. These creatures must be doing the same thing! *They’re still alive*!”
None of them could believe it. Rastat snapped out of it first, saying, “So we can revive them?”
“Yes! And all it would take is exposing them to normal conditions. They might’ve depressurized their own ship, in order to induce this state and stay alive during the accident. Or the attack. It doesn’t matter which one it was; we’ll be able to ask them!” He turned to the computer specialist. “Crimien, do you think you can tease out a little of the ship’s life support data? We need to know what kind of climate is habitable for them, and then I can replicate it in my isolation chamber.”
“I’ll do what I can,” Crimien said.
“Good. Can you order everyone to suit up, Rastat? I wouldn’t want to overstep my bounds.”
Mildly exasperated, Rastat said, “You heard him.”
The whole crew donned spacesuits, and they drifted over to the wreckage. While Crimien did his best with the computers, everyone else hauled dry alien popsicles back aboard. Six hours later, with the life support data and ten alien bodies in hand, Girgin pressurized the isolation chamber and watched as, one by one, the aliens loosened, slumped, returned to color….