Author: David C. Nutt

Dimitri sat up as the semi-viscous fluid keeping him alive in suspended animation oozed off his body. “Ship, how long have we been in fluid?” There was an unexpected pause that stretched longer than Dimitri would have liked.
“Commander, the ship logs indicate duration of fluidogenic suspended animation as 912,530 standard days.”
Dimitri reeled back in shock as he did the math: 2,500 years asleep. “Explain- why so long?”
There was the pause. “Collision with uncharted debris caused broad systems damage. Ships internal neural nets damaged beyond effective repair. Connection with 87% of our internal systems lost and no external signals could be transmitted.”
Dimitri winced. For all the power the ship’s AI had, this explanation meant it could only watch as the now compartmentalized systems went about their mission taskers. The left hand did not know what the right hand was doing. All their AI could do is watch as search protocols moved their ship farther and farther away, traveling methodically, relentlessly from system to system, until it found a habitable planet.
“Can you at least tell me where we are?”
“Affirmative. We are currently in orbit around an earth class planet somewhere in the EGS-zs8-1 galaxy. Survey has been done and there is no sentient intelligent or developing sentient intelligent life planetside. Colonization routines have been engaged. ”
Dimitri nodded. Finally a break, but his relief was replaced with a gnawing fear. Even in deep, fluidogenic suspended animation, one could not be maintained indefinitely. “How many survivors?”
There was a pause. “Four deceased due to undiagnosed existing medical conditions. Total survivors: 1,927.”
Dimitri sighed with relief. It should have been much worse. The “acceptable” losses given this long in fluid should have been close to 70%. Just the nutrient baths alone would need replenishing after so many years. Dimitri’s blood ran cold: nutrient baths…there couldn’t have been enough to sustain them. “What did you do with the deceased?”
“Deceased individuals were ejected from fluidogenic chambers and jettisoned into space as per mission SOP.”
Dimitri sighed. “Good. For a second there I thought you were going to tell me you dissolved the corpses for nutrient.”
“Negative. Necrotic tissue is unacceptable for nutrient bath conversion. Only viable tissues may be used in emergency nutrient protocols.”
Underneath the thick coating of fluid meant to keep him alive in suspended animation, Dimitri broke out in a cold sweat. “Explain emergency nutrient protocols.”
There was the long pause. “In the event of catastrophic loss or exhaustion of concentrated protein supplements, spermatozoa will be removed for the senior most male in the command structure and used to impregnate females capable of embryonic production. At no earlier than 112 days and no later than the 120 day mark, embryonic tissue is harvested from its host and injected into the nutrient bath where it is dissolved and absorbed by the crew.”
Slowly, like a cold, rising tide of effluent, the realization of what the AI was saying crept into Dimitri’s consciousness. “Two thousand five hundred years,” he mumbled. “30 generations per 1,000 years… 75 generations.”
Dimitri, threw himself out of the nutrient tank on to the deck. He stood and in a complex emotional mixture of disgust and sorrow frantically clawed off the remaining nutrient stuck to his body. As the protein-rich, viscous sludge accumulated around him, weeping, in shock and horror he wondered, “How many of my sons and daughters?”