Author : Patricia Stewart, featured writer

The UES Celeste coasted into the outskirts of the Trifid Nebula, and pulled alongside two stationary vessels that were tethered to each other. Captain Briggs studied the view screen suspiciously. “Well chief, what do you make of this?”

“I don’t know, captain. According to our records, the USS Baychimo disappeared 81 years ago, and the USS Joyiya 113 years before that. The combined crew and passengers totaled 244. All were presumed lost.”

“Do you think anybody could still be alive?”

“Their decedents, perhaps. Both ships appear to have power, but they are not responding to our hails. I recommend we try boarding the Baychimo. Their hatch configuration is more similar to ours.”

“Agreed, Chief. Take a security and medical team with you. And, chief, I want you to keep a channel open at all times.”

The Celeste’s shuttle positioned itself over the Baychimo’s hatch, and the magnetic grapples firmly secured it to the hull. After the automated docking skirt sealed the perimeter, the tunnel was pressurized. The chief grabbed a spanner wrench and rapped on the Baychimo’s hatch three times.

To his astonishment, the hatch opened slowly from the inside. Four armed men holding antique percussion weapons stood on the other side. A woman, who the chief estimated to be in her late 40’s, pushed past the armed men to address the chief. “I’m captain Cornwell. Who are you, and why have you boarded my ship? You are interfering with a rescue mission.”

“I’m sorry, ma’am. We thought that you needed assistance. This ship has been missing for over 80 years.”

“What are you talking about? We left spacedock six months ago. We were charting the nebula when we spotted the Joyiya. It’s been missing for over 100 years. Our EVA team reported seeing living people through their observation windows.” She paused for a few seconds, and then continued, “Come to think of it, you may be able to assist. We can’t dock with the Joyiya because of their antiquated hatch system. But you appear to have that capability, although I don’t know how. We’re the flagship of the fleet.”

“Perhaps it would be best captain Cornwell, if you would accompany us to the Joyiya. I think we need to pick up their captain and return to my ship. There are complicating factors that we need to discuss.”

Three hours later, Captain Mills of the Joyiya, and Captains Cornwell and Briggs sat in the executive briefing room of the Celeste. “I’m sorry, this must really be a shock for you and your crew,” said Captain Briggs. “To find out so suddenly that everybody you left behind is gone. To be pulled decades into your future by a phenomenon that we don’t understand. I can’t begin to imagine what that might be like.”

Just then, a person in dress uniform materialized out of thin air into the middle of the room. “Hello,” he said with a smile. “I’m Captain Fokke of the UFP Dutchman. Ah, you must be Captain Briggs. Our DNA scans told us you were still alive. This is utterly amazing. We thought the crew of the Celeste died over 130 years ago. And yet, you don’t appear to have aged a day. How may we be of assistance?”

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