As part of his education, Praveen had to read the autobiography of Dr. Maaz Ghazali, one of the pioneers of cryonic interstellar travel. It was called How to Sleep for 1,000 Years. Interesting book, if a little dated. It didn’t really cover Praveen’s current dilemma, but even so, the parallels were enough to chill him to the bone, metaphorically if not cryonically.
The colony was a total loss. The Erra came down in the night from wherever it is they come down from in their spindly, asymmetrical ships, looking like humanity’s funhouse mirror reflections as they overran the camp. There were more taken than dead, and of the bodies left behind, most were only partials anyway—it helped to focus on the pieces, the connective tissues, the sinew and the bone; helped to make them not feel like his neighbors, his friends. Only Praveen was left. Just Praveen, and the Dust.
When the Erra landed they coated the whole area as far as he could see in some kind of silvery white powder—nanobots, he suspected. Not replicators—nothing so sinister—but the Dust blocked all incoming and outgoing communications. Even the quantbox was silent. It left him with only two options.
He could take a transport and try to make it to the next system, but Praveen was no pilot—he was on the surgeon track, and with a ways still to go at that. If his course was off by a microarcsecond he could end up halfway to Triangulum before his ship succumbed to the sandblasting of cosmic radiation. That brought him to his second option: the long sleep. Praveen didn’t need to fly the ship to use its cryobay. He could seal himself up and wait to be rescued. But without the comms, he had no idea how long it might be before someone found him. It could be a good deal longer than 1,000 years.
He was stuck with only longshot options. But longshots were better than no shots. And then there was that saying about the devil you know. Praveen climbed into an empty cryo unit and pulled the hatch closed.