Polaris Encounter

And just how’d that work out for you, mother Russia?

“The Jovians are having their go at running Jupiter and the Saturnian outposts, which means that since we’re a long-distance freighter, they want to shanghai us for their fleet. Even brought enough fuel to boost our orbit high enough. But what they don’t know is that you’re on-board. And if they knew, then they would definitely shanghai us. A royal kidnapping would be ever so exciting to the Jovian Alliance—and would be an act of war to the Federation.”

“War’s already close, my friend.” put in the skipper, before she could answer. He looked at the young girl floating across from him (it is difficult, he thought, to shrink under a table if there’s no gravity and no table, but Her Highness appeared to be searching for some way to attempt it regardless). The last crew member, Duncan, was uselessly thumbing his phone, and appeared not to be listening.

“I didn’t send a reply back, of course;” he continued. “I wanted your input, Casey, Duncan. But we need to in the next minute or so.”

“. . . Can we play dead?”

“Not unless we want to be.”

“Okay fine. But how’s this. We pretend we didn’t get their message, SCRAM the reactor. and then broadcast an SOS saying our life support’s out.”

“We should wait a half hour too so it doesn’t look coincidental.”

“That won’t work when they board us, on the pretense of ‘helping’.”

“Ah. Hmm.”

“Well . . . we could make it a real SOS, couldn’t we?”

“That’s . . . well, that’s actually not a bad idea, Red. We can set up a criticality incident, then eject the reactor. The nice thing about an aerobraking Hohmann is that we’ll still end up in a capture orbit around Mars.”

“And the Joves can’t make us go anywhere without an engine, can we?”

“They could push us.”

“Not likely. We’re not built for it.”

“True enough. We’re allowed to unconditionally refuse rescue from a particular party, right?”

“Legally, yes. It could still be dangerous, though. We’re still a week out . . . can we even go that long without scrubbers?”

“. . . No . . . But we could if we used the emergency repressurization tanks a few times. Or we also have the emergency scrubber.”

“Wouldn’t wanna trust it. But if that ship picks us up, she‘s gone for sure. Well?”

“Do it.”

Ed. note: we last saw the Polaris here.