Flash Friday 29/07/2016: Freeze Frame
The lives of the human race changed forever when they came in contact with the aliens known as the Somari. In terms of galactic scale, the Somari discovering the humans was like a human turning over a stone and discovering a nest of ants. The Somari approached with friendly intentions and offered much of their knowledge. From it, humans found planets more suiting for humans than even Earth, but current warp technology shredded carbon-based lifeforms to pieces. As such, they had to depend on stasis to travel.
Jennifer had never experienced stasis travel before, so the first time she awoke inside her glass tube felt strange. It felt like she had been ‘asleep’ for ten seconds, but the red timer above the other containment pods showed they had been out for twenty-six years now. Which was strange, given how the travel was predicted to take thirty-eight.
Even stranger were the two aliens outside her tube.
They were covered in what looked like metal chitin and tubing, wore red goggles that cast a sinister light, and were busy poring over a manual. One was considerably larger and taller than the other, and they both spoke perfect Universal language.
“Doesn’t look cooked,” the large alien said, peering through the tube’s glass. “Honestly, alien technology is so weird.”
“I know, I know! But this manual isn’t saying anything about how to cook them. I just assumed the thawing setting did that.”
“If you find out how to set it to medium-rare, lemme know. Can’t find the button on this thing for it. Maybe we just have to cook them from frozen?”
“Excuse me,” Jennifer said. “What are you doing?”
“Oh, it’s still talking,” the large alien said, peering in. “Yeah, it’s definitely not cooked.”
“You don’t know how to operate this freezer, do you?” said the smaller one. “I can’t find it in this…” It looked at the cover of the manual. “Cryostasis system. I guess that’s a fancy word for ‘food freezers’.”
“We’re not food,” Jennifer said. “We’re humans on a stasis trip to the Somari homeworld.”
“Yeah? Well, you’re made out of meat, which makes you food for the rest of us. And we’re very hungry bandits–”
“I prefer ‘space pirates’,” added the large one.
“–so we raided this giant floating freezer. But now I find the food is talking back to us. Great.”
The larger alien scratched his head. “So what do we do now?”
“It’s simple, right? Same thing we do with all carbon-based foods while it’s still alive.” He threw the manual to one side and drew a pistol, aiming it at Jennifer’s head. “Just put it out of its misery and handle the cooking ourselves.”
“Wait!” Jennifer blurted. “There’s no need for this! We have our own food you can have.”
The pistol-aiming alien drew his aim away, a doubtful look on his face. “On a stasis ship?”
“If the stasis system malfunctions. Enough food for the whole crew to survive while we wait for the distress beacon. It’s not a great deal, but you can help yourself to it.”
The aliens exchanged a look. The one with the gun then said, “alright, does sound a lot less messy. Let’s get you out of your freezer–”
“Call it whatever you like, honey, but you’re the one made out of food. Alright, here we go.”
The pistol-wielder pulled a hand lever on the side of the tube, opening it. Jennifer stepped out before immediately having the gun pointed at her.
“Alright then,” the smaller alien said. “Show us.”
The truth was, there was no food; the Somari answered distress beacons in no more than than twenty minutes. While her little facade to buy time wouldn’t last long, she’d only need twenty minutes maximum to wiggle free and get help. The question was; how?
The ship wasn’t for living in, so the only other features it had were seats near the entrance, and the luggage compartment for personal effects. The luggage, too, underwent its own stasis to stop possessions rotting over thirty eight years, which gave Jennifer’s claim that they were food packages more weight.
“So,” the larger alien said. It took a suitcase and pried it open with such strength the locks broke. “What in here is food?”
“All of it.”
He picked out a teddy bear. “Even this?”
“…sure! It’s food.”
He shrugged, took a bite out of the bear’s head, then coughed up stuffing. “Must be an acquired taste,” he said. “What else is there?”
Jennifer was getting nervous that her only plan was to let the aliens take bites out of their possessions until they realise nothing within was edible. The large alien had sampled a shirt (too stringy), a pen (didn’t like the juice), and a phone (sticks in teeth) before the big alien pulled out several bottles from a bag.
“What’s this, then?” he said. He held them out, their labels sporting the word ‘wine’.
“Those?” Jennifer said. “Oh, that’s liquid food! Very delicious. Make it from grapes. Humans love it a lot, drink lots of it back home.”
“Does it taste better than those ‘teddy bear steaks’?”
“Lots better. In fact, we have a custom back home; if two people drink wine, they race to see who finishes the bottle first, and the one who does has good luck for the rest of the day.”
“Really? Well then.” The large one handed a bottle to the smaller one. “Ready?”
“You’re on,” said the smaller one. “Race to the bottom.”
By the time the pair had picked themselves off of the floor again, the entire ship was swarming with Somari police, who found it surprisingly easy to apprehend the so-called ‘space pirates’ as they asked the police if they ‘had any more’. Twelve years later, a man would awaken from his cryo-sleep to discover that not only all his wine was gone, but he had helped apprehend two criminals while frozen in time, which he didn’t mind taking credit for.