Classification: For Authorized Eyes Only
Encryption Protocol: Aleph-2801
It started out like any routine trip. Jump, scoop, charge drive, jump. I was happy with a fresh audio book loaded and my mind on the engineering upgrades that I was soon to have installed, but it was not to be. I jumped to a brown dwarf, it's name doesn't matter, and lined up for my next target. It was then that my heart skipped a beat. Without realising it, I had jumped too many times without charging properly, and for the first time in over 700 hours of registered flight time, I found myself in a situation where I couldn't jump to a scoopable star.
I thought of myself as a pretty experienced explorer, having visited Sagittarius A* and gone past it too. Steeling my nerves, I remembered people mention with admiration an elite brotherhood of pilots who help others. With hesitation, I powered down all non-essential modules and tuned in to their frequency. What was going through my mind in that period of time? During that eternity as my sequence of coordinates and call for help pulsed out across the Black in the vain hope of finding a listening ear? Nothing. They say your life flashes before you when you're faced with your own mortality, that maybe you will see angels, like the old Earth religions once spoke of, but in this silence, there was only the quiet beeping of my instruments, and the reassuring voice of my ship AI. It was cold outside, and empty.
Suddenly, out of the darkness, a voice came. Two commanders had picked up my signal and were triangulating on my position. I sprang into action, punching in coordinates and activating my wing beacon. They asked me if I had enough oxygen. Yes! I nearly cried out in reply. Yes, I do, I said.
They zeroed in on me and we formed up a wing. In the back of my mind I wondered if this was all some elaborate trap, if the myth of the fuel rats really was too good to be true. Here I was, systems powered down and sitting like a duck in the open, and I was placing my trust in two commanders that I'd never seen before. I ignored these illogical thoughts, allowing my pilot training and logic to kick in. Whether they destroyed my ship or not, I was a dead man and this ship would still be my coffin. I acknowledged their messages and before I knew it, sweet blessed fuel was being siphoned into my drained ship.
Thank you, I said, and I meant it. No problem, they replied. May I contribute something to your cause, anything? I asked. We do this because we enjoy it. We like to help, and it's addictive, they replied. Addictive, they said! By the beard of Zeus, who were these people? And then, once they were satisfied that I was able to jump to safety, they disappeared as quickly as they had arrived...and I am still alive.
Commander Baba Ghannoush, over and out.