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Given a colony stasis ship (ie a ship filled with frozen people to be decanted on reaching the destination), which for some reason cannot reach its destination, how could one (non-frozen) crew-member's sacrifice change that outcome?

Some possibilities:

1) Perhaps there's a debris cloud or solar flare in the way, and if the hero flies a craft ahead of the main ship as an "ablative shield", the main ship should come through undamaged. Strains credibility, though.

2) Perhaps it requires someone to make periodic manual adjustments to something, so needing them to be defrosted often enough that they'll be essentially dead of old age by the time they reach the destination. But what could possibly require adjusting, that the ship couldn't adjust itself, and that could not be tweaked by all passengers, hence spreading the ageing load?

3) Perhaps the ship lacks enough fuel to get the delta-V it needs, but by separating off part of the ship, the ship will become lighter, and so need less delta-V? Strains credibility that this separation could only be done from the discarded part, and that could not be done by the ship's automated systems, robots, etc.

4) Perhaps there's some other non-frozen person who needs to be defeated. This feels unsatisfying because a) then it's not an aspect of the world, it's just a story thing, and b) overcoming other people doesn't inevitably require sacrifice.

5) Infection: if the character is infected they could sacrifice themselves to prevent infecting the rest of the ship, though this is somewhat unsatisfying.

This may still be considered too story-based, or too broad: if either argument is raised, I invite suggestions to resolve them.

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    $\begingroup$ To be clear: the one crew member wasn’t frozen at the start of the journey and will remain unfrozen until the end? They weren’t thawed partway through? $\endgroup$
    – Joe Bloggs
    Apr 25, 2020 at 18:05
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    $\begingroup$ Maybe during the event causing your ship to malfunction, some fluid essential to the stasis pods leaks, and one crew member has to drain the fluid of their pod to make up for the loss? $\endgroup$
    – user75058
    Apr 25, 2020 at 18:06
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    $\begingroup$ If you were asking why or how a spacecraft would be designed to require a crew member's self-sacrifice (or planned surprise sacrifice!), that would be on-topic. Of course, such a requirement seems likely to reduce the quality of new recruits to your space program. But an endless list of what-could-possibly-happen-to-my-spacecraft seems quite off-topic. For example, Kornbluth's The Rocket of 1955 could happen...though that seems not at all what you intended. $\endgroup$
    – user535733
    Apr 25, 2020 at 20:26
  • $\begingroup$ @JoeBloggs - Doesn't really matter. They are currently non-frozen. Typically, though, a stasis ship is suggested as an alternative to a generation-ship, so staying awake the whole time would not be feasible. $\endgroup$ Apr 28, 2020 at 20:30
  • $\begingroup$ @user535733 What a delightful short story! Thank you for introducing me to it! $\endgroup$ Apr 28, 2020 at 21:13

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Simplest answer (and one based off my own question) is that they’re only woken for an emergency that needs a human to fix it, but they can’t then be refrozen. If the journey is long relative to their lifespan that means being woken to solve any problem is effectively a death sentence. Their sacrifice fixes what would be an otherwise critical problem, but then they’re doomed to a slow, lonely death.

Have potential wakers paid a bit extra each trip as hazard pay. Only wake them in case of genuine critical emergency.

Don’t let them wake up others ‘for company’...

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    $\begingroup$ A reference to that movie Passengers in which they tried very hard to make dude uncreepy after his supremely creepy act. But he did wake up, did save everyone on the ship (except for one lady and one other guy) and did die of old age - so worth looking at to make sure you do not inadvertently copy. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Apr 25, 2020 at 18:32
  • $\begingroup$ @Willk As a game concept, permitting the player to be creepy is fine, and allows moral dilemmas: I'll need to watch it, thank you! :D $\endgroup$ Apr 28, 2020 at 20:53
  • $\begingroup$ @JoeBloggs This does work. Even in cases where re-freezing would be acceptable, there could be a narrative reason that ONE person might be unable to re-freeze. Perhaps, to save the ship, they need to augment themselves in a way that would prevent it from working. "The neural implant will kill you if frozen in stasis, and cannot be removed. Are you sure you wish to install it?" That way, it becomes a character choice, a sacrifice, rather than a mere inevitability of circumstance. $\endgroup$ Apr 28, 2020 at 21:04
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It's not the person they need, it's the pod.

You have 500 people in 500 pods - the ship designers weren't worried about redundancy. Unfortunately, the ship is damaged and won't be able to reach its destination. The fix is simple enough - the engineers back on Earth worked out a solution almost immediately - but it's going to require scrapping one of the pods for parts.

Alternatively, there's some nuclear fuel that's become somehow volatile, and if it's not kept at very low temperatures inside a stable and isolated environment, it's going to blow up. No need to come up with a complicated engineering narrative, just "sorry, we need the pod".

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  • $\begingroup$ It's for a game idea (from a challenge to myself: write a new game concept each day). For multiple endings to a stasis-ship tale, one of self-sacrifice would be nice, but a rationale was missing. The "only N pods" approach works well, since in the game, you'd be a stowaway, so your options would be: find a killable foe or willing sacrifice; commit murder; or die of old age yourself. I do love me some moral dilemmas in gaming! I could even permit decanting certain NPCs, while rationalizing that their cheap-ass one-use pods can't be used by anyone other than the intended user. $\endgroup$ Apr 28, 2020 at 20:51
  • $\begingroup$ Downside, of course, is that this isn't technically a sacrifice for the ship - just a sacrifice to save one other life. But that in itself can be narratively interesting. $\endgroup$ Apr 28, 2020 at 20:55
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You mention some interesting possibilities, and I'll make some assumptions based off the question. 1. Someone needs to sacrifice themselves, ultimately saving the rest of the crew 2. Space travel uses technology (which is currently soft/flexible for narrative purposes)

Something needs to have gone wrong. A technology not working like it's supposed to, like not being able to go back into cryo. I felt the movie Passengers did a good drama of this, and several conditions were met as you mentioned above.

It seems like the whole "sacrificing yourself to save the crew" thing should be a surprise. You can either take a fast route and need the character to die immediately to change something that went wrong (local disaster, space disaster) and/or a slower pace and explore the feelings of the character as they spend their lives in isolation and die of old age.

Whatever thing you pick, maybe try to weave it into the rest of your world. Why did the ship get hit by debree? Why did the cryo stasis fail?

Hope this helps!

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A repair is needed inside a very hot zone--they're going to take a lethal dose.

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    $\begingroup$ So basically, the ending of the second Star Trek film? $\endgroup$
    – F1Krazy
    Apr 25, 2020 at 23:27
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    $\begingroup$ @F1Krazy That wasn't the example I had in mind when I wrote that but, yes, that's the sort of thing I was thinking of. $\endgroup$ Apr 25, 2020 at 23:34

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