Jahan-Aara sat in the cargo hold of the Kehkashaan, hugging her knees and staring desperately through the ice-encrusted view port. A slow pressure leak near the view port was evident in the ice slowly growing across her field of view. She wondered how much longer she had left to live; this cargo hold was the only section of the vessel able to seal itself off when disaster had struck. Most of the rest of the ship had been destroyed.
Even now, two days later, Jahan-Aara had no idea what had happened. After four uneventful years of travel, the Kehkashaan was finally within a light year of Sirius B. An almost nine light year journey completed in just under four and a half years; a great triumph of mankind. FTL Jump Drive was developed in Pakistan, of all places, less than fifty years ago as part of a fledgling nuclear fusion program. Jahan-Aara was so proud and felt so blessed to be chosen for the first truly exploratory mission of another star ever launched. She would make her God, her husband, and her country proud.
Her shipmate, her husband, was most assuredly dead. He was in the aft section of the ship when something had crashed into them. There had been no proximity alarm; it had happened so fast that Jahan-Aara had time only to grab a safety rung and slap the door patch, sealing the area she was in. At first she had tried desperately to reach Rahim on the intercom. She had punched the call button so many times her fingers were bleeding. With no space suit and no way out she was trapped and would never know what happened to her husband. She had no food and her water was almost gone. And now, her air was leaking. She was going to die, and there was nothing she could do about it.
With nothing to do except wait for her inevitable end she had rearranged the cargo and had positioned herself awkwardly at the porthole. She stared through the window listlessly, with slow tears floating away from her face in zero gravity. Aside from the wreckage of her ship floating outside her view port, Jahan-Aara was surprised to see something else come into her field of view. Something big. Something artificial. She knew immediately what it was.
The Kehkashaan had, against all odds, collided with another spaceship. An alien spaceship. Traveling at almost half the speed of light when emerging from each Jump, a collision should have instantly vaporized her ship. The ship the Kehkashaan hit must have been going roughly the same velocity and direction, otherwise her constituent atoms would be spread all over this region of space. Such a colossal, cosmic, coincidence!
The wreckage of the alien ship was caught up in the wreckage of her ship. As the large debris spun slowly near her, Jahan-Aara spotted what she thought was a view port. It was octagonal, and made of a transparent material like her window.
As it came closer, Jahan-Aara exclaimed in surprise. There was a creature in the window of the other ship. Like herself, a single being, it was a biped, sat forlornly at the window. Waiting to die. Jahan-Aara cried in anguish; first contact and she would never live to see it through. The creature in the other window shuddered violently. Jahan-Aara imagined it, too, was keening in agony.
The alien wreckage started moving out of her field of view. Jahan-Aara raised a single hand and waved at the alien, a useless and pathetic gesture from humanity, but it was all she had.
The alien waved back.
Edit: Special thanks to Inam Ur Rahman for suggesting the name “Jahan-Aara” and “Kehkashaan for the spaceship, which means “galaxies” in Urdu.
(I wrote this story sometime around 2001. It’s been sitting in my archives until now.)