The dream of space travel had become reality; but at a price. It was a fact of physics that the mechanism of action of the jump-drive included a random element, which increased with jump range. Only the corps of Communicators could navigate successfully between the stars with speed and efficiency.
Communicators were natural telepaths whose limited precognitive ability was amplified by what had turned out to be a destructive drug. Using that drug raised moral questions which were irrelevant to Communicators, and their indifference to the drug's killing power, coupled with guarantees that a solution to its killing power would be found in time, prevented public opinion from turning against the practice of giving Catalyst to Communicators.
The Mjeltan Star was a typical freightliner with a crew that included two Communicators. On a routine voyage, the captain found himself stranded just one jump from his destination. Captain Franklin knew that his home base would interpret a lack of messages from his Communicators as proof that the Mjeltan Star had been destroyed suddenly and totally. But he still had fuel, food, a skilled crew and a reasonable expectation of reaching his destination.
The rest of that fateful journey was to become a battle with decaying equipment, dwindling resources and relentless mathematical probabilities – a struggle to keep hope alive when logic seemed to be saying that there could be none.