The Whisper had been in hyperspace for only a few minutes when Mark’s voice came over the intercom. “Okay, I found the trail.”
“So soon?” Amanpreet couldn’t keep the surprise from her voice.
“Yes,” he said. “I’ve never saw a more obvious trail in all my time as a tracker. It’s almost as if it’s leaving a trail deliberately. But I don’t like where the trail is leading us.”
Amanpreet’s stomach flipped. There were many dangerous regions in hyperspace and she knew which one was closest, but she needed to be sure. “Where?”
â€œThe Spaghetti Transit,” he said flatly.
Amanpreet closed her eyes and winced. That was what she’d feared. The Transit was a notoriously hard hyperspace corridor to navigate. It got it’s name from a phenomenon unique to the region. Strange, sticky strands that floated in massive clumps through the area. Not only did they snarl ships travelling through it, but could also prevent all but the most skilled navigators spotting the wells of mind light they used to triangulate their position.
“Shit!” Kane said from where he was monitoring the shielding. “I’m glad I don’t have to navigate this trip.”
“Have you ever navigated the Transit, Mark?” Amanpreet asked.
“No,” he said. “Well, not outside simulations.”
â€œAh,” she said. “Drop us out of hyperspace when you reach the edge. This is not a good situation to be learning in; I’ll take over. I’ve done it a couple of times when I was in a hurry.”
“That must have been some hurry,” he said. “Who goes in there deliberately?”
“Am, apparently,” Niobe said. “Is it really that bad?”
Amanpreet wrinkled her nose. “Define bad,” she sighed. “It’s strange, and can be dangerous, but there are worse things out there.”
“Only you could say that, Am.” Kane shuddered. “It’s bloody dreadful!”
“Yes,” she said. “It–” She paused as a slight shudder informed her that they had returned to normal space. A moment later the hatch to the dome opened and Mark emerged.
“Are you sure about this?” Mark asked. “I’ve never met a navigator who will go in there willingly.”
“I am,” she said. “We’ll be fine.” She hoped she sounded more confident than she felt as she rose to her feet and headed for the dome.
“Double check the shields. We don’t want any of the spaghetti getting in here and it will if we’re not careful. It passes through most normal matter like it’s not there.” She cringed at the memory of her last trip into the Spaghetti Transit. A clump of the things had penetrated the dome and tangling in her hair and sticking to her skin.”Damn! I’m going to need a bath after this.”
“Several baths,” Kane said. “Last time I skirted the transit it took me weeks to get clean and we’re going into the heart. Ships get lost in here, you know.”
“We’ll be fine,” Amanpreet said. “I promise.” She clambered up the ladder into the dome.
Mark was right, Amanpreet realised, the Fish did seem to be leaving a trail deliberately and it was leading them straight into the Spaghetti Transit. Why was it going there? She didn’t realise she’d spoken the thought aloud until Vanna responded over the intercom.
“Perhaps they live there? Fish can survive in hyperspace indefinitely, and from what I know of the Spaghetti Transit it would be a good place for them to have hidden from the Mez.”
“That’s a good point,” Amanpreet said. “I think you may be right. Perhaps that’s what’s got them riled up recently – the fact that we’ve been gradually getting closer to their home. But in that case, why is it leading us in? I hope this isn’t a trap. Let’s move slowly, anyway.”
The trail of the Fish led Amanpreet deeper into the Transit than she’d ever dared navigate before, but fortunately the way that their quarry had torn through the strange strands meant that the Whisper didn’t get tangled much. However, she was about to announce that they were turning back because they were getting too deep, when the hyperspace spaghetti unexpectedly cleared to reveal a Jupiter-sized void that looked and felt almost like normal space, even though she knew they were still in hyperspace.Â â€œI- I’ve never seen anything like this before.â€
â€œNever mind whatever you’re seeing, Am,â€ Vanna said. â€œCheck the sensors out. This is impossible.â€
â€œHuh?â€ Amanpreet glanced down at the console and her heart skipped. They weren’t blank! Whatever this void was, the sensors were detecting it as if it was normal space. â€œHow is this poss–â€ She broke off as she saw their quarry floating motionless just ahead of them. â€œOh my! Is it waiting for us? I think it is.â€
â€œWhat?â€ Vanna asked.
â€œThe Fish,â€ Amanpreet said. Then, as several more Fish appeared out of the dark, she added. â€œIt’s here, and it’s not alone.â€