Amanpreet stared at the approaching Fish for a long moment before slamming her hand on the emergency system and dropping them out of hyperspace, or trying to anyway. There was a soft whine and the Whisper stayed firmly in hyperspace.
“Shit! I can’t drop us out of hyperspace.” She banged it again. â€œWork, damn you!â€
“It won’t,” Vanna said. The engineer sounded stressed and Amanpreet didn’t blame her. “The computer is detecting this region so it thinks we’re in normal space. There are safeties to stop dropping from normal space. I don’t know how this area exists but you could probably leave the dome without worrying.”
“I’d rather not risk it. But you can drop from normal space?” Amanpreet asked curiously, all the while her eyes on the approaching Fish. “What’s below normal space?”
“No one knows,” Vanna said. “Possibly nothing. Before the safeties went in, a few ships did it accidentally and vanished. Maybe they ended up somewhere or maybe trying to drop with nowhere to go makes you disappear somehow. Either way, no one came back.”
â€œI see,â€ Amanpreet said. â€œWe’ll run until the sensor blank out again then and drop–â€ She broke off as the sensors alerted her to the fact more Fish were emerging from the Spaghetti behind them. She scanned above and below quickly and sighed. â€œWe’re surrounded. I just hope they aren’t going to attack us.â€
â€œI’m broadcasting to them in the three most common Mez languages that we’re just here to talk, but no response yet,â€ Niobe said.
â€œKeep trying,â€ Amanpreet said and stared at the Fish again. Then shook her head as she heard impossible music floating past her. A hyperspace induced hallucination that was one of the main reasons she hated navigating. â€œOh bloody hell! Not now!â€
â€œWhat’s wrong now?â€ Vanna asked.
â€œI’m hearing music,â€ Amanpreet said. â€œIt’s my own personal hyperspace hallucination.â€
â€œYou haven’t been in there nearly long enough to get a hyperspace hallucination, Am,â€ Kane replied..
â€œIf it’s not an hallucination, what is it?â€ Amanpreet asked levelly. â€œDo you and Mark ever hear music in hyperspace?â€
â€œNo, not unless I have the computer playing music while I’m navigating,â€ Kane said.
â€œI can’t say I have either,â€ Mark said. â€œBut Kane’s right. Whatever it is, it can’t be caused by hyperspace this soon.â€
Amanpreet was going to argue but was interrupted when one of the Fish nudged the Whisper gently. â€œI think our captors want us to go with them. I guess we don’t have much choice.â€
Amanpreet had been navigating the path indicated by the Fish for a couple hours when a gentle pinging, followed by a sweet, spicy smell alerted her that someone had sent refreshments through the screens via the specially designed dumb waiter. She turned and stared at the steaming mug and the nutrient bar sat beside it.
“You need to keep your strength up, Am,” Nerrin’s voice came over the intercom. “Hopefully the Nutmeg Paradise will make up for the nutrient bar.”
“Thank you,” Amanpreet said. She picked up the drink and sniffed at it. “Nutmeg Paradise?”
“That’s what my mother called it,” he replied. “It’s an old family recipe. Chili chocolate with lots of nutmeg.”
“Ah!” She took a sip and felt her eyes widen as the flavours exploded on her tongue. “Oh my! That’s good.” She continued to drink it while navigating and watching the screen, then gasped as another moon-sized sphere of the hyperspace spaghetti appeared in the void directly ahead. They were still some way from the edge of it but at full magnification she could see infant Fish darting around inside the sphere and adult Fish resting among the strands. “Do you see that?”
“Yes,” Niobe replied. “It looks like we have stumbled into the fish-nest in a hyperspace pond.”
â€œYes,â€ Amanpreet said. â€œI wonder why they’ve brought us–â€
â€œAm! They just scanned us,â€ Niobe said. â€œAnd they are finally hailing us.â€
â€œWhat do they say?â€ she asked.
â€œHold on, I’m just clarifying something with them,â€ Niobe replied. She was silent for a few moments but Amanpreet could hear the clicking of her keyboard over the intercom. â€œI did understand them right the first time. The want you, and me after I explained you couldn’t speak any Mez languages, to go over to the nearest Fish. They are going to send a Bubble and they say we won’t need suits.â€
â€œMe?â€ Amanpreet said blankly. â€œWhy would the Fish pick me? â€œ
There was a pause and she realised Niobe was asking them just that. When she replied she sounded surprised and puzzled by equal measure. â€œThey say it’s because you can hear their songs.â€