“Well, that’s one way to get inside,” Niobe said blandly as the bubble floated into the darkness of the Fish’s gullet. â€œA bit disconcerting maybe.â€
“Yes,” Amanpreet agreed. “But I just wish we could see where we are going.”
“Give it a moment,” Niobe said. “It probably works at Mez typical light levels.”
It seemed that Niobe was right because Amanpreet’s eyes adapted to the gloom and she realised that a faint bioluminescent glow was coming from the walls of the Fish’s gullet. It wasn’t really enough to see by properly but things were visible as vaguely identifiable lumps. At least she wouldn’t bump into anything.
“Okay, that’s a little better,” she said. “But still murky.”
“The Mez don’t need much light,” Niobe reminded her. Then the light levels began to rise slowly until reaching a more tolerable level. “Oh! How did it know?” Her fingers danced over the keyboard obviously asking the same question. She listened to the pilot’s reply and nodded. “Ah, that makes sense. He says that Umi’s sister told our host that we need more light than the Mez and it obliged.”
â€œThat’s good. More evidence it means us no harm,â€ Amanpreet said, then gasped as music flowed around her in sweeping choral joy. â€œOh, it’s singing! I wonder what it means?â€
â€œI’ll ask our pilot,â€ Niobe said. She did so and listened to his reply with a frown. â€œHe can’t hear it any more than I can but the Fish sing to communicate with each other in hyperspa–â€ She broke off as they emerged into the Fish’s gut. â€œWoah, I don’t think this is used for digesting food.â€
â€œNo,â€ Amanpreet agreed as she stared at the sight before them. Inside the vast meat cavern multiple Bubbles moved along strange fleshy cables to blister like protrusions in the walls which they merged with to allow their passengers to disembark. A slight judder made her look over to see that their own Bubble had attached itself to one of the cables and was travelling along it. In his separate compartment, their pilot flopped down on the floor in relaxation as the cable took over directing them.
â€œOh! It’s like a Bubble Railway!â€ Amanpreet exclaimed.
â€œMore like a Bubble cable car,â€ Niobe said. â€œRailways ran along the ground.â€
â€œYou know what I mean,â€ Amanpreet said. â€œIt’s a good idea for internal transit in large vessels.â€
The cable took them upward, rather than further into the gut, towards an especially large blister which Amanpreet realised would put them near the Fish’s brain. Which made sense if it wanted to talk to them, she supposed. The journey didn’t take long and they emerged into a large, well lit chamber that hardly seemed to be inside an alien creature. Their part of the Bubble dissolved and they disembarked into a room which had been well adapted to their needs. A screen similar to the walls of the Bubble separated them from the other half of the chamber where a small Mez whose tentacle patterns and coloured swirls bore a startling resemblance to Umi’s. This must be her sister.
Niobe tapped on her keyboard again obviously making sure. The Mez made a chirruping sound that even Amanpreet recognised as â€˜yesâ€™ before adding a torrent of whistles and chirps.
“She apologises for us having to trouble ourselves for her,” Niobe said. “And she introduced herself. I think her and Umi’s family have a thing for nature names because her name means storm.” She clicked on her keyboard and repeated the word storm again. The Mez female chirruped positively again and Niobe nodded. “She would be honoured if we call her Storm.” She listened as Storm spoke some more. â€œWe were right. The Fish were trying to rescue her. She’s explained she doesn’t need rescuing.â€
â€œCan we take her back to her sister then?â€ Amanpreet asked.
Niobe translated the question and listened to the response.
â€œShe wants to bring the Fish with us. She says they are a class four intelligence and should be recognised by the Council of Planets and given seats.â€
â€œThat’s not unreasonable,â€ Amanpreet said. â€œBut is it willing to come with us?â€