Amanpreet opened her mouth to respond to Niobe’s revelation but instead sat there in silence as she tried to assimilate it.
“I told you it couldn’t be an hallucination, Am,” Mark said.
Amanpreet opened and closed her mouth a few times before she managed to gather herself enough to speak.
“Apparently not,” she said. “But why can I hear their songs when you and Kane can’t?”
“That’s a good question,” Vanna said. “Could it be because of you being born in hyperspace?” She made a thoughtful sound. “I wonder if all those with this Spaceborn Syndrome can hear the song?”
“Who knows,” Amanpreet said. “I guess we’ll have to ask when we get back to normal space.” She swung her feet around off the navigator’s couch and stood up. “I hope you’re right about this void being enough like normal space that my leaving the dome is safe. I wouldn’t want to expose you to hyperspace or leave us stranded.” She paused as she saw one of the Fish in the nest ahead spinning the hyperspace spaghetti from spinnerets in its sides. “Oh, now that’s interesting. I wonder if that means they created the Spaghetti Transit?”
“Let’s ask them,” Niobe said. “And it should be okay, I think. I know it goes against all navigation training but it’s a very unusual situation and we can’t leave currently anyway so we’ll be no more stuck if it isn’t. As to exposing us to hyperspace a short exposure wouldn’t harm us and I think this void is shielded somehow.”
“That’s a fair comment.” Amanpreet popped the hatch and climbed down to the bridge. “Let’s go and wait for this Bubble then.” She paused and shook her head. “Who would have thought that Fish sing.”
“Well they look more like whales than fish if you ask me,” Niobe said.
“Maybe if you squint at them,” Amanpreet said. “Apart from being vaguely fish-shaped they don’t really look like either if you ask me. The singing is whale-like though.”
“It sounds like whale song?” Niobe asked.
“No, not really. It’s more like classical music.” She grinned. “Milky Way whale sonata in F sharp minor.”
“That sounds lovely,” Niobe said as they walked to the airlock where the bubble would dock. “I wish I could hear it.”
” I suppose it is, I’m just glad it’s not a hallucination,” Amanpreet said.
“Yes, I’d imagine you are,” Niobe said. “And I’m not surprised you thought it was. I mean, who expects to hear music in hyperspace? Ah, here it is.”
Bubbles were the Mez equivalent of shuttles and lived up to their name since they resembled nothing so much as giant soap bubbles, though this fragile appearance belied their extreme sturdiness. Amanpreet had seen a bubble and its occupants survive a high speed impact with an asteroid in the past. That didn’t make traveling in one any more comfortable – the biotechnology behind the Fish was understandable but no humans had ever worked out how the bubbles – with their complete lack of any controls – were piloted, in spite of the Mez’s attempts to explain.
What wasn’t in doubt was that they needed a pilot, so Amanpreet shouldn’t have been surprised to find it was a double bubble. One section had an environment suitable for humans while a Mez pilot floated in the other section. She shouldn’t have been surprised but she was â€“ why was there a Mez pilot here with the Fish?
Niobe was obviously thinking the same thing because her fingers danced over her keyboard as they floated towards the nearest ship. Her voice synthesizer made a series of whistles and chirps as she asked the pilot. It twisted to look at them and chirruped an answer.
Niobe tilted her head as she listened and raised her eyebrows. â€œHe says his ancestors were slave navigators who the Fish rescued and brought with them when they fled.â€ She paused and listened some more as he said something else. Niobe tapped a reply before turning to explain. â€œNow he’s asking if it’s true that the Mez have abolished slavery like Umi’s sister says.â€ She grinned wryly. â€œThough he’s not calling her Umi’s sister, of course. But that must be who he means. I told him yes they have.â€
â€œInteresting,â€ Amanpreet said, then stiffened as she realised that rather than heading for one of the nearest Fish’s airlocks, the Mez was piloting them into its gaping maw.