Author : Duncan Shields, Staff Writer

I looked at the dashboard with a mounting fear.

The mutiny had gone off and turned messy. The company pilots had been killed when we blew the cockpit door. We’d had to execute our hostages. The airlock was empty now and their inside-out, frozen corpses goggled wide-eyed thirty AUs behind us.

In the not-here of throughspace, I could imagine the feel of passing wind rattling the portholes. I could almost feel the gentle slap of the ocean against the hull even though we were galaxies away from any planet with an ocean. There was nothing, of course, but the silent dimensionless void outside of the windows.

The temperature gauges said that it was both way above and way below tolerable in the vacuum outside. There were other contradictory readings. It was all that I could read.

No one had really mapped throughspace. It got us from place to place but ships that had applied the brakes had either exploded or disappeared entirely. We had to settle for what our instruments told us as we rocketed through.

We knew how to manipulate doors in and out of it but the real essence of what we were traveling through in throughspace was a mystery. Much like gravity in the old days. It could be measured and predicted but the ‘why’ of it was always elusive.

We were halfway through the trip and we had another sixteen hours to go before arrival in hostile territory. We might be able to bluff our way through a patrol or two but once the word gets out, we won’t be able to hide. We’d never be able to stand up to a full search, either. If we got boarded, there would be a firefight.

So here I was. We’d won the fight, struggling up from the prison deck and into the crew quarters. We were vagabonds now, treasonous savages who had killed their captors. Our entire reason for living right now was flight from the enemy and the finding of a safe haven.

All good except for one thing. Pilots spoke a different language than us. They had a verbal shorthand that had developed over time into its own separate dialect. I never really understood why until now.

Several hundred buttons, brightly lit with a Christmas tree rainbow of colours, stared up at me. There were dials, switches, slots, and knobs. A library of discs and glow-cards were stacked on either side.

There was no main stick or pedals.

The pilots in our holding cell, the ones on our side, they had been killed in the mutiny.

No one was left on our victorious team that had the ability to pilot a ship. One wrong button could make the ship try to stop or turn and kill all of us. We had no choice but to hope that the ship was on some sort of autopilot and that we’d be able to do some trial and error guesswork once we got through to other end.

The pictograms and symbols on the dashboard were alien and unintelligible. We could just as easily open a hailing frequency as we could fire a missile pulse if we started pressing the buttons randomly.

From below decks, I heard cheering and carousing. I dreaded taking the subleaders aside and telling them the news.

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