Author : Julian Miles, Staff Writer

The era of warp drive started badly. Ships went in. Nothing came out. Then they found that ships did come out, just a gazillion miles from where they should have.

It took some very clever people to realise that there was only one ‘computer’ with the capabilities to navigate warp space: the human brain. From there, the Navigator Guilds were born and humanity was off to the stars.

The stars were unimpressed. The various races out there had been at peace, or stagnating, for a very long time. The kids from Earth were loud, pugnacious and insisted on asking embarrassing questions and demanding honest answers. We were not popular. But we had the numbers, and warp navigators who were second to none. Or more truthfully, second to one: people like me.

I had all the mental aptitudes to be a navigator. The only problem was that there were too many of me in my mind. Multiple personality disorder and warp space navigational traits were an unwelcome combination; my parents despaired.

Then a man from a ministry that doesn’t exist came and made me a job offer. At double the pay of a Grade One Navigator. Mummy and Daddy rejoiced. Me? I wasn’t so sure, but I signed up anyway.

I became a Zen Gunner.

We’re like snipers. But we shoot things a long, long way off. A lot of those things think they’re safe from anything except planet busters or assassins amongst their staff.

A mind that can navigate warp has certain unique qualities: an unshakeable knowledge of real space co-ordinates, an understanding of how to ride the tides that sweep warp space, and a warp-fold eye view of the destination at all times. That last one is the key: you can see a long way through warp space. See things unseeable by anything in real space.

If you have a lot of you in your head, one can handle the weapon that resembles a church organ (if it had been designed by Picasso), one can see the trajectory of the projectile (calling it a bullet is over-simplifying to the point of insult), one can see the target, and one can dynamically adjust the trajectory so that projectile and target meet.

I was the fifth Zen Gunner. My tutors burst out laughing when they saw that my surname was Bailey and I still don’t know why. But I do know that my ministry makes more money for Britain from one shot than the rest of Britain makes in a year.

Our latest (seventh) Zen Gunner is a girl named Zoe. We get on really well and are not unaware of the hopeful looks being exchanged amongst our managers. She and I have already decided that a family is what we want to become. We’re delaying any announcement until we work out just how much to charge them for it.

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