Vignette #9

My mouth turns dry every time I enter slipspace. I don’t need a firsthand view of spacetime cloven in two, of the pure mathematics which lies beyond. I don’t even have to know when we’re transitioning. I can feel it on my skin, like a a static charge, and in the pressure inside my skull. Sometimes I even feel it in my bones, a sharp and thankfully brief pain like nothing I have felt elsewhere.

I’ve probably become conditioned by the pain and discomfort, and my mouth turns dry because of fear and anticipation. So now when I think of slipspace I think of how my mouth turns dry, because my body knows before my consciousness does and that’s the harbinger of what is to come.

Today, however, I have that firsthand view that I don’t need. I actively don’t want it, but here I am, newly promoted to ‘Science Officer’ – ha! – and stood on the bridge in a stained old uniform, like everyone else playing the part of someone still serving a greater cause than ourselves. God damn it, but the shadow of five hundred years of Imperial rule hangs long, even long after its violent dissolution. Our Captain has, at least, removed the Imperial eagle from his peaked cap, and replaced it with the insignia of our ship, and our home; the Last On My List.

Look, we don’t name the ships ourselves, okay? And most of us who are just struggling through life in a fucked-up universe don’t exactly choose where we end up, either. So here I am, stood about with a dry mouth on the bridge of the Last On My List, with a bunch of other tired women and men, waiting to violently rupture geometry.

A front-row seat for when spacetime is cloven, and we see the nothing and everything that lies beyond. But this time when the slipstream window opens, something comes out.

Many things. Hundreds of things. Then thousands of-

Sharp intakes of breath across the bridge. My mouth goes drier. The Captain looks at me. His knuckles are white. “The hell is… those?” he barks. The words fall out like half-chewed bread.

My mouth is so dry I can barely speak. I masticate my jaw a few times, forcing moisture from salivary glands. In the time it takes me to do this, thousands more have emerged. We’re so far away, and the slipstream window is so large, that it looks as if they are spreading like fine dust in a soft breeze.

“Trouble?” I finally manage. I feel like a desiccated corpse.

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