Himeno Wind 1
Part 15 is up!

--

You know the drill. If you wish, leave a one or two word prompt or a single line of dialogue and I will try and use it. This prompt post will be open until midnight GMT Sunday/Monday.

The Whisper of Damkina Part Fifteen

Himeno Wind 1
Start with the First Part or check out Part Fourteen if you missed it.

---

Amanpreet stared at the approaching Fish for a long moment before slamming her hand on the emergency system and dropping them out of hyperspace, or trying to anyway. There was a soft whine and the Whisper stayed firmly in hyperspace.

"Shit! I can't drop us out of hyperspace." She banged it again. “Work, damn you!”

"It won't," Vanna said. The engineer sounded stressed and Amanpreet didn't blame her. "The computer is detecting this region so it thinks we're in normal space. There are safeties to stop dropping from normal space. I don't know how this area exists but you could probably leave the dome without worrying."

"I'd rather not risk it. But you can drop from normal space?" Amanpreet asked curiously, all the while her eyes on the approaching Fish. "What's below normal space?"

"No one knows," Vanna said. "Possibly nothing. Before the safeties went in, a few ships did it accidentally and vanished. Maybe they ended up somewhere or maybe trying to drop with nowhere to go makes you disappear somehow. Either way, no one came back."

“I see,” Amanpreet said. “We'll run until the sensor blank out again then and drop--” She broke off as the sensors alerted her to the fact more Fish were emerging from the Spaghetti behind them. She scanned above and below quickly and sighed. “We're surrounded. I just hope they aren't going to attack us.”

“I'm broadcasting to them in the three most common Mez languages that we're just here to talk, but no response yet,” Niobe said.

“Keep trying,” Amanpreet said and stared at the Fish again. Then shook her head as she heard impossible music floating past her. A hyperspace induced hallucination that was one of the main reasons she hated navigating. “Oh bloody hell! Not now!”

“What's wrong now?” Vanna asked.

“I'm hearing music,” Amanpreet said. “It's my own personal hyperspace hallucination.”

“You haven't been in there nearly long enough to get a hyperspace hallucination, Am,” Kane replied..

“If it's not an hallucination, what is it?” Amanpreet asked levelly. “Do you and Mark ever hear music in hyperspace?”

“No, not unless I have the computer playing music while I'm navigating,” Kane said.

“I can't say I have either,” Mark said. “But Kane's right. Whatever it is, it can't be caused by hyperspace this soon.”

Amanpreet was going to argue but was interrupted when one of the Fish nudged the Whisper gently. “I think our captors want us to go with them. I guess we don't have much choice.”

***

Amanpreet had been navigating the path indicated by the Fish for a couple hours when a gentle pinging, followed by a sweet, spicy smell alerted her that someone had sent refreshments through the screens via the specially designed dumb waiter. She turned and stared at the steaming mug and the nutrient bar sat beside it.

"You need to keep your strength up, Am," Nerrin's voice came over the intercom. "Hopefully the Nutmeg Paradise will make up for the nutrient bar."

"Thank you," Amanpreet said. She picked up the drink and sniffed at it. "Nutmeg Paradise?"

"That's what my mother called it," he replied. "It's an old family recipe. Chili chocolate with lots of nutmeg."

"Ah!" She took a sip and felt her eyes widen as the flavours exploded on her tongue. "Oh my! That's good." She continued to drink it while navigating and watching the screen, then gasped as another moon-sized sphere of the hyperspace spaghetti appeared in the void directly ahead. They were still some way from the edge of it but at full magnification she could see infant Fish darting around inside the sphere and adult Fish resting among the strands. "Do you see that?"

"Yes," Niobe replied. "It looks like we have stumbled into the fish-nest in a hyperspace pond."

“Yes,” Amanpreet said. “I wonder why they've brought us--”

“Am! They just scanned us,” Niobe said. “And they are finally hailing us.”

“What do they say?” she asked.

“Hold on, I'm just clarifying something with them,” Niobe replied. She was silent for a few moments but Amanpreet could hear the clicking of her keyboard over the intercom. “I did understand them right the first time. The want you, and me after I explained you couldn't speak any Mez languages, to go over to the nearest Fish. They are going to send a Bubble and they say we won't need suits.”

“Me?” Amanpreet said blankly. “Why would the Fish pick me? “

There was a pause and she realised Niobe was asking them just that. When she replied she sounded surprised and puzzled by equal measure. “They say it's because you can hear their songs.”

---

Prompt Post 15 is here. Come and leave a prompt.

Comments Welcome.



Himeno Wind 1
Part 14 is up!

--

You know the drill. If you wish, leave a one or two word prompt or a single line of dialogue and I will try and use it. This prompt post will be open until midnight GMT Sunday/Monday.


Himeno Wind 1
Start with the First Part or check out Part Thirteen if you missed it.

--


The Whisper had been in hyperspace for only a few minutes when Mark’s voice came over the intercom. “Okay, I found the trail.”

“So soon?” Amanpreet couldn’t keep the surprise from her voice.

“Yes,” he said. “I’ve never saw a more obvious trail in all my time as a tracker. It’s almost as if it’s leaving a trail deliberately. But I don’t like where the trail is leading us.”

Amanpreet’s stomach flipped. There were many dangerous regions in hyperspace and she knew which one was closest, but she needed to be sure. “Where?”

“The Spaghetti Transit,” he said flatly.

Amanpreet closed her eyes and winced. That was what she’d feared. The Transit was a notoriously hard hyperspace corridor to navigate. It got it’s name from a phenomenon unique to the region. Strange, sticky strands that floated in massive clumps through the area. Not only did they snarl ships travelling through it, but could also prevent all but the most skilled navigators spotting the wells of mind light they used to triangulate their position.

“Shit!” Kane said from where he was monitoring the shielding. “I’m glad I don’t have to navigate this trip.”

“Have you ever navigated the Transit, Mark?” Amanpreet asked.

“No,” he said. “Well, not outside simulations.”

“Ah,” she said. “Drop us out of hyperspace when you reach the edge. This is not a good situation to be learning in; I’ll take over. I’ve done it a couple of times when I was in a hurry.”

“That must have been some hurry,” he said. “Who goes in there deliberately?”

“Am, apparently,” Niobe said. “Is it really that bad?”

Amanpreet wrinkled her nose. “Define bad,” she sighed. “It’s strange, and can be dangerous, but there are worse things out there.”

“Only you could say that, Am.” Kane shuddered. “It’s bloody dreadful!”

“Yes,” she said. “It–” She paused as a slight shudder informed her that they had returned to normal space. A moment later the hatch to the dome opened and Mark emerged.

“Are you sure about this?” Mark asked. “I’ve never met a navigator who will go in there willingly.”

“I am,” she said. “We’ll be fine.” She hoped she sounded more confident than she felt as she rose to her feet and headed for the dome.

“Double check the shields. We don’t want any of the spaghetti getting in here and it will if we’re not careful. It passes through most normal matter like it’s not there.” She cringed at the memory of her last trip into the Spaghetti Transit. A clump of the things had penetrated the dome and tangling in her hair and sticking to her skin.”Damn! I’m going to need a bath after this.”

“Several baths,” Kane said. “Last time I skirted the transit it took me weeks to get clean and we’re going into the heart. Ships get lost in here, you know.”

“We’ll be fine,” Amanpreet said. “I promise.” She clambered up the ladder into the dome.

***

Mark was right, Amanpreet realised, the Fish did seem to be leaving a trail deliberately and it was leading them straight into the Spaghetti Transit. Why was it going there? She didn’t realise she’d spoken the thought aloud until Vanna responded over the intercom.
“Perhaps they live there? Fish can survive in hyperspace indefinitely, and from what I know of the Spaghetti Transit it would be a good place for them to have hidden from the Mez.”

“That’s a good point,” Amanpreet said. “I think you may be right. Perhaps that’s what’s got them riled up recently – the fact that we’ve been gradually getting closer to their home. But in that case, why is it leading us in? I hope this isn’t a trap. Let’s move slowly, anyway.”

The trail of the Fish led Amanpreet deeper into the Transit than she’d ever dared navigate before, but fortunately the way that their quarry had torn through the strange strands meant that the Whisper didn’t get tangled much. However, she was about to announce that they were turning back because they were getting too deep, when the hyperspace spaghetti unexpectedly cleared to reveal a Jupiter-sized void that looked and felt almost like normal space, even though she knew they were still in hyperspace.  “I- I’ve never seen anything like this before.”

“Never mind whatever you’re seeing, Am,” Vanna said. “Check the sensors out. This is impossible.”

“Huh?” Amanpreet glanced down at the console and her heart skipped. They weren’t blank! Whatever this void was, the sensors were detecting it as if it was normal space. “How is this poss–” She broke off as she saw their quarry floating motionless just ahead of them. “Oh my! Is it waiting for us? I think it is.”

“What?” Vanna asked.

“The Fish,” Amanpreet said. Then, as several more Fish appeared out of the dark, she added. “It’s here, and it’s not alone.”

Prompt Post 14 is here. Come and leave a prompt.

Comments Welcome.


Himeno Wind 1
Part 13 is up!

---

You know the drill by now. If you wish, leave a one or two word prompt or a single line of dialogue and I will try and use it. This prompt post will be open until midnight GMT Sunday/Monday.
Himeno Wind 1
Start with the First Part or check out Part Twelve if you missed it.

---

“Oh my, now that's a relevant piece of information, isn't it?” Amanpreet swallowed convulsively. "I guess we just have to hope that, given that this is ancient history, they've changed and no longer go in for xenocide." She tried to ignore the churning in her stomach that said that would be a forlorn hope.

"It is a long time," Mei agreed. "But from what the book says they must be very long lived, because, while they have access to hyperspace communication, they don't seem to have hyperspace ships and yet they've spread their influence over several thousand parsecs."

Midori sucked in a sharp breath. "To hold together a civilization with relativistic speeds..." she shook her head in wonder. "They must be biologically immortal."

"Or extremely long lived at least," Umi said. "But not very resilient in other ways if they can't tolerate hyperspace. Did the book give any more details?"

"It said that these aggressors initially attacked this system but the inhabitants were able to fight them off," Mei said. "When that failed they went to a nearby massive star that should have been only about halfway through its lifespan and somehow aged it prematurely. The people here were aware of the changes and tried to stop them but they only had a prototype hyperspace ship, so they couldn't. So they took the final clutch of one of their strongest and most intelligent breeding queens, and hid it in the hope that one day their species could be resurrected."

"I still don't understand how the eggs survived," Midori said.

"Shielding," Amanpreet said. "In my vision they were shielding the egg cavern with some sort of super-dense metal. It would have stopped the radiation." She frowned to herself. "They couldn't make enough to shield the city in time so they went with Plan B." She tilted her head at her own certainty. "Hmm... maybe there are some after effects of what happened to me."

“Possibly,” Midori said. “But more likely hearing this shook some details of what you saw loose.” She pinched the bridge of her nose. “I'll contact the Council of Planets and pass on this and what Umi told us. Can you gather your crew and try to track that Fish like you said?”

“Of course,” Amanpreet replied.

 

***

 

Mark frowned when Amanpreet explained the situation. “I've done a bit of hyperspace tracking when I used to work search and recovery on Cels.” The bronze skinned navigator frowned and shook his head. “But it's not easy, Am. We very rarely managed to recover a ship lost in hyperspace. Admittedly this isn't exactly the same but it still might be too late to track them."

"I've never done it," Kane said. "I've heard of it, but I don't think I could do it."

"That's okay," Amanpreet said. "I can do it, so Mark and I will handle the navigation this trip - presuming we can find the trail. If we can't it will be a very short trip." She turned to Niobe. "If we do find them I'll need you to talk to them and explain that the Mez have changed and don't keep slaves anymore."

"Do we know which Mez language these Fish are likely to know?" Niobe asked. "I'm sure they don't know all of them."

"I'll find out," Amanpreet said before turning to Nevin. "How are you on Mez physiology? Umi's sister might be injured."

Nevin looked dubious. "I can transform one of the medical pods for a hydrogen breather so she can breath and not overheat, but I'm not familiar enough with their physiology to risk medical intervention. Even a doctor probably wouldn't be."

"Yes, fix up one of the pods," Amanpreet said. "That will be necessary even if she isn't injured. I doubt she's got an environment suit in the dome with her. We'll just have to hope she's unharmed. Have Vanna help you if needed."

"Is that everything?" Niobe asked, then smirked as Amanpreet nodded. "Okay, then let's save the Milky Way."

"No," Amanpreet murmured thinking of Mei's discovery. "Leave that to the Council of Planets."

"I was funning, Am. I know these Fish aren't that big a danger." Niobe narrowed her eyes. "There's something else? Something to do with them?" She jerked her head to indicate Talis. "Spill!"

"There is,” Amanpreet said. “I'll tell you about it once we've at least done our best to find Umi's sister. This is far more urgent." She looked over at Mark. "Do you want to take the first stint in the dome or shall I?"

---

Prompt Post 13 is here. Come and leave a prompt.

Comments Welcome.



Himeno Wind 1
Part 12 is up!

---

You know the drill by now. If you wish, leave a one or two word prompt or a single line of dialogue and I will try and use it. This prompt post will be open until midnight GMT Sunday/Monday.
Himeno Wind 1
Start with the First Part or check out Part Eleven if you missed it.

--

A/N: Thank you to Kamala for volunteering to my new beta reader for Whisper :-D

--

 

"It's not just your species though," Midori said. "They've attacked human Fish as well and they attacked Amanpreet's Stick."

"The attack on the Whisper seems to have been a mistake," Umi said. "And we suspect they don't realize that not all Fish are crewed by us. It's not immediately obvious, of course. And even if they do we don't know why they are attacking now."

"So the prototype Fish could navigate hyperspace on their own but the current ones can't because they're only class three intelligences?" Amanpreet asked. "I suppose you tried that because of how badly hyperspace exposure affects your people?"

Umi made a sound of assent. "Yes, this was at the time before we abolished slavery. All navigators were slaves because we thought no one would risk their lives voluntarily--"

"You were wrong about that," Midori said drily.

"True," Umi said. "But only because we now pay our navigators a ridiculous amount and have extreme limits on jump duration. Back then we were less careful of our navigator's lives until we started losing not just them but ships--"

"Oh! Oh my!" Amanpreet exclaimed. "Did the prototype Fish know about your navigators also being slaves?"

Umi made a thoughtful sound. "History doesn't record that but I cannot imagine that they didn't. Why?"

"Well from what you said not many of the prototypes escaped," Amanpreet said. "So maybe, just maybe, they've been breeding out there in the depths of space and now they've come back to rescue their fellow slaves not realizing that your species has moved on since then."

Inside her environment suit Umi bounced in surprise. "That... now that is a workable theory. I hope you're right because in that case my sister is probably in no immediate danger.” She made a series of squeaks in her own language, then, and when Amanpreet and Midori looked at her questioningly explained. “I was praying for her safe return. She's intelligent so if you're right she should be able to explain to them.”

“We should still try and track them,” Amanpreet said. “Because it is just a theory.”

“Do you have some way to track a ship in hyperspace?” Umi asked. “We've never found a way to get sensors to work there.”

Amanpreet shook her head. “No, but ships leave temporary traces in hyperspace that a skilled navigator can follow. It's difficult, though, because they vanish quickly. We probably have a few more hours before we lose them.”

"Are your navigators skilled enough?" Umi reverted to the formality Amanpreet associated with the Mez as she made her request. "And if so will you help us, please, Captain?"

"I don't know," Amanpreet replied. "It's never come up. But I am." She pulled a face. "If neither of them can, I'll do it myself."

"Thank you," Umi said. "You are kind to someone you barely know and who has just admitted that her ancestors committed a terrible crime."

"The key word there is ancestors, Umi," Midori said. "It's no one living today's fault. The Council is not going to punish your people for what happened. Though they may censure you for keeping it secret after it became relevant."She returned to preparing the vegetarian sushi. “Nearly ready. Have a piece of bread while you're waiting if you want.”

“I'm fine, thank you.” Amanpreet said, then jumped slightly as Midori's intercom made a chiming sound.

Midori reached out tapped the button to activate it. “Yes?”

“Can you come to the administration hub, please, Midori. Mei found something.”

Midori gave the half rolled sushi a mournful look before replying. “We'll be there as soon as we can.” She turned off the intercom and sighed. “So much for lunch. I'll finish rolling this and we can take it with us.”

 

***

 

"So what have you found?" Midori asked without preamble as they arrived in the hub. She placed the box of sushi on the counter and offered Amanpreet a pair of chopsticks. "Help yourself."

"Thank you," Amanpreet said.

"Oh! I didn't mean to disturb your meal, Administrator Midori," Mei said. "Please forgive me. But I reached the section of the book just before the end, and the star that went supernova and depopulated Talis - it wasn't natural. Someone deliberately destabilized it to destroy them. They think it wasn't just that star or them either. So that was their warning - that there is a species out there that sometimes commits xenocide for unknown reasons."

"Interesting," Midori said. "But it's been a very long time. Maybe that species is long gone..." she trailed off as the Tkin made a negative sound. "What else?"

"I thought of that and asked Sangat to check their computer system, now we can communicate with it. It's still detecting the communications of the unknown species, though it also states they are far away and little threat right now, but they sweep through this part of space every thousand years or so and they are due back soon."



--

Prompt Post 12 is here. Come and leave a prompt.

Comments Welcome.



Himeno Wind 1
Part 11 is up!

---

You know the drill by now. If you wish, leave a one or two word prompt or a single line of dialogue and I will try and use it. This prompt post will be open until midnight GMT Sunday/Monday.
Himeno Wind 1
Start with the First Part or check out Part Ten if you missed it.

---

A/N: Unfortunately this installment of The Whisper of Damkina is once again unedited. I've done my best to catch any errors but self-editing is difficult. Apologies if there are more errors than usual. If anyone would like to volunteer to help out with betaing drop me a line. I'd be really grateful. 

---
 

"What am I going to tell Umi?" Midori had her hands pressed to her mouth in horror as she stared at the screen.

"I don't think you'll need to tell her anything, Administrator Midori," Amanpreet said. "She will have been watching so all we need do is offer support. My crew and I will go and tow in the crippled ship. There may be survivors." She frowned at the screen. "You know from where the damage on the Whisper was the Fish that attacked us was targeting our dome as well. Why the domes?" She shook her head. "No it's not the domes, is it?"

Midori stared at her for a moment then slapped her forehead. "Of course! They're targeting navigators? But why is still the question... and since the backed off once they realized you weren't a Fish why are they only targeting them?"

“I don't know why they need navigators.” Umi must have entered the command hub while they were talking. Inside her environment suit the Mez administrator's tentacles were curled extremely tight with stress and swirls of bioluminesence shimmered through her skin, testament to her distress. “But their attacking us … how do you humans put it? Blown up by our own bomb?”

“Umi?” Midori said.

“I'll explain, Midori, really I will. My government won't like it but we can't keep hiding this,” Umi said. “Now after this. But first please rescue that Fish.” She gestured stiffly to the disabled ship on screen. “It's communicating – the automated systems anyway - and some of the crew are alive.”

“We're on it,” Amanpreet reassured her and hurried out to gather her crew before it was too late.

 

***

 

Towing in the crippled ship passed without incident and fortunately for the survivors did not take long. Once Amanpreet and her crew had helped nudge it into the Mez sections dock they circled around the station and redocked the Whisper in the human sector. When they disembarked they found Midori and Umi waiting.

“Thank you, Captain Amanpreet,” Umi said. “My government will pay you a salvage fee for this favour of course. And now I owe you and Midori the explanation I promised.”

“You do,” Midori agreed. “But it's nearly lunchtime and I'm sure Amanpreet is hungry as well. Will you object if I prepare food for the two of us while you explain to us.”

“I will not,” Umi said. “It will be a cycle or so before I need to eat but I know how often humans need food.”

“Thank you,” Midori said. “Will you both accept an invitation to my suite then?”

“I will,” Amanpreet said. “And thank you.”

“I also,” Umi said.

 

***

 

"Are you vegetarian, Amanpreet?" Midori asked as she rifled around in the cupboards in her suite. "I know Sangat is but that's religious and I think he mentioned that you don't practice?"

"Hmm?" Amanpreet looked around from where she had been watching the fish swimming in a large tank against one wall. "Oh, no I'm not Sikh. I have my own beliefs. But yes, I'm vegetarian. My family never ate meat or fish - even biotank grown - when I was growing up and I've never got used to the texture or taste of it." She looked back at the fish tank. "Are these pets?"

Midori laughed. "Yes. I know some people keep fish to eat because they don't like biotank clone meat but I don't think I could do that." She started dumping things onto the counter and muttering to herself in Japanese before looking up at Amanpreet again. "I'm low on rice and nori but I've got enough, so let's make sushi while Umi explains. I need to use up this avocado anyway."

“Of course,” Umi said. “This is going to get us in trouble, but it's a story that needs to be told now.”

“Get you in trouble?” Midori looked up from where she was putting the rice onto boil. “That sounds ominous.”

“Yes, we've hidden it since we first encountered your species and the Ishtari fifty of your years ago because of your laws, the laws we agreed to when we joined the Council.” She made a hissing sound that Amanpreet interpreted as anxiety. “How do I explain this without making us sound like monsters to you?”

Midori gave an exasperated sigh. “Just tell us, Umi. We're humans not Ishtari we have just as much crap in our past.”

“The Ishtari have historical crap too,” Amanpreet said. “It's just very different crap.”

“Yes,” Umi said. “You're right. I just need to tell you. The Fish that are behind these attacks are the descendants of the first generation prototypes that escaped the cull when we couldn't control them properly.”

“Okay,” Amanpreet said. “Not too happy with that cull thing but I can see it. But how can they traverse hyperspace without...” She trailed off as the answer hit her and looked across at Midori who's pale gold skin had taken on an ashen undertone that suggested she'd worked it out as well.

“You're saying that your species engineered a level four consciousness species?” Midori said levelly. “Then tried to wipe it out when it didn't take well to be enslaved?”

“Yes,” Umi said. “You must understand that this was long before we met your kind and we wouldn't try such a thing now. What we don't understand is why they have started attacking us after all this time.”

--

Prompt Post 11 is here. Come and leave a prompt.

Comments Welcome.



 

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