"I knew that I shouldn't have trusted that damn swindler, no matter how good a deal it was," Heller muttered, his hands already moving frantically over the computer controls as he tried to figure out what in the fuck had just happened.
"'Don't worry, Hell,' she said. 'Just because it's a used circuit doesn't mean it isn't in great shape,' she said." He rolled his eyes. "The next time I make it back to Sanctus, I swear that I'm going to shove her out the nearest—"
Heller cut off abruptly as a message suddenly popped up on the screen in front of him, flashing red like a warning beacon. His eyes went wide as he read it once, then twice, and then a third time. It didn't change, no matter how much he might have wished otherwise.
"You have to be kidding me," he said, his voice a little shakier than he'd have liked. Considering the circumstances, though, he didn't think anyone would have blamed him even if they'd been around to hear it.
Nobody answered. Which was probably a good thing, considering he was theoretically alone in his ship. His ship that was apparently a few hundred million lightyears away from where it had been five minutes earlier.
That was impossible.
That was utterly impossible.
Maybe the computer's files had been scrambled? It was an old ship. Weird things happened sometimes, like that time a few months ago with the purple flames or the flower smell coming out of the fuel tank the year before.
But that wouldn't explain the, well, whatever it was that had happened a few minutes earlier. One moment, everything had been fine. The next, the ship was moving like it was a racer with turbo engines, spinning around like... like...
Oh, who was he kidding? It had to have been a wormhole. There wasn't anything else it could have possibly been. Not with the readings that were showing up on his screen just then.
Heller had taken the trade route between the outer colonies and the trade stations a thousand times over. It was a milk run. Load up on tech and entertainment and the like at the stations, trade them for fresh food and other planetside goods, and then sell those supplies for a profit. Rinse and repeat, cycle after cycle.
In the almost ten years he'd been running that trade route, he'd never once even seen a hint of a wormhole. No one had, as far as he knew. If nothing else, there would have been news of people disappearing even if no one knew what had happened to them. And yet he'd somehow managed to find one.
He could feel panic starting to well up inside him as his brain slowly realized exactly what type of situation he was currently in, and he quickly took in a deep breath. He held it as long as he dared before letting it out again, repeating the same steps another three or four times before he was fairly certain the worst of it was over.
"Well," Heller said, trying to force levity into his voice that he didn't quite feel. "I'm in trouble."
The cockpit around him stayed silent, and Heller supposed that he should count that as a small mercy. He'd almost picked up that kid who was trying to hitchhike their way off planet back on Horizon's End, after all. It was bad enough that he'd gotten caught up in this mess. If there had been someone else stuck in it with him, then it would have been a hundred times worse. At least this way he only had to worry about himself.
Especially since he had absolutely no idea how to get himself back home, or if it was even possible in the first place.
Fuck. A wormhole. He might not even be in the same dimension. Or time. He'd grown up on stories of the Reichenbach disaster after all, how that entire cruise ship had disappeared into thin air only for its millennia old remains to be found on a nearby planet a few years later. That was the kind of things nightmares were made of, and he'd found himself right in the middle of his own version of it.
Who knew that the universe had a fucking sense of humor?
Heller took another couple of calming breaths before turning on the long-distance scanners and pushing himself to his feet. They were two generations out of date, so they'd probably take a good hour or two to come up with any data that was remotely useful. At least. That estimate was probably pretty generous on his part, if he was honest.
Until then, he needed to check the hold and see just what he had with him, supply-wise since he had no idea exactly where he was. Or how long he was going to be stuck there.
Sending up a silent thanks to anything or anyone who might be listening that he'd been leaving the colonies instead of heading towards them, so he at least had plenty of food and water on hand for the time being, Heller hit the hatch control. The forcefield around the cockpit shimmered out of view, and he made his way down the ramp that led to the cargo hold and living area of The Ariel.
Heller had no idea what he was going to do, but for now he'd just have to take things as they happened. One foot ahead of the other, one worry at a time, and all that shit. Hopefully the more powerful scanners would be able to give him some more detailed answers, and if not...
... well, he'd figure something out. He was alive. That was the important thing for the time being. The future would see to itself, one way or another.
Still. Why did it have to be a wormhole? It couldn't have been pirates? An alien invasion? The second coming of some god? The universe needed its sense of humor adjusted.