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The Ship Flies Itself

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"What do you mean, you don't have the Iota-magnet down there!" Mike shouted through the intercom. "I thought you had it!"

"Well I don't!" Nina shouted back. "I've got the Autospoon. Do you need me to do anything with the Autospoon?"

"No, I really don't!" Mike shouted.

"Well you need to turn the Repulsion Locator to one!" she shouted before disconnecting.

Mike swore and dashed around the pod he was in. There was smoke coming out of one of the panels but it wasn't the Repulsion Locator so he ignored it for now. Maybe it would stop smoking before he needed to touch it. So long as it didn't actually explode.

The intercom buzzed.

"What?" Mike shouted as he found the Repulsion Locator and turned it from zero to one. Somewhere in the ship, an alarm stopped. Then another one started.

"Hey, dude, if you've got the Power Cycle you need to kick it," Olive called out, clearly at a distance from her intercom. "And are any of your panels smoking? Mine are smoking. I really hate when they smoke!"

"They'll stop!" Mike assured her. "Just wave your hand around at it or something. Do you have the Iota-magnet?"

"Nope! That's Lou!"

Shit. He'd forgotten about Lou. That was just one of the many problems with this damn ship. And it was not what Mike had signed up for. He had signed up for a simple freight operation. Take the cargo, fly it from one system to another. His brother had a gig like that. He'd told Mike it was pretty easy money, you just had to not break the ship - you didn't even need a license! But then after he was hired he'd shown up to the depot and met his crew once before they were beamed aboard, only to find that the ship was split into four sealed compartments full of controls. Who the hell designed a ship like that? They'd been doing this for days now with no end in sight.

"Hey, Mike?" Olive was still on the intercom. "I don't want to scare you or anything, but my screen's default view is facing behind us? And there's kind of a big fireball back there. It's getting bigger."

Mike switched his screen to the rear view and stared at the fireball behind them. Yup. That sure was big. Really really big. So big.

"We need to go faster," he told Olive.

"Yeah, I know," she said. "Do me a favor and turn on the Beeping Trapezoid?"

Mike disconnected and toggled the Beeping Trapezoid. He'd had to toggle it about ninety times in the past couple of hours.

"Lou!" he shouted as he hit his intercom again.

"Oh, hey, Mike!" Lou shouted back. "How's it going?"

"Well, we've got a fireball behind us and we're not going fast enough and apparently we don't just have an accelerator so I'm going to need to you unbind the Iota-magnet!"

"Oh damn," Lou shouted. "That just shorted out! Hang on, I have a stick I can poke it with."

Lou got a stick? Lucky him. Mike watched his screen, where a new command had just appeared. "Any chance you have a Brain Plunger, too?" he asked.

"Nope! Wish I did, so I could forget this whole miserable journey!" Lou shouted to him. "Unbound that magnet for you!"

Another new command came through just then. "Shit! Bind it! Bind it!"

Just then, the whole ship shuddered and hit warp. Every single one of the crew sat back and sighed together. For whatever inane reason, the ship's internal communications went on the fritz sometimes and they couldn't all talk to each other. Now Mike saw Lou, Olive, and Nina on his screen.

"Hey, so. That sucked," he told them as the ship warped through space. They usually got a bit of a breather while they were at warp, which was nice. A couple of times now they'd actually managed to have a full conversation before the ship's warp engine gave out again.

A slot under Mike's display screen opened and a little tray popped out with a sandwich on it.

"Oh, hey, where'd this come from?" he asked the others. Normally they just had a pile of ration bars and water bottles. A sandwich was new and different.

"One of my panel displays changed," Nina told them. "Now it says "Sandwiches" on it and the button is for preparing them. Figured I'd risk it. I'm sick of those ration bars. They taste like sawdust."

Mike got through half of the sandwich before a klaxon sounded throughout the ship. The faces of the rest of his crew disappeared, only to be replaced by an ominous warning: Translator Malfunction. Translator malfunction? What did that mean? Why did they need a translator? They all spoke the same language. They'd spoken before boarding. So what the hell was getting translated?

"What does that mean?" Nina asked at the same time as Lou said "Translator? We have a translator?"

Sounded like the translator was down, but the intercom was going to play nice. Super.

They dropped out of warp and Mike stared in horror as all of his control panels' labels blinked out, then reappeared with little pictograms instead of words. He had a tiny gas pump and what looked like maybe a protractor? There was a lump with a little dot on it and a house with some waves under it and two little people standing next to each other.

No one said anything for a few seconds. They all just sat there, silently taking in that they only had pictures to go on.

Commands were scrolling along the top of Mike's screen but he ignored them for a moment, desperately trying to figure out just how they were going to get anything done.

"Little dudes!" Lou called out. "Little dudes! Little dudes to three!"

Little dudes? Mike looked around. Oh! The two people. He moved the lever to three.

"Um. Dodecahedron! Turn on the dodecahedron!" he called.

"What the hell is a dodecahedron!" Nina gritted out. "Also, I'm covered in slime. Green slime. It's on like, every panel. I swear, you guys, I'm quitting when we get there. I'm quitting and I'm staying there. I'll work in the depot. I'll sell candy. It'll be great."

"Dodecahedron's like, a sphere with sides!" Olive told her. "You must have it!"

"Oh. That." Nina reached out and punched something. When she pulled her hand away they could all see it was covered in green slime.

Somehow they managed to get through the next hour without too much trouble. Together, they figured out what to call every little picture, then it was basically just the same as it had been since they'd taken off. It felt like they hit warp a lot faster than they had before and they all breathed a collective sigh of relief.

Mike went back to his sandwich. They had a few minutes now, but something had been bothering him. They'd been doing this for days. They'd hit warp, speed along for a while, then drop out of warp and have to frantically fix everything. But there was nothing on their screens about how long this trip was. None of them had slept and Mike wasn't sure if anyone else found that weird, but he sure did. Was there actually an end? What was their cargo?

"Hey, guys?" he asked after he'd finished his sandwich.

"Yeah?" Olive was at her screen. He saw Lou and Nina look over from their compartments too.

"I was just thinking…" But his doubts and questions would have to wait.


Mike was glad he'd finished his sandwich. He'd ask everyone what they thought later. For now, for some inexplicable reason, he had to do a handstand to avoid a wormhole.