From the author: Things get a little glitchy around black holes.
I think there's a. Glitch in the ship's. It's like it's cutting. This is too.
Okay, I've adjusted some. Parameters, what the hell. We're near a black. Hole.
This is stupid. We're doing. A system purge.
System back online. I think it's running the way it should, right? Right?? Oh, hey! Full sentences! Glen says it's probably got nothing to do with the time distortion, since nothing else was affected. He's citing my general pilot's stupidity, his words, not mine. I'm reminding Glen that all of the training and experience I've had is two or three years past how long it took him to get his first and second doctorate. Par is snorting at that. No one’s reminding anyone that we only took this job to avoid our respective life sentences, and that it’s basically a long-shot death trip. Send a bunch of genius convicts to a black hole! If they come out of it alive, they might just bring something valuable to society.
I'm just now telling Glen where to shove it.
Glen says: "Jura, people will.
Not that I. Care.
Purged the system again. Weird, but it cuts things off at full words, not any specific character. I think it's aliens. Never mind we haven't seen any before. Better that than to think the black hole is putting out interference we didn't know about. Right?
Research, my ass. The science-heads better get their work done soon. This pilot wants to get. The hell out.
The lights in the cockpit and research compartment are flickering. What's outside is definitely messing with the systems. What did we expect, going to a black hole? What did I expect? No one else would want a few thousand years put between themselves and their past. But maybe my last days will be lived out in interplanetary exploratory adventure! My penance for making a career of piloting pirate ships.
I'm watching the lights as Glen and Parveen argue, and the lights are only blinking in the middle of their sentences, not in the pauses. Par is getting freaked out by the lights. I don't blame her.
I'm going to record where the lights blink.
Glen: You haven't even considered that.
Par: So this is my fault? What were you doing all shift while we.
Glen: I'm sorry, but whoopee do. Seriously, Par, it's like.
Par: What, do you.
Glen: Fuck, Par, this is my life's work, we can't just leave.
Par: Fuck your life’s work. And this is my paper, too, what’s left of my career. But we can't stay here.
That pattern. I had to process that. And I looked back through the log. It gets clearer as it goes, but it's there.
I've got Glen's attention, now. The lights have stopped blinking. Whatever, whoever they are, they're in our systems. They've deciphered enough of our language to get their message across, and now...what? I don't kno.
God, it stopped before the end. Of a sentence, now what are they. Trying to say.
Kno--No. End. They. Say.
They don't want us. To do what?
Last one stopped on "us." Okay.
No End They Say Us.
Their grammar is piss poor. Half expected them to stop on piss there, because right now I could use a laugh. Have you deciphered that, aliens?
What do you want? Do you want.
Us to leave.
Okay. Glen isn't happy, but for the moment he's subdued. Par, for once, is the one rattling all of the gear around, as if that will make it less silent in here. She’s excited, because aliens. I wonder if she’ll try to experiment on them. She doesn’t even see humans as humans.
Glen told me to stop telling bad jokes a half hour ago.
I told him I don't care if I’ll be free at the end of this, I didn’t sign up for this shit. Death by aliens is not better than death by crushing gravity, or crushing boredom.
I have the engines at full thrust moving out of here.
There's a problem. The engines are barely moving us. Our calculations were off, we need much more thrust than we should to escape the pull of the black hole.
Of course we do. It always was a long shot.
Glen is freaking out, yelling at me while I'm yelling at him to make the engines give me more thrust to push the ship out.
The aliens are doing it again. I was going to say, "out of the black hole."
Can you get us.
You're saying you can get.
Out Us Get.
How? What should I type? How do I know what:
Out Us Get. Hold On.
We're out. We're away from the black hole, we're heading towards the hibernating mothership with its drive shell, and the sight of that ship's never looked so good.
The thought of going home. When we get far enough away from the black hole, we’ll be back in normal space time. We might have the find of the current millennium. Or we might be obsolete. But we will be free. Is that a good thing?
I look back at Glen and Par. None of us ever committed murder. Not directly. But we all have blood on our hands. Do the aliens know who they were helping to escape?
Par is muttering about losing the find of her career. Glen’s glowering at the stars. I wonder if I’m the only one who’s grateful to be alive.
We don't know shit about black holes.
We certainly don't know shit about this one.
But thank you, aliens. I’ll try and do better.
This story originally appeared in hollyheisey.com.