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Watch the AUDIBLE VIDEO reading of E7 from the author, Michael Azzolino.

Pilot Tales

“What in the fu…” Arven watched the waveform of his speech erupt from his mouth and snake up into the air. It joined with other soundwaves, flocking like birds and swirling in a dance of colorful, chaotic patterns. He watched for a moment, mesmerized by the sight. The colorful image suddenly vanished, replaced from one edge of the horizon to the other with a black and white static pattern. It spread like a swarm of angry, agitated insects, rolling across and blocking out the entire sky. Frustrated, Arven tried and failed to scream. Everything went black as void. Only the vibration remained, more familiar now than ever. He focused on the oscillation, matching his breathing to its rhythm. Suddenly he realized what it was — an active Nexus Unit!

“Not surprised,” he thought. “I’m dreaming of being in space, or am I?”

“It’s unusual to see it installed in a cargo hold, generally a fixture in engineering,” Arven spoke aloud. The absence of visuals helped solidify that he was no longer in a dream state. His head felt thick and foggy, likely a residual effect from the drugs. He struggled to concentrate. “What the hell did Zebb do? Where in Known Space am I? What the fu….”


Crawling deeper into the bowels of the ship, it became obvious to him that this craft had been heavily modified from the standard specifications. He saw unconventional-looking equipment installed wherever it could fit and pulsing lines of fiber and power connecting them to the core systems. He was impressed with the quality of workmanship. A few more feet into the tube Arven reached an intersection where he could finally stand in the confined space. Directly in front of him, he discovered the console for the emergency communications system, a redundant system rarely used and only in the event of a cascading failure of the primary systems. “Another stroke of luck for the good guys!” He spoke barely above the volume of a whisper. His hands rested on the keyboard. For a moment, it was like shaking hands with an old friend. He began working his magic, creating boxes within subroutines within worms, laying down a virtual web of real estate between himself and anyone seeking to uncover his activities on the network.

“Flight logs show…[static]…Sector…[static] presumably lost. I take it? That’s Shadow territory, Ben…[static]…your PAL, directed you to the…[static]…Hub…[static]…I have bad news. You left…[static]…the warp. How skilled are you as a gunner?”

The playback was louder than he had expected or desired. He cranked the attenuator down to its lowest setting. Arven held his breath again, but not for fear of being heard. He recognized the distinct voice on the recording. He played it a second time and then a third. No doubt about it. “It’s me.”


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