Warning! If you have yet to experience the story as written, you might get a little lost. This is all prose, but is a part of the story being told moving forward. If you wish to refresh, or catch up, see below for the full reading order:
If you want the express reading order for part 1, make sure you've read the quotes on the following articles, and in their presented order.
"43," Mouse whispered. She kept count as time went by, announcing every minute that passed. The others sat in silence. They were surely out of the firefight by now. "44." Based on drills staged during their first few test flights of The Calstine, the vessel could maintain warp for 50 minutes without stopping. Beyond that, there would be problems. Life support was shut off, and before long, wouldn't be able to cycle the air before the excess CO2 killed everyone on board.
"45," mouse said, finally opening her eyes. "Disenge warp drive."
Argus reached over and flipped a switch. "Done."
Mouse waited, only letting out her sigh of relief when the lights flickered back on. The screens in front of her rebooted, a process taking several minutes. She read off each status message as it appeared, "Engines operational. Hull integrity holding. Life support active."
Oracle laughed, practically leaping from his chair. He stretched his legs as he cheered, then stepped down the lower deck. Runner stood as well, patting Mouse on the shoulder with a grin. Mouse smiled back, turned away, and saw Argus shaking her head.
Argus leaned back in her chair. "How the hell do you do that?"
"Let's avoid doing it again. I won't be so successful next time." Mouse replied. "I'm not that good."
Roadrunner scoffed, wincing in pain as he tried to unfasten his harness. "We couldn't fly a ship like that. Did they teach you something we missed out on?"
"I guess it's something you gotta have a knack for," Mouse replied. "Okay, Jordan. Let's take a look at that arm." Mouse sat across from him and rested his hand on her shoulder. She gradually massaged his bicep, working her way up to the deltoid, to his upper shoulder, and felt the muscles gradually loosen. "Relax," Mouse began, "It's going to feel weird, but it won't hurt." Within moments, she felt the shoulder pop back into place, and Roadrunner let out a sigh of relief.
He took a deep breath before speaking, "Thanks."
Mouse stood up and laughed. "No problem. Sorry it got so bumpy. With the ship operational, the next step is to assess fuel reserves and figure out where we ended up."
Argus nodded. "We traveled for quite a while, I'll check the reserves. Oracle and Runner can gather our bearings."
"Got it," Oracle replied. He turned to leave, but stopped just before heading below. "Mouse, get some rest. You look exhausted. We got this."
Mouse rubbed her temples and nodded. "Don't have to tell me twice. Let me know when you're done."
She followed them to the lower decks and stopped in front of her quarters. The door opened, and she had her suit off before she reached her bed. Despite still wearing the uniform, she felt exposed, naked without the extra protection. She couldn't imagine how tired she looked.
Her quarters were messy, papers scattered across the desk bolted to the far wall. Her bed remained unmade, looking more inviting than ever before. The walls were painted in various colors, murals of her own making. Each painting depicted the night sky of Safeharbor, with the constellations highlighted in white.
She fell onto her bed and felt the warmth as the heating elements kicked in. She slept a dreamless sleep, waking at the sound of knocking at her door. It felt like she only just closed her eyes. She was still tired, her muscles sore from how tense they were during the flight. She didn't sit up. Instead, she shouted at the door, "Come in"
The door opened and Oracle stepped inside. "Sorry to wake you."
She shook her head. "Not a problem. What do we know?"
He was silent for a moment, as if he struggled to get the words out. "That's kind of why I'm here. We don't know much."
She sat up immediately, her exhaustion now an afterthought. "What do you mean?"
Oracle leaned against the wall and sighed, "We can't figure out where we are. We were already off the charts."
Mouse stood up, her eyes wide, "Am I the only one who paid attention in navigation?" She waited for his answer and laughed when all he could do was shrug. "Come on, then." Oracle followed her as she walked to a screen on a far wall of the common area outside of her room. Mouse held down a red button and her voice echoed throughout the ship, "Everyone to navigation, please."
Mouse turned on her heels and led Oracle to a small room with a large round table at its center. Within moments, Argus joined them.
Roadrunner was the last to arrive, stepping inside with a smile, "What's the word?"
Mouse crossed her arms before speaking, "None of you learned navigation? What If I died. You'd all be dead too."
"But you didn't, though," Argus replied.
Roadrunner sighed, and took a seat at the center table. "It only takes once. Mouse is right. Let's fix it."
Oracle and Argus took seats of their own as Mouse pressed her finger against the table's smooth, white surface. The lights overhead dimmed and a three-dimensional image appeared just above the table. "When warp is involved and you don't know where you've dropped out, you calculate distance traveled and use your last known location as a reference."
Argus spoke up, "our coordinates were 3483.2323 for Y, 11987.21978 for X, and 5390.638 for Z. We traveled in warp for 45 minutes and 16 seconds, almost exactly. "
"No," Mouse replied. "We need more than almost. It has to be exact."
Argus looked away, thought a moment, then answered, "45 minutes, 16 seconds, and 4 milliseconds. Do you need it dwindled down into microseconds? Nanoseconds?"
"If you can," Mouse replied, "but let's start with what we have." She pressed a button on the side of the table, and a series of constellations appeared all over the map. She pointed to one before continuing, "We were here, the fourth star making up Calstine."
Each of the others nodded as she traced her finger across the star field. A red line appeared, following her finger to the end of the table in a straight line.
"That was easy," Oracle said.
"Not done," Mouse replied. "This red line marks our direction, not our path, nor where we stopped."
"Oh," Argus said, almost shouting in excitement. "So, now we just add the time traveled?"
Mouse nodded. "Yes, but there's another step that's easy to forget. We're in space, and we were at warp."
Argus cocked her head. "And?"
"You're moving independently relative to everything else. Stars are moving, everything is moving independently of you and doing so at very high speeds."
"So, at least on a map, our path couldn't have been a straight line."
"Exactly," Mouse replied. She inserted the variables, pressing numbered keys on a digital keyboard displayed on the table.
The red line disappeared, then retraced itself across the map, bending in an arc until stopping near a cluster of uncharted stars.
"You guys find the nearest star on your spacewalk?" Argus asked.
Oracle nodded, "We both agree that the closest star can't be more than a few lightyears away."
"Once our eyes adjusted, we saw several nearby stars," Runner added. "We assumed it was a star cluster, and it kind of looks similar to where the map says we are."
Mouse clapped her hands together and smiled, "Congratulations. We know where we are by knowing where we've been."
"So what now?" Argus asked.
Mouse shrugged, speaking with an eagerness that only grew with every word, "It's uncharted. Maybe we should fix that. How's our fuel?"
"We still have quite a bit, but a source of hydrogen, or helium would be nice to find," Argus said.
"Both are all over the place. We'll manage. Go ahead and calculate time traveled down as far as you can. We'll need to warp to one of these stars. We have a few hours till life support is stable, so take your time. I'll be in my bunk."