Jack felt like the gliding spaceship stretched his sanity across the universe. He reclined in a pilot’s harness designed for a very round creature. Whenever he sat up, he slid back down.
“How close are we?” asked Nate. He came in chewing on a gummy cake and handed one to Jack. They tasted like sod mixed with Elmer’s glue, and none of them liked to speculate what was in them. Unfortunately, they had to chew to eat them.
“Didn’t you just ask me that?” Jack took a tiny bite.
“I haven’t been up here for twelve hours.”
Jack grimaced. “Really? Seems like…” He shrugged. “I don’t understand the units, but the indicator has barely moved.”
Nate sighed. “It tests the limits of your mind, doesn’t it?”
Jack scoffed. “I’m trying not to think about it.”
“This is twelve times longer than anything we’ve done without a stargate.”
“I said I was trying not to think about it.”
“Then why are you staying in the pilot’s chamber?”
“Because I can’t stop thinking about it.”
Tim stepped in through the back portal, laughing and making farting noises. Bradley followed him.
“You never worked for the EPA, dinkwad.” Tim pinched Bradley’s cheek. “Hey, Jack. I forgot to tell you. He flipped his cuppies over the papples you gave him.”
“What are you talking about?”
Tim flicked Nate’s ear. “The Piggimaters, or whatever they’re called. When they provided the ship.”
Tim’s disproportionate enthusiasm unsettled Jack.
“Yeah, I guess I remember something about them.”
Tim flicked Nate’s ear again. “You guess you remember? We were just talking about it.”
“Tim, I haven’t seen you for a week.”
“Right,” said Nate. “That was when you came up here and kept flicking my ears.”
Tim flicked his ear.
“You remember that?” asked Nate.
“I remember it fine,” said Tim. He flicked both ears at once.
“Guys.” Bradley had a puzzled look, his perpetual grin crooked. “Something’s wrong.”
Jack’s gut twisted. “Hey, dudes. Remember when Bradley said something was wrong and we all ignored him? I think he might have been right.”
“Like how?” asked Nate.
“I think we’re all experiencing time differently.” Jack brushed his hair out of his eyes. “Like the other day when Nate said we all seemed to be out of synch with each other.”
“You may be right,” said Nate. “We all seem to be out of synch with each other.”
Tim flicked him again.
Bradley’s smile broadened. “This reminds me of that year I worked for the EPA measuring cow-produced methane.”
Jack stared at the indicators. It still showed them heading in the right direction, toward a galaxy they knew little about, except it was the next closest one to earth.
“Let’s just be very careful,” he said. “Make sure we understand the consequences of our actions before we do anything, and just let the ship take its course.”
“Yes, sir!” said Tim. He gave an exaggerated salute.
“I mean it, Tim.”
“Yeah, yeah. I got you.”
“We’ll be careful,” said Nate.
“Let me know when the gummy cakes pop,” said Bradley.
Tim nudged Nate. “So how come you haven’t tried to get me back for flicking your ears?”
“I did get you back. I threw you in the cultured protein vat.”
Tim’s eyes went wide. “Oh, shit.”