I studied the symbols again. Their architecture was clearly alien, and yet their sense of familiarity was unmistakable. They meant… something to me, but I wasn’t sure yet what that was. Cartography was part of it, certainly, but there was more to it than that. It was also language.

I turned to Harrigan. “I need to plot a course, sir.”

Harrigan frowned. “We can’t go anywhere, carto. We’re locked in place here.”

“I’m aware of that. I need to plot the course, anyway.”

“To what end?” Harrigan’s tone was testy.

“I think the only way I’m going to be able to figure this out is by entering the upper-layer cartography process that is endemic to my trade — and the only way I can do that is by plotting a course, even if it’s one I don’t intend to use.”

Harrigan was quiet for a long moment before replying. “Very well.”

I was in the system immediately, and there before me were the symbols that were mine and yet not mine, the things that were the cause of so much trouble.

My resolve set, I got down to work.

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