Another Excerpt, Falling to Eternity by David Hallquist

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Dr. Jacobs screamed as he fell out of the rationally understood universe. Above him, the sky was filled with blazing blue and white stars, young entities formed by the collision clouds of high speed gas that filled space here. Those clouds shone in an ethereal red, blazing as the stars’ intense radiation turned them into celestial neon lights. Behind them was a wall of red light; billions of old stars crowding into he very center of the galaxy, with no room for darkness between them. Just above him, receding away and to his right, was the silvery reflective sphere of the star-ship Chandrasekhar, which had been his home for many months. Below was death.

He could see it reflected in the curved metal above him, and though the curved space below him as he rotated slowly in his space suit to face it. Sagittarius A*, the devouring maw that had swallowed the mass and light of four million suns. Blacker than black, darker than death, the great black disc was the gravitational heart of the galaxy, the blackhole they had come to study. Unless something was done, Dr. Jacobs would get a closer look than he had ever intended.

He stopped screaming to gather his wits. His almost perfectly reflective suit could repel incredible radiation, and the cybernetic life support systems could keep him alive for centuries. After being hurled form the docking bay, he entered into an orbit around the monster black hole just like the star-ship. Unfortunately, that orbit was unstable; eventually variations in tidal forces, and infilling gas must drag him into the devouring maw below that had consumed so many stars before.

With a thought he brought up a navigational map that was routed directly to his brain’s visual field. He could see how his path and the Chandra’s would slowly diverge, and how he would spiral into the maw of doom. The computer indicated that there was enough charge in his suit drive to get back to the ship. He snarled in anger, Dr. Marcus would be severely reprimanded for his carelessness when he got back.

With another thought, he activated the suit’s drive, which pushed against the the black hole’s monstrous magnetic field with an opposing magnetic field. He grunted as the acceleration pushed against him, the flowing reactive material of the suit taking up the strain. Unfortunately, he was going the wrong way, the acceleration pushing him against the flow of material circling around the black hole, canceling his orbit. The computer projected his changing path, as the line curved more sharply until it intersected the black hole’s event horizon. He screamed again.

Dr. Marcus watched his rival fall to his doom with rapt attention, peering out the airlock into the abyss below. Jacobs had succeed in taking credit for multiple discoveries just before he had completed them, gotten the premiere postings and awards that should have been his, and was even now married to the woman who had left him. Thirty years of humiliation would now be repaid. He watched the silver suited flailing figure fall slowly away, and then accelerate suddenly away and down towards the dark pit of warped space below. The acceleration foam in the suit prevented his laughter. How surprised he must have been to discover that the controls on the suit had been sabotaged, directing him into the very black hole he would try to escape. This last bit, making his victim doom himself, sweetened the revenge.

Ha accessed the data feed from the mass lensing telescope, now focusing on the falling Dr. Jacobs. The telescope’s gravity generator bent light to magnify images without any lenses or mirrors to damage the image. His cybernetics placed the image into his visual cortex. He could see the flailing figure of his rival falling towards his doom below. He savored every gasp for help, every plea transmitted back to the ship. He wanted to enjoy Jacob’s torment for ever, and he would be able to, for his rival would fall forever. He gave a laugh as he saw the silver suited figure begin to slow in his movements, his speech grew slower, and deeper, and he began to take on a reddish tinge. He approached the event horizon. Slowly the image of Dr. Jacobs slowed to almost immobility, his voice to a meaningless low drone, and he slowly red-shifted out of the visible spectrum entirely as gravity twisted and distorted the image of the falling astrophysicist.

Time would slow for his rival, as immense gravity and relativistic speeds worked together to bring his apparent fall to a halt. He hovered now, a ghost of infra-red at the edge of oblivion. He would fall until the stars burned out.

Marcus was still leaning over the abyss, laughing, when the other crew members pulled him away.

Dr. Jacobs communicated desperately with the Chandra. Was there any way to take command of the suit drive from the ship? No. Were the graviton tractor beams working? No. Could the drones get to him in time? No. He continued accelerating towards the monster black hole below. The black event horizon continued to grow, surrounded by a ring of twisted light. Inside that apparent ring of distorted light, the rotating gas seemed to rotate the other way, as the intense gravity of the black hole acted as a lens warping the light.

There was a bright flash as he crossed the photon sphere, the region where light itself was orbiting the black hole. The great disc of the event horizon now became a curved field filling most of space before him. Light was twisted and warped beyond recognition near the horizon, a ribbon of blue and violet radiance where all of the light passing nearby was warped into a blazing ring around the blackness.

There was no sudden sensation, no flash of light or other event to mark when he crossed the event horizon. His navigational computer simply informed him when it had happened. There could be no possibility of going back now. It would take hours, even at light speed, for him to fall to the singularity. The vast black hole was so huge, that the differences in gravity within the hole, the tides, would not be felt until the last seconds of his fall. He would be spared the dreaded “spaghettification” where one was stretched to death for another end.

Falling deeper into the abyss, the increasing gravitation and his relativistic speed combined to warp the appearance of space and time. The event horizon still appeared to be a disc below him taking up about half of his view, as the narrow cone of light able to reach him from behind was concentrated towards the direction of his motion as he approached the speed of light. The light around the edge blazed into the ultra-violet and hard radiation, and would only grow more intense. He rotated away from the death black apparent event horizon, to look back on the light that had fallen into the abyss with him. Behind him, the stars grew strange, warped by the gravitational lens he was within, and red shifted to blackness. The radio transmission from the Chandra quickly grew more rapid, higher pitched, before vanishing in a buzz of static. He was truly on his own, more alone than any man in history.

He had his suit computer compensate for the extreme gravity and relativistic speed, so that he could look on the stars one last time. The twisted reddish smear of light was replaced by the nearby cluster of stars, and the background wall of stars of the galactic core. They began to move, slowly at first, and then racing into streaks of light. As gravity and his velocity increased time for him continued to slow, so all time outside sped up. Thousands of years had passed outside. Maria, he thought, I don’t know where you are now, but I love you.

The outside world dissolved into streaks of light, and then a huge flash, as the galactic core ignited with new star birth and death as the galaxy collided with Andromeda. Billions of years had passed. There was no longer any possibility of discerning what was happening outside. Time had become so twisted there was no relative framework for the computers in his suit to analyze. As he continued to fall, the radiation and light grew ever more intense, more blue-shifted as it concentrated in the lower depths of the brilliantly lit depths of the black hole. Soon, he knew, he would have the answers to the final mysteries that had eluded mankind. The universe blazed with impossible light.

“This court martial will now come back in secession.” declared Captain Simmons. Dr. Marcus had insisted on a court martial on the ship, rather than be transported home for a civil trial. This had seemed to be madness to all involved, as he was clearly guilty of murder. The sentence could only be death, so perhaps he simply wished to get it over with. For a capital crime, a jury was still needed, and his peers, the crew and other scientists, were seated around the circular meeting room that now served as a court of law …

Read the rest in Issue #1, Get it from Amazon, Castalia House or Smashwords.

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