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Friday, August 15, 2014

The Hole

As readers of this blog may have noticed, my grand plans for writing this year fell flat. Taking mid-year stock, I'm working my way back into writing. I'm offering today a flash fiction science fiction story. One step at a time. Enjoy.


[caption id="attachment_1089" align="alignright" width="300" caption="A simulated Black Hole of ten solar masses as seen from a distance of 600km with the Milky Way in the background (horizontal camera opening angle: 9°)"][/caption]

A sharp beep sounded through the small office. Jane pressed the com button. “Captain Riley speaking.”

“Captain, we've arrived at the black hole.”

“I'm on my way.” She spun from her black, high-back chair, around her oak desk, and through the door onto the bridge.

She settled into her metallic, cushioned chair perched over five stations and a screen displaying a swirling mixture of light and matter draining into a hole in space squarely in front of her.

“Darby, have scanners located the Hawthorn?” Jane studied the screen in hopes of spotting the troubled ship.

“No, Captain. Still searching.”

“Any com signals from the Hawthorn, Kirka?”

“Not yet, Captain. Scanning all frequencies.”

Jane tapped the chair's arm. Jerry should have been more careful. The Hawthorn was to study the black hole, not become part of it. If it wasn't for the other fifty crew members aboard that ship, she would have gladly let the black hole have Jerry and his ship.

“Captain, I have a signal.”

“Put it through.”

The image of the black hole vanished and a black man, trimmed beard, narrow face and short hair, filled the screen.

A smile spread across his face. “Lizard Lips! I should have known you'd be my rescuer.”

Three heads turned her direction, struggling not to smile. Jane assumed the other two didn't turn because they weren't successful. The nerve of Jerry to address her that way in front of her crew.

She rose from her seat and stepped forward. “This is Captain Bower of the starship Arizona. What is your status?”

Jerry's eyes widened. “Playing it formal I see. Well this is Captain Rider of the science ship Hawthorn. Our status is we need a tow out of here.”

“Why haven't you been sucked into the black hole yet?”

He shrugged with a smirk. “We're too ugly. The hole doesn't want us.”

Jane breathed deep to keep from exploding as muffled snickers filled the bridge. “Captain!”

He frowned. “I don't know. We're in some kind of no man's land. Enough power to keep from being pulled in, but not enough to escape. Our power won't last forever.”

Kirka called out, “Captain, I've triangulated their position. Coordinates sent to helm.”

Jane nodded. “Acknowledged. Dune, set a course no closer than ten kilometers to those coordinates. We don't want to make the same mistake Captain Rider did.”

“Yes, Captain. Executing.”

Jerry's lips lost their smile. “Jane, ten kilometers may be too close. We thought we were being safe. It's as if the event horizon reached out to us.”

“Any further out and the gravity beam may be too weak to keep a solid lock on your ship.”

“Just be careful.”

His genuine concern threw her off balance. “Uh . . . acknowledged.”

Within fifteen minutes, Dune announced, “We're positioned ten kilometers from the Hawthorn. Coming to a full stop.”

Jane faced the science station. “Darby, lock onto the Hawthorn with a gravity beam.”

He pushed a few buttons. “Lock established.”

“Dune, reverse course and see if we can't free the Hawthorn.”

“Executing, Captain.”

The engine grumbled under the stress. Lights dimmed as energy drained into the engines as they played tug-of-war with the black hole.

“Captain,” Darby yelled over the noise. “We're losing the lock from the pull of the engines. We'd have to move in closer to get a stronger one.”

Dune turned to Jane. “We've not moved the Hawthorn, but we are being pulled toward them.”

Jane pounded a fist into the chair. “Full stop. Release the gravity beam.”

Jerry frowned. “Too ugly to take. Too pretty to release.”

“Dune, move us away from the black hole.”

“Executing, Captain.”

The engines rumbled. Dune shook his head. “Captain, we're not moving. We're caught too.”

She stood up. “Impossible.”

“I tried to warn you,” Jerry said.

She gritted her teeth. “Your warnings need a warning. 'Don't trust him.'”

All five heads glanced her direction, eyes wide.

“You're never going to let that go, are you?”

“You stood me up. Next time I saw you, you had another victim wrapped around your arm.” Jane sat in her chair. She didn't mean to air her dirty laundry to the crew.

Jerry sighed. “Looks like you're trapped in more than one black hole. I had hoped time would heal that wound.”

She didn't respond. He had left a hole in her when that happened, true enough. A hole sucking her life away.

Darby snapped his fingers and danced them over a series of buttons. “Of course.”

Jane shot a stare his way. “Do you have something, Darby?”

He spun around in his chair. “Time. We're in a time bubble.”


“The gravitational forces of the black hole create a time differential the closer you get to the event horizon. That's why we couldn't locate or contact the Hawthorn until we also entered the time bubble.”

Jane nodded. “So it isn't the gravity holding us in place, but time.”

Darby pointed at her. “Exactly. Moving away produces the illusion of standing still.”

Jane faced the screen. “Captain Rider, did you . . .” Static filled the screen. He had left the time bubble. “Dune, full throttle away from the black hole.”

“Executing, Captain.”

Jane leaned back into her seat. Perhaps Jerry was right. She had been immobilized from lack of forgiveness in her own private black hole. Maybe moving forward, even if it didn't feel like progress, was the way to escape both black holes.

It gave new meaning to the old phrase, “Time heals all wounds.” Or in this case, the hole in her heart.

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