Aphelion Issue 229, Volume 22
June 2018
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Journey to the Other Side

by Gordon Rowlinson

What is on the other side of a black hole? Who would be desperate enough to try to find out?

"Crazy!" Rod Cash said.

"What?" replied Steve Stone.

"You can stop worrying. I'm crazy and the wild and crazy ones never get caught," he bragged as he increased the small ship's speed to 1600xlight speed. He knew the pirate ship's FTL (faster than light) engines couldn't maintain 1600xlight speed long without overheating.

"The Alliance frigate can out run and out gun us!" Steve Stone said. He leaned forward in his copilot seat to check the pursuit on the scanner.

"Shut up and we'll lose 'em. We have enough stolen loot in the cargo bay to be rich for the rest of our lives."

"They just increased speed to 2000xlight speed," said Stone. "We'll be within their weapons range in five minutes! You said they'd never follow us into the Sagittarius constellation deep space. How do you plan on getting away?"

Cash didn't answer but quickly punched some new coordinates into the computer of the small two-man freighter. Then he hit the course change engage control.

"How do you plan on getting away?" Stone said again.

"I have a crazy idea. We're going straight into the middle of the V4641 black hole. They'll never follow us there."

"What? The black hole gravity will crush us like a tin can!" Stone's outburst was deafening in the small, cramped two-man control room.

"Not if we fly through at faster than light speed. We'll find out what is on the other side. No one has tried that yet. Scientists have only tried sending probes through at slower than light speed."

"That is suicide, you maniac!" Stone said. "What makes you think there is anything on the other side of a black hole? If they catch us, I only get ten years in a penal colony. You're the one who murdered those two people on Space Station #5."

"You forgot the three people I bumped off on Mars colony. Mars still has a death penalty." Cash said with a laugh.

Stone quickly unbuckled his safety harness. He stood up to wrestle the controls from his crazy partner, but Cash had already had his electric sidearm out and pointed at Stone.

"Smile, buddy," Rod Cash said. The two fugitives silently starred at each other in an angry face off in the small control room. Stone slowly backed away and sat down in the copilot chair.

"Aren't you gonna smile?" Cash repeated.

Stone didn't smile. He was too busy screaming as the small pirate ship dove into the heart of the deadly V4641 black hole. The ship immediately zipped through to an unknown side of the black hole.

"We're still alive. Is the ship OK?" Cash said as he dropped the ship out of light speed.

"The ship is in one piece," replied Stone as he scanned the region. "But this space looks exactly like where we came from. "Wait -- the Alliance ship is here on the other side of the black hole! They are sending us a message."

The message downloaded to the video monitor: "This is the Planet Group Militia. You are ordered to surrender."

Cash franticly punched in new coordinates and turned the ship around.

"That is weird," Stone said. "They called themselves the Planet Group not the Planetary Alliance." He scanned the militia ship and found that the strange cigar shaped ship was twice the size of an Alliance frigate.

"They certainly weren't the welcome wagon," said Cash as he hit the light speed switch and piloted the ship back into the black hole.

The small craft rocketed safely to another side of the black hole. As Cash dropped the ship out of light speed, he was dismayed at the scanner viewer showing two pursuing ships waiting for him.

"They have two ships now," Cash said as he deftly maneuvered a 180-degree turn.

"It isn't our enemies chasing us anymore," said Stone.

"What do you mean?"

"We discovered what happens if you go through a black hole. Apparently black holes are like a portal to an alternate universe or realm. Theoretically there are an infinite number of alternate universes. Each one is just slightly different. Each time we go through the black hole we travel to another alternate universe that is slightly different than ours."

"Let's get out of here and try again until we find an alternate universe that doesn't have the law trying to catch us," Cash loudly as the ship plunged back into the black hole.

The ship shot out to the other side of the black hole to another alternate universe. As Cash dropped the ship out of light speed, he was disgusted to find three pursuit ships were waiting for them. The dark box-shaped vessels did not look like any earth ship he had ever seen before.

"Oh no! Look at the radio video monitor," said Stone. The creature on the video screen was not entirely human. There definitely were two arms, a head and hair. However, the face had one eye in the middle of the forehead.

On the monitor a message in a strange language was downloaded: #FHvJfg@URm&jM#VvV+@Gg.

A quick check on translator showed that the computer did not recognize the language as any of the major languages on Earth. They had entered an alternate universe where man had evolved very differently.

"We're never going to find the way back to our universe!" Stone said. "What kind of special hell is this?"

"We have to try again."

"No, you fool!" said Stone. "Every time we try, we keep getting farther and farther from our universe and our reality!" He jumped up to grab the controls, but Cash pulled the trigger before Stone realized the gun was out. The strong electric charge instantly tore apart the Stone's central nervous system and left a sickening smell of burned flesh in the small control room.

"Then you get your wish and don't have to come with me," Rod yelled at his former partner.

He steered a 180-degree turn and dove into the black hole again. As he came out the other side into a new alternate universe, he was relieved to find no ships waiting to arrest him. He scanned the system and found no sign of pursuit ships. He was alone.

"Jackpot. I took a chance and I'm a free man," he said.

He dragged Steve Stone's limp, lifeless body to the airlock and stashed it inside. Without remorse or hesitation, he hit the eject control and jettisoned his former luckless partner into the cold, black tomb of space.

"You bugged out a little too soon, buddy," he mumbled. "Too bad you don't get to enjoy your share of the loot."

Returning to the control room, Rod Cash set a long-range course for earth. He hit engage and fired the FTL engines. "It's worth the long trip to see if I can finally stop running and sell some cargo on Earth," he thought.


Twelve months later, Cash dropped his ship out of FTL and moved to a low Earth orbit. He was surprised to find no radio messages from his home planet. Orbiting around the night side of the planet, he was dismayed to see no lights from modern populated cities. He refused to think the worst and speculated that the black hole had dropped him into an alternative universe in which mankind was slow in building civilization.

It seemed logical to use the shuttle-lander to get a closer look. Powering up the shuttle, he forced himself to think optimistic. After all, a life on an uncivilized Earth would still be better deal than facing a death sentence. As the shuttle dropped out of the clouds, he had his first glimpse of a vastly different world than the earth he knew. The vegetation looked unfamiliar and there was no sign of villages or human life. He set the shuttle down on a grassy plain of what should be Western United States.

As he stepped down the shuttle's steel stairs to his mother planet, he found himself in a strange, alien world. The mid-day temperature was a hot 100 degrees and the air was seemed to be strangely acidic. The plant life looked alien to him. In the distance were several flying reptiles.

Searching for answers, his confused mind thought of the theory of a cataclysmic asteroid crashing into the earth in prehistoric times. He reasoned that in this alternative universe, an asteroid never crashed into the earth drove the dinosaurs into extinction. On this earth, the mammals never rose to prominence and human beings never came into existence

"Crazy," Rod Cash said to himself. This place was too wild and crazy to live in. In a daze, he sat down on a large rock and looked around in equal amounts of amazement, horror and disgust. He considered another trip back to the V4641 black hole to try another alternative universe. But each time he tried the black hole, he seemed to get further and further from his reality. He realized that he was probably doomed to a life sentence of never finding his way home. All his life, his bold and creative thinking and self-centered resourcefulness had given him an edge and kept him ahead of the game. For the first time in his life, Rod Cash didn't know what to do.

The twenty-foot-tall Tyrannosaurs Rex dinosaur that was lazily dozing in the sun, smelled and heard something. It quickly stood up. Then it leisurely jogged over, opened its jaws and scooped up the strange, little, two-legged creature.


2017 Gordon Rowlinson

Bio: Mr. Rowlinson hails from Massachusetts.

E-mail: Gordon Rowlinson

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