Bewildering Stories

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"No fealty to one's ancestors"

by John Thiel

Mankind may have been getting a little butt-proud, the gods of space may have been saying as they observed the compact passenger-vessel making free in the vicinity of the black hole which bore a name and was listed on complex and esoteric space-maps. Not only had men named a hole, making it part of their known geographies, but aboard their ship were people there to study it, including even a news reporter. If it were meant to be known, why was it a black hole? But it was now called "Fillius Nullius."

Spuyten Duyvil, ace space-news reporter, wasn't worried about any opinion had of him by gods. He was mostly interested in his career, which in non-mathematical ways reached its apex with this story assignment. "Write up a black hole, if you're so good," they had told him. It was a sinker; the last three reporters who had bit on this one ended up wearing bangles in a Dutch-owned community. But he said he could do it, and his commission included full travel expenses on what was said to be the best comfort-liner in the business. He himself was aloof to the ship, but the crew kept trying to tell him its name and attributes, as if he should grow to love it. Well, that wasn't wasted; it would make a good human-interest angle for his news-spread, something to make the readers feel warm.

"Nothing much to see as yet," he wrote. "Complex machinery of the psionics type, including Hieronymous Machine components, are getting us good images of the curvature of space, and the computer is going wild with new math. The crew pat it and say it can handle anything. It has, IMHO, in my first observations, the nature of a whopse of the kind in which we are all involved already in our earthly existence, and may be a fit companion for the natural involution caused by our extreme materiality---but beware! This 'space companion' is in other ways than the one mentioned totally different and should not be largely compared. It is already something like a metaphor to the Earth's prosaic statement." He paused in what he was writing, looked it over and was glad in it. So much above the readership it would have. He imagined their commentary---"What does a Moonshot have in common with Uranus? Gin a pulsar meet a quasar coming through the Rhysling Effect? Venus in blew genes! Scientist discovers true origin of the Milky Way!", to paraphrase from their reactions to other scientific articles. They had, to put it finely, no sense of DISCOVERY, but would hew to their vulgar ways. (The true origin of the Milky Way had been attributed to several constellations.)

PHALOOM! The ship was suddenly juggernauted parsecs out of its virtual parking orbit and aboard, all was confusion. But automatic equipment righted it. "We shouldn't have been in a stable orbit," the Captain announced. "The conditions of space here abreact to that." To compensate for it, the ship was now in an erractically-plotted run-dodge-and-jump which took the place of an observational inertia. But the influence of the hole's peculiar conditions could still be felt; it was literally perceptable to the people inside it.

Spuyten milled around with the passengers and crew for awhile, but as nothing else seemed about to happen it was back to the ole typer. He wrote: "As we approach the outer sectors of the black hole, there is a feeling of ebullience, of devil-may-care raconteurism about the people embarked upon this supercilious investigism. We mutter syllogisms and plot paradigms. It's flat free-freaking natural to be entering a black hole, something as homey as mom's apple pie. In fact, it is hip. I intend to recommend it to two of my friends."

He didn't realize that his style was deteriorating a bit. Suddenly he was at the discussions board. His words had produced an argument. He was scoring high on nullification, but here that was good. He continued writing: "This reporter had not been expected to be high-rated on nullity, historically condemned by readers, but here it's just what's done. My writer's goose-egg is become an infinity sign, an augur of a future state of being. The black hole seems seeking contact with all of us. Well, here's one fellow who is equal to the occasion." He looked again at what he'd written and it seemed to be just what hit the spot.

The discussion panned out in his favor, too. It was seriously asked of him whether he had not had something to do with the evolution of this black hole in space. Discussion-proud, he established as much of a claim as he dared. In time, he felt himself become one with the black hole.

* * *

How his information got back to the waiting press-room, no one will ever know. But it was not well-received there. You see, the press gang was not attuned to the black hole from their safe distance. "This writing is ****," said the editor-in-chief.

He was not concerned about what Duyvil would think about his statement. But like the incoming information, no one will ever know what expletive that editor-in-chief used. For the story was shortly followed by Duyvil himself. And he had brought the black hole with him.

Copyright © 2002 by John Thiel