Raffert and Sandoon spat out of the IG transport and into the Vesta Galaxy. It was dark, very dark. Not many stars at all. Which meant there must be a giant black hole.
Raffert stood at the cockpit window and marveled at the view before him. “Wow, there are so many colors. I've never seen anything like it.”
Vesta Galaxy had a newborn black hole. When they're first created, they emit a gaseous compound. Plumes of color, like crimson, gold, and aqua blue, swirled and mixed and pulled apart.
The spectacle gave Raffert a good gauge of the black hole's size. “It’s massive.”
"It's exactly what I've always wanted to find -- an unsurfed Black Hole," Sandoon said
Raffert set the pod to orbit the black hole. They went back to the pod’s aft and suited up.
"What should we listen to?" Sandoon asked.
"You pick," Raffert said.
The sound of rain. A high hat tap. Then the piano of Ray Manzarek of the Doors opening Riders On The Storm.
Raffert and Sandoon clicked buckles and tightened straps. They prepared for what they knew was dangerous fun. But less dangerous because they'd prepared for this all their lives. Their eyes beamed with a clarity and intensity. They double-checked each other’s suits, nodded, then unhooked their rocketboards from the rack.
They entered airlock and sealed themselves off from the pod's main cabin. Raffert switched on his comm system. His voice crackled over the microphone, “Ready?”
“Haven’t felt nerves like this in a minute,” Sandoon said. “Feels good.”
"Look, we're ready for this. Let’s take it slow. I’ll bring the safety line. You know what to do if anything happens.” Raffert unhooked the spool and wrapped it over his shoulder like a fireman.
He pulled the handle and opened the airlock to space. Instant zero gravity. He pushed his rocket board out in front of himself, then floated through the threshold
Sandoon joined Raffert and they began to use their their spacesuits’ thrusters to maneuver through space and towards the black hole.
To enter a black hole was always the most most difficult part. It required an acrobatic movement called, “an entry flip” to cross the event horizon.
The entry flip was a head first flip to help get the rocketboard stabilized upon entry. It used the thrusters to counteract the black hole’s gravitational effects.
When they reached a kilometer outside of the event horizon, Raffert collected data. He watched the pressure gauges and readings inside his HUD. The samples looked to show almost twice the strength of Two Stars.
“Sandoon, are you seeing these readings?”
“Hell yeah! I wouldn't believe it if I wasn't seeing it.”
At the event horizon, they held their thrusters. They'd need to decide who'd get the honors of going first.
Raffert asked, “Should we rock, paper, scissors it?”
“Nah, I’ll go.”
Raffert held up the safety line. “If anything happens, I got you.”
Sandoon thrusted to the black hole's edge. He rolled forward into his entry flip. The pressure pulled at his suit and shook him violently, while tried to aim his thrusters at the middle of the black hole. Once aligned, he maxed out his propulsion, gained control, and stabilized.
“Woooooh,” Sandoon’s voice crackled over the comm system.
“Nice work.” Raffert said.
“Don’t hold back your thrusters.”
Raffert released the safety line and followed Sandoon’s example. He executed his flip, and then jammed on his thrusters. They coasted side-by-side together.
“You good?” Sandoon asked
“Hell yeah, let’s rip.”
Raffert tested the walls of gravity with a few preliminary turns. Once he was comfortable, he leaned into a whipping cutback, then launched into a corked-out spin.
Sandoon broke off into his own line. He cut a massive crescent into the wall and blasted through a crimson gas cloud. It trailed behind him.
They exchanged maneuver after maneuver, drawing lines up, down and all around the black hole. They surfed for hours. Their legs became like Chinese drunken noodles.
“Let’s head back,” Raffert said.
“Cool. Right behind you,” Sandoon replied over the comms.
Raffert hit his thrusters and blasted up and out of the black hole. He loosened up back in zero gravity. It had been one of the most intense sessions he'd had surfing any black hole.
He looked back to see where Sandoon was. He hadn't come out yet. When Raffert saw Sandoon sputtering to get ahead, he knew something was wrong.
“Come on, Sand. Come on, buddy."
Sandoon crackled over the com. “I can’t...my thrusters….no power.”
Raffert immediately started unraveling the safety cord. He started doing calculations on his HUD. It gauged the distance at two kilometers. But the black hole was incredibly powerful. Raffert knew their safety drills were about to be put to the test.
"I'm sending you my board." Raffert shouted over the comms.
He attached the safety cord to his rocketboard. Then he used his HUD to guide the rocketboard into the black hole. It'd be a matter of fishing the board over to Sandoon now.
“Grab my board when it comes by,” Raffert said.
Sandoon had already dropped to five kilometers in distance. Raffert was already losing him. The lights of his spacesuit were barely visible.
Raffert swung the safety line, desperately trying to connect. Watching through his HUD. Trying to find Sandsoon. Then, he felt a tug.
Raffert confirmed there was something on the line. And then he saw that maximum thrust was activated on his board. Sandoon had gotten a hold of it.
Within seconds, Sandoon came shooting up and out of event horizon. He looked weak. His body was limp. Raffert thrusted over to see if he was okay.
Sandoon was breathing heavily, but he turned his head and had a stupid smile, “Now that was a sick ride."
Raffert laughed too. “You’re nuts, bro.”
After that, they rendezvoused back with the pod. As Raffert pulled the handle to access the airlock, he gave Sandoon a knowing glance--they’d made it out of that one barely.
Inside the airlock, once gravity took hold and their boots hit the ground, they clasped hands and hugged.
"That was ridiculous," Sandoon said.
“What should we call this place?” Raffert asked as he removed his helmet.
“That’s right! We get to name it. We’re the first ones.”
“They were your radio recordings. Got any ideas?”
“I like the name, ‘Echoes'. You know? The feeling of discovering a new place -- it's like a blast from the past. You don't hear about that a lot. We got to surf somewhere absolutely new."
"Echoes it is. I like it." Raffert declared.
Back inside the cockpit of the pod, Raffert steered them out of the IG Transport and into Sandoon's home galaxy. While they flew, Raffert documented their Vesta Galaxy discovery on his HUD. He outlined the coordinates of the black hole and added the data he’d collected. It was the largest black hole to have ever been surfed. He credited Sandoon with the discovery and titled it “Echoes - Exploring The Dark Circle”.
When Raffert finished, he was about to hit send, but Sandoon interrupted him.
"Is it worth it? Why not just leave it for ourselves? At least for a bit?" Sandoon pleaded.
Raffert looked him in the eye and tried to judge if he was being sincere. How could he want to pass up owning this landmark moment? But then he laughed.
"You're crazy man. You want to do that again, just us? This is why we're dangerous together" Raffert mused.
"Cool, same time tomorrow," Sandoon said and they laughed again.