The intense shine of the Milky Way's galactic centre. Thousands of stars radiated ultraviolet light, ionising vast molecular clouds.
"You guys...! Command?!"
The Sagittarius A* Space Station drifted past.
Blazing paths of light curved inwards.
Legs stretched. His body contorted.
An astronaut was falling into the supermassive black hole in the centre of the Milky Way.
The flash of a camera blinked at the supermassive black hole. Inside the Sagittarius A* Space Station, several men hung around in the recreational room. There were seven of them; three engineers, a mathematician, a physicist, a biologist, and an astrophysicist.
The engineers were chatting, while the biologist read a book on population dynamics and the astrophysicist stood by the window with a camera. The mathematician and physicist sat at a separate table; while the former sat back with a contented smile, the latter fixated on some hastily scribbled equations on a piece of paper.
The astrophysicist took another picture of the black hole, gaining the attention of one of the engineers.
"Explain two things for me: firstly, he's taking the picture of a black hole, what interesting feature are you trying to capture? Its colour? And, secondly, why on Earth are you using the flash? You're like those people at a sports event that think using a flash will make a difference under all those lights."
"Even worse," another engineer chimed in, "They're taking a picture of the sun!"
In the bathroom, Mechanic's body lay submerged in water.
The mathematician hunched over the paper. "It's a brilliant solution."
"Yes, yes, I understand that. But where's the real-world application?"
"Well, isn't that your job? To go out and --"
"Hold on a minute, now."
"Tell it, then."
"No, no, it isn't really that interesting."
"Go on! You've got our ears already."
The engineer began, "Well, it's about these two men that --"
The astrophysicist stopped by the mathematician and physicist, intrigued by the look of one of the pictures.
The physicist didn't notice, though. "Frankly, well, it boggles my mind, really, is why you're even here! Can't you do your equations on your... kitchen table? A painter would be more useful than you."
"Frankly," the astrophysicist wiped the LCD screen. "Neither of you should be here. I understand why we need a biologist, to study the effects of these conditions. We also need people to perform repairs and maintain the integrity of the station. But not a physicist and mathematician. A cosmologist would have been good, someone that dealt more exclusively in his field. And I don't know about a painter, but Socrates would definitely be more useful than a mathematician."
"Why are they feuding?"
The engineer replied, "I don't know, his dog was barking too loud, or the other guy slept with his wife, something like that. So, anyway, he says to himself, 'You know what? I'm tired of this stupidity, I'm going to put an end to this now.' So one night, he breaks into the other guy's house, sneaks into his bedroom, holds a gun to his chest, and wakes him up. Before the guy can panic, he shouts, 'Listen!' and --" he punched his palm. "He breaks his nose. 'OK, I'm only going to break your nose. But if you don't stop your shit right now, I swear to god, I'll kill you.' All right, now --"
"And what happens next?"
"Well, the next day, he wakes up, and what does he see? The other guy!"
"Aah!" They started laughing and clapping.
"Now," he continued, "He grabs his arm, right, and breaks it, and says, 'All I'm going to do is break your arm, but if you ever come into my house again, I'll kill you. Got it?!' So, now it's a while later, his arm is better and he breaks into his house again. With the gun and a knife. As the guy wakes, he grabs his hand and chops off a finger and tosses it in his face."
The astrophysicist sat down next to the biologist with his eyes focused on the little screen, clicking through the results. "Ooh... that's a good one," he looked at the biologist. "They're going to be so jealous!"
The biologist replied with a polite smile, and returned to his book.
Mechanic's head bobbed above the surface of the water. His eyes were closed, looking around another world where he didn't need machines to keep his feet grounded.
Back with the engineers, the biologist couldn't help keeping one of his ears pricked.
"So, eventually, he crawls over to the guy's house with his one arm." The engineer mimicked the character's motion. "He's dragging himself up the stairs, with a gun in his pocket and the saw slung around his back. He eventually gets into his room, and before the guy can even wake up and realise what's happening, he presses the saw against his neck and starts sawing!" Again, he mimicked the character's motion, sawing an imaginary neck. "Right?! And when he's done chopping his head off, he points the gun at him, and shouts at him, 'Now listen here! If you ever come near me again, if you so much as give me a funny look, I promise you, on my entire family's graves, I will fucking kill you!'"
The engineers burst out laughing. Even the biologist couldn't hide his amusement.
Mechanic opened his eyes, and wiped his face.
The physicist and mathematician.
"See, they're all well and good, but unless you've got observational evidence, they're nothing but numbers. And there's no point in wasting our time on pretty little --"
"And what?! Unfalsifiable numbers? That old --"
"Oh! Let's discuss the ethics of murder with a mathematician, you're certain to know --"
The physicist was stopped the constant blink of a small, red light in the ceiling. The others noticed it, too.
"It probably nothing," an engineer said, "Else we'd be dead already."
There was a small photo on the wall; of a man holding up a large sign that read: "The end of physics is near!"
The screen in front of them listed the current status of the station's modules.
"It's probably a minor rupture outside. The mechanic should be able to fix it relatively easily."
"Where's he now?"
"Taking a bath." another replied.
"What happened to the good ol' days of the shower stall and suction device?"
"They went out with the wheel."
Mechanic dried himself off, no doubt roused by the warning light. A crackle stopped him.
Through a radio mounted on the wall, an engineer spoke, "Hey! Get suited up, we need you to go outside."
To himself, "Yeah, yeah..."
"You boys can head back to your quarrel, now. Your head isn't going to explode just yet."
"What's wrong with us being here?"
The engineer pressed a button. "Are you there yet?"
"No." Mechanic replied through the radio.
He pressed the button again. "This room is claustrophobic enough without a bunch of busybodies hanging over your shoulder."
"We are a safe distance from the black hole, aren't we?"
"It would be quite a remarkable sight, though." Endorphins ran through the astrophysicist's blood.
"Falling in. The sight would be rather different from what you see now. Everything would appear bluer. And if you consider the mass of the black hole, you could actually "enter" the event horizon and still be able to observe the outside universe, long after the outside observers have seen you disappear."
"Essentially," an engineer mused, "You'd be a ghost?"
"Something like that."
"What would we see?" the mathematician asked.
"Well... assume the mechanic were to fall in. He'd take on a redder appearance and grow dimmer as he neared the black hole. He'd... fade away."
"I'm here. It's a pipe, been ripped out. Probably the pressure. Switch off this section's --"
The engineer pressed the button. "Doing it right now." He typed into the keyboard. "Can you fix it?"
"OK." He pressed the button, and turned to the men behind him. "I'm a computer engineer, he's mechanical. I handle the circuitry, he handles the spanners."
"Oh, right. You all just look the same."
With a grin, "Could say the same about mathematicians and physicists."
The mathematician scoffed --
"Oh, you think you're the one that's offended!"
Through the radio, "Um... are you sure you switched off all activity?"
The engineer turned to the screen and pressed the button. "Yes, I'm sure."
"But I've got vibrations here, it doesn't feel --"
"Just do your bloody job! I'm doing mine!" he pressed the button. "Cheeky bastard, thinks he can --"
The walls rumbled. The red light in the ceiling started blinking again. The screen brought up a new window, detailing a new fault in the exterior of the station.
"Command! I've lost the station!"
He pressed the button. "What?!"
"I've lost the station! I need an emergency --"
The astrophysicist ran out, quickly followed by the rest bar the computer engineer.
In the large window in the recreation room, a white figure, Mechanic, floated towards the supermassive black hole.
His panicking voice was still audible in the speaker, replying to the engineer. "It won't! The pull isn't strong enough yet!"
They all stood by the window.
Gravely watching him approach his doom.
"Do it! Command!"
Their throats couldn't choke a word.
The colour of Mechanic's suit reddened.
Finding him amidst the black became increasingly difficult.
The engineer entered, disheartened. "I couldn't do it... I needed to save the station, right?"
None of them heard or cared to reply... Mechanic's words were already taking longer to reach them. "Command!"
His figured faded... "You..." Vanished into nothing... "Guys... comma--"
Mechanic was gone.
The astrophysicist rested his forehead on the glass, reinforced to protect them from the radiation of the thousands of massive stars. He sighed, softly, barely, and his words, his tribute to the bastard of their crew, came even softer, "Ad astra."