The Most Valuable Currency

A pinkish violet plume of particle ejecta stretched out for hundreds of lightyears beyond the Helenus. To most it would be a thing of great beauty, or a of terrible power, but to Captain Iza Valdes it was only data loss. Her work was done and her ship was at idle, but the immense distances involved in her work meant that she had to wait for the results. The laws of physics could be exploited to an extreme degree, but not broken, a paradigm that made her tremendously wealthy and occasionally annoyed.

She’d already checked in with Captain Dren Castaset using the tangle, but she checked in again. Using as few characters as possible, he reminded her that the tangle was a limited resource and using it cut into their profits. It was still an answer to her question: if he had the luxury of being an ass, the Cassandra was in position.

They were pair trawling. The two vessels, the Helenus and the Cassandra, were separated by one of nature’s foremost apex predators: a rotating black hole. It was in a prime location, with several populated systems within a cubic parsec, many of them syphoning energy from the ionized outflows from the poles. Everything that happened within those systems left a cosmic thumbprint in the form of electromagnetism in one form or another. Photonic information fell into the black hole where it was lost forever. Or so it had once been believed.

The trawlers pulled between them a kind of gravitic net made of knots of dark energy. The ghostly material was nearly impossible to work with, but it had the unusual ability to reemerge from a black hole. It could even snag particles from within and pull them back out. And particles are just information.

Iza was trawling for secrets. Secrets have always been the most valuable currency.

There was no way to know what sort of mystery might be dredged up, but usually there was something that could set off a bidding war—if not war outright. The local systems hated it.

Another message came across the tangle from the Cassandra: ANTI-TRAWLING DEVICE CUT THE NET.

What? She didn’t believe him; it made no sense. There was no way to cut a trawling net; it was made of dark energy and barely interacted with anything. How could someone have cut the net, and from within the event horizon no less?

A sudden inertial shift highlighted the ambiguity of the message. The net hadn’t been cut. He was telling her to cut the net. They were snagged on something, and the black hole’s rotation was dragging them down to the horizon. She had to cut the net to escape.

But how?

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