Chase That Horizon
As soon as he had materialized on the transporter pad and placed Pike in McCoy's capable hands, Kirk headed towards the bridge. He raced down white hallways, past equally hurried crewmen, ignoring any words addressed to him that were not relevant, concentrating solely on moving as quickly as possible. Even the brightly lit turbolift seemed too slow. Finally the doors opened and Kirk stepped onto the bridge, Spock immediately behind him. Kirk took the command chair and Spock stood to his right, hands behind his back, as though this above any other place was exactly where the two of them belonged.
Everyone's eyes were transfixed by the sight on the front view screen. The Narada was blowing up from the inside, plumes of fire quickly snuffed by the vacuum of space, bits breaking off and careering away. Then as they watched the red matter from the Jellyfish ignited and all were momentarily blinded by the searing blue-white light that broke from the middle of the ship, throwing its limbs into a sudden sharp contrast. Blinking, they saw a huge hole of nothing open up in the center of the chaos. The tips of the Narada were all that was now visible, like the tentacles of some horrid sea monster extending from the deep. The dark fingers reached out towards the Enterprise as though begging for help, but none was forthcoming. The Narada was being pulled inexorably inwards; past the event horizon, where nothing was visible but darkness, escape was impossible.
And the Enterprise was being drawn backwards toward it.
The Bridge suddenly jumped into motion. Spock strode to the science station. "Captain, we are 4.35 kilometers from the event horizon."
"Maximum warp, Captain!" Sulu reported. "It's not doing any good."
Kirk slammed his hand down on the communicator button, determined to take advantage of whatever chance they might have to escape. "Scotty! Can you give us any more power? Anything at all?"
The Scotsman's frantic voice filtered through the static: "I'm giving it all she's got, Captain! It's not going to be enough."
"Maybe if we could just find something to push us, just far enough to be able to warp away…?"
Scotty latched onto Kirk's suggestion, mad engineering genius mind throwing up ideas until he found one that just might be crazy enough to work. "We could eject the warp cores and detonate them; it might give us just enough—I'm not saying it'll work, mind."
"Just do it!" Kirk yelled. "It's the best chance we've got."
Down in Engineering, Scott gave the order and in the vast silence of space, the cores exploded in a ball of brilliant light.
"We are still being pulled toward the black hole," Chekov reported.
Spock bent over his scanner. "If we continue to use our maximum impulse power, it will be just under five minutes before we cross the event horizon."
A minute ago, Kirk would have wondered how he could sound so calm, half Vulcan or not. Now he thought he understood. A sort of calm had fallen over the Bridge and an odd peace settled in his chest. This was it. No decisions left to be made. He wondered for a moment whether shuttles would have any chance of escaping the pull: could they get everyone off the ship, leave him behind to authorize the self destruct, let him die like his father—like a hero—letting the rest of the crew escape? But no, that wouldn't work. If the ship couldn't escape the black hole's gravity field on maximum warp, how could a shuttle that could go, at most, warp 3 or so have any chance?
No. No decisions.
Kirk considered. This was the flagship; the best technology had to offer. And the best damn crew in the fleet. Though he was only Acting Captain, though he'd known most of these men and women only days and there were many he hadn't even met yet, he suddenly felt a fierce glow of pride to be sitting in this chair as their commander. He thought of Uhura at her station behind him, fiercely intelligent especially with linguistics. Fearless Sulu at the helm. Chekov the math genius who could work the transporter like a dream. Scotty in Engineering with his brilliant leaps of invention and insight. McCoy in Sickbay, fighting against the forces of entropy and decay with every breath. Pike, who had believed in one cocky bar brawler when no one else had. Spock, in whom passion and logic vied for dominance. Spock, who might someday have called him friend.
They deserved better than this; better than to die cringing.
"Mr. Sulu," Kirk spoke evenly into the near silence, "turn the ship around."
"Sir?" Chekov asked, sounding confused. Kirk could feel the eyes of the bridge crew upon him, but he ignored them for the moment, watching as Sulu punched the directions into the ship's controls.
"Permission to put her on manual?" Sulu turned to see a smile spreading across Kirk's face and some spark of understanding passed between them. Sulu got what was going on inside Kirk's head. When you shared enough reckless daring with someone to freefall out of a shuttle with them, you couldn't help knowing them a bit better. If Sulu ever got a chance to sit in the captain's chair on his own ship, he would have made the same decision.
"In a minute," Kirk responded, then: "Uhura, I'd like to talk to the crew."
She nodded and patched him through.
"Ladies and gentlemen, this is Acting Captain Kirk speaking. Detonating the warp core didn't give us enough push to escape the black hole's gravity. Now we have only impulse power and in a few minutes we'll have crossed the event horizon. There is a very real possibility that we will all die. I could initiate the ship's self-destruct, but I've decided not to. Instead, we are going into the black hole. If we survive, I don't know what we'll find on the other side: the past, the future, some other galaxy. But I do know this: exploration is our business. That's why we're out here, on this ship. That's what she's for.
"If we don't make it, I want you to know that it's been great. You guys are amazing. Kirk out."
During Kirk's speech, Spock had left his science station and moved to stand at the right side of the captain's chair again. Kirk looked up at him. Spock nodded slightly and met his eyes. "Imminently logical, Captain."
Kirk opened his mouth to give the order when the turbolift doors swished open and Pike came onto the bridge closely followed by a harassed looking McCoy. "—to Sickbay, then at least sit down!"
"Get out of my chair, Kirk," Pike ordered, seeming more amused than anything. "So we're going exploring, are we?"
"You should be in Sickbay, sir," said Spock, but Pike waved his protestations away.
"What—and miss this? Nonsense. Well, Mr. Kirk, when you're ready."
Kirk stood behind the captain's chair, Spock and McCoy on either side of him. "Put her on manual and take us in, Mr. Sulu. Steady as she goes."
Everyone's eyes were riveted on the view screen, now showing the view from the front of the ship, as Sulu took them in an arc until they faced the roiling light show around the black hole. It seemed to grow until it took up the whole screen. As they reached the event horizon, time slowed, stretched, seemed to stop. A pause. Darkness.