The crew were in their cabins, waiting. The ship’s officers manned the bridge, but they knew there was nothing more for them to do. First-mate Jorje wanted to scupper the ship, but Capt. Muncy refused to go out in defeat.
Engines were shut down, since there was no amount of force that would break them free from the pull of dark matter gravity. Muncy wanted all power on reserve for life-support once they breached the horizon.
Science hypothesized that once the ship entered the black hole, all matter collapsed into a tiny point of singularity. The end would be swift, in theory. The only problem with this theory was that, while supported by rational thought and generally accepted principles, there was no anecdotal evidence one way or the other. There were no survivors of a similar disaster to give first-hand affirmation.
Muncy kept only a handful of the ship’s computer systems running, to conserve power. One system he left online was the log recordings. If they did come through this incident with their vessel and crew intact, Muncy wanted an accounting of their experience. He had the communication officer feed the entries on continuous loop to their home base. At their present distance, the first broadcasts wouldn’t reach the base until after they passed through the point of no return.
He also wanted their families at home to know what became of the SSE Phobos if they didn’t survive.
Jorje was pacing the bridge, muttering to herself. Normally a level-headed officer, confident and dependable in crisis situations, she was in full panic mode, and was creating even more tension among the other officers.
With a subtle hand signal to his chief medical officer, Muncy ordered his second in command subdued. A quick injection, and she was rendered unconscious.
There was grumbling from some of the other officers once Jorje was settled safely into an empty bo’sun’s chair.
“You all signed on knowing this was a possibility,” Muncy said. “There are no absolutes in space. If any of you want to leave the bridge, you’re dismissed with prejudice.”
A few more grumbles, but no one stood to leave.
“All right then,” the captain said. “I don’t know what is going to happen to us, but if it’s the end, it will be quick.”
“You don’t know that,” a voice called out.
“You’re right,” Munch said, searching the room for the dissenter. “I don’t know for sure. The only thing I do know is that I don’t want to miss what’s next. I went into space to find adventure. What could be more adventurous than finding out what’s on the other side of a black hole? Whether it’s death or a conduit to the other side of the universe?”
The ship began to shudder and creak, stressed by the intense gravity, the massive steel hull was being crushed as easily as a flimsy aluminum can. The lights flickered and went out, emergency lamps blinked on casting an eerie golden pall. The science officer rerouted power to the bridge solar screens to get a visual of what lie ahead of the ship. Muncy had never seen such utter darkness.
Air in the ship grew thin and stale as temperatures plunged to freezing within seconds. The crew braced for death, clinging to each other for warmed and comfort. Mundy fought to remain alert, watching his officers collapse one after the other. As the blackness closed in, as he clung to the last moment of awareness, a blinding flash of brilliance broke through the gloom.
Lights inside the ship gradually came back on, fresh air surged through the ventilation system, and computers rebooted into action. Muncy stumbled forward, stunned by the view he saw through the bridge’s forward screens.
A graveyard of airships opened up before them. The immense debris field was scattered in haphazard rings orbiting a large blue planet, warmed by a pulsing purple star. As each of his officer’s regained consciousness, the com also came back to life. Someone or something was trying to contact the Phobos.
Muncy called for his medical officer to scan the ship for casualties, then directed his communication’s officer to open a hailing frequency.
“This is Capt. Davis Muncy, commander of the Spaceship Earth Phobos, we come in peace.”
The viewing screen shimmered, and a group five beings came into focus. The sole human stepped forward.
“Ahoy cap’n! Welcome to the Leonids. Requesting permission for an away team to board.”
“Leonids?” Muncy said. “I don’t know that planetary system, where are we?”
“We can discuss that once our team arrives, but you’re not going to have a map large enough to find us. We’ll give your crew time to recover from the leap through the black hole. Let us know when we can transfer aboard. Out.”
“What was that?” Muncy’s science officer, Lt. Barr, came up behind his captain. “I only recognized two life forms. And, that sun… it’s virtually impossible for it to be purple.”
“I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” Muncy mused, “Assemble the other officers, we need to inspect the crew, call an ‘all hands’ to meet in the auditorium. We are about to begin a new adventure.”