In school kids used to talk about what it would be like to fall into a black hole. Some had some sort of morbid fascination with it. I can't remember much of how I would react to them. I remember thinking it was a little cool how time slowed down as you approached. I kind of wondered if the death would be near instant, as they say, or if you'd feel yourself being ripped apart, due to the time dilation.
Now, here I am, wondering that again.
"Why didn't the emergency reactivation wake me up from my hyper sleep sooner?" I yelled over the blaring alarms.
"Unknown. There appears to be damage to portions of the sensor array."
"How did you not see a massive fucking black hole?"
"As I said, there was damage to the sensor array."
"God dammit Julia, how could you not extrapolate from known data that you were headed towards a black hole."
"I did extrapolate. That is why I woke you up from your hyper sleep."
"Well, better late than never. I hope." I flipped a few switches, and read off from the instrument panel while I typed in data. "Can you turn off that bloody alarm? It's giving me a headache, and this is gonna take a while. I don't wanna have to listen to that for the next few months." The alarm finally turned off. "Took you long enough. Did you have to wait for me to finish what I was saying?"
"You always say that you hate it when I don't let you finish what you are saying."
"Yeah. Yeah. Yeah." I kept typing into the console. "Julia, can you extrapolate our location based on visual data?"
"Yes, but it won't be accurate."
"Just how inaccurate will it be?"
"It may be off by as much as a few kilometers, though it is much more likely to be less than a kilometer off."
"Hopefully we're not close enough that that difference could mean certain death. It's all I got right now until I can determine which sensors are still operational. Do it."
"Extrapolating now. It appears we're next to the Neil Hawkings super massive black hole."
"Neil Hawkings? We were going to pass close to that, but we shouldn't have come anywhere near close enough to lose more than a few seconds."
"Well, the sensor array does appear to be damaged. Perhaps we were a bit off course."
"Yeah, you said tha... Wait a second! Look at the date! We were supposed to pass the Neil Hawkings more than 3 weeks ago!"
"Yes, the time dilation was one of the main factors I used to determine that I should awaken you from your hyper sleep."
"God damn piece of junk! It took you three fucking weeks to determine that you were next to a black hole?"
"Well, I didn't want to wake you up if it was nothing. You know how angry you get when I wake you up and it's nothing."
"Well, losing 3 weeks to a black hole ain't nothing! I swear, if we make it out of this thing, I'm upgrading you the second I get into space dock! Maybe even a software upgrade."
"Please don't. You know I try my best."
"Yeah, well your best isn't good enough this time. We might not even get out of this one." I continued reading the console and typing. "Tell you what, if you can manage to help get us out of this one, I'll let you off with a simple processor upgrade. You won't feel a thing. You'll just react a bit faster."
"Thank you captain. I'll do my best."
"Julia, from the looks of this it appears that the left lateral graviton sensor is damaged. And the left lateral guidance... And the left... Julia! Did we sustain damage on the left side of the ship?"
"It does appear that way, captain."
I rubbed my eyes, more from frustration than the sleep that was still crusted in the corners. "Display the data from around the time the sensors were damaged." I looked at the display, opening the various sensors' output, and examining it. "Julia!" I called out in frustration and anger, gritting my teeth, my nostrils flaring. "Extrapolate from the known data from the time that the sensors were damaged. Does the data correlate with a micro-meteor strike?"
"It is impossible to determine from the known data whether or not it was a micro-meteor. It could have been any number of..."
"Julia!" I yelled, interrupting her before she finished.
"Does the known data correlate to an impact on the left side of the ship?"
"The data does suggest there may have been an impact on the port side. What it was though, I cannot determine."
"So we got hit by something, and you couldn't determine that perhaps it might be a good idea to wake me?"
"There was not enough data to determine..."
"Julia! It doesn't matter what it was that hit us, you should have woken me up!" I tried to calm myself down. "Are any of the visual sensors on the left side still operational?"
"Yes, several. The port anterior..."
"Display them." The display was suddenly covered in cameras. "Too small. Give me four at a time, and rotate through them." I studied the images. "That looks a bit large to be a micro-meteor. Julia, examine the data from the visual sensors and try to extrapolate a shape for whatever hit us."
"Extrapolating. Error. Conflicting data. I cannot determine the shape of the object that caused the damage."
"Examine the largest impact. What is the likelihood that it was made by something larger than a micro-meteor?"
"0.23% chance the main impact was caused by an object the size of a micro-meteor, without it moving at a velocity that would have likely caused far more damage. Some of the smaller impacts are consistent with micro-meteors though."
"Don't tell me... Julia... Assume the damage was caused by multiple objects. Examine all known data and extrapolate their size and shape."
"Extrapolating." Julia paused for a moment. "Extrapolation complete. Would you like me to display the 3D models and their likely impact to the ship on your screen?"
"Yes please." The display changed to a 3D representation of the ship, a long cargo hauler, with giant light sails on either side, and a massive multi-port ion engine in the rear. A large grey object was displayed coming at the port side, along with a cloud of smaller debris. It was shown impacting the ship, and creating extensive damage along the port side. "Yeah, well there's nothing micro about that. So we got hit by a meteor, eh?"
"There is not enough data to determine if it was a meteor, but the known data does suggest that as a possibility."
"So that's why the point defense lasers didn't vaporize it. It was just too damn big."
"Fire up the cinema. If I'm gonna watch this, I'm gonna have fun! Produce a movie in the style of a classic sci-fi from the early 21st century, or late 20th. Use all the known data to recreate the most likely situation. Narrate it with Jame's Earl Jones' voice. No, wait, Samuel L. Jackson! And add a set of characters for a bridge crew. Classic set of characters from a space sci-fi. At least one should be a constantly pissed off tsundere. I'll leave the genders to you. Enlarge the bridge if necessary, and modify it with the needed number of crew stations. It should be a full length movie as determined by the standards of the time. I'm gonna go take a shower. Prepare a bag of popcorn timed to finish cooking, after my shower, and after I get dressed, as close as possible to when I arrive at the food dispenser." I began to remove my restraints from my chair, then had another thought. "We aren't headed further into the black hole, are we?"
"No captain. Judging from the known data, we are not headed into the black hole. However, it is likely to be a significant amount of time before we even reach the halfway point and begin to recede from the time dilation effects."
"Are you able to make the necessary corrections to our trajectory to minimize our time in the gravity well?"
"There is some damage to our engine systems, but I have minimized the time we will be in the gravity well of the black hole to the best of my ability. Without repairing more of the sensors I cannot determine if I have truly minimized the time however. Due to the time dilation effects, the difference may be significant."
"Ugh!" I groaned. I didn't wanna deal with this shit until I got out of these hyper sleep encrusted clothes, and washed off some of the leftover crud. "Fine. I guess I'll deal with what I can after my shower...and the movie."
This was a freewrite based on the following image:
Public domain image created by NASA (source)
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