Aboard the galleon, they watched Nihilator contort viciously as his planet body fell into the black hole, the gravitational forces crushing and twisting the corpse-like mass of this living planet.
“Without Skarra’s mind to live in, his consciousness is fading,” Loki theorized.
Zia had their hands on the captain’s wheel of the Orlando, their leg pushing against the ship’s throttle lever. Nott stood at the bridge’s console, monitoring the ship’s engines. The Orlando was tossed erratically in the gravitational slipstream of the black hole. “The Orlando will make it, even if I don’t,” Zia said.
Horangi embraced Skarra, who breathed heavily, agitated and panicked from the sensation of having her entire being compressed and almost shoved out by the elder god's colossal power. “It was terrible, like a never-ending dream where you can’t breathe. And when Thor smashed the crown, it ended.”
Thor wondered, “I don’t get it. I destroyed the crown. But this blasted Nihilator is still alive and very much a threat.”
Loki offered, “His consciousness flourished in the expanses of Skarra’s mind. Once you severed the link, psychically and physically, he had to retreat to his ancient corrupt form. He’s now merely the raging id of a despotic interdimensional tyrant with the body of a hostile world.”
“It’s really annoying that smashing his jewelry into small bits seems to have supersized him. It was such a satisfying blow,” Thor bellowed.
Suddenly they all fell to their knees as a soundless voice penetrated their minds.
“I DON’T NEED MY MIND TO DESTROY ALL OF YOU. JUST A BODY.”
Zia demanded, “Viewscreen, give me the aft view.” They were looking at the rear of the ship.
Nihilator’s flailing tentacles curled around the edges of the black hole’s accretion disc. With godly power, the lifeless husk was pulling itself outward from the immense void of the black hole.
Tentacles shot forward from Nihilator’s planet body. The whole ship was rocked by heavy blows and everyone staggered to hold on. The limbs had seized the Orlando.
“Once those slimy things drag us past the event horizon, we’re finished,” Zia insisted.
Thor had to do something.
“What happens if I cross the event horizon?” he asked Zia.
“You’ll accelerate faster and faster toward the speed of light as you fall into the black hole, where you will undoubtedly perish, or disappear into a quantum state no one has ever returned from.”
“Thor, it’s certain death,” Loki said.
“You say it like it’s a bad thing,” Thor countered.
“What are you planning, Thor?” Horangi asked. The ship was rocked again by another tug of the tentacles.
“I’m going to go punch that corrupt god in the face at the speed of light.”
“What will you do to save yourself?” Zia demanded. “Once you are captured by the black hole’s gravity well, you will never return.”
Loki looked at Thor with unnerving intensity. “I know you’re going to do it, because it’s stupid.”
“I’ll figure it out on the way there. And brother?”
“In case I don’t come back . . .”
“Yes . . .?”
Thor thought deeply for a moment and gave Loki a look.
“What is it, brother?”
“You’ll figure it out while I’m on my way there.”
Thor ran to the deck of the Orlando and, from that wide-open view of outer space, he had a brief moment to catch the scale of what he was about to fight. He had fought hand to hand with all manner of beings, but never an entire planet. Little arcs of electricity rolled along his body. Nervousness, excitement, adrenaline and dread. Soon the others were running onto the deck, and he heard them begging him to think this through.
He leapt from the deck of the Orlando, aimed straight for the empty void of nothingness where Nihilator was waiting.
His flight was interrupted by the crushing gravity of the black hole. He fell straight into the abyss, and felt shockwaves and contortions pulling at every atom of his being. The Asgardian was being torn apart by these extraordinary velocities, and his vision started to dim with the same prismatic shimmer he’d seen in the Bifrost. As he neared lightspeed, the colors bled away one by one until only blue remained.
Thor had sparred with gods his entire life. His bones and muscles had strained against colossal forces wielded by the most powerful beings in the cosmos. But the black hole’s gravity well...