The USS Enterprise, under the command of Captain James Kirk, is assigned to test a new space drive that promises to far outstrip the warp drive. During the test, the ship is attacked by Klingons, and then faces a much greater problem when it becomes clear that the new drive is damaging the fabric of space itself.
This novel contains examples of:
- Bawdy Song:
- Mention is made of "a bawdy ballad about the (improbable) offspring of the marriage between an Altasa and a Vulcan". It's a Shout-Out and Stealth Pun at once—the original song is an Irish folk song about a Catholic and Protestant couple's child.Oh I was the strangest kiddie that you ever have seen
My mother, she was orange and my father, he was green...
- We learn that "the filthiest spacers' song" that Captain Kirk knows is called "The Weird-Looking Thing With All The Eyes And The Asteroid-Miner's Daughter".
- Mention is made of "a bawdy ballad about the (improbable) offspring of the marriage between an Altasa and a Vulcan". It's a Shout-Out and Stealth Pun at once—the original song is an Irish folk song about a Catholic and Protestant couple's child.
- Cargo Ship: In-universe. The Enterprise is, of course, the one great love of Kirk's life. As a result of the new experimental FTL drive that turns out to break down the boundaries of reality itself as an unintended side effect, he has a hallucination in which he appears to directly experience what being a starship is like from the Enterprise's perspective... and that suggests that his feelings may not be unrequited.
- Fictional Video Game: Sulu put together a spaceflight simulator on the rec deck holotank that lets him play with unconventional sublight combat tactics (flying a starship as if it were a high performance atmospheric fighter). He insists that the underlying physics model is accurate, if on the outer edge of the performance envelope for the Enterprise. Kirk comes in toward the end of a particularly spectacular session where Sulu manages to crash his simulated ship into a Klingon cruiser. A bit later in the book, a situation arises where highly unorthodox sublight combat is called for:Kirk: Mr. Sulu, you play tank games, don't you?
Sulu: Sir! Yes sir—
Kirk: Get it right this time.
- Flaunting Your Fleets: Every ship in the Federation Fleet that can possibly be there turns out en masse to welcome the Enterprise back from its shakedown cruise with the new drive. The vista is described thus:The stars were bright about them. And more was bright than the stars.
"Good Lord," Kirk said, and put the drink down, and stood to watch the screen.
Enterprise was not alone out there. She had escort. The screen was filled with ships closing in on her... A few of them had already matched velocities and vectors with her, and were riding close around. ...
He shook his head in wonder. God, he thought, it looks like the center-spread holo-foldout in Jane's Fighting Starships.
- Hot Scientist: Duane deliberately played with this in the back-cover blurb, describing K't'lk as "a pretty alien scientist" while distinctly failing to mention that she is also a giant glass spider.
- Depends on how you're using the term "pretty alien" - is the emphasis on "pretty" or "alien"? Besides being a glass spider with a voice compared to wind chimes, given the Hamalki's thought processes (K't'lk is said to be an expert in a subject dubbed "creative physics"), she certainly would qualify as being pretty alien, even if she isn't A pretty alien.
- Residual Self-Image: Every time the Enterprise uses the experimental drive, the crew members experience a reality based on how they perceive themselves. While Kirk's self-perception is never actually described, McCoy provides a solid clue when he asks "Is that armor getting heavy, Jim?"
- The Sacred Darkness: K't'lk kicks off the new universe with the last words, "let there be dark". Later on, Kirk and McCoy muse that whatever life evolves in that universe, they'll never have to be afraid of the dark.
- Smashed Eggs Hatching: At the end of the novel Kirk accidentally drops the egg case left behind by K't'lk, which promptly hatches into her daughter self, K's't'lk.
- True Companions: If the entire crew of the Enterprise could adopt each other, they would. Put to work in The Wounded Sky where they save two freaking universes with The Power of Love and Friendship.
- Unresolved Sexual Tension: Scotty and K't'lk. They quite literally can't, what with her being a giant spider, but they really, really want to. To the point where she adds an 's' to her name after her death in honor of him.