They dismantle her after the end of her third five-year mission. Jim fights for his ship, argues for her and screams for her, but command insists that she’s too old to keep up with the other new ships.
They watch her get taken apart piece by piece in silence. Jim is barely containing his anger, fists unclenching and clenching. Scotty is openly weeping.
They owe her much. People have died and survived and been born in her, people have cried and laughed and explored and lived in her, people have found her home. She’s bent and battered but she is still as much of the family as the crew are.
Sulu pats Scotty’s back, stony faced. He’s piloted the Enterprise for years, knows her handling and the way she groans when he turns her too fast, knows the powerful, exhilarated, thrum of her engines as she jumps into warp. Chekov watches the scene with wide eyes, muttering something angrily in Russian. He’s plotted safe journeys for the Enterprise since he was young, navigated her through danger and darkness and trouble.
Uhura hums a quiet lullaby under her breath, singing the ship to sleep. She knows the Enterprise’s language, knows how communications roll across her bow and into her console, knows how she speaks in the depths of space when the silence is pressing and the cold aches.
Spock finds himself mourning somewhat illogically over the Enterprise. She has been his true home, when Vulcan was destroyed and Earth never quite accepted him. He has built friendships of a lifetime on the ship, found himself in the carnage of the war between his human and Vulcan selves on her.
Scotty sniffs, clutching at his chest. He’s watched the Enterprise carry out her service since she began her maiden voyage, nurtured her and healed her when she’s been broken, improved her and made her the crew’s alone. There are dents he can’t fix and components he can’t replace, but she has always been the most beautiful ship to him in the fleet. The Enterprise has been his home and in his care for years and seeing her decommissioned now is like burying a child long before her parents.
Bones fights back tears and sighs deeply. The Enterprise is the only ship, the only place, he has been able to call home since his divorce. She’s carried him and the crew through the disease and danger and darkness and silence, kept them safe, loyally trudging on through the stars even when she’s crippled. There is not one other ship he would trust so completely in space, not one other ship he could call home, could want to return to, like the Enterprise.
Jim lifts his hand and lets it fall against the glass separating them from his beloved ship. He can hear the tortured scream of metal as she is methodically torn apart, hear the betrayal. Jim knows machines and vehicles are not sentient and yet if he pegged one to be it would be the Enterprise. He and his ship have taken care of one another and their crew for decades, have sacrificed for them and died for them and continued on for them even when it seems not another step can be taken. Jim leans forward slightly as they begin to completely remove the engine, the heart of the ship. Once its gone Jim knows she will never fly again, will never explore galaxies again.
“Thank you.” He tells her, and the rest of the crew echo him, saying goodbye to their home, to the ship that welcomed them when the rest of the universe shut its doors. There’s a final groan of metal, like final goodbye, and then the Enterprise is reduced to a scattered collection of parts and her crew turns away.
They leave with heavy hearts and burning eyes. As the Enterprise disappears from sight Jim knows he is leaving behind the only place he ever truly belonged.
Bones takes his hand and leads him away with a final goodbye on their lips.