Literary Challenges : The Library Computer
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Join Date: Dec 2007
06-29-2011, 08:23 PM
Title: Crash Course
Thanks for your last letter. As I’ll say again and again, I’m sure, I’m not all that good at keeping up with correspondence, so I’m sorry there’s been such a long silence on my end.
So far, life on the
has been more eventful than I expected. Maybe all “routine” exploration missions are like this. All I know is that in between scanning new kinds of plants or spatial anomalies, we’ve been in a couple of shooting matches. I suppose the war reaches all the way out here.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my Academy days lately. Sometimes that seems like another life, sometimes like yesterday. That second one is closer to the truth. And I’ve tended to be nostalgic—you know, before the burden of command and all—but it wasn’t all sweetness and light.
I was a good student, and I worked as hard as anyone, maybe even harder than most. And though I got to know a few people, I mostly kept to myself. I’d never been off Umea for any length of time before, and San Francisco was a world away—literally, I guess—from the small, intimate scale of life on a new colony.
I don’t know what your Academy experience was like—a lot different, I’d imagine—but you can get by pretty well in most classes and even some of the training exercises without having to deal with other people much. But—and I knew this then, though I did my best to avoid it—being in Starfleet isn’t about being on your own. I’ve definitely learned since that no one can make it out here alone.
That became clear on the
—that’s the ship I took my cadet cruise on. The Captain had the engineering cadets working in teams and rotating who was in command every few days.
I never really aspired to command. I still don’t, but don’t tell Starfleet Command that. I joined Starfleet because I loved the idea of exploring new worlds, loved being in space, loved being able to play with the latest tech. But Starfleet seems to have different ideas. Maybe they see something in me I don’t. My mother would appreciate that.
Every day it was my turn to lead our little group, I’d wake up feeling slightly sick to my stomach. And it was always a disaster. We didn’t blow up the ship or anything. But, every time, within about 10 minutes, I was feeling pretty invisible and another cadet—his name was Hanor Rudix—was in charge. Even when I gave a direct order, the other cadets would look at him first. He did it with everyone—he was one of those kinds that always had to be the center of attention, and he was good at putting himself there—but he did it more with me. He always made a special point of calling me “Addy,” which no one else did and which I hated.
I was never quite sure why he took particular pleasure in giving me a hard time. Maybe it was because we were the only two Trill in engineering. Maybe it was because he had some sort of weird crush on me, though that sort of thing is much less common among Trill than humans. Maybe he knew a little about my background—the fact that my parents were pretty active in the anti-joining movement, my mother especially—and he resented that.
Whatever it was, by the third week, I just gave up.
By then, the
was assigned to chart some stellar anomalies in the Delta Pictoris system—something about the neutrino emissions of one of the two stars there. Science was never my strong suit. On the way in, the Captain decided to drop a few of us off at one of the outer planets where there was some long-term observational equipment. Because the ship would be out of transporter range, we took a shuttle down. It was me, Rudix—of course—and four science cadets. No offense, but most the science cadets I knew couldn’t have fixed their own tricorders in a jam, let alone the equipment planetside, which was why Rudix and I were there.
I sometimes wonder if there isn’t some central computer at Starfleet Command that’s constantly analyzing pysch profiles and spitting out orders that don’t make a lot of logical sense, but are supposed to make us better officers. Anyone who was remotely paying attention wouldn’t have put Rudix and me in the same away team for the better part of a week. But, well, I guess it worked out.
On the way down to the surface, I found out there was something worse than being trapped with Rudix. We hit some massive wind shear in the upper atmosphere. Rudix was the pilot—I’m a fair pilot but I’ll admit that he was better. Though maybe not as good as he thought he was, because he tried to take us straight through. Within the first couple of seconds we’d lost all our primary thrusters and the port nacelle strut had buckled. We started spinning—I couldn’t tell you in which directions—and the power kept going out, which meant the lights kept flickering, like a strobe. It made everything feel like it was going in slow motion.
Before we hit, I managed to redirect reserves to the emergency inertial dampening fields. I’m not sure if you’ve had experience with them. They basically protect the crew compartment and whatever parts of the engine might explode on impact. I guess it did its job because we weren’t flattened into paste and we didn’t obliterate a couple of square kilometers when we came down.
The situation didn’t seem so bad at first. I looked around and saw that everyone was moving. There wasn’t much left of the shuttle—the top had been torn off so that we were all sitting in what looked like a mangled sled. There was nothing behind the crew compartment anymore, though recognizable chunks of the engine and power systems were scattered around us.
I knew we wouldn’t be stranded. We were due to check in in a few hours and when the
didn’t hear anything from us, she’d send help.
The worst news was the weather. It took a minute to separate the roar in my head from the crash and the roar of the wind. It was frigid with flakes of snow—probably snow, though given the temperature I wouldn’t have been surprised if it was frozen carbon dioxide—in the air. The landscape was barren—grey soil between hulking grey rocks. I vaguely remember bouncing off a few of those rocks as we skidded to a halt.
It sort of reminded me of the Umean back country where I used to go with my father when he was out to catalog some of the planet’s more reclusive species, and where I started hiking and camping on my own when I got older. I’d been in some tight situations then and made it through alright, and that was much further from any potential help, so I wasn’t immediately worried.
From there, though, the news got steadily worse. Of the four science cadets, only two were mobile. One was in particularly bad shape. She had what I recognized—from personal experience—as all the symtpoms of some pretty serious internal bleeding. I gave her a dose of dylovene, but knew that wouldn’t be enough. Help might arrive, but if we had to wait untill we missed our appointed check-in time, it would have been too late.
Rudix wasn’t much help. He seemed more or less physically ok—I checked for a concussion—but psychologically off. He was in shock, of course—we all were—but every time I tried to talk to him—or at least shout to him over the noise of the wind—he just stared off into space. It was the first time I hadn’t seen some sort of smirk on his face.
All the rest were staring at me asking “what do we do next?” I could read the question on their faces. I don’t know. Maybe I looked like I knew what I was doing.
My first thought was that maybe we could hunker down in the partial shelter of the ruined shuttle, but when I scanned the area with the one mostly working tricorder—and that I had to juryrig to get any readings out of—I found that one of the engine components had been compromised and that the radiation levels in the area were rising fast.
Our only hope seemed to be to get to the unmanned research complex we’d been sent to check. There’d be some shelter and I thought I could modify the telemetetry equipment there to send out a distress call.
So we had to move. The human colonists on Umea have a saying. “Det finns inget dåligt väder bara dåliga kläder.” That means “there’s no bad weather, only bad clothing.” I found a few survival packs that had insulated jackets in them, but nothing that was up to the cold around us. I also found four personal shields that were working well enough. I knew that if you partially shorted them out, they wouldn’t stop a disruptor any more, but they would generate a pretty substantial amount of localized heat. I gave one to each of the science cadets.