Literary Challenge #28 : Stranded
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Join Date: Jul 2012
09-27-2012, 01:08 PM
Personal log: Tylha Shohl, officer commanding, USS Sita NCC-92871
The floor is at an angle. That's never a good sign.
I cough a bit and try to stand up. Floor sloping means two things; internal gravity is off, but there's a local grav field somewhere. Not much of one, though, as when I try to stand, I bounce off the shuttle's ceiling hard enough to put a crimp in my antennae.
Once I get over that, I start trying to piece together what happened.
Flying solo in the Felczer Nebula... a break from the normal routine aboard the
. I spotted a comet, went in for a quick sensor sweep... there was an unusual subspace rift nearby... I decided, what the heck, turn on the visual recorders, and get a picture of the anomaly framed against the comet's tail... I was just turning onto a new heading when something in the rift flared, sending a shower of exotic particles right in my face.
On the plus side, the snapshots should be
On the down side - well, the shuttle is nose down on something big and solid, most likely that comet. That shouldn't normally be a problem, but I can smell the air, and it has that familiar and unmistakable scent of burned-out transtators. Systems damage. So: how bad?
I massage my antennae and set to work on the console.
The answer, it turns out, is plenty bad enough. Comms blown, not that they would be much help in the nebula anyway. EV controls mostly working, except for artificial gravity. Worst of all, thrusters are out. I have impulse, I can even re-establish a warp field... but before I do either of those things, I have to get the shuttle off the ground. And RCS thrusters are offline, and staying that way.
Think, Tylha, I tell myself. Thrusters are out; why?
The shuttle has ploughed into the surface of the comet, nose first, pointing down at an angle of about twenty degrees. Activating impulse or warp in this position will work... about as well as you'd expect, with a rocket motor behind you and a solid wall in front. I need to back myself out, and that means firing the forward RCS thrusters, and they won't fire. Safeties are cutting in. The tubes are mechanically obstructed, says the computer, which is a fancy way of saying they have comet-dirt wedged tight up them.
I think about this for a moment. I could override the safeties, and hope there's enough pressure to blow the dirt right out of the tubes... problem is, I don't know what the comet's surface material is, or how tight it's wedged. If it's too solidly packed, the pressure will come out another way - most likely taking the nose off the shuttle in the process. That falls into the category of Not Helping.
I could find out what the comet dirt is made of... except, there are those burned-out transtators again; sensors are minimal. I amuse myself with some environmental scans anyway. Surprisingly, this comet has a half-decent atmosphere, either from outgassing within itself, or collected from the body of the nebula. There's even an oxygen content; very low, though, and it's bitterly cold out there. Humans would complain, damn whiny pinkskins. Still, I doubt I'll be going outside for a stroll yet.
I take stock of my own personal resources. Fabrication kit... handy, if I need a quantum mortar or a phaser turret, which I don't, much. Perhaps I could adapt a seeker drone to do mining work? It's a thought, and I file that one for future consideration. I have my standard weapons, of course; sonic antiproton rifle and phased-tetryon assault gun. Fat lot of use those are going to be. I can't shoot my way out of a comet. I can't even drain their power cells to recharge the systems, like they did that time on the old
; sonic AP and phased-tet both have incompatible cycles, without a dedicated adapter there's no way to charge or discharge them without a heck of a lot of waste heat.
I spin the command chair around, so I can lean back in it and think.
Establish a reverse warp field? From a standing start to moving backwards at a bit over lightspeed... It's not advised in atmosphere, let alone when partly embedded in the ground, and especially not with amber lights over most of my consoles. I decide to explore alternatives that are less likely to make me explode suddenly.
Tricorder is still working... I could go outside and get a sample of the comet material. Then I could scan it and work out just what my chances are, either firing the thrusters or getting a drone to dig me out. That's a good idea, and at least it would keep me busy. I make for my EV suit...
Damn. I knew that last Tholian back on Nukara got too close for comfort. There must have been a stress fracture in the visor, and when the shuttle crashed, my helmet got bounced around hard enough for it to fail. I look at the broken faceplate and reflect that, after all, I'm lucky; it could have happened on Nukara.
Still, going outside, into 3% oxygen atmosphere and a surface temperature of 197 Kelvin? File that one under desperation measures, I think.
will find me eventually, of course... I think. The ship will come hot-foot once I miss my scheduled rendezvous. Problem is, space is very big, and my shuttle is very, very small. They will find me - they won't ever stop looking. But how long will it take?
Besides, it's... embarrassing. Being picked up like some kind of cosmic hobo? It's enough to make me do a slow burn....
Something clicks with that phrase. Slow burn.
I need something to push the shuttle out of the comet. I need something that will deliver a sustained thrust - maybe not for long, but something that will be a shove, not a blow. Like the old firearms they used to have on Andoria or Earth, the ones with chemical explosive propellants - compounds that deflagrated, rather than exploded; burning, not blasting.
I start to rummage under the shuttle's helm console. There is a floor panel, which comes out; it gives me access to the subspace radio antenna, which was broken anyway, so no good to me. I set to work. By the time I'm finished, the subspace radio antenna is a lot more broken, and somehow I feel better. There is now an empty space in the front of the shuttle, with just the skin of the ship between it and the comet's dirt.
I wedge the phased-tet assault gun in there, tight. The replicators are offline, but the emergency kit has firefighting gear; I fill the space around it with a couple of spray cans' worth of insulating foam.
Now, I need to seal it in. I reach for the fabrication kit; drone time. I always fancy these support drones quiver when they see me coming at them with a screwdriver in one hand and a purposeful glint in my eye. Some time later, the drone's energy weapon is a fairly serviceable welder. Shortly afterwards, the inside of the shuttle is very hot and smelly, and the phased-tet gun is welded very firmly inside the space where the antenna used to be. And I have comprehensively voided that drone's warranty. Never mind.
I kick bits of antenna out of the way, and they spin lazily in the weak gravity.
Now for the next fun part. The induction charger for the weapon will still work, even through the makeshift box it's sealed up in - but inefficiently, so very, very inefficiently. Normally, that would grate on me, but this time I
inefficiency. Because inefficiency, in engineering terms, always means heat.
I set the charger for a fast discharge - normally, draining the gun's powercells back into the shuttle's system. But, the way I've set things up, I'll be lucky to get a hundred kilojoules out of that gun. All the rest of the charge in its cells will turn into waste heat; lovely, lovely waste heat, right up close against the surface of that comet with only a highly conductive metal plate in the way.
Of course, despite the foam, a fair amount of that waste heat is bleeding back into the shuttle's cabin, too. I can hear the life support system complaining; I feel like complaining myself. The little ship's interior is turning into something only a Vulcan could love. I have to take my uniform jacket off. Damn it.
But that comet dirt - whatever it's made of, it is ice cold, or worse than ice cold. Under the influence of that hot spot, it melts, bubbles, expands -
Pressure always seeks the easiest way out, and the easiest way out for this pressure... is pushing my shuttle out of the hole it's dug for itself.
There are lots of ugly grating sounds, and jolts and jerks that the inertial dampers don't quite catch in time, and the structural integrity system flashes more amber lights at me. But the shuttle is moving, now, in a cloud of exotic steam, and all of a sudden it is free, flying even; the pressure is enough to overcome the weak gravity.
I switch off the charger, but a little too late; there is a bright flash from beneath the shuttle's nose as the overheating assault gun finally melts its way through the skin. Oops. My welds hold, though, so I'm not breathing space.
And - after overriding a few dozen nagging safeties - I have first impulse, then warp power at my disposal.
I set a course, out of the nebula, towards the rendezvous point. So I'll be a little early... but I'll make it there all by myself. And all I have to worry about now is - a large hole in the front of the shuttle, a few burned-out systems, and the paperwork to replace that phased-tet assault gun.
All in all, it could have been worse. I turn off one last safety alarm, and settle down for a sleep. I've earned it.