Rhysling's Rue - Part 4

It took just a bare instant for the pulse of coherent light to bridge the distance, neatly severing the link between the cobbled together ship and a thruster which went flying away, thrown by the forces it had helped to generate. Sarah bent intently over her readouts, feverishly calculating the results. Her face grew a little grim as she got a result she didn’t like, fingers blurring on controls as she sought a solution.

Rhysling's Rue
Chapter 4

By Theide

 


 
Sarah sat at her station, busily running calculations on the various belt fragments and moons that surrounded the gas giant. As her mind focused on the task, she couldn’t help drifting into a homesick reverie of her youth in the Appalachian mountains. Clear streams flowing over rocky falls soothed her jitters as her hands flew over control surfaces by instinct. Maybe, just maybe, some of her family had managed to survive the war, hidden back in the hills where there was nothing to bomb, nothing to defend, nothing but poor mountain folk who struggled to make a living.

Suddenly she became aware that something was not as it should be. She had carefully plotted the locations of all of the major debris resulting from the attack on the station, but something out there was not behaving the way it should be! Quick fingers punched up an assessment, and she realized that something out there was behaving like a ship, even though its sensor profile bore no resemblance to one.

Sarah was just lifting a hand to relay her report to Lt. Commander Solingen, the officer of the watch, when the captain came slamming out of her ready room. She hesitated for a bare moment as the captain flowed smoothly into her chair and fastened her shockframe around herself. “Sensors, do a sweep for anomalous motion in the debris field!”

“Captain, one anomalous report, what appears to be a small craft, er… What the fuck? One moment Captain, I have no ID on the craft and I’m not exactly sure what it’s trajectory is, the d… well, maam, the thing seems to be under some kind of control, but I show it steering directly for the planet!” The young ensign who was on duty at Sensors worked feverishly at her console for a moment before she spoke again.

“Maam, the best I can figure, it looks like this a fragment of the station outfitted with some low level thrusters. Trajectory as I initially saw it looked like it was headed for one of the smaller moons, but right now it looks like the thruster timings are out of sequence with the rotation, and it’s getting worse.”

“Maam, whoever is in there won’t survive the trip, it’s up to 4 gees in there now and getting worse! I read one life form and that one appears to be in serious trouble!”

Helen thought for a moment. Someone who had the engineering skills necessary to turn a derelict chunk of space station into a ship would be an asset she could not stand to lose. “Bay 1, Prep salvage unit for launch, priority alpha!” She settled back to wait, for there was nothing else she could do at the moment. Even at priority Alpha, it would take 5 minutes for the recovery craft to launch, and maybe another 15 minutes for the craft to come within range of the steadily accelerating station fragment.

“Ensign, feed recovery craft all data on the fragment! Do you have any data on why the rate of spin is so high?”

‘Data indicates that one or more thrusters have failed and the others are compensating, maam! The living person I’ve detected there is not moving and the readings suggest that he or she is out of it! On the plus side, I’ve got some better data on the trajectory, and it looks like it was originally a slingshot designed to intersect with one of the smaller moons!”

Helen thought furiously for a moment. It certainly didn’t look like a move one of the belters would make. It had to be something else. The big problem was how to kill the increase in the thing’s spin so that a recovery craft could latch onto it. She was banging the problem around in her head when she became aware that there was a hushed conversation going on between the sensor station and Fire Control. She was just about to open her mouth to find out what it was all about when Lieutenant JG Bosphors, who was manning Fire Control, spoke up.

“Maam, Sarah and I think, if I’m super careful, we can knock off one of the thrusters and stop the increase in the rate of spin. It’s gotta be done just right though, or I’ll hole the bulkheads. I’d like to try.” His usual mournful face had taken on somewhat of a hangdog look as he continued. “Maam, if I don’t try, the internal gees in that whatever it is are going to be up over fifteen by the time the recovery ship gets there, and I don’t see any way it’s gonna be able to catch it with that rate of spin, not that it’ll matter, whoever’s in there is gonna be dead before it can get there.”

It didn’t take very long for her to make a decision. “Do it.” Fingers flew over keypads and data flowed between stations as Bosphors set up his firing solution, pausing just a moment with his finger over the small illuminated square on his control board which would initiate the sequence. He looked over to the captain and she gave just the slightest nod.

It took just a bare instant for the pulse of coherent light to bridge the distance, neatly severing the link between the cobbled together ship and a thruster which went flying away, thrown by the forces it had helped to generate. Sarah bent intently over her readouts, feverishly calculating the results. Her face grew a little grim as she got a result she didn’t like, fingers blurring on controls as she sought a solution.

“Maam, we’ve got to try to knock the other thrusters off. Whoever is over there must have set up some kind of dynamic control system and now the thrusters are even further out of sequence. Its gotta be over 5 gees in there and going up fast!” She fed data over to Bosphor’s board as she spoke. He was just as busily setting up firing solutions. If not for the lack of music, you could be forgiven for thinking there was some sort of mad duel between keyboard artists going on. Another quick look over at the captains face, another nod of assent, and he almost caressed the key which would set his program in motion.

Quick lances of light did their work with eerie efficiency. One last thruster flew away and all that was left was a madly whirling piece of debris, still careening on its deadly course.

“Captain, recovery craft ready for launch. Launching now.”
Helen sat back and allowed herself a small glow of pride in her crew. Her bridge crew was phenomenal, but the rest of them were just as remarkable in their own way. Previous best record for prep and launch of a recovery craft had been just over 5 minutes and here they were launching in half of that.
 


 
To Be Continued...



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