With the captain ushered off of the bridge to see to his head wound, Commander Forrest was in command of the Columbia. The ship was still on a direct course for the newly-discovered G-type star that their gravimetric analysis had assumed was present, and there was very little to be done about it with thrusters at minimal power and the main engines offline. To top it all off, the sensors were either being flooded with ghosts as some side-effect of the energy weapon that had struck them, or there were hundreds of thousands of contacts throughout the star system.
“If we can’t stop, we need to find a way to slow down or alter our course. I need a full analysis on every object in our path,” the first officer ordered. “Anything with enough mass that we might be able to fall into orbit.”
Akira wiped the sweat off her brow before she returned her hand back to her console. She feverishly struggled to clear the sensor ghosts to give more accurate data on the system. “Commander Price, I am doing my best to clear up the sensor ghosts; you should be able to get something on the system for Commander Forrest.” Not at all meaning to speak about the man in the third person, but she couldn’t think of anything else while she was tapping away, executing command after command to try and clear up the sensor packets.
“Huh…Commander,” Willow spoke as she brought up another status screen on her console to confirm something. “Tractor beams seem to still be getting some power. If Commander Price can find me a decent enough mass within a specific cone we could make for it on RCS and then anchor ourselves to it, at least till our momentum likely pulls us apart.” She’d slipped into problem-solving mode and didn’t think about any repercussions before bringing up a diagram of the star system with Columbia’s position at the base of a cone pointing inwards. As they fell inwards, the RCS would become more and more useless. “Snag a few rocks, or whatever is out there, and we can steal enough sideways momentum to maybe give us a perigee high enough above the star not to cook the ship.”
“Our tractor beams aren’t rated to pull in the type of object we’d need to alter our speed. Have the computer run simulations anyway, though,” Forrest ordered. “Use whatever thruster power you have available to bring us about 180 degrees. We may be able to bypass the subspace driver coils and use impulse exhaust directly or vent the shuttle bays to give us some thrust.”
”Actually, sir, if we’re falling, we don’t want to fight directly against the fall,” Willow offered, remembering a lesson her grandfather taught her. “We want to go sideways, build up that angular momentum.” She then stopped, a thought going back to the Academy and a lecturer who wasn’t happy with her constant challenges and how she needed to accept commands. “Helm answering 180 mark 0. It’ll take one minute thirty to complete the turn.” Her left hand twitched, thumb over fingers, as she completed the math in her head. Just about 5 million metric tons or close enough for most accounting, RCS thruster output, angular momentum, needing to cancel out to bring the impulse engines to bear along their current vector…one minute twenty-eight seconds passed before her console beeped to inform the turn was done. “Bringing impulse engines online. Supplementing with RCS thrusters. No appreciable change in velocity.”
Akira wasn’t going to comment or add anything, but then there was a slight lurch, nothing serious, but her instruments began to warn her of something new. “Commander, we’ve been caught in a tractor beam!” She told him. “I’m going to try and repel it if I can.”
“Cut power to thrusters. We can’t waste what power we have left,” the first officer said.
“Answering all stop,” Willow replied and killed all engines and thrusters. “Change in velocity from the tractor, sir, 12 hours till system barycenter.” There was nothing to do, nothing to fly currently at any rate. Columbia was just a fancy brick right now for a pilot like her. Until some sort of engine power was restored, there wasn’t much she could do. “Permission sir to depart the bridge to change into a proper uniform?” she then asked, highlighting her gym wear with the wave of her hand. “And check if Engineering has made any progress?”
Akira failed to hold back her Klingon half this time when she moderately smacked the edges of her console with the palms of her hands. She then let out a heavy sigh after she had closed her eyes, as she had no plan to provide an explanation in any further unprofessional state. She turned in her seat to look at the Commander. “Nothing I did has repelled the tractor beam. I’m sorry, sir.”
“Tractor beam?” Captain Armstrong asked, as he re-emerged from the ready room.
“It seems that whatever has disabled us has also got us caught,” Commander Forrest replied, as he vacated the center seat.
Kiran looked at his panels “Sir we have something about 200 hundred meters long on an intercept course, it’s a few minutes out from intercept,” he said as looked at the first officer.
“Why didn’t we detect it until now?” Armstrong asked, bypassing the command area and heading toward one of the science consoles.
“Our sensors have been going haywire,” Forrest noted. “But I’m not seeing any power signatures from whatever’s headed our way,” he added.
“That’s because it’s not a ship: it’s an organism.”