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"Odds and Mathematical Probabilities Are not Always Right"
(Previous Post: "Trying to Keep It Straight")
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Who?

Only three people knew of the special safeguard that had been put into place for this mission, a way to insure that everything could be brought to a safe conclusion at a moment's notice. To have everyone be aware of this would have tainted the final results and very possibly made certain people act in a different way when faced with insurmountable adversity.

Why?

The moon of PI ALPHA III had been far from a nice place visit, even if only for a short time.  A thousands things could go wrong, each possibly having  fatal results for one or all of the members of the team. It had made no sense to not have something like this in place given the particular level of variable dangers that this mission dealt with.

What?

The USS ANUBIS had been designed to be a state-of-the-art Intel vessel possessing an astonishing range of systems and tools meant to help accomplish all sorts of perilous missions.  Among these were some of the most powerful and accurate sensors and transporters ever created by Starfleet, and these were currently tracking the team's every movements and actions.

Where?

From the Bridge of the USS ANUBIS the Avatar stood perfectly motionless, her split second reflexes ready to intervene should any of the sensor readouts indicate a need to do so. For ANI it required nothing more than a decision brought on by a logical conclusion of inevitable mathematical probabilities.

When?

Once before, when the VIPER piloted by the Captain Morningstar had become disabled, had the safeguard nearly been triggered. Now, as the entire away team faced a possible catastrophic crash had the safeguard been brought again to full readiness.

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Setting: USS ANUBIS, Deck 1, Bridge
Stardate: 30148.0830

A Vulcan-like expression had engraved itself on the features of the Avatar, her eyes seeing far more than the visual display on the main view screen of the SPHINX and VIPERs as they frantically descended towards the moon of PI ALPHA III. The multitude of parameters and data gathered by the sensors were being reviewed, analysed and evaluated each and every second allowing for ANI to be ready to make a single important decision.

An emotional being would have likely triggered the safeguards long ago, especially after what had transpired with VIPER 1, but the Avatar had been given very specific and detailed instructions which had given her an extremely rigid set of parameters to be met before she would be permitted to act.

This mission had been meant to be a test of equipment, a test of skills, a test of resourcefulness as well as a test of character for everyone involved.  Such test could only be properly administered when people were pushed to well beyond their training and limits.

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Setting: SPHINX, Command Deck
Stardate: 30148.0835

Only 4000 meters now separated the SPHINX from the surface of the moon, and at a rate of descent of approximately 55 meters per second, the Mobile Command Unit and everyone on board would crash in less than two minutes.  The Acting First Officer had run the calculations many times in her head and although she knew of the Avatar and her orders, the situation had still managed to instill a fair amount of fear in the Shillian.

A rapid glance at her personal console allowed the woman in charge to see the four sets of numbers that had come to perfectly summarize the extent of their predicament.

Altitude: 3945 meters
Downward speed: 55 meters per second or roughly 198 kilometers per hour
Angle of descent: negative 34 degrees from planetary horizon.
Time to surface: 71 seconds

"Forward shields have been modulated to maximize atmospheric drag and set on a rapid alternating pulse," Lieutenant Paquette announced.

"VIPERs 2 and 3 are on their way back," Ensign Shar'El added. "This is going to be close."

"Activating shields and transferring all non-essential power to forward control thrusters and structural integrity field. Things are going to get rough when those VIPERs take a hold of us again," the Chief Engineer continued with, her composure and self control having truly been exemplary.

Altitude: 3783 meters
Downward speed: 54 meters per second or roughly 194 kilometers per hour
Angle of descent: negative 34 degrees from planetary horizon.
Time to surface: 69 seconds

Although the changes in the displayed numbers, aside from altitude, had been negligible, they had indicated that their efforts had been working as intended. The problem now had been time, or more to the point the lack thereof.

The SPHINX shook violently as the VIPERs locked on with their confinement beams and pushed their engines to help reduce the rate of descent.  The Shillian woman knew that the straps on her shoulders had caused several bruises from the shock, but there had been no time to comment on this to the Physician sitting to her left.

Altitude: 3512 meters
Downward speed: 52 meters per second or roughly 187 kilometers per hour
Angle of descent: negative 33 degrees from planetary horizon.
Time to surface: 67 seconds

A deep vibration resonated throughout the SPHINX as a result of the stress the structure had been put under by the gravity of the moon pulling them down and the VIPERs doing their best to counter this.

For a brief moment the lights inside of the Mobile Command Unit flickered prompting the Chief Engineering Officer to report on what had happened. "The power cores are exceeding safety parameters, they will go critical in just over a minute if we keep this up."

"Great, so either we crash or we blow up," Doctor Doyanne sighed in desperation. "Maybe we should have tried to infiltrate the Romulan Star Empire, at least it would have been safer."

Altitude: 3252 meters
Downward speed: 51 meters per second or roughly 184 kilometers per hour
Angle of descent: negative 32 degrees from planetary horizon.
Time to surface: 64 seconds
Power core overload in: 64 seconds

"Is there anything we can cut from the power grid?" Lieutenant Dalziel asked not having come up with anything herself to help reduce the demand on the power cores of the SPHINX.

"We need full thrusters until our speed gets to at least 40 meters per second," Sonja explained. "Forward shields have to stay operational until our angle of descent comes back to at least 15 degrees and as long as the VIPERs are pushing us back, we need every bit of energy into the structural integrity field or we risk arriving on the surface in a whole lot of separate pieces.  Like a bad cosmic game of 52 pick-up bits."

"We need to either regain control of the SPHINX or gain more time," the Shillian Acting First Officer voiced as she debated on her next course of action.  "Cut power to life support, hopefully that will give us a few more seconds."

"Take a deep breath people," the Chief Engineering Officer stated as she complied with the latest order.  "Time to turn blue," Sonja added although she knew that the air contained inside the SPHINX would be more than sufficient to last until they crashed or blew up.

Altitude: 3000 meters
Downward speed: 49 meters per second or roughly 176 kilometers per hour
Angle of descent: negative 30 degrees from planetary horizon.
Time to surface: 61 seconds
Power core overload in: 60 seconds

So many variables had been at play, some helping the situation while others made matters only worse with each second.  The drop in altitude had been slowed, but this meant that the power cores would go critical before they would reach the surface.  If they tried to compensate this by letting the Mobile Command Unit rush downward, they would be arriving far too fast to be able to manage any sort of controlled landing.

Memories of her Academy training and the infamous Kobayashi Maru no-win scenario came to mind, but in this particular case there had been one way to technically win, and that had been to use the emergency safeguards that had been in placed on the USS ANUBIS.

Altitude: 2706 meters
Downward speed: 47 meters per second or roughly 169 kilometers per hour
Angle of descent: negative 28 degrees from planetary horizon.
Time to surface: 58 seconds
Power core overload in: 55 seconds

Another violent shock rocked the SPHINX and its crew leaving everyone to wonder as to what had happened this time.

"Looks like we just lost some of the external holographic emitters," Ensign Shar'El reported from the station to the right of the Command chair.  "They never were designed to deal with the sort of stress we are in the middle of, but luckily it looks like our structural integrity is still intact."

"Why did I not think of this before," the Chief Engineer exclaimed in frustration.  "Basic physical engineering for starships able to enter an atmosphere. The heavier the ship is the more power is required to slow it down, one way to deal with that is to use a low intensity warp field to reduce the mass of the ship during the descent.  The SPHINX cannot create a warp field but we *can* reduce our own weight."

"Jettison all of the holographic emitters. SPHINX to VIPERs 2 and 3, watch out for flying debris," the Shillian announced.

=/\= Sure, we were getting bored out here anyway. =/\= Ensign Stark sarcastically said not having in any way been looking forward to having to deal with metallic plates flying off the SPHINX.

The loud sounds of plates being resealed from the hull of the SPHINX filled the craft, making it seem for a moment as if the ship had fallen under some sort of attack.

Altitude: 2256 meters
Downward speed: 44 meters per second or roughly 158 kilometers per hour
Angle of descent: negative 26 degrees from planetary horizon.
Time to surface: 51 seconds
Power core overload in: 45 seconds

"Unless anyone else has another bright idea, I think we are done and have nothing else to do but to wait to see what wins; the surface of the moon or the power core overload," Sonja said with a sigh having been fresh out of ideas at this point.

None of the officers offered anything else, everyone having silently agreed with the reality that their fate had been beyond their immediate control. They had done everything imaginable to help their situation, and now all that had been left had been to wait and see if it had all been enough.

Altitude: 1836 meters
Downward speed: 41 meters per second or roughly 148 kilometers per hour
Angle of descent: negative 22 degrees from planetary horizon.
Time to surface: 45 seconds
Power core overload in: 35 seconds

Although they still had been going too fast to insure a somewhat safe landing, the Acting First Officer made a decision which she hoped would increase their overall odds of making it to the surface in one piece. "Reduce power to the forward thrusters, we need to reduce the load on the power cores and give ourselves more time before they go critical.

"Forward thrusters now at 75 percent power," Lieutenant Dalziel announced, hope and concern mixed in her voice.

Altitude: 1631 meters
Downward speed: 41 meters per second or roughly 148 kilometers per hour
Angle of descent: negative 21 degrees from planetary horizon.
Time to surface: 40 seconds
Power core overload in: 30 seconds

"We still need to get our nose up to at least 15 degrees or we are going to create our own deep grave as we land," the Chief Engineer Officer pointed out, bringing their dilemma back in perspective. The situation had been far from being under control.

"Slow the pulse rate of the forward shield by 20 percent, this will increase our atmospheric drag and force our nose up," the Shillian ordered knowing all too well that doing so would also greatly reduced their ability to control their descent leaving the unenviable task to the already overworked VIPERs and their pilots.

Altitude: 1212 meters
Downward speed: 39 meters per second or roughly 140 kilometers per hour
Angle of descent: negative 18 degrees from planetary horizon.
Time to surface: 31 seconds
Power core overload in: 22 seconds

"Commander," the Counsellor spoke up after having had a few moments to analyse one last possible way to reduce their speed and bring the nose of the SPHINX to a more conducive angle of descent.  "If we throw all available energy into the forward shield and thrusters *then* eject the power cores, we should become light enough for the VIPERs to easily guide us down to the surface.  Of course at that point there would be no way for us to affect our speed in any way."

"Hmmm, A one kilometer-high controlled crash landing," the Chief Engineer grinned.  "Last time I checked the SPHINX did not have any air bags."

"We wait until the cores are just about to go critical, giving us as much control over flight and speed as possible before we go into free fall," Eve explained further.

"Okay," Sonja signed playfully.  "I now know why there is no life insurance for us." The Chief Engineering Officer paused as she prepared the power cores to give everything available before being ejected into the storm.  "Ready, be sure to be buckled in tightly and stand-by to assume the crash position."

Altitude: 642 meters
Downward speed: 36 meters per second or roughly 130 kilometers per hour
Angle of descent: negative 15 degrees from planetary horizon.
Time to surface: 18 seconds
Power core overload in: 7 seconds

"Full power transfer to the forward shields and thrusters in 5... 4... 3... 2...1... NOW!"

All lights went out on board the SPHINX moments before the ship was pushed back and its nose thrown several degrees past the planetary horizon.  A few seconds later two large explosions were heard coming from behind the falling craft showing just how close they had been from meeting a most unpleasant and untimely end. Because of the new angle of the Mobile Command Unit, no one on board could see just how far the surface had been and without instruments there had been no way to know how long they had before crashing.

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Setting: USS ANUBIS, Deck 1, Bridge
Stardate: 30148.0838

The Avatar unemotionally analysed the data gathered by the sensors of the ANUBIS.

Altitude: 324 meters
Downward speed: 32 meters per second or roughly 115 kilometers per hour
Angle of descent: positive 6 degrees from planetary horizon.
Time to surface impact: 10 seconds

Probability of all members of the away team on board the SPHINX surviving the crash landing: 72.46 percent.

Being mechanical in nature, ANI could not feel emotions, yet the Avatar did experience a semblance of hope as she allowed for the crash to happen, the parameters having been given to her by Captain Morningstar had been set to engage should the percentage only drop below 70 percent.

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Jessica Solarik

Lieutenant Commander Maya
Chief Science Officer
USS ANUBIS

"To see the world in a grain of sand, and a heaven in a wild flower.
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, and eternity in an hour."
- William Blake (British, 1757-1827)