Petty Officer Chell Brohm's Chell-Tastic Historical Holodeck Adventure


Deck 42, Epsilon Shift

Two control zone changes, one checkpoint and three traffic checks into her simulated historical flight, and Chell starts musing about the times when this was the fastest way to travel. In even the most basic of shuttlecraft she could have completely circumnavigated the simulation of Boliax below her by now. Still, she finds a certain charm to the small, propellor-driven winged aircraft of yesteryear like the this one. Even if she's already been flying for over an hour.

Scanning over her instrument panel, something catches her eye. Neither the left nor right fuel gauge has moved since she checked them before the takeoff. She didn’t program any malfunctions for this flight. “Computer, why hasn’t the fuel gauge moved?”

“Fuel consumption is disabled at the current realism setting.”

What! That’s silly. Way to break my immersion. “Computer, retroactively raise the realism setting to maximum.”

The computer chimes its acknowledgement, “Adjusting program to reflect new realism setting. Applying retroactive fuel consumption.”

Immediately, the right and left fuel gauges drop to zero and the engine starts sputtering. Chell’s eyes widen in surprise, “Computer-” she starts to ask for a correction, but stops herself. Pilots that flew these machines had to deal with problems like this in real life. Surely she, a pilot who handles modern spacecraft, can deal with this problem in a holodeck. Yeah!

She sets the ignition to off so that the propellor stops windmilling uselessly and recalls what she read on the emergency checklist. The first step in dealing with any engine failure is to set for the best gliding speed, to preserve as much altitude as you can. She gently pulls back on the control yoke to stop the nose from dipping, watching the airspeed indicator slowly tick down.

But what was the best glide speed for this thing? 80 knots? Or was it 70? 60 has to be too low…

She decides 75 is probably close enough, and releases her grip on the yoke to let the nose sink so that the plane holds approximately the right speed. Next step, find a spot to land. She looks out the glass canopy curved over her. Oh, right. The ocean. The Rabor Archipelago seemed like such a nice place to go flying. There’s a spit of land to the north, but it’s definitely out of gliding range. She turns towards it anyway while she decides what to do.

Landing the smooth hull of a shuttle on water is relatively easy. But the airplane she’s in right now has three wheels sticking out the bottom of it that can’t be retracted, which means a water landing would probably suck even if she was familiar with how to execute it. But what other choice is there?

“Computer, remove the landing gear.”

“This feature is disabled at the current realism setting. Would you like to return to the previous realism setting?”

Hmmmph. “No, cancel request.”

Then she remembers something she packed. The johnny can! Or jerry can? Jimmy? She’s not sure what it’s called, but there’s a plastic jug located behind her seat containing about a gallon of extra fuel. The fuel tank cap on the left wing looks like it might be within reach of the cockpit. Chell is absolutely certain there’s no procedure for manual in-flight refueling, because it’s an absurd idea. But that’s what holodecks are for. The altimeter reads a little under 5000 feet and descending. I can do this!

She trims the aircraft’s pitch to hold the glide and lets go of the yoke, reaching behind her in the cramped cockpit. Her hand slaps around at nothing until she finds the jug, and pulls it out from behind her seat. When she looks back out the canopy she finds the plane has drifted into a descending turn, which she quickly corrects with a twist of the yoke and some pressure on the left pedal at her foot.

The tricky part will of course be reaching out and pouring the contents of the jug into the fuel tank. She straps on the goggles she replicated for her Amelia Earheart costume and puts a hand on the retractable canopy’s handle. 3000 feet now.

She unlocks the canopy and yanks the handle to slide back. A loud blast of air fills the cockpit, and she feels a rush of adrenaline even though it’s just a simulation. She reaches out against the battering wind and can stretch just far enough to unscrew the fuel tank cap. 2000 feet.

She fits the fuel jug with its nozzle, holds it up with both hands, then leans her upper torso out over the wing as she tries to keep the plane level with her feet on the rudder pedals- or her toes, anyway. She wishes her legs were a little longer. It’s an awkward balancing act, but eventually the nozzle fits into the opened tank and starts pouring the fuel in. Success! A few more moments and the jug is emptied. Hastily she tosses the container to the empty seat beside her and reaches out once more to screw the fuel cap back on the wing. All that’s left is to see if the engine starts. Barely over 500 feet of altitude remaining.

Fuel pump on.
Fuel mixture set.
Wow, that water looks really close.
Throttle set.
Master switch on.
Here we go!

The freed propellor starts spinning around as the engine tries to catch, and much to Chell’s surprise it actually does. Combustion engines, what a funny way to generate power! She pushes the throttle in all the way, slowly pulling back on the yoke to start a climb. There’s not a lot of fuel to run on, but it should be enough to get her to the land she aimed for earlier.

“Take that, realism setting!” she boasts at the computer. Or tries to, anyway. The wind is such that she can barely hear her own voice. Chell smirks to herself and tugs the canopy cover back over her head, making a mental note to review her pre-flight fuel calculations.


I imagined something like an old M-10 Cadet as Chell’s aircraft for this goofiness, which was inspired after I came across this video.