Jack was jolted violently awake when the transport shuttle he was on began rocking wildly. He was exhausted from the strenuous testing he'd been undergoing to gain admission to Starfleet Academy and had dozed off seconds after boarding the shuttle for the return trip to San Francisco. He managed to pull himself up into the aisle, holding on to the seat backs to steady himself as the shuttle lurched beneath him. One of the other passengers fell into the aisle in front of him and nearly knocked his feet out from under him. Alarms were going off, but there was no indication of where the problem was. He struggled to stay on his feet while making his way to the front of the transport. Finally he managed to get to the cockpit and he quickly realized what the trouble was--the navigation console had exploded. The pilot had taken the brunt of the explosion and was obviously dead, the co-pilot was unconscious but breathing; unfortunately, the auto-pilot wasn't engaging.
Wincing with sympathy, he shoved the pilot's body to the floor and slid into the seat to do a quick systems check. He wasn't much of a pilot, but he had a basic level of familiarity with flight systems. The pilot's console was completely unresponsive so he moved over to the co-pilot's chair, checking the co-pilot for any sign of consciousness before gently maneuvering him to the floor. The good news was that they still had engine power; the bad news was that he had no way to control the engines because the navigational systems were all shot. They were at full impulse and he had no way to steer them. Briefly he considered cutting the engines but decided to hold that plan in reserve since there was no guarantee that the engines would start back up again and at their current speed, the damage to any people or structures on the ground would be massive even assuming they survived the landing. Thrusters weren't responding, which meant he had no way to even slow down.
"Mayday, mayday," his voice sounded surprisingly calm to his own ears as he tried to send a distress signal. With no response, he checked the communications panel and found them completely unresponsive. Re-routing power didn't work which meant that some of the relays had probably been damaged in the initial explosion and he didn't have time to root around under the console to fix it. Transferring emergency power to the sensors gave him a picture of where he was--not that he could do anything about it at the moment. A low moan from the co-pilot reminded him of the others onboard.
"Damn," he muttered under his breath, accessing the transporter. This was just a basic transport shuttle with a rudimentary emergency transporter. The only way to lock in coordinates was with the sensors online, but the power keeping the sensors up was being re-routed from the emergency systems. Nobody was getting off this transport until it came to a complete stop.
He had only a couple of minutes before they'd reach San Francisco, but without communications there was no way to let them know there was a problem. They'd just fly right over the city and keep going until the engines ran out of power. What he needed was a way to control the landing, a large area with nobody around to get hurt since it would take at least a dozen kilometers for the transport to stop--probably more but it didn't seem necessary to do the exact math at that moment. Scanning the sensor display for a good crash site, his eyes were drawn to the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean.
"Perfect," he exclaimed; well, almost perfect except for the fact that their current trajectory would take them dangerously close to the Hawaiian Islands before they'd stop even in the water. Of course he could crash dive instead of attempting a horizontal landing, but they'd quickly reach depths dangerous or even fatal to the survivors onboard before help could arrive. All he had to do was nudge them a couple of degrees to the starboard side and he'd have an entire ocean to land on. Radar stations would pick up their crash landing and a ship would be dispatched to investigate, taking the survivors--assuming there were any--back to land. He'd only be a little late and he was sure that Starfleet would understand under the circumstances.
"Think, Jack, think," he intoned. The easiest way to alter their trajectory would be to depressurize the main compartment. They weren't high enough for oxygen to be an issue, so as long as nobody got sucked out, they'd be fine for a few moments. If he cut engines when he got to the Golden Gate Bridge, they should touch down just beyond the bay, but there was still the matter of adjusting their path. Another moan from the floor reminded him that the co-pilot wasn't strapped in; Jack leaned down, dragged the co-pilot to a sitting position and heaved him into the pilot's chair. He reached across the semi-conscious man to fasten him in and strapped himself in.
He activated the intercom to warn the others. "This is Jack Crusher, there's a problem onboard the transport. I'm going to try to land us out of harm's way, but you should strap yourselves in. It's probably not going to be a very smooth landing."
He ran a quick inventory of ship's systems, frantically looking for a way to maneuver the ship. Stabilizers were still operational so he shut them down, sending the ship into a roll. Turning them on and off, he eventually managed to stop the ship in an inverted position. With the door now on the port side, he depressurized the main compartment which forced the transport six degrees to the starboard. The sensors confirmed that the change was enough to avoid any land masses so he used the stabilizers to right the transport just in time to cut the engines. There was nothing more to do but wait.
Instinctively, he held his breath as he watched the Pacific Ocean looming closer and closer in the front viewport. Bracing himself for the impact, his eyes closed but opened in confusion a moment later when he didn't feel the shuttle hit the water. The grid lines of a holodeck greeted him along with the co-pilot, now standing and making notes on a PADD. "What . . . who . . . how?"
"I'm Commander Skinner, Mr. Crusher, we're on a holodeck at the Academy testing facility."
Jack looked around, still trying to make sense of the events of the past few moments. "This was a test?"
"Yes, the psychological test; based on the interviews and personality inventories you've filled out, we created a situation that would exploit your weaknesses to see how you'd react."
"Talk about literally crashing and burning," he muttered under his breath, adrenaline still racing through his body from the simulation.
Commander Skinner shook his head. "Quite the contrary, you stayed calm and didn't give up in spite of the obstacles and limitations of the situation; your actions were chosen to minimize damage and potential loss of life."
"Kobayashi Maru," Jack exclaimed, that program was legendary.
"You will face that simulation eventually," the commander replied. "But this is a civilian version designed specifically for you to test your psychological stability under pressure. Your greatest fear is that your best is not good enough, but you showed here that you give your best regardless of circumstances and, ultimately, that's all we can ask of any Starfleet officer. By the way, I do appreciate your taking the time to strap me in for the landing, very thoughtful of you."
Jack exhaled slowly, the shaking starting to pass. "Don't mention it."
"Starfleet Academy takes only the best and brightest of its applicants," the commander explained, "hence the testing we put all of you through. You aren't expected to know everything before you enter the Academy since knowledge can be taught. Similarly physical conditioning can be taught provided you have the ability to pass basic requirements. The one thing nobody can teach is heart, that you either have or you don't. Congratulations, Mr. Crusher and welcome to Starfleet Academy."