A mission to a new world sounded perfect to escape her past on Earth. Strapped into a crashing ship, she realized how wrong she’d been.

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“Mayday, mayday, mayday.”

Hovering by the colony’s Control Room door, Gary Holbrook kept his eyes glued to the overhead screen as Joan Taggart’s voice crackled over the radio.

“Right engine’s down, left’s responding sluggishly. Have to land. Over,” said Joan, sounding infinitely far away—and practically speaking, she was. Out beyond the dome of the colony on Thesan, she was piloting Shuttle 2 with a single passenger, Margo Murphy.

Even though the Control Room had multiple workstations, only one was occupied, by Lucas Ordaz. Acting Commander Craig Spares stood directly behind him. Above, the main monitor displayed Joan’s forward cockpit view of Thesan’s landscape.

The shuttle’s flat spin caused the towering spires of rocks to whirl sickeningly, making Gary’s stomach lurch. A moment later, Joan regained control and the shuttle stopped spinning, but it continued to lose altitude. The rough terrain got closer and closer. Craig leaned over Lucas to get a better look at the landscape.

Gary moved from the doorway and into the room towards the main video feed monitor. As one of two doctors in their colony, he felt outside his element, but was also unwilling to leave. He’d been walking past the open doorway when he’d heard the voice of his wife, Margo, over the radio. That morning she’d been all decked out in her atmo suit, but he hadn’t taken the time to ask where she was going.

“There.” Craig pointed to a piece of landscape that, to Gary, looked no different from the rest of the dangerously craggy terrain. Craig picked up the microphone and pressed the transmit button. “Shuttle 2, there’s a flatter region at your 2 o’clock, aim for that. Over.”

“Margo, get your helmet on,” Joan ordered, unaware she was transmitting. “Control, say again about landing site. Over.”

“Your 2 o’clock.”

“They don’t have helmets on,” whispered Gary, his eyes fixed on the screen displaying the shuttle’s forward view. All sensors showed Thesan’s atmosphere lacked oxygen. If the shuttle’s hull was compromised, their atmo suits, with the helmets securely on, were all that would keep the two people on the shuttle alive.

“Dr. Holbrook, get ready to receive casualties,” said Craig, without looking away from the monitor.

Is Craig being delusional? Joan and Margo were kilometres away from the colony and their only other shuttle lay trapped beneath a mangled hangar door. A rescue operation was impossible. Gary didn’t move.

The shuttle’s flight pattern grew more erratic, creating the illusion that the pillars of rocks were grabbing at the shuttle with Lovecraftian tentacles. Watching made Gary feel sick to his stomach, but he couldn’t turn away.

A single rock tower loomed in the display. For a split second, the monolith of pock-marked grey consumed the view. Then the display went black and Joan’s life signs from her biotracker winked out. Joan was dead. Gary tensed, expecting Margo’s biotracker monitor to stop transmitting as well, but it remained on.

“Get me visuals,” demanded Craig. Lucas looked down to the secondary screen in front of him and began searching the video feeds. “Margo, can you hear me?” transmitted Craig.
“Her life signs are still strong,” said Gary, his eyes fixed on the line indicating Margo’s rapidly beating heart.

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