Fandom: N/A (Original)
Warnings: mentions of injury and death but nothing in detail at all
. Proxima Sol 2210 .
indentThe copper colored disc of Proxima Centauri hangs low in the sky, its naturally dim light becoming dimmer by the minute as it dips further towards the horizon. I remove my tablet from its pouch on my thigh and check it, the screen’s artificial light almost blinding. No new messages. It’s increasingly worrying that I haven’t heard anything from Chandra yet today. Mission Control has been ominously quiet as well.
indentPutting the tablet back in the pouch, I try to distract myself by checking my work for the day. Another few feet up the side of the crater wall is visible now, the pervasive teal dust of the world having been brushed away as I examined the strata beneath. Granted, the strata is all varying shades of the blues and greens that make up the rest of the planet but at least there’s more to tell in the ancient layers of rock than any of the loose sand.
indentI smack some of the teal dust off my gloves, gather my tools back into my backpack, and carefully climb back down the four meters or so to the crater floor, ever thankful for the old landslide material that allows me safe access this high up the wall to begin with. It’s quick work for me to reach the soft teal sands of the crater’s ground after weeks of exploring there. Before I set off for the night, I glance back at the wall. I’ve made it about halfway up the steep side now. There’s a trail of progressively cleaner rock leading to where I was today. A small gust blows a bit of sand past me, a reminder that the rock layers will be covered in dust again soon enough.
indentI think about Chandra as I cross my well-traveled path over the miniature dunes of the crater’s interior. She sounded fine on our evening call yesterday, and it wasn’t unheard of for either of us to miss a call or two. Communication errors, one of us falling asleep before calling the other, forgetting we hadn’t called yet, other simple mistakes, we’ve been through them all in the past six years. It’s only one call. Yet it nags at me with her condition always in the back of my mind.
indentI reach the small outcrop that’s become my usual set up spot in the past few weeks and take the inflatable tent out of my bag. Once it’s placed and engaged it only takes a few minutes to fully inflate. The minutes painfully drag on though, as I closely watch it inflating to keep my mind from drifting. Every few seconds I have the urge to check my tablet again.
indentThe second the tent is fully inflated, I step inside and put my bag, boots, and work gloves in one corner before taking off my helmet and outer suit layer in another. Not that it matters. A thin layer of dust covers everything I own regardless of the measures I take to try and keep things separate and clean. Chandra’s called it “the Proxima plague” before. I managed to keep my sense of wonder about everything on Proxima Centauri b for a while. Sometimes something will still strike me as incredible on a good day. But Chandra quickly became jaded. She’s always been like that, and two almost mission ending injuries haven’t helped. I remember a few hundred Sols ago when she called me after her mission status had been permanently changed to stationary because of her disabling foot injury. The memory makes my nerves worse. During that accident was also the last time she missed a call with me. Just like then, the lack of communication from Mission Control is both reassuring and concerning. It means they have nothing to tell me, but that might be because they haven’t heard anything themselves.
indentThinking of Mission Control reminds me that I should finish up my data log for the Sol. With my water bottle from my bag and my tablet out of its pouch, I sit on my inflatable bed and start working on the log. Typing up the geological jargon equivalent of “unfortunately it’s the same old lifeless, waterless, copper mineral based rock types I’ve been looking at for weeks” does manage to distract me. As soon as I hit confirm though, my thoughts race back to fretting over Chandra. Maybe she’s gotten injured again. Maybe she somehow lost or destroyed her tablet. Maybe something worse.
indentIt strikes me that I should eat my evening rations, but I’m not hungry. Instead I lay down, trying to picture all the dimly lit, green and blue desert landscapes I’ve seen on Proxima Centauri b to keep myself calm.
~~~ indentMy tablet buzzes against my side, waking me when I didn’t even realize I had fallen asleep. Groggily, I reach for it, squinting against the screen’s light to see a message on the screen. I have to reread it three times through my sleep-blurred vision before it’s coherent.
No contact with PCb Ex-A in one Sol.
indentI rub my eyes and read it again, making sure I’m not imagining the message. I’m not. My pulse spikes. Chandra would’ve told me “panicking makes things worse” like she always has, but the thought isn’t comforting. My mind goes into a loop of all the worries I had before but more intense. They all have a higher chance of being real now.
indentIt takes longer than it should for me to even slightly settle down. By then it’s time to start the Sol anyway. I’m half thankful for the distraction and half spiteful for the fact that all I can do is keep myself distracted. There’s nothing Mission Control can do from light years away except keep trying to contact her. And there’s nothing I can do but get up, put my dusty outerwear on, and hope my worrying is unfounded.
~~~~~~ indentMy tablet buzzes, jolting me awake. I take a second to get my bearings before reaching for it along the side of the bed. It’s a long message from Mission Control.
Proxima Sol 2628
Contact with Chandra Estelle, designation Proxima Centauri b Explorer-A (PCb Ex-A), has now been lost for 418 Sols. All attempts across all methods to reestablish contact in this time frame have been unsuccessful. Current manager of the two Proxima Centauri b explorer missions Isaiah Gladwin has declared mission end. Communication channels will remain open on Proxima Centauri b’s A side in case of outgoing communications. However, active attempts to reestablish contact with ingoing communication methods will be discontinued. Explorer-A’s mission is a success.
indentI sit up, covering my face with my shaking hands. It’s been over an Earth year since that last call I got from her. I knew it wasn’t likely they’d reestablish contact, but I never stopped thinking there was a possibility. My mind starts going through a million questions. What happened? Was it quick? Was it painless? Did she know it was happening? We were never naive, we were given an extensive list of ways we could die here, trillions of miles from Earth and any help. I want to get up and throw my suit on, somehow run to the other side of the planet to check on her myself. A part of me hopes I’d find her alive with some silly excuse for why she hasn’t talked to anyone in over 400 Sols. But all I can think of is finding her enshrouded in dust carried from across the countless barren teal plains. Maybe the planet has already given her a burial.