449 58 612

[Starship Scarborough, Transmission 1]

This is Shawn Heart, reporting on behalf of the crew of the Starship Scarborough. We have successfully landed on the surface of Alpha Centauri Ace. The landing was smooth at two minutes-three seconds north, thirty seconds west of the identified destination point. No damage was sustained. All systems functioning properly.

Nineteen crew members awoke from stasis with mild symptoms of nausea and headaches. One icing pod failed, presumably early in the flight. The exact cause of death of crew member Carl Thompson cannot be determined from the remains.

Atmospheric pressure is 1,020 millibars. Oxygen reading at 21.1 percent and Nitrogen is at 77.9 percent with the other trace percentages coming from primarily methane and carbon dioxide. Temperature is ten degrees Celsius with a humidity of thirteen percent. Gravity is at 0.96g's.

The ground appears barren. No signs of life, plant or animal. Soil color is pinkish brown and textured with small rock formations. We observed what appeared to be small oceans on the surface during our approach.

Along with this transmission, we have included photos from our approach, descent, and the view from Starship Scarborough's pilothouse.

We are about to embark on our first walk on the surface. Expect our next transmission soon.

[End Transmission 1]

I'm the last one off the starship, but the dust we kicked up when we landed still hasn't settled. It swirls around the stairs in a brownish-pink cloud, obscuring the surface of Ace Centauri til it's all but gone. I grip the handrails with both hands as I feel my way down. The idea that I'll step off these stairs and fall into nothing claws at the back of my mind, but I push the irrational fear away.

Through the dust, a hand reaches out to me, and a young man's face comes into view. Even partially obscured by his helmet, it's impossible to miss the smile plastered across his features. I recognize him from orientation day—the only day of training where we were allowed to interact with our soon-to-be crew mates—but for the life of me I can't remember his name. I've never been good with names.

For a second, I consider taking the offer for help, but then I think better. I don't want to indulge his need to feel chivalrous, or worse yet, get trapped in a conversation with him.

Instead, I pretend I don't see him and leap off the last step. Dirt crunches under my feet as I land, making me the nineteenth human on this alien world—the nineteenth human to ever step foot outside of our solar system.

The helmet I'm wearing protects me from the dust, but it doesn't do anything to improve visibility. I wave my hand in front of my face, trying to clear it as I pace away from the ship and out of the hazy cloud. By the time I've gone a few dozen yards, the dust has cleared enough to allow me to finally take in the planet from the ground rather than above.

Bands of deep garnet-red and coral-pink mottle the rough surface like marble. The landscape is almost completely flat—desert like. A few small mounds of rock and stone texture it, casting their long shadows across the ground. In the distance where the color fades to grey, rolling hills and dunes rise above the land.

Alpha Centauri A Star hangs low in the sky, shining like a yellow eye as it crawls toward the horizon. Its sister star Alpha Centauri B was visible on our decent, but it has already set. The sky glows orange at the cusp of the planet's surface, fading into a bright cerulean overhead. Starset will go on for a while here. The days are thirty-two hours long.

Down UnderWhere stories live. Discover now