Dr. Pila tapped into the food cabinet and a food packet fell out. She ate it quickly. Molly Pila was a survivalist, and she went directly to the mylar space blanket and food after getting out of the cryobed. As she ate, she thought about her mission. It was simple enough, really: Find out if the planet she landed on was habitable, then go into cryosleep until (hopefully) rescued. She hoped, of course, that she might find life here. Being an exobiologist, it would be great to study. This was the chance of a lifetime. "Dr?" Said a voice to her left. She stared at her one and only companion on this trip: RODD. "Dr. Pila, when you are ready, we should set out and explore. We had a perfect landing; nothing is broken."
"Thanks, RODD," Molly said as she dusted herself off. She put on her space suit before equalizing the airlock and stepping out onto the new world. Three things stood out to her.
- There was a glowing disk of light surrounding a small black sphere on the horizon.
- There was a larger black sphere high in the sky, with only a couple wisps of red accretion disk around it.
- There was a lot of dust.
"RODD?" Pila asked.
"Yes, this is a very interesting planet. That black hole over there," RODD pointed to the small, bright one, "is called Gargantua. It's the main black hole. There are five planets in the system. Four of which are Lazarus ones," RODD gestured to a tiny blue dot next to Gargantua. "That's Miller's planet. You know her. Mann's planet is too far away to see right now. And Edmunds orbits that neutron star, Pantagruel, up there." Dr. Pila looked at the small, bright star in the sky. "We orbit an IMBH," finished RODD, "and the fifth planet is way too close to the accretion disk to be habitable."
Pila kicked up dust from the surface. Occasional boulders were strewn against the sand. Too much like home, she thought. Then again, the entire mission was to find a planet like Earth. RODD cycled toward her. The light from Gargantua was dim: twilight-like on Earth. But the accretion disk was hot, and when she checked the temperature, it read 41 F. "Hey, RODD?" She said.
"Yes, Dr. Pila?" RODD responded.
"When do you think I could mount a major expedition? And where are the probes? We'll need them if we want to know anything," Pila said. The rocky sand mixture around her didn't look habitable, but that's like saying Earth wasn't because you landed in the Antarctic. There could be white sandy beaches and rolling ocean waves out there, for all she knew.
"I would recommend setting out a couple days from now, just so we can do a full systems check and let them run for a little while. I have the probes," RODD said. Dr. Pila sighed. She was not one to wait around while exciting stuff might be happening somewhere else, but as a scientist, double, triple, and quadruple checks were necessary. Especially on a foreign planet where a burst in her spacesuit would kill her in minutes.
"Can I walk around a little?" She asked. Then, without waiting for RODD's response, she climbed over a large, black boulder. She was glad she did. It was blocking the view of a rather large dust storm. Way, way, way too much like home, Molly thought. "RODD? Should we be worried?" She gestured to the storm. As RODD came toward, he stared for several moments at the dust. Then he said:
"Get in the Landing Pod. Now." He said. Pila looked at him.
"That storm has 155 mph winds. The Landing Pod is built to withstand 95 mph. Understand my worry here?" RODD exclaimed.
"Maybe it will dissipate," Dr. Pila said hopefully. "It looks pretty far away."
"At the speed it's going now, it's going to take it 17 minutes to get to us," RODD said frantically, "GET IN THE POD!" This time, Molly Pila obeyed.
They huddled in the Pod, the lights flickering. Molly had her suit on, just in case the Pod depressurized due to a breach. The winds outside were clocking 119 mph, and they weren't even close to the center of the cyclone. Both Pila and RODD listened to the rat-a-tat-tat of the sand constantly assaulting the poor Lander. "Electricity is at 45% efficiency," RODD radioed. "We need to cut back on something."
"We don't need to use the Cryopod right now," Pila said back, "Shut that off and turn on the emergency generators."
"If this goes on, we will run out of power in two hours," RODD explained. "Can I turn off most of the lights?"
"Sure. Do whatever you want," Pila brushed off the subject.
"I can also-" Suddenly there was a explosion. The far side of the Landing Pod burst explosively. A wall of sand swooped in from above and hit Dr. Pila like it was made of bricks. The last thing she saw was RODD being swept out in pieces of the Pod.
Dr. Molly Pila awoke to the beeping in her suit. LOW OXYGEN, it toned. She coughed out some sand. The entire Lander was destroyed. The roof had been destroyed. And the walls, lights, and life support had been blasted with sand and strong winds. As she stared at the wreckage around her. The only thing that stayed intact was the Cryobed. "RODD?" She radioed. "RODD?" No answer. She tried again. "RODD? RODD? RODD?!?!?!" Still no answer. She looked around her. About a sixth of a mile away, she saw it: A pile of black metal that had been hit by a boulder. "NO!" She screamed, running towards it. But it was fruitless. The only thing she saw was the broken pieces of her only companion. She was all alone.