I know I’ve been a little less active over the last few weeks – it’s a combination of focusing on my novel, being busy with “life stuff”, and changing my treatment regime for my anxiety and depression that has kept me away from the blog. It has been rather tumultuous, to say the least.
Anyway, another month, another unsuccessful Furious Fiction piece. I like it though, and I hope you do too.
The criteria was:
Each story had to include a COUNTDOWN of some kind.
Each story had to include a character who SHARES A SECRET.
Each story had to include the word SERENDIPITY.
As Zahraa’s spacecraft rounded the icy Jovian moon, a gargantuan crescent appeared. Strips of white, orange, brown, and red crept into view, looming over Europa. For a moment Jupiter was framed on one side by the almost translucent blue of the planet-sized moon around which Zahraa’s ship, the UNRV Maria Mitchell sped in a low-orbit; and framed on the other by the abysmal void.
The combination really made Jupiter’s colours pop, and in her month orbiting Europa Zahraa had come to resent the gas giant for that. She was here for one thing and there Jupiter was, dressed to impress, clinging to the moon like a handbag chosen to show off a dress. Only Jupiter had been clutching Europa at its side for four and a half billion years.
Zahraa pushed off from the wall and moved towards the cockpit with the grace of someone who had spent the majority of her adult life in null-G.
“Maria, please check probe status,” Zahraa said, her tone soft and personal as if talking to an old friend.
“My pleasure, Zahraa,” responded the ship.
Data spooled down her screen. Most of it was technical information and as long as it was showing green, she needn’t worry about the minutiae. What was important was the number at the end: a countdown; the moment her probe would break through the kilometre-thick extra-terrestrial ice and reveal to her the secrets below.
“Maria, let me know when the probe is half and hour from breaking through. I’m taking a nap.”
“No problem,” said the ship, “and would you like to know if there are any errors?”
“Please don’t jinx this,” responded Zahraa, who continued after a short pause, “but yes, please do.”
For three and a half hours Zahraa drifted in and out of sleep, she worried to herself that she would find nothing, and even if there was anything intelligent or civilised below the ice, it would take a moment of absolute serendipity for her to have found it on her first expedition.
But in space, one expedition is all you get.
* * *
Zahraa woke with a start, an alarm blaring and the screen in front of her flashing red.
“Status,” she said, curtly.
As the information spooled out in front of her yet again, her stomach tightened. Red, across the board.
Except, no – it wasn’t.
The probe wasn’t digging anymore, that was true – according to the ship’s countdown there was still another hour of digging remaining.
But the probe still had power, it had a camera, and most importantly, it was transmitting.
“Visual feed,” she said, and Maria responded wordlessly, switching away from the technical data.
It took a moment for the camera to focus, but when it did Zahraa could make out a world that was both alien and very familiar: an upside-down world of constructed structures; of life and movement; of symmetry, intelligence, and contrived beauty.
A secret civilisation, hidden for millennia from the humanity, and hers alone to share.