Author : J. S. Kachelries
Captainâ€™s Log, Day 523: This is the 38th Earth day since we landed on Europa. At 0900 hours this morning, our exploration team discovered extraterrestrial life! They named them â€œEuropea Hortenisâ€ (Nightcrawlers of Europa), because they resemble big, fat worms. They are about six inches long, and one inch in diameter. They have a huge mouth at one end that contains about 100 razor sharp, articulating teeth. Our Xenobiologists would have been thrilled just to find bacteria-type life in Europaâ€™s subterranean ocean. Imagine their elation to discover complex, multi-cellular life just a few inches below the surface. In addition, theyâ€™re easy to capture. You just pick them up by the tail. They arenâ€™t flexible enough to turn around and bite you.
Captainâ€™s Log, Day 526: Today we brought some of the worms inside the ship. They died almost instantly, or so we thought. When we examined one of them using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), it came back to life. Our biophysics team determined that their â€œspineâ€ was made from an aluminum-copper-iron alloy that produces electrical energy as Europa orbits through Jupiterâ€™s variable magnetic field (magnesynthesis, so to speak). The worms use magnetic fields for energy like Earth plants use sunlight. Since the interior of our ship is heavily shielded, the worms became dormant inside. When we took them back outside, they were their nasty ice-crunching selves again. Their teeth were made of Cubic-Boron-Nitride. On Earth, thatâ€™s a super-hard ceramic use to grind carburized steel. Apparently, that mouth was used to scour the ice for metals and minerals, presumably so they could grow.
Captainâ€™s Log, Day 555: Today I had to post guards full time around the ship. Thousands of worms have begun to overrun our base. Apparently, they think our ship is a 24 hour buffet. We bent four screw drivers trying to pry their teeth off the aluminum landing struts.
Captainâ€™s Log, Day 576: We thought we had the worm situation under control, until the external lab station collapsed. The damn worms had tunneled into the structure from underneath, like termites. I worry that they have eaten their way up through the shipâ€™s landing module, and got into the return module? I have no way to check. Therefore, I decided to abandon the mission three months early, and orbit Jupiter until Earth is in the right position for our return trip.
Captainâ€™s Log, Day 577: We achieved orbit just beyond Callisto. I sent an EVA team to examine the underside of the module to make sure there were no holes. Everything checked out. Lookâ€™s like we made it.
Captainâ€™s Log, Day 714: Our situation is perilous. Iâ€™ve ordered an immediate return to Earth. Weâ€™ll have to adjust our trajectory in-route. We have to get away from Jupiterâ€™s magnetic field as quickly as possible. The video monitors show that the worms are in the unshielded airlock and storage bays. They ate so many holes in the outer hatch that we canâ€™t pressurize the airlock. We have no way to get at them, since our EVA suits are in a compromised storage bay. Weâ€™re trapped!
Captainâ€™s Log, Day 718: Weâ€™re not going to make it. Theyâ€™ve began to penetrate the interior hull. They eat through the meteoroid patches seconds after we plug the holes. At least we discovered what our mistake was. It was the ice samples in the storage bay. We had checked the samples for worms, but not for their eggs.
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows
365 Tomorrows Merchandise: The 365 Tomorrows Store
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow