Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer

The Herschel Scientific Outpost was located on the northernmost shore of the Lacus Ocean at Titan’s South Pole. The outpost housed six earth scientists whose primary mission was to study the life forms discovered on Saturn’s largest moon. There were more than a thousand different species cataloged in the first six months of the expedition. At least one species, the Manti, were found to be intelligent. The creatures were named Manti because they vaguely resembled a large praying mantis. They were about three feet tall, with a proportionately stockier body than their terrestrial namesakes. Their exoskeletons were composed of complex hydrocarbons (plastic, in other words). They had a feudal society, similar to the medieval societies that prevailed in Europe in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Within several months of first contact, the scientists were able to develop a common language with the Mandi. The relationship between the two species was excellent. In fact, because of their apparently magical technology, the Earthmen were generally idolized.

“Ms. Krinshaw,” said specialist Philippe Thame, “there is an urgent message coming in from Cooper. He says he has a serious problem, and is requesting assistance.” Because of his rapport with the Mandi, Cooper Jones was considered the expedition’s ambassador to Titan. He spent more time outside the ship than any other crew member.

“Put it on the speaker, Philippe,” instructed the commander. “What’s the problem, Cooper?”

“Hello, Sarah. I’m in a bit of a pickle out here. You know the large village to the east, the one run by the Manti we call Lord Charl? Well, it seems that one of his children was carried off by a giant creature called a Nograd. The Manti are afraid of them, and asked if I could attempt a rescue. Apparently, the Nograd are capable of combining the methane and nitrogen in Titan’s atmosphere to form solid cyanogen and hydrogen gas. It then blows the gas out of its mouth. It’s an exothermic reaction, so the hydrogen gas it secretes is relatively hot. My inferred spectrometer shows the gas to be 500 degrees hotter that Titan’s -290F surface temperature. That’s hot enough to melt the Manti’s exoskeleton.”

“Understood, Cooper. We’ll send out reinforcements.”

“That’s not necessary, Sarah. Since my suit can handle 375F, I decided I could take care of it on my own. After all, Titian’s creatures are pretty frail by Earth standards. Anyway, I tried to chase it away from its prisoner by jumping up and down and waving my arms around. It wasn’t afraid of me at all, so I decided to chuck an ice-rock at it. Since Titan’s gravity is less than one seventh of Earth’s, I was able to throw a pretty big bolder. I ended up crushing it.”

“I don’t understand, Cooper. If you killed the Nograd, what’s your problem?”

“Well, Sarah, uh, it appears that the offspring I rescued was Lord Charl’s oldest daughter. They say that because I saved her life, I have to marry her. And if I don’t, they’ll consider it an insult of the highest degree, and therefore, an act of war.”

“Interesting,” she replied with an unconcealed smile. “I’ll consult with Earth Command, Cooper, but considering the potential consequences, I don’t think we’ll have many options. My guess is that you’re about to become a Prince.”

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