Author: Bill Cox

His finger hovers over the button. His hand is shaking. It’s not through indecision though, but rather appreciation of the enormity of what he’s about to do. This action marks a point from which there’s no going back. The waters of the Rubicon lap at his feet.

He knows, though, that he has elected to follow a greater good, a higher morality and so presses the button. Far above, explosions seal off the kilometre-long lift shaft, a sad end to an incredible feat of engineering. Shockwaves hammer downwards, arriving as a low rumble in the deepest level of the base that he now occupies.

Afterwards, he takes a walk down to the viewing area, its panoramic window looking out into the murky depths of the world-spanning subterranean ocean. He dims the lights and at first there’s little to see in the inky gloom. His eyes are gradually adapting to the dark when a shoal of Glowfish appear, their natural bioluminescence lighting up their surroundings. Soon, Pakards are visible, tentacles pulsing as they push themselves through the chill waters. Even a Plumhorse puts in an appearance, its fibrous limbs propelling an elongated mauve body slowly along the rocky shelf.

Such variety of life, all invisible from the exterior of this world. On the surface, Uranus hangs large in the sky, a pale blue giant of a world, a magnificent sight to be sure. It’s here though, below the ice of its frozen moon Miranda, that the real treasure is to be found – life itself!

His pad beeps an alert and he checks his links to the cameras that still function on the surface part of the base. The relief crew are arriving, but they will find the upper portion of the base unliveable, after his comprehensive sabotage of the life support infrastructure. Without the resources of the base to call upon, they will have little choice but to leave this world and return to Earth.

He knows that they will condemn his actions. However, sealed in, a kilometre below ground, he is unlikely to have to answer for them. He has enough rations to last decades, if he’s careful. It’s just him now, alone on a base with the resources for the original crew of fifteen.

For him, the passing of the Humanity Primacy Act by the United Nations was the final straw. Initially, the discovery of complex biospheres on the worlds of the solar system – on the surface of Titan and in the subterranean oceans of Europa, Enceladus and his own Miranda – brought great joy and excitement, with pledges to protect these novel environments. Now, though, with Earth struggling to support fifteen billion food and energy hungry souls, a defeated pragmatism has overtaken humanity. Its quest for resources must take precedence over the needs of alien biospheres.

Strip mining began on Titan six months ago. The relief crew, landing above, had instructions to explore Miranda for deposits of uranium, rare earth metals and even fossil fuels. They would inevitably, he had decided, end up committing omnicide; the complete destruction of a living biosphere.

He, however, decided to put the needs of this unique biosphere first. It is a greater morality he follows, far above the grubbiness of mere survival. He sits at the glass window, at ease with his decision, watching the indigenous life weave its way to and fro. Even the decomposing bodies of the fourteen other base staff, bobbing gently under a nearby ice shelf, fail to disturb the sense of self-righteousness that keeps him warm, one kilometre beneath the ice of Miranda.