Beneath the Chaos Terrain

Author: Hari Navarro, Staff Writer

Europa Nov. 22, 2122 [GMT] 5400 mSv

The submersible hovers in the heavy sodium sea 99.8 km below the Europan crust. Steadying it snaps to grid-coordinate: K-V-6-2.

“Damn. You sunk my battleship”, quips 2nd Lt. Percy Newberry in a joke he has told many times over. One that is yet to receive so much as a resided chuckle.

Expertly he maneuvers the craft, landing it astride this perfect trench. The leading-line they have followed now to this the chisel-point of its end.

“Looking good Canary One. Sub-surface achieved”, chimes in the command ship. Nestled high above among chaotic jutting spires and tectonically contorted sheets it waits and weights upon the radiation chewed ice.

Carter breathes deep as his suit is tethered and the umbilical communication and life support indicators are checked and checked again.

“It’s like you planned this. What flavor of darkness did you invoke to have the trench too narrow for the ship but just wide enough for an under-skilled boy-man contractor such as yourself to be lowered into?”

“I know the bosses daughter”

“You’ll not be the same after this. You’re the new Armstrong. The first man to actually step foot on Europa”, whispers 1st Lieutenant Herbert as she checks the seal of his visor.

“I can do without the hassle, Evelyn. Think I’ll just come straight out with a statement that we faked the whole thing”, he grins and he feels the warm flood of anticipation ooze into the pores of his face.

Slapping the side of his helmet she gives the thumbs up and there is a gentle hiss as he is hoisted and readied to be lowered into the dive-bay that now opens beneath his feet. The Lieutenant squeezes the com-link at her lapel.

“Think of something iconic to say. Command has changed plans. We broadcast live. No pressure”

Carter descends into this place that he’d never been but where his imagination had lived and bred since as a child he’d rubbed his finger across a tiniest slither of rock. A fragment from the edge of another sea. Serenity. Now so perfect a word.

The darkness clings like thick memories and he looks up and sees the flicker of the submersibles navigation lights and he is home.

Lost in his youth high on the iron roof of his grandfather’s garage. The weather-vane, a smiling steel whale gently it squeaks and the undulating iron at his back is still warm from the now long spent sun and his eyes they fix to the stars.

He barely notices as his feet touch down and his suit automatically calculates and redistributes its weight and suddenly the murk throbs and it pulses.

“We have visual. Confirm receive. Glare detected. Light source. Confirm”

But Carter is silent and the light it plays, filling the HUD that streams the curve of his visor with a hue that envelopes and pulls at his cells, dragging him into the glow.

Such a strange light this is that clings within the strafes of the warm tidal flex that undulate the walls of the trench. Things that aren’t there appear. Great robed beings all in a line. Heads hung, they beckon and bow.

“… confirm receive”

His feet feel light as they drag silently through this gauntlet of ancient ice and toward the increasingly narrowing fissure at its end.

“Confirm receive. Confirm?”

Nothing.

“LRV Carnarvon. LRV Carnarvon. We’ve lost contact with Carter. Rad levels normal. HR spiking… ”

“Carter. Carter. This is LRV Carnarvon. Respond. Carter!”

“I’m OK”

“Can you see anything?”

“Yes, wonderful things!”

“Please repeat… [Redacted// Carnarvon Corp.]

6 Comments

  1. 82daisy

    Ooooh creepy! I don’t want him to go forward, yet I really really want him to so I know what he can see, and what the robed beings are!

    • Hari Navarro

      I wasn’t happy with this one. I think I tried too hard to incorporate all the Howard Carter stuff and it ended up sounding forced and derivative. But thank you.

  2. xdhz8

    Atmospheric and eery. I wonder if the “robed beings” will turn out to be as wonderful as Carter thinks?

    • Hari Navarro

      Much appreciated, David. But I think that in this incarnation poor old Carter will discover that all that glitters is not gold. 🙁

  3. andreavolpe34

    Loving the science fiction history hybrid you have going here. Nice work.

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