Outward bound

Tyce, further entry:

So here we are at our stop off point on Ganymede! This is a a short break before we continue our journey into the darkness.

The largest moon in the solar system was the first place beyond the inner solar system that was terraformed. As our shuttle arrived Cath and I could see the new atmosphere, a glowing envelope of gases. There are these great sodium coated mirrors in the moon's orbit that direct the sun's rays towards the cities and farms, where they are needed the most. As the shuttle swooped down onto the surface, we could see a network of lakes and patches of blue green vegetation spread out around them. And there were the gleaming cities set out below us! Those tall, sweeping structures really take advantage of Ganymede's low gravity.

It was a relief to get the position as Cath's assistant. I don't have the relevant experience to join the Space Corp division designated for the outer planets, but it turns out that a possible career path is finding a division member who is willing to mentor you.

It was enlightening to see a museum in the capital city that tells of the time when Ganymede was still being terraformed. The settlers once lived under crystal domes - places with their own self contained ecosystems and atmospheres, sheltered from the airless wilderness and the harsh radiation that Jupiter rained down.

Early on they tried to set machines called fusion crawlers to start the terraforming. These great, self-replicating metal crawlers scraped the ice and rock off Ganymede's surface, but the ammonia and methane mists that arose were deadly to terrestrials - so the obvious solution was to change the atmosphere as it was made and that is why they designed the GEBs.

Cath and I entered the hall of extinct GEBs at the base of the museum. The pale rays of the sun shone through the high crystal panes. Although the sun was at its strongest point in the Ganymede day, its light was still wan compared to terrestrial sunlight. Here, the sun is merely a hot, bright dot in the sky.

We saw one of the first species of GEB, a grazer, preserved in a case of everlasting crystal. It was a flat, yellowish thing with lots of stubby legs.

"And these were what first gobbled icy rock and belched oxygen rich gases," said Cath, "and here is a little GEB preserved here for all eternity. Well you did your bit, fellow."

The whole story of the early terraforming on Jupiter's moons is weird. I caught sight of another preserved specimen, an ugly, vicious looking thing, like a huge scarlet crab, taller than a man. I remembered the part of Ganymede's history which Hrarna always liked to talk about.

"The proton sleet caused unexpected mutations so they first had the bright idea to make those hunters to gobble up the grazers that mutated," I said, pointing at the crab in its crystal casing. "And to think they really couldn't see that the hunters might decide to hunt the colonists. But then it became a recreation for some human colonists to go and hunt the horrible crabs in return. Hrarna said that the colonists needed to be able to hunt to vent their pent up frustration. She was always so sure that it is an atavistic compulsion which everyone has."

A fine word, atavistic. Hrarna's eyes always used to light up when she spoke of these things and it would put her in the mood for sex.

Cath wrinkled her freckled nose. "I daresay that is true for some people, but only those people with so much aggressive energy," she said, brushing her fiery hair away from her face. She looked thoughtful. "The GEBs that terraform the dark worlds are scarier and more impressive than the dead hunters here. I suppose they have to be. Now it takes a whole special division of the Space Corp to fight those dark GEBs that go wrong. That's the elite division where recruits have to be modified. They've got a formidable job."

What I love about Cath is that I can talk about other women to her without her getting angry or jealous.

After target practice was over, we swam together in the impressive wavepark that was built to make the most of Ganymede's low gravity. Night had fallen, but the solar lamps were on full, shining with a crisp, even light. We were even lighter than we were on the Rosasphere and could bob about in the frothy waves like corks in our specially insulated skin suits. Io, Europa and Callisto swam in the sky above us, each with a halo of gauzy light due to Ganymede's atmosphere. The massive bulk of Jupiter is what dominates the sky here of course. It's the only thing in the Jovian system untouched by humankind.

"The pressure near Jupiter's solid surface is immense," said Cath, pointing at the colossal orb above us. "They say hydrogen forms a clear metal under the intense pressure there and they think that it's a stable form, but of course, no probe has actually got down there to look. They say it's impossible."

"They always do," I replied. "Terraforming Ganymede was impossible once. Ganymede only gets about one twenty-seventh of the solar energy that Earth gets, but this can be drawn to the settlements and preserved beneath an atmosphere that we built. There are ways to explore Jupiter."

Cath chuckled, her green eyes sparkling. "You have an adventurer's spirit in you Ty," she told me.

I had told her that I would have left Earth sooner if I weren't so timid. I think she feels I have courage deep inside me. Will I show it on our journey into the dark?

Hrarna's Log:

Hello, you wonderful peeps who watch my entries! To my fellow Terrestrials, I am now a billion miles away on Titan, Saturn's moon which has its own atmosphere.

So this is it, my last stop off before my division reaches the Morpheus system and the outermost dark settlement, Esperonia.

Just for a short time, we're stopping in Titan where the chilly, primordial soup enveloped by smothering gases is due to be terraformed... so much crimson fog whenever I look out from the vantage tower. It's blanketed out the entire sky. My eyesight is better now - I can see dark shapes like massive bats or pteradactyls moving slowly through the thick atmosphere in the distance. These are what should be helping to change Titan's atmosphere, but not all of them do their job, and it is going to be an exercise to hunt and kill a few of these things before we can reach the highest rank.

I've been partnered with another new recruit, named Lynn. How to describe her? Well, she has a bright, vibrant-green head, just like mine and apart from that, she's of petite build. She doesn't talk to me much, just looks grim. I tried to get a converation going.

"I can't wait to kill some of those things, because then we can get our elite rank and no more messing about," I told her. "Once we're in the elite division I'll have the authority to call on my beloved and then hold him in my arms again."

"You have a better half?" said Lynn, giving me a quizzical look, "and he didn't mind your modification? I'm a widow. I've lost the love of my life. I had nothing to live for any longer, unless I found a new purpose and that new purpose has been dedicating my life to a cause I believe in. Some women cut their hair short when they mourn - well my mourning is very serious. Now that my sweet Peachy is gone, this seemed fitting," she patted her smooth, green scalp.

Peachy...! I suppose that must have been a pet name.

"I'm sorry to hear of your loss," I told her, "but my love for Ty runs deep and I will win him back. He's good looking enough for both of us, anyway."

"Hm well, look at me, green with envy," said Lynn.

Poor Lynn. I suppose she is so cynical because she lost the one she loved. I won't end up like her, I'm going to win my love back.

We had to pilot a craft together to hunt a great flapping GEB together. The image of the foul thing was thrown into sharp relief on the surveillance screen. That massive bulk, like some hugely distended jellyfish was probably of an indiarubber texture - my sharpened senses can tell such things. It was black and yet tinged with what I can call near-infra red, although you peeps wouldn't see it.

It had two heads with gaping maws full of needle like teeth and massive, dead eyes like those fish from the very depths of the terrestrial oceans. It moved by pumping its bulk through the atmosphere, neither swimming, nor flying.

"Got to be cautious now..." said Lynn.

"Do we want to make a kill or not?" I demanded, "let's see how it likes the light."

I turned the solar lamps full into the GEB's great, blank eyes.

"You foolhardy skluggi," screeched Lynn, "oh Peachy, what sort of nut have I been landed with?"

The GEB turned and sailed towards us, its gaping mouths wide open...

"We came here to hunt," I said, trying to reassure her. If she talks to her dead husband, she must be the nut!

I flipped the switch that activate the laser blades and then ploughed the craft right into the bulk of the foul beast. It tried to wrap its massive heads around the craft and its rubbery flesh obscured the portholes, but the laser blades embedded themselves deep into its bulk.

I'm telling you, I kept a cool head throughout even though Lynn had started to shriek something fierce. I switched on the repulsion engines and the craft soared into the upper atmosphere.

You all know that the higher up in an atmosphere you go, the lower the atmospheric pressure. The GEB could not endure the lower pressure. It jiggled about, trying to get loose as it inflated to even more gigantic sizes and those terrible eyes bulged... and then, just as we emerged into Titan's exosphere, the GEB collasped and its ragged remains dropped off the craft, falling back into the gloomy depths.

Score one for Hrarna! When I hunt I never loose sight of my goal.

Slang used:

Morpheus - The planet Neptune

Esperonia- Neptune's largest moon, Triton

Skluggi - crazy weirdo