The Europa Mystery: Part 1

Waking up is never easy to do.  The worst part about it is when you have to face the morning and go to another day of boring and useless school that isn’t teaching me anything worth knowing.  At least, that’s how I felt that morning.  I got up and looked at the clock.  It was making that little tune that tells me to wake up.  I wanted to beat the shit out of it and go back to sleep.  Seriously, what moron decided to make school start at 8 in the morning?  Not cool.
But I haul my ass out of bed and grab a shower.  As usual, mom busts in on me when I am in there.  Seriously, does privacy not exist?  There is a whole other bathroom!  It’s even connected to her and dad’s bedroom!  So why is she in here when I am showering?!  It’s annoying.  After I get out, I wrap my hair up in a towel and get dressed.  I hop down to the kitchen and grab some cereal out of the dispenser.  I chose my favorite kind – Fruity Marshmallows.  It’s not as easy to get certain kinds of food here like on Earth, but that’s getting better with time.  It sure as hell isn’t as hard as it used to be.  My parents go on and on about life when they were young, when you only had rice and a few different selections of fruit for most of the year, except during the huge cargo-drops.  But now that we have a lot more habitats that grow plant life, we now have a ton more food.  Gotta love terraforming, right?
So yeah, I sit down and eat up.  Dad, as always, is looking over some charts on his Band.  It’s some new project he’s working on.  Being an engineer has huge perks out here on Mars.  We stopped using pre-fab units years ago.  Now that Mars can actually sustain life outside of the Habitats, people want to actually live in a house that looks like a house.  The idea is to be like Earth, but still doing our own thing.  All that “free to experiment” stuff we hear from whoever is running for Prime Minister here in this Territory.
Mom is busy worrying about this and that.  She works for the Internal Division of Security.  They’re like cops, but unofficial.  Of course, she’s no cop.  No, she’s the suit and tie sort.  Works at a desk, doing lots of important stuff that she can never talk about.  I hear that all the time.  Dad says it makes him feel good, because he doesn’t want to worry about her being out in the street all the time.  Like any major city, we’ve got some bad spots.  But you can’t deny that the work puts food on the table.  Mom’s definitely the bread-winner around here, but she doesn’t rub Dad’s nose in it.  He works hard too.
“So, big day, right Ellie?”
I look up.  “What do you mean?”
Dad gives me a smile.  “Today you find out if you got picked for that special off-planet research project, right?  Don’t tell me you spaced that.  You’ve been going nuts about it for months!”
It hit me like a load of bricks – he was right!  I had spaced it.  Some time ago, I entered a special contest.  Well, not so much a contest as an academic opportunity.  There is a mission that is going to Europa, one of the moons of Jupiter.  The goal is to set up a base underneath the ice that covers it and finally answer a question that science has been mulling about for ages – is there life on another planet in this solar system?  This project is said to be one of the biggest that’s ever been, and it has some VERY high standards for being involved.  It is risky, since it will not have a constant way to get off the moon if something goes wrong, so everyone involved is going to be rich when they get home.  Six months on site, six months off, with three weeks of travel time on ice.  My school had a contest where you have to write a long essay about what you would like to do if you could be involved with the mission.  They examine your academic records and everything, and those who are deemed most fitting, and present their case well enough, are chosen!  Oh man, I was so stoked.  I was one of the first to raise my hand for an entry form to be sent to my Band.
So, what did I want to do, you ask?  I wanted to be a machine-operator!  I’ve always been good with technology.  My Band has upgrades of all kinds!  Some of which aren’t entirely legal, but they don’t need to know that.  I’ve been fiddling with and fixing stuff since I was out of diapers and now I had a chance to actually do something that could put it to use!  Hell yeah I was on that!  I was on that white on rice!  I scored excellent in science and mathematics, and I know for a fact that I was tested and shown potential as a machinist.  If I could do this job, it would be a dream come true.  Plus, bonus – we get paid too!  For real, since the students who get picked are also in it for the risks, we get paid like the real-deal crew!  Coming back home and having a fortune waiting for me, with free room and board?!  Oh yeah, that sounds sick.
“Oh shit, I forgot about that!” I shouted excitedly.
Mom gave me a look.  “Hey now, you know better than to use that language around us.”
Dad just sighs.  “No point punishing her for it.  I mean, it’s pretty much a guarantee that she talks that way around her friends at school.  We have to accept that our little girl is growing up.”
That got her to give him a look.  “Don’t you go talking like that!  I don’t want to think about her being with boys anytime soon!”
“Mom!” I shouted.  These conversations were always awkward.  Moreso because I hadn’t told my parents something about myself – I didn’t like boys.  For real, my best friend was a guy and I had no problem with guys in-particular, but I never felt any draw to them.  It was always…awkward, I guess.
To not have to talk to them too much, I look at the clock.  “Oh snap, gotta go!”  I get up fast, running to get my bowl to the sink.  Mom grabs the towel on my head, taking it off like it was never there.  I’ll never know how she does that.  I tie up my hair back into a pony-tail, grab my bag and a pre-made lunch from the fridge and go running out the door.  I hear Dad calling after me, but I am already in danger of being late for the train.

It was beautiful out.  The blue sunrise painted the world in this amazing effect.  The typically red days the world used to be famous for was ebbing as the terraforming was finishing, but the blue sunrises continued.  It made the world so amazingly colorful.  It was reflected by the solar panels on the larger buildings that were coming out as they could feel the sun’s warmth on them.  The world was a panorama of blue that was my favorite kind of twilight.
The cars of people heading to work mixed with the various bikes as well.  The train station closest to my house was within walking distance, or in today’s case, running distance.  The neighborhood was filled with white houses.  All of the houses were white.  The one remnant of the days of pre-fab houses.  People took it as a point of pride in our Colonial heritage.  I always rolled my eyes at that.  Yeah, like they were living in an enclosed Habitat when they were younger.  Sure.
The station is bustling with students and people as I get there.  The train is only just arriving.  I almost smash into someone as I run inside, breathing heavy.  There is an awkward moment where I smile at them and move quickly to the back of the train, to have some privacy.
It is then that my best friend, Lucas, sits next to me.
“Man, girl, you’d think you ran a marathon with how hard you’re breathing.”
I give him a dirty look.  “Whatever!  So, you excited about today?”  I knew I didn’t have to ask.  It was just a courtesy.  Everyone in my in-group was stoked about today, assuming that they aren’t derpy and forgot it like me.
“Oh yeah!  My parents have practically planned the whole thing already.  I keep having to remind them that I have to win it first.”
“Well, I’m sure that you’ll be one of the winners.  You and me, brutha!”
He rolled his eyes.  “Oh, I know that YOU’LL be one of the winners.  That’s just how you do.  You were born to win this contest.  But as for me, I don’t know.”  Lucas had always been hard on himself.  He was a brilliant kid with a passion for science.  Discovering an alien species would make him totally lose it.  He wrote his essay on how it’s more than likely that the first alien life was discover will be microscopic.  I’ve read it over before we submitted them.  I had no doubt that he would be a winner.  Or, at the very least, a runner up.  Those who came close but didn’t win were at least given a commendation in their file and some prize money.  The former thing looked great when getting into college.  Standards were pretty tight, especially if you wanted to attend back on Earth.
“Relax, dude!  You’ll be fine!  Just you wait – we’ll win this thing and then get to head off in suspended animation to Europa!  I hope we get to see Jupiter before we’re at the facility.”
He nodded.  “I assume we would.  After all, the facility is underwater.  From what I’ve read, there is a base on top of the ice that has already been constructed.  We dock there and then take a large elevator shaft down to the facility.”
“Cool!  This is gonna be awesome!”  It was then that I noticed a girl I knew, Angie.  She had very short blonde hair.  Like me, she was a genetically-engineered kid.  Since mom couldn’t biologically have children, they had to engineer me.  My dark red hair and blue eyes are a result of that.  Angie’s bright blonde hair and green eyes are as well.  She looks over at me and smiled, putting her hand over her heart.  I return the gesture, as Lucas keeps telling me about the facility.  It’s complicated, her and I.  If I win this contest, it’ll get more complicated.

We arrive at the train stop.  The school isn’t far.  The students rush off, Lucas and myself included.  He outpaces me and keeps going.  I’ve never been huge about sports.  I’m skinny, but not at ALL healthy.  It’s my metabolism, nothing else.  In fact, I’m a little too skinny for my own good.  The cars of the most wealthy students are dropping them off.  This is a school for the high-class, but I’m barely in their ranks.  The kids of banking CEOs and celebrities went here.  It’s always been a bit of a point of shame for me – the fact that I am so average at a school where so many kids value their amount of approval at how well-dressed they are, whether or not they have the latest fashion from Earth.  It was part of the reason that I worked so hard at making and tinkering with machinery – so I could stand out without having to have it based on whether or not I have the latest purse or Band.  Better to be different than them.
I go to home-room and get to my desk.  The teacher catches sight of Lucas and I and smiles at us.  She knows we entered the contest and has been cheering for us.  In fact, her and a couple other teachers helped us write our essays.  It is a point of pride for them if two of their top students get picked for one of the most publicized missions in history.  For real, this was big.  The Europa mission was not only the first to look for other life out there, but it was also to be the first mission to help colonize the rest of our solar system.  We would be stopping along the way to set up buoys that could keep us tied in to the Net.  Each time a new discovery was made, we would broadcast it live.  People back on Earth would only have to wait about half an hour to know, that’s how good these buoys were.  This was to be a huge leap for the Colonies.
“Alright, class, settle down!  We’ve got a lot of work today, but first, there is to be a school-wide broadcast from the Chief Administrator’s office!”  She cued up the school-wide network.  Many students turned the monitors on their desks on.  I turned on the holographic display on my Band.  A little modification I did to it.  The teachers learned long ago to keep watch, in case I was cheating with it.
Then, the insignia of the Administrator came on.  Everyone got quiet.
“Attention, staff and students of New Amsterdam Central High!  We have just received the results of the contest to have two students join the Europa mission.  There were 49 entries, each one from students who were exemplary in the subjects they entered for.  However, only two have been picked.  The first entry picked was from Lucas Holden, from class A-9!”
The teacher and many others cheered.  I gave him a satisfied look, trying not to show my nervousness.
“The second student chosen is Eleanor Monroe, also from class A-9!”
A weight was lifted off my chest.  Every part of me felt so alive.  I didn’t even hear who the runner-ups were.  There were three.  I leaned forward on my desk, breathing steady and feeling my pulse race.  It was going to be a great day.

“Seriously, what the fuck is wrong with you?!” I screamed, reeling back from her hitting me.  We were in my old hiding space on the second floor stairwell at the back of a hall that very few kids went down.
Angie stood there, breathing hard.  “You could have told me you entered!  You could have told me that you might be leaving for six months after Christmas!”  Her voice was quivering between rage and sadness.
The ball was in my court.  “I didn’t want to get you all worried.  I wanted it to be a surprise.  I thought you’d be happy for me!”
“Happy?!” she demanded.  “You think I’m happy that you’re leaving soon?  That I get to be all by myself here at this dump soon?!”
“You’ve been pretty cool by yourself before you met me.  Why does this suddenly change things?!”
“Ellie, it changes everything!”
“Why?!”
“I’m in love with you!”
Everything stopped.  The world stopped moving in that moment.  We stood there, facing one-another, each of us breathing hard.
“I love you, Ellie.”  She started walking toward me.  My back was already against the wall, so I couldn’t move.  I didn’t want to move.  Something inside me was so happy and so sad at the same time.  A thousand emotions were racing through me and I couldn’t tell what was what anymore.  She was right in front of me.  Right in front of where I stood, breathing heavy.
“Ellie, I’m throwing my heart out on the ground here!  Could you at least say something?!”
My body moved before my mind did.  I wrapped my arms around her and pulled her to me.  Our lips met gently as we melted into one-another.  It felt so right.  Something inside me clicked for the very first time.  But now I knew why she had been so upset.  I could feel it too.  A sensation that told me that I had just done something that I could never undo, and now I had taken a path that I couldn’t follow with her.

How did such a good day become so bad?

Until next time, a quote,

“We’re all a little weird and life’s a little weird. And when we find someone who’s weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness call it love.” -Dr. Seuss

Peace out,

Maverick

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One thought on “The Europa Mystery: Part 1

  1. Pingback: The Europa Mystery | Lucien Maverick's Blog

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