The elevator started going down and I was immediately enraptured. It could see outside and I saw lights below. They were distorted and I knew – we were underwater! Under the waters of Europa, at last! This was the coolest day of my entire life. I clung tightly to Angie’s necklace, wishing I could somehow send to her my feelings about this moment. She would be one of the first people I wrote that night, once I got a Net link. Then, something caught my eye – a submersible! I could see it moving around the elevator, as if trying to shock us. It worked. A ton of people freaked out, thinking it was about to hit us. But it didn’t. This thing was able to move with the same deftness as a fish. It was amazing to watch. It looked so sleek, but appeared big enough to hold several people. Something to do on-site experiments with?
The closer we got to Atlantis, the better I could see it, and holy shit was this place big! None of the schematics or video did it justice! There were bubbles coming from vents, with a vast spectrum of lights mingling with them. It was like a rising river of stars. It was circular, with a tower in the center that the elevator was connected to. I could tell that there was another part that descended far down below. As we got closer, I noticed something – no windows. Part of that made sense. I mean, what was there to look at anyway? Not to mention, in an underwater facility, windows sounded like one hell of a structural weakness. Too many things could go wrong. I had a feeling that this place would feel very compressed without windows. Would make for a stressful environment. I wonder how they got around that? I would find out soon enough.
The elevator docked at the bottom of the shaft. After a decompression sequence for a few seconds, a virtual interface came on and welcomed us to Atlantis. I stepped out and it was amazing! While there were no actual windows, there appeared to be. What’s more, they were showing images of a sunny day, in a field without the slightest tint of red. Earth? Amazing.
This place was everything I was hoping it would be and more. So many people, all with different color uniforms for the various departments. I could hear conversation buzzing about the work to come, the excitement from everybody who could see a bright future. I couldn’t wait myself. Part of me desperately wanted to go down to where my Band told me my station was and get down to business, but according to the integrated clock, I was not on for another 12 hours. Best to get some rest. I did feel a little tired. Funny, considering that I had been in a freezer for over a month. Still, part of me was utterly exhausted. Mari and I got to our room and I got to link into the Net. It was already up and running! I sent a message to the folks, telling them that I had arrived. Sent one to Angie as well, telling her how much I was missing her and wishing she was with me, because this place is so cool. Then it was to the mess hall, to meet up with Lucas.
Walking around the joint, I couldn’t believe just how integrated everything was. My Band was updated, and I would be getting my neural implant as soon as tomorrow. Becoming augmented like the people on Earth. I was so stoked. Kind of wanted to go to work now, but I got why they were waiting to have us get down to it. After all, we would have to get our implants and learn how to sync with the new tech. It’s like being taught a new skill as a kid, or so I’m told, like tying one’s shoes. It becomes simple, but it seems crazy-difficult. So many new things, it was all a little overwhelming.
This mess hall was so crazy. I felt a wind on my face, and could see a simulated open-air environment around me, like this was some kind of park that I was eating at. Could hear birds chirping and the background noise and everything. It was so weird! This place felt so alien, yet so familiar too. It was weird. Dinner tonight was a very balanced diet, with the main dish being chicken Parmesan. It’s so strange, how this place felt so realistic, yet was all just an illusion. New technology that amazed me, yet also got me to thinking – is this because they’d rather be at home? I mean, if you are going to make this place look like somewhere on Earth, then doesn’t that mean you’d rather be there? Maybe I was being pessimistic. After all, what else was there to look at? It all just felt like wasted potential. Like it could be so much more. I mean, let me have a crack at it and I would get the walls looking like some underwater playground on some foreign world. That would eff with people’s expectations. In fact, I wondered if I could do that.
I turned on my Band, looking for where the interface was. All rooms had one. Had to, really. Otherwise, nobody would be able to sync into the base’s operations. I got connected into the network and started to slip in to the maintenance systems. Hacking is a delicate art. Rather than force my way into a system, which would set off all kinds of bells and whistles, my programs were made to quietly go around a system’s defenses. This place was not as strong as I anticipated. That caught me off-guard. But still, I was in. After mulling through the various systems, I found what I was looking for. Another firewall to pass, and it wasn’t hard. Of course, if I didn’t want to set off any alarms, I had to be careful what I injected into the projection. After thinking it over for a few minutes, I finally had it. Several people in the mess hall looked up as they saw a pink elephant doing ballet through the trees. Lucas also noticed, suddenly looking over at me. I gave him a wink. We shared a quiet laugh.
The next morning, I was down to it. The first stop was the Medical Bay. If I thought that the Mess Hall was cool, this place was state-of-the-art! For real, they had holographic interfaces, these trippy pods where a person can have almost any kind of surgery done, in the event of an emergency and no physician. The room was all-white, with the staff in these trippy white outfits. Needless to say, I felt safe with them. But, of course, my muscle was there to watch my back. It was kind of funny to watch her reaction. She got her neural implant at the same time.
When the connections to the implant came online, it was a whole other world! I’m telling you, I was in awe! Immediately, everything became sharper and clearer. Scanning protocols came online and I could get a reading on just about anything. Even the people. Their bios would pop up if I wanted them too. There were SO many ways to use this technology, and I couldn’t wait to fiddle with it. Indeed, that was something I made a point to myself to do a lot of. It was like being in a virtual reality game. This was so cool. I looked at myself in the mirror and saw my own information being displayed. I could scan anything I wanted to. I analyzed my entire body, to see what I could find. I was wearing Angie’s necklace, and did an analysis on it. It seemed so ordinary, what came back. It told me what the metal was made of, that there were a couple of jewels imbedded in the spherical part. It told me that the necklace was not especially strong, not made for violent impacts. Such a basic analysis, yet it meant the world to me. Each word was committed to memory, and I would never forget them.
Next up was my work station. Again, this place was as state-of-the-art as one could ask for. The drone bay was a place of hectic action! Each person got their own station. My interface pointed me to mine. A lot of these controls were familiar to me. I was in charge of a short-range drone, with the job of taking samples and analyzing them. Yeah, it sounds about as exciting as it was, but you have to understand – we were on the cusp of something! The water samples that I got on my first day were teeming with the chemical processes that we had come to anticipate. This water was primordial soup. There were chemical bonds that indicated the growth of life. It may not be be actual celled organisms yet, but there was so much potential! Everybody was excited. The work may have seemed monotonous, to some, but we each wanted to be the person who made the big discovery. This place hadn’t been working for long, so it could happen at any time. Any one employee could be that one. Of course, most of the drone workers were with the repair teams. I could hear constant buzzing of comm traffic between teams out in the deep and those assisting with drones. Constant maintenance was a must with this place. Every time something was reported as a potential issue, they took it seriously. Granted, nothing major had been malfunctioning yet, but better safe than stupid.
At the end of my shift, I went to the Mess Hall and met up with Lucas. Turns out, his day had been more eventful. He got to be front-and-center with the scientists who were studying the samples we got them. I could hear at an adjacent table argument about what some of the samples could mean. I felt so lucky. It was such an honor, to be among these great minds and be a part of it. I may pilot a drone, but so what? I was here.
That night, I sent another message to my parents. I got their reply not long afterwards, with them being totally stoked. Dad kept saying how he was sure that I was going to be the one who found the first life forms. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that if anybody found life, it was more likely to be Lucas. After all, all we did was collect samples. It was their job to analyze it.
After talking to the parents, I linked in with Angie. I sent her the data I compiled about the necklace she gave me, telling her how much this means to me. She didn’t quite follow, but said it was sweet. I wished she was here. Mari could tell that I was having some issues, but could tell that it was best if she left it alone. That woman has a gift at knowing when to butt in, and when not to. Her work station was right next to mine. I was such a little girl around her, constantly telling her about the minutia of my day like it was the most exciting thing in the history of space travel. I swear, this woman will make a great mom someday, in how she would just listen and pretend that she got why I was so stoked.
Days passed in the station. I was trained on how to operate the longer range drones, to go out further. One day, I was given given a pass to go to the vehicle bay and actually learn how to operate a submersible! Can you believe it?! Yeah, felt like pretty hot shit at that point. Of course, I wasn’t about to say that in front of the instructor. This guy did NOT play. He was a hard-nosed man who took safety and all that very seriously. I get that. It’s important to not play with equipment that you have to depend on for your life. But the little kid inside of me was having too much fun!
After about a month, there had been lots of mapping of the nearby sea bed and ice formations. There was as much study of the ice above as the rocks below. The mapping system was almost complete. Granted, it wasn’t easy. The sea bed of Europa was a mess of deep trenches and sandy dunes. There were more signs of life, but it was still eluding us. The scientists took this as a challenge. They knew that something was down here with us, but it was too shy to come out and play. They were not dissuaded. If lie was going to be found, it would be found by them.
The real break in all this came about a week later. You won’t believe by who. Lucas was down at my work station, guiding me through an exploratory mission into a cave we had found. They wanted somebody on-site during the exploration. Lucas wasn’t the only one. There was a scientist that he was paired with. A young woman, who Lucas clearly had a crush on. Thankfully, she didn’t mess with him the way some women would. She kept it professional, but didn’t treat him like a whipping boy. It was courteous and pleasant.
We came into a passage and I shined the light on the rock formations. Something was odd about them.
“Bring the camera in closer, would you?” Lucas asked. Both him and the scientist leaned in closer. They weren’t the only ones. Everybody who wasn’t busy was now moving over. If the break was about to come, they wanted to be there. I panned closer. It was something! But what?!
“Run through the imaging spectrums, would you?” the other scientist asked. The room got quiet. I cued up the system, going through the various imaging systems. Suddenly, we had it! Infrared! There was heat! Not just heat, but a network of heat! You could hear a pin drop. I had a hunch, switching to x-ray filter. That’s when I saw it. It was coral! The entire cave wall was covered in the stuff! I panned back, switching back to infrared. The coral growth filled the entire space. There was more! I took water samples. A kind of algae was in here! The cave had heat coming from the back. This was likely some kind of volcanic vent. The coral was feeding on the algae!
“Ladies and gentlemen, we have life!” I announced. The room went absolutely nuts. For real, you have NEVER seen a group of people get so stoked. Lucas hugged me tight, knowing that this was our discovery. Mari smiled at me and the female scientist hugged the two of us. I felt like a million fucking bucks. We had done it! We had found life outside of our planet! Alien fucking life! This was the best day of my life.
Until next time, a quote,
“The real story of the ocean begins where you left off!” -Captain Nemo, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea