Europa – Chapter Two.

Things went quietly those next few days. I was still pondering what he meant about the  “The reactor speaks to us all.” .

Then the dreams began. All about my paranoia over what he has said. Dreams of overload and melt to the bottom, or lack of and we freeze to death slowly crushed in the ever moving ice.

However I should tell you more about this “ship” we are on, first. You must understand this is not like your normal submarine. No, think more like a giant 5000 passenger cruise ship, but only like a submarine. (I know)  We use the heated hull and other tricks to stay in that sweet spot under the ice, safe from radiation, impacts etc. At our normal depths we tend to stay only about 100 M under the ice for communication purposes and less strain on the hull. Only the captain knows just how deep she can go, given the low gravity. Crush depth and all, less gravity, etc = you can go *really* down. This comes with a small problem. The closer you get to the center of any large  planetoid, well it can get hot. Its even hotter as some gas giant slowly tidally, pulls and squeezes you. We all train for a dive, also gives the passengers a fun ride for a few hours. (We only travel a few KM per europa day).

Things had been normal in the reactor room these last few days. All the guys were calm, we were working as a team. No fights, card games. Business as usual. Eventually my dreams of the reactor went away and I dream of the ocean knowing that I was really sailing the sea of ice. Millions of Miles from EARTH! The claustrophobia is kept at bay with standard crew meds. Also our quarters are small but comfortable. 360′ projected walls and full on sound effects? Yea, when I want to take a time out, its not a bad spot. Games? VR? Awesome perk! I like to change it all to a quiet simple jungle theme, just trees and birds and…  Well, everyone has their theme background, don’t they?

Then the big email came. Captain has informed us we need to surface. Now, this is a big operation for us. Well, Not a real Big Deal. But it can be dangerous. Apparently, there was a tourist ship launched about 2 weeks behind my tech load. (techs are always last to know)  No problem, melt up, off/on load the lander and go back down. Smooth Sailing.

That’s when I felt it. All five of us techs got tougher and made the standard “plan”.  We began to melt our way to the surface.  Broken into two man teams making sure the hull was hot. My job? Watch the reactor! Now consider that this is a menial job. The reactor makes the hot water, its fully A.I computer controlled. You don’t even have to turn valves! It beeps, you hit the button, monkey. At this point I should remind you all that we are not the only techs, this is a story about my tour and the 4 others. We worked in close groups, specific to a section.  There are other tech teams on the ship. I have not heard much from them, much less have met them, so I do intend on finding out during the next few days/weeks if they hear it too.

Nonetheless, The guests were happy, the ascent is going  smoothly, everyone is having a nice time. I knew the other boys on hull duty were probably off shagging or smoking or whatever they do hiding in the bilge… Most importantly of all, the captain was all happy with the smooth sailing. Kinda like a holiday when we surface to receive a a transport. Lots of the long term people have been awaiting their cargo for over a year..

So yea, it’s party time.. But I have a responsibility. Everyone needs a bartender. I don’t serve drink like topside. No, my job is to keep her core running and hot and make sure the water flows. And, And, And… No one notices who keeps the lights on. They just want a drink and fancy food.

So after all the radio checks, everyone was in party mode, over the next few hours, it was a rotation of crew seeking the privacy of the lower decks, so to speak.  I thought, why not? So I left the reactor to its own “software”, and went down to the bilge galley for a snack. Every ship makes it own sound. As I poured my coffee, I could see the slight tilt showing ascension to the surface, and listened to the small groans it made as we worked up toward the surface. Nice and simple up 2 degree bubble and all. Hull was normal sounding, and with noise cancellation topside, they don’t hear that hull adjust itself.  Wouldn’t want our guest to spill their drinks, right? All was good, for the moment…

That’s when I ran into Danny.