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When NASA first introduced its latest rocket design, the Intergalactic Space Vessel Expediter, and proposed the manned fact-finding mission to Saturn, Alexander Edwards leapt at the opportunity, and former astronaut John C. Roberge backed his play.
Edwards, Eddie to his friends and colleagues, was an AsCan, an astronaut candidate, when he first came on Roberge’s radar. He was bottom of his class and written off as a wash-out, but Roberge saw something in Edwards, a drive, a determination, an unlucky kid who needed a break. So, Roberge took the kid under his wing and watched Edwards bust his hump to rise from last place to top of his class.
Roberge himself was sent to NASA Mission Control Center, located in Houston, Texas, when he was promoted to Capsule Communicator, or CAPCOM, for the Saturn Mission.
The astronauts who successfully made the vetting process were:
- Dr. Georgina Douglas, physician, surgeon, and biologist.
- Mr. Leon Powell, executive officer, second pilot, astrogator, astrophysicist, and photographer.
- Dr. Faith Perkins, biochemist, and hydroponicist.
- Dr. Ward Smith, semiotician, stores officer, and historian.
- Dr. Natasha Marsden, atomics engineer, electronics and power technician.
- Mr. Jude Randall, electronics engineer, chemical engineer, practical machinist & instrumentation man, and cryologist.
- And Captain Alexander Edwards, commanding-pilot, astrogator, geologist and selenologist, and rocketry engineer.
Roberge wished his friend and protégé, as well as the rest of the Expediter crew, “Godspeed,” as the countdown commenced. The launch was a success and the Expediter was on route to Saturn.
When the message came in that the Expediter had been bombarded by several tiny meteors that damaged the integrity of the hull, Roberge was on duty, and the final message from Edwards before communication ceased completely was that the crew was going to attempt an emergency landing.
Knowing Eddie like the back of his hand and how Eddie thought because he taught the man to think like an astronaut, Roberge used Expediter’s last known position before the meteor strike and calculated their best chance of survival would have been to attempt a landing on Europa.
Roberge attempted to reestablish contact, listening for a reply. He listened and waited, waited and listened. For hours. Those hours became days, those days became weeks, those weeks months, and those months became years. But Roberge, in his role as CAPCOM, showed up every single day and broadcasted signals to his friend who was lost somewhere in the void and listened for a reply.
Eventually, NASA had no choice but to announce the probability that the Expediter and her crew had not survived the emergency landing. Funeral services were held for the brave astronauts but Roberge did not attend because he wouldn’t allow himself to believe they were dead.
Roberge was approaching retirement age, and the top brass planned to use that as an excuse to relieve the former astronaut of his duty, but before that happened, CAPCOM picked up a signal. It was Captain Edwards’s first transmission since the meteor strike. He was alive, and as Roberge suspected, he was broadcasting from Europa.
CAPCOM sent word to Mission Control and in violation of protocol, Roberge fired a tweet out on the Twitterverse.
Roberge attempted to broadcast a message back to Eddie, realizing that the relay time for a radio wave message to reach Europa was between 35 to 43 minutes and another 40 some odd minutes to receive a reply. When none came Roberge suspected the transmitter was damaged in the landing and could only transmit but not receive.
Talks of a rescue mission were underway and NASA was in the midst of designing an updated version of the Expediter model rocket when funding stopped over fears that a manned trip to Saturn was too risky. But now that Eddie managed to get a signal back to Earth, surely the funding would resume.
This, however, was not the case, chiefly because Eddie stated in his broadcast that he was the sole survivor of the landing. The question arose as to whether it was worth spending billions of dollars on a rescue mission to save the life of one man.
Other concerns were that he had made contact with the indigenous life on Europa, mated with one and had hybrid children. If brought back to Earth, what manner of diseases might he be infected with? And being stranded on the moon and forced to embrace alien cultures, how much of his humanity had he retained? Or was he under the influence of some alien superintelligence? And Capitalists were afraid of his power if he returned to Earth. He was now the unofficial ambassador to Europa and if he claimed citizenship all trade negotiations would have to funnel through him.
Still, the public movement to save one of their own had begun and #RescueEdwards became the new campaign of the western world.
Since the first broadcast, Eddie had managed to transmit once a fortnight at the same hour, but after the sixteenth broadcast in which he expressed concerns about a murder that happened in a place called Dairy Elock Prefecture the messages had stopped for a month.
Hope faded again, but Roberge held strong, and transmitted a message to establish contact on a regular basis. Eddie would have to make contact soon, because Roberge couldn’t hold off his bosses from forcing him into retirement.
As he was about to leave for the evening, a burst of static blared through the speakers and a voice fought its way to the surface:
“Greetings From Europa!” the voice said. It was Eddie but the signal was weaker than any of the earlier broadcasts. Roberge recorded the message and grabbed a nearby pen and pad on which to transcribe at the same time.
“This might be my final transmission because the battery indicator on the transmitter is showing it’s on low power mode. It could be a problem with the solar panel, the wire connections or the poor battery itself is at the end of its life. So, I’ll make this brief,” Eddie said. In the background there were chirpy clicking noises that several linguists identified as an alien language which was labeled Europese for simplicity. It was probably the voice of Eddie’s Europan son, Jampie.
“Since my last broadcast, my son and I have traveled through three villages without incident and now we’re less than a day out from Dery’Ylok Prefecture. Ever since we left the last village, I’ve been getting hit with strong surges of déjà vu and now I’m starting to realize why.
Just up ahead, although covered with tall grass are the five grave markers I made when I buried the members of my crew. This place is our crash site. When I last saw it, it was all scorched land, but even at a disaster site, nature persists. And those grassy hills in the distance beyond the graves must be the wreckage of the Expediter.
“Jampi!” Edwards called out and then his language switched to chirpy clicks, presumably as he spoke to his son. “Jampi! Jampi!”
“I am such an idiot!” Eddie said in English. “I explained to my son that those hills are actually my starship, how I came to be on Europa and no sooner than I got the words out, he was off like a shot to investigate it.”
More chirpy clicks but Edwards’ voice sounded worried.
In English Edwards said, “I’m stepping into the domed section of the ship that used to be stellar cartography and I have to admit that I’m filled with a bizarre sense of homesickness and fear. But, this could be a godsend because I’m surrounded by Earth tech, so perhaps I can locate a replacement powercell.”
“Jampi!” Edwards called out more forceful than before and communicated in Europese.
Then there was a sound of metal on metal, followed by a female voice, distant and echoey.
Although faint, Roberge could have sworn it said,
“Hello, Eddie. Been a while, hasn’t it?” in perfect English.
Then the transmission went dead.
Text and Audio ©2014 & 2021 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys
Glossary of Terms
- Abogzons – Gynecological engineers.
- Agvann – Translation: The will of Nes’Tim; an accident.
- Alum’Vedca – The day marking the new solar cycle of Peace and Maturity; a tribute to the era when Europans evolved from their primitive prey state.
- Arcek – A spiritual theologian
- Biem – A time to show respect for the aged.
- Biss’ore – Travelers, nomads
- Bokloryn – An unrepayable debt; an act that places the receiver in a lifetime contract of servitude.
- Cu’nal – A biological storage unit.
- Denpa – An envoy equipped with an audiographic memory that can store and recall spoken messages at will in the same voice, tone and inflection of the original person who spoke it, who travels from village to village to deliver messages from other communities both near and far.
- Egami – A docile mineral-based creatures primarily used for family transportation due to the fact they are virtually inexhaustible.
- Gates of Juh’holl – Europan afterlife; where souls are released from the flesh to become stardust and rejoin the universe.
- Grahas – A gerbil-sized creature, resembling a stone armadillo, that emits heat when stroked.
- Homnils – A warm, yet sad, reminiscence about something in the past.
- Ipu llqr mwyll xfrr – Abogzon credo meaning “success or death”; satisfaction guaranteed.
- Isogoles – Europan monthly day of pay.
- Jampi – Captain Edward’s son.
- Jbwqnadb – The Europan spelling of lemonade.
- Jhisal – Meis’lo’s home village.
- Klanea – Translation: unknown to us; stranger.
- Mecot’ra – Unterraformed areas of Europa.
- Meis’lo – The only surviving witness to the murder of the prophet Nes’Tim.
- Micdow yl – The vessels of new life; children.
- Nes’Tim – The most revered spiritual prophet on Europa, slain by a heretic tribe who call themselves Sel’Tab.
- Pwyll – Europa’s highest mountain.
- Qik’climajh – Depending on its usage in a sentence, denotes either the act of telling a story, or the storyteller themselves.
- Sel’Tab – A heretic tribe responsible for the death of the prophet Nes’Tim.
- Shig’umfu – “Interesting world of another”; a documentary qik’climajh in which neighbors tell the story of a person’s life as learned from casual conversations.
- Spo – Food.
- Uz Cu’nal – A biological storage unit used primarily for food preservation.
- Uz – An unspeakable sexual act; a derogatory term; an insult.