“Fish Things From the Icy Depths!”

Erik Russell

All rights reserved by the author

 

            A flurry of ice crystals blasted into his face, and he quickly drew his thickly gloved hand over his face-mask.  Again the drill punched into the ice, this time water burbled out but quickly froze once more.  That was the last cut, and the supervisor signaled to the men in the crawler behind him, giving a thumbs up with his yellow hand.  The Crawler’s massive front law latched into the ice, and pulled out a massive cube of the ice.  The Supervisor pulled himself into the crawler, tearing off his head covering as soon as he entered the heated compartment.

            “Looks good boys, lets head back to the harvester.” He elatedly told his two workers.

            The larger of the two men grinned, and leaned forward to pull on a lever but stopped.

            “Sir, what the hell is that?”  he pointed at the cube of ice, still suspended before them.

            The supervisor leaned in, his mouth slowly opening into a huge chasm.  There, in the ice, was frozen a form, fin-feet, a tail, and some sort of device held in its hand.

 

            The production of massive ships capable of moving quickly and efficiently through the solar system (but not capable of fast travel beyond that) occurred simultaneously around the globe among powerful Nations.  The US, of course, was at the forefront of the sudden boom, followed closely by Israel and growing China.  Western Europe produced some craft and funding, but their interests were tied up extensively in the US.  The main goal for the Space program was not settlement, as there were no extremely desirable spots for colonization, but the pursuit of wealth and resources among the celestial bodies.  Israel’s program came to an abrupt halt with the collapse of the rightist Beheyme party’s control over the government, caused by Crimes Against Humanity charges brought by the UN against several key political figures, including the prime minister.  The reformist government that stepped in discontinued the costly space program and turned its focus inwards, working to ease tensions and grant reparations to the Palestinians, who eventually got their own country.

            There now stood only two behemoths of the spaceways, and these two were destined for a collision.  Spacecraft were initially designed only as mining/shipping vessels, with very little attention paid to armaments.  However, the Chinese changed everything with their Mao Class fleet of destroyers, whose weaponry consisted primarily of tiny, fast, explosive rockets.  In a move defended as a simple matter of repelling trespassers, two Mao class Destroyers, the Shanghai and Sun Tzu attacked a convoy of seven shipping craft, destroying all seven.  The United States was unprepared to conduct an extra-terrestrial campaign, and two theatres quickly formed.  One was in space, fully controlled by the Chinese, who continued to obliterate American personnel and ships.  The second was on Earth, where the Americans had a decided advantage throughout the war.  With a powerful navy, and a more sophisticated air force and infantry, the United Sates managed to not only prevent any damage from occurring to the country, but also succeeded in invading mainland China.  With invasion, Taiwan subsequently rebelled against their oppressive masters, seizing several key spaceports.  In effect, by controlling the ground, the United States cut off the space force from refueling and resupplying.  The war was over soon after China was invaded, and the Chinese were deprived of having any sort of power, in the skies or at home.

            It wasn’t long after this that the United States took an interest in colonization.  This was partly due to the fact that they had used nuclear weapons on China, which seemed to have set in motion some potentially cataclysmic shifts in weather and periods of drought in locations all around the globe.  The first “permanent” colony was set up on Mars fifteen years after the war with China.  Within months the space fleet was pushing out into the far reaches of the solar system to search out other potential homes for America’s colonists.

            On Europa, the icy moon with a liquid salt-water ocean, the US set up a very important supply post, intended to send water to Mars.  The moon was close enough, and the water on Earth was desperately needed on Earth.  Europa became the most important spot for future colonization plans.  Then, US engineers, while drilling the ice to get the water underneath, found something that would destroy their plans: Life forms, sentient beings who lived under the ice.  Human rights activists on Earth erupted into a huge protest of the “rape of Europa and her people”.

 

 

            As men go, James Thompson was not an imposing one as he walked through the doors and into the massive chamber, where sat hundreds of delegates representing the nations and large organizations of the world.  To his men, he could be an icy tyrant, whose orders were to be obeyed with utmost haste and care.  But to the delegates and the press, furiously snapping photos and recording his entrance, he was nothing but a thin, despicable ambassador of the most distrusted nation on the Earth.  To fear this man, in addition to going against basic instincts, would be to give him and the a level of respect that they refused to give.

            The Admiral sat himself in the middle of a great crescent-shaped table in the front of the room, with the ampitheatre-styled seating arrayed about it.  There was also a raised dais immediately in front of the crescent table, with five chairs set behind a table.  As Admiral Thompson sat down and opened his black leather briefcase, his aides busied themselves about him, sorting papers and multi-media across the table.  Adm. Thompson leaned in towards the microphone, raising it up to his face.  He then sat back, and an aide came behind him, whispering in his ear.  For a second, the table resembled the Last Supper painting of DaVinci.  Thompson nodded, and the aide quickly left.

            For a period of several minutes, the American team busied themselves with their papers and computers.  Admiral Thompson was calm, leaning on steepled hands, eyes mostly shut.  His audience grew restless, looking about and murmuring in a dull roar which grew louder and louder.  The five chairs remained empty.

            The aides had stopped their hectic organizing, and they now sat, hands flat on the table, staring blindly ahead like cows.  James Thompson remained in his serene position, elbows on the table, looking smart in his Navy uniform, a wide array of colorful insignia and medals bedecking his chest. 

            Finally, the great doors opened once more, and flanked by a detachment of UN security, in came the Emergency Committee for Extra-Terrestrial Affairs.  For the world, it was the first time anyone knew who had been selected for this instantly prestigious and potentially powerful Committee.  First came Keung Yeung, from China.  This was a huge blow to the Americans, as even one hostile chairperson would severely hamper the effectiveness of their proposal.  The next two were more amicable faces, George Tegwig of Britain, and François LaPierre, from France.  The next one to enter in the line was the president of Mitsu-Morris Corp, Jack Dawkins, an American whose corporation had the potential to profit highly in any colonization venture.  Things were looking very good for Admiral Thompson and the United States.  The fifth chairperson was a woman from Palestine, Nogol Mezzadhi, who had broken the gender barriers inherent in the Muslim system to become a leader in the successful independence movement a few years earlier against Israel.   As she sat down, she glared poison at the Americans sitting before her.

            With the five members now seated and watching Thompson, he stood and cleared his throat.

            “Ladies and gentlemen of the United Nations, I am Admiral James Thompson, speaking to you on the behalf of the people of the United States.  We are a people who believe in freedom, and we feel that it is our sacred duty to liberate oppressed individuals world-wide.  And today, the borders have expanded, and the world is no longer it.  We must spread the arm of liberty to space.  To Europa…”

 

           

 

 

            “Earth is just gonna love this…” growled Admiral Thompson as he leaned his lanky frame over the computer map.  “Three more ice processors out of commission in less than a day.  Those damned fishes.”  The map displayed the icy surface of the moon Europa, with three red, blinking circles.

            “This has gone on far too long.  It’s time we shut this down.”  The Admiral walked away, trailed closely by a junior lieutenant.

            Thompson turned his head and looked at the young officer.  “Yes, what is it, lieutenant?” He asked, dragging out the word a little bit longer than normal.

            The young man saluted and handed the Admiral a datapad.  “Colonization report sir.  The first colonists have landed, and they’re going to need water delivered in two weeks at the latest.”

            The Admiral glanced over the pad, which had little more information than if it were a news article, simply reporting on the successful landing of the first colonist team.

            “What’s the status of our transports…” he glanced at the lieutenants chest “…Wermer?  Do we have enough water to send?”

            The Lieutenant produced another, smaller datapad, this one covered with numbers.  “Sir, the Holy Mackerel has almost a full payload, despite the slowdown of processing due to the terrorists.  She should be good to go in the next 13 hours.”

            Admiral Thompson handed both of the pads back to Lieutenant Wermer, and saluted him.

            “Thank you, Lieutenant.  If there are any new developments I’ll be in my quarters.”

            The Lieutenant clicked his boots together and returned the salute as the Admiral turned and headed down the hall.

            It had been only three months since James Thompson had last been on Earth, seated before the UN Committee for Extra-Terrestrial Affairs, accepting their nearly unanimous rejection of the US attack proposal.  He had left Earth only six hours later, joining the American fleet already assembling past the moon.  Only three months, and already so restless… he thought to himself.  When he had been in the navy on Earth, he had relished the voyages, the fresh air and beautiful ocean all around him.  But here, in space, with nothing but narrow corridors and the stale odor of recycled air, it was a totally different experience.

            When he got to his room and sat down at his lavish dark mahogany desk, it was already time for his multi-conference with the captains of the fleet.  He sat back his chair and keyed on his monitor.  Abruptly, the holographic projections of twelve captains sat around him in the room, and Admiral Thompson stood, clasping his hands behind his back.

            “Gentlemen, three more plants are down, which leaves us with only two fully functional ice processors down there.  Now, we have successfully landed the first team of colonists on Mars, which means our mission now takes on a greater sense of importance.  We cannot allow these Europans to continue to struggle against us when they are so evidently defeated.  We cannot allow them to continue to use terrorism to hamper our progress on the planet.  Any thoughts, Gentlemen?”

            He turned back to face the holographs.  The captains looked around at each other, scrunching up eyebrows, rubbing chins, looking genuinely perplexed.

            “More force?”  One ventured, slightly lifting his hand.  “If we could further destroy them, it would encourage them to behave.”

            “I disagree.” Replied another.  “When we first were here, before the UN sanctions forced us to withdraw from the moon, we encountered no resistance from the Europans.  The scientists who studied them got along fine, and we harvested ice in peace.  I believe that their violence was directly instigated by our attack, and continued savagery will just lengthen this conflict.  I say we reach out to them, teach them to be like us.”

            No one else spoke up, until finally the Admiral said, “I agree with both of you.  I feel that peace can only be reached through cooperation, and a friendly Europan nation could prove very beneficial for us.  However, we cannot afford to be seen as weak either.  Therefore, we will launch one last offensive against Europan factions still loyal to the royal government.  It will begin once again with an attack from the skies, carefully coordinated, but we will also launch an attack with troops on the surface.  While the attack progresses, we will also try and reach out to Europans, to get them to join our side.”

            The captain who had proposed peace shook his head, while the hawk captain grinned, and stood.

            “Admiral, I will take charge of collecting available intelligence detailing possible targets for the strike immediately.”  The holograph disappeared, as did the others.

 

            Organized for as long as they could remember in a strict class system under a royal family system, Europans had rarely questioned how things were done.  The king was obeyed without question, and the good of the Europan nation was always put before the worth of the individual.  Now, however, the royal family was dead, their glory and power crushed under the heels of the United States fleet.  Now the Europans were divided into two groups; those who wanted to reestablish the old Europan hierarchy, and those who were ready to cast away the past and work with their conquerors.

            The Royalists were on the run, their larger and stronger bastions had been destroyed in the massive second assault, and now the US had deployed soldiers to the surface, who, with proper equipment, could hunt under the ice as well.  To make matters worse, the progressive Europans (viewed as traitors by the Royalists) were beginning to work for the United States in harvesting the ice, and many were being trained into militias to fight the still resisting Royalists.

            And as Admiral Thompson made his first visit to the frozen moon’s surface, he was sure the war was over.  With the help of converted Europans, the Americans were constructing many more ice processors on the surface, and the Europan militias being organized were proving very resolute for American interests.  He had broken the back of the Europan people, he was sure.

            He stayed in Lincoln City, and declared to the world of Earth, “Mission Accomplished!” Aiming his victory boasts at each and every single country that had not supported them.  They had not helped, he thought, and all the better, for all the resources of the moon were now destined for solely American use.  He had done it, Admiral Thompson had just secured the future of America by securing the future of American colonization.  Ice was being refined and filtered into pure clean water, and being transported to the growing number of colonists on Mars at an astounding rate; in fact, they were well ahead of their quota in sheer volume of water they had delivered.

            The UN received the boast of victory with ill humor, receiving fully the mockery underlying the message.  The offended nations of the world joined together and launched a protest against the United States in attempt to break their power before the grew too great to stop.  They demanded that the Americans keep their word, and work to make Europa free.

 

 

            It was Christmas aboard the fleet’s flagship, the Rhode Island, the one time of year where the Admiral let his icy demeanor melt away, when he joined his men.  The bridge was full of merriment, save for a few sullen recruits, forced to man their stations in case of an emergency.  Drunk officers lounged in their chairs, shouting and singing with songs playing from their computer terminals.  In the mess hall, a giant twister blanket was laid out, a mess of entangled marines on it.

            “Right hand to red” came a call from the onlookers.

            From the bottom of the pile an arm emerged, reaching for the red circle.  It plopped down on it, but shook, and collapsed, taking the pile with it.

            “Oh Admiral!” came a raucous cry from the cheering crew, and the tall thin Thompson pulled himself from the pile, red faced and grinning.

            “Merry Christmas everybody!”  He yelled, pulling a woman from the crowd and dancing her around in circles a few times before releasing her.  “Somebody get me some punch!”

            While a mob of ambitious crew ran to get the Admiral his punch, Thompson slumped against a pole, breathing heavily with his hands on his knees.  From his wrist came a beep, and then a young man’s timid voice.

            “Sir, you’re needed at the bridge.”

            The Admiral drew the wrist across his forehead, wiping away the beads of sweat accumulated there.  “What is it?” he asked, sounding annoyed.

            “Sir, excuse me, but it’s extremely important.  It’s the Royalists sir.  They’ve attacked Lincoln City.”

            The Admiral’s face went from cherry red to snow white in less than a second, and he ran from the mess hall, jogged the long hallway, nodding and wishing season’s greetings to whom he met, and walked onto the bridge.

            “What’s happened?” he asked of the soldier.

            “They’re hailing the fleet sir, down there.  Royalists attacked the city.  They got the Europan prime minister.”

            “Got him?”  The temporary Europan government had been recently created, housed directly under Lincoln City, to enable easy communication, and even easier surveillance.  “Killed him?”

            “Yes sir, killed him; they went in shooting, killed most of the government…and Lincoln sir…they sunk it…it went under the ice.”

            “Those bastards!” Thompson muttered hatefully, debating the next course of action.  “Get me the other captains.”

            “But sir… the festivities…”

            Now dammit!  We have to respond now!”

            Within minutes seven of the nine captains were present for a conference, and Thompson quickly directed them, orchestrating an immediate attack despite the alcohol in his system.

            “Target every major city with the rockets, drive the terrorists out.  I will launch a volley or two at the remains of Lincoln City from here, in hopes of catching any of those bastards hanging about, and then concentrate on Star City.  Now do it.”

            The salvo commenced.

            Injured Europans, dragging themselves through the water to escape the destroyed city of Lincoln caught the aerial bombardment in full, the sudden heat burning their bodies.  The waters looked as they did during the invasion, water boiling, ice cracking, remains of Europan corpses being flung into the air and scattered on the ice, and it was happening all over the globe.

            The royalist resisters were scattered all over the moon, striking at random at the ice harvesters and small bands of US soldiers, and now Europa paid the price.  City after city was awoken with explosions, shredding the buildings and killing Europans by the thousands.  The icy surface of Europa which had been zig-zagged by lines was now scarred, pitted with craters as dense clouds of missiles crashed into the cities.

            The attack lasted less than two hours, and most of the crewmembers did not even know it had occurred as they continued their drunken revelry, but the citizens of Europa were well aware.  Thousands of innocent fish-people had been slain, and the ferocity and needlessness of the attack had shocked even the most steadfast of American supporters under the surface.

            Admiral Thompson stood at the window, looking down at the moon.  Black spots marred the once white surface, and clouds of smoke drifted through the sky for a few moments before they froze and fell to the ground.  He grinned at the moon.

            “Checkmate.”

 

            That night, sleeping in his elegant quarters, he had a dream.  He was back in the time of his youth, on a boat in the Atlantic Ocean, when he was twelve years old.  The captain was on the front of the boat, looking back to where young James was sitting.

            “What have you done lad?” The captain called back to James.

            “Nothing sir.”  Then he looked down, he was waist deep in blood, and there were heads in the blood, with sightless eyes wide open.

            “What have you done lad?”  Came the question again.

            James tried to push the heads away, frantically paddling the blood with both hands.

            Then he was in the water, blood all around him still, and the heads could see, and were staring at him.  Sharks were closing in, he could see their dorsal fins circling him.

            “I had to save the boys!”  He cried.  “I had to save the boys!”

            The old captain floated by on his back, gently kicking his feet in the blood.

            “Beep beep.”  Said the Captain.

            “What?” said young James, puzzled.

            “Beep beep”

            It was the sat-com on the wall that was beeping, and old James sat up and looked at it.  Stumbling out of bed, Admiral Thompson crossed into his office and turned it on.  The screen turned on, and the President of the United States was face to face with him.

            “Good Morning Mr. President.”  He said.

            It was a recording, which was a good thing, as the delay in their conversation would have been more than forty minutes between when a word was spoken and when the other person would receive it.

            “Damn you Admiral Thompson!  Damn you to hell!  What do you think you’re doing out there?  The Europans sent footage of your attack to everyone on the planet!  The UN is outraged: they’re demanding full investigation of the attack, and our dealings thus far, and are demanding that they participate in further governing of the moon.  I hope you’re happy, Admiral, because I am removing you from your position as soon as we get out there.  In the mean time, I want you to land your troops on the ground, and mop up the Royalists, before the UN gets there…I don’t want this to get bigger than it is already, Admiral.”

            The recording finished, replaced by the President’s seal, and the Admiral stood up.  He quickly showered and put on his crisp blue uniform, and stood, straightening himself out before the mirror for several minutes.  He looked at the uniform, and tears welled in his eyes.  The President was going to fire him, it was certain, but he was still expected to carry out one last operation before he went.  The navy was his life; the ships, the sea; he did not feel he belonged in space.  He had devoted himself to the Navy from the time he was a boy, not ever stopping for anything, not even a family.

            He left his room, heading straight for the bridge, which he entered without any greeting to the crew already busy at work.

            “The Europans sent a transmission to Earth!  Was it the Royalists?  Can we trace it?”  He asked the entire room, as he sat in his chair.

            “Not certain if it was the Royalists, sir, the whole moon is pretty stirred up, but we can trace the signal point exactly.”  Said the same technician who had been on duty when Lincoln was destroyed.

            “All right, good.  I want those coordinates.”  Then his face went blank for his second.  “Wait…The whole moon is stirred up?  What do you mean?”

            “Just look sir, see the red circles?  All attacked since the bombardment.  We believe this is too numerous for the Royalist terrorists to be responsible.  It seems most of the moon has united against our presence.”

            “All those red circles were hit?” said the Admiral, mouth wide open as were his eyes as he looked at the map.  “What do we have left?”

            “Sir, we have nothing.  All the plants have been destroyed, totally, and all the people down there…no reports.”

            The Admiral whirled on his heel, marching straight out of the command room, calling behind him, “Order a red alert: get all available troops to the docking bay, we’re going in.”

            The Rhode Island was the only ship in the fleet to have a contingent of Marines aboard; the other ships were only assault craft.  These marines were now gathered, suited up, waiting in the docking bay for further instructions from their Admiral, who had yet to arrive.

            Thompson had never been a fighting man.  He had always been thin, and now, at 54 years of age, he was far from being in his prime.  This didn’t stop him; he was determined to lead his team down to the planet and fight alongside them, to avenge his slain soldiers on the moon.  He entered the bay sans his uniform, dressed instead with the white camo the other marines were wearing.

            “All right men, we have the coordinates of the Royalist headquarters.”  He stopped, looking each man in his face.  “But that’s not it, the entire planet will be our enemy.  Our main Objective is to hit that HQ, but we are also going to do what we can to put down this damaging revolt.  The UN is coming, to take this gem from our hands.  We cannot let this slip from our hands.  From America’s hands.  Make me proud men.  I’ll be with you every step of the way.  Saddle ‘em up boys!”

            With a loud roar the marines loaded up onto two shuttles, with the Admiral.  The two shuttles dropped from the belly of the Rhode Island, quickly accelerating towards the small moon, as communications danced furiously among the shocked and leaderless fleet.  They cut through the relatively thin atmosphere, flying low over the broken ice as they neared the coordinates of the long distance signal that had caused all the trouble.

            The admiral talked into his helmet to the pilots of the two helicopters.

            “Drop us in within a hundred yards.  Everyone else, put on your diving suits, chances are we’re going to have to go under the surface.  Do we have any craft on this shuttle?”  He directed this last question back at the pilots.

            “Yes sir, two two-man subs on each shuttle sir.” Replied one of the pilots, turning and giving Thompson a thumbs-up sign.

            The Admiral sat back, looking pleased, as the Marines began to quickly suit up.  He spoke to the marine next to him, without moving his head or eyes, just looking at the ceiling of the shuttle.

            “Ever heard of the Vikings, marine?”

            “Sir?”  The marine did not understand, still pulling on a leg of the suit.

            “The Vikings.”  The marine did not recognize the name, indicated by a shake of his head.  “They were a barbaric race of men from more than a thousand years ago, seafarers.  They were great warriors.  Their whole belief system centered around war.  You know what they believed was heaven?”

            The Marine again shook his head no.

            “It was a wonderful place for a warrior.  Brutal battles all day long, a place reserved for those who died honorably in battle.  A beautiful place for men like us marine.”

            The marine shook his head, this time amused.  “Yes sir, a beautiful place indeed I s’pose.”

            A crackle came through the Admiral’s helmet.  “Sir, putting down now sir.”

            The Admiral sat forward.  “Oh Shit!  The suit!”  He hastily pulled it on as the shuttles slowly lowered to the ice, two marines helping him, making sure everything was secure.

            Up towards the cockpit, the marine sergeant started shouting.

            “Go! Go! Go!”  And the Marines flooded out of the back of the shuttle, the Admiral amongst them.

            “The signal came from right over there!”  Admiral Thompson yelled, pointing.

            The two shuttles of marines joined into one mass, rushing to the spot.  They stopped at a huge gaping hole, the water in it just barely frozen, and nowhere near as thick as the rest of the surface.  One marine stepped forward, and planted a small black object on the clear ice, and then retreated back quickly.  The object disappeared in a geyser of water, and the whole was once again clear.  With a nod to the Admiral, the marines began jumping in, and Thompson went in with them.

            The world got dark almost immediately, and the headlamp did little to illuminate the water around him.  For the first time in his life, Admiral Thompson was genuinely afraid.  He was getting more and more claustrophobic, his lungs seizing up and going into his throat.  He didn’t know how much longer he could take it, and he was cursing himself for it.  There was no one around him that he could see, and still he felt ashamed.  Who was he to be afraid now; he was nothing but a politician in a military suit he thought.  But no, his other conscience decided to speak up at last.

            “Shut up.  Pull yourself together.”  The simple statements destroyed his self-doubt and shame, and his throat was clear.  And now, below him, were lights, a Europan city.  Already, a cluster of marines had landed upon the crystalline structure, he could see them silhouetted against the bright city.

            The Admiral fell, and landed softly on the building with the Marines, soon, from above him, descended the rest of the battalion and the group stood together on the roof of the Europan city.  Their guns were ready to go, they were ready to go, and so the Admiral gave the go command to break in.

            Four explosions went off, and the Americans entered into the controlled waters of the city, searching for the Europans inside.  Through huge empty chamber through huge empty chamber, the marines searched and searched, and finally, they found them.

            “It’s…it’s a hospital sir.”  Croaked one marine.

            They had entered the largest chamber, a massive city square area, filled with injured Europans.  They lay everywhere, blanketing the ground with their gray, glistening bodies as far as the eye could see.  Admiral Thompson looked around the room, eyes squinting with skepticism.

            “This isn’t just a hospital, it’s a cover up.  Search for the Royalists.”

            There were hundreds of Europans swimming about, and they saw the marines begin to search the dead and wounded for terrorists.  They were outraged, and angrily signaled to each other, and descended in a gray cloud to harass the trespassers.

            One marine looked up, and fired.  The fast harpoons tore into the Europans, ripping them apart, and the Gray cloud began to grow red with blood.  More panicked Marines began firing, not just at the descending Europans, but also indiscriminately began to kill Europans on the ground.  More Europans began to flood into the great hall, and they were armed, and they joined the fight.

            The Admiral did not panic.  “Back up men, firing” He called, and the marines dutifully began to slowly trod backwards, all the while returning fire with their Europan adversaries.

            The American had nearly retreated out of the great chamber now, the water before them a hazy cloud of blood.  Europans  laying on the ground were frantically signing their pain, writhing if they could through the water, trying to escape the death that was all around them.  The Europan weapons, while slightly primitive, had taken a few of the marines’ lives as well, and their ranks were slowly starting to thin.  The heavy weighted diving suit boots did not allow the marines to fall down, and instead they remained in place, swaying as the water currents played over their dead forms.

            Although their weapons may have been inferior to those of the marines, the Europans could hardly be called primitive.  They had progressed greatly, and their one fault was their inability to get above the icy ceiling of their world.  They had however become much more than fish, building crystalline cities where waters could be controlled, both for temperature and pollution levels, for pollution traveled quickly as they industrialized.  They saw no need to escape from the water.

            And the Admiral had made a great mistake in underestimating them.  His men continued to back up, firing upon the Europans in front, but failed to see the mass of Europans now at their rear, waiting, silently.

           

            The engines slowly died, and the fleet came into orbit around Europa, occasionally firing boosters to keep themselves from revolving around Jupiter instead.  Aboard the Rhode Island, poor helmsman Kip Polaski, the same man to have witnessed the destruction of Lincoln, and to have reported to Thompson the Europan signal, now had to receive the Chinese Admiral’s hail.

            “Where is General Thompson?”  Demanded the angry-faced little man.  “He dares to refuse UN support fleet?”

            “No sir, the Admiral is on the surface, and has been out of contact for nearly a month now.”

            The Chinese Admiral’s eyes narrowed, glaring at the frightened man.

            “Over a month?  Well then, let me inform you that the American fleet is to be withdrawn, and all forces on the surface as well…”

            “But sir, I am in no position to…”

            Sun Tzu out.”

 

©2005 by the author