Europa, in its glorious glow, was discovered by the illustrious Galileo and so named after the Cretan queen. She never once escaped the interest of scientists and backyard astronomers. Pioneer 10 and 11 approached her and then Voyager 1 and 2 winked at her. In 2018, NASA and a German aeronautics company sent a probe to Europa to drill the ice sheet and study the plate tectonics. There was a teeming salt ocean sixty miles under the ice. When the drill reached liquid the bit broke and the probe malfunctioned. She stopped communicating with Earth. The probe was named Heidi and she became stranded on Europa.
In 2045, a manned mission was sent to Europa in a well-equipped shuttle called Teresa. Captain Jennifer Castro and Captain Marcus Leer, trained in drilling, landed twenty feet from Heidi. The Captains, properly suited to deflect the high radiation levels and thin oxygen-based atmosphere, walked to Heidi and attempted a manual reboot. It didn’t work. Jennifer uploaded a new program and added an additional computer.
“I’m going to retract the drill,” she told Marcus. It took an hour. Marcus closely monitored their radiation saturation. One day on Europa could kill a human being. The space suits had a radiation capacity.
“I’m going to fix the drill bit,” said Marcus. He inspected the titanium. It seemed odd that it should have broken so easily back in 2018. “It looks chewed.” He said. His face looked surprised but Jennifer could not see his expression under the helmet. Marcus and Jennifer fixed the drill bit and continued updating the technology for the next two hours. They repositioned the drill. An alarm went off. They were at radiation saturation.
“Let’s go to the shuttle,” said Jennifer.
In the shuttle, dressed in blue sweats and breathing easily, they triggered the drill and in it dove under the ice for a journey of sixty miles. The drill then plunged a compartment deep into the dark, salty ocean.
“I’m retracting,” said Jennifer. The drill retracted without incident. Both captains then napped. When they awoke they drank coffee and ate eggs, diced chicken, and yogurt. They suited up and headed back to Heidi. They detached the compartment containing the sea water, monitored and adjusted Heidi and then went back to the shuttle where there was a lab. Dressed in hazmat suits, as a precaution, they opened the compartment. They slowly siphoned off the water, which seemed soupier than the ocean water on Earth. As the last droplets poured off a black, slimy, sting ray like object emerged. Jennifer and Marcus let out yells. Both captains were frozen. The creature, only a foot long, unfurled itself until it stood six feet and then flashed its massive teeth that more resembled vampire fangs. The creature ripped Marcus’ head off and then consumed Jennifer as she tried to escape.
Earth pinged Teresa over and over and then pinged Heidi. There was silence. Cold, brittle, ominous silence. Europa slowly turned on its axis as the creature made its way back to its ocean home. As it slithered it absorbed radiation and its interior structure (we cannot assume DNA) altered as it plunged back into the ocean and mated. Its progeny was different, larger and more malevolent, somehow. And that was life on Europa. Two dead humans and a sea bulging with beasts more fierce than any on Earth all because humanity intervened.