Part 9: SOLAR RANGERS ARCHIVES
report classified TOP SECRET (now declassified)
recorded 2332 hours ; 22 Sept 2199 ; aboard the WSS Milleniun
Falcon IV out of Callisto Base;
(voice: ...Recording now;)
SHECKLEY: Major R. Sheckley reporting: With me are The Cosmic
Coup--er-- Niels Tordenskjold and Marucia Alexandre, the Envoys
sent to Jupiter 33.5 Earth years ago, having just returned from
They report a Relative Time Displacement of 270 days, or 9
months, and we concur, for they have both passed several
identification procedures to confirm their ages and identities.
Each is seemingly healthy, seemingly sane--and miss Alexandre
appears to be in the 9th month of pregnancy.
We have cut off the public 3V transmissions for the moment, and
have asked the Envoys not to speak more until we could come into
a secure zone, where we are now.
ALEXANDRE: I wish to complain about this censorship, Major--you
can't keep us in isolation. We have a message...
TORDENSKJOLD: They're just following procedure, Maru, and we must
agree to follow it. They're not sure what we have come back
with. Hell, neither are we.
SHECKLEY: And I wouldn't dream of keeping you in isolation, my
dear Maru, you're my favorite heroine. But you do know how
critical it is that we record your story as a First Version,
before you tell it so many times that no one can remember the
original. And, even more important, that we know WHAT your story
is before we let it loose upon our own culture.
ALEXANDRE: Yes, all right.
SHECKLEY: So? What happened down there?
TORDENSKJOLD: Report in brief: the mission is an unqualified
success; we confirmed Life on Jupiter, established contact with
our host, experienced an amazing cultural exchange, and have
returned with a message...and perhaps a messenger...to our own
SHECKLEY: That's brief, all right. Looking at Miss
Alexandre's...state, I'd say you briefed out some details.
TORDENSKJOLD: Oh, yes, we'd like to request a wedding ceremony
as soon as it is convienient.
SHECKLEY: So the "Cosmic Couple" IS a couple now?
ALEXANDRE: Oh, sure, everyone knew we would be anyway.
TORDENSKJOLD: Even us, we just weren't admitting it to all that
SHECKLEY: Well, we don't know anything. We last heard from you as
your ship was following the beacon into Jupiter's atmosphere 33 ½
Then the beacon seemed to shatter and you vanished from sight.
Your last transmitted words have been recorded--and are considered
historic now, by the way--you are
talking to each other and Niels asks you, Marucia, if you are
scared, to which you reply: "Not now. We've survived the Sun.
How can Jupiter be worse than THAT?" Then fade out to endless
silence; we figured you were dead.
ALEXANDRE: Oh yes, I remember--we lost radio contact just after
that. Well, I was right: Jupiter wasn't worse; we were fine, the
Jupship was out of phase with the intense atmospheric conditions
and we passed though untouched.
TORDENSKJOLD: Good thing too; the storm we went into was spraying
ammonia-ice crystals like meteors; winds faster than sound would
have blown us off course; clouds of oceanic density should have
smashed our ship--but we phased through it all like a shadow.
ALEXANDRE: And it phased through US; we could see and feel and
hear it all streaking and shrieking around and through us in a
rainbow blur, but so fast we couldn't really register it.
Everything shimmered. Outside it got darker and darker as we
sank into the atmosphere until no sunlight penetrated and there
was only blackness. And this was in the upper atmosphere, we
descended for another 8 hours.
SHECKLEY: No sign of Jupiterians?
TORDENSKJOLD: Not at that point, no communication or sighting, at
least. But we went into remote control mode as instructed, and
our instruments confirmed that we were being flown down.
Straight down, 1000 km. Through dark clouds in the upper
atmosphere, but as we dropped into the denser layers the hydrogen
began to liquify, to "slush", then was just like an ocean. At
that level a bluish light could be seen, glowing everywhere,
illuminating the "AtmoSea" all around us. It was our first
sighting of Jupiterian Life: the light came from simple
organisms, like phosporescent plankton, floating in the sea.
Our instruments started indicating other life-forms, small at
first, we were descending too fast to actually see any of them.
We had 1000 km of atmosphere to penetrate, and a rendezvous to
keep, and our "pilot" didn't slow down. As the AtmoSea got
thicker, almost jelly-like, the life forms got bigger until
vastly huge objects whizzed past us in the blue glow, we could
barely see something blur on by, but no details. We phased right
through some of them--and then we got a sense for size, for we
were travelling at about 800 km pr hr, and yet it took 15 minutes
to pass through a living creature...
Finally the ship slowed, hovered--and we got our first real look
at Jupiterian life. The AtmoSea was murky, cloudy, but hazily
transparent, with a spectrum of light colors shimmering, allowing
visibility : the floating population of a gas giant, also giant.
Everything was so BIG...( or we were so
small)...mostly fish-like, sort of, floating and swimming
anyway. Mostly exoskeletal or jellyfish-like constructions,
simple, primitive, something like the fish that live in the
high-pressure depths of Earth's ocean.
But as we went deeper the forms became more complex, we began to
see the "modular" life forms
the Jupiterians had mentioned in their Messages; clusters of
various species functioning together as one...creature. And
there were many of them, drifting through the AtmoSea.
Then we could hear a tone through the ship, actually more felt
than heard, thunderingly low. That tone went up the scale, the
light outside started fluctuating, faster until it was simply a
flickering of light. We could see on our instruments that time
was being distorted, Earth days were passing faster, we were
being adjusted to Jupiterian time.