Day 268 – Jupiter’s Children – Part 6

Word count: 855

Henry dived to the radio and turned all the dials. All that came forth from the loudspeaker was a gargled mess of space noise and screeching harmonics. He twisted the knobs again and again, any which-way they would turn.

“Come on!” he screamed at the machine, banging it.

“Henry!” Tammy sat anxiously looking at him, but not daring to go near him.

“Damn – thing – isn’t – working!” he punched the machine again.

One of the dials slipped into position and a loud wailing noise filtered into their ears before broken English could be heard through the noise. Henry dived back to the machine and slammed his finger on the microphone button.

“Stratos One come in this is Europa – Stratos One – come in this is Europa, do you read?”

Henry listened to the interference response hastily – waiting for a word of a reply.

“Stratos One do you read? Stratos One?” He was screaming down the intercom. “Dammit what’s wrong with these things!”

Henry reeled back from the radio, raging. Anything could have happened. Absolutely anything. For weeks he had dreaded her returning to Earth – he had a bad feeling about it from the start. Time and time again he told her not to go – to just remain on Europa with him, but she had to return to Earth for some conference, to see her family. She wouldn’t back down, she wouldn’t just listen.

“Henry, calm down, you know it takes a few minutes for a response….” Fiona put her arm around him. He threw it back.

“I know – but it’s not your wife on the fucking shuttle! It’s not another fucking loved on going to their fucking death!”

Henry pushed her away and went over to the window. The Red Spot stared back at him as if daring him to let loose his rage. He scowled back at it. He hated everything about it; the Earth. He hated how people went but rarely came back: so many friends, so many relatives. What was there that was so special? What kind of land was so special that no one wanted to live here, underneath the greatest giant of the solar system; to bask in its magnificence, to look at the star from two planets away and wonder what it might be like from three? They had nothing there; no lives no sense of discovery. This was where the future of mankind was: on Europa… why did anyone wish to leave, to leave him?

“Come in, Europa, come in,” the radio jittered into life.

Henry leaped back to it, “We read you, Stratos One?”

“This is Houston, Europa do you read?”

Henry’s heart sank. The time lag, of course. Henry despised it. No matter the technology, they still were bound by the laws of physics. It was frustrating.
“Houston, we read.”

Fiona pushed Henry aside, “Houston, we have made a discovery. Request meeting with Counsel. Repeat, request meeting with Cousel.”

“What are you doing? We’ve got more important things -” he shoved Fiona back again. “Houston, Stratos One is in trouble – we heard distress signal. Repeat distress signal, please confirm status? Status of Stratos One, please confirm? This is Henry – please, my wife is on board…”

Fiona pulled Henry back from the radio, “What do you think you are doing?”

“I’m trying to help my wife!”

“They’ll have got the distress signal – they’re closer to them than we are right now!”

“So what, you’re discovery is more important?”

Fiona looked gravely at him and he understood. “So what, I just sit here and wait for news as you talk of immortalising your names?”

“No, I’m not saying -”

“No, you’re making everything quite clear without saying anything at all.”

The radio spurted into life again, “Europa, please come in. This is Houston.”

“We wait, Henry. We wait.” Fiona instructed Henry, sensing that he wanted to dive towards the microphone again.

“Fiona, please, you’ve known me my whole life – you can’t let me just sit here and wait?”

“They will have gotten the signal before we did. We will hear back in a few minutes.”

Henry subdued his rage and sat down. They waited for several minutes, listening intently to the noise of Outer Space. Minutes passed without a word of a crackle of a response. Henry was getting anxious.

“Europa we read, this is Houston. Stratos One has no incidence. We have confirmed through contact. Distress signal sent out in error. Have sent request to Counsel, will confirm time in due course. Please prepare your report and send within eight Europa hours. Houston Out.”

Henry sighed heavily with relief.

“There you go, Henry, it’s all okay….” Fiona put her arm around Henry to comfort him.

“Bloody hell, I thought… I thought…”

“I know you thought, but you can’t keep thinking that way…. The Shuttle’s only ever had one accident… you know that.”

“I know, but, but,” he couldn’t help it, floods of tears returned to him as if he were five years old again.
“Henry, come here, come here…”

Henry grabbed Fiona and held on tight. “Fucking technology. Centuries of computer programming, and we still can’t it fucking right.”

~ by S.G. Mark on July 1, 2012.

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