* * *
“I feel like we’re not supposed to be doing this.”
Matt turned to Victoria with a mischievous grin. “We aren’t!”
“Aren’t?” Victoria inquired.
“Doing this,” Matt declared.
Victoria forced a smile. Her eyes darted to the proximity indicator. Matt and Eric “borrowed” the shuttle from Steven’s father’s yard. Steven called it a yard, but the six low-orbit shuttles that constituted “the fleet” were ramshackle at best. More patchwork than shuttle, and no one would miss this one. It would be sold for scrap after the long weekend. Eric was a wizard with all things transport, so the three youths fixed up the shuttle for their weekend getaway.
Matt took her silent musings for acceptance. “Besides,” he continued, “the ‘Captain’ thinks we’re still in dock around Europa.”
The proximity warning bellowed it presence into the tiny cockpit. The comms burst into life with Eric’s excited voice. “We’ve got a whale!”
Matt smiled, leaned over the control panel, and entered a sequence. The gray featureless walls quickly subsumed to transparent. Victoria looked over her shoulder and met Charlotte’s eyes. She snuggled closer to Steven, her eyes wide in anticipation. Eric and Stephanie’s chattering from the rear compartment droned on over the comms. The ‘captain’ sat dark and impotent, light reflecting off its smooth surface.
Victoria gripped the armrests of the navigation chair. They were less than an hour into their adventure and they were about to see their first whale. The weeks of planning for a trip that would last only a few hours had finally reached fruition.
“Shit! Shit! Shit!” Matt whispered next to her. “Too close!” His face paled as energy discharge danced along the hull.
“Protect the ‘captain’,” Steven’s excited voice sounded out over the comms.
Matt’s fingers danced over the beveled glass. Victoria felt the acceleration as he rotated their shuttle so that the pod, dubbed “the captain,” was rotated away from the breach.
“We’ve got another one!”
Eric’s voice was no longer lilted with excitement. Now it was a resigned dread.
The hues of blues and purples crackled at Victoria’s feet. When the whale burst from the portal, the leading edge materialized and sheered the captain from its moorings.
The quick trip to watch celestial phenomenon was looking more like a death sentence. Alarms and warnings shrieked and flashed with intensity that the situation required.
“We’re caught in their wake!”
Victoria thought that Eric’s voice was starting to grate on her nerves.
The shuttle tumbled end over end and as they cleared Jupiter’s atmosphere, Europa came into view. Jupiter, then Europa. It repeated again and again.
“Boaty McBoatface.” A new voice intoned over the comms. “Do you require assistance?”
Victoria slammed her hand on the panel in front of her. “Yes! We’ve lost our drive pod!”
“Understood, Boaty McBoatface.” The panels in the cockpit turned blue as their rescuer took control of their shuttle. Bursts of compressed gas righted their spin and they prepared for the trip back to Europa to face the consequences of their soirée.