Europa

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EUROPA

When the Centauri settlements in the Jupiter system's moons were large enough to declare independence from Gorpai, around 1900, they organized themselves into a loose Jovian League, which elected, when common action was necessary, an admiral-dictator. There was a civilian Federal Assembly which levied taxes and troops from the members during times of peaceful watchfulness.

Belial could never swallow the independence of the Jovian League, so hy harassed them constantly with raids through the Fold-Gate, but for decades hy could not amass sufficient forces to bring the colonies back under hyz complete control.

El Shaddai's remote indifference made him almost an ally of Belial, and he often assented to Belial's requests. The three other elohim opposed sending a large fleet from Centauri through the wormhole to Jupiter. And it took at least three elohim to generate a flow of dark-energy sufficient to open the Fold-Gate.

So Belial thought long-term, and he thought small. Every passage of a tanker or passenger liner to Jupiter was accompanied by one or two fighters, or a bomber, or possibly a corvette, all for security reasons, and none of these spacecraft returned. This was sufficiently modest to escape the notice of the other elohim.

In 1922 Solbrig was made Prime Minister of the Federal Assembly to remedy rates of inflation which rose as high as 28 percent under the Jovian League's fiat currency, a local version of Belial's stater. All members of the Jovian League unanimously agreed to give this wildly-successful financier complete powers of reform.

After an astonishingly deep but relatively short economic depression and other painful measures, Solbrig put inflation and interest rates back in check. By 1927 the economy of the outer Solar System achieved a long-term pattern of gradual, stable growth.

In 1931 after a devastating large-scale and simultaneous surprise attack with the corvettes, bombers, and fighters which had slipped the notice of the other elohim, Belial invaded Ganymede. Survivors with the means to do so tried to flee to space, but these refugees as well as the entire Jovian League fleet was bottled up in low orbit by Gorpai's naval forces.

A large fraction of the Jovian colonial fleet had been underway on widely separated maneuvers and was caught off-guard by the Imperial attack, but ironically this preserved that portion of the fleet from destruction. When these stragglers returned to wartime readiness, Callisto, Io, the smaller moons, and the Ganymede government in exile placed themselves under the direct military rule of Admiral Leonor.

The Navy of Belial, outgunned, outclassed, and fearing to meet Leonor in open space, drew down their small ships to land in the densely urbanized area near Vasil on Ganymede, thus holding the population itself hostage against Leonor's use of tactical nuclear weapons on their forces.

The grounded Imperial ships, reduced now to little more than expensive pillboxes, beat off several attempts at orbit-to-surface precision strikes against them. In 1932 Admiral Leonor finally stormed their position with infantry, but the Empire succeeded in burning their ships before the Jovians could seize them, and the survivors took to the hills.

The citizens of Ganymede revolted from Imperial rule and pursued their former oppressors into the rugged mountains of their moon. Remnants of the Imperial forces were hunted down throughout 1933-35. Some vengeful Ganymedans who had lost entire families in the air strikes sought Belial's stragglers out personally and devised particularly gruesome forms of justice, with the aim of deterring future attacks.

In 1977 after a long period of quiet the Imperial naval base at Hyperion was suddenly fortified by the Emperor with many large warships despite the opposition of Chokhmah and Bat-El. Belial had a new ally among the elohim, Robyn-Binah, who sought Belial's participation in the upcoming Fortuna Summit.

The Jovian League grew disgusted with Leonor's complacency in the face of this buildup, and made an alliance with Ariyama ("he Fair"), a disgruntled commodore in Leonor's force.

Ariyama vowed the expulsion of the Empire from all Jovian territory. Each ally was to contribute a quota of ships and money. Ariyama assessed the tribute at 2 billion Solyad at first (for the Jovian league had gone over to using the hard currency of Femina Caelestis), but the money was poorly supervised and even more poorly spent. Every month the tribute Ayiyama demanded went up, until the Jovian League began to tap into a fund laid aside for extreme contingencies. But they had little choice.

In 1978 the Emperor sent his swollen fleet against every site of military value on Ganymede, Io, and Callisto. By the time the Jovian delegates could agree to so much as declare the peace broken, Ariyama's fleet was already a smouldering demolition alley of orbiting, lifeless wrecks and every Jovian city lay at the mercy of being nuked from space.

Memmar Krenek, Patriach of Ganymede, wished to carry on the conflict with guerrilla tactics, laying waste the entire moon. But the provincial governors, hoping to protect their territories, forced him to take a stand at the broad Memphis Facula plain, where together with the levies from the house of Ushnel and the house of Sonon the Jovian League was completely defeated by Emperor Hadraniel.

Leaving hyz remaining naval forces to complete the reconquest of the Jovian colonies, Emperor Hadraniel then departed for the Fortuna Summit aboard the Adversary, the largest ship in the Imperial order of battle, which had been instrumental in hyz victory.

Overlooked in all these conflicts was the moon Europa, which was something of a backwater.

The Jovian moon Europa is just slightly smaller than the Earth's moon, with a total area of just 6 percent of the Earth, but the similarity with Luna pretty much ends there.

For one thing there are almost no craters on Europa. The entire surface of the satellite is water ice about six hundred feet thick and only a hundred degrees above absolute zero. Underneath that ice is a saltwater ocean that is sixty miles deep and as warm as a heated swimming pool.

Driven by tidal forces as Europa orbits Jupiter every three and a half days, the thin crust of the satellite is always cracking open in random places, allowing liquid seawater to be exposed to the vacuum of space and freeze. This makes the surface of the moon a chaotic jumbled mess, just like a solder connection that is moved as it solidifies. There were ridges two hundred feet high alternating with ravines just as deep, all oriented at crazy angles.

It is impossible to build a road on Europa, and it wouldn't last for very long at any rate. So despite being one of the smoothest bodies in the Solar System, with no mountains to speak of, it is perhaps the most difficult place in the Jupiter system for the nephilim colonists to get around, except by flying.

But the House of Gerash didn't take that into account when they barged into the Jupiter system first and took over Europa and what they thought was the sweetest spot. They were thinking only of all that water, which their ships with their nuclear fission reactors required for propellant.

But they soon found there were absolutely no other resources on Europa within reach. All the metals they required had to be imported. The only advantage Europa had over Ganymede or Callisto, which both had a mix of ice and rock, was that the ice didn't have to chiseled out and melted first. Before the colonies upgraded to macros in the wake of the Fortuna Summit, this was a small advantage indeed.

So Europa was a black hole sucking up the Gerash patriarch's treasure and returning no profit to him at all. It wasn't even suitable for a navy garrison. Hy operated Europa at a loss, therefore, only as a prestige showcase, just to say the White Beards had a toehold at Sol. The families of the Gerash clan who were established there lived largely on the Imperial dole.

Power was plentiful, obtained by taking advantage of the large thermal gradient between the frozen surface and the warm underground liquid reservoir, but on Europa it was a life where almost nothing could be thrown away. Every piece of garbage had to be weighed in the mind with regard to its possible value after being recycled.

So for nearly two hundred years the colony languished, and Belial thought of it seldom, if ever. It rarely figured in the military conflicts of the colonies. The largest towns on Europa numbered only in the hundreds of souls.

The names of the colonists grew strange, and they drifted far from the law of Belial. The cupel testing system was entirely forgotten. Family Gerash shattered into thousands of individual families, living in homesteads or small communal farms with little communication between each other.

But it did not escape notice that part of the surface of Europa was streaked with color, and some of the colonists realized the sea salts in those areas were rich with minerals such as magnesium or iron or even gold that could be painstakingly extracted by electrolysis.

Some families started operations to extract these minerals, and they not only went off the Gerash dole, they even turned a tidy profit in their own right.

The Patriarch naturally demanded a cut of these profits in taxes. Some of the families paid out of loyalty to Belial, but most did not, judging it would be far more troublesome and expensive to extract these taxes by force than would ever be obtained. They forgot the ancient principle of "kill one to warn a thousand". The Patriarch began sending warships down on random raids to cow the rest of the homesteaders into paying up.

On Europa there was a family of colonists with just three members, headed by a yang named Terrel. Hyz wife was Greidi and they had a son named Tanish who was on the edge between dirk and yanghood. Their operation was spotted by the Navy of Belial from above by examining their waste stream, the melt- ed discolored water they dumped on the surface to freeze, leaving an una- voidable tell-tale sign someone was living and working below.

In 1978, in the wake of the "liberation" of the Jupiter system from the Jovian League, Admiral Hanziel assigned a seven-yeng corvette, the Penalizer, to kill Terrel and his family, and take over the extraction facilities for the Patriarch.

While the Penalizer orbited overhead, a squad of four bluejackets made the raid in a lander while three crewyeng remained aboard the corvette, which was a vessel halfway in size between a heavy bomber and a frigate.

The Empire timed the raid for one of the periods when the waste stream was observed to have diminished, which they took for a sleep period (Europa was tidally locked on Jupiter and "night" lasted for almost two standard days, so it was impossible to tell when the locals were asleep otherwise). What saved the family was Terrel's strict policy that at least one member stand watch while the other two members slept. That, and the fact that the air- lock, the sole entrance to their homestead, was rigged with an alarm.

At the time of the raid, Greidi was on watch near the top of the main shaft. The cave network that was her family's home was two hundred feet below her, and the warm, inky surface of the Europan sea was three hundred feet below that, sending up billows of condensed water vapor that made it difficult to see anything in the main shaft.

When the first two soldiers entered the main shaft sha hit them with har stunner, giving them three minutes of total paralysis. All voluntary motor functions and even breathing was was disabled. They couldn't move their mouth to warn the others, they couldn't even blink.

The Empire had no defense for her stunner, or even a similar weapon. The Patriarch always emphasized killing and mayhem, not mercy. But this was the first time the Navy of Belial had resorted to home-invasion robberies.

Greidi wasn't in a merciful mood at any rate. Beware the female who finds her loved ones in danger. Sha pierced the pressure suit of one soldier with a blade, but this required a lot of trial and error to find a vulnerable spot and it took too much time. So instead sha opted to cut the support lines on both yeng and let them fall down the shaft to the sea far below. Even if they survived the impact, which they didn't, their heavy suits would drag them far underwater before the stunner wore off and they could begin breathing again.

Greidi saw two more soldiers in the airlock above, and decided to hightail it down to the family living quarters to awaken har husband and son. This was done by using a ladder with a safety lanyard sliding in a safety rail between the alternating footrests. Sha took them five at a time to get out of the main shaft before the airlock cycled.

When those two soldiers emerged from the airlock they called out for their companions in the white steam but got no response. Then they saw the two cut lines and realized there was trouble. An attempt to report this to Penalizer failed. There was a film of metals that had precipitated out from Terrel's waste stream above and formed a Faraday Cage which blocked all radio signals out of the shaft.

The wise thing to do at that point would be to abort. But the two yeng knew their skipper wasn't a wise yang. So they proceeded down the shaft under high alert.

When they got to the multi-level series of tunnels that formed Terrel's home, they dropped one at a time, alternating on point while the other yang covered him.

On the third level, Terrel let the exposed yang have it with a stunner. There was no sound from the weapon, or from the yang who was hit. Hy just dangled there on his rope, unable to release hyz grip.

The other yang above hym wasn't a soldier per se, but merely the lander pilot, a colonial who was more or less drafted into the mission. Hy assumed the one who was a Gorpai soldier was merely rendered speechless by what hy saw, and curious hymself, hy dropped to see what it was. And Terrel hit hym with the stunner too.

Two minutes later the intruders were fastened by their own severed drop lines to chairs on the brink of the precipice.

Terrel asked, Where's the rest of your unit?

The reply hy got from the one who was soldier was a stream of obsenities, beginning with what hy planned to do with Terrel's wife, who was standing there covering both of har loved ones.

Tanish couldn't abide the insult to hyz beloved mother. Hy kicked the man's chair into the white abyss. After hy struck the water, it would be another sixty miles before hy reached the solid rocky core of Europa. It was the first time Tanish killed a yang, but not the last time by a wide measure.

The other soldier was more co-operative. My ship is in orbit.

That's much better, Terrel said. You're not a soldier, are you?

Pilot.

I thought so. You have a better attitude. What's your name?

Corporal Karayan.

Jovian? Terrel guessed from the local flavor of the name. That's even better.

Karayan nodded.

A curse on your beard, Greidi told hym bitterly. That you would do this to your own people.

No choice, madam.

How many other men on your ship, Corporal? Turrel demanded.

Three.

So that makes it, what, a corvette?

Yes sir.

Then I see a narrow way out for you, Corporal. You don't have to die like your friends. All you have to do is take myself, my wife, and my son up to your mother ship.

Karayan thought about it for a moment. Tanish helped along his through process by drawing near to him and tapping his feet.

You'll never make it, the corporal said. They'll know something is wrong.

That's why I'm hoping you are a very good actor, young corporal. You need to get on that visual, ship-to-ship, and give the performance of your life. Because your life will be at stake.

And then where can you go? The Navy will never stop looking for you.

Never mind about that. Will you do it?

What about the yeng on the Punisher?

They don't have to die either. I'll give you the lander. You can all fly away.

Five heartbeats later the corporal said, Then we have a deal, sir.

On the way up, Terrel demanded Karayan describe the interior of the corvette with great detail. Then after thinking for a bit he gave his orders to Greidi and Tanish.

Before docking, the commanding officer raised Corporal Karayan on intership VHF and ordered hym to make his report. Karayan pasted a smile on hyz face and said, Gold, sir! There's so much the sergeant told me to take a load up here and go back for more.

So you're alone?

Yes sir. There were only three locals in the hole. We finished them off easy.

Excellent work. We'll get ready to dock.

So anxious were the other three yeng on the Punisher to see the gold they were all present when the lander docked with the corvette and the hatch swung open. That made things easy for Terrel and Tanish, they didn't have to go though the warship looking for strays.

They did have to hit the yeng with the stunner several more times before they were all strapped into their seats, the hatch was closed, and the lander was cast off into space.

Tanish never learned what happened to the spaceyeng after they departed. Perhaps the three overcame the one, and killed Corporal Karayan when he succumbed to sleep. Tanish hoped Karayan was the only one who knew how to fly, because that would have preserved his life. Perhaps they found a set- tlement somewhere on Europa and sold the lander.

But Tanish was certain they did not return to the base on Hyperion. Belial expected his officers and men to protect his spacecraft with their very lives if necessary. The cost to Belial for molesting Terrel's family was one corvette and it's associated lander.

On short notice, Terrel and his family had left almost everything they owned behind. All they had left was the clothes on their back, the Imperial corvette, and everything aboard her. Tanish and Greidi went through the ship cataloging whatever they found while Terrel flew on to the distant outskirts of the Jupiter system to meet an old friend he knew.

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