I’m serializing my novel Europan Holiday here on my blog, Wattpad, and Leanpub. I plan to post on a Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday schedule until it’s done. Eventually I’ll do a regular print and e-book release once I’m done but this gives me a chance to review the book as I go.
Nick was much happier now that he was in the Cottage. It reminded him very much in his space cabin, without the high-tech feel – which was surprising given that he was in an outpost on Europa seabed. The whole thing had a very natural and organic feel to it. His room in the honeycomb wall was no larger than his space cabin. It was a single room with high net hammock, a small bench and table molded out of the same material as the rest of the structure, and a small alcove with some privacy for him to take care of his business. There wasn’t a door on the opening to his room, nothing but the opening in the side of the wall.
Vibeke had left him there, alone, to get settled in. After finding and using the facilities, he felt better, but there wasn’t any food or drink in the room. He went back to the opening and looked out over the interior of the dome. The room she had shown him was three up on the wall, which meant that he was well above the height of the fuzzy fan trees and the rest of the park-like grounds of the dome. From here he could see that the floor of the dome itself was a mound, rising towards the center of the habitat. From this vantage, he saw that there were other elves moving around the dome and they appeared to be doing gardening sorts of tasks in the park-like environment.
Maybe it wasn’t so much like a park, rather than some sort of permaculture garden. He had no idea which of the plants, or if all of the plants, were edible. There were also some of the aliens in the habitat, the ones he called Cthulhu’s little cousins. The Trinhlin. The little tentacled horrors were also engaged in various activities. Out past the green growing things was the clear wall of the dome and through it the deep ocean view of the reef around. It would’ve been nice if his room where closer to the wall of the dome. Then he would be able to get a much better view of the organisms swimming outside on the reef. Even from here he could see some of that, though he had to shield his eyes from the bright sunlight point that just under the top of the dome. That artificial sun was the bright light that he had first seen from the enforcers craft as they approached the reef. He hadn’t noticed any similar suns in the other domes.
Nick stepped back into the room and moved over to the bench and table built in the wall. He sat down, reached into his pocket, and until his fingers found the soft paper the elf had passed him back in Workshop Palace. He pulled it out, unfolded it, and looked at what was written.
“Don’t trust her,” the note said.
Don’t trust her? What did that mean? Was it referring to Vibeke? He couldn’t think of who else it might refer to. Well, why had the elf passed the note? The alien Santa Claus that he had encountered hadn’t been pleased with Nick’s presence in the Workshop Palace, and the elves that had been on the bridge when they landed had also seemed unhappy with Vibeke. Even Rylick hadn’t thought his sister should have abducted somebody from Earth. Without understanding more of the internal politics this whole place, Nick couldn’t judge whether or not the advice on the note was good or bad. It was just one more unanswered question, in a long string of unanswered questions. Right now it didn’t really seem like he was given much choice having been forcibly brought here to the cottage, and he imagined that Vibeke and Rylick were here for the same reason. They must’ve been taken even before he was summoned to meet the alien Santa Claus. Despite that Vibeke hadn’t expressed any concern when he greeted her at the pool. Apparently, for all the reactions she gave, she had been expecting him to show up here.
Nick rubbed his hands against the soft pants and stood up. Sulking in his room wasn’t going to answer anything, and it wasn’t going to get him anything to eat or drink. His best bet was to go find Vibeke and see if she would be more forthcoming with answers now.
He rose and went back to the opening of the room, keeping the note safe in his pocket, along with the storage drives from his spacesuit.
There were indentations in the wall between openings and Nick used these to climb down to the ground, even though with the light gravity he felt like he could fly. Gravity might be less but if he dropped down that distance he would still be accelerating and his mass hadn’t changed, so he could still hurt himself. He had done a little climbing and mountaineering back on Earth, to demonstrate techniques for his blog, so he had some comparison as he carefully climbed down.
Once he was back down in the fuzzy fan tree forest he had no idea which way to go. He decided to simply wander, and ask whomever he saw first for their help. As he wandered he took in much as he could of the strange alien plants. Although strange wasn’t really a good description. They were strange only in that he didn’t recognize them. Well, maybe a little strange, as he watched one shudder as he approached. On Earth he might’ve assumed there was some small animal under the plant, but as he took another step, the bush visibly shrank away from him, and it was clear that they actually were strange. The fuzzy fan trees waved their broad fanlike leaves through the air, creating their own wind.
There was a sort of dueling fans going on, he realized, as each leaf jockeyed for position to gather the most sunlight from the artificial sun above. As one leaf shaded the next the shaded one would move and seek the sun. The same sort of thing happened with trees on Earth, but there the movements were much slower and difficult to see without time lapse photography to really make it clear how active the plants were. Here they actively fought for space.
He hadn’t walked for more than a minute or so, when he came over a dip in the ground and found himself face-to-face with one of the Trinhlin. The alien hooted at him and waved three tentacles the air, making complex shapes and patterns like at the answer. Or maybe it was sign language, which would make sense given the way they looked and his assumption that they involve in the ocean here on Europa Nick held up a hand and waved at the alien.
“Hello there. I don’t mean to scare you or anything, but I don’t understand if you’re trying to talk to me.”
The alien made a few more pretty noises and Nick had a chance to see that there were half a dozen dark eyes embedded like raisins within what might be considered the alien’s face, if you wanted to call it a face. He hadn’t been close enough before to notice. He had called them Cthulhu’s little cousins because they reminded him of the stories of the old ones, but that was perhaps not quite fair to them. He wasn’t going to go mad by looking at the alien’s face. If anything, it fulfilled his lifelong dream of meeting another alien species. He had already met the Santa Claus, spoken to him, and of course there’d been the enforcers, and perhaps the elves as well, but none of them were quite the same. At this moment, looking into the dark eyes of small tentacled alien that stood before him, he couldn’t think of anywhere he would rather be right now.
“I really am glad to meet you. I never thought I’d get a chance to meet another intelligent species, and I have so many questions. Do you understand me?”
There was more hooting and waving of tentacles, and for once the alien didn’t seem terrified at his approach. He considered that some kind of progress. Maybe this one was braver than others? Or maybe they were beginning to get used to the notion of a human being at the outpost.
The alien made a beckoning sort of gesture with two tentacles and took a step back. The meaning seemed fairly clear, and Nick followed it. Seeing that he was following, the alien turned its back to him and waddled and flapped its way across the springy ground cover, climbing towards the center of the dome. It really didn’t act as if it was fleeing him, and Nick had no trouble keeping up the pace. He couldn’t rule out that it was running as fast as it could, and the hoots and the tentacled gestures had meant the exact opposite of what he’d taken them to mean, but as it apparently couldn’t speak his language, he didn’t know and decided to assume that his first impression was correct and it wanted him to follow.
Nick followed the alien up the hill towards the middle of the dome. As they climbed they passed other aliens and various elves who waved cheerfully at Nick and then returned to what they were doing. As they neared the top of the rise, Nick saw two familiar figures standing there in a clear area between the fan trees. Vibeke and Rylick were talking to one another, but when they saw Nick and the alien approaching they stopped and came towards him, both of them smiled.
“Hello,” Rylick said. “Vibeke continues to think that you will be our Saint even though we’ve been shut away here.”
“It was foretold,” Vibeke said.
The alien had stopped him between Nick and the elves and it didn’t seem like it was going anywhere. Apparently it wanted to listen to the conversation. Nick didn’t care, all he cared about was maybe, finally, giving some answers.
“Does this mean you’re finally going to tell me what this is all about?”
“Yes. It will take some time.”
Nick crossed his arms and nodded. “I’m waiting.”
After being abducted from Earth, taken to Europa, and was now locked away on this seabed habitat, he was ready for those answers.