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Europa


Image Europa has no atmosphere and lies within the fearsome magnetosphere of Jupiter. Its surface is bombarded with enough radiation for an unshielded transhuman to receive an irrevocably fatal dosage within a few days—much faster when Europa’s orbit passes through Jupiter’s immense magnetotail. As a result, transhumans on Europa dwell beneath the icy crust, largely in the ocean below, adopting a variety of aquatic and amphibious morphs for survival. The only surface facilities are the heavily shielded ice elevator heads at Conamara Chaos and several other points through which reactor mass and other crucial supplies can be delivered to the Europans below.

Transhumanity is still exploring and imaging the Europan ocean floor, a task complicated by the hideous pressures at work in these waters, which are ten times as deep as the Earth’s oceans. A further surprise awaiting transhumanity was the terrain. The geology of Europa suggested that beneath the ice would be fathomless depths of black water ending at a depth of nearly 500 kilometers in a relatively flat, featureless sea bed. Were Europa a lifeless ball of ice and rock, this would be the case, but over the estimated billion years since the rise of life on Europa, tiny lithoderms (analogs to Earth’s coral) have built silicate reefs that rise to within a few hundred meters of the ice crust. It is on these biologically formed mountain tops, home to complex ecosystems, that the Europans have built their habitats.

While based on water-carbon chemistry like life of Earth origin, life on Europa is completely autocthonic, having originated beneath an impenetrable ice sheet that cut off Europa’s subsurface ocean completely from outside. This is in marked contrast to Earth life, which some biologists have theorized might be the result of galactic panspermia, the slow diffusion of microbes through the vacuum of space aboard comets or asteroids. As such, the fauna of Europa are of great interest to transhuman bioscience.

Biosciences

Europa’s life forms, unique perhaps in the universe, are its greatest treasure, and transhumanity’s efforts to catalog them are only beginning. The rush to exploit Europan biodivesity puts the Jovian Junta in an uncomfortable situation. While they control space traffic and commerce in the Jovian system, they lack the native talent to take real advantage of knowledge gleaned from Europa. At first, they engaged in hamfisted excise operations aimed at squeezing revenue out of knowledge exports. But once farcasters and egocasters came online below the ice, this type of extortion no longer worked. Now the Jovians have shifted to a two-pronged strategy of levying tariffs on new equipment and people brought down the ice elevators by hypercorps and research collectives, and of holding the entire population of the moon hostage by refusing delivery of key resources like reactor mass and rare elements if protection fees are not paid.

Habitats

Europan habitats take two forms: fortified fishing and farming havens clinging to the spires of the lithodermic reefs and spherical bubble warrens constructed by boring into the lower reaches of the ice crust and shoring up the hollows created. The latter are the only air-filled spaces beneath the ice. The total population is 1.5 million. The largest include:


Uplifts

[Parsiminous Grey:] While the oceans of Europa are nothing like our lost home, the call of any sort of body of water you can get lost in has a certain appeal to some of my uplift fellows. While the Europan seas are hardly similar to those of Earth, they still represent our best bet for happiness. Though some neo-cetaceans prefer to sleeve in a surya and swim around the sun, many of us prefer that feeling of crushing pressure and lightless depths. Plus our natural abilities to navigate such surroundings makes us a hot commodity on Europa.

Eclipse Phase, p. 99; Panopticon, p. 139


From Rimward

The smallest of the four Galilean moons, slightly smaller than Luna, the dirty white marble that is Europa has been an object of fascination for centuries. Flitting around Jupiter in a relatively brief three and a half Earth days. Europa, like Ganymede and Io, is tidally locked, meaning that a single hemisphere faces Jupiter at all times.

In frigid juxtaposition to its inner neighbor, Io, Europa boasts an ice crust ranging from ten to thirty kilometers thick. Pockets of liquid water lie trapped within the ice. Below this lies a massive saltwater ocean, over 100 kilometers deep, holding over twice the volume of water as Earth. Europa’s global ocean is cold (water temperatures range from 5 to 15 C) and devoid of sunlight. With the massive layer of ice crushing down upon it, the pressures in this ocean are intense, despite the moon’s low gravity. Even near the surface, the pressure is equivalent to Earth’s deep ocean trenches; at the sea floor itself, hydrostatic pressure ranges from 2,000 to 2,500 atmospheres.

Early exploration missions used melter probes to bore through the ice to reach the (then theorized) salt ocean below. These probes were designed to send out remote vehicles for aquatic exploration below the moon’s surface. The first probes sent back nothing but images of a massive, lightless ocean, punctuated only by an occasional “snowfall” of heavy salt-laden ice particles from the inner surface. Those commanding these first missions assumed that the most promising location for non-Earth life was sterile. They were wrong.

Over the course of billions of years, life had indeed flourished in the dark depths of Europa’s subcrustal ocean, but it was unlike anything transhumanity had ever experienced. The orders of life present here vary greatly in their life cycles and physiology from those on Earth, but are broadly analogous to bacteria, protozoans, fungi, and animals. The ecological niches occupied by plants on Earth are filled by a combination of fungi and lithoderms (coral and sponge analogs). Microscopic lithoderms, analogous to Earth’s coral species, had formed vast mountains and forests of Europan coral throughout the depths . These lithoderms in turn acted as hosts for a form of lichen that grew on the lower reaches of the coral stacks towards the ocean floor. Many of the animal-analog fish have an immature stage in which they resemble fungi before metamorphosing into free-swimming adults. One such is the bolatee, a five-meter long schooling creature that grazes on tiny microkrill with branching masses of tendrils that resemble roots or jellyfish tentacles. While large, mobile, and exhibiting some animal-like behaviors, the bolatee has a rudimentary nervous system and reproduces with spores. Other notable creatures include the hive-building barrister fish and the voracious mazimus, a 5-meter long viperfish-analog predator capable of attaining swimming speeds in excess of 55 kph and biting through plate steel up to 2 centimeters thick.

The first transhuman to personally visit the ocean below the surface of Europa was Dr. Penelope Tarrison, a biological oceanographer from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. Her initial descent occurred in a custom synthmorph designed to withstand aquatic pressures far greater than any experienced on Earth. During a later incursion, she descended to the very ocean “floor,” a dense slush of water ice punctuated by thermal vents and the towering edifices of endolith coral. There, she encountered what is thought to be the largest Europan life form, the europus tarrisoni—the Europan leviathan. A sleek, streamlined creature twenty meters in length akin to a vampire squid, it fills the same role as Earth’s whales, screening microscopic and small macroscopic organisms from the ocean for food.

Living Beneath the Ice

Europa’s transhuman population of 1.5 million lives below the ice, safe from Jupiter’s deadly radiation bombardment. The majority of Europa’s population lives in bubble warrens, huge spherical excavations in the lower depths of the ice crust. Many of these bubble warrens have populations that have outgrown their original infrastructure and are now considered a sort of “old world” compared to the newer “icicle” habitats, huge protrusions of ice jutting from the crust into the cold ocean below. These icicles are hollowed out, often with an accessway to the surface, powered with fusion reactors or large wave turbines that harness Europa’s internal convection, and then transformed into living spaces, laboratories, farms, communal areas, entertainment districts, and more. Icicle habitats offer residents spectacular views out into the Europan ocean’s upper reaches, with the habitat lighting illuminating the ocean and the ice sheet directly above. Other habitats are completely synthetic and rugged enough to withstand anything the Europan ocean can throw at them. These “fishhook” habitats are named for the way they are tethered with heavy cables to the inner surface and deployed into the lightless depths like a hook on a fishing line.

Most Europan habitats are split between areas that are pressurized for traditional air-breathing operations and water-filled compartments pressurized to match the depth of the habitat. Biomorphs on Europa come in many flavors, but the most common are aquanauts that have been adapted to Europan pressures and can transition between the two habitat types without too much difficulty. Other common anthroform morphs are the selkie? and mustelid?, containing heavy splices of seal and sea otter traits, respectively. Europan dolphin? and orca? morphs, with their numerous modifications, are also popular, though more limited . Features common to all Europan morphs include fins or flukes, gills or oxygenating respiratory fauna, enhanced digestive systems, adaptability to immense pressure, and resistance to dive-related hazards such as the bends.

Transhumans that really prefer the freedom and mobility to explore the Europan depths, however, opt for cetus? synthmorphs, capable of handling the extreme depths and frigid temperatures with ease. Deeper habitats are almost entirely hydrohabitats, pressurized at the same level as the surrounding ocean. These deep habitats are generally mobile research installations, studying the ocean’s icy bottom. Only a fraction of Europa’s ocean floor has been mapped.

The primary food producers for Europa are the barnacle-like fishing and farming havens that cluster around the very tops of the lithodermic reefs that characterize Europa’s ocean. These barnacle habitats are prefabricated in the larger Conamara or Pwyll warrens and are assembled in place on the target reef. Europan dishes are culturally similar to Japanese, but with a distinct and unique flavor all their own. The Europan razor eel is considered a delicacy in places as far away as the Venusian aerostats, and the failure to culture the razor eel outside the Europan oceans has driven demand for the oily fish.

Perceptive visitors to the moon will notice a scattering of small geodesic dome habitats on the outer surface of Europa. The majority of these are the futile attempt by the Jovian Republic to establish a presence here, and many have been abandoned due to poor radiation shielding, lack of resupply, or both. The largest surface facilities, and the ones that get noticed, are the elevator heads at Conamara Chaos and further south at the Pwyll crater.

Europan Culture

Prior to the Fall, a small group of polar scientists and oceanographers— mainly from Russia, Japan, Peru, and Indonesia—were the first to establish a permanent presence on Europa at the site of the Conamara elevator head. Colonization was encouraged by the governments of those nations as a way of relieving internal population pressures and making their mark on the solar system. After the Fall, Europa took in a number of infugees and refugees, transforming the moon into a melting pot of cultures.

Most Europan citizens are either directly involved in or know someone involved in ocean sciences. Since the Fall, watery moons like Europa (and to a lesser extent, Ceres and Enceladus) have been the only locations in the solar system where oceanography is practiced. The vast majority of oceanographers that accompany gatecrashing missions were either Earth-educated or educated at a Europan institution of higher learning. Europans pride themselves on their schooling and reject the Jovian notion that only a privileged few should receive the full benefits of a higher education. All Europans are strongly encouraged to enter an institution of higher learning at the age of majority; collegiate and graduate studies are socialized and free.

The most popular sport on Europa is a form of aquatic orienteering in which participants must navigate their way through an increasingly difficult course plotted out amongst the lithodermic reefs. There are different morph classes, with the most popular and most widely televised, being the octomorph class. The most successful aquatic orienteers have gone on to prominent media positions in Europan society and politics. Amongst those who reside in air-breathing habitats, ice hockey is still very popular. The Europan Hockey League, once a minor hockey organization, is the largest ice hockey league in the solar system.

The Europan people do not live in fear of the Jovian Republic, a fact that irritates the Jovian leadership to no end. A number of terrorist acts during the last parliamentary election, seemingly designed to disrupt the voting process, had the reverse effect and instead steeled the resolve of the Europans to stand up to the Jovian Republic. In this regard, they are journeying down the path already taken by the city-state of Hyoden on Callisto.

The Europan Parliament

Europa is a parliamentary democracy independent of the Jovian Republic, contrary to what the Jovians would have people believe. The Europan Parliament is a multi-party unicameral parliament elected every four years by all registered Europan transhumans over the age of 17. The 120-seat Parliament is based in the Conamara habitat, the capital of the Europan state. Seven political parties have elected officials in the Europan Parliament, with a number of these parties allied with city-states of similar ideology on Callisto.

Conamara Chaos

The Conamara Chaos elevator head, situated in the center of the jumbled terrain that bears its name, is the largest surface facility on Europa. It is controlled directly by the Europan Defense Forces under the authority of the Europan Parliament. Through the Conamara Chaos elevator head, reactor mass, industrial supplies and other vital goods and equipment are shuttled to the ocean below via the Conamara habitat on the inner surface. The Jovian Republic levies taxes on all shipments approaching Europa and has occasionally imposed an interdiction when they claim the taxes have not been paid in full — a situation the Europan Parliament has labeled a “protection racket.”

Pwyll

The Pwyll crater is another elevator facility much like Conamara Chaos in the sense that the EDF controls it, but it does not punch directly through the ice. Rather, it descends about halfway, and then branches hundreds of kilometers through the ice in a fractal pattern. These tunnels are used to distribute much needed supplies to a number of icicle habitats in the area. Recent shifts in the ice crust around the Pwyll crater have seen a number of habitats cut off from the traditional surface to- ocean supply route; these have had to be supplied by aquatic means. A trio of icicle habitats, nicknamed the Norns, are clustered directly below the Pwyll crater and are the focal point for many of the exploration efforts to map the Europan sea floor. A recent spate of deep sea vessel disappearances and deep hydrohab “incidents” has raised security concerns.
Rimward, p. 48-51.