not sure if...
Join Date: Mar 2012
Re: Extremes prologue part 2 - 1349 words
Originally Posted by TomS
The red glow of the heating element illuminated the underside of the three and a half kilometer thick ice, where no light had ever shone before (in all of history). Slowly, the circle of red grew in both size and intensity until, at last, the spiral of the drill broke the under-surface of the ice. Later, the heating element would be reactivated to combat the near instant re-freezing of the breach in the ice layer above where the temperature was currently minus onehundred-eightyfive degrees Celsius. Is this really needed? A lot of telling, and I don't get why that's important, at least not yet.
The drill tube continued downward several meters to reveal the door through which the submarine and its two occupants would begin the exploration of the submerged ocean of Jupiter’s most intriguing moon very wordy sentence this. As the residual glow subsided, the entire affair (I don't think this is the right word) was left in utter darkness. Even after the rectangular sub hatch slid open, no light illuminated the environment. Then, all at once, a ring of half dozen lights spilled out into the freezing waters, and silently the sub slid out of the drilling tube and began the long anticipated search for life under the ice on Europa.
Gary’s angular frame made the close quarters incredibly uncomfortable. He had argued that due to his size, he might have difficulty operating all of the controls safely. It had taken some time, mountains of paperwork and wholly unnecessary - yet fully justified then surely they're not unnecessary?– meetings of some of the most brilliant engineering minds of the day, but it was finally agreed to install runners to allow the pilot’s seat to slide back a few inches for comfort. Thankfully, Gary’s arms were long enough to reach all the relevant controls.A lot of discussion over a minor plot point - you could cut all of this and just keep the first two sentences.
Ross Sanders, co-pilot and biologist, sat on his right. Ross was short and stocky and had acute observational skills coupled with a deep love and respect of all living things which made him the perfect candidate for this mission. His gaze constantly shifted between the circular view window and the various screens which allowed him to see heat maps, topography since they are underwater, perhaps bathymetry would be better here?, infra-red, and the like. However, more often than not, he found himself staring out of the window searching with the naked eye.
“Nothing,” muttered Ross as he peered and squinted out of the window. “Totally dark.”
“What do your readings indicate?” asked Gary who still hadn’t enough leg room.
Ross blinked and shook his head. “Oh. Uh…The temperature is rising. Wow! Rising fast.Ten degrees Celsius…fifteen. Twenty one. Thirty two. Forty three. It keeps going up. Whatever this is, it explains the cracks in the ice. There’s heat all around us. And the floor of the ocean is only fifteen meters below us…Wait. It’s changing. It just shot down to three. Maybe you’d better stop.” Whoa...a lot of dialogue here, feels a little infodump-y too. Break it up with descriptors or cut some of it, I'd say.
“Why is it so black? he's a scientist...we don't ask questions like that It’s like we’re not even here.” Gary switched on the retro-thrusters.
“I know. It feels very close, like a weight.”
Gary glanced over at his partner, “You’re not getting claustrophobic on me are you?”
“No, no.” Ross replied. “It’s just weird. We should be able to see something in the distance by now. I shouldn't think so, since they're miles underwater under thick ice - unless I'm getting the wrong impression here? Whoa!”
“Are we still moving?”
“No. Full stop.”
Ross shifted back and forth between the heat map and depth readings this is bathymetry. “The temperature is fluctuating wildly. Something is happening.”
Gary switched on the reverse thrusters. “I don’t like this,” he said as they drifted silently backwards.
“OK, the temp is going back down. So is the surface. It’s back up to nine meters below.” Ross glanced back out of the forward window. The blackness in front of them was doing something strange. It looked to him as though it was starting to billow. “Wait a second,” he said as he started squinting again. “Lower us down. Slowly.” Liked this. Intriguing.
As the submarine started to descend, it seemed for several long seconds that nothing was happening. Then the blackness abruptly cleared and a scene opened up to them which needed no special sensors to convey the ultimate reality of the situation. An enormous plume of black smoke was issuing from a gently spiraled column of smooth grey rock. The column spread out below to form enormous mounds of the same grey stone (geologist nitpick here - it's not stone, it's rock). The mounds stretched out into the distance, several of them with twisted chimneys blasting out their own clouds of black smoke. Surrounding all of it and staying close were thousands of long thin creatures, perhaps two meters long, half a meter high and quite thin. They were almost eel-like in appearance yet they clearly had fins and a small vestigial tail. There were no sign of any eyes and none of them gave any sign that they were aware of this intrusion into their world. Floating amongst these amazing creatures were unidentifiable bright specks which one might easily mistake as random bits of debris but were clearly alive and using the rising, swirling channels of heat as their mode of transport. Occasionally, they were able to attach themselves to the bodies of the larger eel/fish (either an eel or a fish, don't like the slash. Eel-fish instead maybe?) and if they ventured too close to the wrong end of their hosts, they found themselves becoming a quick lunch. Many eel/fish could also be seen pecking at the volcano (again, that's not technically what they are...but it's only a small detail) mounds, presumably where the floating specks preferred to live out most of their lives.
Both Ross and Gary stared at this panorama silently for long minutes, neither daring to breathe. It was Ross who broke the silence, his voice sounding distant in his own ears.
“God bless lifekind.”
Gary snapped out of his own reverie at these words. “What the hell did you say that for?”
Slightly taken aback, Ross replied, “It’s a beautiful, miraculous thing we’ve just discovered. I was thanking God for allowing us to find it.”
“Allowing us? We did it ourselves. They’re just some fish. And anyway, your religion has no place in our mission. Don’t you realize that your filthy words are being transmitted back to Earth and will now go down in history as ‘The first thing said when they discovered life on Europa.’?”
Ross was beginning to get angry now. “Filthy words? I don’t think so. Your words are being transmitted too.”
“And they should be.” sneered Gary. “You bastard. You’ve just offended millions of proper thinkers.”
“How can they be proper thinkers if they’re offended by another person’s opinion? They sound like a bunch of troll-headed pricks.”
With that, Gary shot his long right arm out to connect his fist with Ross’s jaw. Stunned by the unexpected attack, Ross leaned back for a moment, then rose up out of his chair, his small size giving him the freedom to move in the cabin quickly, and clamped his hands around Gary’s throat. But Gary’s limbs were too long to allow Ross the chance to remain there for very long, and he was able to push him back.
The inside of the submarine was small and this action caused Ross to fall back against the controls. The two rational scientists were too busy trying to kill each other to notice that the sub was now on a fast collision course with the nearest black smoker. As Gary had grabbed the front of Ross’s shirt and started punching him, the sub crashed into the chimney directly in front of them. Neither of them ever had time to scream. The designers of the seven inch thick window hadn’t reckoned with it being exposed to intense heat and heavy rock simultaneously and what started as a crack quickly imploded in the enormous water pressure which caused the sub to sink to the ocean floor of Europa.
Their words were being transmitted all right, and so were the images from the external cameras. Despite the thirty-five minute delay, no one thought to edit any of it (why then?) as it was beamed into houses around the world. Everyone watched with a mix of shame and horror as the last image transmitted was that of one of the eel/fish caught under the crippled sub right in front of the camera. It twitched a few times as it struggled to free itself until it slowed to a stop and moved no more. These were the images transmitted back to Earth as part of our blessed history.
This section is very wordy, and you could certainly cut some of it down just for readability, but you have a good style, and on the whole it is easy to read. The long blocks of text can be off-putting. I personally think that you should not have put such a big chunk up for critique, especially if you had to edit it down, because that renders most of our observations useless as we have no real idea of the full piece.
Nonetheless, I liked the premise, though I didn't find their argument believable at all, I'm afraid. They seemed snappy and over-sensitive and it was indicative of characters being forced against their true nature for the point of the story.
Which brings me to another point, and I hope you don't take it the wrong way as I deal with the same theme (broadly) in my series of novels, but I'm afraid the argument about the religion felt a bit polemical. I'm an atheist, and I'm not a fan of organised religion, but good grief do you make your side of that argument clear in that piece.
I still believe that worse things have happened "In the name of God" than a fist fight. It's not even a matter of some kind of imagined notion for me. I've witnessed stuff and I want to address them in a SciFi setting.
and while I agree broadly with the sentiment, if the rest of the novel is along the same lines as Gary and Ross' fight, I think you seriously need to tone it down. We as the reader can decide the bad guy for ourselves.
Finally, I hope my comments don't come across as too negative; you have the most important part, which is the writing and the plot, I only think you need to reconsider the way in which you're telling it.