Europhemer 156 | Day 553.956 | Tripareph 2
“Don’t let your crew drink too much water, Atticus,” Adrian said. “We need to conserve it for making oxygen.”
“More RTGs, ice drills, and water pumps are coming in… let me check… 46 hours, 4 minutes—which is about 13 ers,” Atticus replied. “We’re fine with water. We should focus on food and oxygen instead.”
You never know when something goes wrong,” Adrian muttered.
“Daniel, would you check how much food and water we have now?” Atticus asked Daniel.
“Let’s see… approximately 8.5 ephs worth of food, 7 ephs of water,” Daniel replied. “But, the problem is, five days ago, we said that there were almost 8 ephs of water: an eph of water gone. Food has risen slightly, so we’re fine—now—with food.”
Adrian and Daniel looked at Atticus.
“Look: I know my crew drinks a bit more water than yours does, but a whole eph? You both know that my crew doesn’t drink that much,” Atticus replied to their stares. “Have we turned down the water-splitters?”
Adrian and Daniel shook their heads. Atticus ran to check if there were any leaks in the storage tanks. But no, there weren’t any leaks. “Maybe it wasn’t Atticus’ crew,” Adrian said. “Who else could it be, though?”
“Have any of you checked the water filter?” Daniel asked. “It could be infected with the water-consuming bacteria.”
“We only have 57 different samples of those in our labs, all of them confined in the strongest and most hermetic man-made environment in the universe. I highly doubt the bacteria find a way to get out… but I’ll check it anyway. Also, those bacteria are too rare to pop up that quickly and too slow to travel at least 10 km in 9 days,” Atticus said. “Don’t waste power that we don’t need to use for the LAMBDAs.”
“So what do you suggest we should do, Atticus?” Adrian challenged.
Daniel intervened. “Atticus’ suggestion is good for now. But who monitored the LAMBDA scan last?”
Adrian raised his hand.
“What radius and what date was it set on?”
“Um… I think 3 km; ” Adrian said nervously.
The three looked at each other, sighing.
“Then we have to run a scan to see where the bacteria are coming from,” Atticus said.
“Wait a second!” Daniel suddenly exclaimed. “There is no way Desulforudis audaxviator, D. brevior, D. psittaci, D. radiopestis, D. pandomini, and all those other bacteria can consume water in such a fast rate or are large enough to fit through the 10 nm ultrafilters—not even the smallest virus can. We might have a malfunction or an entirely new species here.”
“We should thoroughly check for the malfunctions first,” Adrian replied. “It’s much easier.”
The others agreed.
And so, they did check for malfunctions, but no one found anything wrong. A 10km LAMBDA scan was initiated, which used up more than 10 million USD of power.
One Tripareph Later
It was tripardix, 7:58 E.A.M., when the scan was finished, indicating small, but extremely dense bacteria coming from 9.5 km and scattering as the batch traveled due south. The commanders worked together to set up a 10-people, eph-long journey to the origin of the bacteria for extraction. Only three plans were constructed because the mission seemed simple. Dr. Cheung led the team in the journey, while Dr. Lee and Dr. Sagilir stayed in the EMCC as data processing systems engineer and spacecraft communicator, respectively.
Soon, it was time to start the mission. Three exploration vehicles, one supply vehicle, and one emergency vehicle underwent the final safety inspections, and the ten astronauts boarded the five vehicles. The EMCC gave the “clear” signal, marking the beginning of, possibly, discovering new life of Europa.
The five vehicles arrived at the bacterial origin site not long after. Right away, the team noticed a drastic change in a spot about two meters in diameter: the ice was melting! Heat readings showed that the water ranged from 1 to 4 °C (33.8–39.2 °F), and it was as if there was a bubble of heat around the pool of water. “The bacteria must be producing this heat,” Dr. Cheung said.
Then, suddenly, a voice in the back shouted, “Dr. Cheung, you should come look at this!”
On a 3-D oxygen map was a sudden spike of oxygen in the area where the most bacteria were located. When the others saw the map, everyone realized that the bacteria was potentially extremely essential: it seemed to be producing oxygen!
At the EMCC, everyone cheered at the sight of the heat and oxygen maps. Not long after, they started receiving more data from the team as the ten astronauts worked hard to collect samples and explore the area.
Three Europhemers Later
Indeed, an entirely new species of bacteria was discovered. Placed in the same family as Desulforudis—Peptococcaceae—the bacteria was going to have its own genus, preliminarily named Aquasumicrobium, after its consumption of water and its small size. Regarding the species, it was most likely going to be named A. facoxiviator, after its efficient production of oxygen and its quickness in motion. The bacteria, as Dr. Cheung and his team first realized, could serve as a much better substitute for the water-splitter and the RTG if harnessed correctly. The smallest (4-8 nm) but the fastest moving (250-300 μm/s) and the fastest reproducing (doubling every 3-4 minutes) of them all, this bacteria was more formidable than any other creature ever discovered. And that was the exact problem that everyone faced on Europa: how to control the bacteria to prevent water shortage and ensure human survival.