CHAPTER 71

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"It's amazing how the brain downloads work," Wolf said, an incredulous tilt of his head. He glared at Sarah, chin dropped, mouth agape. "They gave us brain downloads, like we're computers or humanoids built by the Next Gen Corporation."

Wolf put a hand out and stopped Sarah. "How's that possible?"

"Are you tripping on me, or playing me? You have an implant at the base of your skull like I do." Sarah couldn't believe what she was hearing, but she should have expected it coming from Wolf.

His hand flew up to the back of his neck, but instead of fingers touching skin, his gloves hit the base of his helmet. "Forgot we were in thermal suits for second."

"I think your memory has been affected by hibernation. Don't worry, it'll come back, eventually."

"No, no, no, I remember everything now. I was a little sketchy when I first woke up, but now I'm good. It's just I'm here on Titan, I've had electrical impulses zapped into my brain. It's all coming full circle. Scientific advancements. Information downloaded to my brain by plugging a cord into my head. On top of that, we can do an info drop by using microwave pulses set at a specific frequency. The information rides the waves, connects to the impulses in my freaking brain, and presto, I have specific knowledge about things that are pertinent to our mission." Wolf's eyes bulged. "That's insane."

"So, what you're telling me is," Sarah replied, a hand on the hip of her thermal suit, "is that you had the brain surgery like I did, but never received a brain download? You acted like you knew everything about it, like you'd had downloads before, telling me how great and awesome it was, but you'd never experienced it yourself...so I could be the guinea pig and go first? You've got to be kidding me?"

Wolf's lips tightened into a straight line, crows feet appeared at the corners of his eyes. Sarah knew he was basically the same age as her, but the serum he used some sixty odd years ago hadn't been as effective. Instead of appearing like he was in his twenties, he looked more like a man in his forties, a slight edge of gray at the bottom of his hairline, especially his side sideburns.

"The latest revision of the brain download technology needed a human test subject."

"You mean I was the first person to receive a brain download?" Heat flush's Sarah's cheeks.

"No," Wolf said. "There were others before you..." He went quiet for a long moment. "They just didn't survive. The transmissions fried their brains."

Sarah bit her bottom lip, fought back an intense desire to smack Wolf in the head, maybe crack his face plate and watch him freeze to death. The thought made her wonder what would kill him first, suffocating from no oxygen in the air or the frigid temperatures? Then she remembered he'd taken the new serum she'd worked so hard to perfect. He might not die at all, but he wouldn't bother her anymore, nonetheless.

"I should kill you?" Sarah said. There was an icy edge in her voice.

"I know you don't mean that," Wolf replied. He hesitated for a second, rolled his eyes. "I received my first download before being put into cryogenic hibernation."

Sarah folded her arms.

"I don't see what the big deal is, it worked didn't it? It didn't fry your brain, and it didn't fry mine. So were even, right? Square?"

Sarah huffed and lifted her eyes to glare at Wolf. "We're far from even."

"Well, at least you haven't killed me...yet." He turned from her and faced the icy horizon of the barren moon. "I just can't get over how the downloads work, that's all. Like, I know how this suit works. I know how it keeps me alive. He glanced back at Sarah. "And I know the basic meteorology of Titan, go figure."

"I get it," Sarah said. "How about how we know without anyone telling us, that we must get to Habitat One?"

"That could be common sense seeing it's the only shelter on this moon."

"Yeah, but we know it exists and we know everything about it without ever seeing it for ourselves."

Wolf looked past Sarah. "What the—"

Sarah twisted her neck to see what got his attention. Her chin sagged, but it had nothing to do with Wolf or his sometimes boyish antics. It had everything to do with the bright orange luminance on the watery methane surface of the Kraken Sea. She glanced at Wolf. She could see the glare reflected in the face shield of his helmet. Her gaze wandered back to the shoreline.

"It looks eerily similar to bioluminescent plankton in Earth's oceans," Sarah said, her voice slightly hollowed out. The shimmering was spectacular to behold. It glimmered like orange diamonds. "The phenomenon occurs in tropical water. Of course, with my experience, the luminescence was a pale blue in color."

"Plankton don't live in methane, and definitely not in subfreezing temperatures like this."

"It has to be methane based life. Life that is perfectly suited for the extreme cold. We need a sample."

Wolf pursed his lips. "We don't have anything to get a sample with. Maybe when we reach the habitat, we can get supplies and come back later, after the mission is over."

"It's beautiful." The methane glimmered under the faint sunlight, captivating Sarah. It made her think of her roots in marine biology. The better days. Sixty or seventy years ago. She couldn't remember how long it'd been since she'd been injected with the Ocean Blue serum. Time bled together in a swirl of mesmerizing colors as she stared, transfixed at the luminescence on the Kraken Sea.

"If I had a lawn chair and a cold one, I'd sit back and enjoy the view," Wolf said.

"I don't drink," Sarah replied. "My birth father was an abusive alcoholic."

Wolf's eyes widened, brows raised. "Fine. How about an ice cold Coca-Cola?"

Sarah wagged her head. "We need to go."

No further persuasion was needed. Wolf seemed to get the fact that his humor was lost on Sarah.

She led the way, eyes flicking occasionally to the sparkling luminescence on the sea's surface. It took her mind off things. Relaxed her. Made her not want to kill Wolf.

They walked for miles, for hours, changing another oxygen cartridge out. Two days of trekking, little sleep, and some interesting sights, but a long way still to go. After a while, their straight path to the habitat ended as the shoreline curved around in front of them and turned north. Sarah checked her wrist display. Wolf did the same. If they followed the coastline, it'd add days to the journey, pushing them closer to nightfall, and wearing their oxygen supply thin.

The strange thing was the map showed a gap between Kraken Mare and another nearby body of methane. But in reality, right now, the potential walking path wasn't there. Apparently, the sea had risen with summer around the corner. That begged the question...what would they do now? How would they get to the habitat before nightfall?

Sarah had an idea, so she started trodding toward the methane's edge. She paused at the shoreline and then carefully stepped into the Kraken Sea.

"What are you doing?" Wolf said. "Have you lost your mind?"

"No, but I have a theory, and there's only one way to test it."

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