PART 5/CHAPTER 78

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PART 5
—ORIGIN—

"Be formless, shapeless, like water."
Quote by Bruce Lee

Sarah carried the suitcase with the six vials while Phoenix and Wolf hauled the climbing gear. Ariel offered to stay at the habitat with Callisto to do a thorough examination on him. He was acting sporadic and mumbling to himself. When she spoke to him, from inside his helmet, he'd jerk his head toward her, eyes wide and bloodshot. Sarah guessed he suffered from sleep deprivation and possibly lingering effects of hibernation sickness. Real sleep in a Habitat One bed would be the perfect cure, or at least it would get him back on track to mental and physical health, but he would have none of it. Callisto was determined to tag along. He had to see Luna rescued.

They trekked north, away from Kraken Mare and the habitat, in the general direction of Ligeia Mare, another large body of methane. But their heading would take them north of the sea's coastline to the spot where Luna was located. Sarah checked her wrist display; she saw Luna's suit beacon. They would be able to go straight to her.

Trudging beside her, Wolf cut his eyes to Sarah. "You know, we could take a detour and go pour out the vials in Ligeia Mare. I'm sure it doesn't matter which sea we return the life forms to...I mean the virus."

"I've already considered that option, but we don't have time. We can do it after we save Luna."

"She might be dead, you know? Her beacon doesn't pulsate like ours. I think that means she's expired. Checked out. Bit the big one. You know?"

Sarah rolled her eyes. "I've considered that too, but there might be a malfunction with her suit. After all, she did fall into a chasm."

Ahead of Ariel and Callisto, who'd fallen behind several paces, Phoenix turned to Sarah. He was on her other side. "Yeah. About that? She fell into a crack in the ice. Who knows how deep it is? None of us do. Our ropes might not be long enough and even then, she might be dead. We are immortal, but if a rock bashes our brain in, we still die. There's no coming back from that. Right?"

"I've thought that all along," Sarah replied. She glanced at her wrist display. An icon to the right of the map flashed a bright blue. She tapped it and a readout of her thermal suit's life support appeared on the screen. She still had several hours on the current oxygen cartridge, but her water supply was getting low. She should've replenished it in the habitat but there was too much going on at the time.

"Sarah?"

"Huh?"

"You we're saying..." Phoenix said.

"Oh, right. I've always thought that our bodies, although our cells constantly regenerate, that a fatal injury to one of our primary organs, like our brain or our heart, would be a life ending event, but..."

"But what?" Phoenix put a hand up and stopped her. "What are you saying?"

"I'm saying...that there's a slight possibility that I could be wrong. It's something that none of us have witnessed or experienced." She shrugged her shoulders. "What if our cells regenerate, even then?"

"Are you saying what I think you're saying? That...that..."

"That Nova could still be alive." Sarah nodded, her lips pressing tight with concern for the thoughts going through Phoenix's mind. "It's possible. Not likely. But possible."

"And we left her there...on Arcturus. We have to go back."

Since they'd stopped walking, Ariel and Callisto caught up to them.

"Back where...the habitat?" Ariel said. Their suits had a built-in ability to filter out the conversations of people who weren't in close proximity to each other, making natural conversation possible. The suits had private channels too.

"We can't go back," Sarah replied and started trudging along again. "Our ship crashed on the other side of Kraken Mare. For all we know, it sank to the bottom."

Phoenix hurried up beside her. "But there has to be another way off this barren ice ball. If she's still alive?"

"I saw her, Phoenix," Ariel said. "There's no way she could have survived."

"No way?" He glared at Ariel. "Sarah just said there's a possibility."

"How then?"

"I shouldn't have suggested it," Sarah replied, "but scientifically speaking, we're all experiencing new ground here. What if our cells not only regenerate while we're alive, what if they spontaneously regenerate after we're dead. Only one of us has experienced a life ending event, and she's not with us on Titan, so we don't know what happens after our bodies die."

Wolf tutted his tongue on the roof of his mouth, clearly audible in Sarah's ears. "She may be right, but this conversation isn't helping us right now."

"Are you saying that Nova, could still be alive?" Callisto said.

"Where have you been, dude?"

Callisto shoved his way between them and started walking faster in the direction of Luna's last known location.

"He thinks Luna is Nova," Ariel said after he got far enough ahead of them to be out of range. "We were talking on a private channel earlier, and he said as much. Except he referred to her as Nova the entire time. The hibernation sickness has done a number on him. He needs sedation...to let his mind rest."

Phoenix followed after Callisto. "I can't believe this. If Nova is still alive, that means she's trapped on that space station. Alone."

Sarah and Wolf started treading along again.

"Wait up for me," Ariel said. "This wasteland gives me the creeps."

"We don't know," Sarah replied. "We just don't know what all the possibilities are with our immortality. With that said, we can't jump to conclusions. We have to investigate, and to do that, we need to find Luna and see if she's still alive. If she suffered a life ending brain injury then we wait to see what happens after her death. If she revives, if she comes back alive, then we consider the possibility that Nova might do the same. If so...if we can get off this rock, then we go get her."

Phoenix kept walking. "This is a lot to take in right now. I don't know what to think."

Ariel caught up to him and consoled him with a hand on his shoulder as they moved along over the brown crust of the Titan surface.

In silence, they journeyed the rest of the way to the chasm where Luna fell. Sarah didn't blame Phoenix for wanting to go back to Arcturus. She couldn't since she was here to rescue her husband. Her thoughts wandered in the solitude of her own mind. All this time on this moon and still no sign of Jake. He had to be here, somewhere.

Ahead of them, Callisto started to run.

Sarah eyed her wrist display. They were drawing near the chasm. When they arrived at the outer edge, what they saw was a gigantic rift in the mucky brown of the landscape. Deeper down in the crevice, the layers grew less and less brown and turned to a pure white on the interior walls. Wolf and Phoenix dropped the climbing gear and shined their flashlights into the wide rim of the hole. Their beams penetrated into the depths, but revealed nothing but a deeper darkness in what looked like a bottomless pit. Luna was somewhere in that abyss, and so was the third case containing the alien artifact.

There was only one way to go now...down...into that abyss.

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