Araphiel is part of the first wave of colonists from House Gerash to get a foothold in the Jupiter system. Hy is a veteran of the Army of Thaumiel, a Hashmal with four wives. In hyz retirement, rather than accepting a landed estate in occupied Magodon, Araphiel receives a different subsidy in the form of the frigate Exiler, designed for a crew of six.
Araphiel stuffs his four wives and all his children in Exiler and departs Palato through the fold-gate to the Sol system. He plies the four major moons and countless lesser moons, where often lands the frigate on the business end of the three engines wrapped around the main cylinder, looking for all the world like any random cover of the old school science fiction magazines that are contemporary on Earth at the time.
Araphiel trades in water and mined minerals, but over the years his wives and children begin to die, one by one, because Jupiter is wrapped by a radiation belt that dwarfs the Earth’s own Van Allen belt, and it is correspondingly more saturated in radiation. Other sons, weakened by the radiation, travel to Palato to make a bid for the rank of Ish in the armed forces of Sartael, only to be defeated in their sickly state, and their sisters become the wives of the victorious boys.
Lord Sartael is not concerned with Araphiel and his family situation in the slightest. His “subsidy” of the frigate Exiler is, in fact, an typically callous experiment. It is an attempt to breed a branch of White Beards who are resistant to the ionizing radiation of the Jupiter system. There are eggs that need to be broken as Chuck Darwin has his way and Araphiel’s family comprises not a few of them.
Eventually all the daughters of Araphiel are either dead or farmed out, leaving none for Araphiel’s youngest son Turel to wager in Cupel, so hy remains aboard the Exiler serving hyz father and attending also his mother Adenaer. But she too takes ill and succumbs to leukemia induced by the radiation many years before her time.
After that time, Exiler is recalled to Palato to receive three new macro engines that fit in the gaps between the three old ones. But there is a string attached. After the upgrade, Exiler is placed on reserve status in the fleet of Thaumiel, subject to be recalled at any time, which if it ever took place would sideline Araphiel and Turel somewhere for the duration. And if the Exiler is destroyed in battle, Araphiel would be permanently sidelined.
Araphiel counters with his own string and short-circuits Sartael’s radiation experiments on his family by using part of the electricity generated by the three macros to keep his ship lit up like a powered Faraday cage. After that the hull of Exiler is capable of turning away charged particles of any kind.
It is too late for Araphiel, of course, the damage is already done. He soon follows his wife into death, but the new shielding gives Turel and any family he chooses to start a chance to live much longer and healthier lives, at least until the Navy of Thaumiel confiscates the ship and ends up losing it in the interminable wars with the Beaters.
Araphiel’s death is much more wretched than that of his mother or any of Turel’s sisters. The end comes while Exiler is in orbit around Io, and Turel has been charged by his father to give him a proper burial, not eject his body into space where it would soon by covered by sulphur dust and look ridiculous should any travelers find it again.
The orange and yellow and red pizza satellite of Jupiter called Io beckons to Turel below. He lands on a powdery white gypsum plain and buries his father there. He doesn’t bother to mark the location of the grave with a monument. Io is the most volcanically active body in the system. There are four hundred active volcanoes, and twenty of those are erupting even as Turel lays his the body of his father to rest under the surface. The debris from one of those hundreds of volcanoes would soon cover this burial site, perhaps with an entirely different substance, and render it entirely incognito.
Io is a cornucopia of mineral wealth, but it is a violent place. Aside from the volcanoes there are constant moonquakes, gas vents, and geysers of molten sulfur caused by Jupiter’s tidal grip on the satellite interacting with the eccentricity of the moon’s orbit, which itself is maintained by a gravitational resonance with two other large moons of Jupiter.
When Turel returns to the interior of Exiler he finds a strong return on radar about twenty-two miles to the southeast and guesses it could be an outcropping of metal ore. Turel doesn’t have a separate vehicle to check it out. He has to fire up his engines and use his whole ship to make a short hop to the contact.
When he arrives he finds a fresh sinkhole, with some type of machine half swallowed by it. Turel dons his spacesuit to make the short walk over and investigate.
If someone is inside, Turel at least knows why he hasn’t picked up a distress call. There is an antenna that has been snapped clean off. He picks up a stone and bangs on the exterior, then set his helmet against the machine to hear any reply since sound could not travel very well at all in Io’s extremely thin atmosphere. Presently there comes a metallic return banging, so Turel interprets that as an invitation to try the inflatable airlock in the rear of the large machine.
Inside is a yin Turel finds to be extremely beautiful despite being knocked around a little by the walls of the tilting machine.
You’ve come to save me!
Sha throws herself on him and squeezes hard.
TUREL (Taking off his helmet)
My name is Turel.
I am Greidi. I have been trapped here for days.
Sha touches the hair rolled in at her shoulders that is as black as his own hair was white. She is, in fact, of the House of Larund.
What is this thing?
This is one of my father’s topsoil harvesters. A sinkhole opened right up under me while I was working.
Why didn’t your father come looking for you?
I’m sure he is, actually, but I flew the harvester down from orbit and this looked like a good spot. My father and brothers don’t have a clue where to start looking.
Maybe I can pull you out out of the hole.
It won’t do any good, I’ll still be stuck here, and perhaps so will you. The front of the harvester is crushed.
Well, Greidi, get your suit on and we’ll walk over to my ship.
I don’t have a suit. Look, I live on my father’s ship. I just get in the harvester, come down here and drive around until it’s full, fly back to the ship, and my brothers empty the bins and get the harvester ready for the next day. I’ve been doing this since I was eleven and nothing ever happened. I never needed a suit.
Greidi, when you take such little regard for your own safety, you’re not thinking about those who love you. I’ll be back shortly.
Turel goes to his vessel and obtains something like a body bag, but with metal hose fittings on it. When he returned to the harvester, he lays it out and asks Greidi to crawl inside it.
This isn’t a full-up spacesuit but it’s the best I can do. It’s used by the navy to transport wounded in airless places. I’m going to carry you to my ship.
So he zips her up, plugged the bag into his suit to inflate it, and sets out on foot back to his own ship, carrying her easily in the small gravity. With the faraway sun glinting off his vacuum suit, Turel is literally Greidi’s Knight In White Shining Armor.
On his ship he plies Greidi with food. She is starving after being trapped in the sinkhole for so long. As he watches her eat and talk to him, stretching out her long bare legs and flashing smiles at him, Turel quietly and methodically falls in love. And a good thing too. He is luckier than he knows.
Most of the men available to Greidi are simple laborers. The ones who had any money or property are few and far between. Yet here is Turel with his own ship, and a fairly large ship at that. Obviously he was a man of means. She knew her father would be just as interested in Turel as she was, but in a totally different way. Not realizing that Turel is smitten already, Greidi doesn’t even dare to hope she might land Turel. The trends are against it. Resigned to her fate, she tells him where to go to rendezvous with her father’s ship.
Naseth’s ship, which is nameless, is roughly the same size on the outside as Turel’s, with without macros, which for the time being remains the monopoly of the Navy of Thaumiel. There is somewhat more living space inside Naseth’s ship than Exiler. The lesser volume of water tankage doesn’t matter because Naseth never leaves the Jupiter system, where water is plentiful, especially at Europa which had an ocean of water under a thin crust of ice.
Turel returns Naseth’s daughter to him with his compliments and with her virtue entirely intact. Joyous at her safe return, Naseth invites Turel to abide with him for a while so he could show his gratitude.
The Naseth operation is moderately well-to-do. Naseth, his wife, and their two sons (with help from Greidi) surface mine Io for the ever-renewing minerals that streak the surface as the moon continuously turned itself inside-out. But Naseth is also a wise man, and he can see the love Turel had for Greidi written in the man’s eyes as plain as could be, even if Greidi herself, overcome with self-doubt, is blind to it. But Naseth thinks also of his own interests. He begins to speak time and again how important his daughter’s role was to his family’s livelihood, how she had been a good earner for years, and what a struggle it would be if she ever left. Naseth’s transparent ploy nevertheless has the intended effect.
TUREL (taking the plunge)
Sir, I will serve you three years for the hand of your daughter Greidi. Though it has been a very short time, I have already come to love your daughter, and over that three years I will only grow to love her much more.
Naseth is definitely willing to accept Turel’s offer.
Daughter, will you agree to this?
Her heart seems to skip a few beats, but she quickly regains her composure.
Let it be done as he said.
So Turel lived and worked with Naseth’s family and put his own vessel at the service of Naseth until the three years of his servitude were fulfilled. The Naseths prospered ever more, and although Turel never touched the daughter of Naseth and broke the trust, the three years flew by as though they were as many weeks, because Turel loved Greidi so greatly.
During this period, Lord Sartael dies, and the new High Lord Patriarch of the House of Gerash is Asmodeus. Turel fears that at any time the navy would call in their marker and demand he render up Exiler to them before he fulfills his years of service to Naseth. But it is not to be, and finally there comes a day when Turel went to Naseth to claim his prize.
The days of my service are complete. Now give your daughter Greidi to be my wife, as you agreed.
Yet a few days more, Turel. A ship orbiting a moon of Jupiter, one that Greidi has lived in for so long, is no place to hold a proper wedding.
So when all is ready, Turel and the whole family of Naseth go down to Jupiter itself in a rented lighter to a platform on the balloon city of Onex.
Financed by the money from hydrogen scooping, and unthinkable only a decade before, the city of Onex dangles from three vast balloons in the supremely dangerous atmosphere of the planet, which nevertheless (or rather as a direct byproduct of the danger) is a place of indescribable beauty.
Think of all the colors of a thunderstorm coinciding with a sunset on Earth, with vast pink thunderheads many miles high, lightning flashes, and dark cloud shadows sliced by sunrays in a glory, and you have the weather of Onex on a drab day.
Such beauty comes with a steep price. The gravity on Jupiter is two and a half times more intense than on Barbelo. Some nephilim from Barbelo lived in the balloon cities precisely because the intense gravity, endured day after day, conditions them for great combat strength and endurance. But Turel and Greidi and the family of her father Naseth, who spend their entire lives in free fall or perhaps briefly on one of the Galilean moons with only a fraction of Barbelo’s gravity, would be absolutely unable to cope under the gravity of Jupiter without wearing hydraulically-powered open exoskeletons to stand up and move about.
And it is also a time of political tension on Jupiter. The new balloon cities collect hydrogen from the Jovian atmosphere with scoops and liquefied it. This hydrogen is a more efficient propellant than water. A year before Turel’s wedding the Navy of Thaumiel destroys the balloon city of Gildass with its attendant scoop to increase the value of the White Beards’ own Europa seawater. A state of war exists between the inhabitants of Jupiter and the Empire of Thaumiel.
Naseth is not a poor yang. It’s a lavish wedding, and especially lavish as well is the scenery on Jupiter for the entire five hours of daylight of the Jupiter day. Against this incredible panorama, as Turel and Greidi exchange lifetime vows, another balloon city, Jossis, is seen passing Onex a hundred miles away. They are like ships at sea, meeting for the very first time.
And the last time.
In a second missile attack, distant Jossis is destroyed in the full view of Turel and Greidi’s wedding party at the height of the reception. The guests are horrified to see the supporting balloons punctured and thousands of people falling to their deaths deep in the churning depths of Jupiter, where the pressures rose beyond the imagination.
Thoroughly intimidated, the eleven surviving cities, including Onex, immediately scale back their liquefaction operations to meet the demands of House Gerash. Turel flees Jupiter with Greidi and her family, and after that Turel takes his bride to the Exiler parked above Io.
Greidi’s dowry is one of her father’s harvesters. With Exiler, Greidi’s harvester, and Greidi harself, Turel can immediately set up a rival operation to Naseth business. But he honors his father-in-law too much to deliberately strike at his living. So he leaves Io entirely and goes to the next satellite out from Jupiter. Turel and Greidi have just enough time to establish their own homestead on Europa, and even beget a son named Lahatiel and a baby daughter named Noriel before the Navy of Thaumiel comes calling and takes the frigate Exiler away from them.
Europa is just slightly smaller than the Earth’s moon, with a total area of just six percent of the Earth, but the similarity with Luna pretty much ends there. For one thing there are almost no craters on Europa. The entire surface of the satellite is water ice about six hundred feet thick and only one hundred degrees above absolute zero. Underneath that ice is a saltwater ocean that is sixty miles deep and as warm as a heated swimming pool.
Driven by tidal forces as Europa orbits Jupiter every three and a half days, the thin crust of the satellite is always cracking open in random places, allowing liquid seawater to be exposed to the vacuum of space and freeze. This makes the surface of the moon a chaotic jumbled mess, just like a weld that is moved while it solidifies. There are ridges two hundred feet high alternating with ravines just as deep, all oriented at crazy angles.
So it is impossible to build a road on Europa, and it wouldn’t last for very long in any event. Despite being one of the smoothest bodies in the Solar System on a large scale, with no mountains to speak of, on a small scale it is perhaps the most difficult place in the Jupiter system for nephilim colonists to get around upon except by flying.
But the House of Gerash doesn’t take that into account when the Navy of Thaumiel barges into the Jupiter system first and takes over Europa and what they think is the sweetest spot. They are thinking only of all that water, which their ships with their nuclear fission reactors (and later sub-macros) required for propellant.
But the White Beards soon find there are absolutely no other resources on Europa within reach. All the metals they required had to be imported. The only advantage Europa has over Ganymede or Callisto, which both had a mix of ice and rock, is that the ice doesn’t have to chiseled out and melted first.
So Europa becomes a money pit sucking up the Gerash patriarch’s treasure and returning no profit to him at all. It isn’t even suitable for a navy garrison. Asmodeus operates Europa at a loss, therefore, only as a prestige showcase, just to say the White Beards have a toehold at Sol. The families of the Gerash clan who are established there lived largely on the Imperial dole.
Power is plentiful even without Asmodeus’ precious sub-macros, obtained by taking advantage of the large thermal gradient between the frozen surface and the warm underground liquid reservoir, but on Europa it is a life where almost nothing could be thrown away. Every piece of garbage had to be carefully weighed in the mind with regard to its possible value after being recycled.
So for the colony languishes and Asmodeus thinks of it seldom, if ever. It rarely figures in the military conflicts of the colonies. The largest towns on Europa numbered only in the hundreds of souls. The names of the colonists grow strange, and they drift far from the law of Thaumiel. The Cupel testing system is entirely forgotten. Family Gerash shatters into thousands of individual families, living in homesteads or small communal farms with little communication between each other.
But it does not escape the notice of the Navy of Thaumiel, based out of Hyperion, that part of the surface of Europa is streaked with color. Some of the colonists have realized the sea salts in those areas were rich with minerals such as magnesium or iron or even gold that could be painstakingly extracted by electrolysis. Some families start operations to extract these minerals, and they not only go off the Gerash dole, they even turned a tidy profit in their own right.
The Patriarch naturally demands a cut of these profits in taxes. Some of the families pay out of loyalty to Thaumiel. One such family belonged to Turel, the husband of Greidi and father of Lahatiel and Noriel. Most other families turning a profit on Europa do not pay up, judging it would be far more troublesome and expensive to extract these taxes by force than would ever be obtained by the Navy.
But they forget the ancient principle of “kill one to warn a thousand”. The Patriarch begins sending warships down on raids to cower the rest of the homesteaders into paying their taxes. These official raids are carefully planned to avoid hitting the families of those who paid the temple tax as required by the law of Thaumiel. But some of the ships were commanded by officers who were not quite so meticulous, and wanted a piece of the action for themselves. They conducted unofficial raids, and some of these, unfortunately, results in assaults on loyal tax-paying subjects.
The mining operation belonging to Turel is spotted by the Navy of Thaumiel from above by examining their waste stream, the melted discolored water they dumped on the surface to freeze, leaving an unavoidable tell-tale sign someone is living and working below. The Hashmal named Hanziel, commanding the frigate Exiler, doesn’t know Turel dutifully paid a quarter of his prophets to the Empire, but the odds are against it and in either case, the payments did not redound directly to the account of the officers and yeng of the Exiler. To Hanziel this makes the homestead a perfect candidate for a raid.
Hanziel times his raid for one of the periods when the waste stream is observed to have diminished, which they take for a sleep period. Europa is tidally locked on Jupiter and “night” lasted for almost two standard days, so it is impossible to tell when the locals are asleep otherwise.
What saves the family is Turel’s strict policy that at least one member stand watch while the other three members sleep. That, and also the fact that the airlock, the sole entrance to their homestead, is rigged with an alarm.
At the time of the raid, Greidi is on watch near the top of the main shaft. The ice cave network that is her family’s home is two hundred feet below her, and the warm, inky surface of the Europan sea is three hundred feet below that, sending up billows of condensed water vapor that make it difficult to see anything in the main shaft.
When the first bluecoat steps onto the portico Greidi hits a control stud that tipped the floor on that level forty-five degrees from the horizontal. Taken completely by surprise the spacer slides into the main shaft and begins to fall toward Europa’s ocean, but hy is arrested by his safety line.
Beware the female whose loved ones are endangered. Greidi reaches out with a sharp blade and severs the line, causing the man to fall. Any scream is muffled by the helmet of his vacuum suit. Whether or not he survived the impact, his heavy suit makes him sink like a stone toward the rocky core of Europa, which is yet another sixty miles below the water’s surface. At some point his helmet is crushed by the water pressure.
For her part, Greidi hightails it down to the family living quarters to awaken har husband and children. Har escape is done by using a ladder with a safety lanyard sliding in a safety rail between alternating footrests. She takes them five at a time to get completely out of the main shaft before the airlock cycles and another intruder arrives.
When two more bluecoats emerge from the airlock they call out for their companion in the white steam but get no response. Then they see the cut line and realize there is trouble. An attempt to report this to Exiler fails. There is a film of heavy metals that precipitated out from Turel’s waste stream on the surface above and form a Faraday Cage which blocks all radio signals out of the shaft. The wise thing to do at that point would be to abort. But the intruders know Hanziel was not a wise man. So they proceeded slowly down the shaft under high alert.
When they get to the multi-level series of tunnels that form Turel’s home they drop one at a time, alternating on point while the other man covers him. On the third level, Turel lets the first exposed man have it with a stunner, a weapon which is actually a living plant from Gorpai. The dart penetrates his suit and gives the yang three minutes of total paralysis. All voluntary motor functions and even breathing is disabled. He can’t move his mouth to warn the other yang, he can’t even blink. The stunner isn’t used as a weapon of war in Asmodeus’ armed forces, but it is often used to render a victim helpless but conscious for torture.
The other man above him isn’t a soldier per se but merely the lander pilot, a Europan colonial who was more or less drafted into the robbery “mission”. He assumes the other one below, who really is a Barbelo spacer, is merely rendered speechless by what he sees, and curious himself, he drops down to see what it was. And Turel hits him with the stunner too. They are both tied up.
Where’s your unit?
The reply he get from the spacer is a stream of obscenities, beginning with what he planned to do with Turel’s wife, who is standing there covering all of her loved ones.
Lahatiel can’t abide the insult to his beloved mother. He kicks the man’s chair into the white abyss of the central shaft. This time Greidi could hear a scream, for a very long time. It is the first time Lahatiel kills a yang, but not the last, by a wide measure. The third intruder, the civilian, becomes very co-operative after witnessing what happens to his companion.
Our mother ship is hovering directly overhead.
That’s much better. You’re not really in the Navy, are you? You have a remarkably better attitude. What’s your name?
Karayan. The hashmal was short-handed, so I was pressed into service.
So you are a Jovian civilian?
Karayan nods, affirming that Turel’s guess was correct. Lahatiel kicks the chair, but not hard enough to send it over the edge. Nuriel spits on him.
A curse on your beard. That you would do this to your own people.
From the very beginning I had no choice, madam. The punishments.
Turel learns there are only three more men aboard the ship.
So that makes your ship a corvette?
Frigate. But we came down in the lander, Exiler Sidekick.
Exiler Sidekick? Your frigate is the Exiler?
What irony. Asmodeus gave that ship to my husband once, then ‘borrowed’ it back to fight the Beaters. Now we are the victim of a raid by the very same vessel!
I see one just narrow way out for you, Karayan. You do not have to die like your two friends. All you have to do is fire up your lander and take myself, my wife, my son and my daughter up to the Exiler.
Karayan thinks about it for a moment. Lahatiel helps hyz thought process along by drawing near to him and tapping his feet.
You’ll never make it. They’ll know something is wrong right away.
That’s why I’m hoping you are a very good actor, Karayan. You need to get on visual, ship-to-ship, and give the performance of your life. Immediately. Because your very life is at stake.
And after that where can you go? The Empire will never stop looking for you.
Never mind about that. Will you fly us up?
It’ll be crowded. And what about the other yeng on the Exiler?
No one has to die. I’ll give you the lander and you can all fly away.
KARAYAN (after five heartbeats)
Then we do have a deal, sir.
Before docking, the commanding officer of Exiler raises Corporal Karayan on intership VHF and orders hym to make his report.
Gold, sir! There’s so much the ravmalak told me to take a load up here and go back for more. And there were only four locals in the hole. We finished them off easy.
Excellent work, Karayan. We’ll get ready to receive you.
So anxious are the other three yeng on Exiler to see the gold they are all present when the lander docks with the frigate and the hatch swings open. That makes things easy for Turel and Lahatiel, they didn’t have to go through the warship looking for strays. But they did have to hit the men with their stunners several times before they were all stuffed into Exiler Sidekick, the hatch closed, and the lander cast off into space.
Lahatiel never learns what happened to the spacers after they depart. Perhaps the three overcame the one, wriggled free, and killed Karayan when he succumbed to sleep. He hoped Karayan was the only one who knew how to fly the lander, because that would have preserved his life. Perhaps they found a settlement somewhere on Europa and sold the lander. Or perhaps they realized that the consequences of returning to Hyperion without a ship would be uniquely unhealthy. Thaumiel expects all of his officers and men to protect his warships with their very lives if necessary.
The cost to Asmodeus for molesting Turel’s family is one frigate and its associated lander.