Here’s what the book is about:
In Jupiter’s orbit, a mysterious death propels an astronaut into the investigation of a lifetime
Partway into a years-long journey, an interstellar research expedition takes up orbit around Jupiter and begins to explore the gas giant’s moons: Ganymede, Callisto, Io and—most importantly—the ice ball known as Europa. For centuries, scientists have wondered what strange alien life forms may lurk beneath the frozen surface of Jupiter’s most mysterious moon. And tragically, the men and women aboard this ship are about to find out.
Two scientists go down to the surface of Europa in a small craft piloted by the beautiful, fiery Evangeline Chatelain. After an accident on the surface, only she returns. Her crewmembers suspect her of murder, but Evangeline tells a wild tale of an attack by a terrifying space monster. The astronaut charged with investigating the incident must decide—is she a crazed killer? Or has she just made the greatest scientific discovery in history?
Read on for the excerpt!
EVANGELINE CHATELAIN’S QUARTERS were two decks down from the infirmary. Until the accident, Danzig would have had no problem getting there; a narrow staircase spiraled down Arm A’s companionway, its individual risers raised into position along the cylindrical well now that the habitat arms were in full rotation. His legs were still weak, though, and walking anywhere was difficult, even with the collapsible aluminum cane Dr. Phillips had found in the medical stores. But he didn’t want to interview Evangeline from his hospital bed, so against the doctor’s wishes he slipped on a pair of loafers and, leaning heavily upon the cane, made his way downstairs.
Diaz insisted on accompanying him. He didn’t want her to come along, but she was adamant; Chatelain was to see no one without her approval. But Danzig didn’t want the captain present when he questioned the Evangeline, so they reached a compromise on the way down to her quarters: Diaz would remain outside in the foyer while Danzig spoke to Evangeline, where she would be able to listen through the door. The captain wasn’t very happy about this – the ship’s constant background hum would make eavesdropping difficult – but she relented when Danzig pointed out that Evangeline would be more likely to open up if the captain wasn’t in the room. When they finally reached the bathyscaphe pilot’s quarters, though, Diaz was the one who knocked on the door.
“Someone to see you, Evangeline,” she announced, then slid open the door without waiting for a response.
“Why, thank you, Captain,” Evangeline said from within. “Your respect for my privacy is appreciated.”
There was a distrustful look in Diaz’s eyes as she stepped aside. “All yours, Otto,” she murmured. “Call if you need anything.”
Danzig didn’t reply. He hobbled through the narrow pocket door, trying not to scowl as he put weight on the cane. The arm’s gravity gradient increased slightly each deck down; Evangeline’s room was one of four located on Deck 3-A, halfway down the arm and therefore at .1-g. Until then, he’d enjoyed living in a low-g environment – enough centrifugal force to decrease physiological stress during a long space journey, but not so much as to produce motion sickness – but until his body fully recovered even this little gravity was painful.
Evangeline’s room was the same size as anyone else’s. A little larger than a walk-in closet, it had a fold-down bunk, a desk with a built-in terminal and studio chair, a wallscreen, a bookshelf, and a small wardrobe. An accordion door led to the tiny bathroom she shared with Margaret Harris, the British astrophysicist who lived next door, and a circular porthole the size of a dinner plate was above the desk. She had made her quarters a little more homey with pictures, books, and some small Indian blankets to cover the bulkhead, but otherwise her room looked much the same as his own.
Evangeline Chatelain sat on her bunk, legs crossed together and back against the bulkhead, watching something on the wallscreen with the sound muted. She wore a pair of lavender tights and a white tank-top, but no shoes. Although she’d objected to an unexpected visit by the captain, she didn’t seem to mind having Danzig drop in.
“Otto!” A warm smile appeared. “What a surprise! I hadn’t heard that you’ve been revived! How nice to see you again!” Before he could respond, she looked past him. “Thank you, Captain,” she added, a bit more frostily. “I think you can go now.”
Danzig looked over his shoulder in time to see Diaz’s expression darken as she slid the door shut. Evangeline waited until the captain disappeared before speaking to him again. “Please, have a seat,” she said, then apparently noticed his cane for the first time. “Oh, dear…I didn’t see that. Let me help you.”
She uncurled her legs and started to rise from the bed, but Danzig raised a hand. “No, no,” he said, making his way across the room.” I can manage.” He carefully lowered himself into the desk chair. “This is the first time I’ve been out bed since they woke me up. The doctor says it’ll be a while before my arms and legs get used to working again.”
“Well, yeah. That and the fact that you were practically dead when they pulled you out of there.” Evangeline’s smile was pleasantly amused. “Serves you right for playing in the airlock,” she added, wagging a finger at him. “Bad boy. Don’t do that again that.”
“I won’t.” He’d already heard much the same thing from Martha. Coming from Evangeline, though, it sounded less like a scold than a sisterly jest.
Yet there was no way he’d ever consider Evangeline Chatelain to be a sibling; she was much too attractive for that. It wasn’t merely her obvious sexuality, although it was hard to miss the fact she clearly wasn’t wearing a bra today; he had to consciously refrain from studying the nipples of her breasts pushing against the front of her tank top. It wasn’t even the soft contralto of her voice, with just a hint of a lisp that only added to the sensual way in which she spoke. It was her face that appealed to him the most: slightly oval, framed by shoulder-length hair the color of summer wheat, with a nice, soft-lipped mouth beneath a fox-like nose that evoked her Gallic heritage. The tenderness of her expressions, the mysterious way she’d regard someone with aquamarine eyes, only added to her beauty.
When they’d first met, during the press conference where the ISC announced the final crew selection for the International Jupiter Survey, Danzig thought Evangeline was appropriately named, for she reminded him of an angel. Not the sort one might see painted on a cathedral ceiling, though, but a more earthbound kind: an angel a man would worship upon silk sheets, her body a temple, her eyes the gates to heaven.
“You can probably guess why I’m here,” Danzig said. “The captain has asked me to speak with you about …”
“What happened on Europa.” The smile faded. “You’re here as arbiter, aren’t you?” Danzig nodded and Chatelain sighed. “I should have known Diaz wouldn’t have you brought out of hibernation just to keep me company.”
“You haven’t had any visitors?”
“No.” Evangeline picked up a remote and pointed it at the wallscreen. Danzig caught a quick glimpse of ballet dancers before the screen went blank and disappeared. Evangeline tossed the remote aside, then stretched her long legs out upon the bed, crossing her ankles together and letting her feet dangle above the floor. “The captain has given orders that no one is to see me until the investigation is complete. Even Maggie is leaving me alone. She keeps her door shut, and refuses to talk to me when I happen to see her in the bathroom.”
“Sorry to hear this.” Evangeline’s tights fit her like a second skin; it wasn’t hard for him to imagine her without them. Deliberately shifting his gaze toward the porthole, Danzig decided not to mention what Diaz had said about most of the crew wanting to avoid her. “I’ll speak to the captain about this. At any rate, I doubt my investigation would be hindered by you having visitors.”
“Merci…I mean, thank you. I would appreciate it.” Evangeline’s eyes flickered toward the door, and Danzig wondered if she suspected that Diaz was hovering just outside. “Have you been told what happened down there?”
“Very little. The captain suggested that I ought to hear your side of it.”
“Considerate of her.” Evangeline folded her arms across her chest. “Not much to tell, really. John, Klaus, and I had started going down in DSV-1, trying to see if we could find larger forms of life. During our second dive, something attacked the sub …”
“Something attacked you?”
“A creature, yes. Very large, very aggressive.” She studied her toes as she absently wiggled them. “It came at us almost before we knew it was there, repeatedly charging the sub and slamming into us.”
Danzig was astonished by what she’d just said. The captain had already told him about the tiny, shrimp-like invertebrates spotted by the RSV; most of the expedition scientists hadn’t been expecting anything more than that. For Evangeline to report having encountered something considerably bigger …
“Did you see what it looked like?” he asked.
She shook her head. “With my own eyes, no. There’s no windows in the upper passenger cell, only the periscope and the video screen. John and Klaus were down in the observation blister, though, so they could see it through the porthole…what they were able to see, I mean, before it happened.”
“What was that?”
Evangeline sat forward, pulling in her legs to clasp her knees within her arms. “When the creature attacked, it caught me…caught us…completely by surprise. We were thirty-eight fathoms down, about seventy meters from the entrance hole at the bottom of the drill shaft. The sub was still connected to the surface by the umbilical cable, but otherwise we were on our own. The only light we had were the floodlights. To make matters worse, the tide was starting to come in. When that happens, the water can push the surface ice upward as much as thirty meters …”
“I don’t know what this means.”
Evangeline stared Danzig straight in the eye, almost as if daring him to look away. “It means we were deep underwater, in the dark, and bucking one of the strongest tides in the solar system. So when it…the creature, that is…attacked the sub, and kept ramming us again and again, the last thing on my mind was making a zoological study.”
“What was on your mind?”
“Survival.” She let out her breath, looked down at the floor. “I just wanted to get out of there alive. The third time the creature rammed us…maybe it was the fourth, I don’t remember…an alarm went off, signaling that the hull had been breached. A second later, John yelled that water was coming into the blister. That’s when …”
Evangeline fell silent. For a few moments she said nothing. Danzig waited for her to go on, and after a little while she took a deep breath. “That’s when I grabbed the escape lever beneath my seat,” she said. “The upper cell sealed itself off from the rest of the bathyscaphe, then the lower part was jettisoned. The support crew on the surface received the automatic SOS beacon…by then I’d lost the comlink…and reeled in the cable and hauled me back up the hole.”
“And the other two?”
“Went down with the bathyscaphe.” She wouldn’t look at him. “I couldn’t help it, Otto. When you’re down that deep, you’re lucky if you’ve got even a second or two. I had to save my life …”
“Even if it meant giving up Klaus and John?”
Evangeline seemed to be fighting back tears. “I had no choice. If I hadn’t jettisoned the rest of the sub, I…I wouldn’t be here now. I would have perished as well.”
[End of excerpt]