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Europa Landing

They wouldn't let an armed ship down on the surface, so they came up in a shuttle to get us.   The damn thing must have been a hundred years old!  I doubt the main drive could even manage a tenth of a gee without firing the plasma afterburners.   

Something had died in the air reclamator.   I refused the offer of a drink of water and strapped in for the landing.  From my seat, I had a partial view of the fading control screen in front of the pilot.   A good third of the status lights glowed amber, three were red.   One whole side panel was dark; life support, the pasted label proclaimed.  I checked my suit and mask, just in case. 

On final approach, the plasma burners kicked in, as I'd guessed.  Even so, we weren't pushing more than a Martian gee.  My radiation sensor started to blink, just a shade of yellow creeping into the green.  I wasn't sure whether that came from Jupiter's magnetic tsunami or from the reactor beneath my feet.  Either way, the shielding was failing. 

I peered over the pilot's shoulder to watch a viewscreen of Europa's surface.   A fifty meter dome stood near a lonely observation tower.  The scene grew closer, centering on the specks of civilization in the white and brown desolation.  The dome pealed back in two layers, petals receding to expose a deep landing tunnel.  It was about that time I realized the pilot was taking us in on manual.  I tightened my belts.

-- Lt. Commander Walker Tsume, IMN, 30 July 2519

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