This is an extract from chapter 11 of my teen space fiction story “The Truth Beyond”, shared here in honour of the Juno probe’s recent pass of Jupiter, sending back incredible new images of the giant gas planet!
As his last word dies away, the door swishes open and Juanita smiles at me from the other side. She leads me through the maze of corridors to a room near the front of the ship where a small crowd are peering out of huge windows.
“Celeste!” A dark-haired scrap hurtles over and crashes into me. I wrap my arms around it and squeeze.
“Eli! How are you?”
He pulls back to show a massive grin. It stabs my heart. So much like Seth’s. “Come and look at this.” He yanks my arm. “It’s awesome.”
He’s not wrong. Getting closer to the window I gasp as the entire universe stretches out in front of me.
My childish school paintings of a dark sky dotted with a few blobs of white were wholly inaccurate. Out here in the blackness of space it’s like a million stars, too shy to show their faces to Earth, have been brave enough to reveal themselves. In some areas there are so many that the sky looks light, not dark. But they’re not white pinpricks like my childhood artwork. Out here the stars are multi-coloured fairy lights. Pinks, blues, yellows. My art teacher would have gone nuts if I’d painted a night sky like that in class.
“Incredible, isn’t it?” Tomas makes room for me to squeeze in next to him at the window. “They look so different out here. You can’t touch them though,” he adds laughing.
I drop my hand from the glass, his words piercing me with painful memories.
“You can’t touch them, honey,” Anya would chuckle, as she came into the attic room where Hawley and I would spend most clear nights, gazing through our telescope. When it was his turn, I’d move to the window, touching each star with my finger, mapping the constellations into my memory.
“I wish I could,” I’d say.
“Perhaps one day you might,” she’d smile.
Yet another tear escapes. Tomas looks confused, then concerned as he recognises his words. He joined us stargazing sometimes, but never got as passionate about it as we were.
“Sorry,” he says, rubbing my back as I quickly wipe the tears away. The ship turns and the window suddenly frames a huge orange marbled ball powering towards us.
My hand goes to the window again as though I could touch Jupiter. Crazy. But then again, it’s crazy that I can even see Jupiter like this. My understanding of crazy and normal needs some serious new points of reference. The planet I’ve studied through a telescope and admired on my bedroom wall plasma for years is now blazing in glorious reality in front of me.
I stare transfixed, my eyes tracing the patterns of its pinwheel storms and cyclones. Lines and waves of red, white and brown mix together to form multiple new shades, some lovely, some murky, some areas clearly defined, others smudged or swirling. Constantly changing.
Jupiter’s moons, smaller but still significant orbs also catch my eye. A yellow cheese-laden pizza splodged with tomato and pepperoni. That’s Io. A shimmering white and amber bauble. Europa. And the slightly tarnished silver disco ball that’s Ganymede. Nature’s very own stunning decorations.
“Stunning, isn’t it?” Juanita says quietly behind me, plucking the word straight out of my head, fuelling my suspicion she can mind read.
“See that icy silver moon there?” She points to a group of spheres.
“There’s a few fitting that description.”
“The middle one of that group of three.”
“Yeah, I think so. They all look kind of similar.”
“Blending in is the best camouflage. But if you look more closely you’ll see it’s a bit different. It’s metal, not ice like the others.”
“I still can’t believe I didn’t know there was a space station near Jupiter.”
She shrugs. “There’s a lot you don’t know, Celeste. All sorts of levels of secrets. You don’t think your media and politicians tell you the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, do you?”
“Do they know about this?”
“Who does it belong to?”
“Omega is the Enturi’s, but we have Earth investment for our MoonBases.”
I shake my head as yet another piece of wild information is added to the growing pile. “Who’s there?” I ask, focusing back on the approaching space-station.
“About 1,200 Enturi.”
Jupiter expands until the window can barely contain its full circumference. Right in front of us is the silver moon we’re aiming for. Not a moon. A space station. I wipe beads of sweat away from my top lip as a “crater” on its surface cracks in half and slides apart. The hairs on my skin prickle as I imagine a gravitational beam locking onto us and guiding us in. We glide into the light beyond the entrance’s open mouth. We’ve arrived.