Why are there penguins all over Right Stuf this week? That's a long story...
These Penguins Have the Right StufIllustration 1
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Space was awesome
. Ensign Bubbles had always believed the Commander when she described what it would be like once they finished the ship and finally escaped the frozen moon of Europa, but believing and experiencing were two different things. Tethered by a hose and nothing else, he was swimming in the biggest ocean in the universe.
They had been taken to Europa as part of a grand experiment to find the liquid oceans hypothesized to lie under the frozen surface. The scientists would stay warm and dry inside their research station, and the penguins would risk the bitter, bitter cold searching for water. A robot goes only where it is told; a penguin, accustomed to Antarctica's ice, might instinctively find what had so far eluded science.
For all that the penguins were not exactly volunteers, having been captured and kept in deep stasis for the journey, the scientists were not cruel. They had fitted each penguin with an ice/wetsuit of sorts, since even a penguin would freeze at 250 degrees below. The suits were modeled after those worn by astronauts, and they had been what first gave the commander her idea.
The penguins had
found water, through a series of cracks and tunnels in the shifting, broken ice, but the news would never reach Earth. The plate of ice the researchers had settled on was not as stable as they’d thought, and the "icequake" proved quicker and far deadlier than those on Earth.
The penguins were stranded. They'd found life in the water, including a species that vaguely resembled krill, but no penguin wants to live on Europa for the rest of their life. Tess had stepped up, organized the small group, and oversaw the process of cobbling together parts stripped from the station into a - hopefully sturdy - spaceship: the P.S.S. Steelbeak.
They'd loaded it up with as much of the Europan krill as they could and blasted off into the sky, slingshotting around Jupiter and setting a course for home.
The icesuits handily doubled for spacesuits, and with their great escape now orchestrated, it was time to relax and enjoy the ride. Lieutenant Lucky had said they might see space whales in the asteroid belt, but Commander Tess had scoffed. Marine animals, after all, did not live in space. Well, not usually. Still, Bubbles had stayed glued to the porthole all the way through, and was certain he’d seen a flick of a tail near Vesta.
Now, as he swam outside the ship, Bubbles took in the beautiful sight of home, the oceans bright, blue, and most decidedly not
frozen. He'd miss this endless sea of stars and the near-effortless swims, but he would not miss the Europan krill. No, the first thing he was going to do when they landed was catch himself the biggest silverfish he could find and he would feast. Or maybe not, depending on where they landed. The Commander still hadn't quite worked out that detail.
But she'd have to work it out soon, as Bubbles was called back inside the Steelbeak and the countdown to re-entry commenced...