Zorick, the Galactic Fisherman
by thadd presley
Petrova and Beta-3
The silence after emerging from the icy depths was almost deafening. Zorick, still buzzing from the adrenaline rush of the past few hours, leaned back in his worn leather seat, the cockpit bathed in the soft hues of Europa’s twilight. The cavern walls, laced with intricate patterns of frozen water, shimmered in the reflected glow of the distant Jovian gas giant.
His gaze fell upon the pulsating containment orb floating near the control panel, housing the Hydrolith’s iridescent scales he’d managed to snatch during their skirmish. The creature’s bio-luminescent patterns, reminiscent of starlight trapped in ice, flickered and danced, casting an ethereal sheen across the ship’s interior. It was a trophy, a tangible remnant of the epic encounter, but also a reminder of the delicate balance he walked, teetering between hunter and protector. How many of these creatures existed? Would he find others, or similar species, swimming through the thick vapors of the gas giants? Certainly there was nothing like them on Earth, anymore anyway, so why should there be more anywhere else?
The existence of the fairytale and ancient mystery called the Hydrolith had been proven and answered once and for all, but how long would it remain in existence now that humanity was aware of it?
The C.B. crackled back to life, a cacophony of excited voices congratulating him on his success. Some hailed him as a legend, others envied his daring exploits. But none of it resonated with him quite like the echo of the Eurydice’s mournful song, still lingering along with the soft tendrils of the trumpet.
Zorick was not happy the news of the Hydrolith was already circulating. It would have been nice to choose how and when to reveal the majesty of the beast, but the moment had past. The damage was done.
He sighed, a deep, weary exhalation that spoke of more than just fatigue. Ten years away from Earth, ten years chasing shadows in a mostly dead, mostly frozen void called the Sol System. Ten years yearning for a warmth he hadn’t felt since leaving his mountainous hometown in Eastern Tennessee. The thrill of the hunt, the small whispers of mythical beasts, they were a soothing balm to a homesick soul, but they didn’t answer the real questions. Fishing had become a way to fill the hollow ache of a displaced Earthling.
As he gazed at the swirling blues and greens of Europa’s twilight, a seed of doubt began to sprout within him. Was this all there was? Chasing phantoms in the cosmos, forever intruding into the secret places just to see if the universe is indeed teeming with alien wonders like humanity always thought it would be?
The haunting wail of the Eurydice, drawn to the thinly-strained notes of a lonesome trumpet. That cry for attention came with a deep, unspoken truth: even in the vast emptiness of space, the yearn for connection remained. Only the universal language of music and the pained expression of sadness could afford to transcend species no matter where they evolved.
A glint of light caught his eye, a holographic message blinking on the console. It was from Dr. Anya Petrova, the brilliant scientist and chief science officer of Beta-3. Her voice, tinged with a hint of curiosity and amusement, invited him to share his findings. He knew Petrova from back on Earth and they had been looking farward to seeing each other again. He hoped the meeting would go beyond mere specimens and data logs.
Hesitantly, Zorick accepted the invitation and pushed the Crimson Caster harder and faster towards the glowing spires of Beta-3. A new purpose began to flicker within him. Perhaps, he thought, there would be more to being a galactic fisherman than just the chase. To tell the truth, he was up for the hunt, but it would be fun to be the one who got captured for once. Perhaps, the stories of these celestial leviathans, was a bridge between the known and the unknown, a tapestry woven from starlight, ice, and the echoes of lonely songs played on trumpets.
As the station’s docking clamps secured his ship, Zorick stepped out onto the metallic platform, the surprise shock of cold, crisp air on his face was a new addition to the atmosphere of Beta-3. Dr. Petrova smiled as she waited for him. She knew he would comment on the frigid breeze. Her eyes sparkling with excitement from their shared hunger for knowledge of alien biology and extraterrestrial anatomy.
“Cold by choice,” he questioned.
“Reminds me of Ukraine.”
He smiled and so did she. “It’s a great comfort meeting someone who remembers living on Earth.”
“Indeed it is.”
Zorick knew that the whispers of legend carried by the voices behind the Frequency Trippers could someday push him so far beyond Europa that he might never return to his home. The possibility of entering into the chaotic edges of Saturn, Jupiter, Uranus, and Neptune and fishing for the hidden treasures of life waiting there was enough to drive anyone into mania and madness. And it was nothing short of insanity, to enter a place where even gemstones were heated to such a degree by the frictional forces of the planets, they rise and fall through the layers of atmosphere like rain, changing from gas to liquid and back again as the local barometer dictated.
But, for now and for a long time to come, he suspected, the greatest treasure would be the echoing wail of a mournful song sang by a lonely behemoth as it listened to the trumpet of Chet Baker. The lines between hunter and storyteller, science explorer and fantasy maker, myth buster and miracle worker blurred perfectly, beautiful, and unexpectedly in the duo’s musical debut.