Tag Archives: Janelle

Janelle of Titan

Janelle had never been in this particular set of caves before. The unfamiliarity put her ill at ease, and she led with her pistol. Wendy only griped once that they’d have to edit a lot of her creeping for time.

The cave walls were rough, full of jagged holes and alcoves. She periodically came across short branches off the main tunnel that narrowed to gaps too small for her to traverse. She released probes at these spots and let them scurry off into the darkness. Humans wouldn’t pass through those crevices, but natives probably could, their spindly bodies clacking and contorting in ways no human matched.

The temperature steadily dropped as she went deeper and deeper. Her connection with Wendy crackled in and out.

“I’m losing you,” Janelle muttered.

“Just keep your camera rolling,” Wendy said. “We’ll cossshhhhh shhootage later.”

That was the last she heard from Wendy. Janelle pressed on, glancing occasionally at the status of her recorder, represented by a tiny box on her heads-up display. Its green recording light was steady, but the uplink signal flickered weakly until it eventually died.

This was hardly the first time she’d been out of contact with her producers, but this was the first time in an unexplored area. She set her jaw. It was fine. She was fine. She’d been in scarier situations when she was 16 years old.

She began to see the graffiti. A common enough sight in Titan caves, but the sheer volume of it stunned her. The ridged circular pattern of Titan symbols crowded the walls until there was hardly any open wall exposed. Stranger still, she began to see human text etched into the walls, too. Names and dates, seditious proclamations against the colonial government. There were numerous references to 8/15, a great disaster of a decade ago, when a colonial methane collector had crashed and exploded above an unapproved settlement in the Eastern Reach, which hadn’t been too far from these caves now that she thought about it. An accurate count of the casualties had been impossible, since nobody had even known the settlement had existed, but it was estimated that thousands had died. Janelle vaguely remembered the news footage, the somber newscasters and the irate pundits who claimed the colonists shouldn’t have been there to begin with. She stopped and placed a hand against a swirl of Titan symbols, reading them with her fingers: solidarity and union, peace and prosperity.

Gradually, the tunnel widened and she saw a light ahead. She slowed her pace, hugging the wall for what little cover she could manage. The entrance spilled onto a ledge that stretched off in either direction and overlooked the greatest cavern she had ever laid eyes on. Easily as large as some of the mid-sized settlements on the surface of Titan, hundreds – thousands? – of buildings stretched off beyond the range of her viewfinder. Most were the typical carved domes that Titan natives grew and shaped from the surface of their moon, but some were obviously of human design, smooth and sharp, with human-sized doors and windows and stairs. There were lamps! Scattered through the streets and clustered around the human structures. Titans had little use for lights, being almost entirely blind.

It was a city. Janelle saw homes, shops, things that looked like factories and storage silos. Water towers. People moved among the streets, mostly on foot or on small powered cycles. Not just humans, or Titans, but both, weaving among each other, waving to each other, stopping to speak.

Her goggles told her it was there, but she stepped to the edge of the ledge and reached out. Her hand tingled through her gloves, and she felt warm air brush her fingertips. Somewhere in that city was an environmental colony shield. Where could they have procured such a thing? How did they get it down here? Janelle felt numb. She stepped back and sat heavily, her pistol hanging in her limp hand.

So distracted, she didn’t hear the clatter of chiton until it was just a few feet away. She jerked her head up, startled, and found one of the largest Titans she’d ever seen crouched beside her, its wide but flat body suspended on half a dozen thin, multi-joined legs. It’s head, a bulbous protrusion framed by a pair of cone-like eyes and bristling antennae, cocked curiously at her.

Astride the Titan’s back was a human boy. He was bundled in a thick wrap not too different from hers, though it was bulkier and heavier, making him look like a big, fat tick on the back of his comrade. He pulled his face mask down to reveal dark skin and eyes. He looked at her with naked hostility.

“You’re that lady from TV,” he said. “Janet.”

“Janelle,” she said, her voice feeling thick and heavy in her mouth. She still felt dazed. “What…what is this place? What are you doing here?”

The boy leaned out and spat a wad of gum at the cave floor. “This is Unity City. We live here, no thanks to you.”

Janelle of Titan

It was in her fifteenth year that Janelle slew the great gnasher beasts of Porrow Canyon, but it would be several more years before she learned how to capitalize on her success. In those early days, she did it merely to help people.

The figure she cut now, at 23, would scarcely be recognized by the younger version of herself. Taller, leaner, a slab of muscle, her head shaved and painted after the fashion of Titan natives, she carried her head high and her blast pistol low. The curved sword on her back was mostly for show, as there were few threats she couldn’t handle with either the blaster or her cyber-enhanced muscles, but there was little its blade couldn’t cut at a molecular level.

The goggles were newer and more advanced than any the teenage Janelle could have possessed. Rustic in appearance, the lenses featured an elaborate heads-up display that kept her informed of local atmospheric conditions, zoom and enhance functions, a variety of light-spectrum options, and a recorder that kept careful track of her adventures, which the transmitter behind her ear beamed to her support team. Terraforming the moon had thinned but not eliminated the dense fog that shrouded the lower atmosphere, so a good set of goggles could be life or death on Titan.

A young Janelle would have most envied the outfit. A deceptively thin but dense layer of white wrapped tightly around her body, while a hood snaked up her neck and around the back of her head. The soft, black-webbed lining of the wrap kept her toasty in Titan’s extreme cold, but didn’t restrict her movement like typical environmental gear would. Methane rain rolled off the jacket without soaking it through, and her boots formed a gentle shell around her feet that could stomp through puddles and climb rocky outcroppings with equal ease.

Janelle crouched at the base of a jagged hill, passing a hand through a loose scattering of pebbles and rocks on the ground. The sky was mercifully quiet at the moment, so there was no rain to screw with the tracks.

“They passed through here,” she spoke into the mic sewn into the hood of her jacket. “Half an hour, maybe, based on the heat residue.”

Her producer, Wendy, spoke back, her distant voice cracking on the channel. “Looks about right, J,” she said. “Orbital still has nothing.”

Janelle stood, her gaze sweeping over the hill. “That just means they’re underground,” she said. “Unlucky for them I know these hills better than they do.”