Mare Noctis by Mark Grealish

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Look at Io. Look at Enceladus, Titan, Triton and Charon too! Christ, look at Europa itself. All of them energetic worlds driven by tidal interactions with their parent planets. It isn't beyond belief to imagine tides in Europa's mantle causing seafloor volcanic activity such as hydrothermal vents that in turn pump out CHON elements - Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen and Nitrogen. Add the sulphur that we know comes from Io and you have everything you need to provide the base to a Europan food chain. Chemosynthesis, not photosynthesis.''
''Forgive me for being so blunt, but you want me to believe that creatures that eat hydrogen sulfide, breath methane and shit sulphur can feed your oxygen-breathing Moon Cows?''
Dad shrugged. ''Lake Vostok...''
Mayer flung his arms out in exasperation. ''Lake Vostok is an aberration, Nigel! Yes, lifeforms survive in that lake, but you too often overlooked is that they did not originate there. Antrobia Vostokis is nearest thing to a dominant predator in the lake, and it's just the descendant of a snail who could not or would not get out of the way when the glaciers rolled in!''
Dad drummed his fingers on the podium. ''Fair point. I'll concede that. But look at the lake's ribbon worms, Klaus. They've evolved a symbiosis with the snail in order to survive under those condition. And can you say it could not occur on Europa? Layers, Klaus. Discreet, horizontally-layered biospheres of symbiotically linked creatures. As you ascend you'll find a decreasing tolerance for pressure and for hydrogen sulphide and and increasing tolerance for oxygen, until you arrive at a layer of fauna which can support Lunaris Bos Bovis.''

And on their debate went in that vein. What we actually found out during the expedition was that they were both correct: Life existed despite the absence of sun-driven hydrolysis. What we couldn't have imagined at the time was that an abundance might be both a recent phenomena and that it might also be localized. Just like Earth, Europa had its own deserts and oasis.

But at the time? Well, we did what we could. Hundreds of predictive models of a Mare Noctis' biosphere were published, each more intricate than the previous, and each author claiming that their own monograph to be the be-all, end-all. Elsewhere, Hollywood and Bollywood did what they did best and churned out one computer-generated blockbuster after another. Docu-dramas. Action films. Animated adventures. Romances. Even a fucking musical replete with a chorus of silver-suited space manatees. Religions were split down the middle. In the Old World, Rome cautiously welcomed the news, while in the New World fundamentalist church groups frothed at the mouth at the notion of intelligent sea beasts. Didn't Genesis have some very clear words on the idea of their place in in the grand scheme of things? The sects of Islam said little more than that the existence of jam-'i-him is part of the Quran.

On the Internet, JOVEIAN - the Jupiter Orbiter Visual Experiment Image Analysis Network - had their fifteen minutes of fame with that came with it.

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