In the oceanic depths of frozen Enceladus, a series of clicks echo off the walls of an abysmal valley. Chussie is on the hunt. Sharp pings return to her tympanic organs; six of them, one located on each side of of her head, allow her to navigate the pitch-darkness. She’s seeking rounded tones, softened reverberations. She’s seeking food. Flesh.
Chussie is one of many who thrive in this underwater world. But this canyon, a crack in the moon’s crust ten kilometers beneath the belly of the ice, belongs to her. Over the aeons, others have tried to encroach upon her domain, so far she’s held them off.
She pulses her jets and shoots forward. Nascent photo-sensors, primitive compared to her auditory senses, detect a shimmer up against the cliff. The creature she hunts reacts to her sonic probing with a burst of phosphorescence. The light barely registers. Chussie uses dual pings to narrow in on her target, her exquisite sonar can pick out the tiniest of bubbles, the smallest of bodies tucked into a crevice.
Using her hook-covered tentacle she tenderly feels forward. Blue light flutters up and down the body of the leathery skin of a jellic. It’s trapped and knows it.
“There, there, little friend,” Chussie soothes, her softest treble notes ringing from her pressure drum. “Succumb and I will release your fears, let them join our frozen spirits above.”
She stiffens the muscles around her drum, focuses her flexible lens and lets loose a tremendous acoustic punch. The jellic never stood a chance. As it convulses, Chussie’s legs enwrap its body, hooks tear into its hide and she draws it from the rocky pocket where it had been hiding, protecting its young.
Chussie plucks the four soft-ball sized offspring, flashing pink in their distress, from the nook and pops each one into her beaked maw. The parent jellic, still stunned, is tucked up under one weaponized tentacle. Chussie, the great Cephus gives a squeeze and drifts out into the expanse. A kilometer below, her nest hosts her own hungry brood. She sends them a trill of comfort, “All is well, all is well.” She pauses, waiting for their myriad response.
She trills again, louder.
A microdose of worry trickles into her bloodstream. She’d reminded them to remain silent while she hunted. The jellic embraced, she streamlines her limbs and dives. Made for quick bursts, she fights the cramps in her jets as she pulses down and down again. Her trills become frantic. A hundred meters from the nest she ceases her calls and prepares another acoustic strike. Few predators can withstand her might.
A familiar echo bounces up to her receptors. Members of the Cephic Council float before her den.
“Silence, Chussera s’dar. Your children are safe.” The other Cephus, his name she cannot recall, is half her size, but flanked by an escort of hexapods. “You, however, must stand for questioning. Your activity at the boundary must be accounted for.”