With goals of taking high-resolution photos of Titan from above and extracting samples from the atmosphere and one of its seas, the mission was floated for a launch. All these potential ventures share the same essential objective: to uncover more information about Titan and gather samples that could reveal details on its lakes and seas, the currents within them, and the chemical composition of its dunes, rain and atmosphere.
On Europa, a search for hydrothermal vents.
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Our visit is complete. We turn from the flowers. And that is when we notice a group of townsmen who have gathered, just outside the periphery of the house, perhaps curious to see visitors at this abandoned ruin. Shehzad Marid is suddenly pricked up.
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Shehzad Marid! To take on two small children accompanied by a fat old man. The large man rolls his eyes, spits. You know that as well I do, marid. They have no recollection of this earth. They will leave this place now and never return. Let them pass. The large man snarls.
Planted it into our earth.
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Charged it with our spirit. He had taken of you too; and yet, you side with his bastard offspring against your own kind! Have you no honour at all? The smell of singed jacket takes the air. Then, in front of our eyes, the other eight ifrit transform to fire ; their faces and clothes dissolve until they are like a shower of meteors standing still.
And Shehzad Marid, his back to us, rips through his kurta pajama as he grows, white and translucent — a solid wall of ice that rises like a shield between the fiery army and us. From the other side, we see streaks of light plunge at the wall, all at once.
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At the point where they make contact, the ice crack with a sickening sound. The wall does not come down, but we see its surface sweating furiously. The ifrit fall back and prepare for another hit. They are joined by their two fallen compatriots. Shehzad, we need rain!
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Barefoot, we trudge in among the purple flowers. The mud absorbs our feet up to the ankles, up to the knees. We know this mud.
We remember its taste. The fragrance of flowers is maddening. Then, two things happen at once — Johuree ducks, while the wall of ice that is Shehzad Marid goes up in a billowing cloud of vapour. As the first raindrops spill upon our heads, we send down our roots, reaching, assimilating. The earth accepts us; fills us up like empty vessels with feelings, sensations, memories. Here is our father, bending on a full-moon night upon this very flower bed; he sings to us in a soft, hoarse, unaccustomed voice the lullabies of his childhood.
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We see the shimmering shadow in his heart — ever since he has settled in this town, his experiments have been yielding eccentric results; he does not understand it, does not know if he will lose us. Here we are again, every surface of our bodies wrapped in a pair of cotton saris, as our father leaves us in the arms of Johuree, even then a shifty man in a shiny jacket; the words of reassurance, the hasty embrace.
And further away from them, much more, many more. We fling our arms — our branches — to the sky and wail. This is how Johuree tells us to us afterwards. The ifrit, who come swooping back, are taken aback by the scream. They stagger in mid-air, flickering like candles in the wind. Try to restore their balance. Our voices are joined by others. They begin as murmurs, slow rumbles in the earth, but then they burst forth in full-pitched song — an entire flower bed of stillborn siblings soaring with us in harmony.
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Blood of our blood. Together, we wail for fearlessness. We wail for victory.
The sound waves emanate in concentric circles from the garden. Down in the flower beds, we are bathed in a shower of dead insects. When the ifrit meet the sound — the larger, sharper, many-voiced sound — it slices right through their bodies, leaving crackling splinters of fire that splutter and go out. They try to come at it from many directions. All of them meet the same fate.
Snuffed out like matchsticks! He has rescued the tattered remains of his kurta and wears them over his vitals like a makeshift lungi. They must be taken to my tent immediately. Shehzad plucks us with his fingers, washes the mud off our bodies and slings us over his shoulders. As if we have no weight. A just master. He released his jinn moments before he perished in that forest fire. Or I would have been no better than an estranged slave — the ghoulish, mean-spirited rabble you usually find around this place.