Varuna was not the first ocean world to be discovered by Humanity. Nor would it be the last. What made Varuna so interesting was the life that abounded. Complex life. What appeared to be vertebrate life. That was unique.
The other ocean worlds - Poseidon, Tiamat & Mazu - had life, but was never more complex than jellyfish. Here, on Varuna, there was life as complex as the seas on Earth. Yet there were no land. No shallow waters. Varuna lacked all the spots Earth or her colonies had providing ecological niches for complex life.
So, we of the Indian Galactic Scientific Survey, were here. We had a grant from New Delhi and had traveled the 315 light years to Varuna. We were out at the very edge of the Human Sphere and could only stay for 2 months before leaving. We would seed Varuna with numerous probes and satellites. We were here to trouble shoot the problems of deploying the probes. Then we would leave.
There was no place for humans to walk and the air was toxic: there was far, far too much oxygen. And the atmosphere was too dense: Varuna was a superearth exoplanet shorn of some of its atmosphere. We would be crushed and combust in speculator ways and if we survived that, we'd die of oxygen poisoning.
After we left, people would probably only return to reseed the probes and that might even be left to unmanned systems in the future. If anyone got the funding again. It is a big galaxy, even the Human Sphere.
The best part for us, those who had come, would be to link to the hover bots. From those we would get to experience Varuna as much as was possible: feeds would go straight into our brain via our implants and what the Americans called 'boosters,' our cryptographically locked computers everyone carried with them.
The hoverbots were good for about four hours of flying time. We would drop them from orbit and skim above the seas, sampling and watching; tasting the air we would never smell and feeling a wind that would never touch our skin.
In our grant application, we through out the reason was to determine why biological complexity was present on Varuna, but to also check for intelligence. So far, within 500 light years, Humanity not not found a single sentient alien race. There was life; life was common, but intelligence seemed to be rare. All within the Human sphere, at least through 2201, there was no sign of intelligences other than our own.
It was my turn and I was thrilled.
I strapped myself in and ordered my booster to connect. I lay down and closed my eyes. The darkness of the hoverbot enveloped my mind. I couldn't see a thing, but I did feel the bumps and jostling of the electromagnetic launcher loading and then the sensation of tremendous acceleration.
I felt myself tumbling, twisting and started to see light: the aeroshell around my bot was heating up. When we reached the proper altitude, it split out and I sky dived out of the splintering shell. I tasted fire, felt gusts of wind and deployed my solar wings. They slowed me and allowed my fans to start. I felt the internal purring of my fans: it felt good, like a kitten in happy in life and love.
Eventually, eventually, or so it seemed but was anything but, I reached the ocean surface. I splashed into it and rose almost immediately like a dolphin seeking the sky. But I did not return to those inscrutable waters: I hovered and flitted above.
I had four hours and wanted to see the world. This glorious world with no land, only sea and sky.
I had selected to be dropped at the terminator, near the sunset. I flitted along and was met with an eyeful. It was glorious. The way the sun interplayed with the sea, the splashes of the waters reaching up and into the sky added its own, interesting salt tinged coloration to light's last fading.
I was fortunate: there were no clouds were I was. I could see the sky clearly. It was only part of the reason I was here though: I could see the sky from the ship with my own eyes, so the surface was my draw. Even so, I had to look up and see the inky blackness pierced by bright points of light.
Then there, in the water, as the winds of the day reached into the stillness of the night, the waves started to rise and set. In the sky, the trinary stars of the system were setting with the host star at the horizon. It was lit through the waves.
And there...within...were eyes.
Like I had thought.
They glowed with bioluminescence. They observed me from below the waters. There was no attempt to breach for a better look. They dove and rose with the waves. They stared at me staring at them.
It was a Hvel. One of the large swimmers we had come to specifically see within this world sea. I looked and winked and examined. I tasted the waters and the air and the winds and the seas. I even shed microbots to get a better look at it, a sampling, but few made it close: most burned up in the highly corrosive Varunian air.
It merely stared back. Its eyes seemed so deep. So hypnotic. They seemed to say: human, though you may stride the stars, though you may known and taste the freedom of the galaxy, you lack wisdom, you lack my wisdom and you shall never attain it.
It turned and lazily swam away. My tilted my fans and followed.