Here was all the concrete evidence he had collected since the beginning, two years ago, of his investigation into Francis Carter and United Space.
Lamont could not recall his mumbled response to Rosemary’s curious reaction when he found the object among the trinkets that had been on the native pygmy’s person. In fact, the considerable span of time between that moment and when he was finally alone again in his suite on Westward was something of a blur. There was the long wait, during which the features of the planet beneath the space lift coalesced into broad impressions of land and cloud and the stars overhead took on a hard coldness. There was the shuffle of activity as the lift eventually docked once more with Westward, the shape of the great vessel emerging from a vague point of light among the stars with a surprising suddenness that hinted at their tremendous rate of ascent. There was the fuss about the captain, when Doctor Faust arrived with two nurses and a gurney, all of whom were waved away with no small expression of annoyance from the exhausted-looking Francis Carter. There was the changing room, in which Lamont put on his normal clothes and, in the process, was able to discreetly transfer the metal trinket from the pocket of his expedition coat into his cigarette case, slipping it beneath the white paper rolls as he pulled one cigarette out and placed it with a sense of relief between his lips. The rest of the trinkets he placed in a specimen tray next to the quarantine bin for the expedition suits. There was the dosimeter check, the temperature check, the blood draw, the short and absentminded walk between the space lift bay and his private quarters. At last, he was alone.
Falling mechanically into the chair at his small desk, he pulled off the recorder that was strapped over his shoulder and placed it off to the side. He would concern himself with that later. His attention turned instead to the boxy microfilm viewer he kept on the corner of the desk, a drab green metal contraption with a few buttons and knobs and a small compartment containing a delicate mechanism. At its top was a viewing port that one looked into like a pair of binoculars. From the pocket of his slacks, Lamont retrieved his cigarette case and, glancing compulsively at his closed door, pulled out the smuggled trinket from the alien planet. It was a pendant or medallion, about the size of a large coin, weathered with apparently extreme age and made of something like brass or copper. The perimeter of the medallion was ringed with the faded remnants of some kind of writing that consisted of intersecting wedges and triangles. In the center was a simple symbol: Two concentric circles with a V-like wedge bisecting them.
Now, Lamont’s fingers found their way to the cigarette at the end of his case. The cigarette in his mouth, having been lit not long before, was still slowly burning down and continued to dangle from the edge of his lips. From this new cigarette, he carefully unwrapped the outer layer of paper to reveal not tobacco, but a slender tube of black metal. Unscrewing a seam at the center of the tiny cylinder, he drew from it a delicate spool of microfilm, which he mounted with practiced precision in the mechanism of the viewer. Placing his cigarette in a nearby ashtray, he lowered his eyes to the viewer and began to turn a knob on its side, scrolling through the contents of the microfilm.
Here was all the concrete evidence he had collected since the beginning, two years ago, of his investigation into Francis Carter and United Space. Hundreds of pages of documents and photographs, including the contents of the folder that Harry had handed him when he had first accepted the assignment. Here were financial records, staff profiles, leaked lab reports. Past his eyes flew the grainy photograph of Francis Carter, space-suited but helmetless, an infant that Lamont now knew to be Phobos cradled in his arms. Skimming past that, he eventually found what he was looking for: An old, pre-Epiphenal document that had been included with some of the United Space papers for unknown reasons. Partially burned, it contained a table of numbers and alphanumeric designations of some kind. At the bottom was the version of the Shultzcorp logo that had been used during the time of Abraham Schultz prior to Epiphany, when his company had been a little-known research and development firm. Next to it was another symbol: Concentric circles, a V—the exact likeness of the one represented on the medallion Lamont had obtained from the dying pygmy, on an alien planet, hundreds of light years from earth. Underneath was the name, or perhaps the acronym, over which he had puzzled many times: NOD.
Next: Epiphany Rex
Where have we seen NOD mentioned before?