0109: There is a Connection

Ziggurat #17

“I didn’t order room service,” Lamont said.
Constance Beckett peeked her head around Lamont’s shoulder to survey the front room of his suite with open curiosity. “Your mistake,” She quipped, wrinkling her nose. “Do you keep a horse in here?”

3 February, 1999
A Recording by Lamont Townsend
Aboard the United Space Ship Westward

Sitting before me on my desk is a metal token or pendant, made of weathered silver, slightly radioactive. It is in the shape of a simple symbol, two concentric circles intersected by two lines meeting in a point. The first time I saw this symbol, it was stamped in old financial documents associated with the pre-Epiphinal activities of Schultzcorp, the parent company of United Space Group. The second time I saw it was on an alien planet, 500 light years from earth, in the possession of one of the misshapen, human-like pygmies that inhabit that world; a race of people whose level of technology has apparently advanced little beyond a stone age, but who use highly radioactive bits of left over from some older source of refined metal as weapons. It could be that the repetition of these symbols is merely the coincidental reproduction of a motif that, after all, is not complex. But my mind rejects that possibility, even as it struggles to calculate the probability that there could be a connection between the two. 

There is a connection. Something in the explanation Phobos gave me about the mechanisms of Escherspace—a process involving travel not only through space, but through time—further convinces me of this. The Martian’s illustration fell laughingly short of a straight answer, and one could easily accuse him of being circumspect. But with Phobos, one can never tell. It could be that his Martian brain is simply operating at a level that makes communication a challenge. 

I could, of course, force the issue. I could bring the token to Phobos—or better yet, to Francis Carter—along with the microfilm on which the old documents are recorded, and demand an explanation. But my gut tells me this would be a mistake. I already tipped my hand once, when I realized that my life was in danger on Mars, and that risk was rewarded with my presence here on Westward. My intuition tells me that to do so again would be a mistake. Whatever the connection is, it will make itself clear in time. I’ve got to be patient, and to keep my eyes open.


Lamont lifted his eyes from the small display of the micro-typewriter before him, his thoughts interrupted by the electronic chirp of his doorbell. With spasmodic haste, he swept the half dollar-sized pendant from the surface of his desk and tucked it behind the paper backing of a picture frame that was lying face-down near the typewriter. He quickly smoothed his hand over it before returning the frame, which exhibited a newspaper clipping, to its usual home on the wall above his desk. This was done just in time to hear a second chirp from the doorbell.

Shoving aside his chair, he spanned the distance between his desk and the door with a single long pace and pulled it open. He was met by the fresh, freckled face of a young woman, her sandy hair pulled back with a red bandana, leaning against a mop propped in a bucket.

“I didn’t order room service,” Lamont said.

Constance Beckett peeked her head around Lamont’s shoulder to survey the front room of his suite with open curiosity. It had been some time since Lamont had straightened up, and it showed. “Your mistake,” She quipped, wrinkling her nose. “Do you keep a horse in here?”

Lamont glanced uncomfortably into the hall behind Constance. Impervious as he typically was to other peoples’ opinions, he didn’t feel it was appropriate for a young female colonist to be seen hanging about his room. On Westward, there were two forces that moved faster than light: Escherspace and gossip. “No,” he countered with affected casualness, “Just an old ass. What can I do for you, Miss Beckett?”

The colonist laughed at his self-deprecation, snorting a little. “It’s what I’ve done for you, Mr. Townsend. I talked to Miss Anna. She’s willing to meet with you.”

Next: To the Walls of Jericho