0115: A Signal in the Dark

Ziggurat #23

The deck was suddenly filled with a torrent of what sounded rather like weird voices, all murmuring over one another in unknown languages, with tones and inflections that sounded utterly strange to Lamont’s ears.

“The radio signal is coming from a giant planet that right now is about seven AUs away from its sun,” Lazarus explained animatedly. “More specifically, from a moon orbiting that planet. More specifically, from a single structure on that moon, so large that our spectrographs can distinguish it from here, nearly an AU away.” With a pointed finger, he directed the newspaperman’s attention to the large visual monitor that was set between the two consoles, positioned to be visible from the situation table. It showed a grainy image of a large gray circle in a black field, with a smaller black circle superimposing it, and a bright white point on top of that. Looking at the image without the benefit of the pilot’s description, Lamont would have been less than impressed.

“What kind of a radio signal is it?” He asked.

Abigail looked up at the senior staff members who were clustered in front of the console. They were all standing close to the panoramic window except for Phobos, who was perched on the bench at the head of the console, his head roughly level with the others’. “Mind if I pipe it through the speakers?” She asked no one in particular.

Chief Santana turned her head back toward the console, her black eyes settling briefly on Lamont. She was standing with her arms folded over her chest, one hand gripping her ever-present clipboard. “Go ahead,” She said.

Bishop nodded to the second shift navigator who sat at the console—Raj, if Lamont recalled correctly—who reached to adjust a knob before depressing a rectangular button so that its telltale light glowed amber. The deck was suddenly filled with a torrent of what sounded rather like weird voices, all murmuring over one another in unknown languages, with tones and inflections that sounded utterly strange to Lamont’s ears. The effect was cacophonous, and he felt a sense of relief when Raj stopped the noise after about ten seconds.

“What is it?” Lamont asked, shaking his head.

Bishop shrugged. Like some of the others on the deck, she was out of uniform, her dark brown skin complimented by a simple black t-shirt. “It’s complicated,” She said. “The structure is broadcasting a variety of signals on multiple wavelengths, occupying the entire radio band and then some. We’re just beginning to analyze it.”

“Any chance it’s just a natural phenomenon of some kind?” Lamont ventured.

Captain Carter, leaning on his cane as he gazed at the bluish point of light in the center of the transparent wall, shook his head. “Highly unlikely. No natural phenomenon that we’re aware of could have created such a structure. But we can’t be sure until we get a closer look.”

“The signals aren’t random,” Phobos agreed. “They have a pattern that suggests intelligence, although we don’t yet know whether the pattern has a meaning.”

The newspaperman executed a quick flurry of taps on the tiny keys of his recorder’s stenograph. “Evidently it’s curious enough to warrant a detour,” He remarked.

“Certainly,” Santana agreed. “Whatever we encounter on that moon could inform our approach of the inner system. It would be irresponsible to ignore it.”

“Well,” Lamont grinned. “It’s nice to see that mother and dad can finally agree on something.”

Next: Return to Triton