0116: Return to Triton

Ziggurat #24

“Assuming that what we’re looking at is a structure that was intentionally constructed to broadcast signals, we can surmise that it was designed to broadcast out into interstellar space, rather than into the star system.”

Lamont got up early the next morning, eager to get a good cup of coffee on the command deck and an update on the source of the radio signals. The first desire was satisfied, the second, less so.

“Believe it or not, we’re in the process of decelerating,” Lazarus explained from his seat at the pilot’s console. “The planet may not look any different now, but we’re moving so fast that we have to take steps not to blow right past the moon when we reach it.”

“When will that be?” Lamont asked, cradling his coffee in both hands as he hovered over the younger man’s shoulder. 

Lazarus leaned forward to check a digital chronometer near the top of his console. “A couple hours before first shift tomorrow,” He concluded.

“Can we see the source of the radio signal any better than we could last night?” The newspaperman asked.

Abigail, back in uniform and seated at the navigator’s console, answered that question. “Not much. Whatever it is, it’s giving off a strong magnetic signal, but it doesn’t have enough surface area for us to see much. The clouds in this system aren’t helping any. Neither is the fact that whatever it is, it doesn’t catch any light from the sun.”

“Why is that?” Lamont asked.

The navigator held up two hands, one cupped as if holding an imaginary ball, the other with an index finger tracing a circle around it. “The moon is positioned in such a way that its orbit keeps it in the shadow of the planet.”

“So, assuming that what we’re looking at is a structure that was intentionally constructed to broadcast signals,” Interjected Captain Carter, “We can surmise that it was designed to broadcast out into interstellar space, rather than into the star system.” The gray-haired astronaut was just emerging from his office, leaning on his cane as he made his way around the front of the control console.

A glimmer of memory flashed through Lamont’s mind. Madison Burk, his neighbor on Mars, had described seeing an installation that was being built on Triton while she was on the long journey back home from helium mining on Neptune; a giant United Space radio dish that was pointed away from the Solar system. He had wondered in the time since whether that installation was connected to the then secret Westward project, but as far as he knew, no conventional radio signal from the Solar system could hope to reach the Escherspace-equipped spaceship on its interstellar travels.

“Could it be Martian?” Lamont heard himself blurting.

Francis looked at him thoughtfully over the top of the console before settling down to sit on the bench at its front. “Phobos is still analyzing the radio signals,” He said. “But he would have mentioned it if they were recognizably Martian.”

Lamont took a gulp of his coffee and walked around the edge of the console to sit beside the captain. “You asked him, then?”

Francis gazed fixedly at the blue point of light in the center of the panoramic view before them. “Phobos would have mentioned it,” He repeated confidently.

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