0119: Blue Giant

Ziggurat #27

“Has it occurred to anybody down below that the colonists might want to know that we’ll be spending days or weeks in this system studying a body’s got zero chance of supporting a colony?”

The giant blue planet looked to be about the same size at this moment as a full moon might look from Earth. During lunch, Lamont had been watching as its moon crept across the azure canvas. Now it was a black dot directly in the center, and the arrangement resembled nothing so much as a single blue eye floating in the nebulous expanse, its pupil contracted to a pinprick by some great light. While the satellite was a silhouette against the nearly featureless blue of the planet, Lamont’s eyes had been drawn to a glimmering flash of white on its surface. It shone like a beacon, so bright as to almost hide the moon behind its brilliance.

“Do you suppose that’s it?” Rosemary whispered, having shifted in her seat to follow Lamont’s gaze out the window. Some of the cafeteria’s other occupants, having also noticed, were rising from their tables to stand closer to the observation window.

“Got to be,” Lamont nodded. “How big’s that moon?”

“I think I heard that it’s a little smaller than Earth,” The medic recalled.

“Excuse me,” Constance interjected, “What are we looking at?”

“There’s a large moon in orbit around that gas giant,” Lamont explained. “On the surface of the moon is some kind of structure. We’re guessing that it’s an artificial structure, because it’s emitting strong radio signals. I think that the glimmer of light we’re seeing there might be what we’re going to see.”

“What is the moon like?” Constance asked, her brow knitting in confusion.

Lamont shrugged. “This far from the star, on the dark side of the planet? Probably an ice ball.”

The young woman slapped her palm on the table and stood abruptly. “Well, if that don’t just beat all,” she fumed, turning to walk away.

“What’s wrong?” Rosemary asked.

Constance pointed her finger toward the observation window. “Y’all said that’s a gas giant, with a frozen moon over it, and Westward’s changed course to get a closer look at the moon, or whatever’s on it. Has it occurred to anybody down below that the colonists might want to know that we’ll be spending days or weeks in this system studying a body’s got zero chance of supporting a colony? I haven’t heard a thing, and I’d wager hard currency that nobody else up top has either.”

Lamont and Rosemary exchanged uncomfortable glances as the young colonist strode angrily from the cafeteria, leaving a half-glass of club soda behind.

“You don’t think she’s going to see Francis, do you?” Rosemary asked after a moment.

“No shrinking violet,” Lamont muttered, recalling something Constance had said to him when they first met. Then his eyes turned to the medic, scrutinizing her. “When did you start calling the captain by his first name?”

Next: Tricks of the Eye