0138: The Expedition Assembles

Ziggurat #46

Lamont jumped as the face of chief technician Ed Spratt presented itself unexpectedly through an open panel on the bottom of the asteroid pod, his thick glasses nefariously reflecting the red of the interior lights.

“I didn’t know you were to be part of this expedition,” Lamont admitted as Rosemary approached, craning her head to look up at the asteroid pod’s underbelly. 

“Can’t have an expedition without a medic,” she replied in a matter-of-fact tone.

Lamont had to concede that her skillset was a valuable one, combining basic medicine with exobiology—not to mention the experience she had gained studying medical anomalies in Europe with Doctor Faust. Nevertheless, he was surprised that she would be so readily allowed to join another external operation after the rather unpredictable behavior she had displayed on Epiphany Rex—first disappearing into a cave system by herself and later firing the captain’s weapon at a native in an apparent act of vengeance. He couldn’t help but wonder whether the assignment had anything to do with her evidently growing familiarity with Francis.

“Naturally,” Rico agreed. “But this time, I do not intend to take my eyes off of you for a second.”

Rosemary met the security specialist’s grin with a dismissive roll of her green eyes. “I highly doubt we’ll have occasion to leave the pod at any rate,” She predicted.

“Hey, heads up.”

Lamont jumped as the face of chief technician Ed Spratt presented itself unexpectedly through an open panel on the bottom of the asteroid pod, his thick glasses nefariously reflecting the red of the interior lights.

“Step aside, people,” The engineer continued. “I’m going to lower her down.”

The trio obediently made way as, with a ponderously loud creaking and clanking sound, the chains that held the asteroid pod were slowly extended. At the same time, four squat mechanical legs extended from their compartments at the front and back of the vehicle. The metal pads of the legs came to a rest flat on the storage bay’s floor, but Lamont noted that each one had a hole in the center, lined up with a large metal spike that could be driven via piston down into whatever surface the asteroid pod landed upon. The articulated legs creaked as the evidently considerable weight of the pod came, after what seemed like quite a long time, to rest on them. A few moments later, Ed emerged from a hatch at the top of the vehicle and began to manually disconnect the chains from their fasteners. He was dressed like the others in a silver, pressurized undersuit.

As he did this, other members of the expedition began to arrive. Lamont recognized Clifford Ashton, the notoriously bookish engineer who was also knowledgeable in archeology. He was accompanied by security chief Arthur Wellington, who like Rico had an automatic pistol holstered conspicuously at his hip. To Lamont’s eye, Arthur looked noticeably uncomfortable out of the straight cuts of his full uniform; a condition he compensated for by standing even straighter than usual, his muttonchopped chin lifted high.

Lamont was surprised to see that the next arrival was Abigail Bishop, whom he rarely saw outside of her usual station on the command deck.  She was pulling a rather large metal case behind her, its small wheels clattering on the grated floor. Her straightened black hair was pulled back into two tight braids to allow for a space helmet if necessary. She evidently noticed the newspaperman’s expression. “I’m trained in linguistics and cyphers,” She explained. “We haven’t had much luck unraveling the broadcasted language, and the captain thinks that we might find some visual clues to help.”

“Have you tried,” Lamont suggested casually, “A computer program that compares the frequency of consonants?”