0175: Marvelous Inventions and Surprising Insights
“I’m sorry, but I don’t buy that,” Lamont scowled. “His people were exploring these stars when yours and mine were waving goodbye to our tails. You want me to believe that his big pink brain couldn’t see this coming?”
Though transparent, the walls of Captain Carter’s office on the starboard side of the command deck were almost perfectly soundproof. As soon as the door was closed, the din of the work outside was replaced by a stuffy silence, made all the more heavy by the absence of the normally ubiquitous drone of the air circulators. Francis made his way behind his desk, but did not sit; he merely leaned heavily on the pommel of his walking stick and regarded the newspaperman coolly. “If I had known,” he asked, “that following the radio signals to this world would result in the near-destruction of Westward, do you seriously think that I would have ordered it?”
Lamont shifted on his feet. “No,” he admitted. “Of course not.”
“The fact is that I didn’t know, and neither did the other members of the senior staff who agreed that the decision was consistent with our mission. Which isn’t surprising, because we are, explicitly, facing the unknown out here.”
Lamont felt his temper rising. “Isn’t that why we have the bloody Martian onboard?” He asked. “To give us some clue as to what we’re dealing with?”
The captain shook his head. “Phobos is here to operate the escherspace drive and other Martian-influenced systems. We have the Martian survey charts, yes, but that’s just data—there’s no reason to assume that his insights into them are any greater than yours or mine would be.”
“I’m sorry, but I don’t buy that,” Lamont scowled. “His people were exploring these stars when yours and mine were waving goodbye to our tails. In the space of twenty years, he single handedly pushed our technological horizon centuries into the future. You want me to believe that his big pink brain couldn’t see this coming?”
Francis sighed tiredly. “Lamont, have you ever talked to Phobos about something complicated or technical?”
The newspaperman winced, remembering when he had asked the Martian to explain what happened during an escherspace jump. He nodded.
“Then you don’t need me to tell you that, in some ways, he’s far beyond us,” Francis said, evidently noting Lamont’s pained expression. “It’s evident that his thoughts operate at a different level, and sometimes that is expressed in the form of marvelous inventions and surprising insights. But he’s a person, Lamont. At the end of the day, he’s just one person. The universe is big and complicated, and most of the time we don’t have as much control over it as we think we do. Things happen, and we get swept up in them. And then all one can do is hold on. See it through to the end.”
“And what if this is some kind of trap?” Lamont asked. “What if that’s the end?”
“Then it’s up to us to determine what kind of trap it is,” Francis said. “And those answers aren’t here. They’re out there.” He lifted a finger to jab it down at his desk, and then pointed it out toward the panoramic window of the command deck. Involuntarily, Lamont’s eyes followed the gesture, looking out at the fore of the ship that was partially hidden in a sparkling white cloud.
“In that case, let’s get Phobos over to the tower so that he can examine it himself,” Lamont suggested.
The captain shook his head. “His skills are needed more urgently here for now. Fortunately, we just happen to have a world-famous investigative journalist on board.”
Lamont smiled thinly in spite of himself. “Don’t you mean chaperone?” he asked.
Francis shrugged. “That’s a temporary assignment. Try to get some rest, Lamont—you’re due in the storage bay in four hours.”
Lamont threw up his hands in resignation and turned to leave, pausing momentarily when the captain added: “Oh, and get yourself some coffee. There’s no telling when you might have another chance.”
Next: Lucky Ten
It occurs to me this solves the mystery of the alien shuttles on the tower's landing bay. It's not that they couldn't leave, it's that they had nowhere else to go.
Are you OK Elliot?