Chapter 13

A Scientific Investigation

Chris studied the coal-grey sample in its illuminated container. He did not doubt the Lady’s conclusions, but they made little sense.

“What’s up, duder?” asked Lance, turning his light on Chris.

“The Lady just finished processing the last sample,” he said, pocketing the container and pondering how best to describe the results to his simple friend. “This substance we’re dealing with isn’t dust, at least not as far as we define dust. It’s not sand, either. It’s more like…” he searched for an example, “volcanic ash, I guess you could say.” A fusion of silicon, oxygen and iron, to be precise, alongside a scattering of other elements—certainly not things someone would expect to find coating the buried ruins of Torsten. “It has some kind of residual electric charge, too, which might be why it sticks to everything in sight. That could be what’s playing havoc with our cellulars, too.”

“So, like, we’re standing on a volcano or something?” said Lance.

“Not unless the Earth’s tectonic plates have rearranged themselves without telling anybody.” Given the Moon’s habit of changing its orbit on a whim, that didn’t seem like the most far-fetched of theories, but Chris favoured hard facts over fantasy. According to the Foundation’s database, there were numerous sites across the world coated in a similar substance, from forgotten towns and disused temples to the plains of Antarctica and the ruins of Yesod, the arcology that fell during the world’s forgotten history. As far as Chris was concerned, that was too much of a coincidence—and Chris did not believe in coincidences.

That said, he didn’t believe in fate, either. He felt it paid to maintain a healthy scepticism and to remember that, for all the progress humanity had made, nature was always upping the stakes. Humanity conquered the land, and nature gave it the oceans; humanity conquered the oceans, and nature gave it the skies; humanity conquered the skies, and nature gave it space. After that, things got a little fuzzy. It was Chris’s job—well, one of them—to help uncover what, exactly, happened next, and how it led to a world where a moon could disobey four billion years of momentum. Someone out there knew the answers, of that he was certain, but they had gone to great lengths to keep them a secret—just as someone had gone to great lengths to encase the heart of a fledgling community beneath a transmatter shell stuffed with suspicious substances.

And Chris did not believe in coincidences.

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Time for some SCIENCE!