Past Light

The surveyor sat back in the pilot seat and gazed toward the front windowpane. Nothing outside the ship had merited any interest for months.  Instead, he focused on the bright pattern of the woven bauble hanging down from an unused alternate switch. A scene from the deep past played just beneath the surface of his conscience.

“Ojo de Dios,” she says.

“A what?”

“Ojo de Dios,” Maria repeats. “It’s called a God’s Eye.”

He stares at the colorful ornament, transfixed by the tugging of a dim memory. He is unaware his face has gone completely blank.

“Are you okay?” she asks, amused at his wonder.

He doesn’t hear. He has seen something like this before: the two crossed sticks with bright yarn woven around them. He has seen this, but he cannot remember where or how.

“Hey. This is Earth calling,” Maria teases. “Please respond Mr. Space Ace.”

He looks at her. He is standing in the hot street in front of a tourist kiosk. “Oh, hey,” he responds and smiles.

“Lost in space?”

“Well, there is a lot of it between my ears.” He reaches into his pocket.

“You’re going to buy that?” she asks surprised.

He pauses to look at her, unsure of the correct answer.

“Yes?” he guesses.

Maria cocks her eyebrows at him.

“No?” he tries again. “Maybe?”

A smile broadens across her face.

“The committee is still discussing the issue?” he suggests. It is his last stab at an acceptable answer.

She laughs.

“These are for tourists,” she says. “You don’t buy them.”

He retracts his hand from his pocket.

“You make them. Come on. We’ll make one together. I’ll show you.”

The bright diamond pattern hung in the forward window like some gleaming star, always marking his direction.

The ship quivered as it came out of the wormhole, interrupting his thoughts. It caught him by surprise; the pilot hadn’t realized so much time had passed. He seemed to be losing track.

Out the front window, he could see the bright star in question. As the intellitor gathered more information on the solar system, the display pane put together the composition of the planets. The only world of interest was mostly hydrogen with traces of oxygen. That wouldn’t do at all. There was no point in jumping further in.

He set the intellitor to scan the distant stars for his next target. After a few moments, a soft beep from the ship’s control pane informed him the sensors had picked up something worthwhile. In the early days of space mining, belt pilots had been notorious for stealing precious resources from their employers, so he assumed his fellow deep-space surveyors were currently doing the same thing. They were most likely performing their own private prospecting on company time and in company ships, looking for deposits of any number of lucrative resources including gold, painite, platinum and rhodium, and even diamonds. These types of searches were too general and time consuming for him. Ignoring all the things he should be recording for his company—large hunks of minerals, planetoids, and planets—he had significantly narrowed the parameters of his exploration. Instead, he hunted for something much more valuable.

“Oxygen. Okay. Let’s take a closer look.”

Oxygen popped up regularly, but no significant discovery had come from it. Nothing even close to Earth-like concentrations had ever been found. He commanded the intellitor to make another jump, then stood up and stretched.