The House That Jack Built VI

If I hadn’t written this I would troll it in the comments. It’s obtuse, tries to pack in far too much information into one chapter, is by turns far too on the nose and far too up its own ass with “subtle” dialogue…but I’m proud of it anyway. It just needs an edit.

If you want something more interesting, check out — he’s writing very similar stuff and started doing so on Marjorie Cameron’s Birthday in 2016. It’s time. The signal returns.



March 20, 1946

Naval Research Laboratory, Washington, DC

Benjamin Franklin West, 1948 presidential hopeful, Mormon cowboy, and Prophet of the Diana Signal, walked slowly through the streets connecting Naval Air Station Anacostia and the nearby Naval Research Laboratory headquarters building. He was enjoying Washington, even though no one in Ramah would believe it. There were sacred things here, not as obscured by steel gantries pretending to be buildings as his hometown folk would believe. After all, the only difference was the ones at White Sands didn’t pretend to be buildings. Here, underneath the pretense of being the Nation’s Capital, was History. Part of history was real people.

In early 1945, Ben had met Marjorie Cameron here, and found her waiting as if in a convent for a sacred destiny. He’d discussed what that destiny might look like, with her…and found that the destiny they had both figured on arrived in the form of a letter. Also included in that envelope had been her honorable discharge…a thing that, when coupled with the other letter, was not as confusing as it otherwise would have been.

How did Benjamin West justify believing in a priestess when there were no such things in his church, and she did not meet basic standards of worthiness? If this question came up, which was as yet unlikely given the Ramah 2nd Ward’s relative ignorance of his mission in life, he would roar “LIKE HELL SHE DOESN’T! GET YOUR HEAD OUT OF YOUR ASS! It’s a piss-poor priesthood holder who can’t see the good in Mary Magdalene, whether or not she has issues!” And then he’d be excommunicated for being the asshole they didn’t think he really was.

But that was what he was trying to tell Jack, you see. Hats. People might wear different hats, but it was the head the hat sat on what mattered…black, gray, white or sequined bedazzled singing cowboy crap, the head was often the same. Hollywood was a wonderful place to invoke a goddess. After all, it was the same kind of place upstate New York was.

There was a campaign speech percolating somewhere, like coffee in a tin pot over a fire. Whether it would be too bitter for the Middle American base Mormons pretended they were was kind of a big problem.

But that was beside the point. He had now passed from Anacostia inside the doors of the Naval Research Laboratory’s main building, and from thence to the third-floor meeting room where a strange eldritch council was convened to create the future of man. Was this Rivendell-on-the-Potomac, or was it the Salt Lake Temple under another flag? The question bemused the old cowhand some men still called Bishop with its irrelevance. There were good men wearing hats behind this door, and yes, some bad men. Their wealth, status, power, and how they expressed it were irrelevant.

The door opened. George Morrison looked at Ben West disapprovingly, as only a Southern Methodist born to a laundromat owner could. “You’re late.”

I was enjoying life.” Ben’s eyes twinkled, delivering a very frank barb with a writer’s humor.

Von Braun cut them off, pointing to stacks of computer tape and a chalkboard covered in algorithms. Looked like Reformed Egyptian to West. “If I had known,” Von Braun pronounced with all the Teutonic subtlety and lack of bombastic pomp a post-atomic Zarathustra could muster, “I should have become a watchmaker.”

Ben couldn’t help but laugh. “You mean you haven’t heard the story of Adam and the apple, and what Newton did about it?”

Von Braun was, as they say, serious business. “I have heard. I am not as comforted…your national myths defeated those of the Third Reich. That does not make them less mythical than our Ahnenerbe’s constructs.”

Ben West chewed on this. “Well, at least I don’t claim that the Smithsonian is covering up a reality I’ve seen in Clovis with my own eyes. This is, however, because I believe they can’t cover up what their instruments can’t detect.”

Von Braun made a slight pooh-poohing sound crossed with a very large helping of Prussian phlegm. “I did not deny that such realities are incapable of detection by scientific methods.”

Let’s just…leave this dispute on the table, please, gentlemen,” George Morrison said. “We can discuss such thorny mythical interpretations of science later. The current reality, while no less artificial, is at least of some relevance.”

It’s clearly on the same level of plausibility, which should make everyone think.” Von Braun was clipping things off in an accent more reminiscent of some Southwest Indian tribes than German now. His new home was changing him. Ben found this most pleasing for the prospects of Von Braun’s new apprentice.

All right, all right. You’re excited, I get it. What have you found, Vern?” His drawl was not suitable for Tewa, or Spanish, so he often ended up making pet names for folk. It had become a habit outside of those cultures, but Tewa and German were…well…best not to tell the Nazi that there were societies that made his look degenerate, but made of brown-skinned desert tribesmen. That is, if he was as actually Nazi as West was Mormon. Which nobody knew, and could not answer, and was therefore irrelevant.

The Diana Signal contains something remarkably akin to a particular Earth language. You will forgive the Ahnenerbe reference with which I opened this discussion, but it is more relevant than you might think.”

Huh?” West was flabbergasted. “You told us the V-2…”

Von Braun glared daggers, raising a hand as if to ball it into a fist and send it into West’s throat. “My word is my bond. Never question it.”

West raised both hands, half-shrug, half-bemused attempt to calm this mad scientist. “All right, pardner…no need to draw yet.”

Morrison looked deeply annoyed. “Do you always keep your tongue in your cheek when you’re this far East?”

We all do. It’s hilarious.” West laughed. Then he sat down.

Anyway. Moving on.” Von Braun was still pissed, and had a right to be. “The Ahnenerbe, while not always true to scholarly rigor, published a wide variety of materials on Semitic languages and their degenerate qualities. As a lover of fine literature, I naturally took some interest…and honestly they were the thing in my country most able to help me understand the mindset of a friend from America I had had before Hitler took power.”

West didn’t even need to think about what that meant. “I see. So what you’re saying is, you are able to tell it’s Semitic without calling in a linguist.”

Yes. Possibly Arabic, Aramaic, Hebrew, maybe even Phoenician. These are all the same language after millennia of dust has been removed.”

Ahhh. So…who built the pyramids, Vern?” West could not help but take this less than seriously. If he started now, he’d be trying to fit it to Reformed Egyptian, and well…

We did. In the land where the Pharaohs died. We call one Sandia Base.” George could not contain his distaste for the subject’s incomprehensibility…or what was really bothering him, which was that West was having fun.

I know that, and you know that, but does the Manana Literary Society of Los Angeles know that?”

Who the hell cares?”

Everyone will, is what he is attempting to convey, George.”

I see. Well, I guess he’s got a point there.”

And as you said, the current reality to hand is no less disconnected from this same mindset, though the data is right there.” West was bedazzled. “You realize, this basically implies that the Bible was written by aliens?”

No, it absolutely does not. Occam’s Razor implies that there are a million explanations better than that, and most of them relate to some corruption of the data, or at least a mistranslation.” Von Braun sighed. “I apologize, Ben…I am fighting the obvious conclusion as much as you are.”

From Faust to Euler as it suits you. Absolutely fascinating. Is that why you like Jack so much? Is that why the Russian people have turned to socialist variants on apocalyptic mysticism of the Millerite sort?” West grinned, knowing only one man could deal with this level of good-natured Socratic needling.

The Third Reich captured many minds who took it seriously. I saw what the myth could do in the right hands. You and Morrison are the right hands.”

I’ll let that angle be for now, then. At least you’re thinking about it.” West smiled pensively.

So I assume no leaks are at this point necessary?” Morrison could not help playing foil to the side of Ben West that was manifested right now.

Morrison, this is a private meeting in a spare conference room. We have not reached any conclusions. We are not leaking anything and putting the United States Government at fault for our inane meanderings.” Could not these people understand the ramifications of what was going on? Von Braun did, but then…he wasn’t American.

You’re taking this too seriously, Vern. Remember Archimedes in his bath.”

Von Braun sighed. “You’re right, West. As usual. I admit it has me…rather flummoxed.”

Yes.” West smirked. “I’m not a scientist. So I’m having fun.”

Anyway, where do we go from here, Ben, Dr. Von Braun?”

I believe given the Semitic origin of our text –”

Morrison interrupted West. “It’s not Semitic for sure.”

All right then, I believe given that a five-year-old Jewish boy could tell you it’s Semitic, from Vern’s telling, there is more of myth and literature about this signal than science can solve.”

Von Braun nodded. “I assume you want one of your people to look at it.”

Yes, in fact. A woman who is facile with images and other symbols, and who currently serves as a Priestess of Diana in all but name.”

I get the impression you didn’t invite West for his scientific knowledge or his money,” Morrison said drily.

Or his good looks.” Von Braun chuckled. “If I was a Watchmaker, I could solve this one in ten seconds flat.”

West nodded, taking the tapes under his arm. “I’ll need the actual physical artifact, Doktor…is that all right?”

Absolutely. I take it when you fly back to New Mexico, people will be able to help you read them without damaging them?”

Yup.” West tipped his Stetson, then walked out of the room. The last words Morrison and Von Braun heard from him that day were “Might not even need a machine.”


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