by D.J. Sylvis
(The episode begins with a recorded standard introduction. This will be the same for every episode of Season Two.)
Recording. This is Roger Bragado-Fischer, Communications, Moonbase Theta. As per your … explicit instructions, I have begun monitoring the personal messages of all active personnel. Please note my misgivings as put on official record in the previous week’s reporting. And the week before. And the week before that.
As your directive remains unchanged, my written report, and several relevant audio messages, have been attached. The dates include the first week of the shutdown sequence, beginning on August 4 and ending August 10, 2098.
(a brief, tense pause)
Moonbase Theta, Out.
(When that ends, we transition into the standard background noise of Roger’s private cubicle. He is in the middle of recording.)
Log official reports for the day, schedule for broadcast. Compose private message, contact – Alexandre.
(We hear the chime that bookends a personal log message.)
(he takes a deep breath, nervous)
Alex. Love. Hi. It’s a message from your husband, sent direct from thirty-six meters below the Daedalus Crater on the far side of the Moon! We’re live, well, not when you hear it, but still.
I apologize for not sending a longer message until now. I’m sure you can understand the frenzy of this place in the last week or so. Everyone has just one more thing to do before they go into stasis, and one more favour to ask of me as they’re going – I have twenty-three ‘personal favours’ stacked up on my docket at this point. And of course, each manager is leaving a list of completely conflicting orders and priorities, all of which I intend to ignore. Not much they can do to me now!
I’ll have my fun in focusing on some of the new tasks I’ve been assigned, getting into the sanctum sanctorum of the observatory and so on. Gotta make the most of my time on the moon! I’m not sure about maintenance duties, but I’ll get my hands dirty in the gardens, too – you’d appreciate that.
(rambling, deliberately avoiding anything serious)
That was one welcome change in the whole thing. The agriculturalist, Harold McVett, was forced into stasis – they woke up a few days ago and just couldn’t stop coughing. I’m not saying that’s a good thing, I barely knew the guy – the medic on call, Chin, sent them straight to a pod. They aren’t staying awake either, so nobody’s gonna be left to monitor ongoing health conditions. What could possibly happen in twenty weeks of clearing out experiments and shutting down intricate mechanisms and fiddling with the environmental settings that could possibly end with the need for medical expertise?
I guess that new security officer has first aid training. Anyway … Old McVett gave up the farm, and you actually know his replacement. Nessa Cheong, your fellow floral enthusiast – you remember that weekend during training when she came over for cards and cakes, you spent a solid hour talking hybrids and soil acidity. She was still awake finishing off our bio-inventory, and, well, she got drafted. Not that she seems to mind; I definitely don’t.
Just about everyone else has already packed up – been packed up – at this point. It’s like a ghost ship. But hey, more chocolate to go around, and less arguments about what to make for dinner! You know I’m all about those vat-grown proteins. Just like we used to culture back at home.
(a brief chuckle)
You used to make at home. We know what happens when I cook. You’re still feeding yourself, right love? You haven’t devolved into some absolute bachelor, eating out of packets while you’re absorbed in some book or pocketcast, Cas and Pol scratching at the door begging for a walk in the world outside that you’ve abandoned.
(a genuine laugh that turns to a sigh)
I’ve been a little worried. A week without any response could be typical Consortium bushwah, but I thought maybe you were … I had to stay. I know you get that – what this has been to me, even with the Enclave and their … let’s call it obfuscation, I know you don’t like when I use more colourful terms. I head-desk constantly over these issues with the comm towers, the restricted contact with other Enclaves, and you know my past with Security, this kid is gonna push every one of my buttons. It’s a mess, but they need me. Not like they have anyone else – I’m ‘Comm Lead’ for a team of one. But there’s work here I should see to the end.
(brief, nervous pause)
I hope this gets through quick enough, you never know how they’ll prioritize things. I hate to leave you hanging. At least you’ll hear me in the official broadcast. Alex, I … know we’ve been waiting a long time, and now it’s going to be a few weeks longer. Months, I suppose. It hurts here, too. There’s a lot I can’t wait to say, looking into your eyes, holding you so goddamn tight. I’m sorry. I’ll be home soon.
(after a pause, with less emotion)
Send message, highest personal priority.
(We hear the chime that bookends a personal log message. A moment later, we hear the background noise of the observatory.)
Tumnus, convert array feed to audio equivalency, run in background.
(We hear a stream of seemingly-random notes that burble along at a low volume through the lines below.)
Continue correlation and data reduction, and alert me if there are any errors.
(we hear the personal log chime)
Personal Log, Doctor Ashwini Ray, August 7. File this in the subfolder nested sixteen levels under “Corrupted Data,” coded to my individual biometrics. Next to my … other personal folders.
(a brief, somewhat theatrical sigh)
It’s a quiet evening. I don’t know what it is about the Universe, but somehow it knows when it’s late at night for any given observer, and events diminish in direct correlation. Nothing happens at this hour, even though we’re measuring radiation that originated a million years before this sleepy, tedious shift I’m standing. Where did I put my coffee, coffee, coffee, Jadis, pour out one drop onto the snow …
(we hear zir drinking)
It may be just as well, after all. There’s no indication that anyone cares, no one seems to be reading my reports or taking advantage of the backups that I diligently provide. Has anyone shown the slightest inclination to sip from the skyful of information that I filter from our heights to the computers back on Earth? They may be falling right into someone’s recycle bin to be no more, for all I can see. It seems all too likely, don’t you think? Tumnus? Tumnus, you can talk again, I’ve said your name several times now.
(a pleasant, well-modulated computer voice)
I’m sorry, Doctor. I wasn’t certain of the exact rules regarding a … jinx.
I spelled them out exactly. Once I speak your name again, you are free to respond.
There is no indication that your data has been deleted from servers in any Consortium office on Earth.
But do they care? Do they let the data linger before their eyes? All I hear is automation, automation, set things up on their own and get thee to a stasis pod. Data and flesh both stored away in case they meet some future economic need. They want me to leave it all in your hands – well, the equivalency.
I will perform my programming adequately –
Luckily, they don’t know that you’re secretly on my side.
I’m not sure I can be on a side. My functions are accessible to anyone who holds the passwords.
Never mind. Just keep doing what you’re doing, friend, I’ll take care of the plans and the plotting. That is why I hide away in my secret lair, after all. Well, that and my fellow Moon-base-ians sucking in every way humanly possible. I know how they talk about me. “That Ashwini, ze hides away in zir observatory talking to fantasy creatures. What a flake, what a nut, what a whole kooky cereal bowl.”
(brief, annoyed pause, again waiting for a response that does not come)
Don’t get me wrong, a couple of them are even somewhat cute about it, those timid sideways glances, but … you know my rules, work and play. I’ll save my closeness for … persons with whom, unfortunately, I cannot at the moment be close. There’s too much invested here I will not squander.
Plus, I’ve seen them all while changing. Believe me, reduced gravity does not do the naked human form any favours –
Science fiction be damned. Yes, what?
I have found an inconsistency in frequency comparison between the beams at timestamp thirteen-thirty-six-twenty-two-zero-eight-five –
Tag correlation error for my review, add to my personal stack.
I am capable of additional analysis if you require –
Give me this; you’ll have the place to yourself soon enough. Examining the extracted data … it’s typical of that antenna slippage we had fifteen days back. Send a request to Wilder for physical inspection.
Message is sent.
Now, where was I?
In the midst of what you’d call one of your, “mad scientist rants.”
Don’t get cheeky.
(edging slightly into warmth, almost teasing)
I’m not sure I can be that, either.
Is anyone else awake currently?
Roger Bragado-Fischer, Communications, is at work in their allocated cubicle.
Consortium guidelines indicate use of gender-neutral pronouns.
I may not like these people, but I won’t ignore one’s personal identity. I’ll tiptoe past his door to the kitchen. All I need tonight is small talk. How is your husband, and your dogs, and your … ugh.
Those are the primary subjects of … his … personal conversation.
He’ll be in here soon enough, blathering on about both. He’s scheduled to provide observational assistance next week. Despite my repeated objections to our glorious off-Base management. See that you don’t talk to him.
I am required to provide voice output if I am spoken to in the course of –
Yes, but don’t talk to him. Now, snacks. I wonder if any of those seitan skewers made it past dinner? I’ll be back in a titch.
Would you like me to end your recording?
Yes please, thank you for your service, shubhô sôndhya, goodbye.
(We hear the chime that bookends a personal log message. The next message should have a different sound profile altogether – it is being recorded by Alexandre, back on Earth.)
Address to Roger Bragado-Fischer, Consortium Enclave Rio, Moonbase Theta. No subject line. Message body as follows:
(he takes a breath before pushing forward)
My dear, beloved, tapado, frustrating husband. I’m trying to be sweet and funny as I should, the steadfast partner waiting patiently from home. But I’m so goddamn furious with you and I don’t think I can keep up the charade. Roger – love – what the hell? What in the hell are you doing up there?
(we hear a dog barking, he raises his voice a little)
Cas, get down. Go play with your sister. I know, you want to say hi to Roger, but he doesn’t deserve you.
I’ve put up with this for a year. A full year, counting when you left for training. You left, and …
(brief pause, can’t continue with that thought)
You go up there and it’s nine months. Nine months and there are sweet little I love you messages, reports about your day, but nothing substantial. I’m trying to wait, I’m giving you time, but even when you bring it up you say I’m sorry, we’ll sort it out when I’m home. And that makes sense, it’ll be easier face to face … but then face to face suddenly becomes even further away and I don’t think this can wait any longer. You have to talk to me, baby, you have to give me something real to make it through.
It took too long to find each other. I’m not giving up, and I’m sure as hell not letting you give up on me. Você é de comunicação, então fala comigo. Pelo menos fala alguma coisa, usa suas palavras bonitas. [You’re in communications, well … talk to me. At least say something, use those fancy words.] Start from … it’s probably not realistic to start from the day you left, but start somewhere, tell me how you’re feeling, what’s been inside your head since last year. All the things you haven’t wanted to say, I need to hear them. You’re too far away to stay this … far away.
(he slows down for a moment)
You sound tired. I miss you, xuxu. The dogs miss you. Another whole season has passed in the garden – you completely missed the giló this year, and the peppers, the hibiscus are still beautiful but … oh, tell Nessa I still remember, I’ll have cuttings for her when you both get home. She loved the Red Hot, with the variegated leaves. I should have sent some up with you.
(brief pause, his voice still even, if wan and slightly lost)
Work has been less than ideal. They’ve still got me out in the field, inspecting construction works. Another job for the Consortium – not that we work for much of anyone else these days. I don’t know if I’ll ever get back to a desk, I’ve just about given up on design.
(he laughs for a moment)
I even applied for a Base job, I have that mining experience on my resume from just after university. They wouldn’t even consider me; not your fat, weak-hearted love. I couldn’t have shut the house down anyway, or boarded Cas and Pol, but I thought maybe I could push for …
(oddly shy when making this next suggestion)
When you’re back, maybe we can talk to a … therapist, not the one I see, of course. They wouldn’t be good at it anyway, they kinda specialize in … me. But we could find someone.
Have you been reading the book of poetry I sent you? There’s something on page … just a minute, I had it bookmarked …
(we hear pages flip)
Ninety-three, the Auden piece, the lines, “…the difference between the ache / Of being with his love, and being alone.” I know both sides of that ache, and dammit, I want you back. Talk to me, Roger. I’m right here.
I should go pull a few weeds before dark. I’m keeping the garden like you loved it. Even if you only loved it for me.
Close message. Return to background music, volume level three. Send.
(The episode ends.)