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 related audio messages, have been attached. The dates include two weeks of the shutdown sequence, beginning on August 11 and ending August 24, 2098.
(a brief, tense pause)
Moonbase Theta, Out.
(When that ends, we transition into the standard background noise of Roger’s private cubicle. We hear the chime that bookends a personal log message.)
Private message, reply, Alexandre. Umm … just a minute.
(he self-consciously clears his throat)
Alex. Love. I’m … glad to hear the garden is still blooming.
I know it’s always felt like more of your place, you and the unending lineup of deer, raccoons, the occasional marmoset sneaking in to raid the papaya tree … but I did love it there, not just for you, but … for you. For your hands thrust into the dirt, humming pop songs when you didn’t know I could hear, or having our churrasco there on weekends, keeping Cas and Pol out of the street by force of sheer will … or sitting to watch the evening deepen at the end of a day. It’s a special place to me, and I miss it … miss you. I’m … I promise, love, when I’m done here … no, I know I can’t wait for that. I get what you’ve been saying. I’m not taking chances with us.
I read the poem you mentioned. I like the final stanza better:
(we hear a page flutter)
Whatever view we hold, it must be shown
Why every lover has a wish to make
Some kind of otherness his own:
Perhaps, in fact, we never are alone.
(after a moment)
I didn’t know you applied for a Base job. As much as I’m like, gods, stay away from the Consortium … there are things you’d have loved up here, things I’d love to have shown you. You’ve been reaching over all this – all this space, for so long, while I was looking at the stars too hard to even notice. It’d be nice to get to look at them together.
(brief pause, more animated)
Speaking of the stars … I hope they passed on my last report, where I was working with Dr. Ray. The work was amazing in such unexpected ways, the wavelengths, the cascading data … and I’ve carved our initials right into that nebula, don’t you worry. Doctor Ray, though … I’m not sure if we’re on a first name basis yet … is a particular sort of experience. Ze tried to put me on the optical telescopes going in, like I wouldn’t know how much that’s a brushoff … but even when I insisted on a real assignment ze only spoke a few words before handing me over to the computer. And two of those were, “No chatting.” Still not sure what that meant.
(brief pause, reminiscing)
I was just starting to really understand the feed, right down to the binary, when the week was over and I got the bum rush. Nice while it lasted, I guess. I definitely look at things a lot different when I go up to the surface. Which I’ve done a few times lately. It’s a good place to think.
(a guilty pause)
I’m glad you’re still seeing your therapist, that I didn’t ruin that with my … I’m glad you brought him up. Not that you’ve talked much about it, but I know, I haven’t asked. Anyway, there are people who specialize in couples, if that’s better. Wilder said she knows someone who specializes in triads. Irrelevant, but interesting. Yeah, it’s something we should pursue. I want to pursue it.
I should get back to work here soon. Things are starting to pile up, there’s all sorts of stuff to check off for the next supply rocket. I have to draft a response to all those very important queries from the Entertainment wing – why aren’t our technology professionals more interested in the Neko app that places a small cat at all times in your field of vision; why isn’t everyone jumping on that new durian option in the olfactory. We’ve got all of five people left awake, but that’s still enough for market research! And rights, always are we checking the rights.
(conspiratorial but louder, as if trying to be overheard)
So yes, umm, Agent Tapir, be sure to send up those bootleg senssuround tracks and I’ll sell them to the highest bidder.
(back to normal)
We’ll see if that twerp from Security is listening in now. He’s always lurking in the hall, whenever I step out of my cubicle. Anyway … I love you, Alex. I’ll send another message as soon as I can. And if you figure out how to digitize chocolate and send it this way, I could make you a very rich man. Call it the Wonkavision experiment. Take care.
(a brief, somewhat anxious pause)
I promise, dearest, I’m trying.
(after a moment)
Send message, highest personal priority.
(We hear the chime that bookends a personal log message. A moment later, we hear slightly different background noise for Michell’s security cubicle – perhaps a bit more equipment, or some music in the background.)
Recording, Michell Langlois, mark for encryption at Security Level Orange. Codeword storage at –
(there is a knock at the cubicle door, he raises his voice)
What is it?
(muffled, almost inaudible)
We’re gonna start cleaning the shutdown areas, they said I ought to come get you.
I have official reports to file. Reports, Base Security, you know.
It was Nessa asked where you were.
Nessa? Tell her I’ll find her.
(too muffled to hear much at all)
Find her? She gave me a list of assignments … never mind, I’ll leave it on your door.
Music up. Door double locked, remove my location from Base tracking. Take me off the radar.
(we hear him sigh, something unlatch)
Fucking body armour. Couldn’t let me bring my own, “There’s a full kit stored on-Base.” Not with my binder built in, assholes. Shit, that’s better.
(a chair creaks, sighing again)
Olfactory track. Tea, Assam, milk only.
(a slight spritzing sound, will repeat periodically; we hear Michell sniff)
Add lemon zest, point five strength … add pain au chocolat … increase chocolat. Freyja, I miss that. Okay. Okay.
(sitting up, groaning, chair creaking)
Personal report continues, codeword encryption. It’s week six on Base Theta, replacing Officers Dear, Daniels and Hartman. At least that means I’ve got room to stretch out. They must have spent most of their time monitoring from here – I’ve got eyes and ears on every sector. Side note – cleaning crew observed removing contraband from sleep cubicle of … Harold McVett – mark for post-stasis disciplinary action.
(there is a slight accompanying beep)
Replacing a three-person team isn’t great – c’est un emmerdeur, comes down to it – but the way things are headed on Earth, I’m not surprised. I hope they stuck them right on the wall with São Paolo, managers too. Braindead intolerant douche-rats. At least up here, they went to stasis, so I can run things the way that I want.
I’m keeping an ear on the chatter around Base, it doesn’t sound like they known much of what’s really going on. We’ll see how things shake out, they could all be in the mines before long. I’d love to see that comm lead do a real day’s work. “Broadcasting, this is Roger Bragrado-Fischer, professional blowhard.”
(he laughs harshly)
I was looking at his file; I don’t know why they’d let someone like him come back, even as a civilian. I’ll do my best to keep his hands tied, just in case.
(we hear a spritz at just this moment)
Remove lemon zest, remove pain au chocolat, add … cigarette smoke, Gauloises Blondes, point two five.
(another spritz, Michell breathes in deeply)
I’m not sure about this Wilder, either. I’m not against them, you know, like I could be a bigot. But they mess with your brain, putting that shit into you, it creeps me out. So she’s on my list, better safe and blah blah. Side note – tag Wilder for proximity monitor, alarm at 30 meters. Also, submit info request, how to disable cybernetic limbs.
(another accompanying beep)
The scientist doesn’t worry me. Ze is definitely in a world of zir own. There’s some sort of glitch in the audio there, it keeps cutting out, but I get enough to know ze is in some sort of fairyland. Might have been inhaling that one Experiment everybody was talking about. They did tell me, coming up here, to keep an eye on what ze was working on … but I can’t read that shit. I’ll send the files down when I have a chance. Then …
(he makes a pleasurable groan in the back of his throat)
There is Nessa Cheong. Oh, Nessa. She has definitely been the high point of this assignment. I like a partner who knows what they want, but is still open to … negotiation. After all, that is one of my special skills.
And she has some skills of her own.
(slowly becoming accidentally more thoughtful)
She’s one of a kind, believe me. Quite … inventive, but at the same time … just so smooth and easy to fall into. Like the picture you have in your head of how it should be, you know, like … when you do it for yourself.
(boastful, back to himself)
So yeah, I’m gonna be after some more of that.
(we hear him tapping on a keyboard for a moment)
What else have I got … crap from rights management, they can handle that on their own, report on stasis pods, into the bin, that memo, “Dear Officer Langlois, you are to be commended on your work thus far, you have truly found your feet …” Yeah, now that I’m not in your face you love me. Fuck you. Delete, delete, delete.
(one more of the same sort of beep)
I should go work out. Where’d I put my kit …?
Strapping down and suiting up. Michell Langlois, badass on patrol. Music, off. Olfactory, off. Personal report … wait. Show me the location of Nessa Cheong. Good. Personal report, out, encrypt and file.
(We hear the chime that bookends a personal log message. When we come back, we hear the sound of machinery running in the background, seemingly on the verge of breaking down. We also hear the whirr and buzz of Wilder’s arm.)
Shut down, shut down already! Power levels to zero. Goddamit. Well, that’s a no on convertin’ the A-C to pump out Rescue Remedy at particularly tense moments. Wasted all my spare vacuum hose, too. Got to tell Nessa that will not blend.
(she chuckles; we hear a beep like in Michell’s message above)
What now? “Dear Ms. Wilder …” – got to train zir off that Ms. nonsense – “the recent sewage mishap has caused some … spattering … across the optical telescopes.”
Ick. Double ick. “While I know you have many critical –“ whatever, buddy, I’ll add it to all my other glory jobs. Computer, update task list and display.
(we hear her arm buzz for a moment, we hear a can pop open)
That’s my last Big Red, don’t suppose I can talk them into more. No care packages sent during th’ shutdown sequence. Like they won’t have room. But that’s none o’ my business.
(she takes another sip and hiccups)
Anyhoo … hic … dammit. Anyhoo, my task list for the day. Hic. Dammit. Back to the surface to clean up th’ – hic – to clean Ashwini’s lenses. Got to be able to get that flare just right. Hic. Dammit! One minute here.
(we hear her hold her breath, humming to herself until she breathes again)
Hic. Dammit! Got to start takin’ those tanks up to th’ surface for the supply rocket. Hic. Good thing it’s runnin’ late, because so are we. Plus, I gotta show Michell – hic, dammit – my drivin’ license or some shit like that before he’ll authorize the Rover. Hic. Godammit!
(she chugs the rest of her soda and burps, then there’s a pause)
Oh, thank you. Took the rest of a good can of pop. Well, after that, I got to get back to cleanin’ out the personal areas. I saw what they looked like after Roger and them finished – I’ll have to go through things all over again. At least they found the hedgehog.
(tiny hedgehog noise)
They wouldn’t tell me who was keepin’ it, had to be either Doctor Ringling or Doctor Day. They’re gonna find some notes left in their records, let me tell you.
I got to get back to shuttin’ down their experiments, too. The whole bunch. From “Boosted Response In Spinal keratin of the Terrestrial Erin-E-R-in … Terrestrial E-word that means hedgehog, that’s all I know, and that is where you belong, little fella –
(another tiny hedgehog noise)
to “Psychoactive Intellection within an eXtreme Environment,” and I’m tempted to just leave my mask off for that one. I made a deal, though, about the tardigrades. Nessa took a shine to them, and I can’t say no to her. Don’t know of anyone who can. So we’ll keep that experiment a bit longer, “Growth Ratios and Biological reaction to Extended Anhydrobiosis due to Radiation.” I like sayin’ th’ full names. It reminds people I’m not just a pretty face, and an arm that nobody can take their eyes off.
(her arm buzzes again as she flexes)
That’s right, darlin’. You know you’re gorgeous. Crush that pop can for me.
(we hear crinkling aluminum, she laughs)
That’s what I’m talkin’ about. Honey badger ain’t got nothin’ on us. We don’t care. Now, I’m forgettin’ a thing, what is it? Not the mining stuff, that’s all sorted, not that insulator coil … stasis pods! The piece of shit stasis pod lights that I can’t diagnose and they won’t give us the manuals … I’m so tired of bangin’ my head against that, it’s not even funny. Actually, bangin’ my head on them is the one thing I haven’t tried. Might be worth a shot. Headbutt to the auxiliary control panel. Bam!
(she giggles a little)
Don’t know why that’s so funny. Maybe I got a whiff of Operation PIX-E earlier after all.
(we hear her arm buzz and the chair creak as she stands up)
Back to it, I guess. This place won’t keep itself runnin’. Not for a few weeks yet, at least, not even then unless I get a bunch of stuff put in its proper place. Personal reminder – I gotta record a message to Jen and Thea later, so it’s ready for the next broadcast date. Maybe read a story for the kids, if I can find that copy of Mission to Space I squirreled away for just such. So yeah. I should go. Bye for now, computer. Oh, y’ can stop recordin’.
(We hear the chime that bookends a personal log message. The episode ends.)