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 28 and ending September 8, 2098.
(a brief, tense pause)
Moonbase Theta, Out.
(When that ends, we transition suddenly into what sounds like it’s outside – we can hear the sounds of construction in the distance, perhaps voices and vehicles. We break into the middle of a telephone conversation, though we only hear Alex’s side.)
– I’ve tried Space Administration, I’ve talked to the communications office, I’ve been through the whole chain of … my messages aren’t getting through. If they were getting through, I’d have heard back by now, if Roger had to tie a note to a rock and drop it down the gravity well. He’s got to be frantic by now, I don’t know what they’re telling him but I …
(listens for a moment – the underlined below will be translated into Portugese)
Aline, I wouldn’t call you if I had another way. I just got back into my house, a week and a half living out of my car in the parking lot where I work … give me a chance here. Você sabe que se você precisasse de um favor desses eu iria… peraê deixa eu terminar. Se eu nao tivesse te salvado no colégio aquele dia você nem estaria – [You know if you needed a favour like this I would – wait a minute, let me finish, if I hadn’t saved your ass that day in school you wouldn’t be -] Don’t give me that, he worked there, you know he has clearance. I’ve recorded messages twice, they just haven’t sent them. They’re sitting somewhere in the –
(there’s a siren somewhere in the distance, which sets the dogs barking)
Cas, Pol, please!
(back to the phone)
I’m sorry, just a minute … don’t hang up.
(the siren dies down)
Aline, if you could just reach out and – I did that. I did it twice. Okay, okay, thank you. Tell me when to record. As if you weren’t already.
(there is a bit of an old-fashioned-sounding beep)
Okay. Roger. Roger, gods I hope this reaches you. I’m gonna … I hope you’re okay up there, I hope this shit stayed on Earth … Oh, baby, it’s been a hell of a mess. I just got back into the house, there’s glass everywhere, I have to keep the dogs in their kennel until I get it swept … at least it hasn’t rained yet. I’ll have to get plywood for now, a guy has been driving a truck around from the lumberyard. But I’m safe, we’re all safe, don’t worry.
(read this as normal, some will be beeped out afterwards)
It was São Paolo – they broke through the wall, occupied downtown for a week, armoured trucks and Security on every corner. They were moving people out – pure terrorist tactics, I loaded up the dogs and drove out to Campo Grande.
I slept in a parking lot near my office. I brought Cas and Pol to work with me, half the crew didn’t show up anyway. It wasn’t easy to get on-site, there were armed detours … anyway, it’s done now. At least my family moved years ago, my mothers couldn’t have taken it.
(he has to take a moment, feeling really alone but putting on a brave face)
I’m sorry … it’s okay, baby. We all woke up one day and … I guess we have new corporate overlords again. Igualzinho a chefia antiga. [Same as the old boss.] But they didn’t have to trash the house. Why was that necessary? I guess it could have been anyone, the neighbourhood was standing empty. I just …
(he stops for a minute, overcome, almost in tears)
They – they ruined the garden. Smashed vegetables, tore down stakes, broke a branch off the papaya tree. Eles passaram por ali sem nenhuma porra de desculpa, as calçadas tem espaço mais que o suficiente … [They tromped through it for no fucking reason, the walks are more than wide enough, they just wanted to …] never mind. It can all be fixed. It can all be healed.
(he breathes in deeply and centers himself)
At least there’s plenty to do to keep my mind off it. Here and at work. They trashed infrastructure all over the city, and of course now that they own it, it’s all … fix this yesterday. Our municipal team is foaming at the mouth. This is what they get for submitting to the Enclave’s roster, now we’re at their beck and call.
(his tone changes suddenly)
I listened to your last message again. It’s good that you … it was good, I know you heard me and I love you. But we have to do something about it, right now. We can’t lose the momentum. I think maybe I was wrong about what I said before … maybe we do need to start from that day. I need you to talk to me about how you left. You’ve apologized so many times … but you’ve never actually told me what you were thinking, what you went through, how you feel about it now. Maybe we need to start from there.
(a long, difficult pause, we hear nails being pounded into wood in the distance)
I haven’t seen the Santos kids next door. Maybe they’re staying with relatives. You know how they are, if they were home I’d have heard them by now.
I know I had a part in things. I’m not changing what I said, you were wrong, just sit there in your wrongness … but I know I started the real fight that day. I was so … offended that you’d even ask me, I went off and it just escalated until … until our hearts looked like Rio right now. I know I was a part of that, I’m sorry. I held on to my offense, and I don’t blame you for not coming back to our bed. Come back to it now, okay, baby?
(a bit of a sniffle)
I’ll work on the chocolate thing. Is there anything you need that I can actually do something about? Your puzzles, do any of your apps need refreshing? Send word back soon. Stay safe.
(fumbling with the phone or whatever, microphone noise)
Okay, stop recording from there. Don’t give me that, Aline, I know you’re still on the line.
(We hear the old-fashioned beep again. When we come back, we are in the Moonbase Theta hydroponic farm; we hear the sound of water dripping or burbling, any electronic sounds are very muted. We hear the chime that bookends a personal log message.)
Good morning, all my friends, all my family. Elena, thanks for setting up this group message thing – it’s so much easier to stay in touch with everyone. Send my love to Jupiter, Lili, Valera, Siva, a kiss for all the children and a snuggle to the beasts in the menagerie. I know some of them will hear this but give them love all the same. Just one minute.
(quieter, to the side, we hear her crunching a leaf and speaking with her mouth full)
Increase nutrients by two percent to the Amara Mustard, no change on the microgreens.
(back to normal)
Sorry, hard at work here doing a few taste tests. Oh, the agony of the life I lead.
(she laughs musically)
I can tell more this way than some of the instruments we use. My taste buds and their years of experience. The farm is doing well – we had some problems with the tomatoes for a bit, and I don’t think we’ll see any more strawberries, but the greens are all still producing nicely. The herbs, of course, simply won’t stop, I don’t have the heart to pull them. Plus, it’s all filtering our air and water; can’t give that up for a while yet. Oh, I found out the funniest thing. Just a moment.
(she snips away at a vine, singing to herself)
Potato, potahto, tomato, tomahto …
(she laughs when she catches herself)
I was listening to Ella this morning.
(hums for another moment, then gets back to her story)
You remember I wasn’t supposed to be awake by this point – it was dear Harold, my mentor and, basically, my boss who made the cut … but then he was sent to stasis when he just couldn’t stop coughing. I was in the midst of inventory and never knew until they said, “Nessa, you’re getting … kind of a promotion…”
Well, Wilder came over after cleaning out the personal quarters, and it turns out he’d been running his own little side project growing, umm … Cannabis Sativa. And, despite all odds in the most heavily-air-conditioned environment least suited to privacy, smoking it. Can you even believe? I may be here now just because someone got a rough lungful.
Though it’s turned out for the good. I love this place, I love the feel of it, I love what I’ve … cultivated. Everyone winds up here on their breaks, Even Ashwini has peeked out a time or two late at night, mumbling to zirself and poking zir nose into the cultured proteins. I’ve had more time to get to know Wilder, she’s so sweet and of course that accent absolutely kills me. We’ve been in charge of the experiments in the lab, lots of time to talk in between delicate shutdown procedures. We’re both a bit taken with the tardigrades I was telling you about. She lets me take them out and they toddle around the farm like baby puppies. I have to keep them from drinking the nutrient fluid. I’ll send you some pictures, or maybe I’ll try sketching them.
(a brief pause, we hear liquid gurgle)
And renewing my friendship with Roger has been a delight. He’s been here helping me out a bit of late, and they’ve assigned him care of the genetic archives, so I’ve helped get him up to speed on how to keep those viable. Roger is … his intensity can be a bit much, but it’s not that they aren’t real worries. I’m glad you’re all in a safer spot than that Rio Enclave. Overall, it’s like our nights during training again, swapping stories and playing a few hands of sueca – he’s no Alex when it comes to the cards, but it reminds me of good times back on Earth.
(her tone becomes more serious)
Roger was also here when Michell came in earlier … stormed in, really, the first time he’s deliberately spoken to me since I had to …
Maybe it was because of that – maybe he was hoping to find me alone, but he was so officious about secure protocols in data transmission, and he was quoting the wrong section of the Consortium Terms and Conditions and I … corrected him without thinking. Which was just adding insult to injury, and the injury was more than enough.
I followed him out, tried to apologize, but he went back to Security and locked himself in. “Official Reporting,” he said through the door. Oh, dears, I made such a mess of that situation, I don’t know where to start in healing it. I thought we were – you know I wouldn’t get involved without having the talk, and he nodded in all the right places, asked the right questions about what being aro really means, I thought he understood and he even said he’d felt like that during his transition. But now it’s all spilled out and I can see his feels, I just don’t … I can’t be what he wants, or thinks it was all along, I suppose. And some of that is on me.
I was too clumsy and too focused on my own needs, and I thought I was far past that. I’m going to have to spend a lot of time in reflection before I feel centered again. I hope time lets me heal that wound.
(a longer pause, we hear her gardening again for a moment)
Secure Protocols … for agricultural growth records.
(she chuckles sadly)
We’re almost at fifteen weeks now. Every day is packed with plans and to-do lists, but it should be plenty of time to wrap things up. Mind you, my stasis pod may be padded with herbs by the time you see me. The whole station may be stuffed with them if I don’t get back to trimming. Take care, be good to each other. Oh, and ask Jenny to pick me out some new listening material – I know the stuff we like isn’t to everybody’s taste. Until next time.
(We hear the chime that bookends a personal log message. we transition into the standard background noise of Roger’s private cubicle. We hear the chime again starting Roger’s section.)
Alex, gods, it was good to hear your voice. Wait, did I – dammit – personal message, Alexandre. Record. Doesn’t that thing light up – I guess it was already … ha, ha, just a joke to lighten your day, love of mine. I’m a professional.
There were parts of your message I missed, supposed ‘transmission errors’ from Earth –
And it came with a department code I wasn’t expecting. But I’m glad you got through. I was starting to … not that your report made me feel a whole lot more certain. I need you safe there, love. I need to … I feel so worthless from here! Neighbours, maybe? Safety in numbers. Be safe, love. Be … okay.
(pause, a grim chuckle)
I wish I had family to send you to. This is when it’s not such a good thing to basically be Space Batman, though I could give you the scoop on all the best foster homes. You know you’re all I’ve got, so … be extra-careful. You and the dogs. Give them lots of pets tonight. Special treats.
And my last broadcast, I went on about the garden. I’m sorry, I wish I’d known. They can’t squash our memories there, they can’t walk all over what we’ll grow again. I can ask Nessa, if there’s anything you need we can order it as “essential supplies” and have her friends on Earth divert a bit in your direction. She says hi, by the way. I’m supposed to tell you she’s tried growing hibiscus up here several times with no luck, your variety probably would have done better.
Also, that my card playing is shit compared to yours. She’s just the same as you’d remember. Well, mostly. She had that clash with Michell I talked about, and it was … frankly, amazing to see his ass handed to him … but I could tell she was sad afterwards. I got more pissed off at him for putting that look in her eyes than anything else. And then twenty minutes after that happened, I get an alert from him that there’s a coded Security report to send downstream … if I could decrypt just one file, or get away with mysteriously losing it …
You heard the poem I read you, last broadcast? I like to think about your moms reading that while you sat in your bed, starlight streaming in through the window.
(another pause, he coughs)
What I wouldn’t give to be in our bed. Love, I …
(he takes a breath, steadying himself)
It started way before that day, and none of it was your fault. Maybe you fed into the fight but … I started it and when I look back now, it’s terrible how many warnings I missed. I knew I was on the edge already. It was … I don’t know, space training was great and I was excited to be heading to the Moon and sure, I had to spend a lot of time on-site but you were so good about everything. You’re always so goddamn good. I never had to face any of the hard parts, we never even talked about my going back to work for the Consortium and I know that should have been a difficult talk, I probably still would have gone because the Moon, but … I never talked about how much you must hate it, I never talked about how it scared me, I mean it’s a civilian position but you know the shit I went through working for Security back in the day. You helped get me out of there in the first place. That’s why I’m so suspicious of this kid up here, I know what you go through in that job …
(he trails off for a moment)
But none of it matters. The point is, I was all … twisted inside by the time I came back to you. I was looking through what I thought was your eyes and was really my own self-censure; I thought you couldn’t possibly accept the choice that I was making. Couldn’t stand beside me. I never once asked, I just … made an ass out of you and me. Mostly me.
(a bitter laugh)
I knew you were seeing a therapist, and I made that about me too. First, because I figured it must be so you could handle … my choices, but then there were the extra sessions, and his voice on your messages, and … somewhere in my head it went from you were seeing someone to you were seeing someone.
(he sits back heavily, we hear something roll off the desk)
I was so lost, caught up in my own head, and the fight started and it was like falling down a hill, spinning and rolling with no idea which way was up. I woke the next morning on the cot in the garage, and … my bag was already packed, tight with all my fear and the fear I’d lost you on top of everything. I couldn’t walk back inside and face you. I figured I’d find out soon enough if I had … and if so, I’d have the Moon to distract me.
(a half-heard sob)
I’m sorry, love, and sorrier still it took until now to explain things. I feel like I should be asking for one more chance, but you’ve already given it to me. You didn’t wait for me to ask, you just … I just have to step up and do my part. I hope this is what you need from me. I pray for it, and you know about how often I pray.
(he tries to laugh)
If I could somehow make it happen, I’d be on the next rocket down. I’d be in our home tomorrow, even though I’m scared to death of what’s happening to the world. It’s still the world you live in, so that’s where I need to be.
(a long, drawn-out pause)
(We hear the chime that bookends a personal log message. The episode ends.)