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 … instructions in the updated Base directives, 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 instructions remain unchanged, my written report, and several related audio messages, have been attached. The dates include two weeks of the shutdown sequence, beginning on September 9 and ending September 21, 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.)
I can’t – there aren’t even words right now. They can take that list of “new Base directives” and fold it until it’s all corners, and shove it right into their collective – okay, breathe, Roger, remember the medical sensors. It’s just all so … urgh!
(we hear him straining, finally giving up)
Forgot the table was bolted down. I’m just so … we did everything they asked, sent back good data, kept the mines running, then one day they come out and, okay, we’re shutting you down in twenty weeks! You get five people, we already picked them, to do all the work! We shrug, maybe we grumble – only a little – but we pick up the load. We do our part. Supply rockets are late, they won’t send messages on time from my husband, but we do our part. Then we get a message – hey, we’d like you to cut that schedule in half. No, no reduction in the work to get done, just … do it quicker. Oh, sure! Why not? So maybe we push back a little.
They say okay, you’ve still got your twenty weeks, but now you have to change everything you’ve been doing! Don’t worry about the stasis pods, don’t worry about that stream of data from the telescopes that could answer building-block questions about the universe, here’s a mining helmet and a lunchbox filled with exciting new proteins to keep you going! En-soy yourself!
Everything is on its head. Wilder’s running herself ragged, she’s burned out a bearing three times already this week; Ashwini alternates between manic and totally absent, we all her ze talking to zirself late into the night; even Nessa is … well, still Nessa, nobody can change that, but every plant she has to pull, her smile takes a few seconds longer to reappear. Goddamn you for doing that, in and of itself.
(he takes a moment to breathe)
And then … then, I read their final order, sent with data sealed to my biometrics. “You will commence monitoring of all private messaging, including personal logs and inadvertently recorded conversations” – nice way to admit they’re spying on us – “providing reports on the content, as well as recommendations on censoring. You will, of course, recall the standard Enclave protocols.”
(stark pause, this is obviously what hits him the hardest)
I recall their protocols. I can’t stop recalling them. I spend whole nights staring at the ceiling, wondering how much of what happened was because of my …
(he can’t say the words, not even in private)
And they call out Nessa in particular. As if … Nessa! What did Michell say in that report? There has to be some way I can find out. I have to make sure she knows. I have to be able to keep all of this together. It’s all … it’s all just … fuck!
(he growls, then sighs)
I know some of my frustration is from Alex – not because of him, god no, because of everything we’re trying to work out. It’s not easy to fix a relationship when you’re on two separate orbiting bodies. It’d be so much easier if I could curl up in bed, my head on his chest, and just … talk. Just melt into his arms and talk it all out. Without all this other shit that keeps piling up in the way. I need you, love. My anchor, my home. My superhero. Champion of lily-livered husbands and hounds who’ve gotten themselves in a family way.
(we can hear a faint smile)
Puppies. How could they possibly have … puppies.
(after a moment)
He may be the only friend I’ve got, once everyone here finds out. And it will get out, it always does. It’s not like I can say no, but maybe there’s … some way I can distract them, some sort of slight of hand to make a difference. I just have to keep this all buried until I come up with a plan.
(We hear a new tone – an incoming message – and his typing on a keyboard in response.)
It’s Wilder, sending down the data on those stasis pods. Trusting the Enclave techs to solve the mystery of those warning lights.
Not like I’m planning to use mine much anyway. That’s the farthest away of my worries.
(we hear the rustle of his jumpsuit as he stands up)
I should look in on Nessa. Personal log, out.
(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.)
Olfactory. Balsam fir, point seven five … add snow, point two five.
(a slight spritzing sound, will repeat periodically, Michell breathes in deeply)
That’s right. Reduce Balsam fir by point five strength.
(under his voice)
Loki, I’m gonna need your help.
(back to normal)
Record, encryption at Security Level Blue. Codeword storage from home base. This is Michell L’Anglois, Security, Moonbase Theta. The date is September 17, 2098, time is 20:32. No active threats, no open actions at this time except what I’ve already reported. Perimeters reveal no breaks or unauthorized utility taps; laboratory operations have been shut down and the data is secure; no one has entered the depressurized Base areas. I have performed all encryption upgrades to standard Enclave procedure.
(brief pause, this is where things get a little bit sticky)
The audio and video is running for every Base area, including the outside loading docks and the mining tunnels. Note that I cannot get you audio from those places, other than suit chatter – there’s no sound outside to record.
I haven’t been able to fix the issues with the observatory’s audio. I think it’s bad wiring. I tried to get Wilder on it, but without admitting what she – they, dammit – should look for … but as previously mentioned, I’m still seeing trust issues there.
Thanks for that file you sent up about alternatives. I might be able to access the OBD port during a sleep cycle, but the apps you sent are more likely. I’ll install them on my system under ‘break in case of fire’. If anything happens, I’ll send a report. Pause recording.
(takes a deep breath)
Olfactory, stop balsam fir, stop snow. Add cigarette smoke, my regular setting.
(another spritzing sound, another deep breath, he dives in, upset)
Resume recording. When I saw they wussed out on the shorter schedule, I knew this was gonna happen. I knew they’d try to – it wasn’t my idea to start with. They came to me – you came to me, and you said, they want to do this thing. Can it be done? And it could be done! It could still be done, but they decided that – you know what I’m saying. All we did was answer the question. It’s not our fault they didn’t have the guts to just … fuck it. You know what I mean.
(we hear him bang on the desk several times before jumping in again)
My answer was based on a risk analysis that hasn’t changed. And speaking of risk … my report regarding Nessa – Agriculturalist Cheong was in no way affected by any personal relationship we might have shared. I thought it would be clear – when I said, “… given proximity to Base environmental controls and all our consumables,” that the danger I was seeing was purely based in her … personal background and her access to critical areas of Base operations. Their. Dammit. Correct all pronouns to they as per standard Enclave protocol.
(another pause for a breath without losing momentum)
And you give that … shit sausage, Bragado-Fischer, free access to listen in on everyone’s personal messages! Any secret, any conversation with home, any whisper over an intercom in the middle of the night. I know you know all about him – you sent me the goddamn file, you made sure I’d find it the day I landed. He’s got to be laughing his ass off, you know that asshole was in the room when Nessa…
(he stops for a moment, realizing he’s gone off track)
It’s not a good choice. I hope you don’t mean to include messages from Security, nothing in the memo I saw bothered to exclude me. I don’t know how you can give that kind of access to someone who … there’s nothing wrong with his record exactly, but … he walked away and then strolls back in like we won’t remember. Like he’s better than us because he got out. That fucking bite molle. The only good that might even come of it is if anyone finds out, they won’t give him the …
(he laughs suddenly)
Okay, I get it now. That’s pretty good. Credit where credit’s due, I should have seen that a mile away.
Erase back to, “Resume recording.” I need to think. I gotta figure out my angle here.
(We hear the chime that bookends a personal log message. 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 Roger’s voice first.)
Surely you’re not serious.
I am, and don’t call me Shirley.
You can’t just – you know what he’s trying to do … and not just to you, both of us –
He’s hurting, and it’s my fault. I’m sorry you were caught up in it, but … he has the right to be hurt.
He has the right to sit in his little guardhouse and just – okay, I’m sorry. You’re the most forgiving person I know. Second most forgiving, after …
How is Alex doing?
(there is a series of chimes)
Sorry, I was in the middle of recording a … thing to Elena.
I should go anyway. I have a report I should try to decrypt.
You don’t know what might be in there.
That’s my point. TTFN, friend.
(We hear soft footsteps walk away. A moment later, we hear the series of reminder chimes again.)
Switch all farm lighting to nocturnal, decrease hydration accordingly.
(the chimes again)
Yes, let’s keep going. I’m sorry, dear. Roger was – I suppose you wouldn’t even know there was a gap, but as I’ll be the slightest bit scattered … Roger was here, there are … aftershocks from how things ended. He’s tangled up in it too, I feel even worse about it all. But I’ve done what I can, Michell is … protecting himself, I suppose, in the way he knows best. All I can do is wait.
(we hear liquid gurgling in the background)
I was worried that Wilder was heading in the same direction; maybe that was just vanity. I brought up relationships the other day – she’s in a solid little triad, I never even knew, two women back on Earth. Of course. I think all our people are back on Earth. It’d be harder if you knew your partner was in stasis just a deck below you.
(brief pause, we hear her snipping leaves)
Trimming my Genovese basil back again, I know you’re going to ask. But yes, Wilder, I’ve been glad to see that deepen. She’d always been a bit withdrawn before, too many people with an opinion on enhancements, I suppose. With five of us, she knows how everyone stands and can be more herself. And that’s a person well worth knowing. Of course, now she’s spending so much time in the mining operations … but I suppose I’ll be joining her before too long, we can keep up our chats when I get there.
I’ve had to read up again on the procedures and specifications for the equipment I’ll be changing over. I was a backup supervisor in name only, now I’ll be earning that title! I don’t mind learning new things, and of course the helium-3 mining is an important task for all of us! It’s not as if we won’t all reap the benefits of cheaper energy back on Earth. But it’s less time for gardening – all the florals, my poor zinna hybrida are to be mulched, and any foodstuffs that aren’t required for CO2 scrubbing. Our meals won’t be quite as interesting, we’ll be eating a whole lot more of that En-Soy-Ment from now on. Ashwini won’t be pleased, ze’s been turning up zir nose at it so far.
(she sighs a bit)
It’s … I don’t know, I don’t want to say disappointing. It’s an unexpected change and I’m still absorbing it, how it makes me feel. I think I was in a bit of denial about the shutdown until now. A few less voices, not as many footsteps in the halls, but I kept my corner growing just the same. Now I can feel the … dwindling, the decline.
I can feel myself starting to separate a bit, hear that voice in my head telling me to close it all off, focus on the life I’m returning to, insulate myself and sleepwalk through the last thirteen weeks.
But I’m going to reject that. I feel those urges, I accept where they’ve come from and that they’re a part of me … now I’m sending them packing. I won’t spend the last three months of my life on the moon with my eyes shut. I’m going to experience and share and be here for my friends and grow what I can, grow where I can, and not let go until the very last moment.
(she takes a deep breath)
The hibiscus are still lovely. I’ll save them for as long as I can. I’ll save it all for as long as I can.
(after a pause, we can hear the background noises again)
But enough about me. How’s the family getting along? Have you been to Dengfeng yet this season, or the Observation Platform? I told Siva she could wave to me from there. I miss our picnics. Send messages soon, I miss you all and I’m greedy for news. I love you. Send everyone my love.
(after a moment)
Message complete, attach image folder marked, “Latest” and send. New message to Wilder – we need to find a new hiding place for our, umm, small friends. Someone’s been checking the … barnyard. Hen house. I can’t remember the codename. Just stop by, we’ll talk in person.
(We hear the chime that bookends a personal log message. The episode ends.)