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 October 6 and ending October 19, 2098.
(a brief, tense pause)
Moonbase Theta, Out.
(When that ends, we transition into the standard background noise for Michell’s security cubicle. We hear the chime that bookends a personal log message.)
Oh, fuck yes. Oh merde alors, that was so good! I wish I could have seen his stupid face when he heard that. Memo – review camera footage from seven-nine for this date. It’ll be in there somewhere. Him and Ashwini both, I want to see both their faces when it was broadcast. You are so goddamn caught! Play back the public message?
ENCLAVE OFFICER (Rec.)
To all crew of Moonbase Theta, noted in particular Communications Lead Roger Bragado-Fischer and Astrophysicist Ashwini Ray. On review of your notes and the provided data, we were unable to verify the purported astronomical phenomenon independently, or even with members of your own Base personnel, to actually exist as described. A further report will be requested, and possible disciplinary action is being considered.
“Disciplinary action is being considered.” You’re getting spanked now! And not in the way I know you like it, Doctor Ray. I won’t underestimate you again. I’ll be paying close attention. Add to task list – track down the glitch in surveillance of the Base observatory.
And Roger, oh buddy, oh pal, you’re feeling the pinch! No friends on Earth now, I’ll bet. And no friends up here after I finish spreading the word, you old double-crosser. You spy. I mean, I spy too, but that’s my job, everyone knows I do it. It’s only fair they know you’re listening in. I’ll bet even Nessa will have something to say about that.
(gets a bit down for a moment, clears his throat)
Play the other received message again? The one to me directly.
ENCLAVE OFFICER (Rec.)
Officer L’Anglois, you are to be commended for your reporting on this matter. It’s good to know we’ve got a solid man on the inside up there.
That’s what you’ve got, all right, not that you deserve it. A solid man, on the inside. Right down to the bone. And they all know. They may whisper behind my back, but they know who’s solid and in charge. They know who’s got the intel, everything stops when I give them hints about what’s happening on Earth. Wilder’s eyes just about bugged out when I told her the Consortium was thinking about picking up the Dallas-OKC Enclave. Her arm just made this sad little whirr and shut down.
(brief pause, bragging but a bit conflicted)
Of course, that could have to do with that ‘software upgrade’ someone slipped into the system. She should really run a check for malicious apps every once in a while.
(a bit of a laugh, pumping himself up again)
That’s right, they all know now. Michell L’anglois, solid man on Base Theta. I should get back out there, on patrol, walking the beat. I should –
(he is interrupted by an incoming message alert)
(from the previous episode)
Michell. I wanted to talk to you face to face –
Volume off. You’ve said more than enough. Display text only.
(continuing to read, under his breath)
What the hell are you – cats and dogs?
(a pause while he continues to read, then mumbling)
“I made a misjudgement” – no kidding there.
(another pause while he reads)
Did she really just say it’s not you, it’s me?
(another brief pause, suddenly)
Stop my recording.
(there is a sequence of beeps)
Shut it off!
(The chime ending a log message sounds. After a moment, it sounds again and we’re back with Michell. His voice has changed, as if he’s been crying.)
Record reply, Nessa Cheong.
(after a moment)
I don’t know why you thought that would explain things. Why you thought I would get that in the … first place. As if growing up without your teen crushes is the same thing, the same as having to … go to your commanding officer about transitioning out in the open where the whole barracks could listen in, the same as being pushed down in the mud on the training course, being told you’re doing it just to get an easier way though, going on incursions with a team you knew wouldn’t have your back …
Fuck your not being able to see. Fuck wanting to heal the hurt. We’re not gonna be friends, pour moi cela ne veut rien dire …
(a long pause, we hear him breathing)
End message. Erase, delete. Give me olfactory, the cigarette smoke, twice regular levels.
(We hear the chime that bookends a personal log message. It chimes again, and we hear the background noise of Roger’s private cubicle. Roger sounds defeated in a way we haven’t heard before.)
Personal message, Alexandre, begin recording. Alex, before anything else, I’m sorry about my last broadcast. I’m sure you were listening to the end, waiting as always, and … I’m sorry. Things here have become … complicated.
I don’t know if they’ll let all of this through. I don’t see why not, the only person incriminated is myself. The only secrets I know have already been revealed. In the aftermath of … recent incidents, recent broadcasts of questionable provenance, it has been suggested that if I don’t cooperate fully … well, you know where that goes. A stasis pod awaits, for myself as for all of us, and it has been suggested I could wind up there sooner than later.
(he shudders at the thought)
And I can’t … let that happen. I can’t handle that.
It didn’t seem to bother Ashwini as much. Not that ze has much to say to me since we were caught; even the computer goes quiet when I walk through the door. I don’t know, maybe they’re being punished in some other way I haven’t heard. I don’t think anything came down on Nessa or Wilder. It shouldn’t have, we didn’t let either of them get involved.
They’ve both been so busy with the mining shit anyway, they’ve got way too much on their plates. We had to switch to a whole new branch of the tunnels, they’re just starting to drill them out and there have been quakes, Wilder’s been run ragged trying to fix connections all over the station, even her arm has been acting up, and it’s just … nothing that’s really going to matter to your life there, I know I’m just babbling, I don’t know what to say this very moment.
(he pauses, tries to shake it off, falsely bright)
How was the birthday, old man? I’m so sorry to have missed the big four-oh, you know I’ll make that up to you. Did you like your present? Did you even find your present? There’s a significant chance I didn’t leave it where my scattered brain believes that I did. I hope it’s there, and as special as I hoped for. Did you have a cake? Did you have … people? I wish I were there.
(pause, the tone reverting)
Oh, how I wish. My love.
(a longer, worrying pause)
Nessa says thank you for the cuttings. At least one care package made it up on the rocket. And for the chocolate, they did include some in our regular supplies, but you always send the good stuff. And the picture … I stuck it up here in my station, it helps so much. Seeing the two of us together, it helps me keep on … keeping on.
(perhaps we hear him flipping through some papers awkwardly, clears his throat and pauses)
I’m sorry for how it’s all affecting our … conversations, our bigger picture. There’s so much we still need to talk about, believe me, I want it as much as you. I need it as much. There are things this has all brought up … I really do need to see a therapist, you’re right about that. I need to talk to one … again.
You didn’t know they made me see someone, I never told you, after all of the … I never told you. We talked about the Enclave early on, you didn’t like my being tangled up with them and … you got me out of there. But I didn’t, I couldn’t, tell you the details then. I should. I … have to. I hope this part gets through.
I was assigned to work with several active units, handling their communications needs, but also, putting information out into the field about them. We had a regular broadcast, over all the waves and wifi, a little news, a little propaganda, a little … warning now and then about which areas civilians should avoid. I didn’t know what was true or false, I read what they handed me and tried to keep my head down.
(he clicks his tongue, contradicting himself)
Except of course I knew. After you’ve done it for a while, the lies stand out like they’d written them in red. And I started … unsurprisingly for those of you who know me, talking back. I started getting a little too sarcastic, just that little sprinkle of insubordination that they love in the ranks of Security. I’d like to say it was in the name of The Truth, but … I was mostly pissed off that they thought they were fooling me. I wanted them to know I saw behind the curtain. And just like they were the Great and Powerful Oz, they sent me into the field with a mission.
(a harsh laugh)
They sent me into the worst of it with a team, right where I’d been broadcasting about, right into a spot … where we’d been telling civilians was safe. I’d been telling them, my voice, saying we’ve got it all under control. Which might have been … a bit of an exaggeration. I got there, and it wasn’t … we couldn’t …
(he chokes back a sob)
I’m not going to tell you what I saw. You know enough of what was going on, I can’t tell the whole story … without your arms around me. But it was my fault, I’m the one who said it’s okay to be there, because they wanted to lure the enemy in. That’s the enemy who runs things now, if you’re keeping track at home.
(brief, tortured pause)
The others tried to hold me back but I couldn’t leave people out there, I couldn’t just let them be trapped when I’m the one … and then everything was fire and noise and I got turned around and I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t reach them and …
(He breaks down for a moment, and has to take deep, gasping breaths to pull himself together.)
I was covered in blood and they shoved me, wailing, into a medical pod for retrieval. That’s the next thing I remember. And even remembering that much … took me months of company-sponsored therapy. Which wasn’t the best of deals, let me tell you, because remembering was when the real nightmares came.
That’s why, love … that’s so much of the what and when and why. I’m sorry it took so long for it all to come out. I know I should have dealt with it before I came up here, before I made any of the decisions I have. I’m sorry, Alex.
I was thinking of the poem we read at our wedding. “Sonnet on Fidelity,” Vinicius de Moraes.
And thus, when afterward comes looking for me
Who knows what death, anxiety of the living,
Who knows what loneliness, end of the loving,
I could say to myself of the love I had:
Let it not be immortal, since it is a flame
But let it be infinite – while it lasts.
(We hear the chime that bookends a personal log message. We hear it again, and then we’re hearing Alex in his garden on Earth, and he speaks, beginning with the same portion of the poem Roger read – but in the original Portugese:)
E assim, quando mais tarde me procure
Quem sabe a morte, angústia de quem vive,
Quem sabe a solidão, fim de quem ama
Eu possa me dizer do amor (que tive):
Que não seja imortal, pôsto que é chama
Mas que seja infinito enquanto dure.
(brief pause before speaking his own words)
Roger, meu amado. I wish we could go back to that day.
I think they sent all of your message through. Maybe they wanted me to hear, to learn the same lesson. Maybe the Consortium has other things to worry about.
(he thinks about that for a minute)
They showed up at my birthday party, did they tell you that? Not that it was much of a party – I invited Angie and Estrella Santos over for drinks, the whole family made it back okay. That was worth celebrating even if my old age wasn’t. They brought over a little cake and sang to me and I opened your present – it was beautiful and the platinum was perfect. I hope it’ll still fit in my ear, I may have to push hard to open the holes again. And then at the high point of the party, there was a knock at the door and three unexpected guests shoved inside! I’m sure you can imagine that burst a few balloons. And the only present they brought was a lot of very rude questions about my husband and Cas was underfoot – Pol was out in the garden – and one of them stepped on her paw and that was when I broke down a little bit.
(he sounds more angry than anything else)
Foi aí que eu berrei, e talvez até chorei mas não vou admitir isso, e finalmente eles foram embora depois de virar todos os cômodos da casa do avesso. [That was when I shouted, and I may have cried but I won’t admit that, and finally they left after snooping through every room in the goddamn house.] I think it’s time that we start making plans to get out of here. I don’t think you’re going to argue with that.
(he pauses for a moment)
I think you’re even more ready than I am. Thank you for telling me that, hard as I know it was. You’re right, if I had known I would never wanted you to go, Moon or no Moon. We would have had … even more serious talks. Better ones. Maybe the ones we needed to have. Maybe I would have …
(he takes a deep breath)
Maybe I would have told you what I was seeing a therapist for, from the beginning, like I should have. Maybe I wouldn’t have been afraid of what you’d think of me.
(another pause, another breath)
For a while, I thought I was just having some really bad days. Me and everyone else, you know? I mean, it’s not like the world isn’t screwed up enough to be the cause. Things were getting worse all over the Enclave, every day there’s more Security in the streets, it wasn’t strange anymore to hear gunshots in the distance … at work, half our contracts were to rebuild exploded buildings, fix sabotaged water and sewer mains, rebuild roads after landslides. Sometimes, we were the next wave in after the, umm … rescue crews. I mean, having some bad days – doesn’t that sound like a pretty fair response?
(a bitter laugh)
But then it just kept going on, even the parts of life I loved had some sort of … grey curtain over them. Even the garden. Even the dogs, even those espresso brigadeiros I used to hide in the refrigerator drawer and sneak one at a time … even my husband, your laugh, your lips against my skin. Nothing but the faintest buzz of how I used to feel. I started getting headaches, those I felt.
(a long pause)
More than anything else, there was … there have always been times when I fought dark thoughts about myself. You know, love, you’ve helped me through a few of them. But it got to the point where it wasn’t a cloud here and there any longer; it filled the whole sky. I blamed myself for any little problem we had – an unexpected bill, deer getting in the lettuce, Pol peeing in the kitchen because I didn’t hear her scratching for the door – it was all because I’m useless. And then the chance came up for you to … I felt like it was so easy for you to leave because I’m useless, too.
(he laughs a little)
I’m lucky I still had a good doctor, I went in for a regular checkup and it took her two questions to know. She set me up with … Kevin, and he got me on pills – I won’t have to hide those from you any more, either. But you left for training, and it … wasn’t enough, home every day by myself. I thought if you were leaving for the Moon, maybe it was just the best time to …
(brief pause, shaking it off)
I don’t feel like that now. Most days. Even then, it was already helping or that big shouting fight we had wouldn’t have happened. Who’d think that was a good sign? But that’s my why. Why I was setting so many appointments, getting messages, seeing him so often that you thought he had to be a lover. I didn’t want to make you feel worse about the job, or being so far from home, so I kept the details to myself. I just wish we could have talked about it all when we were both still here, still in our home.
(after a moment)
The house is a mess all over again. They shoved their way into every drawer, tracked mud through every room. And the way they treated Cas and Pol – they’re expectant mothers!
I guess you’re still wondering how that happened. They got away from me for a while, when we were sleeping in the car, I guess … our girls had a night out on the town.
I decided not to replant the garden. I’ll tend to what’s left, the parts that weren’t completely ruined. We’ll still get some meals out of it. But I’m not making longer plans here. The minute you get home, we … the minute you get home. I know you say I saved you, back when we met, when you needed to get away from … things I didn’t even really know until today. But we’re not done being saved just yet, either one of us. There’s still a lot left to do.
(We hear the chime that bookends a personal log message. The episode ends.)