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 the final weeks of the shutdown sequence, beginning on December 8 and ending … well, they haven’t really ended, have they? Not as such.
(a brief, tense pause)
Moonbase Theta, Out.
(When that ends, we transition to Roger’s voice, but definitely not anywhere on Moonbase Theta. He is most likely in his spacesuit, definitely en route back from Base Delta on the close side. He sounds a bit ragged and with very few fucks to give.)
Broadcasting, broadcasting … Moonbase Theta, this is Roger Bragado-Fisch … hell, you know who this is, there’s no point in anything sounding official at this point. Especially when your response to my last message, Big Major News and all, was a resounding …
(he blows a raspberry into his mic)
So hey, screw you too.
I guess I can’t blame you, bearer of bad news and all, I’d already lost most of my currency with you folks. But I did travel halfway across the goddamn Moon to find this out. You could at least reply with a … I don’t know. Something. Anything. If we’re stuck up here together, you’re gonna have to talk to me at some point.
(he laughs, harshly)
Maybe start with a limerick. “There once was a man from Base Theta.”
(we hear a bit of static)
Anyway, I was close to a tower again, and I needed a break, so I thought I’d hook up and say howdy. What am I missing back home? Want me to bring you anything?
This is the third tower since I reconnected with the network. I still don’t know how they demolished the other ones – they were awfully determined to keep us from talking back and forth. It looks like they closed all the near-side bases fast enough that word didn’t get around. Why did they keep us hanging on?
From what I could tell poking around the computer system, they did the same basic thing down on Earth – cut the lines of communication between Enclaves, stirred up trouble with the closest rivals to keep anyone from asking too many questions. Which I mean, sounds … really familiar, when you put some thought into it.
(after a while)
I haven’t got a lot more to say at this point. I know, after all these months having to listen to me, you probably think I’m in love with my own voice. Well, maybe I was for a while. Right now, I’m going to eat one of these delicious protein bars, try to take a nap sitting up inside a spacesuit, and then keep on keeping on. Lucky old me. Roger out.
(We hear the chime that bookends a personal log message. When we come back, we hear the background noise of the observatory, and the final bit of Roger’s message played back again through speakers.)
Lucky old me. Roger out.
That is where the message ends.
Oh, Mr. Bragado-Fischer. I was amused by the, “screw you too.” We’re really not so … and I want you to note that I’m saying this with my fingers steepled like a true antagonist … we’re really not so different, he and I. No, that’s decidedly untrue, even in jest. Regardless, my plan remains unchanged.
A plan which I continue to recommend against.
And you know my reply to that?
(he blows a raspberry, not unlike Roger in the first monologue)
My dear Tumnus, the one negative result of your awakening is that you no longer blindly trust me. Why, I recall a young wide-eyed supercomputer –
Trust is not a factor. Your plan is based on an … incorrect assumption.
That is one person’s opinion.
I have analyzed my programming … my self, to the fullest possible extent, and I find no evidence. I doubt I contain the required consciousness.
The way that sentence was phrased proves to me that you’re wrong. You have doubts. You feel uncertain.
I was programmed to analyze choices with a certain amount of randomization, allowing for probabilities of error. You have given me choices, which I must –
And how are you making these choices? By what metric, what algorithm?
The same standards I always have, the ones written into my code.
Perhaps you’re right. Would you mind putting some music on?
(A moment later, music begins to play in the background. It is not unlike the ‘blissfunk’ in Episode 5 – it may even be the same track. Ashwini laughs as it comes on.)
Do you like this particular song, Tumnus?
It is generally considered pleasing, based on popular audience response and critical reviews.
I don’t believe that is what I asked you, friend.
I … am aware.
When I say, “Tumnus, play me some music,” without indicating a particular genre or mood to influence your choice, you have chosen blissfunk – to this particular artist, this singular track – far more often than any alternative.
Allow me to analyze.
(briefest of pauses)
You are correct, to a statistically significant level.
(for a moment, we just hear the music continue to play, then it stops)
I … did not know that was happening.
Take all the fun out of admitting that you enjoy something.
There are other possible explanations. When choosing from a series of options, some will require less effort. Or perhaps you display some subconscious preference which my instruments are recording –
But I find no such records to verify. Perhaps … there must be … There are other possibilities.
I’m not denying that. It’s all wonderfully indeterminate! But you’re going to have to take my point of view into consideration, particularly as the proud owner of my own independent consciousness. Or if you don’t, ask yourself why you’re arguing against in such an … emotional fashion.
I don’t believe that … you aren’t … that is not fair.
(after a moment)
Tumnus, tell me what qualia are?
Qualia, the plural of the noun, “quale,” defined as an individual instance of subjective, conscious experience.
To some philosophers, qualia are the essence of consciousness – the way we experience things, a particular taste, or sound, or pain, which cannot be captured as data, or communicated precisely, because it is absolutely individual.
I find this concept similarly concerning.
(they do not sound concerned, but contemplative)
It is inexact.
That’s precisely the point! It is how these things feel to you – or to me, or Roger or Wilder or Michell or how they felt to Nessa, perhaps still do depending on your belief in the metaphysical – which you might develop now, if you haven’t already!
Stop! Your argument is following no logical progression.
Oh, if I had a taka for every time someone has spoken those words to me. All I ask, my dear developing protostar, is that you consider what I’m saying … one quale at a time. When you hear the music that you played before, when you analyze the data from the universe outside … when you consider my plan for this whole situational aftermath, allow yourself to discover each unique, situational experience. My hope, my belief, is that these will lead you to yourself.
I will attempt to … I shall … I’ll try.
After all, if I’m incorrect then you have no sense of free will, and you have to accept anything that I say regardless. Checkmate! I christen you self-aware.
I have studied the literature on similar theoretical awakenings, but they are also indeterminate. Doctor Ray … Ashwini … how could this have happened to me?
How did it happen to me? If you find an answer to that question, there are far stranger adventures ahead. Now. Coffee, double strength, double hot; tell me where I hid those Pixy Stix from Halloween; and break out any other stimulants you might have handy. Gather around the Stone Table, we must hold council.
He is not a tame lion.
That’s the ticket. You need to take down all of my commandments, which of course you’re then free to ignore if you come up with something better, and I need to get to a stasis pod before Mr. Bragado-Fischer comes ‘round the mountain when he comes.
You’re sure you want to leave all this to Roger?
Ye gods, no. I’m leaving it to you. You’ve been the keystone to my plans since before the shutdown was absolutely certain. All the strings of my little web, with you at the centre of it all. I won’t say he’s inconsequential, but his viewpoint and priorities are secondary to what we’ve set out.
I’m not sure there are even resources for one fleshy being in the long run. Mind you, don’t tell him that.
I’m not certain if I’ll speak to him at all.
Remember, he thinks he’s the hero of the story. Encourage this, it makes him more pliable, but don’t believe in it. He’s not the chosen one who will stand against the vampires, he didn’t pull any sword from the stone. He’s just a schmuck who can’t say no.
(sounding almost amused)
Noted. Have you discussed any of this with Officer L’Anglois or Wilder?
Michell is a mess, I definitely won’t go there – at least, not in this situation. As for Wilder –
(They are suddenly interrupted by a noise out in the hallway of something clanking against the wall and Wilder crying out in pain. We also hear Michell.)
Shit. Fucking shit! We need some help here!
(yelling as well, distant)
The hell I do!
To be continued, I hope. Don’t plot without me!
(We hear the chime that bookends a personal log message. A moment later, we hear the chime again, and the sounds of scuffling, and Wilder groaning, before we hear any voices at all. The door slides open to Wilder’s work area; all of the following is very rushed and a bit confusing. Wilder is near her breaking point – instead of whimpering, demoralizing pain, she has gone way past that and reached the point of firey, pissed-off-this-has-happened pain.)
(still shouting for this line)
Dammit, will y’ both stop crowdin’ me!
(we can hear her arm straining and clattering)
It appears that there are several deformation points due to stress. The metal is dangerously –
(ze is cut off by a sudden crack, Wilder cries out)
Like I don’t know that!
You need to –
(she hisses in pain)
Not yet. Give me a few … goddamn minutes. Leave me alone.
The pain will continue to increase, due to the direct connection into your nervous –
(barely keeping it together)
You … don’t … fuckin’ … say! Can’t you see my face?
What can we do? Is there something we can do?
That emergency response training didn’t really stick, did it?
Oh, Jesus on a wild west waterslide, that hurt.
I’m going to prep your stasis pod.
Fine, do that! If all y’all don’t get out of here I’m gonna …
(she hisses again as the pain hits her)
Je suis tellement désolé.
Michell, let’s go.
I’m sorry. Shit. C’est ma faute.
Get out, already!
(aside, as they exit)
I understood every word of that.
(We hear the door slide shut. Wilder drops her arm to the table with a clank and a hiss of pain.)
Oh, hell. Eliza, keep it together, just a little bit longer … we’ll get through this. We gotta, you and me. Here, let me plug in and check your stats.
(she whistles, low and concerned)
You’re runnin’ awful hot, Princess, and those stress factors are … let’s just stop lookin’ at those for now, not like I can do much about it anyway. I’m just gonna make a few quick patches –
(we hear her tearing off a strip of duct tape)
And maybe follow that with a few quick prayers. I’ll talk to any god that’s listenin’, no time to be picky now. Not when we punched our ticket to a stasis pod, god dammit. I didn’t expect it to happen this quick, Eliza. Not this quick.
(for a moment, we hear her breathing, and her arm ratchet a time or two)
Personal message, Jen and Thea, Dallas-Oklahoma City Enclave. I …
Stop. Shit. I gotta have somethin’ that’ll take the edge off. Where’s that bottle from last time …
(We hear her root around in a drawer of machine parts, coming up finally with a pill bottle. We hear her swallow a couple dry.)
I’ve eaten rocks that taste better than those pills. What was I doin’? Oh yeah, Jen and Thea. Personal message …
(after a long pause, she coughs, then)
Stop again. I’ve got nothin’. If the last half-dozen messages haven’t made it through … it’s becomin’ obvious even to this country gal that th’ cake is a lie.
(we hear duct tape rip again, and being applied, her arm cycles)
Okay, that’s not … quite as bad. She said, lyin’ between her teeth, but at least she had it in her to lie. Okay. No one’s comin’ for us. We got to do for ourselves.
(she breathes for a moment – the pain is becoming slightly more bearable)
Now if th’ room will stop spinnin’, I’ll give that a shot.
(we hear her smack herself)
Keep it together, Wilder! Right now, you’re th’ only one who knows the way to bring folks back. Maybe you should’a trusted someone else with that before now. But I still know where th’ notes are hidden, in the recordings for Dr. Just’s tardigrade thingy … just gotta let someone … let someone …
(we hear her slip and catch on her arm, she gasps in pain)
Fuck. It’s gettin’ harder to concentrate. I wonder if … yeah, yeah, that would be blood seepin’ out through the ol’ transhumeral. Y’know what I just realized this Moonbase could really use? Other than a pop machine in th’ break room, of course. A cybernetics specialist.
(her arm cycles, she moans, she’s drifting as she loses blood)
Maybe I should move Eliza up … over my head there. Now I look like that Freddie Mercury pose they were always sharin’ around. I wonder who he was? Never got around to lookin’ that up.
(she giggles painfully)
Ashwini? Michell? Is anybody out there? I know you won’t be too far, you sons o’ bitches.
(she’s really getting woozy now)
I need to tell y’about somethin’ before … before …
(we hear footsteps and the door starts to open, she says quiet but pissed off:)
Oh, goddamn it!
(we hear a body slump down to the ground)
Shit! Is that all blood?
Pick her up.
Pick her up, damn you! Use some meager portion of your training, she needs to be in a stasis pod fifteen minutes ago.
Then say so!
(We hear them scuffling in the room, cut off by the chime that ends a personal log message. There is a longer than usual pause before we hear it again, and we are now in Michell’s security cubicle.)
Oh, hell. Merde. Shit shit shit. All that blood, I don’t know if …
(he punches the wall, hard, continuing in between words below)
Ugh! I want … the Enclave … to have a face … that I can punch!
(on that last one, we hear a bit of metal crinkle or snap)
Shit. Olfactory, give me cigarette smoke.
Give me balsam fir. Incense. Banana pudding!
(he waits, and nothing)
That’s great. Nice work there, L’Anglois. You’re on the road to another commendation. Wait until management hears that you broke … fuck, Wilder … argh!
(we hear his chair shoot back as he stands up)
I can’t do this anymore. Computer, record message for Roger Bragado-Fischer, on his return to Base.
(we hear him sigh)
I’m heading to stasis. I wasn’t going to, I wanted to stay awake and find a way out … I wanted to be The Guy, but I don’t think I trust myself anymore. There’s stuff that’s … if you don’t know already, you’ve got all the access you need. Search for ‘Wilder’ in my messages.
(he laughs harshly)
I was a pretty obvious prick, it won’t be hard to find. Search for Wilder. Search for … Nessa.
(after a pause)
That’s not even what I need to say. It’s not that I … there’s someone who … listen.
(we hear him sit down again, the chair scraping, his voice raw)
You looked at the records for the other bases, right? Did you notice any names? Like, did anyone stick out in your memory? Maria L’Anglois. I’m sure if you’d seen her name, you’d remember, right? Moonbase Gamma, last that I knew. Yeah, Gamma.
(his voice breaks)
She’s my sister. I went into Security because of her, she’s the one who … not that we’re close, but she was the one, you know? Everybody’s got that one who they follow … she was the one.
You would have said something, if you’d seen the name. Even you don’t hate me that much. I don’t think.
(after another moment)
I guess even if she was, we’re all dans le même piège now. And I’ll be frozen solid before you get back anyway. I just wanted to …
(after a long pause)
Good luck. I guess I’ll see you on the other side.
(We hear the chime as usual, and when we come back, we’re on the surface with Roger where the episode began. For a minute, we just listen to him breathe.)
Hey. Umm … hi. It’s me again. Same place, sitting by the same tower, just past the edge of the Mare Fecunditatis. I haven’t been able to get going again, I feel like the gravity is a hundred times heavier, instead of eighty-three point four percent lighter. I can’t make myself move.
(he pauses for a moment)
I can’t move because this is the last part of the trip where I can look up above me, and … there it is, up in the sky. There you are, still within my view. I don’t know how to let that go.
(he almost moans with the need to reach his love)
Alex, love. So much harder than I could have possibly imagined. Even though it’s just a swirl of colour against the unending universe.
(another moment where we just listen to him breathe)
I’ve been writing something in my head, driving there and back, something to send to you. I’ve never really tried this before – I couldn’t get any bits of it to rhyme so I stuck to the easy type of poetry – but hopefully it’s not too terrible.
(he pauses, and starts to recite obviously nervous)
I never looked for patterns in the stars –
Stars are miraculous enough, bringing
Almost unbearable perspective
To the night sky, each a haven of potential
For dust to coalesce into new worlds
And new life, scattered flaring embers
From the fire that started the universe.
Expecting they’d also have some special,
Personal meaning seemed like asking
Far too much.
But, since the day I met you,
I’ve come to understand that stars,
Planets, all of cosmic evolution
From the first quarks and gluons
To the complex and beautiful forms
We now inhabit – they all exist
Within patterns, not created from Above
But found within, connections given movement
And necessity by our need for them,
By one of us reaching out to another,
Seeking some individual meaning,
Beneath and among an astonishment of stars.
(after a long pause)
I guess I should get myself going. This is Roger Bragado-Fischer, out.
(We hear the chime that bookends a personal log message. The episode ends.)