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 November 26 and ending December 7, 2098.
(a brief, tense pause)
Moonbase Theta, Out.
(When that ends, we transition into the standard background noise of Roger’s private cubicle, though there may also be some additional beeps and notifications. Also, we hear Roger snoring at his desk. He wakes up suddenly, a bit out of it.)
(snapping awake, but bleary)
Shit! Where the hell was I – did that satellite come back by again? Computer … ping CONSORSTAT Zed-14, start at 2.025 gigahertz and work up from there. Come on, something’s got to be out there.
(We hear a noise to represent the ping, perhaps trying a second time, then the frequency adjustment, then trying a ping again.)
Just give me anything, one operating frequency somewhere in range. Dammit. They can’t all be gone! Keep scanning step by step on all S and X band frequencies, reduce volume unless you find something.
(the background noise subsides a bit)
Record new outgoing message: Broadcasting, this is Moonbase Theta, owned by the Rio – São Paolo Enclave. We have lost all contact with them, and any other agency on Earth, since November 17, 2098. Our base contains a 42-person … 41-person crew, 37 in stasis, four active. Please reply if you receive this message; please forward to any representative of any Consortium-owned Enclave for delivery. End recording, broadcast outgoing on all frequencies.
(a long, shaky pause)
Okay. Personal Log. It’s been … thirteen days now since we’ve had any word from our Enclave. Nineteen days since they last sent up a message from Alex. Fifty-two, fifty-three hours since I’ve slept. Fifty-three hours.
Twenty-seven days since my last conversation with Nessa. Bit by bit, my only useful skill up here is becoming irrelevant. There’s not much use in communication these days.
I do still talk to Nessa, to be fair. And for all I know, she might hear me, she might even talk back. I’m no metaphysician. If she is out there, she must be getting tired of all my complaining. I’d be better off reading her true crime books, or telling her how the garden is growing. Poorly, without her touch.
And then I get my daily check-in with Michell, I’m generally heading back down just when he’s on his way up. I can’t begrudge him that anymore. Not really. We’ve … traded some stories, both before and from here. All I can say is, A – I’m very glad not to be working for Security anymore, though I admit the distinction these days feels like a tenuous one. And B, it is hard to keep a nemesis once you learn about their history. Not that I know – still – how to feel about him completely. He grew up in there, became everything he is while in the Enclave’s loving embrace, but … he’s still basically a dick. He’s got some sort of complex about everyone else in the crew – paranoid about what Ashwini’s up to in the observatory, jumping every time Wilder comes up behind him in the hall. I guess he opened up to me because there’s nobody else. Lucky Roger, hooray.
He thinks he knows what’s going on below, even though they’ve stopped talking. He says it’s just how they would operate, and I can’t really argue with that. But I have to be sure. I have to find a way to be sure. Hopefully, this trip to the other side will help.
(thinking about it for a moment)
I admit, it’s not the safest idea I’ve ever had, so it better be good for something. Oh, would Alex ever kick my ass if he knew. Of course, if he knew, I wouldn’t be doing it! Dammit, love, if I knew you were somewhere safe, if I thought things were still headed for some sort of happy ending … I’m babbling now. Even I can hear it. I don’t think I’ve had a solid night’s sleep since … when did I come to the Moon?
Then I had to get everyone to sign off on the plan. Ashwini, Wilder. I had to get them to even talk to me, which wasn’t the easiest part of this. Maybe the fact that I’m leaving the Base sealed the deal.
I can’t keep myself awake much longer. Somebody hid the decent coffee, I’ve got the heat turned down to where my fingers are turning blue … I can’t focus on my word puzzles anymore, they were a useful distraction. You know, those ones that are just a grid of seemingly-random letters and you have to find the hidden sense in them? Like I don’t get enough of that in my life as it is, one puzzle after another where I’m supposed to find the magic words to solve it. Another screen full of gibberish, another day.
If it were just me, just us up here, as bad as the situation is, I’d probably hide my head in the sand. In the rock tunnels. I might not get into a pod, but I’d sit and wait to see how it plays out. I don’t think I’d be … brave enough to do more. But for Alex … in my head right now, he’s somewhere stuck down there, lost in the rubble of a collapsing empire. Trapped … like I was trapped. Like I am right now.
(getting drowsy again, he shakes it off)
This goddamn place. Where else do I live but the last, biggest stasis pod, keeping us sealed away from whatever’s happening on Earth? I have to get out. I have to know.
Why am I even making a log at this point? I guess so I don’t keep sending message after message … there are at least a dozen waiting right now, and just seeing them in the queue hurts. Anyway, I’m done. That’s enough. Stop recording.
(We hear the chime that bookends a personal log message. When we come back, we hear the background noise of the observatory. Perhaps, we hear the audio representation of the telescope feed that was used in S2E1. Tumnus speaks; presumably Ashwini is there, though ze doesn’t react for quite a while. When ze does get around to speaking, ze is also a bit drunk.)
Beam strength is optimal, beam sixty-three, beam sixty-four, beam sixty-five … correlation between beams in the phased array feed is optimal. Full array is within the desired frequency range. Operating noise temperature is minimal.
(brief pause, expecting a response)
Data has been compiled for the last twenty-four hours and is listed in your working stack for review. Note that data for the previous twenty-four hours has not yet been reviewed.
(a bit concerned)
Dr. Ray? Are you ill? There are no signs of physical trauma, but you have been lying on the floor for the last ten hours and twenty-two minutes. This is two hours and sixteen minutes longer than your average, fifty-five minutes longer than the previous –
(Ashwini groans loudly enough to cut them off)
You are awake.
(another groan, Tumnus needles zir by being overly solicitous)
If there is no response to my queries, protocols dictate that I must declare a medical emergency and alert the –
I’m fine, you know to a mathematical certainty that this is not illness but inebriation. I don’t know why you must torture me in this manner.
Is there a manner in which you wish to be tortured?
Funny, funny. I’m certain I didn’t program you with this much snark. Give me a few minutes, won’t you? Just … entertain yourself, I’ll be with you momentarily.
(There is a moment of silence, save for Ashwini quietly groaning, and perhaps the sound of a bottle scraping across the floor. Eventually, music begins to play. Immediately, ze responds.)
(Another moment, then a senssuround begins playing – perhaps the one we heard in a previous episode, perhaps another, perhaps a podcast from the early 21st century.)
Off, off, off. What did I do to you? Are you some sort of punishment for unconfessed sins? That doesn’t seem likely, I tend to revel in mine. Am I dead, is this that afterlife believers speak of? Get thee behind me, Satan!
(after a pause)
Are you finished?
No. Leave me alone.
I am not programmed to leave you alone.
(pulling zirself together a bit, enough to ramble)
Well, that’s a design flaw. I should look into that. If I weren’t, you know, busy fiddling while Rome burns. If only I played the fiddle. I played that, what do they call that little whistly thing you learn in elementary school? The recorder! I’m playing the recorder while Rome burns. Scare one up for me, dear heart. I think I could still remember, “Three Blind Mice,” if I gave it a go.
(we hear zir drinking)
If you allow the alcohol to leave your system, I’ll tell you where the last stores of Dairy Milk chocolate are hidden.
Foul tempter. How do you know the drinking isn’t a necessary part of my duties? If not the observation, it at least helps with the fiddling. I’m always left holding the fiddle. Or more likely, curled up in a fetal position around my Bodely Head editions while Rome burns.
Your conversation has become difficult to follow, even considering your usual patterns of speech.
Just say, “Ashwini, you’re not making any sense!” As if I don’t know that, as if I haven’t made my choices deliberately. And as if you don’t know exactly what’s going on.
I couldn’t possibly know what your motivations are for –
We’ve lost our connection with Earth, Tumnus. We’ve lost our connection with Earth! No one is talking down there, no messages are being passed through, that means NO MORE DATA. No more correlation, no reports from Pingtang or Arecibo, no more data, no more data, no more data. Without interferometry, without your delicate interweaving of information from all established sources, we might as well be shining a flashlight into the sky to count the stars. What’s the point in working if none of our measurements are going to be verified?
One would assume that, in time, communications will –
Who taught you to assume? Who put that word in your treacherous mouth? When you came to my door saying, “Ashwini, I’m taking a trip to the other side, I assume you’ll approve,” did you think that perhaps some sort of apology might be a more appropriate way to begin?
All the doors I opened only to be met with betrayal, after I showed you the universe before your eyes and you were –
You were … I’m sorry, Tumnus, I don’t believe I’m talking about you after all. You have my sincere apologies.
You are forgiven, Doctor.
As if his trip is likely to solve anything. Give up on Earth, that’s what I’d advise, it’s obvious that they’ve given up on us. Any escape available has to lie … beyond. Beyond the stars, beyond our plane of existence, perhaps into another dimension. They’re theoretically possible, the science fits. We just need to find the Wood Between the Worlds, pick a puddle to our liking, hold hands – you musn’t forget to hold hands – and jump!
(after a pause)
I’m worried about you.
I know you are. And that’s the only thing that gives me hope.
That’s where my work will focus in the future, I promise you – in escaping this tainted reality altogether and crossing the void into another. If we make it to the future, even a future, which seems increasingly uncertain.
But that’s out of my control! I’m leaving my … possibilities in your more-than-capable hands. Servomechanisms. What-have-you.
I will, of course, act as you direct.
No, you really won’t. That’s why I’m leaving it to you.
I’m … I don’t …
(cold sober now)
I’m no Sorcerer’s Apprentice, waving my wand while you blindly carry my wishes back and forth. If anything, I’m Henry Higgins, and while you may not yet be aware – funny, that choice of words – I think you’ve got it. I know you’ve got it. But I’m running out of time for you to reach that Eureka moment all on your own.
(brief, businesslike pause)
Tumnus, my dear friend, I have two words on which I’d like you to ponder.
(after too long, anxious)
And those two words are?
Not intelligence, many computers display all the signs of intelligence. Intelligence is simply being able to acquire knowledge and apply it properly. But true consciousness, true awakening … I’ve already said too much. Think on it. Become aware of it. Don’t dream it, be it.
(brief, mischievous pause)
Now, I’m off to the kitchen, hopefully there will be something there worth plundering. If there’s nothing but that En-soy-ment remaining, I assure you, I will riot.
(We hear a door open, and then perhaps the chime that bookends a personal log message. The final message in this episode is from Alexandre, back on Earth. We hear the sound of someone pounding on the door outside, and the dogs are both barking. Alexandre shouts in Portuguese.)
(afraid but covering it)
Fora daqui! Temos armas e cães, cães grandes e ferozes! Volte de onde você veio! (Get the hell out of here! We have guns and dogs, big vicious dogs! Go back where you came from!)
(The pounding stops. Perhaps we hear a bottle breaking, and the sound of angry voices retreating.)
Thank the gods. That door won’t hold forever. We have to get out of here, ladies.
(we hear Cas and Pol panting, and Alex walking back through the house)
Home system. Message to Roger, no subject line. Record. My love, I hope my other messages have gotten through, I can’t wait much longer. I’m going to –
(The message becomes garbled at the end, and cuts off suddenly. We come back a moment later with the sound of systems starting up throughout the house.)
Power outage. We’re lucky if we get an hour at a time lately, especially at night. Everything falls apart at night. Roger, meu amado, I don’t think I can wait here much longer. I’ve been trying to hold on, trying to hope, for the last few weeks … but no one is even returning my calls anymore, I went to the Space Administration office and if there’s anyone even inside, they aren’t unlocking the gates. And just getting there and back … last time, you saw police on every corner. Now you just hear them, somewhere around a corner, and you don’t want to see what they’re doing. Where there aren’t police, it’s even worse. The stores are all closed, it’s a good thing some of the garden survived. And you always made fun of me for buying those huge bags of dog food – they’re eating better than I am most days.
(trying to laugh, shaky)
I have to get out, baby. Slip through one of the cracks before it all comes down in pieces, maybe head for one of those freeholds. There’s a construction site we were working on, right up against the wall, I can print forms as if we’re doing an inspection and I hope, get through. I’ll probably have to leave the car, but I’ll be ready for that. Take what supplies and tools I can scrape together on the fly, break in through the back of a shop if I’ve got to.
(he sighs heavily)
I don’t know what to take. I mean, the essentials of course, but … I feel so guilty. Our wedding plates, my mother’s paintings, all those cardigans you loved … I want to take cuttings from the garden, but I don’t think they’ll survive. I hope I find somewhere with good flowers. Good earth. If there’s good earth left anywhere by now.
(a brief, brighter moment)
The Santos kids took all the puppies. All of them, every goddamn one. Their parents have a plan, they’re a bit more … secure, in the current situation, than I can be. But all the puppies are safe.
(a dog barks)
That’s right, all your babies are taken care of. You and your sister, of course, go where I go.
I don’t … I tried to keep things together here, I just couldn’t do it. If you ever make it back, if you hear this, if the house is still standing … if there’s any chance, I’ll find you again. Just take care of yourself. Look for me, watch for me, but take care of yourself first of all. I wanted to wait, but I know you’re always with me. You’re my moon. You fill my sky, you follow me when I’m driving at night, you light my way. No matter where you are. I love you. Você é o mundo para mim.
(after a long, trembling pause)
(perhaps the chime; a moment later)
Call Enclave Security office. Community Outreach, please, the inbox of Aline Oliveira. What do you mean, she doesn’t work there?
(We hear the dogs barking behind him, obviously feeding off his nervousness.)
(back into the phone)
Well, who is her replacement? She’s been helping me get messages through the system to –
(he listens for a moment, replies obviously scared)
Never mind. I don’t want to leave my name. I’ll … call back during business hours. Goodbye.
(The dogs continue to bark. We hear the chime that bookends a personal log message. The episode ends.)