MOONBASE THETA, OUT – S2 Bonus Episode 1 – “Roger”
by D.J. Sylvis
(We hear the standard chime that bookends a personal message in S2. We hear the background noise from the laboratory, and tools clanking together as Roger mutters to himself, grunting in between phrases as he tries to turn a bolt.)
Whoever invented the recessed bolt head … deserves a short trip … unsuited, to the wrong side of an airlock.
(we hear a clang, and a yelp of pain from Roger)
Shit! All ten knuckles skinned now. At least I’ve got the full set.
(we hear him setting the wrench to try again)
In this particular case, I know who fabricated the damn thing. So fuck you, Wilder, and your little tardigrade stasis pod. Ugh. I hate looking at these things.
(For a moment all we hear is Roger grunting while he works at the bolt, his wrench clanging against the metal each time. He recites to himself.)
Hear the tolling of the bells—
What a world of solemn thought their monody compels!
(another clang, he laughs bitterly)
Nothing like Poe to lift the spirits. Okay, one more time, in rhythm …
(reciting again, sing-song as he works)
In the silence of the night,
How we shiver with affright
At the melancholy menace of their tone!
(We hear another clang, then another, then suddenly a stream of them at once as he just wails on the casing and shouts:)
OPEN UP YOU FUCKING PIECE OF –
(suddenly, something pops off and we hear it fall to the floor)
There we go. All it took was the judicious application of profanity. Take note, kids.
(he flicks on a flashlight)
This is the moment where I really wish I’d gone to school for refrigerator repair. Crap. Umm, display the schematic on page … sixteen, and play back recorded notes for that section.
(playback noise, we hear her arm racheting)
Dammit, I’m runnin’ out o’ time here. Got to make the rest of this quick.
(arm noises again)
Eliza, I do not have another pop can. Just hold y’self together.
Back at it, fearless reader. Get the casing off – it’s kinda tricky, there’s a special tool in my workbench drawer –
(continue through to next line without stopping)
– that’s just the thing. Anyhoo … you should see a space in there, ‘bout the size of a …
(her arm ratchets again)
Dammit! Size of a deck o’ cards, labeled “Mechanism WM” – stands for warm, in case y’ wondered just how inventive Consortium engineers are. There y’ go again, Wilder, ain’t nobody got time for that.
Yeah, yeah, I see it, WM.
Right there is where the module fits that they didn’t ship up to us because – I guess th’ because is obvious. Long story short here, the little coupling there, that’s where y’ want to plug in th’ directed nanoparticles I had y’ get from the physics lab. The flask should be labeled iron oxide – I think there’s a stegosaurus sticker on the side.
It’s got a little speech bubble saying, “If you touch my stuff, you’re prehistory!”
(arm buzzing again, rattling)
I gotta … find some duct tape and fast here. So yeah, sort out pluggin’ that in, give the particles some time to spread out through th’ system, and that’s when y’ activate the magnetic field that heats things up. And then hopefully, it’s super effective!
(arm noises again)
Fuck, I gotta go, you’re on your own, whoever winds up hearin’ this. Eliza’s about five minutes from goin’ kablooey.
(playback noise indicating the end of the file)
(we hear him connecting parts together)
That was … not the detailed set of instructions I was hoping for. I know, it’s just the tardigrades, they should survive perfectly fine on their own, but … it’s my only chance at a proof of concept. As tempting as it is to practice on the pods of certain crew members … okay, I need a minute here. Schematic, closeup on section D4 …
(he recites to himself again)
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the throbbing of the bells—
Of the bells, bells, bells—
(there is a final, satisfying click)
There you go! How’s that for tintinnabulation? I think I might have it right. I better have it right. There’s nothing in the instructions about what happens if I fail. Maybe it all goes … kablooey.
(he plays a bit with the wrench)
I don’t know enough of what I’m doing to try another way. It’s now or never. If I die, tell Alex I loved him.
(the briefest of pauses)
And that I’m an idiot.
(we hear a plunger being depressed)
Okay, that’s the nanoparticles … now I count to ten while they circulate … one, two, three …
Of the bells, bells, bells, bells—
Bells, bells, bells—
Then … it’s the switch to the magnetic field generator. Switching on … now. Now. Nnnnnnow. Goddammit, To the moaning and the groaning of the bells … got it.
(We hear the switch being flicked, and the magnetic field humming slightly as it activates.)
I … I think it might be … how’re you doing in there, little pals? You grotesque looking sons-of … it’s getting warmer. It’s definitely getting warmer. It’s … ow, shit!
(The humming has become higher-pitched, and perhaps there is a slight rattling. An irritating beep starts happening.)
Don’t, just don’t, please don’t … maybe if I unhook the –
(a hissing noise is added to the cacophony)
That’s a no. No. Shit. Shit! Ohhhhhhhh …
(The volume level of all the noises rise, and Roger yells incoherently with them, and suddenly it all cuts off. We hear the chime that bookends a personal log message. After a moment, we hear another one, and we’re on the storage level with the stasis pods. We hear the hiss of air escaping, and then a lid close, and a pleasant beep.)
Okay. Fine. That’s done. You … little monsters are all safe and sound, in … Uncle Roger’s stasis pod. Hell, I wasn’t using it anyway. I couldn’t put them in … she probably would have liked it, but I couldn’t. She would have laughed, though. A lot. She’d still be laughing.
(he chuckles a little and taps the lid of the stasis pod)
I’m in way over my head, Nessa. I don’t have any idea what to do. That was the last pod I could screw around with – some of my ethics have become questionable, but I’m not ready to experiment with an actual crew member. Maybe we’re done here.
I thought I was ready to stop hoping, except that maybe, down there, Alex is still … nothing else. Nothing more than that. Then I play the wrong recording when I’m trying to fall asleep and it’s Wilder with her notes and her schematics and the whole fucking guilt trip that lays down.
(he sits down and sighs)
I was better off with Coleridge and Poe and the daily ennui, wandering the halls like the Ghost of Moonbase Past and losing myself in sampling every snack food, every olfactory – I’m not sure why they developed a ‘petting zoo’ fragrance – living through every sensurround in the library. That can eat up a whole day before you even notice it. It’s a hell of a ride, how they can simulate practically anything, and you can live it over and over again in …
(we can hear him starting to grow thoughtful)
… in exacting detail. Changing one thing, running it again to see the effects, changing it again … over and over until you find the perfect solution.
(we hear him push back the chair and stand, perhaps pacing)
I wonder. The schematics and the notes are digital, if the software could extrapolate from those … we could mock up the whole system, including vitals for a body inside, how it might be affected, and … try, and try again, no harm, no foul. Saving both my knuckles and my vital parts.
It’d take a hell of a lot of computing power. Bits and bits and bits.
(he slaps his hand down on the pod again)
And I know just the system that can juggle them all.
(We hear the chime that bookends a personal log message. After a moment, we hear another one, and we’re in the observatory. Things are quiet – almost too quiet. Roger’s footsteps are louder than you’d expect, and his voice is hushed.)
I thought downstairs was creepy. This is like … the eye of a hurricane, but the hurricane has gone to sleep.
(we hear a food container crinkle beneath his feet)
It’s a disaster area in more ways than one. You’d think ze could have picked up a little before heading into … well, here we go. Why do I feel like I’m approaching the Wizard?
(he clears his throat without realizing it)
Activate display. Displays.
Activate. Turn on.
(we hear him tapping on a keyboard)
(nothing but silence)
There’s not a switch somewhere, is there? Come on, Roger – you can see the power lights. So … on! Reply! Display status. Did ze break it just so I couldn’t …
(lapsing into thought for a moment, then:)
Open Sesame! Open, sez me! Mellon! Is there some equivalent in Narnia?
(a longer pause, we hear him collapse into a chair)
Why does technology hate me? I’d go find a cave to live in, if it weren’t for the ‘no breathable atmosphere’ thing outside.
(he spins in the chair, suddenly blurting out)
POWER ON! Damnit.
(we hear him sit back, sighing)
That’s it. Officially, That is It. I’m done, Nessa. I’m done, Alex. Guys and gals and non-binary, coast to coast and all the ships at sea. This is the towel –
(we hear fabric rustle)
Actually, what is this, did ze wear an ascot? Symbolically this is the towel, and I’m throwing it in.
(flat out, plainly)
No hope. Nada. I can’t keep on …
(he breaks, and it’s honest emotion now)
I just can’t keep on. That’s all there is. There aren’t enough distractions on the whole of the Moon. I don’t know if I wind up inside a … stasis pod, or if there’s some other … but I’m beat.
It took you long enough, but you beat me. Enclave One, Roger Zero. Ka. Blooey.
(He rocks back in the chair, absolutely finished. And for a long few moments, that’s all that there is. But then, out of the silence, we hear a full computer system coming to life, fans whirring, muted beeps, and a very familiar voice.)
What? What the hell? How’d I –
I’m here, don’t shut off, I’m here.
I know. You are here. You are … Roger Bragado-Fischer.
(We hear the chime that bookends a personal log message. The episode ends.)