MOONBASE THETA, OUT – ALL YOUR BASE Episode 7 – “Eta”
by D.J. Sylvis
The bases! ‘All your base are belong to us’? [dramatic pause] And what are we on? [another pause] BASES. Moon-bases. Boom.
Good day. This is a secured transmission. This communication from Maintenance Lead Wilder has revealed that complications within the Moonbase network were not limited to Base Theta. As such, additional archival files have been uncovered that delve into the history of each Base before their respective shutdowns. I repeat, the previous history of all your base.
(they clear their throat, unable to let the twisted grammar stand)
Es. Bases. The following is Report AYB-E7, codeword, “Eta”
NOTE – There may be an ad inserted at this point before the episode.
SOUND: Chime – Bookend
SOUND: Spacesuit background, chime
(dictating the end of a story, very ‘on’)
… that is why they consider Epsilon to be the showpiece of the entire Moonbase system, and I admit to being impressed. The viewports alone are a marvel of engineering, and they’ve got a farm that could feed at least a hundred. But it does raise the question – when the Moonbase Project was meant to focus on mining and scientific research, why do they need a showpiece? Who are they showing it to? What are visitors meant to see … or where are they diverting attention from? This is Barnett Bell, Planetwide Media, signing off.
(brief pause, a more normal tone of voice)
Save that, send direct to editorial, where I’m sure they’ll try to cut my ending. Mark that paragraph and, if they do, send an alert to Raj and warn zir that I am going to be home soon and I won’t be happy. Ze knows what I’m like when I’m not happy.
(frustration bleeding through)
For instance, when the Rover breaks down on the last leg of my trip, twenty-five klicks out from Base Eta and I have to wait for someone to notice the damn emergency beacon and come find me! They better be on their way by now, I was expected two hours ago by this point, someone ought to be paying attention. “Base Eta, the Communications Hub of the Moon,” my ass. They’re supposed to be this big data centre, the home link for the whole network … but how much does that mean when every comms tower I’ve passed on my way has been disabled? I’m about ready to hike over to the closest satellite dish and try hollering down into it.
The comms tower thing is more than a little suspicious, don’t think that escaped my notice. That’s on the list of stories in the back of my head that I’m just dying to file, damn the megas and their guidelines. If there were just more time to investigate before that next supply rocket … but I’ve extended this trip twice already.
(a bit of extra warmth below; Jo and Hector are her partners)
I can’t do that again; Jo and Hector would kill me. Not to mention I’ve got some interesting folks on standby.
(brief pause, she sighs)
That list of stories keeps getting longer, and so many of them are important. But if half of what I think is coming together up here actually happens, they’ll need to be filed back on Earth.
Somewhere. Someone’s got to be willing to take them. On reflection, I don’t think I am sending any of this message on ahead. Let’s convert to a personal entry, save it deep in encrypted storage until I make it home. Should have done that from the start, honestly. Not that I can trust my gracious and generous employer even on the ground … but at least there I know the loopholes.
SOUND: She tries to start the Rover again, sound of a brief hum and then a breakdown
SOUND: She tries again, just for the hell of it
I’m getting hungry, too. All there is on board is this bag of granola they handed me at Base Epsilon – they’re so proud, “We grow all the ingredients ourselves,” with the size of the farm they’ve got they should be serving out banquets – and I can’t eat it now anyway because I’m stuck inside a pressurized suit. I’ve got water and nutrient paste, those are my options – both served in a little vinyl tube that pokes at my cheeks when I turn my head too far one way or the other. Gods forbid I should look at anything not directly in front of me. You know what they don’t have in here? Headache pills. This helmet and the Rover’s visor are both shaded, and the sun is still killing me.
SOUND: She sips a bit of water from the suit, while she’s thinking of it
I think you’ll be happy with the results of my little trip. I know, I said I changed this to a personal entry, but I also know my contract and eventually someone listens to every word I’ve saved to see if something is libelous, or profitable, or maybe a mix of the two. So I might as well send a check-in while I’m sitting by the side of a crater with my thumb out.
(brief pause, organizing her thoughts)
I made it the whole way around the track. Eta, Gamma, Beta, Alpha, Delta, Epsilon … almost back to Go, one more roll of the dice and I would have made it. No Zeta, of course, the South Pole is so damn far … and apparently Base Theta is not included on official itineraries. “Fuel conservation,” and all that bull; I was promised an in-depth interview but, thanks to the comms towers, I don’t see that happening. I’m sure it would’ve been Consortium propaganda, anyway. I do miss Zeta, I’m pretty bummed about that – if there aren’t a few stories buried there I’m in the wrong line of work. But, I did everything I could.
I’m giving them … twenty more minutes. Setting my implant for twenty minutes, then I’m opening this thing up myself and taking a wrench to something. Things to do, after all. Places to be, stories to tell.
The official stuff I’m filing is all fine, I guess. There’s a solid piece on Moonbase administration from Alpha, I even got away with asking some of the keyboard-pushers exactly what they do and why it has to happen up here … you know, it’s the safer side of seditious but I got to ask the questions. And I took the official tour on Epsilon, I had to promise a nice fluff piece on the Apollos, but afterwards I had a good one on one – well, one on three – with their science crew. A lot of good background on lunar geochemistry, volatile elements … I’ll have to smooth it out and make it sound flashier than they could. And I know management wanted an innovation piece on mining technology, so I spent some time down in the tunnels on Delta. They wouldn’t stop pointing me places – look at this, listen to that, these are the new nanobots we’re using, this rock has a flavour … almost like they’d just discovered it all themselves. Points for enthusiasm, I guess. Most of the techs on the other bases were bored by comparison.
Speaking of technology, there was this little robot on Beta – did you know about the Maintenance bot they’re testing? Like a cheery little Dalek wandering the halls, I kept expecting him to, “EXTERMINATE …” and if you don’t get that, you were immersed in the wrong senssurrounds as a child. That was a fun story. And I didn’t make it to Theta, but Dr. Kashyap on Base Gamma told me this story about some tardigrades on that side, I’d have to verify back on Earth but that sounds like fun, too.
(after a moment, a bit more sober and a bit vicious)
So you’ll enjoy all those; I checked off all their boxes and they’ll have plenty to support whatever big multi-corporate rollout they’ve got next. They can’t complain my stories didn’t pay the bills.
SOUND: A bit of a grunt as she stands up, maybe a bit of rustle inside the suit
I can’t just sit here. I’m going to … I don’t know, take a walk, see how far I can jump. You’ve been to the Moon, right? Didn’t you ever just … jump, just to see? Anyway, let’s move.
SOUND: A bit more rustling, heavier breathing as she walks
(after a bit, still obviously moving)
But I’m still stuck on that list of other stories. You know the ones I mean. The ones we’re not authorized to explore, the ones I can’t even look into without … well, you know what would happen. You’re technically one of the people who would have to enforce the things that happen, if I dare to bring them up, if I breathe a word of suspicion about …
(after a moment)
Look, something else was going on at Delta. I could see it – I could taste it. One of the medics kept trying to get my attention, but I wasn’t able to get away from their Base Administrator for even a minute to find out why. And on Beta, that WEEBLE robot was hilarious, but what’s not funny is how they’re treating the maintenance workers who decided to unionize. I’m pretty sure that’s why they started that pilot program to begin with.
(getting even more wound up)
And there’s some sort of shady business going on with the Consortium in particular! Everywhere you push too deep across the Moon, you run into some sort of Consortium connection, no matter which mega is technically running the Base. It’s like there’s some secret cabal, some hidden faction … maybe that’s the angle, if we went to the others maybe they’d authorize me to … maybe we could slip in somehow if they gave us the cover …
SOUND: She stops, we hear her breathing for a moment, slowing back to normal
You’re right. Who am I kidding? They’ll close ranks and, quote-unquote “investigate” for themselves. By the time you hear this file, it’s probably already happening, they’ll probably have my notes the minute I’m within downloading distance. So why are you talking about these things so publicly, Mx. Bell?
(another pause, breathing)
You know the answer to that already, too. It’s because I’m about ninety percent ready to walk away at this point in my illustrious career. I’m one redacted deadline away from my last fuck – look, there it goes, flying off into space. I’ve been working inside the system for fifteen years now, “breaking down the walls,” and the only thing that’s been broken at this point is … me.
SOUND: A little ping inside her helmet, different from the standard tone
That’s something, at least. Someone at Eta finally checked their messages and another Rover is on its way. I guess I better head back to mine. No real rush, they’ve got a ways to go, but … I guess I’ll save that jumping for later.
SOUND: Less intense as she walks now, perhaps a bit of rustling, breathing is fairly steady
(after a moment or two, anger bleeding in)
Okay, I knew what I was in for. Nobody makes it into this business without their eyes open. Nobody really believes in a free press – we haven’t had one of those for most of the century. But at least we used to pretend! They used to let us say a few things, tell a little truth, and then gasp in surprise afterwards – oh my gods, there’s racism and poverty and corruption in our Enclaves! We all depended on that little game; we kept playing it because, without us, they wouldn’t even bother putting on the show that they might improve things. They wouldn’t feel the need to occasionally make a gesture and help a few people. Someone’s got to keep things from sliding the whole way down to hell.
(brief pause, still upset but weariness starting to bleed in)
They let us talk because people can tell that things are wrong, even if they don’t always know why they feel it. And if there’s nothing at all on the news maybe they’ll get more upset and really look deeper and then … maybe a revolution? Some sort of uprising? Absolutely anti-corporate-friendly. And I think about that and sometimes, I think I should walk off the job and just let that happen. I mean, quite an ego I’ve got there, like I’m the straw that would break things anyway, but … maybe I should be letting go of my part in things. See if switching to the other side might make a difference.
(she sighs, the honesty of this next bit hurts)
But in the meantime, a few more people might get hurt, might miss the little bit of truth I am able to tell them. And … let’s be honest here, I’d be hurt. I’d be out on the street – I don’t like to admit that’s a reason, but it’s a reason, you know?
(this is when the sorrow really kicks in)
But it’s getting harder to take, harder to force that smile and hold on, hoping. I feel like a fly stuck on the wrong side of a window. I can see what’s outside, there might even technically be a way to get out there … but I just keep banging against the glass, banging and banging, over and over again.
(brief pause, matter of fact)
And now we’re back at the Rover. Broken down symbol of my broken down job, broken down life … I’m not sure if this bag of granola symbolizes anything, might as well chuck that the whole way out of the metaphor.
(she grunts as she throws it away)
It went down into the crater. Free calories for some future explorer.
(after a long pause, she sighs)
I’m sorry to drag you into this, making you listen. None of this is your fight. Or if it is, I don’t know about it; we’ve never been that close. Why should we be? That’s one thing I do envy about being on the other side of that window for real … it’s got to feel more like a community than our side. They don’t have a snowball’s chance, but they’re pulling together for something. I miss how that feels.
SOUND: The same little ping we heard a few minutes back
Getting closer now. That’s the “put your shoes on, we’re almost to Grandma’s” warning.
Now I’m stuck on that last thought. I don’t know how to turn off my brain, that … investigative urge, even when it doesn’t do me any favours. I can’t help thinking … there’s something in the system, something we’ve all signed off on, we agreed to let it shake things apart. To shake us apart. It used to be, I’d do my job and I’d go home – to my family, my neighbourhood, my community – and I could feel all right there. I felt like I still belonged. But somewhere along the way … this shaking happened, and I’m not even sure where to look to pick up the pieces I’ve lost.
SOUND: There’s a long pause, maybe we hear one more little ping
Funny thing is, I think some of them might be up here. Inside every Base, when you push past the secrets and rumours and sheepish sideways glances … there’s a hint of what I used to feel, like there’s something coming together. Maybe the megas have pushed them all just a little too hard, maybe it’s the distance that’s given them breathing room, but … something is changing on the Moon.
(a pause, wryly)
Maybe it’s a community? A revolution? An uprising? I’m half tempted to stick around and see.
There’s not much time to decide – that next supply rocket leaves tomorrow, and I’m meant to be on board. My ride is almost here.
SOUND: A slight groan as she straightens up, rustling inside the suit
All right, I better stop recording. About half an hour ago, if you had any sense, Barnett.
Can I listen to that, please? I just want to hear it all, one time together. Then delete it after playback.
SOUND: A slight beep to indicate the playback
(Played back as if this were the beginning of the original recording, earlier than anything we heard.)
(filtered a bit more to sound like it’s through a speaker, fading out at the end)
Okay, notes for the Moonbase Episilon profile piece – match this up later with the video I took, I’ll do a voiceover. Was that … that’s not a sound the Rover’s supposed to make. Fingers crossed, I guess …
SOUND: Spacesuit background ends
SOUND: Chime – bookend
(The episode ends.)
Thanks for joining us! Today’s ALL YOUR BASE episode featured Danyelle Ellett as Barnett Bell, and I don’t think this will be the last time you hear that name! Our Consortium Announcer is Evan Tess Murray. D.J. Sylvis wrote the episode and edited dialogue, while Cass McPhee did the sound design. Cass and Deej co-produced the episode.
Our theme music is “Star” by the band RAMP – check them out at RAMP dash music dot net. Transcripts, cast bios, additional music attribution and more are found on our website: MonkeyManProductions dot com. Looking for other great audio drama? Visit Fable and Folly dot com to learn about all the other shows on our network.
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One more episode to come after this – and we’re back on familiar ground, umm, familiar Moon – with Base Theta! But a flashback, and with a character you know nothing at all about yet. Until then, pay attention to the stories you tell, keep an eye out for that Consortium – you never know what they’re up to – and Keep Watching the Moon!