MTO S4 B1-Transcript

MOONBASE THETA, OUT – S4 Bonus 1 – “Ashwini”
by D.J. Sylvis

SOUND: Chime – Bookend

SOUND: Airlock closing, cycling behind the first line

SOUND: A tone as ze uses the intercom


Yes, yes, Doctors, esteemed colleagues, it is … a prodigious journey you embark upon. Observe, report, experience. You represent all of humanity.

SOUND: Another tone as ze shuts the intercom off

SOUND: Briskly walking away


And don’t let the door hit you on the way out. Now, perhaps a bit of tranquility around this Base.

SOUND: Footsteps slowing a bit but continuing


The old lab is dark – which means no one’s discovered my distillery. Comms is dark, which is technically against Moonbase guidelines – but tonight that’s a blessing.

SOUND: We can hear just a bit of the garden background as ze passes by its door


The farm is never completely dark, but quiet, because my love is just next door …

SOUND: Footsteps stop

SOUND: Faint kitchen sounds (Jaxon is preparing oatmeal)


            (faintly, inside)

We’re making oats, making oats, making soyyyyyyyy oats … making oats, making oats, making soyyyyyyyy oats …


            (sotto voce)

And thus. all is right with the universe.

SOUND: Footsteps start again, softly, slowly but picking up


Back to my lair; now I can work.

SOUND: Hallway background ends

SOUND: The bookend chime to take us through a transition

SOUND: Observatory background (ongoing)


No no, adjust the angular momentum … that doesn’t fall within the Kerr metric, it’s not remotely possible! End simulation.

SOUND: Removing the senssuround equipment

SOUND: Sipping coffee


It is so restorative to drink my blend again! Even when the work is less than therapeutic. I can’t see how this “sidestep” process is remotely possible on the scale required! And yet, at this moment, humans are experiencing it directly. At least Gladys will take good notes.

            (ze sips again and takes a moment)

Enough ranting! Enough frustration. Enough data. I must compose.

SOUND: Footsteps across the room; settling into zir chair


Open my subfolder under keyword, “Grey Havens,” the last dated recording. And brew a fresh pot – no, let’s make it tea this round.

            (after a moment, clearly dictating)

They stood by the side of the great white ship, watching as Galadriel and Elrond, and Gandalf and Bilbo, and then an endless host of Elves proceeded on board. Finally, the hobbits stood alone. There was some trepidation in the air, and everyone seemed to deliberately avoid looking at Frodo. But he embraced them, kissing first Merry and Pippin, then Samwise; clasping his shoulder as if he could not let go.

SOUND: Soft footsteps advance in the background during the next passage


It was Sam who broke the silence. “Master Frodo, I expect they’re waiting on you to come aboard.”  Frodo’s eyes glistened, and his fingers went white, and he held to his companion even more tightly. “They can keep waiting,” he said, and his breath quickened. “Or in truth, they need not wait at all. I cannot …”

            (ze falters a moment, considering the next line)

“I cannot end our Fellowship so easily. Not if it means that you and I …”

SOUND: Jaxon clears his throat a little; the chair creaks


Jaxon. You’re back. I’ve started some tea, if you’d like some.


I’ll get it. Thank you.

SOUND: Jaxon bustling around making a cup of tea (think automatic dispenser, then stirring in sugar)


I’ve been working on a new ending. I was never satisfied with the original.  

            (after a moment)

I saw the Science Bros off on their adventure, we should have a bit more room to ourselves now.


            (slightly anxious crooning while he stirs)

Room to ourselves, room to ourselves …


Between that and the darkness become a bit less looming –


Are you sure? I know you said … but are you sure?


Love? About the story? Oh. About the …  

SOUND: The chair creaks as ze gets up, a few footsteps


If I’d been determined to go, I would have talked that out with you. We would have factored it into our plans, deciding together.


I know you have data and work to be done, done, done … but I was worried …  


If I’d been conflicted in the slightest, I would have said something.


            (pause for a sip of tea)

That’s your first lie since the night I asked if you liked cilantro.


What I meant to say …


I should go lie down.


Jaxon, wait. Please, I want to … of course there was conflict, but what I’m trying to say …

SOUND: A bit of pacing before ze speaks again


There was a conversation that was cut off some time ago, when Doctor Day and McVett interrupted to tell us about Base Alpha. You’d asked if I had anyone back on Earth, and my reply was … less than revealing.

SOUND: A bit more pacing


I never had the chance to know most of my family – Dhaka was being passed between corporations when I was born, and after the redistricting I lived with my great-aunt in Basundhara. It was the best opportunity – well protected, quality schools and hospitals close at hand, and I was never suited for a more rural lifestyle. But we were relatively cut off – communication and travel rarely reached beyond the walls.

            (after a moment)

Amrit Phuphu was in her fifties when I arrived, which seemed as a child such an impossible age. But I couldn’t slip a thing by her, hard as I tried! Not when I blamed the cat for a broken pitcher; not when I claimed innocence for rickshaw charges on our account when I’d left late for school; not when I skipped steps on my calculus homework. She knew my schedule; she heard my most silent step in the hallway any time I tried sneaking in or out; she knew what I needed before I’d allow myself to ask it, from a planetarium membership to finding a gender-affirming therapist. She was my day and night, my gravitational pull, and I relied on her utterly.

SOUND: A longer moment of pacing


            (after a breath, a bit hesitant)

Which is why I was the first to notice when she started slipping. At first it was a word on the tip of her tongue; using a calendar app when she’d always just remembered things … and then deepened by stages into forgetting to pay our accounts and accidentally deleting my homework during her review … and finally, the word she lost was most often my name, and the calendar app didn’t help when she’d forget decades of her own life. I was thirteen. I knew her password and I learned to pay the bills; I could make the dinner and our tea; but when Security came ‘round because she thought I was a home invasion …

            (brief pause)

I was lucky that her doctor was a friend, and that I’d skipped several grades and was ready for university.

It was fortuitous when my early admission came at the same time as the … necessity for an admission of her own.

            (a longer pause)

I’m passing over some unpleasant details. The hardest part wasn’t the decline, the loss of that gravity in my life’s orbit … it was the sudden, unexpected returns. The flashes of lucidity where she’d call my dorm at midnight, insisting I arrange for her ride back to the apartment, asking questions about the latest draft of my thesis, or later, my published research … it would all rush back, the pull so strong it collapsed me.

SOUND: One last, quiet, slow, moment of pacing


It was in one of those later moments when I told her about the Moon. I’d already been living in NYC for several years by that time, all our visits gone virtual – which made the guilt all the stronger when she sighed and said, “I understand if it’s quite some time before you come home and visit me.” That was the takeaway, the beak plunged in my heart; all the deeper when she thought a moment later I was a salesperson calling about the ductwork. The guilt became a black hole, drawing me into depression and poor coping skills, dragging me from any other real connections … all the way to where you find me standing now.

            (brief pause, trying to lighten things a little)

A position where, don’t get me wrong, I’ve done some absolutely brilliant work.

            (another moment, then, carefully)

For a long while, I thought I could navigate that void by ignoring it, directing my gaze toward the greater universe. But then I was brought into … another orbit that has affected my focus. In the most positive ways.

            (brief pause)

If I were still the same person, perhaps I’d have gone off to the Undying Lands. But I’ve found that the Moon – and yes, still the Earth – have a pull I cannot deny. That I don’t want to deny. That I’m not prepared to let go.

SOUND: Observatory background ends

SOUND: Chime – Bookend

                                                            (The episode ends.)


Thank you for listening. This episode featured Tau Zaman as Ashwini Ray, and Cole Burkhardt as Jaxon. The script was written by D.J. Sylvis; Cass McPhee is our audio engineer. Our theme music is “Star” by the band Ramp; our cover art is by Peter Chiykowski.

We’ll be back next week with a bonus episode that continues this conversation, where we’ll learn more about Jaxon’s past and future. Until then, you can find us on social media or visit our Discord server to chat about the show; or leave a rating or review on your podcast app or to help us get other folks looking up at the Moon. Until next time. 

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