Straits are dire for the Girl In Space as she finds herself in alien territory, but as long as she has her wits about her, she can prevail. Hopefully. Featuring new revelations, Q&A with Captain Miles Chen, acute nausea, and the age-old question, "What Would The Velociraptors Do?"
+ TRANSCRIPT & CREDITS
INTRO X: I don’t know why people make excuses by saying, “I’m only human.” There’s no only about it. It’s Girl In Space.
[[SFX: INTRO MUSIC]]
[[SFX: Tape Click]]
X, played back over a tape recorder: I know that part of being human means making mistakes. Making assumptions. Being a lot less strong and clever and beautiful than we’d like to be.
I mean, to be human is to be imperfect. At least by the definition of perfection. Which, interestingly enough, is a human construction. Part of being human means being afraid, even when you know what you’re doing is right.
[[Deep breath]] I made a mistake. I made an assumption. And I was wrong.
I assumed she she wouldn’t do it. I mean, I knew she was capable. But I just… assumed she wouldn’t do it.
So I didn’t take any precautions. I didn’t warn… I didn’t warn you. It’s all… everything is on me. And I don’t know what to --
[[SFX: Door opens, footsteps enter]]
[[SFX: Tape Click]]
[[SFX: Enforcer One Cell]]
X: [[Rattled, barely controlled anger]] Okay. That… did not go well.
Earlier, when I said that I’m not good at talking to people? I may have been… generously optimistic.
At least they’ve given my recorder back to me for now. Though I think someone took it apart and put it back together in a hurry because the analog buttons are all loose and the data tracker was backed up to an entry from more than 5,000 days ago.
Also, the little sunglasses-wearing penguin sticker that said “Chill Out” has been scraped off.
OH. AND ALSO, I’m in prison.
I probably should have led with that.
[[Pause]] You know, in some ways, I think I’ve been waiting my whole life for this. … Not… not to… wind up in prison. But for things to just… end. Abruptly. Inelegantly. And with absolutely zero regard for my own wishes.
I just thought it would happen when I died -- and not before. Not that I’m bitter.
I don’t know. Maybe I should be looking on some kind of bright side. I’m a scientist, and here I am in a new environment with all sorts of new biological entities and possibilities to study. I should be over the moon -- you know. Wherever that is.
But… instead, I’m just hungry, sore, exhausted, and really, really nauseated.
Part of me keeps hoping that I’m going to wake up soon to find that this has all been some kind of hyper-realistic nightmare. You know, like on the beach with the flies. It wouldn’t be beyond Charlotte to conduct some tests on me while I slept.
I mean, I have no proof, conclusive or otherwise, that what I’m experiencing right now is real. I could be hallucinating, or drugged, or unconscious. Or maybe none of it has ever been real. Maybe I’m not even real. I guess I don’t have a whole lot of proof of my own existence, aside from this recorder.
Which might not exist, either.
Sorry. Just a little lighthearted existential musing to keep myself from sailing headfirst into full-fledged panic.
[[Deep breath, heartbeat]] For the first time in my life, I am not aboard the Cavatica.
[[It sinks in]] I’m not aboard the Cavatica.
I am instead aboard one of the 21 ships that came careening into my life from out of nowhere. I’m assuming I’m on the Enforcer One, though we all know what happens when we assume.
I’m locked in a small rectangular metal room without any windows or consoles or lights. There’s just a grated drain in the floor, and a magnetically sealed door with a slidey thing near the top that I can’t open from this side.
Technically, there is one light -- a little green pinprick up in the corner, across from the door. It’s like Charlotte’s visual sensor, on a teeny-tiny scale. I’ve concluded that it’s some sort of recording or monitoring device, though I’m not sure if it’s audio, video, or both. Or neither.
So I’m trying to be careful with what I say. Which is kind of hard, considering that I’ve been audibly recording every thought that comes in my head ever since the day Dad gave me this recorder.
I don’t know why they’re monitoring me or what their plans are for me. [[Deep breath]] But! I am still breathing.
… Just kidding -- I… I really am breathing. I can tell because the smell of this place is… [[wrinkles nose in distaste]] pervasive. Bleach and plastics and isopropyl alcohol and the decay of something organic. At first, I thought it was rising up from the drain in the middle of the floor, but then I realized, no -- the air in this place just smells like rotting garbage.
There’s probably something trapped up in their ventilation system. Like a forgotten sandwich, or maybe the DECAYING CORPSES OF ALL OF THE OTHER SCIENTISTS THEY HAVE ABDUCTED.
Hm. I should probably back up and tell you how I got here.
[[SFX: Ambient sound swell]]
[[Sighs]] I know now that I should have been more careful. I mean, at the time, I thought I was being careful. I thought I had the element of surprise.
But it was kind of like when Robert Muldoon gets mauled by velociraptors -- you’re focused on one perceived threat when another suddenly grabs you from behind and pulls you down from the crates of Caldwell Enterprises synthetic protein where you’ve been lurking, thinking smugly about just how careful you’re being.
Mom would have said, “Pride goeth before a fall,” and shaken her head at me in disappointment.
...Heh. Dad would have just punched their lights out.
[[Reflective pause]] I wish they were here.
Heck. I wish Charlotte were here.
...Anyway, ah, after they grabbed me, they confiscated the paring knife and the wrench that I thought I had so cleverly concealed on my person. They took my recorder, too. I never got the chance to use the weapons, but considering how the whole spying escapade has turned out for me so far, that might be for the best.
The whole thing was... like a dream, and I remember that I questioned the reality of what was happening even then. The unexpected grip of their gloved hands on my arms and legs, the bright lights flashing in my eyes, the curt messages inveigled by static… it was simultaneously sensory overload and fugue state, hyper-realism and unbelievable helplessness.
Did you ever know what it felt like, to be trapped?
Before this, I thought I did.
Uh. Up close, their suits were dark gray, and made of some sort of micro-scaled metallic material, hard but flexible. Kind of like snakeskin.
When I looked up into the face of the largest figure -- the one who had grabbed me and dragged me down from the crates -- I couldn’t see anything but my own reflection, stretched and... cartoonishly surprised, lit weirdly from within my vacuum suit’s hood.
It was like an out-of-body experience. I watched my expression settle as I realized I was staring into my own eyes, as I stared into the curved, reflective eye-panels of the helmet, directionless and impassive as the eyes of a mantis.
The other two figures -- the pair not currently working on the airlock -- flanked us like bodyguards. One was holding what I continued to assume was a ridiculously large gun, and the other -- the fifth one, without the breathing apparatus -- was holding a light.
The central figure flipped a small glowing-red switch on the shoulder of its suit and spoke, demanding to know who I was. Or… who I am. Let’s keep that present-tense. For now. Anyway, its voice was raspy and filtered through the helmet, but I thought I recognized it from the radio as Captain Miles Chen.
It took me a minute to craft the perfect answer -- my plan was to make them as sympathetic to me as possible without revealing any meaningful data. So I said, “My mom used to call me Little Lug-Nut.”
… Turns out, this was not the right thing to say.
And although I know it wasn’t possible, I could have sworn I heard a snort from beneath one of the other figures’ helmets.
Captain Miles Chen just stared at me, and I took advantage of his momentary loss for words to interject a few of my own.
“Look,” I said, trying to appear dignified despite the fact that most of my hair had been jostled out of its ponytail, and was now gluing itself to my face with sweat. “It’s not too late. You can just let me go, turn around, pack up, tell the head honchos there’s nothing to see here, and move along. You and I would go our separate ways. I would forget, figuratively if not literally, that I ever saw you.”
For a second, three pairs of glossy view-panels simply continued to stare at me. My reflection stared back in triplicate.
Then the butt end of one of those enormous guns came rushing toward the clear plastic faceplate of my hood, and everything went all cold and sparkly.
And next thing I knew, I was… here.
[[Momentary pause]] You know, honestly, even though my right cheekbone is all bruised and swollen, I kind of admire their precision. To knock a sentient organism unconscious and have them awaken again within an appropriate (and even, dare I say, dramatic) timeline without incurring permanent damage is quite a feat.
I’m also absurdly glad I was wearing clothes underneath the vacuum suit because when I woke up, it was gone. The vacuum suit, I mean.
Modesty aside, it is freezing in here. Well, not literally freezing. Just uncomfortably cold. I should have asked for a thermal blanket along with my recorder.
… Oh yeah, I should tell you how I got my recorder back.
Basically, one of the figures came to my door a while ago, opened the little slot thingy, and asked for my name again. I couldn’t see them very well because my eyes had adjusted to the darkness, and the light coming in from behind them was so bright. I told them I’d exchange my name for my recorder, and after a second, one of those cheap little datapads came tumbling through the slot, along with a stylus.
I wrote a big “X” on it and sent it back, and then, to my surprise, my recorder came through. I distinctly heard someone say, “Better than Little Lug-Nut.”
So I don’t know if that means they think my name is actually “X,” or if they think I’m illiterate, but I’m just gonna roll with it.
Annnnnd speaking of rolling with it, I need to throw up, so I’m going to stop recording for a while.
[[SFX: Enforcer One Cell]]
X: [[Groggily]] Day… uh… 10,306, probably? Maybe 10,307? Hour unknown.
[[Controlled breathing]] Oh man, do I feel sick. I thought that sleeping would make me feel better, but that is not the case. Bleh. Kind of glad that there’s a drain in the floor.
Or should I say grate-ful?
Nope. That was a pun and I instantly regret it.
Seriously though, when they come back, I’m going to ask if they checked me for a concussion.
[[SFX: Enforcer One, ship sounds]]
If they come back. It’s been a while.
The last time someone came by -- yesterday, or maybe the day before -- they just dumped a bunch of pellet-things and a pouch of liquid through the slat in the door. The liquid was a dead-tasting variation of water, and I think the pellets are supposed to be some kind of food-substitute. I tried to eat one, to keep up my energy, but when it turned into a chalky, rotten paste in my mouth, I threw up again into the drain in the middle of the floor. I drank the water, though. Gotta stay hydrated, at least.
[[SFX: Enforcer One, ship sounds]]
[[Pause]] Huh. You know, it’s just occurred to me that they might be using a technique called [[air quotes]] “solitary confinement” to mentally weaken me. The only thing is, I’m not sure it will work on me? Not that I’m, like, super tough or anything. I’ve just spent most of my life in solitary confinement.
The worst thing about being trapped in here is that I’m cold, and a little bored. But really, you can never be bored if you have problems to solve, and I’ve got a nice healthy dollop of those.
Now, if you really want to mentally break me? Mom told me once about these things called ‘cocktail parties’ where people dare each other to stay the longest in a room packed with hot, sweaty, loud people where you can’t hear yourself think and strangers take turns asking you stupid questions.
Or you could just throw me into a tank with some fish. [[Shudders]] … Hm. In retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have said that aloud. Or recorded it. Even for posterity.
I’m going back to sleep.
[[SFX: Enforcer One Cell]]
X: Day… I don’t know. 10,307... 8... or 9? Hour unknown. It’s weird, how I’ve had a lifetime of interactions with plants and birds and bacteria and even Charlotte, and how during that time none of them have run me through an emotional wringer quite like the brief little interactions I’ve had through the slot in my prison cell’s door with the other human beings.
That’s right -- they are fellow human beings.
Not that that was surprising, really -- I’d calculated less than a one percent chance of them being anything else, especially since they were bipedal, humanoid, and proportionally relative to me.
(They’re taller than I am, and leaner, but that’s not really surprising since Dad was kinda short, and I’m 100% non-GMO.)
Anyway. Something clicked at the door, and the metal rectangle slid open, and there they were -- a slide-mounted sampling of three human faces side by side, taken from eyebrow to bridge of nose. But despite being of similar height, they each looked very different.
From left to right was a pale face with pale eyes, a tan face with black eyes, and a brown face with brown eyes.
It was… the feeling was indescribably and powerfully weird. I felt like I was watching a movie, but with no clue of how it would end -- and yet full control to affect that unknown ending. If that makes sense. I stood up, despite the nausea and headache and intermittent shivers, despite my suddenly-racing heart -- and after an indeterminable amount of time, I moved toward them.
I can’t really explain it -- it wasn’t voluntary. It was like a magnetic pull. Or like I was back in that fugue state. One of my hands may have even reached up, toward the slot. It might have been shaking. As I moved forward, all three figures moved back, I assumed out of caution, and I saw that a fourth figure stood slightly behind them -- again, the same height, but this one was still dressed in the suit from earlier. It was the one whose suit did not have the breathing apparatus.
They didn’t do or say anything -- they just stared at me. And then the slat slammed shut again, and their footsteps faded away.
[[Wryly]] ...You know, this whole time, I’ve been asking myself what Dr. Sattler would do, but… maybe I should be asking what the velociraptors would do.
Penned up in their cage, their lives reduced to waiting, watching, and being watched. Systematically testing the fence for weaknesses. Biding their time. Clever girls.
Maybe if I’m very good --
[[Slight gasp]] Oh -- someone’s coming.
[[SFX: Enforcer One Cell]]
[[SFX: Slat opens. X shifts (hands & feet on metal).]]
X: [[Weakly]] Oh, hi. Glad to see you haven’t forgotten me. [[Gets up, moves toward the door]] Don’t worry -- I’m not going to hurt you.
Thor: [[Chuckles, stage left]]
Cpt Chen: Stay back.
X: You, in the middle. You’re Captain Miles Chen, right?
Cpt Chen: [[Momentarily surprised, but recovers quickly]] Yes. And you are… “X”?
X: ...Yyyyes. Pleased to meet you, as I believe the saying goes. May I go back to my ship now? I think I have a concussion, and I’d like to treat it. Also, it’s very cold in here. And it smells like garbage.
Thor: [[SFX: Snorts, stage left]]
Cpt Chen: [[Shakes his head no.]] Negative. First, we’ll need you to answer some questions.
X: [[Incredulous]] ...Really?! You dock with my ship, force entry onboard, smash my face in, and kidnap me -- and now you need something from me? What makes you think I’m in any kind of mood to do you a favor?
[[SFX: Shifting bootsteps in the corridor]]
Cpt Chen: You’re our prisoner, and you will answer our questions -- under your own volition, or under duress. Your choice.
X: Point of order -- I’m not anyone’s anything. Let me go back to the Cavatica, and I’ll think about answering your questions. [[Brief pause, tone softens]] Please. My work is very important.
Cpt Chen: Let me make one thing very clear: We are the authority out here. We’re where it all starts, and where it all stops. We may not know your name, if you even have one, but we do know that the Cavatica launched just over 30 years ago with two scientists on board -- a Dr. Rousseau and a Dr. Singh.
Since you’re not either of them, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out where you came from -- and in that case, you have no leverage over us. You are in no position to bargain. You have no official identity and no corporateship. You are completely undocumented and, according to all official data banks, you do not exist.
Cpt Chen, cont’d: [[Steps closer to the door, jabs a finger at her]] There is no one in the entire universe outside of this ship who even knows you are here. No one is going to save you, and no one will miss you when you are gone. You are alone.
X: All right, well let me make one thing very clear. You can threaten to kill me or make me disappear or whatever, but that won’t do you any good. You need something from me, and I can’t give it to you if I’m dead. In fact, not helping you will actually increase my lifespan, as there’s no guarantee you won’t kill me once I give you what you need. Your best bet is to keep me alive and cooperative, which means not acting like a jerk.
Chance: [[Stage right]] We can always drug or torture answers out of you.
X: Yeah, that would count as acting like a jerk. [[Turns back to Captain Miles Chen]] And what you need from me isn’t just simple information, is it? It’s my work. It’s me. And you can’t get what you need if I am unable to fully function, physically or mentally.
Cpt Chen: [[Eyes her for a moment.]] Thor. Chance. Dismissed.
[[SFX: Pause, then footsteps stride away in a matching cadence down the hall, disappearing through a hydraulic door at the end of it.]]
Cpt Chen: You too, Kai. ...But first, send an official memo to Ms. Moretti informing her that assets Alpha and Omega have been neutralized, and that Bay Two requires a secondary inspection.
Kai: Roger that. [[Hesitates]] Sir, I observe signs of illness in the captive that need immediate treatment if her work and information are to remain viable.
Cpt Chen: Then please send Dr. Keane down here, too. Dismissed.
[[SFX: Kai’s footsteps stride away down the same hall as Chance and Thor, and disappears through a hydraulic door at the end of the corridor.]]
Cpt Chen: Look. I don’t want to hurt you, “X”. But I have a job to do. You seem like a rational individual. How can we both get what we want?
X: [[Thinks through how she wants this to play out.]] What’s the job you have to do? Be honest with me and I’ll be honest with you.
...Also, I’m going to sit down just for a while so I don’t throw up again.
Cpt Chen: [[Gamely, after a moment]] All right. First: why did you want that recorder back so badly?
X: Scientific research and monitoring. My turn: what’s this job you have to do?
Cpt Chen: My primary objective is to get information out of you -- who you are, how you got onto that ship, the nature of your work there.
X: How did your fleet find the Cavatica?
Cpt Chen: [[Vaguely amused]] Long-range distress beacon, on a priority frequency. Tends to draw attention.
X: [[Mutters]] Stupid button. Okay. Your turn.
Cpt Chen: What is the nature of your work aboard the Cavatica?
X: I’m a researcher. My primary objective, as you would say, is to monitor the radiation levels given off by Ra-1079 and ensure its continued stability. Secondary duties include the care and maintenance of the ecosystem aboard the Cavatica.
Cpt Chen: [[Interested]] My crew found the… garden pod. Is it really powering the rest of the ship?
X: That is two questions in a row. Answer my next one, and then I’ll answer yours.
Cpt Chen: [[Nods]] Fair enough.
X: What’s Earth like?
Cpt Chen: [[Stares at her for a couple beats with a small frown that she doesn’t understand]] I don’t know.
… Now, my question. The garden pod?
X: I rigged up the hydroponic system to the dash core using scavenged analog components. The schematics are back on the Cavatica if you really want to look at them. And the glasshouse isn’t powering the entire ship -- just the three pods that I prioritized when the Cavatica’s engines began to die.
Cpt Chen: Two of the eight… pods are magnetically sealed, and we haven’t been able to access them. What are they?
X: You are very bad at this. It’s my turn to ask a question. What is the nature of your interest in my ship?
[[SFX: Pause, door opening and approaching footsteps down a corridor]]
X: [[Getting up again]] Who’s that?
Cpt Chen: This is Dr. Keane. She’s here to provide you with medical attention. I’ll need you to stand against the opposite wall while we open the door.
X: Hold on a sec. Do you plan to shoot, maim, or kill me, Dr. Keane? Dr Keane: [[Startled, perhaps a little offended]] I’m a doctor.
X: Yeah, that’s not incredibly reassuring.
Dr Keane: ...No.
X: Hmm. All right. The Cavatica’s infirmary is busted, anyway. But no sudden movements. And do not touch me.
Cpt Chen: Please note that I am procedurally obligated to tell you that if you set one foot in the direction of this door when it opens, I’ll shoot. Do you understand?
X: Got it.
[[SFX: The door opens with a reverberating creak, and Captain Miles Chen enters first, followed by Dr. Keane. The doctor rolls a chair-like contraption toward X.]]
X: [[Backs away suspiciously]] What’s that?
Dr Keane: It’s just a wheelchair. Please, have a seat.
Dr Keane: I don’t want you falling apart before we get you to the infirmary.
X: Um. Are those restraints?
Dr Keane: Yes. They’re here to ensure that you don’t run off or hurt us, and that you don’t give anyone on the ship a reason to hurt you. Now sit.
[[SFX: X pauses, eyes Chen’s gun, and then sits. Sound of restraints snapping into place on hands and legs.]]
X: [[Twisting to look back at Chen]] So… you still haven’t answered my question. What’s your interest in my ship?
Cpt Chen: I’ll explain on the way to the infirmary.
X: Okay. Also, could you not point that gun at me?
Cpt Chen: Negative. Standard operating procedure.
[[SFX: Captain Chen and Dr. Keane wheel X out of the cell into the bright white corridor. We hear their bootsteps, the wheels of the wheelchair, and a garbled overhead announcement that echoes in a ghostly fashion.]]
Cpt Chen: Stop here.
[[SFX: He moves closer to X’s chair and points.]]
Cpt Chen: See that?
X: [[Voice fills with wonder; distant as recorder is in lap]] Oh wow. I’ve never… It’s… it’s beautiful. Hold on. I’ve just gotta… for posterity, or whatever. [[Raises recorder]] I’m…
Cpt Chen: ...Have you been recording us this entire time?
X: Quiet, I’m recording. [[Into recorder]] I’m seeing my ship from the outside, for… for the first time. It’s breathtaking. I can see each of the eight crystalline pods, affixed to the center core like the spokes on this wheeled chair I’m sitting in. Three of the pods are glowing softly, pulsing orange against the black canvas of space. To one side is Ra, tidally locked to the research vessel and throwing off arcs of liquid orange flame. He is just… completely reveling in his existence.
[[SFX: Sets down recorder in lap]] Of singular design indeed. Wow.
Cpt Chen: [[Sighs]] That’s… that’s not what I was pointing to. Look there. Read it to me.
X: What…? “Caldwell Enterprises - We Invent The Future.” [[Looks back at him]] So… they manufactured the Cavatica. I don’t understand why that’s…
[[SFX: low rumbling]]
Cpt Chen: [[Not unkindly]] That’s us. We’re Caldwell Enterprises. And the Cavatica is not your ship. … It’s ours.
[[SFX: OUTRO MUSIC]]
X: Sarah Rhea Werner
Cpt. Miles Chen: Lincoln Donovan
Chance: George Telonis
Thor: Sarah Rhea Werner
Dr. Keane: Stacy Thomas
Written by: Sarah Rhea Werner
Directed by: Jon Krause
Produced and Edited by: Sarah Rhea Werner
Music & Sound Effects:
- "Undercover Vampire Policeman" by Chris Zabriskie is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license. Source: http://chriszabriskie.com/uvp/ Artist: http://chriszabriskie.com/.
- "Bass Atmosphere - Deep Rumble" by Thalamus Lab is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution.
- "Dark Ambience" by PatrickLieberkind is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution.
Thanks for listening!