Season 1, Episode 2: Together We Create Authority

As a mysterious entity and/or certain doom draws closer to the Cavatica, our heroine prepares for the worst (but also for the best, which would tentatively be kittens). Charlotte continues to malfunction as the Girl In Space contemplates life, death, freaky dreams, and whether cheese can age in a vacuum.




X: A poet once said that wherever there is a person who exercises authority, there is a person who resists it.

...Which person will you choose to be?

It’s Girl In Space.



X, voice played back over a tape recorder:

Dream log, Day 9,651, Hour 0221.

So… [[sleepy breath, stifled yawn]] First things first. I know I used to make fun of you for keeping a dream log, but I keep having the same dream over and over, and I’m not dense or close-minded enough to dismiss the possibility that it could mean something.

Not that I think I’m having prophetic visions or portents or whatever -- just saying my brain might be picking apart some tangle of memories that could be important.

[[Sounds defeated]] ...You’re probably loving this. Wherever you are. Anyway, the dream is about Mom. [[SFX: Waves on a shore, gradually]] She and I are standing in a place I’ve never been before -- a place I can’t… um.

[[SFX: bed rustling]] I think that’s how I knew, in the dream, that I was dreaming. It was bizarrely real otherwise. I even feel like I have saltwater drying in my hair, but obviously that’s just the sweat.

Anyway. In the dream, Mom and I are standing on the shore of what must be an ocean on Earth. The ocean is sort of like space, but flat and textured and not inherently dark. And like space, it’s beautiful and calming and terrifying all at once.

The edge of the ocean is laced with foam and laps up against our toes, as in the distance a massive drone rises up into the sky and begins to move swiftly toward us, its spotlight this awful sweeping glare.

Mom whispers, They’ve finally come for us, but somehow I know she isn’t talking to me. I remember looking around for you, but behind me there is only a metal door, standing like a sentinel in the sand. When I turn back to look at her, she is no longer there.

With a sudden surge of terror I scan the horizon and see her, lying further down the beach as though she’s fallen from one of the cliffs above. I begin to run toward her, in that stupid gainless, lurchy way you run in dreams, with every step sinking in sand up to my ankles.

I don’t take my eyes off of her as I run, and I watch as a wave breaches the shore and washes away my mother’s skin, the delicate white lace turning pink with her blood. Another wave comes and sweeps away her muscles and organs, and then a third her bones.

And then there is nothing left to indicate she had ever existed at all, except for a shadow -- a shallow indentation in the sand that is filling from beneath with large black flies, stumbling over each other in an increasingly irate chorus of buzzing. I finally reach this resting-place, just as the flies rise up all at once and begin to cover my hands, arms, and face in a stinging, stinking black cloud.

I swat them away, each impact a hard prickle on my hands -- and then a cold rush of wind blows them away and the drone is there, its spotlight burning through my eyelids into the core of my brain.

Let yourself be found, it says, in a dead metallic echo.

[[SFX: Brief pause, bed rustle.]]

I woke up saying those words -- let yourself be found -- and I… I almost couldn’t stop.

And that’s when I saw Charlotte hovering over me, making a soft digital shushing sound. I have no idea how long she was there.

Charlotte never sleeps.

[[SFX: Tape Click]]


[[SFX: Galley -- slightly echo-y, lots of hard surfaces]]

X: [Deep breath, sounds rattled] Okay. So. Day 10,304, hour 0553... Radiation levels normal, blah blah blah, all of that good stuff. The thing moving toward us -- it's not a meteor or an asteroid or an event or an anomaly or a ship or any of those other things I said it might be.

Dad. It's an entire fleet.

I realize that precision is important in documentation, and that “fleet” may not be the proper term in this case, but I’ve never encountered another single ship in my life, let alone a whole bunch of them all at once, so I hope you’ll grant me a bit of leniency.

I counted 18 of them -- a giant vessel nearly the size of the Cavatica, a large-ish ship with lots of glowing blue protrusions sticking out of it, and 16 little ships that might fit one or two people, max.

Then Charlotte pointed out three spindly objects I hadn’t noticed near the back of the formation -- maybe satellites of some sort? She then estimated that they would be here in three hours and whirred away on her hydraulic arm.

I haven’t seen her since, mostly because I’m still here, staring. The ships are coming slowly, steadily closer, and I cannot look away.

I feel… numb, in a way, like my heart has stopped or my skin has thickened -- like this isn’t really happening, or that if it is, my body is trying to distance me from it. I had that dream about Mom again last night -- the one with the ocean and the flies -- and that felt more real than this does.

Is it a bad sign when your dreams feel more like real life than real life does?

Is it a bad sign when 21 mysterious ships suddenly bear down on your helpless, dead-in-the-water research vessel?

I’d say yes, and yes.

[[SFX: Shifts, sets down mug, rises from chair]]

Okay. I have three hours before they’re here. I don’t know where Charlotte went -- probably to prepare. Whatever that means for her. I made a list last night of things to do if the light turned out to be a ship, but… well. Now that I know there are 21 of them, these measures feel… futile.

Not to get all hopeless and dreary. It would be stupid to give up and not prepare at all.

[[Snaps out of it; deep breath]] Okay. [[Claps hands together, rubs them briskly]] Action. Gotta take action. So.

I can’t stop the ships from coming toward us, and I can’t train any weapons on them because a.) the Cavatica is dead, and b.) the Cavatica doesn’t have any weapons, being a giant bloated research vessel whose purpose is to study and understand the scientific wonders of space, not blow them up.

Now, things I can do include watching, waiting, practicing sealing off various pods, and attempting to make some improvised explosive devices.

… That… that last part was a joke. I have no idea how to make bombs. Though if you need someone to analyze soil acidity, graft plum tree branches, or perform a flawless recitation of John Donne’s “A Lecture Upon The Shadow”, I’m your girl.

Not to say I’m helpless. I’m not.

None of us ever are.

I’ve seen “Jurassic Park” enough times to know that I should be able to sprint, climb, and hide in response to enemy provocation.

I’m not skinny like Dr. Sattler, but I’m pretty sure I can run faster than her.

And hey! Maybe the ships aren’t even a threat. Maybe they’re full of fellow scientists or explorers, human or non-human, organic or A.I., thinking, sensing, feeling things, bodies with flesh and muscle and bone and metal and wires and thoughts and dreams.

Maybe they’re hoping to share an exciting new discovery with me, or deliver a shipment of chocolate and kittens.

… Or… maybe they’re just space pirates who want to slit my throat and wear my skin as a suit.

[[Rueful pursing of lips, vaguely horrified]] I’m… I’d better get to work.

Scene 2

[[SFX: Galley]]

X: Okay. Just about an hour left until fleet arrival. The ships have come closer than I thought possible, and they’ve still got a long way to go.

At this point, I think I’m as prepared as I can be, given the circumstances. I practiced permanently and semi-permanently sealing off the glasshouse from the rest of the ship like a survival bunker. I made sure all of my lab equipment is in there, along with my tools, a couple thermal blankets, and a variety of knives I snagged from the galley that probably won’t do much good against anything, but hey, it made me feel better.

Admittedly, if anything were to happen to the Cavatica as a whole, there’s no way to detach the glasshouse, and nothing in here, including me, could survive any closer to or farther from our present distance from Ra.

Still, I dragged the vacuum suits out of the dash core storage just in case. Turns out one of them is pretty badly corroded, but the other one might be okay.

Ironically (or maybe just unfortunately), I won’t be able to test it until I’m wearing it in an actual vacuum. I realize I could probably dunk it into the hydroponic tanks and see if bubbles rise up or anything, but I don’t think I could handle getting close to the fish right now.

Oh man. And what if one of them slipped into the suit and later I had to wear it AND THERE WAS A FISH IN THERE.

So instead I’ll go with trial by fire or… you know, frigid vacuum. Or whatever space technically is. I’m not sure something can technically even be cold, since cold is the absence of warmth, just like darkness is the absence of light.

Can something be wholly defined by negative attributes?

...I’m sure there’s a joke to be made there about Charlotte, but I’m too frazzled to think of it right now.

Oh. Speaking of Charlotte, I finally tracked her down in one of the halls leading out of the dash core toward the five nonfunctional pods. After reciting the majority of the Caldwell Enterprises Emergency Evacuation Procedure Manual Version 6.4, she confirmed that both of the escape pods are dead.

Though she did assure me that even if they were functional, a single moderately-armed ship would have little trouble blowing them to smithereens, let alone an entire fleet. Comforting.

I asked her (rhetorically) if there was a third option, if neither fight nor flight was feasible. She told me that in case of an emergency, I am to proceed calmly to the communications pod and take cover under the main table in Conference Room B, hug my knees, tuck my chin to my chest, and wait for the appropriate personnel to retrieve me.

I told her I’d be happy to do that if a.) the communications pod weren’t completely locked down, b.) we had any personnel, and c.) I were pathetic -- but she just pretended not to hear me again and whirred huffily away.

She’s been gone a long time. I’d go off in search of her, but I don’t think I could stand any more recitations from the Caldwell Enterprises Emergency Evacuation Procedure Manual Version 6.4.

[[Relents]] ...Of course, I appreciate what she’s trying to do. But I learned a long time ago that not everything can be solved by the book. Every once in awhile, circumstances arise that even the brilliant minds at Caldwell Enterprises couldn’t have predicted.

[[Blows air]] If I was a quippy kind of person, I would say that the worst part of waiting is the waiting. But I’m not quippy, so I’ll just say that I hate waiting. And I hate feeling helpless.

I suppose there’s always work to be done. I haven’t been nearly as attentive to the… what should I call my little group of potato-destroying insects? A horde? A gaggle? A swarm? A fleet?

Whatever they are, they’ve devoured every scrap of potato plant in their terrarium, and now they’re wandering aimlessly all over the glass walls, waving their antennae like madmen flailing their arms.

I don’t want to encourage them to continue destroying my food supply, but I don’t want them to starve, either... Maybe I can train them to eat something like algae or kudzu.

Or turnips.

Scene 3

[[SFX: Glasshouse]]

X: So… I thought of something while I was feeding the mysterious insects that I potentially should not be feeding...

That button of Mom’s I pushed? Maybe it somehow signaled or summoned the fleet.

I immediately retrieved it and took it back apart in the hopes that the signal would go dark and the approaching fleet would lose sight of us. Charlotte: Improbable. Ra is very hard to miss.

X: ...Thank you, Charlotte. How long until fleet arrival?

Charlotte: Approximately 25 minutes, 17 seconds.

X: Hmm. Could you run a report of our strategic options?

Charlotte: Aural receptors malfunctioning.

X: What? ...Are they really malfunctioning, or do you just not want to run the report?

Charlotte: Aural receptors malfunctioning.

[[SFX: Hydraulic whirring]]

X: Charlotte?...

[[SFX: Hydraulic whirring continues, getting farther away]]

X: Huh. Awesome. My only companion in the entire universe just left me here to face down 21 ships alone.

[[Thoughtfully]] Honestly, I’m not sure which is worse -- that she’s gone from being independently willed to actively hostile, or that she could potentially be genuinely malfunctioning.

This is not the ideal time for either.

Good thing I have a questionably viable vacuum suit and this paring knife from the galley.

[[Headdesk, muffled voice]] Oh my gosh. I am going to die and some freaky dude is going to wear my skin as a suit.

[[SFX: Focus on glasshouse sounds]]

X: You know, it really is pretty in here. I should say that on the record. Just in case this is the last time I see it.

And for posterity or whatever.

It’s easy to take it for granted sometimes, but the Cavatica is “of singular design”. Well, that’s what Mom used to say. I just say it’s beautiful.

The whole pod is built from delicate metal arcs and crystal panes, though over time the silver has turned to a motley of rust red, orange, and gold, and many of the crystal panes are stained green from the inside by a soft crush of lichens, mosses, and microscopic plants. The warm orange light of Ra pulses through it all like a heartbeat, and the roses and lemons and orchids make the air smell like a sweet living breath.

The aqueducts are lined with mossy stones and waterplants, veined over here and there with roots, and it’s all quite lovely and soothing despite the creepy little fish gawking up at me from beneath the lily pads.

The aviaries are covered in vines and filled with delicate jewel-toned birds, and the paths to the terrariums lead over roots and under green tunnels of shadow and mystery.

There’s even a swing, hanging from the maple tree at the center of it all, cobbled together from a flat bulkhead panel and an excess of electrical cording.

I’m sitting on it now, [[SFX: creaking swing]], looking over at the maple tree, which has a placard nearby that reads: Honorem Lutum Sanguine.

I asked you, when I was really little and asking questions nonstop, what that meant, and you said you’d tell me one day, when I was ready. I like to think you were planning on telling me right before you left, and you just never got the chance.

I know enough Latin to figure out that it has something to do with honor and soil and blood, but I still don’t know what it means. What it meant to you.

Maybe that’s just one of life’s little frustrations -- we can never learn it all, and the more we learn, the more we realize everything we won’t have time to learn.

When you left… [[brief pause]] Before you died, I don’t know if you got to understand everything you wanted to. Or appreciate everything. I think it was probably more of a shock, and then nothing.

At least I have 20 minutes, a vacuum suit, and a welding torch. At least I can --

[[SFX: Blaring alarm]]

X: ...What now? [[Gets up off of swing]] Charlotte?!

Scene 4

[[SFX: Dash Core]]

[[SFX: Blaring alarm stops]]

Charlotte: They are calling on us.

X: Yeah, thanks -- I can see that. Though I think 21 ships in what appears to be some sort of strategic formation merits stronger and less anachronistic language than “calling on us.”

Charlotte: You misunderstand. They are hailing us via radio.

X: What? How? Our radio doesn’t work. It never has.

Charlotte: I fixed it.

X: Oh. Is that why you left earlier?

Charlotte: Yes.

X: Thank you, I guess?

[[SFX: Background noise]]

Charlotte: ...They are hailing us via radio.

X: OH. I need to answer it. [[Pause]] Hey, don’t look at me like that. A minute ago, I didn’t even know we had a working radio. Let’s see…

[[SFX: Clicking buttons, static]]

X: Ooh! I think it’s working. [[Speaks into transmitter]] Yes! Hello?

E1 Comms: [[Scratchy-sounding feedback with disruption]]

X: ...Yeah, I have no idea what you’re saying.

[[SFX: Intermittent bursts of static, weirdly musical whistles and hums]]

X: [[Whispers]] Charlotte, what do I do?

Charlotte: Please proceed swiftly and calmly to the communications pod and take cover under the main table in Conference Room B. Once there, hug your knees, tuck your chin to your chest, and wait for the appropriate personnel to retrieve you.

X: [[Mutters under Charlotte’s instructions]] Oh my gosh.

E1 Comms: [[Scratchy-sounding feedback with disruption, interrupts Charlotte, then clears]] Cavatica, this is Enforcer One. Please ready your docking bay and prepare to be boarded.

X: [[Presses button]] Oh. Um. Enforcer One, this is Cavatica. No… thank you? [[Winces]] I mean, we politely decline?

E1 Comms: [[Slight pause]] Cavatica, this is Enforcer One. That was an order, not a request. Prepare docking bay for immediate boarding.

X: [[Presses button]] Ah. Okay. Well, we seem to be at odds here. Why are you under the impression that you need to board?

E1 Comms: [[Miffed]] ...Who is this? Who is your commanding officer?

X: [[Presses button]] I don’t think I have one. Or maybe that means it’s me? Why, who’s your commanding officer?

[[Brief pause]]

Cpt. Miles Chen: Cavatica. This is Captain Miles Chen of Enforcer One. Stand down and prepare to be boarded. If you do not comply, we will not hesitate to use lethal force.

X: Ahhhh crap. [[Presses button]] Can’t blame me for not wanting something called “THE ENFORCER” having anything to do with my ship, right? Hold on a sec. [[Turns]] Charlotte, do you think they’re bluffing?

Charlotte: Aural receptors malfunctioning.

X: Seriously? Just... ugh. Just go to the galley and tell me what you see. Okay?

Charlotte: If you insist.

[[SFX: Whirring hydraulics]]

Charlotte: [[Distant]] The second-largest ship has extended a number of its protrusions, all of which are emitting light and rotating toward the Cavatica. The 16 fighters are doing the same.

X: Okay. That must be Enforcer One and the physical manifestations of said lethal force. What else do you see?

Charlotte: [[Distant]] The largest ship is a carrier called the Ares. Enforcer One is a Luhai-Class Destroyer, Registration number 0-alpha-451564-delta-3519…

X: No! Stuff that’s, like, actually helpful! Like --

Cpt. Miles Chen: Cavatica, this is your final warning. We are preparing to fire.

X: [[Scuttles back to radio, presses button]] Wait, wait, wait! This is a research vessel, which means that we’re unarmed. Isn’t threatening to shoot us, like, incredibly unsporting of you? Against your… code of decency, or whatever?

Cpt. Miles Chen: [Miffed] ...Who is this?

X: [[Presses button]] Uhh, the sole survivor of a breakout of a very rare and dangerous disease. I have a genetic immunity, but if any of you come aboard, you’ll probably all die immediately. Painfully. Screaming. In pain.

Cpt. Miles Chen: Our scanners have picked up no such anomalies.

X: This guy sucks. [[Presses button]] Fine! Have it your way. But don’t come crying to me when your crew gets the… screaming… space madness.

Cpt. Miles Chen: What --

X: [[Presses button; frustrated]] Ugh, look, I’m surrendering, okay? We’re unarmed, and we can’t move or fight back, so you’ve got us. Don’t shoot.

Also, the docking bay -- and everything else on that side of the ship, for that matter -- is dead. So if it appears that we’re not complying, it’s because we can’t. You’ll just have to get creative with your boarding processes.

Oh, and the airlocks don’t work, either, so watch out for that.

[[SFX: Static]]

[[Brief pause]]

E1 Comms: Standby for boarding via remote connector.

[[SFX: Static]]

X: [[Presses button]] Oh, wait, just real quick -- what are your intentions? Why do you… Okay. I guess they hung up on me. Hey, Charlotte, could you -- ?

Charlotte: [[Distant]] Aural receptors malfunctioning.

X: Not a good time for that. [[Turns back to mic, blows out exasperated breath.]] Ugh. I feel like that could have gone way better. I’m not good at talking to people. Or lying, apparently. Could I have said something differently, maybe? Something that would have made them turn around and leave?

Charlotte: [[Distant]] Likely not.

X: Hey, I thought your aural receptors were… never mind. Well. If we’re going to have visitors, I guess I should go get prettied up.

Scene 5

[[SFX: Inside vacuum suit, sounds grainy & enclosed]]

X: So, turns out a “remote connector” is 100% exactly what it sounds like -- a silicon hallway that snakes out of Enforcer One’s hangar bay and seals up against the Cavatica’s airlock. It’s semi-translucent-ish and lit from within, though I can’t see any activity going on inside.

If my voice sounds all mangled, it’s because I decided to put on that second vacuum suit, just in case. It’s weird -- mostly because I haven’t worn shoes in a couple thousand days and I’m not used to having anything on my feet. I feel like I’m going to go sprawling with every step I take. Also, my vision is super limited by the suit’s view-panel, and back in the atmo of the ship I sounded like a walking garbage bag.

At least here on the other side, I’m nice and silent.

That’s right -- I’m on the “other side”, a.k.a. the majority section of the Cavatica that isn’t supported by my jury-rigged life support system. The five pods that didn’t make the cut. I haven’t been over here since… well. Since everything started to fall apart.

Currently, I’m in the core hallway between the defunct cockpit and communications pods, crouched on top of one of those ceiling-high stacks of Caldwell Enterprises synthetic protein. Luckily, the ceiling here transitions into a big dark grid of pipes and beams about halfway up, so I think I’m pretty well hidden from anyone who might make their way aboard. For now.

I have a pretty decent view from here, too -- I can see the auxiliary airlock where the remote connector thingy has attached, and the docking mandibles are visible through one of the tempered-crystal viewports.

Now, wait a minute, I can hear you thinking. I thought you were going to permanently or semi-permanently seal yourself into the glasshouse pod.

You are not wrong. I just really hate waiting, and the longer I sat there, the more the glasshouse seemed like the obvious place for them to capture me. I felt like the cheese at the center of the rat maze. At least out here I might have some sort of element of surprise.

...Depending on what their scanners are able to detect.

...Yeah, I have no idea what I’m doing. T-rexes and velociraptors I could handle, but “Jurassic Park” did not prepare me for a heavily weaponized fleet of ships or its abundantly humorless crew.

(Though if there are any dinosaurs aboard the Enforcer One, I am totally going to flee from them like a pro.)

Oh! Though -- small victory: I’m still breathing, which means that the vacuum suit I’m wearing works. Yay!

[[SFX: Silence & breathing]]

I am trying crouch up here all motionless, but my many, many days as a researcher haven’t exactly imbued me with athletic prowess. I’m actually kind of starting to hope they get through the broken airlock door soon, just to get it over with. My legs are on fire (not literally) and I just realized I forgot to refrigerate the remainder of the cheese.

[[SFX: Silence & breathing]]

Would cheese age in a vacuum?

[[SFX: Silence & breathing]]

I wonder where Charlotte is.

[[SFX: Silence & breathing]]

Did I accidentally seal her up in the glasshouse?

[[SFX: Silence & breathing]]

...Hokay. This is kind of awkward. Nothing’s happening. Every once in a while the metal door, like, budges slightly, but I must have done a better job welding it shut than I thought. I’ll start recording again if anything significant happens -- otherwise, this is just going to be a whole lot of me breathing.

Which -- again, I want to stress that I am super happy about.

Scene 6

[[SFX: Inside vacuum suit, sounds grainy & enclosed]]

X: So… Here’s something kind of weird. I’ve been staring through the viewport at the Enforcer One for the longest time, and I only just now noticed the viewport itself. The crystal has aged, or become covered with grime over the thousands of days since these pods have been active, and… well. There are words written there. A message.

It’s in all caps and it looks like it was written in the grime with someone’s fingertip. It says “FIND ME.” But backwards, as though written for someone outside of the Cavatica.

I don’t know what --


Oh! [[Whispering]] They’re through.

...Though I don’t know why I’m whispering. You know. With the vacuum and all.

There are… three… four… five of them, all bipedal humanoids, all dressed or… encapsulated, I guess, in hard black suits with stiff joints and big insectoid helmets.

All of them… no, four of the five have square tanks built onto the backs of their suits with thick corrugated tubing feeding into the helmet. The fifth, which is bringing up the rear, has no such apparatus.

Two of the figures are carrying portable lighting devices, and two are carrying what I’m just going to assume are ridiculously large guns.

(Yes, I know what happens when you assume, but at this point I think a little caution will serve me well.)

The one without the helmet tubes has a small glowing datapad in its left hand. Age, gender, and even species at this point are indeterminable.

[[SFX: Heartbeat, gradual]]

Oh my gosh. There are other living being aboard the Cavatica. I… I think I might --

Okay, they’re… they’ve split up into two groups, with one light and one gun carrier stationed at the entry point to secure an airlock seal, and the other three scouting up the hallway. Thankfully, they’ve gone toward the galley, in the opposite direction of my protein crates, and they haven’t spotted me yet.

I keep wondering if I should, like, jump down and introduce myself or stab them with my paring knife or something, but then I remind myself that now is the time for waiting and observing.

At least it’s interesting. And by interesting, I mean terrifying. What if these are the last few moments of my life?

[[Brief pause]]

Huh. Apparently, my brain wants to spend the last few moments of my life thinking about cheese.

[[SFX: Footsteps on clanking metal]]

Oh. They must be pumping in some kind of atmo through the remote connector, because now I can hear their footsteps.

Gosh. I really hope they breathe oxygen.

The two I can see appear to be communicating with each other -- every once in awhile they’ll bob their heads or gesture with their hands. They must have internal communicators set to a local frequency.

I wish I knew where the other three had --

[[SFX: Loud clunk, abrupt static, vague echoes…]]

Scene 7

[[SFX: Slight echo, ominous hum]]

X: [[Harried, on the verge of panic]] 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 me back my recorder. [[Frowns]] 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 like 5,000 days ago.

Also, my 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.




X: Sarah Rhea Werner

Charlotte: Kay Krause

E1 Comms Officer: Jon Krause

Cpt. Miles Chen: Lincoln Donovan

Written by: Sarah Rhea Werner

Directed by: Jon Krause, Sarah Rhea Werner

Produced and Edited by: Sarah Rhea Werner

Music & Sound Effects:

Thanks for listening!