• Procyon Podcast Network

Starship Iris 1. Violet Liu

Written by Jessica Best


AGENT

The Strange Case of Starship Iris. Report One: Violet Liu


Transmission one, begin.


FX (A crackle of weird static transitions us into the strains of some very urgent-sounding warning sirens.)


VIOLET

(Talking to herself) Okay. It’s okay. Deep breaths.


(She sounds shaken and terrified. It’s not okay, and she knows it.)


Stay calm, Vi. Stay—oh Jesus, that’s a lot of smoke.


FX

(Running footsteps in an echo-y room. The click and buzz of Violet activating a comm system on a computer terminal.)


VIOLET

Violet Liu to Scout-1, uh, guys, do you copy!


(silence)


Well, Violet, you just watched their shuttle explode, so. PROBABLY NOT. (Deep breaths.)


(The sirens continue)


Really, Vi? Panic? Floating alone in the void, and the thing you reach for is panic? (Breathes in, breathes out.) Grow the hell up. Okay, one step at a time. Uh. How hard can it really be to work this thing. Connors did it every day and he’s objectively—Well. He’s dead. So how smart can he be?


FX

(Sound of switches flicking)


VIOLET

Hello, hello? This is the Starship Iris, ID 45-Alpha-76-52-Tango, mission priority 7, under the command of Captain Tom Jasper, sector 284-325, requesting aid. We had—we had a catastrophic shuttle failure as the rest of the crew was returning from their final scouting trip on planet uh, 5925, cause unknown, and—um.


(A pause. It hasn’t been real to her until now.) I’m the only survivor. Requesting aid. Nine of ten target samples were collected. If at all possible—



A GRATUITOUSLY PLEASANT FEMALE VOICE

Hello.


VIOLET

Oh thank god, this is the Ir—


VOICE

If you can hear this message, something has gone wrong—


VIOLET

No. Nononono.


VOICE

—with your network connectivity.


VIOLET

SERIOUSLY?


VOICE

Please reboot your system and try again.


FX

(The sound of more switches flicking.)


VIOLET

(To herself) The surge must’ve knocked out the—


VOICE

Hello. If you can hear—


VIOLET

How do I turn this off, for the love of—


VOICE

—this message, something has gone wrong—


VIOLET

Yeah, thanks, robot voice! Thanks for the UPDATE!


VOICE

with your network connectivity. Please reboot your system—


VIOLET

Come on, come on, shut up.


(A slight pause. Violet takes a deep breath)


VOICE (With precisely the same tone and inflection as before.)

Hola. Si puede escuchar este mensaje--


VIOLET

…better. (The next few lines are spoken over the recording)


VOICE

--algo esta mal con su conexión a la red. Por favor reinicie el sistema y vuelva a intentarlo. (The message continues to repeat)


VIOLET

…Marginally better. Okay, so all I need to do now…is reboot the system. Uh.


(Switches, keys clacking under the duration of this speech as Violet frantically tries to fix the computer.)


Shit.


(The voice ceases.)


Yes!


Did that—no. Of course not.


‘Hey, young Violet, I see you’re a freshman in college, have you considered maybe, I don’t know, using your elective credits to spend thirty goddamn seconds studying anything about a ship’s internal systems?’


‘Oh hi, older Violet, you know I did think about it—‘


FX

(sound of Violet very lightly electrocuting herself)


VIOLET

Shit!


‘—I thought about it, but there’s this really cute girl taking Early Pre-Crisis Folklore, so. You understand.’


‘Yeah, great, young Violet. Now there is a choice that is definitely gonna serve you well, hovering in the middle of a vast black waste too empty to even howl. Great. Also, just so you know, turns out she’s only into blonds, and she drops out second semester to join a cult, so just. A-plus choices, all around.’


Shit. What are the odds I wind up fixing this by accident. God, what is the fuel level even—


(A pause.)


“Three percent remaining.”


(Grim) Three.


(A pause.)


This is it, Vi. This is how you die.


GRATUITOUSLY PLEASANT FEMALE VOICE

Hello. If you can hear this message—


VIOLET

COME ON.


VOICE

(The recording continues, the next few lines are spoken over it) something has gone wrong with your network connectivity. Please reboot your system and try again. Hello. If you can


KAY

Hello?


FX

(The sound of Violet hitting the console hard with her fist. The recording stops.)


VIOLET

OH MY GOD, ROBOT VOICE, NOW IS NOT THE—


KAY

Uh, living breathing human being here.


VIOLET

What?


KAY

Hi. My crew detected an energy flare on the outer edge of our scanners. Thought I’d give back-up frequencies a shot, sweep the area. We’ve been trying to ping you on the network, but we haven’t—


VIOLET

(ugly laugh)


KAY

(understanding, commiserating) Surge knocked you out?


VIOLET

That’s my theory, yeah.


KAY

What was that thing?


VIOLET

That was our short range shuttle-slash escape pod. Exploding.


KAY

Shit. You guys okay out there?


VIOLET

...we lost everyone but me.


KAY

Oh my god, I’m so sorry. Oh my god, are you—


VIOLET

Ship name and ident number.


KAY

What?


VIOLET

Who are you?


KAY

Sorry, sorry, I just—wasn’t expecting to find anything else out here. The Philadelphia, ID 37-Echo-81-32-Victor, priority 3, under the command of Captain K. Grisham. That’s me.


VIOLET

Violet Liu. Of The Starship Iris. 45-Alpha-76-52-Tango, mission priority 7. I’m a biologist, I was only here to oversee the samples.


KAY

Okay, Science Officer Liu, I’m guessing you’re very freaked out right now, but if you stay on the line, I can talk you through getting your system running again and—


VIOLET

(grimly) It’s okay.


KAY

What?


VIOLET

(The earlier, panicky ranting has given way to something closer to numb resignation) There’s no need. We were carrying our reserve fuel externally, and I think a piece of debris from the blast must’ve—cracked one of the tanks, I mean I guess I should be grateful the ship didn’t explode, too. But we’re down to three percent. And even I know. That’s enough to get back to the station in—eight days, maybe, if we burn careful? Or it’s enough to keep things in here livable for—god, six days, something like that. But not both.


KAY

Are you sure.


VIOLET

It’s a big ship. Airy. Jasper hates it, calls it a waste of— (remembers Jasper is dead.) Um.


KAY

If you could just, if you still had that escape shuttle—


VIOLET

Yeah, believe me, the irony’s not lost.


KAY

Well, listen, what are your coordinates? Maybe I could convince the crew to—


VIOLET

I was at the edge of your scanners, right? That’s at least a ten-day round trip for you. Missions running as tight as they are since last outbreak, no way do you have the fuel or the time.


KAY

Yeah. But I can send a signal to the network—


VIOLET

Anybody close enough to help would’ve picked up on the surge already. They’d look into it like you did, they’d figure out somebody was out here.


(Pause. Kay says nothing.)


It’s, we’ve reached the point, you know? All hope is false hope. If there’s anything I’m owed now, it’s the truth. Have you picked up on anyone coming to my rescue?


KAY

(heavily) No.


VIOLET

It’s okay. It’s not—there’s nothing you can do.


KAY

Uh, are you comforting me right now?


VIOLET

(Flippant) Look, I’m gone in six, seven days, no matter what. (A little less flippant) You’ve got decades ahead of you, and this has gotta be pretty unnerving for your first mission.


KAY

How’d you know this was my first—uh, besides all the obvious—I’m pretty green, huh?


VIOLET

You are very green, Captain. Very, very, very—


KAY

Hey now—


VIOLET

No, it’s—everyone has to begin somewhere. (Pause) Actually, if I could ask you for a favor. It’s stupid, but. (She hesitates. Oh, how she doesn’t want to ask for this.) Can you keep talking? Until the signal goes or—I mean, for as long as you can, I know you must have other duties, but—


KAY

Okay, Liu, how—wait, never mind, don’t waste your last breath defending such an idiotic—uh, yes. I mean, yes, I’ll talk for as long as I can, which—experience has proven, is quite a long time. …What do you want me to talk about?


VIOLET

Anything. (Considers this.) Well, maybe not sports.


KAY

God, give me a tick to think, feels a little petty to—complain about the food in the mess hall, anything that trivial is—


VIOLET

Honestly, I. I would love trivial right now.


KAY

Okay, um. Huh. Okay, as long as we’re getting trivial. What year did you graduate undergrad?


VIOLET

Um. ’85?


KAY

Class of ’85? (Pause) So this is a shot in the dark to end all shots in the dark but did you, in ’81, attend Intro Bio at Harmony College with Professor Michaelis?


VIOLET

…what?


KAY

Liu, L-I-U. Violet Liu. Are you, like, five feet tall, septum piercing, this haircut where the top is all—


VIOLET

(reflexively embarrassed, without even thinking): Oh my god, that haircut, wow—


KAY

Well, I thought it was very cool. (Pause)


Uh, hi. Kay Grisham, I sat in your row. Hi.


VIOLET

Oh my god. Kay… (Trying to place her. Can’t.)


KAY

No, it’s alright, you don’t remember me. I wasn’t very—memorable, back then. Anyway, I’m pretty sure we never spoke.


VIOLET

Then—how do you remember—


KAY

Well. (With an air of “I had such a crush on you”) It was a VERY cool haircut.


VIOLET

(laughing, a little loopy. She has been very far from home, for a very long time.) Oh god.


KAY

Yeah. Yeahhh.


VIOLET

I don’t have that haircut anymore, just so you know—


KAY

Well, just so you know, Violet Liu, I am crying a little inside.


VIOLET

Professor Michaelis, god, that takes me back. D’you remember how he—


KAY

How could I forget?


VIOLET

That toupee!


KAY

Telling you, I still see it when I close my eyes sometimes.


VIOLET

Did you ever think maybe he did it on purpose? He knew his lecturing wasn’t going to hold our attention on its own, so—


KAY

‘Hey, my eyes are down here!’


VIOLET

Harmony College.


KAY

Good old Harmony College.


VIOLET

I was just thinking about HC, uh this Folklore class I took freshman year. God, what are the chances?


KAY

(Slowly) Maybe it’s not chance.


VIOLET

Okay, the fate talk, I can’t follow you there.


KAY

You don’t believe in some higher order?


VIOLET

I believe in the human hunger for a comforting narrative. I believe that it’s only natural people would invent fairy tales when life gets heavier than they can deal with—


KAY

…and you’re seriously not there yet? (pause) Sorry, that was—that wasn’t funny at all—


VIOLET

No, hey. And who knows, check back when the oxygen starvation’s really kicking in, maybe I’ll be singing the praises of the whole Greek pantheon, from Zeus to Hades. (Pause) Too dark?


KAY

I think maybe you get to say what ‘too dark’ is, right now.


VIOLET

Hey, Kay?


KAY

Yeah?


VIOLET

Um. Thank you. Really—thank you. I— (Breaks off, embarrassed at the emotion.)


KAY

No skin off my nose, Liu. I finally got the courage to talk to that cool-looking girl from Intro Bio. Just, you know, eleven years and ten days too late.


VIOLET

Yeah. (sober again) Listen. Can you pass on a message to my family?


KAY

Of course, what do you want me to—


VIOLET

God, just, all the standard things people say in these situations, I guess? That I love them, that it doesn’t hurt, that I’m not afraid— (Her voice catches a little on ‘afraid’ because she’s terrified.)


KAY

Yeah, I will. Of course.


VIOLET

(Resolute) And tell—pass on to command that we got nine of the ten samples. They’re in cryo, deep storage, background battery should keep ‘em going long enough that when—


KAY

Wait, how do you have the power to keep the samples frozen if you can’t keep the ship liveable?


VIOLET

Cryo chamber’s brand-new, super efficient. Also the ship’s huge and the chamber’s—not.


KAY

…how big is the cryo chamber?


VIOLET

Why are you—look, this isn’t some martyr complex. The samples are higher priority than me now because they have a chance of making it—


KAY

How big is the cryo chamber?


VIOLET

What?


KAY

Could a person fit inside? Curled up in a ball? If that person was around, say, five feet?


VIOLET

Okay, let’s be clear here, I am at least five one with good posture— (Kay’s actual plan begins to sink in) Oh.


KAY

So I’m thinking. You need an escape pod, let’s make an escape pod. Put the ship on autopilot to our coordinates, cut the atmo reg, you’ve got enough residual air and heat to get you into the cryo chamber, we pick you up, you turn in the samples to our station, and—


VIOLET

(Dejected) Wait. I’d have to reprogram the ship. A lot. I can’t use the comm system without electrocuting myself. There’s no way I can do it. And neither can you, unless in addition to captaining an entire ship, you’re also a very talented hacker--


KAY

So listen. I maybe had a—somewhat troubled youth before college. I’m not proud of it. (She is, actually.) But—if you can get me in remotely, I can do the rest.


VIOLET

(Barely daring to hope.) What.


KAY

(Almost deliriously happy) You still feel like thumbing your nose at fate, Liu?


VIOLET

Honestly, I feel like kissing you. (Pause.) That came out wrong, I meant—I meant, ‘Oh, I could kiss you,’ in that, you know, like-- (For a brief moment, an all-consuming flare of embarrassment eclipses even Violet’s urgency and terror. Then she remembers, and the urgency eclipses the embarrassment again.) Uh, which way should I go?


KAY

Engine room. Let’s save your life first.


FX

(Violet’s footsteps)


KAY

Uh, maybe talk over this kissing business later. Over a glass of the best wine hydroponics has to offer?


VIOLET

(Walking) Tell you what, Captain, you pull this off and drinks are on me.


KAY

Now there’s a wager I can get behind. (Pause) Except for the whole part where if I fail, you die in a grisly—


[FX: Four beeps, door opening sound]

VIOLET

(Wasn’t listening.) Made it in.


KAY

There’s supposed to be a keypad on the door, how’d you just—


VIOLET

Well, Connors set it up. I figured he was too lazy to change the code from the default.


KAY

Don’t tell me: ‘1234’


VIOLET

(almost a little confused) 2180. You know, the first year of the Republic?


KAY

Sorry—distracted. So I’ve pulled up schematics of a similar ship and judging from the wiring, my guess is you want the North wall.


VIOLET

(Sarcastically) Well, let me just. Get out my compass?


KAY

Opposite the engine. There should be a small box with five blinking lights on it—


VIOLET

There’s blinking lights everywhere. It’s like standing in a cloud of lightning bugs.


KAY

Look for a small screen, about the size of your palm. If your nav guy was lazy enough, there’s a chance the screen’s still covered in a layer of plastic–


VIOLET

Found it.


KAY

Okay, tear off the plastic.


VIOLET

Yep.


KAY

So it’s connected to the wall by a bunch of colored wires.


VIOLET

This gonna be a cut-the-green-wire situation?


KAY

For the love of god, don’t cut any of those wires. Okay, using two fingers, tap the screen and—


THE SAME GRATUITOUSLY PLEASANT VOICE FROM BEFORE

Hello.


VIOLET

(Murderous) You again.


GRATUITOUSLY PLEASANT VOICE

If you can hear this message, something has gone wrong with your network connectivity. Please reboot your system and try again. (Message begins to repeat)


KAY

(Talking over the recording) Change of plans, do you see a clear cord running from the box to the wall?


VIOLET

Yeah


KAY

Yank that sucker outta there.


(The voice immediately goes silent.)


VIOLET

(With feeling) Captain Grisham, you’re my hero.


KAY

Any time.


VIOLET

What next?


KAY

What are the odds you know the system password?


VIOLET

What are the odds it’s—okay, apparently it’s not 2180.


KAY

The ship’s internal computers? No, it’s gonna be a long random string of letters and numbers, to protect it from, y’know, hackers and—scoundrels.


VIOLET

(Teasing) Like you?


KAY

Hey now, I am, at worst, a puckish rogue.


VIOLET So what do I--


KAY

Any chance your nav man wrote the password on the bottom or back of the box?


VIOLET

Uh. No.


KAY

Okay, this is not ideal but. We’re gonna do what they used to call a hard reset.


VIOLET

What does that mean.


KAY

Means you’ll be able to make a new password.


VIOLET

Doesn’t sound so bad


KAY

Well, first we’ve gotta shut everything down for a sec. Everything that can’t run on reserve battery. Including your stabilizers. (Pause) It’s gonna suck.


VIOLET

(The bravest little toaster) So let’s get it over with.


KAY

Alright. Counting from the left, very carefully unplug the third and fifth cord—


VIOLET

Okay. (Pause) That’s it?


KAY

It’s an emergency protocol in case of outside attack. Not like they’d design it where you’ve gotta leap over a pit of spinning blades or something—


VIOLET

Uh.


KAY

You okay?


VIOLET

All the lights just went out.


KAY

They’re supposed to. (With empathy) Pitch black in there?


VIOLET

Yeah. Engine’s still humming, though.


KAY

Good. Now plug the wires back in, same order you pulled them out.


VIOLET

Yeah. (Pause) Nothing happened. Nothing—everything’s still dark.


KAY

Calm down. It’ll take a sec—


VIOLET

How long?


KAY

Well, if it’s longer than five minutes, we’ve got a problem.


VIOLET

Then what?


KAY

For now, let’s focus on what’s in front of us.


VIOLET

(Audibly freaking out) What, sitting here in the dark, just—waiting?


KAY

You sounded a lot calmer when you thought you were definitely gonna die.


VIOLET

(Intense) I’m a scientist. I don’t like unknowns.


KAY

Well, if there’s anything I can do to—help distract, or—


VIOLET

Are you really out here on a priority three?


KAY

That’s what they tell me.


VIOLET

(Brave, weak joking) Is it an, if I told you I'd have to kill you--


KAY

More like, if I told you, you'd pass out from boredom. Diplomacy. Heavy on the talking, light on the--


VIOLET

Daring shoot-outs with criminals?


KAY

After four months of politicians, believe me I would love nothing more than to face down some good old fashioned space pirates.


VIOLET

How is this your first mission?


KAY

Well, shucks.


VIOLET

No, I mean. If you graduated officer school in ’85, what’ve you been doing for six years?


KAY

(Doesn’t want to talk about it.) Things came up.


VIOLET

You fought in the war, didn’t you? (Pause) You’re green on protocol but you know what you’re doing and they don’t just hand threes out to anyone. You volunteered. You could’ve gotten command on some supply ship but you chose—


KAY

Don’t. I had all these tech skills, and you know, it was—fighting for the whole human race. Didn’t really feel like a choice.


VIOLET

Well, on behalf of the human race—or at least, all of us that didn’t wanna get murdered by space aliens—


KAY

Seriously, Violet.


VIOLET

(Quiet) I was listening to a thing the other day, they called it the most narrowly won war in recorded history.


KAY

I know.


VIOLET

That why you’re so comfortable fighting losing battles?


KAY

What?


VIOLET

Be honest. What are the odds your plan works?


KAY

I don’t know. It hangs on—so many variables that I don’t have. The state of your ship, how much of the systems we can get back, the state of your cryo chamber—


VIOLET

Less than fifty percent?


KAY

Yeah. But more than— (Trying to be comforting, petering out) Six.


VIOLET

Where are we at, in the countdown?


KAY

We’ve got time still. Tell me a story.


VIOLET

A story?


KAY

Take your mind off all this. Or—sing me a song. I bet you’ve got a lovely voice.


VIOLET

Wow, you do like long odds. Um. There’s actually—there’s this song I’ve had stuck in my head today, ever since I started thinking about this Folklore class I took? It goes, uh—


FX

(Thump)


KAY

What was that?


VIOLET

Me. Hitting the floor. The ship’s starting to—shake?


KAY

That’ll be the stabilizers. Don’t worry, it’s the first thing I’ll fix when we’re back online.


VIOLET

If we—Jesus!


FX

(Thump)


KAY

You’re fine. You’re okay. It’s a shit way to travel but—hold onto something sturdy and—stay calm.


FX

(Thump)


VIOLET

Um. Ah—! (Still being tossed around) I don’t remember how all of it goes, but uh—


(In a lovely but very unsteady voice. Terrified and the tempo is lurching in all directions.)


As I was goin' over the Cork and Kerry mountains.

I saw Captain Farrell and his money he was countin'.

I first produced my pistol and then produced my rapier.

I said stand o'er and deliver or the devil he may take ya.


(It’s Whiskey in the Jar, approximately the Thin Lizzy version although sweeter and more tentative at first. Kay begins to join in. Gradually they gain confidence until they are almost rocking out. Engine sounds in the background, distant sounds of stuff in the ship flying around as the ship jolts)


KAY AND VIOLET

Musha ring dumb a do dumb a da.

Whack for my daddy-o,

Whack for my daddy-o.

There's whiskey in the jar-o.


(Violet is so surprised at Kay joining in that she flubs the lyrics)


VIOLET

I—uh. Being—?


KAY

I took all of his money—


KAY and VIOLET

and it was a pretty penny

I took all of his money and I brought it home to Molly.

She swore that she’d love me,


(Violet drops off)


KAY

never would she leave me—


Violet?


VIOLET

The lights are back.


KAY

Good. Okay, so find that screen—


VIOLET

Hang on, it got all thrown around—


FX

(Rummaging)


VIOLET

Yeah. It—shit, okay the stabilizers are still—Uh, not back, but it says—“Set password”


KAY

Good. Pick something you’ll remember.


VIOLET

Got it. (Getting thrown around) Ahh—(Keys clattering, getting thrown around.) Okay. Type “W-H-I-K-S-E-Y”


KAY

…Whiksey?


VIOLET

Listen, this is not—ah—ideal typing circumstan—just type whiksey, alright?