• Procyon Podcast Network

Starship Iris 2. Checkpoint Osiris

Written by Jessica Best


AGENT

The Strange Case of Starship Iris

Report Two: Checkpoint Osiris


Note: this is an ongoing investigation. All agents reviewing this case should begin with Report One: Violet Liu. In accordance with regulation, a brief summary follows.


(Note: this is our “previously on.” All italicized purple lines are from Episode One.)


VIOLET

This is the Starship Iris […] 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. I’m the only survivor.


VIOLET

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


KAY

Uh, living breathing human being here.


KAY

Kay Grisham, I sat in your row. Hi.


KAY

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…


VIOLET

I’m not the best scientist out there. I’m not even the best scientist out there named Violet Liu.


KAY

Well you’re the Violet Liu I wanna meet. And not just because you’re about to owe me a drink.


VIOLET

You’re not the captain of the Philadelphia. Your name isn’t Kay. You didn’t fight in the war—


KAY

Yes. I have an agenda. At present, that agenda is to keep you from dying.


VIOLET

And then?


KAY

Get in the chamber. Find out.


AGENT

Our audio resumes approximately six days after the previous transmission. Transmission two, begin.


(FX: minor static transitions us into the Rumor, the spaceship currently housing Violet.)


VIOLET

The Captivity Diary of Violet Liu. Entry One. Upon request, I’ve been given a small audio device which I intend to use to record my experiences as a prisoner aboard this as-yet unidentified ship. Definitely not military--human or Dwarnian. It looks like it was built out of scraps. (Almost to herself) Is that a submarine door?


I’m sitting in some kind of central room, I think. Smaller than any room in the Iris. Six doors visible, jury-rigged with what look like standard keypad setups. Not sure where they lead. Chairs, a table—this may be a mess hall? Quiet in here, though. Mostly empty. Let’s try to pretend that’s a good sign.


I’ve been told that nobody else will be listening to these recordings. However, this is coming from the same—person who first lied to me about her name, posed as a government captain and war hero, gained my trust, and then manipulated me into abandoning my samples and thus rendering my team’s entire mission totally in vain—so expectations remain low.


ARKADY (a.k.a. KAY)

Ship’s log, First Mate Arkady Patel. Right now I am sitting literally five feet away as Violet Liu pretends to record an audio diary about me, in what may be the single most passive-aggressive move I’ve ever seen.


Just what’s going with this chick? Is this what they teach kids at fancy regime-approved schools? Given we popped her out of cryo ten minutes ago, can we excuse this as a side effect of brain thaw? When is she gonna remember we saved her goddamn life?


(Pointedly) Does she realize the voice recorder’s not even on right now?


VIOLET

Then what’s this green light—


ARKADY

Oh hey! Are we back on speaking terms? Ah. No, we’re just—glaring sullenly. Gotcha. (Pause.) You know, hero’s pretty subjective, but the “war” part of that wasn’t a lie, if we’re keeping score. (Pause.) Also, you can lose the ‘captivity diary’ thing. We didn’t—you’re not a prisoner.


VIOLET

Right. In that case, can I go?


ARKADY

We are floating in a freezing vacuum full of very pointy space debris, days from anything beginning to resemble solid ground. You wanna go take a stroll through the crushing void of space, great, lemme go pop open the airlock for ya.


VIOLET

If your goal is to build trust—


ARKADY

It’s not.


VIOLET

If your goal is to get me to complain a little less—Maybe don’t joke about throwing me into a dark, cold, endless waste.


ARKADY

You want a blanket or something?


VIOLET

What?


ARKADY

(Phrased like Violet is being stupid) You were a human popsicle for six days. Do you want a blanket?


VIOLET

I don’t care. (Pause.) You said you were going to answer my questions.


ARKADY

Sure, but by then, you already knew I was a liar, so. That one’s on you, sweetheart. (Pause) (FX: A few steps, less echoey because the ship is smaller than the Iris.) Here.


(Optional FX of Violet scooting back a little; she doesn’t have that far to go)


VIOLET

Don’t come near me!


ARKADY

Okay. I am gonna put this blanket on the ground. And then I’ll just—(slowly, like she’s doing it while walking) (FX: slow steps) back away, hands up, like you’re robbing me.


Look, I wasn’t kidding about the no torture part. We’re not savages. We’re not—pirates. When the rest of the crew gets back—


VIOLET

(tense) Where are they now?


ARKADY

…looting your ship. Scrapping it for parts. Frying the remains to destroy any evidence. Look, we’re not pirates. I never said we were totally above board.


VIOLET

You’re—


ARKADY

Smugglers. We’re smugglers. That’s not a secret. You’re bound to put that together anyway, from all the, y’know. Smuggling.


VIOLET

Why aren’t you out there scrapping the ship with them?


ARKADY

Tripathi’s the most qualified, Jeeter volunteered first, somebody needed to keep an eye on you, and Krejjh is the one flying this thing.


VIOLET

Krejjh is your pilot.


ARKADY

Yeah.


VIOLET

And Tripathi’s your—?


ARKADY

Captain. Before that, she was a mechanic.


VIOLET

And you’re First Mate?


ARKADY Yup. (Pause.) You look skeptical.


VIOLET You’re just, uh. Very—armed.


ARKADY (Arkady is heavily armed so often that she genuinely hadn’t noticed) What? Oh. Well, you know, on a small ship, it’s a job with a lot of—facets.


VIOLET

And—Jeeter?


(FX: somewhere in the background, a ship door opens and closes, and footsteps approach)


ARKADY

I’ll be honest, I don’t really know what Jeeter does all day? It is unclear to me what we pay him for. (unconcerned) Oh hey, Jeeter.


BRIAN

Captain needs you, Arkady. I can watch our new friend for a bit. We’re trying to leech the fuel but the Iris keeps giving us the runaround.


ARKADY

And your advanced study of Linguistics didn’t prove helpful? Just a sec, lemme scoop my jaw off the floor.


BRIAN

Hey Arkady, how’d she get my blanket?


ARKADY

(half speaking over him) Well, later.


FX

(Footsteps outta there, spaceship inner door opens and closes)


VIOLET

If you want your blanket back—


BRIAN

Nah, that’s what I get for leaving it out. Hey. Brian Jeeter. Ship translator and cook, kind of. I just wanna apologize for Arkady’s—general…way of…being.


VIOLET

Violet Liu. Are you the good cop?


BRIAN

Man, if there’s one thing we are not, it’s cops. (Considers this.) Welllll, there’s a lot of things we’re not, but cops is high on that list.


VIOLET

You’re—smugglers.


BRIAN

Pays the bills, you know? Hey, so when Arkady hacked the Iris’s personnel files, she saw you went to Harmony? Class of eighty-seven, right?


VIOLET

Eighty-five.


BRIAN

Oof, your first year was the purge? Freaky, right? Watching them arrest half the faculty?


VIOLET

It was a—they had a duty to—


BRIAN

Ah, you’ve never been allowed to call it what it was, that’s fair. So you—one sec. Brian Jeeter to Arkady Patel. (FX: comm system activate noise) Hey, quick question.


ARKADY

(through a speaker) Brian, I’m busy


BRIAN

When Violet came out of cryo, did you sweep her for bugs?


ARKADY

(through a speaker, sarcastically) No Brian, because I am an utter novice with no idea what I’m doing and the trusting brain of a child. (Pause) Yes, I swept her. Obviously.


BRIAN

Nothing on deck that could be transmitting back to our pals at—?


ARKADY

No live mics right now except the secure one on your collar. She wanted to make an audio—captivity—thing, so I gave her the battery to the coffee maker and told her it was a recording device, but other than that, nothing.


BRIAN

She can hear you.


ARKADY

Don’t care. Arkady out.


(FX: comm system disconnect noise)


BRIAN

(Almost to himself) Did kind of wonder why you were clutching that battery. (Serious again.) So. You knew Alvy?


VIOLET

No?


BRIAN

Alvy Connors? Probably went by Al if he could help it. He was an engineer.


VIOLET

(knows exactly who he’s talking about) Al Connors...


BRIAN

Yeah, he was your nav man on the Iris, right? Look, it’s not a coincidence we found your ship. We were looking for it. For him.


VIOLET

(Doubtful) For Connors?


BRIAN

He sent me this very weird transmission, two weeks ago—


VIOLET

You’re asking me to believe he was in contact with your ship?


BRIAN

He and I tended bar together on Ryedell one summer, kept in touch after, helped each other out when we could.


VIOLET

Connors did favors for smugglers?


BRIAN

Connors did favors for his friends. Nothing illegal.


VIOLET

It’s illegal to provide aid to criminals.


BRIAN

Okay...a little illegal.


VIOLET

Why are you sharing this with me? If you’re telling the truth, you have every reason to think I killed your friend.


BRIAN

What?


VIOLET

Everybody on that mission died but me.


BRIAN

Nah. If you were some slick professional assassin, you would’ve found a way to trigger that explosion in the jump pod without also damaging your ship and coming so close to dying yourself. And you never would’ve let Arkady trick you the way she did.


VIOLET

Yeah, that was. A rookie move.


BRIAN

I figure, either you’re on the level, or you’re a brilliant secret agent who’s like, dead-set on infiltrating our tiny operation in the most chancey, convoluted way you could think of, for, like, maybe a dare or something?


VIOLET

But you asked if I was transmitting.


BRIAN

The Intergalactic Regime has a history of bugging people without their knowledge or consent. Fun little hobby of theirs.


VIOLET Republic.


BRIAN

What?


VIOLET

You said “Regime,” you mean “Republic.”


BRIAN

Yeah, I really don’t.


VIOLET

It’s the largest human government in the universe. You can’t change the name just because you don’t like it.


BRIAN They don’t get to change the basic meaning of words just because they got sick of being called a military coup.


VIOLET That’s--there were extenuating circumstances. We were fighting aliens.


BRIAN

Dude, look me in the eye and tell me you really think that’s all it was about. (Pause, remembers his actual point.) Sorry, I’m not actually angry at you, man. I just don’t think you believe what you’re saying.


VIOLET ...You know, I have no reason to trust you, either.


BRIAN Yeah, I get that.


VIOLET

So you’re saying Kay--Arkady---lied to me because you thought the IGR could be spying on me. You knew Connors was dead by that point, why even get involved?


BRIAN Well, beyond the fact that saving your life kinda felt like the right thing to do, we were hoping we could learn more about whatever happened with the Iris.


(FX: comm system incoming message noise)


ARKADY (over comm system)

Jeeter.


BRIAN

Yeah, Kady?


ARKADY

Ask Liu if—


BRIAN

Ask her yourself, dude, she can still hear you. ‘Sides, I’d thought you two had kind of a fun rapport?


ARKADY

(Very serious, in a way she hasn’t been before.) Quit being an ass. We don’t have time. Liu. What are the odds you know how to shut down your ship’s failsafes?


VIOLET

The whats?


ARKADY

The failsafes, Violet! It’s a security measure built into the system!


VIOLET

I don’t know. You conned me into resetting the password, that didn’t get you in?


ARKADY

No. You need deeper clearance to screw with the—it’s hard to override, once the sequence starts.


GRATUITOU???SLY PLEASANT FEMALE VOICE (distantly behind her) Authorization code not accepted. Would you like to try again? Authorization code not accept—authorization code not accepted. Would you like—


VIOLET

I don’t know. Why would I have any clearance at all, I’m a biologist!


ARKADY

We only have your word on that. Your word, and some personnel files that are not that hard to fake.


VIOLET

I don’t—


BRIAN

(Reasonable) Arkady, dude, she doesn’t know. Find another way.


ARKADY

(Curt) Yeah. Arkady out.


(FX: comm system disconnect noise)


VIOLET

...should we. Be worried?


BRIAN

Mm, not yet, I don’t think.


VIOLET

Then when?


BRIAN

Uh, trust me, it’ll be—pretty apparent.


VIOLET

Is this ship even safe to be on?


BRIAN Why? Oh, because of the whole--Frankenship thing? Trust me, the Rumor looks a lot better from the outside. Besides, the Iris was state of the art, so, y’know. That’s no guarantee.


VIOLET Um.


BRIAN

Yeah, you’re new-ish to life in vacuum, right? Everything’s high stakes, man. All the time. To the point where it kinda equalizes back out, and you learn not to get so worked up about things. Like that old saying.


VIOLET

“It’s not a crisis until you’re actively on fire”?


BRIAN

I mean, that works.


VIOLET

Before, were you trying to imply that what happened on the Iris wasn’t an accident?


BRIAN

Look, Connors knew something was up two weeks ago.


VIOLET

(still a little skeptical) Is that what his transmission said?


BRIAN

Hard to tell exactly what he was trying to say. But it’s gotta mean something, because it’s—very odd.


VIOLET

How.


BRIAN

You wanna hear it? Is that gonna be weird for you?


VIOLET

It’s fine.


BRIAN

Okay, let me just—cue this up:


CONNORS

(A recording) Jeeter, my man, my pal! What is up? No doubt this message will be unexpected. Get in line! Surprise assignment. A short vacation from the lab. Safe to say I’m living large. Of course, the mission’s secret but: exotic locales? Limited work? Seems almost designed for me.


We’re passing near your neighborhood: sector two eight four three two five. The schedule’s gonna eliminate any chance of a reunion, tragically. You’ll miss us by days. We’ll be there in two weeks. But maybe next time, yeah?


The bossman’s pissed, but wrong or right, I am enjoying a break! The violet nebulas! The dark quiet skies! Thought I might find it a little creepy or something but damn, right? Sometimes you gotta enjoy the ride.


So, in one or two days we will be soaring as she flies through checkpoint Osiris, Ryedell style!


Well, everyone knows goodbye’s bad luck in space, so. Later, friend.


VIOLET

Wow, that. I’ll admit that does sound like him.


BRIAN

Yeah, it’s not—an imposter, or anything. But do you notice how his eyes keep moving back and forth as he talks, like he’s nervous, or—


VIOLET

Reading something? Yeah, but. Are you seriously suggesting someone pulled a gun on him and forced him to send you that?


BRIAN

I dunno, man. Ryedell style, that’s a joke we had, although it doesn’t—really make sense here. And he knew we weren’t heading anywhere near that part of space.


VIOLET

He probably just—forgot, or wasn’t paying attention.


BRIAN

That wasn’t Connors.


VIOLET

Look, he was your friend and—not to speak ill of the dead but—that was absolutely Connors. Uh, he seemed nice? He was the only person on the ship who made an effort to be friendly to me, but he was scattered. Checked out. And—maybe the laziest person I’ve ever met.


BRIAN

Did you know him at all before the mission?


VIOLET

I didn’t know any of them before the mission. It was last minute for me, too.


BRIAN

That guy loved his work. The summer we met, he was writing this program on the side. He’d pull a double at the bar and then go write code for six hours, just to wind down. It was ridiculous. Made us all look bad, but man, you couldn’t hate him for it. Work ethic like you wouldn’t believe.


VIOLET

People change.


BRIAN

Checkpoint Osiris doesn’t exist. (pause) Searched every map I could find.


I don’t know. It’s freaky, hearing him. The voice is right, but the cadence, the syntax is just—off. There’s no way he wasn’t trying to tell us something. I mean, he gives us coordinates and a date, talking like we’re gonna pass each other when he knew my ship was on the other damn side of space. We were on our way to try to intercept you when—yeah. Guess you guys ran ahead of schedule.


VIOLET

The checkpoint thing—


BRIAN

There’s this story about Osiris, in Egyptian mythology. He was a god, right? So his evil brother chops him up, and then his wife’s gotta go around, gather the pieces, stick him back together. Seemed like a warning, maybe? Or a “come find us.” Or, passing through a gate that doesn’t exist, like death, or—


VIOLET

Yeah, (a little embarrassed) I figured it was a math joke.


BRIAN

What?


VIOLET

Checkpoint Osiris. There were plans, but it never got built. Some kind of local unrest or—anyway, it fell through. It wasn’t something you talked about, but that’s why the route in that region goes straight from O-9 to O-11. I lived near O-11 for a few years, people whispered about it there a little. I could see a programmer joking about it. ‘When is ten an imaginary number?’ Something like that.


BRIAN

Osiris was number ten?


VIOLET

It would’ve been.


BRIAN

Huh.


VIOLET

What?


BRIAN

Ryedell style. The joke was, management was real stingy with mixed drinks, how much liquor you could put in, so we started saying “Ryedell-style” to mean “the same, but minus an ounce.” Or, like, “the same, but one less.” Like, a bike, Ryedell style, is a unicycle. So, Osiris, Ryedell style—


VIOLET

Checkpoint nine?


BRIAN

Wait, I think I know what we need to do!


ARKADY (over walkie talkie)

Liu.


BRIAN

Arkady, we’re kinda busy right now.


ARKADY

Violet Liu, if there is the slightest chance you have any clue how to bypass the failsafe—


VIOLET

I already told you—


ARKADY

Yeah but your safety’s on the line here, too. We are working on a countdown now, and I do mean a countdown.


VIOLET

What? No, it’s a science vessel. No way would it have those protocols!


ARKADY

Yeah, well. Tell that to your science vessel.


GRATUITOUSLY PLEASANT FEMALE VOICE

Termination sequence commencing in—five minutes.


BRIAN

So the Iris is gonna self-destruct?


ARKADY

Unless Liu’s got something to share with us.


VIOLET

I don’t know! I’ve been conscious for half an hour, and I don’t know what’s going on! I don’t know what happened, I don’t understand what Connors was trying to do, and I have no idea why they built war protocols into my ship! This is just—not the sort of thing we’re told, okay? I don’t know!


ARKADY

Well, shit. Plan B?


SANA (Also over comms)

(An aside) Plan B’s being generous, but yeah. (A little more formal, spoken quickly but with authority) Captain Tripathi to all crew.


(FX: Comm connecting noise, the sound quality improves as Sana is no longer using Arkady’s mic.) Guys, it’s hard to spin this in a positive way. In about four and a half minutes, the Iris is gonna explode. Now, we are currently tethered to the Iris, and Arkady’s sense is, cutting the tether might also trip the failsafe. No way to know.


Arkady’s sense is also that it’s still our best course of action. If detaching doesn’t set the Iris off, we want to be as far from that ship as we can when it does blow, so time is of the essence. If there’s no objections, we’re gonna untether. (Pause) Nobody? Violet, you get a say, too. This really is all our lives in the balance.


VIOLET

Uh. No, no objections.


SANA Good. Brian, let me and Arkady back in. Violet, you too, we could use an extra pair of hands.


BRIAN This way, come on!


(FX: Two sets of footsteps, running)


SANA

Krejjh, are you listening?


KREJJH

Captain Tripathi!


SANA

Krejjh, how do you feel about outrunning an explosion?


KREJJH

Oh, I’d file it under—“lifelong dream.”


SANA

That’s what we like to hear! Alright, power to full and stay ready. The second we are safely back in, I’ll give you the signal. Brian, Violet? You guys almost in place?


BRIAN (running)

Almost! (To Violet) This way—so the thing, with Alvy’s code--


VIOLET (running)

Brian, no offense, but is this the time?


BRIAN

Point taken. (to SANA) Alright. Captain, we’re here. (FX: running ceases, like an abrupt stop) (to Violet) Violet, you know how to work the airlock?


VIOLET

I—


BRIAN

Those three buttons, okay? I’m gonna help them get back in.


VIOLET