• Procyon Podcast Network

Starship Iris 5. The Carmen Gambit

Written by Jessica Best


AGENT

The Strange Case of Starship Iris, report five: The Carmen Gambit.


Thanks to resources allocated to us by General Jahansooz, my team has put in long hours to catch up with the Rumor’s transmissions and monitor their doings in real-time.


(grim) We are all aware of the events that transpired on Elion an hour ago. More notes to follow at the end of this report.


JUNIOR AGENT

Warning for any future agents reviewing this case: this transmission contains graphic violence. If you have been diagnosed with combat-related PTSD, or if you have reason to believe that exposure to the audio may otherwise be detrimental to your long-term or short-term efficiency, please fill out form 74-A and L832-B and review the written transcript instead.


AGENT

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


[“Previously on”]


Transmission seven, begin.


(FX: engine room noises)


ARKADY

(singing, cheerful) When your back is to the wall

When your back is to the wall

It means there is no room for you to fall!


(FX during: door opening and closing) Landers never—

Morning, Sana.

SANA

Someone’s in a good mood.

ARKADY

It was bound to happen eventually.

SANA

How’re we looking?

ARKADY

Made all the tweaks to the engine like you said. We’re running as tight as we can, but let’s just say it’s a damn good thing we’re in the home stretch.

SANA

Well, we’ll need to hit the ground running. Land, refuel, drop off our old goods, pick up the new ones, back in the sky.

ARKADY

Still, it’ll be nice to walk on real ground for a bit. See some clouds, some birds--hell, maybe even a tree.

SANA

I’m sorry that we’re selling to the Fowleys this time around.

ARKADY

Hey, the Fowleys are the lowest of lowlifes but they’re predictable, they’re simple. I am ready for simple. Let’s go take some dirty money from bad people, and distribute their ill-gotten cargo.


SANA It’s twenty cases of noise-cancelling headphones.


ARKADY Really.


SANA

Mining companies on Rosalind have a monopoly.


ARKADY So it’s practically charity work. (Pause) Hey, Sana. Feels like you should be more excited about pulling one over on the evil mining execs.


SANA The closer we get to Elion, the worse I feel about working with these people. (sigh) Not that I’ve got any right to complain to you. If we’d done things your way, we’d be safe on Telemachus right now, drinking with Campbell and trying to stop Krejjh from doing shots of hot sauce.


ARKADY (kind of blurting it out) Yeah, and Violet would be dead. (Didn’t necessarily mean to put it quite so bluntly. Pause.) So. I’m glad I was over-ruled, okay? But we left our best customer in the lurch to go play space detectives. That’s bound to have consequences.


SANA

You’re right. We need to solve this as soon as we can, and in the meantime, try to minimize the damage.


ARKADY

Hey, we’ve dealt with people like the Fowleys before. Nature of the business. Not all these guys are Robin Hood. (pause, more to the point) Not all these guys are Campbell.


SANA (Heavy) I know. (More practical.) We need to be on our guard.


ARKADY

I need to be on my guard. You need to make sure they’re not cheating us.


SANA

I’ve been thinking about what you said, how hard it is when we all rely on you to do the dirty work.


ARKADY ...I have no memory of saying that.


SANA You phrased it a little differently. I think it was something like, ‘Sucks sometimes, being the scum of the universe, but hey, gotta play to my strengths.’


ARKADY When was this?


SANA The night after you talked Violet into taking a chance on us? You were pretty drunk. Point being, it’s not fair to saddle you with all of that.


ARKADY Not that I object, but what are we gonna do, send Jeeter out there?


SANA (amused) You’re so protective of him, the minute he’s out of earshot.


ARKADY I just don’t want that dude in the way. Hell, he’s probably a pacifist. (mutters) College boys...


SANA Still, if it was safe for him to set foot on Elion--


ARKADY Shit, I still can’t get over that: who goes after Jeeter?


SANA Historically, several mafias.


ARKADY I know, but. Jeeter?


SANA Yeah.


ARKADY Like, who are these people? Where do they live?


SANA You’re ready to take on the Fowley siblings and multiple mafias? That is some good mood. Did you finally process that Violet said she thinks you’re smart?


(FX: incoming comm noise)


KREJJH

Captain Tripathi!


SANA Yeah, Krejjh?


KREJJH Is First Mate Patel still with you in the engine room?


ARKADY I’m here.


KREJJH

Fellas, I got some bad news and some--well, okay, they’re both bad news.


SANA Lay it on us.

KREJJH What do you want first?


SANA The--bad news.


KREJJH

Yikes. So Crewman Jeeter and Science Officer Liu did a little research on Jemison System, I guess they were hoping to pick up some, uh, poornut barter?


SANA Peanut butter.


KREJJH (Humoring her) If you say so. Uh, we’re seeing heightened security across the whole system. Like, a lot.


BRIAN (also over comms)

Brian here. We’re getting accounts of regular searches, agents stationed at every dock--


ARKADY Even on Elion?


BRIAN Especially on Elion. Which brings us to the other problem: someone’s flagging our IDs.


ARKADY What?


BRIAN Yeah, we did a quick check when we heard about the heightened security. Captain, the name you went by during the uprising--


SANA I haven’t used it in years.


BRIAN Well, don’t start now.


VIOLET (over the comms as well) Arkady, you’ve lost at least four aliases. Including Kay Grisham, Sister Teresa Margaret, and, uh...Duchess Calpurnia Higginsworth-Cobb? ARKADY Goddamit.


SANA ...Hold on, we’ll be in the cockpit in ten seconds.


KREJJH Gotcha. Krejjh out. (comm hangup sound)

(FX engine room door open)


SANA

What’re you thinking?


(FX engine room door close, footsteps that accelerate into jogging as Sana and Arkady talk)


ARKADY Agents on Elion? It’s mob country.


SANA Yeah, it’s weird, right?


ARKADY More than weird.


(FX: the boop boop boop boop of a four-digit security code entered onto a keypad with almost violent precision.)


(FX: door open)


SANA Guys, what do we know?


KREJJH Less than we’d like, Captain Tripathi. VIOLET Aliases all tagged roughly three hours ago. The warrants accuse you of smuggling, fraud, violating interspace treaties, conspiracy to commit insurrection--


ARKADY All pretty standard when the IGR’s pissed at you.


VIOLET So we think this is definitely coming from the government? I mean, no offense but uh I’m under the impression that (kind of whispering) you guys have a lot of enemies?


ARKADY We’re rocketing through outer space, Liu. You don’t have to whisper. They can’t hear you.


SANA Most of our enemies aren’t on great terms with the Regime, either. It’s hard to imagine them putting a government bounty on our heads.


BRIAN And if this was a mafia thing, they wouldn’t be targeting Arkady and the Captain.


KREJJH You don’t think it could be all the--crime? We are a bunch of devil-may-care outlaws.


VIOLET Okay, I can’t be the only person thinking this has to be about the Iris, right?


ARKADY Not sure how they’d connect it to us.


Maybe Eejjhgreb sold us out?


KREJJH No.


SANA A Dwarnian diplomat striking a deal with the IGR?


ARKADY What’s the alternative?


VIOLET They bugged us.


ARKADY How?


VIOLET You guys scavenged a bunch of stuff from my ship, maybe some of it’s transmitting--


ARKADY Liu, believe me when I say I scan everything and everyone we bring on board, using equipment that can detect a recording device the size of a grain of sand, which is, by the way, something humans can’t even make yet--


KREJJH Well, what about that robot swarm!


BRIAN What?


KREJJH It’s...very small, right? Doesn’t really have--motive, it’s basically mist, but--it’s so small!


VIOLET How would it have gotten in? Guys, if the ship wasn’t airtight, uh...we’d know.


SANA

Krejjh, when are we due into Jemison System?


KREJJH ‘Bout half an earth-hour, Captain Tripathi.


SANA Look, any breach is a serious problem, but we don’t have the fuel to orbit Elion until we figure this out. And that means, for now, we have to move on. Does anybody onboard still have a clean alias?


VIOLET Looks like you’ve got one left. And Arkady’s still got, uh, seventeen.


ARKADY I like having options. SANA We needed new names and ident cards for Violet and Brian anyway. Short-term, we just move that up on the schedule and make it a slightly bigger job.


VIOLET In the meantime, how do we land with agents at every port?


ARKADY No problem, we just need to work outside the grid. And we need to find a forger on Elion.


SANA Oh hey!

ARKADY Know one?


SANA No, but I know who does. (suddenly more businesslike) Computer, outside call. Sana Tripathi to Ignatius Campbell.


GRATUITOUSLY PLEASANT FEMALE VOICE Attempting connection. Attempting conn--


CAMPBELL (Cheerful) Captain Tripathi! You’re alive!


SANA (Amused, maybe despite herself) Hey, Campbell.


KREJJH Hi Campbell!


VIOLET How’d he know about--


SANA He doesn’t. That’s his usual greeting.


CAMPBELL Yeah, weirdly, it always seems to apply. What’s the latest, Captain? Do I hear a new recruit in there?


SANA Campbell, we would love to get caught up--


ARKADY Some of us more than others.


SANA But unfortunately, this is a business call. Urgent business.


CAMPBELL (Suddenly in serious mode) What’s going on?


SANA We’ve got some compromised IDs. Who’s the best forger you know who--


CAMPBELL Me.


SANA

Who’s the best forger you know on Elion?


CAMPBELL Oof. If you wanna work outside the mob, pickings are slim.


SANA I was afraid of that.


CAMPBELL

Tell you what, send me your info. I’ll work on it remotely and pass it over to my contact in Elion for printing and pickup. How many do you need?


SANA Let’s say four.


CAMPBELL

We can have them done in two hours.


ARKADY Great, you have thirty minutes.


CAMPBELL That’s too bad, ‘cause it’s a two-hour job. (Pause.) Look, you guys have eaten at my table, I’m not padding my time. If I say two hours, I need two hours. (Concerned) It’s getting scary out there. You don’t wanna cut corners on this.


ARKADY (Through gritted teeth) That’s a long time to be hanging around on Elion without IDs.


SANA Still feels like our best option.


ARKADY ...yeah.


SANA

Campbell, about payment--


CAMPBELL We’ll handle it later. Haggling’s no fun when you’re too nervous to barter. Sending you my guy’s coordinates for when you land. Ask for Red Gregor.


ARKADY Don’t tell me the “Red” is for blood.


CAMPBELL Short for “Theodore,” actually, but you didn’t hear it from me. Tell him I sent you; he owes me.


SANA Thank you, Campbell. So, how’ve you been?


CAMPBELL

Something’s eating my tomatoes, right off the vine, but you know what they say, any day breathing--


SANA

Sorry again we had to skip our drop-off.


CAMPBELL Hey, I get it, that’s business.


SANA Yeah, but I--it’s no way to treat a friend.


CAMPBELL

Y’know, when you told me you were rerouting to Jemison, I was a little angry. But this is the first dropoff you’ve ever missed. No way you didn’t have a damn good reason. (Half-second pause) You in trouble?


SANA We’ll be fine.


CAMPBELL

Let me know if I can help. I mean it.


ARKADY Have you heard of any abandoned docks on Elion? Or a place that gets a lot of automated interstellar freight? Preferably near Capitol City.


CAMPBELL

I think there might be a landfill on the edge of town. Should I send you the coordinates on that too?


SANA That’d be--really, really great, Campbell. You’re a lifesaver.


CAMPBELL Hey, none of that now. I’m just a man with a weakness for good stories and bad moonshine. Hate to have to find a new source.


SANA We’ll tell Red Gregor you said hi.


CAMPBELL Ask him how he liked that sandwich.


ARKADY That’s why he owes you?


CAMPBELL Trust me, it was a very good sandwich. (More serious) Hey. Sana. Uh, Captain Tripathi. If things ever go south, or just--in general, you are more than welcome to drop by, anytime. (Pause. Remembers it’s not a private conversation.) The crew too, of course. Tell Krejjh I’ve still got that hot sauce.


SANA We’ll try to head out that way after Rosalind. I--we miss you, too. Good luck with your tomatoes.


Sana Tripathi out.


GRATUITOUSLY PLEASANT FEMALE VOICE Connection ended.


BRIAN Arkady, do me a favor, dude?


ARKADY What?


BRIAN When you go see Red Gregor, can you get me an awesome fake name? Like, something rad, y’know?


ARKADY I’ll try to match the dizzying heights of “Brian.” (FX: the entire transmission suddenly goes silent. A crackle of static.)


JUNIOR AGENT

Junior Agent McCabe here. Conversation continues in this vein for some time. I’ve taken the liberty of trimming about an hour of audio from this section, all available in the archive in the unlikely event it is needed. Resuming in the cockpit, forty-four minutes after the Rumor touched down on Elion. On-ship time estimated to be seventeen hundred hours.


(Another crackle, and the transmission picks up again)


VIOLET Got any nines?


BRIAN Go fish. Krejjh, got any fours?


KREJJH Two of ‘em, here you go.


BRIAN Thanks.


VIOLET ...that’s an eight of clubs, ripped in half.


KREJJH (A badass renegade) I play by my own rules. (Pause.) I’m winning, by the way. By, like...a lot.


VIOLET When do you think they’ll be back?


BRIAN Should be another hour, maybe? Little more, with travel time? Assuming everything goes to plan.


VIOLET

Hey, any progress on finding some link between Alvy Connors and the other Violet Liu?


BRIAN

I’m gonna keep looking, but so far no.


VIOLET I’m not any closer to figuring out where she is either. It’s weirdly difficult to find anything about her, right?


BRIAN

Verging on, like--


VIOLET

Suspiciously difficult, yeah. I guess there’s no point assuming that’s something sinister right off the bat, though. She could be covering her own tracks.


KREJJH (Absolutely believes something sinister is going on, but proud of Violet for trying to be positive) Hey, that’s the spirit!


VIOLET So, speaking of being wildly out of our depth, did you make any headway on what that alien robot swarm was trying to tell us?


BRIAN

I did my best with Eejjhgreb’s dictionary, but man.

VIOLET What’s the problem? KREJJH Pronouns.


VIOLET What?


BRIAN

Krejjh, you wanna do the honors?


KREJJH (Clears throat and recites Brian’s translation from memory) ‘Hello? Hello? Is that Craddock? Is that Thasia? Why do we not respond to us? Us can clearly sense we. We must be compromised. Us cannot...rescue? touch? repair? ...we, for fear of the same as we. May we forgive us and the...something something something something fools. Us loves you. Goodbye.’


VIOLET

Uh, any chance you got some part of that a little wrong?


KREJJH Not likely. Crewman Jeeter triple checked it. Plus, he’s brilliant, so...


BRIAN

Something could be escaping me. But the other explanation, the one I’m hoping for, is that-- I mean, we’re talking about a language that’s been borrowed by a pretty different group of speakers and left to its own devices for millennia. So we could be looking at some serious shifts in meaning from classical Vre Chel Nokean.


VIOLET That’d make it almost impossible for any of us to figure it out, right?


BRIAN

Well, maybe, but. A group of robots co-opting and adapting a language for their own needs?


VIOLET ...so, another dead end.


BRIAN Yeah, but--dude.


VIOLET An interesting dead end. Hey, speaking of Thasia, I’ve been meaning to ask--


KREJJH Yeah, wish I could help more on that front, Science Officer Liu, but like I said: nobody knows what happened. Thasia used to wander into the Neutral Zone a lot, Halton Station in particular, but we’re talking about someone who wandered everywhere. Thasia was--um. Lechassa?


VIOLET What? KREJJH (“Help me!”) Crewman Jeeter!


BRIAN Um, an explorer? There’s a spiritual element to it, too, like, exploring’s their religion.


KREJJH Yeah, so Thasia vanished, and a lot of Dwarnians who wanted war took it up as their torch. “Human barbarism” blah blah. I can’t tell you much else.


VIOLET What about Craddock?


KREJJH Doesn’t sound like a Dwarnian name. Some old Vre Chel Nokean?


VIOLET Or a human.


KREJJH

What?


BRIAN She’s right; Craddock can be a human surname--of course, it doesn’t explain why the nanoswarm would be looking for them along with Thasia.


VIOLET If Thasia spent a lot of time in the Neutral Zone, they might’ve met a few humans, right?


KREJJH It’s been known to happen.


BRIAN

Still, you’d think that if humans had discovered this thing, that information would be out there.


VIOLET I think that heavily depends on who did the discovering.


(FX: same as before, all of the sound cuts out, a burst of static, and then)


JUNIOR AGENT

Junior Agent McCabe again. Cutting in with some relevant audio, picked up concurrently in Elion, in a building suspected to be controlled by the Fowley siblings.


(FX: slight crackle of static, and then we cut to Sana and Arkady talking.) (FX: Elevator music playing softly in the background.) SANA ...I think that went well.


ARKADY

Sana, you really wanna have this conversation now, in the elevator? SANA You said it wasn’t bugged.


ARKADY I would’ve said the same about our ship.


SANA Still, I think that went well.


ARKADY I flipped a table.

SANA

Nobody got hurt, the Fowleys were too afraid to highball us. It went well.


ARKADY Yeah. Hey, earlier, with Campbell. Did it seem to you like he let us off too easy?


SANA Campbell’s a good dude.


ARKADY Oookay, but did it seem like he was hitting on you?


SANA

...Arkady, if we wanna open that door, can I just say that you and--


ARKADY (hurriedly) No, that door is shut and locked. I mean--


SANA You mean how do we know this isn’t Ricky Q all over again?


Because it’s Campbell. The security boost and the IDs could be coincidence. Besides, there’s only one Ricky Q.


ARKADY

Thank god for that. Alright, IDs, and then we blow the hell out of here to Rosalind.


ANOTHER, DIFFERENT GRATUITOUSLY PLEASANT VOICE

Ground floor.


(FX: Elevator ding, doors open)


(FX: We hear the static that denotes a change of location)


JUNIOR AGENT Returning to the Rumor. Resuming roughly one hour forty five minutes since touchdown on Elion. Estimated on-ship time 18:00. Estimated local time 09:30.


KREJJH --anyway, so there I am, on Ryedell Station for the first time, and I know about six words of Earth English--


BRIAN Seven if you count “cowabunga”--


VIOLET (Amused) No, sure.


KREJJH

And there’s humans on all sides, pushing and yelling and selling things, and I’m thinking, ‘Yikes, Krejjh, you have got to hire a translator,’ and that’s when I hear this human voice shout--


BRIAN Hang on, we’re being hailed. (FX: typing noises)


KREJJH That’s not what you--oh.


GUARD

Attention!


VIOLET Shit.


GUARD

We’re conducting a sweep of all interstellar vessels, I’ll be needing your ship registration, and IDs for every soul aboard. VIOLET Do we answer?


KREJJH If we don’t, we risk getting the ship towed.


VIOLET When are the others due back?


BRIAN

Five minutes, maybe.


KREJJH Think you can stall for that long?


GUARD Attention! Attention! Rumor, do you copy? Stat out now, upforth! Upforth!


BRIAN ‘Upforth.’ I bet we’re dealing with someone from Crixton Col.


VIOLET What?


BRIAN We can stall.


(FX: the sound of Brian flicking some switches.)


BRIAN Hey, officer, sorry, weather’s been really haring with the signal. You outside? We’re statting out now.


GUARD Roger that. Make it fast. (FX: whatever sound effect ended the call with Eejjhgreb in Ep 3)


BRIAN

Okay. Krejjh--


KREJJH Already hiding. Go!


BRIAN Right. C’mon, Violet.


(FX: fast-walking footsteps through this whole conversation)


VIOLET ...Is Krejjh gonna be alright?


BRIAN This ship was designed to be boarded. There’s tons of secret compartments and tunnels in here.


VIOLET What are we gonna do?


BRIAN The first chance you get, go off and contact Arkady. She’ll think up some cover story to get us the IDs.


VIOLET What are you gonna do?


BRIAN The Carmen Gambit.


VIOLET What?


BRIAN Here’s what you need to know: we’re here on vacation. We didn’t hear about the sweeps because our signal’s been down. We bought the Rumor second-hand because it was very, very cheap.


VIOLET Do we have papers for the ship?


BRIAN Of course.


VIOLET

I mean, in real life.


BRIAN The best money can buy.


VIOLET What’s Crixton got to do with this? BRIAN

It was a colony out in the deep, one of the first. We lost all contact with them for about fifty years. They ended up creating the first distinct regional vernacular native to space.


I did a report on it in Grade Ten. Do you remember how to open the airlock?


VIOLET Yeah?


BRIAN It’s gonna be fine, just play along.


VIOLET Uh-huh.


(FX: Three buttons. Airlock doors opening. Probably not as dramatic when you’re on solid land.)


GUARD

Morning. Sorry to disturb you. Mind showing me those IDs?


BRIAN Hey, of course, sir. C’mon in. This way.


(FX: Walking footsteps)


BRIAN Couldn’t help but notice your accent. Are you from Crixton, by any chance?


GUARD

Why do you ask?


BRIAN Sorry. It’s just--so good to hear someone from home.


GUARD You’re a Crixxer? You don’t sound like it.


BRIAN Yeah, unfortunately, I picked up the Mars Base accent when Dad moved us out. He was worried about the bogstorms.


GUARD

The bogstorms? You just need a good growler.


BRIAN (To Violet) He means a gas mask.


VIOLET Oh.


BRIAN

And yeah, that’s what mum said. I think he was looking for a way out. Miss it every day. I still dream about that soup, sometimes.


GUARD With the dumplings?


BRIAN Hey, are there any restaurants out here that--


GUARD Nah, just the standard slop in these parts. Hey, North Crix or South Crix?


BRIAN North Crix, are you kidding me? South Crix might as well be Mainspace.


GUARD

Haha, yeah. Can I just say, one Crixxer to another? From inside, this ship is the ugliest pile of paste-parts I’ve ever--


BRIAN (Laughing) No, it’s a full gramble, for sure.


VIOLET We got it at a very steep discount.


GUARD You were robbed if it wasn’t a gift. It’s a gramble’s gramble. (Both the Guard and Brian seem to find this very funny.)


VIOLET

Hey, uh. I’m gonna go check the back room, I think I left my purse in there.


BRIAN Sounds good.


(FX: Violet’s footsteps.)


(The next four lines get quieter as Violet gets farther away)


GUARD She’s a Mainspacer, yeah?


BRIAN

I try not to hold it against her. Hey, you want a cup of tea? It’s not like the stuff from home, but beats a Parvo dustcloud to the eyes.


GUARD My mum used to say that.


BRIAN Mine, too, when she wasn’t saying worse. (Both laugh a little) Lemme dig up some cups--


(FX: Four beeps of the door pad and a door open sound. Footsteps inside. Door shut. As soon as the door shuts--)


VIOLET Holy shit, holy shit, holy shit. Uh. Private connection, Violet Liu to Arkady Patel.


ARKADY (FX: maybe some traffic sounds in the background)

Violet, look, we’ve got the cargo, we got the IDs. Traffic’s a mess, but we’ll be there in fifteen and I’ve had a rough couple hours, so if you could--


VIOLET

There’s a guard on the ship.


ARKADY What?


VIOLET

Fifteen minutes won’t cut it, we need you now.


ARKADY Sana, code red, how much faster can we go?


SANA (from off-mic) Ready to break some traffic laws?


ARKADY (behind her, the sound of tires squealing)

Violet, tell me everything you know.


VIOLET I just ducked back in here pretending to look for my papers, not sure how long I’ve got. Uh, we’re doing the Carmen Gambit?


ARKADY

How’s the guard reacting?


VIOLET Brian’s making him tea?


ARKADY Good, you got at least five minutes there. What’s the guard look like?


VIOLET (Had been making careful note of this) Medium height and build. Green uniform jacket, old boots. A gun holster, a little loose. Definitely armed.


ARKADY If the holster doesn’t fit, we’re not looking at career brass. Part-time muscle to fill out the ranks.


VIOLET

Is that good or bad?


ARKADY

Depends. They’re unpredictable, harder to bribe.


VIOLET Really.


ARKADY

Any guard who’s been in the IGR for more than a year can be bought, at least for a little while. Even if you came in clean, the job’s got a way of crushing you.


VIOLET How do you know that? ARKADY Used to be one.


VIOLET Um. What’s your ETA?


ARKADY We will be there as soon as we can. In the meantime, it’s important that you stay very very very calm.


VIOLET (Definitely starting to lose it) Yeah. Or else.


ARKADY No. Take every thought that’s not useful and set it aside. It’ll be there later, just set it aside. You’ve got five minutes before the tea’s even done, right?


VIOLET Yeah.


SANA (off-mic) Arkady, do you wanna play this like we did on Rowan?


ARKADY Yeah, that’s good. That’s good. Violet, stall as long as you can. When the guard gets impatient, suddenly remember that you left your IDs in the hotel where you were staying. Hotel Virgo, okay? Call Hotel Virgo in the guard’s hearing. I’ll do a private connection to Krejjh, explain what’s up, and forward that name to Krejjh’s line. And I’m the helpful courier here to return your property.


VIOLET

Uh, what do I do if the guard doesn’t buy it?


ARKADY He will. You just need to--


VIOLET Calm down. Yeah. Um.


ARKADY

You’ve got four minutes. What do you need right now?


VIOLET Can you--talk to me for a bit? Please?


ARKADY

Not a problem. So, the Carmen Gambit is Jeeter’s pretentious name for one of the easiest short-term cons of the modern age. Named for the novella, obviously.


VIOLET Sorry, what?


ARKADY

Carmen. It’s about this broke Roma con artist. There’s a scene where she’s about to be arrested for a street brawl, and then she realizes the officer’s from this tiny, remote part of Spain. Carmen plays on his sympathy by pretending she’s from there too. “Oh, I was only punching that dude because he insulted our glorious homeland” blah blah. Part of him knows she’s lying, but he’s so homesick--


That’s the thing, right? All of us living out here in space. Go back one, two generations and most of us are from someplace else. Another planet, another station. Earth. They raise you on stories of a place you’ve maybe never even seen, until it’s just an outgrowth of your imagination. So we fly around and we spread out farther and farther, and in the meantime, in the back of our minds, we’re constantly nostalgic for someone else’s memories.


VIOLET That’s beautiful.


ARKADY Yeah, here’s the real beauty. It makes people stunningly easy to con.


VIOLET Before, when you were pretending to be Captain Kay Grisham...you were using the Carmen Gambit on me.


ARKADY

Hey, don’t feel bad. It really does work on anyone. Find something people already wanna believe and they’ll do half your work for you. Nobody wants to think they’re alone.


VIOLET (Distinctly aware of how alone she feels right now) Yeah.


ARKADY

There’s an opera version too, of Carmen? But for my money, it’s overrated. Gimme Die Rosenkavalier any day, y’know?


VIOLET

Yeah, I actually don’t know anything about opera. Where’d you learn--


ARKADY Prison.


VIOLET (Starts to laugh, realizes Arkady is not laughing. Oops. Yikes.) Um. Really.


ARKADY

(Not actually offended) Cresswin Landing used to be the biggest jail in the galaxy. Let’s just say I’ve met a theater type or two.


VIOLET Is that where you were a guard?


ARKADY

No. (Pause) Look, I’m sorry that it’s me on the line.


VIOLET It’s okay. I mean, yeah, you lied to me when we met, a lot, and we don’t get along, and apparently you’ve been to prison.


ARKADY Look, about that--


VIOLET Don’t worry about it. Hey, if I can trust a purple space alien who fought on the other side of the war, I think I can wrap my mind around trusting you. And okay, you’re a little intense but how much of your job is just standing behind the Captain and looking tough enough that people take her seriously?


SANA (off-mic, clearly concentrating hard) Add it to your resume, Kady. Also: brace yourself because--


ARKADY Tell me we are not going over that ramp.


SANA.

Sorry. (Car noises) Woo!


ARKADY Violet, you need to go back out before it’s suspicious, but we’ll be there in under ten minutes, okay?


VIOLET Uh-huh.


ARKADY When you called, did you set up a private channel, so nobody can hear me but--


VIOLET Yeah.


ARKADY Good. Smart. How are you holding up?


VIOLET I’m gonna get through this. Because if I don’t…


No, sorry. I’m trying. I am trying.


ARKADY (down to earth and comforting, strong shades of Kay Grisham) Hey. First the IGR blew up your shuttle, and then they blew up your ship, and you’re still in one piece. I think we need to face the very real possibility that you are, as a person, just bad at dying. Like, embarrassingly bad. (Violet gives a short laugh that’s more a release of tension than mirth.) I need to set some stuff up, but stay on the line, okay? I’ll be back in your ear as soon as I can, and I’ll walk you through every step of this if that’s what it takes, Liu.