Starship Iris 7. Root Systems
Written by Jessica Best
2.1 AGENT The strange case of Starship Iris, report seven: Root Systems. 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.
2.2 CONNORS (ep 4, p 1) No—line—safe. Mission’s—designed—to—eliminate—us—but—wrong—violet. Find—right—one. She—knows.
2.3 ALIEN ROBOT SWARM RADIO (ep 6, p 1) Thasia korkvanchad jre-gesh? Craddock jre-gesh? Reefshoke nakbyad.
2.4 KREJJH (reciting Brian’s translation) Is that Thasia? Is that Craddock? Why do we not respond to us?
2.5 ARKADY (ep 6, p 15) If the IGR found out about nanotech that can invisibly relay messages or eat metal, they’d want it.
2.6 VIOLET Right. What if the swarm and the Iris were looking for the same thing?
2.7 KREJJH (ep 6, p 23) Humans love gifts. Ooh, give her your mint plant!
3.1 SANA (ep 5, p 15) --there’s only one Ricky Q.
3.2 RICKY (ep 6, p 32) Meet me on Hafizah. We’ll talk. If all goes well, I’ll tell you who the mole is, and I won’t leak anything else about you or your crew.]
3.3 AGENT Transmission 11C, begin.
3.4 SOUND DOOR OPENS
3.5 VIOLET (has been coughing all day; her voice is a little bit worse for wear) Hey, is it okay if I’m up here?
3.6 SANA Hey, Violet.
3.7 BRIAN Take a seat, dude.
3.8 SOUND DOOR CLOSES
3.9 BRIAN CONT’D How’re you feeling?
3.10 VIOLET The same.
4.1 KREJJH Wanna help us kill time til touchdown? Should be another Earth-hour...ish. Emphasis on the “ish” ‘til we get those coordinates. Just, up to our ears in “ish” over here.
4.2 SANA (Distracted) I don’t want to rush them, we’ve still got time. Where’s Arkady?
4.3 BRIAN She left to redo the truck, remember?
4.5 SOUND COMM COMES TO LIFE
4.6 KREJJH Krejjh to all crew, by which I mean First Mate Patel. We are having a party without you. Finish up and get down here, how long can it take to fuselage one truck?
4.7 SOUND DOOR OPENS
4.8 ARKADY It’s called camouflage. (Simultaneously, Krejjh in the background: “Whoa!” like “Did I just summon you by magic?”) I was already on my way.
4.9 KREJJH Camouflage. Camouflage. (Krejjh says the word weirdly)...I dunno, sounds pretty made-up to me.
5.1 ARKADY Well Krejjh, blame the English language.
5.2 BRIAN To be fair, they took that one from the French?
5.3 ARKADY Blame a series of interchangeable dead white people.
5.4 VIOLET Also sums up--about a thousand years of Earth history. (coughs)
5.5 SOUND DOOR CLOSES
5.6 ARKADY Liu, why the hell aren’t you resting?
5.7 VIOLET I’m not sick.
5.8 ARKADY Really? You look wiped.
5.9 VIOLET Only because I was up all night coughing. (Realizes how that sounds) I have one symptom. That’s barely a cold.
5.10 ARKADY (Skeptical) Sure. (Not sarcastic, and thus more awkward) But just, y’know, in case: any last-minute requests when we reach Hafizah? Soup, or more tea, or--
6.1 VIOLET COUGHS, WORSE THAN BEFORE
6.2 ARKADY --shit, a coffin? Have you been tested for Floating Pneumonia?
6.3 VIOLET The Regime ran us through a full physical before we left for the mission. I’ve been screened for everything from asthma to zinc deficiency.
6.4 ARKADY Are these the same people who sent the wrong woman into space? Yeah, not gettin’ the sense you saw their best and brightest.
6.5 VIOLET It’s not-- (Breaks off to cough again, her voice is a little shot.) Uh, wouldn’t mind if you pick up some cough suppressant, I don’t know what brands they have out here--the powdered kind you add to water?
6.6 ARKADY Already on the list. And not to go all Tripathi on you, but don’t be afraid to take a break.
6.7 SANA Well-put. I’ll be right back, Krejjh, don’t start the party without me.
7.1 KREJJH Captain, we will do our best, but I warn you, I am feeling festive.
7.2 SOUND DOOR CLOSES, QUIET FOOTSTEPS AS SANA GETS OUT OF EARSHOT
7.3 SANA (Deep breath in and out.) (TO HERSELF) “It’s alright, kiddo. Be brave.” Computer. Outside call. Private connection. Sana Tripathi to most recent unknown contact.
7.4 GRATUITOUSLY PLEASANT FEMALE VOICE Attempting connection. Attempting connection. Att--
7.5 RICKY Ready to land?
7.6 SANA We’re an hour out, but it’ll be faster if we know where we’re going.
7.7 RICKY Alright, give me a sec, let me dig up those coordinates.
7.8 SANA And the supplies will be waiting?
7.9 RICKY In a lockbox, under a tarp, in a crevice by the landing site.
8.1 SANA What about fuel? Is your courier gonna fit a full-size RXJ50 fuel tank in a lockbox?
8.2 RICKY How do you normally move your cargo?
8.3 SANA We have a truck.
8.4 RICKY Wheels and everything? They don’t make ‘em like they used to.
8.5 SANA I didn’t call to reminisce.
8.6 RICKY Just trying to get a feel for your range. (A certain fondness maybe) Still driving like a maniac?
8.7 SANA (Zero fondness)Assume I can make it.
8.8 RICKY There’s a station about 3 klicks from the landing site, too small for a name but I’m--(a pause as if he’s talking while sending the coordinates, FX: a couple beeps and boops of stuff being sent) sending you their location, along with that landing site and the rendezvous point. You can fuel up on your way back from our little reunion.
9.1 SANA No. My ship refuels, then I meet with you. We barely have the juice to land feet-first. You’re right: we cannot afford another Elion. And that means, if some portside agent interrupts our meeting, I need to know that my crew has a way off-planet.
9.2 RICKY How do I know you guys won’t just top off and run?
9.3 SANA You’re dangling my crew’s lives over my head. Consider every single thing you know about me, every single thing you can remember me saying or doing the entire time we knew each other, and then tell me: am I running, Ricky?
9.4 RICKY Fine. I’m not gonna waste your time with threats. You know not to tell them about me. You know to come to the meeting alone. And I think you know not to drag your feet on those errands. See you soon.
9.5 SANA Yeah. Sana Tripathi out.
9.6 GRATUITOUSLY PLEASANT FEMALE VOICE Connection ended.
9.7 SANA You're telling me.
10.1 JUNIOR AGENT Junior Agent McCabe here. Skipping ahead one hour and five minutes, roughly ten minutes after landing on Hafizah. Estimated local time is-- (the recording cuts off; McCabe hasn’t been interrupted in-person. The audio has been overridden.)
10.2 SOUND THREE HARSH TONES
10.3 JUNIOR AGENT (nervous) Uh, on request of Major General J. Fredrick, we have retroactively inserted the landing sequence back into the report. While there is some mention of peaks and valleys, none are identified by name. However, uh, the landing sequence follows.
10.4 SOUND COMM COMES TO LIFE, KREJJH ACTIVATES SWITCHES AND CONTROLS
10.5 KREJJH Krejjh to all crew. We are officially approaching touchdown, please ready yourself for a rugged mountain landing that is heroic yet gentle, swift yet precise, the perfect blend of stealth, speed, and dare I say pizzazz. We are looking at moderate winds planetside, visibility good, E.T.A very nice indeed.
KREJJH CONT’D OVER
11.1 KREJJH CONT’D Now’s the time to start securing any valuables, and maybe start workshopping those compliments. As we say where I’m from, “They who arrive prepared, brush the hem of the magenta cape of greatness.”
11.2 AGENT Agent Park. Independently verified by myself and General Jahansooz that the Dwarnian pilot Krejjh did not recite the landing coordinates while approaching Hafizah. It is unclear if Krejjh had received written instructions to omit that detail, or if they simply decided on this occasion that incorporating a long string of numbers did not adhere to their sense of (God, does he hate his job) personal style.
11.3 SOUND THREE NOTES INDICATING SUCCESSFUL TOUCHDOWN
11.4 JUNIOR AGENT Resuming just after landing on Hafizah. Estimated local time fifteen-hundred hours.
11.5 SOUND Wind in the background, which gradually fades out as the scene begins. Rocks and gravel crunching under two sets of slightly cautious footsteps; Arkady and Sana are walking outside on a mountain path.
12.1 ARKADY What’re we looking for again?
12.2 SANA Uh. A tarp covering a small ravine.
12.3 ARKADY So, a tarp, then. We won’t see the ravine. (Realizes she’s basically talking to herself.) Because of the tarp.
12.4 SANA (apologetic) This lockbox thing, it’s not ideal.
12.5 ARKADY Maybe, but it makes sense to give the city shops a wide berth right now.
12.6 SANA Hey, Is that a rock, or a--
12.7 ARKADY Corner of a tarp, yeah.
12.8 SOUND A FEW CRUNCHY STEPS; THE TARP IS LIFTED
12.9 ARKADY CONT’D Arkady Patel to Brian Jeeter. We’ve got the cache, bring us the handcart.
12.10 BRIAN On it.
12.11 SANA It’ll need a passcode to open.
12.12 ARKADY Yeah, that’s adorable.
13.1 SOUND ARKADY HACKS THE COMPUTERIZED LOCK
13.2 ARKADY CONT’D Early Cartwrights, might as well use the honor system.
13.3 SOUND LOCK CLICKS OPEN; BOX OPENS
13.4 SANA (A little surprised) Looks like everything’s in place.
13.5 ARKADY Yeah, your friend’s a real sweetheart. Mind if I scan the shit out of it anyway?
13.6 SOUND HUM OF A SCANNER SEARCHING FOR LISTENING DEVICES
13.7 SANA Be my guest.
13.8 SOUND HUM STOPS; A POSITIVE CHIME “GOOD NEWS: NO ISSUES”
13.9 ARKADY Bug free.
13.10 SANA Are you sure?
13.11 ARKADY Hey, I was just being paranoid. You got reason to doubt?
14.1 SOUND BRIAN SLOWLY APPROACHES, HUMMING; THE DOLLY WHEELS
14.2 SANA I was only asking if you’re sure. (Brian’s humming is audible now.) Hey Brian!
14.3 JUNIOR AGENT Junior Agent McCabe here. Assuming the handcart was pushed in a straight line, the number and rate of footsteps gives us a reasonably good estimation of the distance between the Rumor and the pickup site, see attached file. However, as the pickup site was an unmarked crevice in an unnamed mountain range, at least one additional landmark is needed to narrow the search.
14.4 SOUND THREE HARSH TONES
14.5 AGENT Agent Park to all agents. My colleague’s claims have been substantiated. It is believed the Rumor is still on Hafizah at this time. Each additional clearance request only serves to slow the proceedings. (starting to lose his cool just a little) Please be advised that my people can be trusted to do their jobs.
15.1 JUNIOR AGENT Junior Agent McCabe to all agents. Calculations estimating the complete window of space in which the Rumor might be are attached. Resuming Transmission 11A.
15.2 ARKADY (back inside the ship) Arkady Patel to Violet Liu. We got your throat powder, please pick it up from the cargo hold before you hack a lung out--
15.3 VIOLET (coughing) (disappointed) I was gonna sneak up on you.
15.4 ARKADY (Sarcastic but not mean) I’m so proud of you. Here.
15.5 SOUND VIOLET CATCHES THROAT POWDER
15.6 ARKADY CONT’D One box of bargain brand throat powder. (Awkwardly) Uh, I think we wound up with mangosteen flavor; the label’s in, I wanna say Malay? Figure it beats the American stuff, like pumpkin or cool ranch, or-- are you mixing that into coffee?
15.7 VIOLET Mostly coffee. (Drily) Trust me, I’m a doctor.
15.8 ARKADY You’re a biologist.
16.1 VIOLET Cheers. (Swallows this concoction in one go, instantly sounds completely fine) The immune system tends to falter in times of stress. Let’s just say that hanging out with med students, you pick up some shortcuts.
16.2 ARKADY (Very very very relieved but playing it so cool) So you’re. Totally okay now?
16.3 VIOLET (Half-sings, like it’s a jingle) The miracle of modern medicine.
16.4 ARKADY (dazed and relieved) It was just a cough.
16.5 VIOLET (amused) Yes. I agree.
16.6 ARKADY I’m, uh. I’m gonna go help Tripathi with the fuel.
16.7 VIOLET We’ll try to save you some coffee.
16.8 ARKADY ...thanks, and, uh, I’m glad you’re not, y’know, dying. Uh, high five.
16.9 VIOLET High five.
17.1 SOUND A HIGH FIVE
17.2 JUNIOR AGENT Junior Agent McCabe. Little else of interest here until the tail end of the return fuel trip, transmission 11C, confirmed local time 15:45. Location still unknown.
17.3 SOUND STATIC AND DISTORTION OF CLASSICAL MUSIC OVER A VAN RADIO
17.4 SOUND ARKADY SUDDENLY TURNS OFF THE RADIO
17.5 SANA Hey, I was listening to that.
17.6 ARKADY No, you weren’t. Look, something’s off lately.
17.7 SANA (A little defensive) What do you mean?
17.8 ARKADY Yeah, like that. Your work gets done, but you never seem focused. You haven’t ribbed me at all for spending more time with Violet.
17.9 SANA Why, have you been?
17.10 ARKADY Not an invitation to start.
18.1 SANA I...think we’re all a little worn-down right now, but it’s nothing to worry about.
18.2 ARKADY Y’know, all that ridiculous touchy-feely crap you trot out if one of us freaking blinks wrong--(Really really struggling here) Uh, you know that goes both ways, right?
18.3 SANA (There’s an element of lightness and humor here, or at least an attempt at it) Arkady, do you have a fever? Is Violet contagious?
18.4 ARKADY This is hard for me, okay?
18.5 SANA (More serious. There is some obvious care here, but she’s also sort of trying to end the conversation) Hey, I appreciate it. I really do.
18.6 ARKADY I’m not doing this to grow as a person. Something is wrong. This can't all be about Campbell. (Pause. Arkady realizes she has no idea if it is about Campbell or not.) Uh. Is it about Campbell?
18.7 SANA We're out here making enemies, getting noticed, and we still don't know what the Regime was trying to do with the Iris, with Brian's friend--any of it.
19.1 SANA CONT’D I make one bad call, and we're all dead. Maybe I’ve already done it, and we just don’t know it yet.
19.2 ARKADY Have you ever been led by somebody who had absolutely no doubt?
19.3 SANA I get what you’re saying but--
19.4 ARKADY Because I have, Sana. I wake up every day, and I know I am still best-case scenario of Sky Corps Seven-Seven. (Arkady has spent all her sincerity, so we are back to self-deprecating snark!) So, like. Let that chill your blood for a sec.
19.5 SANA Is it any better if your leader’s just going with her best guess?
19.6 ARKADY That’s all any of us ever do. Hey. You sure you don’t want company, meeting your friend for the handoff? (A little more pointed) You know, your mysterious friend you won’t talk about?
19.7 SANA Plenty of reasons to stay anonymous, these days.
20.1 ARKADY (The beginning of a speech) That’s just it. Captain, I’m--a lot of things, but I’m not a hypocrite. How much shit have I given you, over the years, for assuming everybody’s gonna be as honorable as you?
20.2 SANA Where are you going with this?
20.3 ARKADY (Carefully; this is hard to say) I just wanted to say: if there’s anything you wanna tell me right now, you can. (This part is so much harder) And if there’s anything you don’t wanna tell me...I get it. If we were wrong about Campbell, the ship’s still compromised. It’s--not your job to put all your trust in one person. Any of us.
20.4 SANA You’re my best friend. If I had something to share, you’d be the one.
20.5 ARKADY (That was not good enough.) Yeah.
20.6 SOUND VAN STOPS MOVING SUDDENLY; THEY’RE BACK AT THE SHIP; ARKADY UNLOCKS HER SEATBELT
20.6 ARKADY CONT’D Sit tight, I’ll get us unloaded.
20.7 SANA That fuel tank’s gonna be heavy--
21.1 ARKADY It’ll be faster if I do it. Trust me. (This “trust me” is a little heavier than it should be.)
21.2 SANA (In pain; Arkady talks a big game but this clearly hurts her) Kady...
21.3 ARKADY Hey. Whatever happens, there’s a reason nobody goes into space by themself, okay? If something goes wrong, we will fix it. Or we'll all be dead, at which point, who cares? So. Uh. Ch--cheer up.
21.4 SOUND CAR DOOR OPENS
21.5 ARKADY Landers, right?
21.6 SANA Landers. I’ll see you in a bit.
21.7 SOUND CAR DOOR CLOSES
21.8 SANA (Lets out a long breath) (To herself) If you can hear this, go to hell, asshole.
21.9 JUNIOR AGENT Junior Agent McCabe. Transmission 9B.
21.10 SOUND KITCHEN CUPBOARD CLOSES
22.1 KREJJH Science Officer Liu, did we get any of the--the--breesht--
22.2 VIOLET Sorry, what’s breesht?
22.3 KREJJH (half-laughs) Not a word to repeat in polite company. Sorry, I’m trying to remember-- Crewman Jeeter, how do you say vresh’rraffo’ssepp in Earth English?
22.4 BRIAN ...awnings?
22.5 KREJJH No, vresh’rraffo’ss, they’re--on sticks?
22.6 BRIAN Umbrellas?
22.7 KREJJH Vresh-rraffo-ssepp.
22.8 BRIAN Little, uh-- (Brian suddenly understands) drink umbrellas!
22.9 KREJJH Yes!
22.10 VIOLET Didn’t see any.
23.1 BRIAN That’s fair. Hey, are you starting another pot of coffee?
23.2 VIOLET Thinking about it. Do you know if Arkady’s back from the fuel run?
23.3 BRIAN She’s tinkering with something in the engine room, I think.
23.4 KREJJH (Trying for a VERY subtle line of inquiry) So...making coffee for First Mate Patel.
23.5 VIOLET Is that weird? I don’t know, the other night, she made me this really good mint tea, so-- (Krejjh is silently going absolutely apeshit) Krejjh? You okay?
23.6 KREJJH (“The ship is ALMOST CANON! PLAY IT COOL, KREJJH”)I am SO GOOD, Science Officer Liu. I’m so good, it is POSITIVELY WILD.
23.7 VIOLET (confused but trying to roll with it) Okay, I’m gonna...take you at your word…and keep working on this.
23.8 KREJJH Good call!
24.1 BRIAN Whatcha working on?
24.2 VIOLET I had a thought last night about Alvy and the other Violet working in the same building.
24.3 BRIAN At different times.
24.5 VIOLET Yeah, but not that far apart. At first I thought it’d take days to compare personnel files, see if they could’ve known anyone in common, but turns out ADVANCE labs had a relatively small team with a lot of turnover.
24.6 BRIAN Does it feel fishy, or was it just a super tough work environment? ‘Cause I feel like, state-of-the-art government lab in New Jupiter, the CUI breathing down the back of your neck, it could kinda go either way.
24.7 VIOLET My guess is a little of both? At any rate, including the cleaning staff and the marketing department, there are only fifteen people who worked at ADVANCE with both Alvy and the other Violet. I’ve been making a list, and--actually, I think you should take a look at this.
25.1 BRIAN Barbara Freeman, David Freeman, Valerie Barton-- why do those names sound familiar?
25.2 VIOLET Remember how Alvy was keeping tabs on those other missions?
25.3 KREJJH The ones launched at the same time as the Iris?
25.4 BRIAN Hang on, I’m pulling up his notes.
25.5 KREJJH On the Europa, Freeman, Barbara. Freeman, David. And then-- a bunch of other names. All of these people are still fine?
25.6 BRIAN As far as we know. Look, Barton, Valerie was on the Horus. So, wait, all of the people on your list...were also volunteered on one of these missions?
25.7 VIOLET Hang on, I think I’ve got one person here that’s missing from Alvy’s notes. First name Emily, last name Craddock.
25.8 BRIAN Holy shit. Remember the nanoswarm’s message?
26.1 KREJJH The one you wouldn’t stop replaying in our room? Uh, yes, Crewman Jeeter, I remem-- [remembers] ‘Hello hello? Is this Thasia? Is this Craddock?’
26.2 VIOLET Emily Craddock.
26.3 BRIAN Where’d she work? Biotech? Security?
26.4 VIOLET ...PR. I don’t know, it could be a coincidence, but I feel like we should keep digging. There’s some files I want to look at, but I’m having trouble accessing them.
26.5 KREJJH We’re not picking up any orbital sources with a decent signal. We’d have to connect to the local network.
26.7 BRIAN Man, I miss those local connections. So much faster. I’ve got, like, a month’s worth of heavy downloads queued up.
26.8 VIOLET Then why aren’t we connecting?
26.9 KREJJH Because there’s risk involved, we’re on the run, and our security officer is--First Mate Patel. (sigh) Being an outlaw is so boring.
27.1 JUNIOR AGENT Junior Agent McCabe here. Nothing else relevant on Transmissions, 0, B, or D for some time. Returning to Transmission C, estimated local time 17:00.
27.2 SOUND CAR DOOR SLAMS; GRAVEL UNDER FOOTSTEPS
27.3 RICKY Captain Sana Tripathi, right on time!
27.4 SANA No bodyguards, really?
27.5 RICKY I said one-on-one. C’mon, I’m not gonna search you for weapons; you’re not a killer. I am gonna do a quick scan for bugs, though. And I need your comm link.
27.6 SANA You can see it’s deactivated; the crew can’t reach me.
27.8 RICKY Yeah, but let’s play it safe. (pause) Smart girl. Alright, hold still.
27.9 SOUND RICKY SCANS FOR BUGS; ALL CLEAR SOUND
28.1 RICKY (Vocal affect changes to sound more like a not-evil Regular Joe.) Thank Christ. All that villain shit, not as fun as it looks. It’s good to see you again.
28.2 SANA (More confused but not really less angry)What is this? What do you want?
28.3 RICKY Damn, I was hoping you were playing along a little. You’re still holding a grudge? It was over a decade ago. We were kids.
28.4 SANA I’m here because you threatened my crew.
28.5 RICKY Look, the IGR was waiting for you on Rosalind. When you changed course, we left them scrambling to catch up. And of course I’m sorry about how I did that, but I knew your audio wasn’t secured, so I didn’t have a ton of options.
28.6 SANA What about the blackmail, is that real?
28.7 RICKY I’m not blackmailing you. I have a contact who came into some information about your ship being bugged. I’m offering to tell you who did it, if you do one job for me. An easy one. More like a favor.
29.1 SANA What.
29.2 RICKY I need you to kill Ricky Q. (Pause) Don’t worry, I’m not speaking in third-person. I know what you think of me, but I’m not a monster.
29.3 SANA You wanna stage the death of your Cresswin Landing alias. You’ve been using it to work with various criminal organizations, and now the Regime is closing in, and you need to tidy up.
29.4 RICKY Not exactly closing in. They’re offering me a contract; I just need those zealots to think I’m one of them long enough to pass a background check. All you have to do is go back to your ship, let slip who you met with, say that you lost your temper, and alas poor Ricky Q, I knew him, Horatio. There’s no risk for you. You’ve already got blood on your hands; they’re not gonna put out an extra bounty if you shoot a fellow criminal. Your mole can leak it to my middlemen, and they’ll bring it to my government contact on New Jupiter. You’ve got to admit, “He’s literally dead” is a pretty good alibi.
29.5 SANA Still feels more complicated than it needs to be.
30.1 RICKY Maybe I wanted to see you.
30.2 SANA Try again.
30.3 RICKY Look, the IGR’s jumpier than usual lately. People who professionally don’t stand for anything aren’t gonna stick out their necks to flip off the Regime right now. You, on the other hand...however you feel about me, I’m pretty sure you still hate them more. Or am I wrong?
30.4 JUNIOR AGENT Junior Agent McCabe. Cutting in with a relevant segment of Transmission 11A, obtained concurrently.
30.5 SOUND ENGINE ROOM NOISE
30.6 ARKADY (You get the sense she’s already said this a couple of times.)Arkady Patel to Sana Tripathi.
30.7 GRATUITOUSLY PLEASANT VOICE Attempting connection. Attempting connection.
30.8 ARKADY (through her teeth)C’mon.
30.9 GRATUITOUSLY PLEASANT VOICE Attempting connection--
31.1 ARKADY (Through her teeth) Attempt harder.
31.2 GRATUITOUSLY PLEASANT VOICE Connection not available. Would you like to try again?
31.3 ARKADY (Deep breath) Arkady Patel to Brian Jeeter.
31.4 SOUND COMM CONNECTS
31.5 ARKADY Brian, have you heard from the Captain?
31.6 BRIAN Not...since she left?
31.7 ARKADY She hasn’t checked in?
31.8 BRIAN Doesn’t she normally do that with you?
31.9 KREJJH (Has dreamed of this moment) Are we having connection problems? Because there’s always, y’know, local networks.
31.10 ARKADY (this is the sound of Arkady getting a headache in real-time) Krejjh, if this is about you wanting to download another Dwarnian soap opera--
32.1 KREJJH No! It is only like fifteen percent about that. We’re trying to find the connection with Alvy and the other-Violet.
32.2 ARKADY Actually, you know what, yeah, let me dial us in.
32.3 KREJJH Whoa, really?
32.4 ARKADY We need some way to stay informed in the middle of goddamn nowhere. Arkady Patel out.
32.5 SOUND ARKADY PROGRAMMING SOMETHING
32.6 JUNIOR AGENT Junior Agent McCabe, several more unsuccessful attempts to reach Sana Tripathi have been filed in the archives. Frankly, you get the picture.
32.7 GRATUITOUSLY PLEASANT VOICE --like to try again?
32.8 ARKADY (long, devastated exhale, which cuts off abruptly as--)
32.9 SOUND DOORS OPEN
32.10 VIOLET Hey. Here, this was getting cold.
33.1 ARKADY (this is the worst day of Arkady’s life in a long while) Um...thanks.
33.2 VIOLET (can tell Arkady is almost crying, trying to be a little tactful) I came down to see if you wanted to come trade theories with us, but now I’m gonna go ahead and say you don’t wanna do that.
33.3 ARKADY (Trying to play down how emotionally distraught she is, with mixed results) Uh, accurate.
33.4 VIOLET What’s going on?
33.5 ARKADY Engine trouble. Turns out, we picked up a tank for an RXJ-fifty-one. Same fuel, same setup, but the output valve’s different. There’s probably a way to rig it up, but damned if I know.
33.6 VIOLET Could the Captain talk you through it?
33.7 ARKADY If she was answering her comm.
33.8 VIOLET Maybe the terrain’s blocking the signal?
33.9 ARKADY Not on the local network.
34.1 VIOLET Maybe she forgot to activate it? There’s no reason to panic yet.
34.2 ARKADY (Too late) I know. Can we...talk about something else?
34.3 VIOLET Hey, how many times have you walked me through a near-death experience?
34.4 SOUND DOOR CLOSES; VIOLET COMES FURTHER INSIDE
34.5 VIOLET CONT’D Some light smalltalk is literally the least I could do.
34.6 ARKADY I don’t know if chatting about the weather is gonna cut it right now.
34.7 VIOLET In that case...you don’t have to answer if you don’t want to--
34.8 ARKADY Obviously. You’re five one, you couldn’t make me do anything.
34.9 VIOLET You said you’d been to prison? The biggest prison in the galaxy, and I’d never heard of it.
VIOLET CONT’D OVER
35.1 VIOLET CONT’D I looked it up, and Cresswin Landing stopped taking new inmates in ‘78. You would’ve been what, fifteen?
35.2 ARKADY (Quietly) Fourteen. I was fourteen.
35.3 VIOLET From what I could find--which was almost nothing, it sounded like more of a--prison colony. You weren’t sent there, were you.
35.4 ARKADY I was born there. Colony’s not the word, though. They weren’t trying to settle Cresswin.
35.5 VIOLET Then what?
35.6 ARKADY It was one of the first artificial planets. They wanted to build this state-of-the-art resort thing, but they screwed it up. Something with the soil. It was barren, couldn’t grow a cactus. The Cresswin estate needed some way to recoup their losses, so they went into the prison biz.
35.7 VIOLET Were a lot of people born there?
36.1 ARKADY Yeah. We weren’t supposed to--happen, but there weren’t cells or anything. The guards controlled the food, so you worked and you got rations. We weren’t watched all that closely.
36.2 VIOLET (deeply upset) And all the kids were just--prisoners, too?
36.3 ARKADY Where would we have gone? We weren’t from anywhere. Legally, we didn’t exist. Besides, once you came of age, they’d write you up for anything; more bodies for the factories.
36.4 VIOLET (Deeply shaken by this) We had actual republics back then. Why didn’t we hear about this?
36.5 ARKADY People knew. Republics aren’t perfect, either.
36.6 VIOLET Sorry, of course, it’s not like somebody flipped a lever in 2180, democracy to fascism. The pieces must’ve already been there, the paranoia, the corruption--
37.1 ARKADY You could tell when a district was really going crooked, because there were patterns to who they’d send us. (Arkady considers this, considers the structural inequalities that decided who got sent to regular jail and who got sent to Cresswin.) Well, there were always patterns, but. Somebody new would come to power, and we’d just get a wave of dissenters.
37.2 VIOLET When you said you learned opera in prison...
37.3 ARKADY We didn’t have a high school, but we had a theatre troupe. Not just opera, they did anything one of them knew by heart. Shakespeare, Abedayo, Miranda, Omar… By ‘78, there must’ve been eighty people in the company. We were getting folks from Telemachus by then. A lot of them; Telemachus is a big place. That’s how I met Sana.
37.4 VIOLET I should’ve guessed you two went that far back.
37.5 ARKADY (A little flat; she’s feeling weird about the implication that she and Sana are so close.) I knew who she was; she didn’t know me. I was a kid. Anyway. With Telemachus, we had the people and the contacts to smuggle in what we needed. That’s what pushed things over the top.
38.1 VIOLET Hang on. Did Cresswin Landing shut down, or did you guys shut it down?
38.2 ARKADY Yeah, well. There’s a reason you can’t find much about it these days.
38.3 VIOLET (Extremely impressed)A planetary uprising that actually worked...
38.4 ARKADY Not sure I’d go that far. It’s not a happy story.
38.5 JUNIOR AGENT Junior Agent McCabe to all agents. The Rumor is still on Hafizah. Pending more intelligence, continue your broad sweep. Resuming Transmission 11C.
38.6 RICKY C’mon, Sana, I know better than to ask you for old time’s sake, but--
38.7 SANA If I say I killed you on Hafizah, somebody might come looking for the body.
38.8 RICKY It’s possible.
39.1 SANA Do you have one to spare? (Ricky doesn’t say no.) Goddammit, Ricky—
39.2 RICKY You’re gonna lecture me about morals, really? Do you expect me to buy that the guard on Elion was your one and only casualty?
39.3 SANA Only when it’s a matter of survival.
39.4 RICKY My guy was about survival, too. Regardless of whether or not you want to believe me. Please, one favor. One chance to actually pull something over on the Regime.
39.5 SANA And you’ll tell me who the mole is.
39.6 RICKY Of course.
39.7 SANA Because you still think I haven’t figured it out yet.
39.8 RICKY I know you haven’t. Never play poker, Sana. It’s just embarrassing. You wanna hear the really crazy thing about all of this? You were wrong about me on Cresswin. I never would’ve betrayed you.
RICKY CONT’D OVER
40.1 RICKY CONT’D I really was ready to die for the uprising. If you hadn’t pushed me away, if you hadn’t turned against me--I was risking so much, and at the end of the day, still you were so convinced I had to be up to something--
40.2 SANA I didn’t think you were plotting against us.
40.3 RICKY Then why were you constantly working against my plans?
40.4 SANA Because they were bad plans.
40.5 RICKY What.
40.6 SANA You wanted to plant hidden cameras in the head office, you wanted to stage your own kidnapping, you wanted to give a big, rousing speech that would convince all the guards to switch sides--
40.7 RICKY They would’ve listened to me. We had to send a message.
40.8 SANA We’d tried sending messages, Ricky. We’d been trying for years, and then you show up--
41.1 RICKY The Landers were too close to the problem, they thought too small. They needed a fresh perspective. They needed--
41.2 SANA (Absolutely furious)--a rich white guy to come in and tell us what to do?
41.3 RICKY You’re tossing around a lot of words like “us” and “we,” and it’s weird because I’m pretty sure I remember you weren’t born on Cresswin, either.
41.4 SANA When I got arrested, I went there prepared to listen and learn. Y’know, you came to that first meeting saying you wanted to help, and it really felt like it meant something, that somebody like you could see things the way we did. I guess we were all a little naive.
41.5 RICKY That’s my crime, that I didn’t think and feel exactly like the rest of you? God, I could’ve saved you all, if you’d just listened to me. I had no choice.
41.6 SANA Yeah, when you disappeared three months before go-time, I tried to convince the others it was just about your ego, but--
42.1 RICKY (genuinely angry now) Sorry I wasn’t willing to be the pawn you all wanted me to be!
42.2 SANA Thought you’d do anything for the cause.
42.3 RICKY You know, your real problem is you’re still blaming me for things that happened after I left.
42.4 SANA How did you think it was gonna go?
42.5 JUNIOR AGENT Junior Agent McCabe to all agents. The Rumor is still on Hafizah, and we can eliminate Districts A1 though A7, B1 though B9, and C1 through C13.
42.6 AGENT Also D1 through D5. Returning now to Transmission 11A.
42.7 ARKADY They were getting everything in place, all the supplies, all the greenhouses and seeds and water purifiers we’d need once we couldn’t depend on shipments anymore. But three months before the big day, one of the guys at the top abandoned us. We knew he had to be a double agent. So we had to strike then. Only chance for a surprise attack.
42.8 VIOLET Before you had enough food in place…
43.1 ARKADY Before we had enough anything. And it worked, the guards weren’t expecting to be hit early. And then we were free. And hungry.
43.2 VIOLET What’d you do?
43.3 ARKADY We had some contacts, a couple of smugglers came by when they could.
43.4 VIOLET Doesn’t seem like enough to support a planet.
43.5 ARKADY Yeah, well. We wound up trading with Dwarnians.
43.6 VIOLET It doesn’t sound like you had other options.
43.7 ARKADY Maybe not. But when our agreement broke down, things got--scary. Nobody in the universe saw us as a real registered planet, so nobody had our backs until the war. And that didn’t come for a good ten months.
43.8 VIOLET Jesus. And you were still a kid…
43.9 ARKADY By then? Not so much.
44.1 JUNIOR AGENT Junior Agent McCabe. Transmission 11C becomes unusable for some time, as Ricky Q’s slanderous ranting continues for nearly ten minutes. Skipping ahead to--
44.2 AGENT Hold on, Junior Agent. In fact, this portion must still be included, in accordance with Edict 1837. It is, of course, crucial to abide by all regulations at all times, no matter how time-sensitive, urgent, or vital the circumstances.
44.3 RICKY Y’know, it’s common knowledge that you only turn a profit in the black market selling luxury goods to the kind of people who can afford them. Tell me, for every revolutionary pamphlet you hand out, how many bottles of scotch are you moving? Where’s this stuff really ending up? I bet they love you in middle management. I bet you guys make their lives way easier.
44.4 SANA We do what we have to, so we can do what we want to. If you think I don’t weigh that balance every single damn day--
45.1 RICKY Oh, I think you feel bad about it. I just don’t see what that accomplishes outside of your head. The difference between us is, I know what I’m doing. And I’m much, much better at it.
45.2 SANA You think being a cynic makes you unique?
45.3 RICKY Well Sana, I have it on good authority that there’s only one Ricky Q.
45.4 SANA That conversation didn’t...you said my ship was bugged.
45.5 RICKY It’d sure seem that way, huh?
45.6 SANA I’ve seen it scanned.
45.7 RICKY Every inch of it? Look, you can scan people, and I’ll easily believe you’ve searched every person on board for bugs, but even in a beater, that’s a lot of ship. So either you failed to take apart every single wall and check inside, or your ship is haunted, you tell me.
45.8 SANA You’re right. I must’ve failed to check something.
46.1 RICKY Thank you.
46.2 SANA We went over everybody, with scanners that can pick up any human-made recording device on the market.
46.3 RICKY Well-said, now if we can--
46.4 SANA So what would that leave, alien tech? Even the Dwarnians don’t have that kind of precision, and all the other civilizations we know about have been dead or missing for centuries. Who would be looking for them at this point? Even the Regime knows that ghosts aren’t real.
46.5 RICKY I agree. I’m in kind of a hurry, so--
46.6 SANA (To herself) “No line safe.” And now she keeps coughing, like something’s in the air...Nobody even considered if it was contagious… (Sana now understands the nature of the leak)
46.7 RICKY What?
46.8 SANA You don’t know.
46.9 RICKY Know what?
47.1 SANA There is no mole. There’s no bugs hiding in the walls. And you’re not leaking to the Regime, which means it’s gotta be the other way around. And that means we are way too screwed to be afraid of you.
47.2 RICKY Are you sure about that?
47.3 SANA How’s my bluffing, Ricky? (Ricky says nothing.) Your contact on New Jupiter, is that really about leaking intel, or are you just doing what you always did, and bribing some poor desk jockey to tip you off in case one of your precious fake names turns up in a report?
47.4 RICKY If you’re so concerned, maybe don’t go slinging my name around.
47.5 SANA “There’s only one Ricky Q.” Y’know, I was wrong. Nature of the business, we do some things I’m not proud of. We make deals with some pretty scuzzy people. And that’s how I can say beyond a doubt there are thousands of you. Millions, maybe. You didn’t just leave, you didn’t just sell out. You sold out for so little.
48.1 RICKY You are so goddamn smug, you always have been. You have no idea who you’re talking to. How do you think somebody like me stays so far off the radar? I’ve got people at every level, on every planet. It’s not just some agent on New Jupiter I went to school with, it is so much bigger than that. How do you think your corrupt desk jockeys can afford that extra bottle of whiskey? It’s my bribe money that keeps you in business. Hell, how do you think I got that contract? I am the opposite of small-time. I’ve spent years making a name for myself, and I did it without any help from anyone, because after my time with the Landers, (GETTING SAD NOW) you have to realize nobody in my family will ever trust me again, and if you don’t think I weigh that every day of my life...
48.2 SANA (sadly) Roderick Quincy Cresswin the Third.
48.3 RICKY The Second. Granddad was a Richard, lucky him.
48.4 SANA I’m sorry.
48.5 RICKY It’s my burden to bear.
48.6 SANA Not for that. Karma’s gonna get you.
49.1 RICKY Karma? You believe in karma now?
49.2 SANA I have to.
49.3 RICKY Since when are you religious? I’ve seen you eat beef. Half-Hindu, half-Muslim, and a hundred percent as eager as I was to disappoint the ol’ bloodline.
49.4 SANA Space-raised cattle.
49.5 RICKY What?
49.6 SANA Everybody knows, only Earth-cows are holy.
49.7 RICKY What, and only Earth-booze is haram?
49.8 SANA Something like that.
49.10 RICKY You’re not gonna help me, are you?
49.11 SANA And you can’t help me.
49.12 RICKY Guess I shouldn’t be shocked you’d turn down your one chance at a powerful ally. You never were much about long-term thinking.
50.1 SANA (Not fully engaged in what Ricky’s saying; her mind is a million miles ahead) Guess not. Toss me my comm link?
50.2 RICKY Here. Y’know, I’m not gonna play the karma card, but something’s gonna catch up with you, and by then, there really is gonna be nothing I can do.
50.3 SANA Yeah, maybe.
50.4 SOUND SANA WALKS AWAY
50.5 SANA (Calling over her shoulder) Need a hand unloading the cargo?
50.6 RICKY Keep it. What am I gonna do with twenty cases of noise canceling headphones?
50.7 SANA You already paid.
50.8 RICKY Believe me, your fee is the definition of small-time.
50.9 SANA Right.
50.10 RICKY See you around, Sana.
51.1 SANA (Flat.) Yeah.
51.2 SOUND CAR DOOR OPENS
51.3 SANA Probably not.
51.4 SOUND SANA SITS DOWN, CLOSES THE DAR DOOR, STARTS ENGINE. RADIO STARTS WITH CAR
51.5 RADIO SINGER “--Red light shines on and on and on and on and on / but it’s not the sea, that’s coming for me, and it’s not the storm--”
51.6 SOUND RADIO TURNS OFF
51.7 SANA (To herself) Be brave, kiddo.
51.8 SOUND SANA DRIVING THE CAR
51.9 SANA Outside call. Sana Tripathi to Arkady Patel.
51.10 ARKADY Captain.
51.11 SANA I need everything secured and ready to go, right now. And I need you to tell the rest of the crew, this goes for everyone: not a single word about where we are, or where we’re going.
52.1 ARKADY Code blue?
52.2 SANA Code teal.
52.3 ARKADY Captain, I--
52.4 SANA That’s the situation. And if I’m not back in forty-five minutes--wartime protocols.
52.5 ARKADY Not an option. We need you.
52.6 SANA Yeah, well, you don’t wanna see the speedometer right now. I’m gonna make it, and I’m gonna tell you everything, I promise.
52.7 ARKADY (urgent) Sana, the engine. It’s a fifty-one, not a fifty.
52.8 SANA We just need enough power to get out of here. You’ll figure it out, okay? I trust you. Sana Tripathi out.
53.1 SANA CONT’D (In a more outward tone, although on some level she is also talking to keep herself calm during some dangerous driving) A quick note, to the agent or agents listening in on this, because I know you are, and you know I know, and frankly, I am too tired to pretend right now.
53.2 SANA Maybe you’re wondering why I just handed you Roderick Quincy Cresswin Junior. I want to be clear here: this is not me cooperating. This is not about me giving you what you want. Not gonna lie, it feels weird trying to psych out someone I’ve never met. You know the songs I sing in the shower, and I don’t know your name. Y’know what, I’m gonna call you Leonard. And uh, if you’ve got complaints--yeah, I guess you know my number.
53.3 SANA CONT’D So, hi, Leonard. And hello to any counter-agents listening in on this, because I think you know by now, Leonard, just how unstable your operation really is. What Roderick said, about knowing people in high places--I don’t think he made that up. I mean, you know how corrupt the average guard is.
54.1 SANA CONT’D Man, Lenny, I’ve had so many imaginary conversations with you guys over the years, with the IGR true believers. And now that I know I actually have a captive audience, it’s like--I realize how much time I’ve wasted. We’ve been trying to make ourselves heard for a long time. At some point, either you hear us, or you don’t.
54.2 SANA CONT’D And lately, lately somehow my goals are even smaller than that. You know what I want? At this point, you know what I lie awake dreaming about? I wanna live in a world where my friends don’t have to be terrified every single day. And I haven’t had that in a long, long time. And I’ll be honest with you, most days, I don’t really think I’ll have it again. Even standing still is a privilege I don’t get. There’s no place where every single piece of me belongs anymore. The closest I’ve got is a ship I built myself, out of scraps, and if we have to keep moving, we might as well run.
54.3 SANA CONT’D So, say whatever you want to say. Write whatever you want to write. But just--understand that when I say that I would do anything for my crew, I mean it. But that’s not an offer, Lenny, and it never has been. It’s a threat.
55.1 SANA CONT’D (A beat. Sana is driving very fast now.) (Dawning, embarrassing realization) ...you have definitely heard me singing in the shower. Wow, I really hope you guys edit those reports.
55.2 AGENT Agent Park to all agents. At present, Source C has 44 minutes until the Rumor exits Hafizah.
55.3 JUNIOR AGENT Cutting in with a parallel section of Transmission 11B.
55.4 BRIAN Alright, that’s enough files to keep us busy for a while. How’re you doing?
55.5 KREJJH Got a nice stack of downloads here, Crewman Jeeter. Three new episodes of Sh’th Hremreh waiting for our eyeballs and earholes.
55.6 BRIAN Hey, what’s that?
55.7 KREJJH You said to start grabbing everything that wasn’t garbage, viruses, or student loan bills.