Under Pressure 1.01 - Two and a Half Leagues Under the Sea
DR JAMIE MACMILLAN-BARRIE
CAPT PHAEDRA ASPROS
DR SIDNEY PETERSEN
DR RAMONA RAMIREZ
SCENE ONE: the residential wing of the Amphitrite - day
JAMIE MACMILLAN-BARRIE (BORED, AS IF ROTE) Hello (PAUSE) I, guess. This is the first audio notes transmission of Dr Jamie MacMillan-Barrie aboard the DSS Amphitrite. “DSS”, as I have recently learned, stands for Deep Sea Station. I am recording this for review by the board of the Cassida Memorial Research Fund.
SOUND INTRO MUSIC
SOUND (FADE INTO) REPEATED METALLIC CLANGING
(STARTING OFF MIKE, AS IF LOOKING AT CEILING) That, apparently, is the heating system coming online. Jack, the maintenance...man, I guess, he takes care of the station, told me that the sound is a byproduct of very hot water going through very cold pipes, which is how the station is heated.
JAMIE CONT’D OVER
JAMIE CONT’D Apparently it sounds quite alarming but actually is nothing to worry about–-that’s how he describes most of the sounds on the station, actually.
SOUND SINGLE, LOUDER CLANG
To be honest I wasn’t paying attention to most of what Jack was saying. If I’m going to be living in a tin can with billions of tonnes of water above me, I don’t want to know how easily it can break. I do know, however, from the hundreds of these laminated info sheets (SHAKES LAMINATED PAPER) that seem to be just...hovering around the station, that (BEGINS READING) the Amphitrite is the deepest undersea base in the world, almost 3 land miles down, and the second largest in the world, with a capacity of 300 temporary beds separated into four completely independent modules, and 20 permanent research positions, separated into two modules. JAMIE CONT’D OVER
JAMIE CONT’D (NO LONGER READING) A total, when stretched, of about 400 people can be on the station at a given time. The number of souls on board at present is six.
Today is my first full day on the Amphitrite. I spent yesterday morning on a series of submarines descending despite a truly alarming pressure headache, and the afternoon with Jack, going over the permanent residence section of the station and basic safety precautions. I also had a physical –– apparently the headache is also nothing to worry about, and it usually goes away after a few days.
(BEAT) Jack seems...nice, I guess. And the Captain was polite; very dedicated to the station. Much nicer than the doctor, actually. The medical doctor, that is, Sidney Petersen; they were pretty short. Metaphorically, I mean, I have no room to cast aspersions on someone’s height.
JAMIE CONT’D OVER
JAMIE CONT’D Maybe they were just busy, or they liked whoever had this residency before me better, or something. Hard to say, they wouldn’t stop to chat.
SOUND A FEW MORE CLANGS
JAMIE (BEAT) You know, I’m a little surprised at how cold it is down here, with the heating pipes running all over the place. And there’s condensation on just about everything––we are under water, though, so the humidity shouldn’t be a shock.
(PAUSE) I’m a little worried about my books, to be quite honest, but Jack told me that as long as I keep them in the cabinet provided there won’t be too much damage. The cabinet is supposed to have a seal--and surely whoever designed the fixtures knew what they were doing when the specs said “watertight”...I hope.
(BEAT, MORE INVOLVED NOW) Look, whoever’s listening to this, somewhere, in the future: I am not a medical doctor.
JAMIE CONT’D OVER
JAMIE CONT’D I don’t have any experience in any of the hard sciences, and the most I have in any science is some writing for an economics study years ago. I’m here for a humanities residency, to write something up about the philosophical implications of being this far down for this long. I don’t even have any training in philosophy outside of some classes in undergrad; my doctorate is in Romantic literature. I’m fairly antipathetic about the study of philosophy as a whole, in all honesty. This is about the only paying job I could find that’s not on a college campus because, as I mentioned, I have an advanced degree in literature. It’s not like there’s an abundance of careers in the field.
SOUND ASPROS KNOCKS ON THE DOOR
JAMIE Come in?
ASPROS Good morning, Dr MacMillan.
JAMIE It’s MacMillan-Barrie, actually.
ASPROS Excuse me, Dr MacMillan-Barrie.
JAMIE It’s fine, it’s a common mistake running over a mouthful of a surname. Feel free to call me Jamie. What can I do for you, Captain?
ASPROS I just wanted to go over some basic conduct expectations on board before you’ve been here long enough to form bad habits. Do you have a minute?
JAMIE Sure thing, have a seat.
ASPROS (PAUSE, THE SOUND OF ASPROS SHIFTING ON THE COUCH) This is a very comfortable couch.
ASPROS Alright, so a few basics. The station is under an extreme amount of pressure--the interior is pressurized to only a few atmospheres below surface level. That means that if there is a hole in the side hull of the station, the water is not going to be squirting in like in Titanic; it’s going to hit you as fast and as devastating as a bullet.
JAMIE Jeez. So what you’re saying is, I can’t nail my diploma to the outer wall?
ASPROS (UNAMUSED) No.
JAMIE (PAUSE) Sure thing, captain. What else?
ASPROS There are several doors in this section of the station that are marked “Do Not Open.” Never open these doors.
ASPROS CONT’D OVER
ASPROS CONT’D Most of them open either to the outside or to another door that opens to the outside, and if you were to open them you and everyone else in this section of the station would die very very quickly.
JAMIE (TOP) Not what one would call ideal.
ASPROS No, very much not. They’re there so that if another part of the station is compromised the permanent crew can be rescued by submarines. (PAUSE) There are other door that say “Authorized Access Only.” You are not authorized. Those doors lead to the other modules, and you have to have permission from an officer to enter those areas. You shouldn’t have to go into the other modules at any time during your residency.
JAMIE Don’t open doors, got it so far.
ASPROS On the note of doors, don’t leave yours propped open. If there is a leak of any kind, the door is water and pressure tight, so you won’t immediately drown, and there’s a basic communication capabilities so you can get in touch with the surface and maybe have a chance at not dying; Jack taught you how to use that yesterday. I realize that these offices can get humid and unpleasant, but it really is a safety issue, so leave your door closed.
JAMIE So open doors as little as possible.
ASPROS (PAUSE) (STILL UNIMPRESSED) Basically. Next up: absolutely no open flames. This includes smoking of any kind; lighters are banned on the station, but people still manage to sneak a few down anyway. No fire whatsoever. We have an electric stove in the kitchen, and if you do anything while you’re cooking that could potentially lead to a fire your cooking privileges will be immediately revoked. One-strike policy.
JAMIE Harsh, but fair.
ASPROS Next: never leave a piece of electrical equipment unsupervised outside of your office, or in a place where it might get wet. The offices, labs, and crew quarters are designed to not have any water sources other than the heating apparatus. You can take electronics from place to place, but honestly it’s just safer to say the rule is to always have them with you to prevent any kind of problem.
JAMIE Got it, keep ‘em with you. What else?
ASPROS If you decide to prepare food, don’t leave your dishes unwashed. If mold grows on anything, the whole station could be contaminated, and that is not a science project any of us want to deal with cleaning up.
JAMIE I can definitely keep it clean.
ASPROS That goes for your quarters as well. You can only have perishable food in the kitchen, you can have non-perishable food in your office, and only water is allowed in quarters.
JAMIE Can do. What else?
ASPROS Our general fraternization rule is to follow the guidelines of your institution. If they say you can...copulate with coworkers, go right ahead. That being said, pregnancy is prohibited. Like the potential for mold in the air circulation, no one wants to find out what effects a high pressure system has on gestation. There is a wide variety of birth control available, just ask Dr Petersen.
JAMIE Yeah, that’s. Yeah. Won’t be a problem. For a wide variety of reasons
ASPROS (AS IF RAISING HER EYEBROW AND SMIRKING IN AMUSEMENT) If you’re sure. General conduct we expect from the crew: keep your workspace clean. Use shared resources like the kitchen and recreation area fairly. Don’t have parties without authorization from an officer first.
JAMIE (TOP) Wait wait wait. Where are these other officers, are there more than just you? And who exactly am I going to be having a party with, the fish?
ASPROS (HUFF) These regulations were written with a bigger permanent crew in mind, with officer positions to match. I’m required to give you this information, so if you could keep the interruptions to a minimum I would appreciate it. (PAUSE) One of the big things is to not take people’s things, especially their food, without asking permission. ASPROS CONT’D OVER
ASPROS CONT’D We have a limited number of personal effects, and since direct contact topside is infrequent, other people’s resources are their own. If you want something, let me know and I’ll put it in the requisition. Other than that you’re limited to common resources, in the pantry or unmarked in the fridge. (PAUSE) Are you alright, you look a little peaky.
JAMIE Oh, I’m fine. I was just remembering something from my co-op in undergrad.
ASPROS Have a lot of kitchen related drama?
JAMIE Yeah, but not in the way you’re probably thinking. It was more people not making dinner on their assigned days. Anyway, what’s next?
ASPROS Well, we have visitors to the Amphitrite more or less constantly.
ASPROS CONT’D OVER
ASPROS CONT’D For the most part they’re here for the communications array and to refuel before continuing to whatever their next port is. Because of this, and this is more of a guideline than a hard and fast rule, we ask that you use the internet as little as possible, especially when we have guests. Also, try to only use the computer in your office for work. There’s a terminal in the common room you can use.
JAMIE So no wasting away my time on twitter?
ASPROS No. (PAUSE) Well, that was all I’m required to impart. I’m leaving a you a manual of what you can do to and how you can use your office; there are specifics; feel free to come to my office and ask. Have a good afternoon, Jamie.
JAMIE You too, Captain.
SOUND DOOR OPENING, CLOSING
JAMIE (LOWLY) See, I had assumed it was “leave a label if it’s yours” rules, like it was in my co-op. I didn’t realize I was going to need snack food at ten thousand yards below sea level, and I was just so despondent at the prospect of unflavored applesauce that I took half a box of clif bars from the cupboard with the intent to hoard them until I could ask someone how food is supposed to work down here. Well, water under the bridge, I guess. And over the bridge. And if it gets in the bridge we all die horribly. Those clif cars are mine now, is the point.
(BEAT, FASTER) I know I blocked out this time for making notes, but I’m going to get some tea. It’s cold enough for tea.
SOUND MOVEMENT, AS IF THE RECORDING DEVICE IS BEING PICKED UP
SOUND STEPS ALONG A METAL SURFACE
CPT PHAEDRA ASPROS (FADING IN AS RECORDING DEVICE GETS CLOSER) You know not to take other people’s food, Petersen!
DR SIDNEY PETERSEN What makes you so sure I’m the one who took your goddamn clif bars? I don’t even like peanut butter!
JAMIE (HOT ON MIKE) I guess I was totally wrong about that one. Certainly not the first time.
SOUND CARDBOARD BOX SHOVED INTO A BODY
ASPROS (LOW) You need to learn some goddamn respect, Sidney.
SOUND ASPROS WALKING QUICKLY AWAY
PETERSEN (LONG BEAT) What do you want, Barrie?
JAMIE It’s MacMillan-Barrie, but feel free to call me Jamie.
PETERSEN Sure, that’ll happen.
JAMIE (BEAT) So, Sidney,
PETERSEN (TOP) [SCOFFS]
JAMIE So, Dr Petersen, what was that all about?
PETERSEN Phaedra needs to learn to be a little less protective of her clif bars, is all.
JAMIE That didn’t seem like everything that was going on.
PETERSEN You know how I spell “not your business?” F – U - C
JAMIE (TOP) Fine. Point made.
PETERSEN (BEAT) I’m sorry, did you want something?
JAMIE I was going to make some tea, but you’re right in front of the stove.
SOUND PETERSEN WALKS A FEW STEPS
JAMIE (QUIET) Thanks.
SOUND THE WATER BEGINS TO BOIL IN SILENCE
JAMIE (TRYING TO SALVAGE THE CONVERSATION) You’re doing medical research, right? What’s your focus?
PETERSEN (DROLL) I’m here on a grant from NASA looking into how long term high pressure environments affect the skeletal system. They want to see if hyperbaric treatment could help offset the many, many ways zero-G living messes with the human bone structure. Hard to justify shipping an entire hyperbaric chamber into low Earth orbit, so here I am.
JAMIE (ATTEMPTING SINCERITY) That’s really interesting!
PETERSEN Yeah, it is.
JAMIE (UNDER HER BREATH) O-kay.
SOUND A pregnant pause. THE WATER BUBBLES
JAMIE (LAMINATE CRINKLES) Huh! (READING) ““DSS Amphitrite” is the deepest manned station, at just over ten thousand metres deep. It is the largest permanent station in the Western Hemisphere, only surpassed by DSS Varuna, located in the Ceylon Abyssal Plain off the East Coast of Sri Lanka.” That’s pretty neat!
PETERSEN You were literally the only person on this station that didn’t already know that.
JAMIE (BEAT) Well there’s no reason to be rude about it.
PETERSEN What are you even doing down here? This is a research base.
JAMIE The liberal arts have a fair bit of research to do, too, you know.
PETERSEN On what? Feelings about the ocean? Couldn’t you do that from a lighthouse somewhere?
JAMIE Well, sure, I could have, but that’s not nearly as fun.
PETERSEN Is that why you’re down here? To have fun?
SOUND THE KETTLE BOILS, WATER POURS INTO A CUP
JAMIE I’m down here.
SOUND THE KETTLE THUNKS
JAMIE I’m down here because I wanted a different life than the one I was going to live, okay? So I applied for the residency, and you know what? I got it. I got in.
JAMIE CONT’D I live here now. So you can think whatever you want about who I am and what I do, but I would really appreciate it if you just kept it to yourself.
SOUND JAMIE WALKS OUT OF THE KITCHEN, QUICKLY
Damn, I left my tea. Oh [fucking] well.
SOUND JAMIE’S OFFICE DOOR CLANGS OPEN AND CLOSED
JAMIE You know, I can take that kind of “the humanities aren’t real” b.s. ninety percent of the time, but sometimes–– God, sometimes.
I’m sure that Sidney is a nice person, but damn if that wasn’t a bad comment to make.
[Shit,] now I’m cold. I really could have used that tea.
SOUND PIPES CLANG AGAIN
JAMIE I’m really glad there’s a window in this office. Or porthole, I guess.
JAMIE CONT’D OVER
JAMIE CONT’D It’s just black, there’s nothing to see out there; it’s almost a nihilist nightmare, this little refuge in the void. When I first got down here, I thought that it would be that nightmare. I thought it would be ceaseless existential horror, to look out and see the abyss and remember that if there’s even the thought of a crack anywhere in the hull we will all be immediately crushed under the pressure, but now. I don’t know, I guess there’s something almost comforting about knowing there’s something bigger out there. It’s how I used to feel, when I would look at the stars with–– when I looked at the stars.
JAMIE (PAUSE) You know, that’s not a bad idea for a research topic. The philosophical resonance of the deep, dark, empty ocean outside. That could be interesting, actually. And the trench––there’s something to think about down there.
SOUND PEN SCRATCHING ON PAPER...
JAMIE (PAUSE) I don’t miss [home] as much as I was expecting to. I have my books, and I have my couch, and I have my sweaters––what else did I really have back home?
[AFTER A LONG PAUSE, JAMIE SIGHS] (TO HERSELF) What the hell have you gotten yourself into this time, Wendy?
SOUND A KNOCK ON THE DOOR
JAMIE Come in?
SOUND THE DOOR OPENS
RAMONA (OFF MIKE) (FRIENDLY) Hi, can I come in?
JAMIE (BEWILDERED) Yeah, sure thing.
RAMONA You left your tea in the kitchen
SOUND THE TEACUP HITS A WOODEN DESK...
RAMONA CONT’D and I thought you might want it. It can get pretty chilly down here.
JAMIE (PAUSE) Thanks, that’s really sweet of you. You’re Doctor Ramirez, right?
RAMONA The one and only, but I go by Mona.
JAMIE Nice to meet you, Mona, I’m Jamie.
RAMONA [LAUGHS LIGHTLY] It’s nice to meet you too, Jamie. I couldn’t help but overhear you and Petersen in the kitchen––
JAMIE (TOP) Eavesdropping, are we?
RAMONA Well we have to have something to gossip about.
JAMIE And the new kid’s not enough?
RAMONA Good gossip thrives on drama.
JAMIE I suppose that’s true. Just so I’m not too far behind the rumor mill-- you’re down here for biological research, right?
RAMONA Yeah. I’m primarily looking at microscopic organisms that live in the water, but there are a few megafauna down here I’m interested in. There’s just... (REVERENT) the ocean is filled with so much, you know? When you look outside it seems desolate, but there’s so much life, even down here where the sun will never touch. Wait, what are you doing?
SOUND CHAIR SCRAPING ON THE FLOOR
JAMIE (EXERTING HERSELF) Just... getting... Aha! [GRUNTS] This is Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea; I just thought of this quote while you were talking:
JAMIE (READING, SOFTLY) The sea is everything. It covers seven-tenths of the terrestrial globe. Its breath is pure and life-giving. It is an immense desert place where man is never lonely, for he senses the weaving of Creation on every hand. It is the physical embodiment of a supernatural existence. For the sea is itself nothing but love and emotion. It is the Living Infinite, as one of your poets has said. Nature manifests herself in it, with her three kingdoms: mineral, vegetable, and animal. The ocean is the vast reservoir of Nature.
RAMONA (OH NO SHE’S HOT) That’s beautiful.
JAMIE (OH NOOOOO SHE’S HOT) Jules Verne, man.
RAMONA (QUIETLY) Yeah. (PAUSE) Look, don’t worry too much about Sidney, okay? They can take a while to warm up to people.
JAMIE (ONLY HALF JOKING) I don’t know, they seemed pretty equivocal about hating me before.
RAMONA Eh, they’re a softie, really. You just have to wait them out.
JAMIE Well, you’re the expert on the crew of this station, so I’ll defer to your experience.
RAMONA And so you should.
JAMIE (A LONG PAUSE, RIFE WITH POSSIBILITY). Right, well, thanks again for the tea.
RAMONA Yeah, you’re welcome! I should be getting back to my lab, but I’ll see you around.
JAMIE Sure thing. Don’t be a stranger!
RAMONA (OFF MIKE) I won’t be!
RAMONA (ON MIKE) (MANICALLY) Oh, it might go a long way with Sidney if you told Phaedra that you were the one who stole the clif bars.
JAMIE (BEAT) Noted. (PAUSE) For future reference, do you know everything that goes on down here?
RAMONA (BRIGHTLY) No, just most things. (OFF MIKE) Talk to you later!
JAMIE (TO HERSELF) Oh, Wendy, you are in so much trouble. (PAUSE) (IN NORMAL VOICE) That Jules Verne quote might be a good framework to start thinking about the depth of the ocean–– it’s a thing that gives life, but that doesn’t mean it’s not hostile, I suppose.
Honestly, I don’t think anyone is actually going to listen to these notes, so I’m not going to bother editing this.
JAMIE CONT’D OVER
JAMIE CONT’D I don’t have that much more to say, and I have to nut up and tell Phaedra about my theft, so I guess that this has been the audio notes of Dr Jamie MacMillan-Barrie, signing off.
SOUND EXIT MUSIC
CREDITS Under Pressure is a production of the Procyon Podcast Network. This episode was written by and directed Margaret Clark with script supervision by Phoebe Seiders. The episode was mixed by Erin S. Dominic Wright composed our theme. Madison Schaeffer played Jamie, Danielle Shemaiah played Captain Aspros, Georie Taylor played Dr Petersen, and Thea Rodgers played Mona. You can find us at underpressure.procyonpodcasts.com, on tumblr at underpressurepodcast.tumblr.com, and on twitter @U_P_Podcast.