• Phoebe

Under Pressure 1.04 - Pavlov's Nematodes

Written by

Margaret Clark


CHARACTER LIST

DR JAMIE MACMILLAN-BARRIE

JACK VERNON

CAPT PHAEDRA ASPROS

DR RAMONA RAMIREZ


SCENE ONE: The Residential Wing of the Amphitrite - day


JAMIE MACMILLAN-BARRIE This is Dr Jamie MacMillan Barrie, aboard the DSS Amphitrite. This is a transmission of my audio notes for review by the board of the Cassida Memorial Research Fund. I have been on board for about ten weeks now, which puts me just under half way through my residency.


SOUND (CLANGING STARTS, CONTINUES THROUGH DIALOGUE)


I think that I’ve fully adapted to life down here, at least the day-to-day side of things. Apparently this place is well engineered enough that crises are few and far between. And there hasn’t yet been a repeat appearance of the (CLEARS THROAT) kraken.


SOUND (CLANGING BECOMES MORE RAPID, LOUDER)


JAMIE Honestly, other than that noise I really am starting to enjoy myself here--


SOUND (JAMIE IS CUT OFF BY A BANG AND THE SOUND OF SPRAYING WATER; SHE SHRIEKS, FOLLOWED BY AN ALARM BLARING)


SOUND INTRO MUSIC


JACK VERNON Yeah, you screwed this bloody well.


CAPT PHAEDRA ASPROS Can you please be a little more specific?


JACK Well, it looks like when Dr Barrie turned off her heating system last night--(SUCH CONDESCENSION) good on you, Dr Barrie, following directions--the pipe froze over. When the heating system came online this morning, the hot water hit the cold pipe, steam was produced, and then the thing went ‘bang’. By the way Dr Barrie, the wet shirt is a good look on you.


JAMIE I-- (SO SHOCKED AND OFFENDED SHE DOESN’T EVEN KNOW WHERE TO BEGIN) It’s MacMillan-Barrie.


PHAEDRA This shouldn’t have happened. The piping is supposed to be insulated against this kind of problem; I can’t imagine that a pipe would just suddenly burst.


JACK Well, I’d imagine that this is something of a recurring problem; the heating of the frozen pipe probably happens pretty much every day, and today was just the straw that broke the camel’s back. You didn’t do anything wrong, Dr MacMillan.


JAMIE Thanks, so glad to hear it.


PHAEDRA Can you get this fixed, Jack?


JACK I can patch it up for now, but you’ll need to requisition replacement pipe or else this is going to be happening constantly.

JACK CONT’D OVER

JACK CONT’D Dr MacMillan being wet isn’t necessarily a problem on my end, but I doubt she appreciates being rained on in her own office.


JAMIE --She very much does not--


JACK For now I’ve turned off the intake valve, so you could work in here for the rest of the day, but the ventilation is off so it’s going to be very hot or very cold.


JAMIE (PAUSE) Does this mean I’m out of a work space for the foreseeable future?


JACK Just for the next few hours while I patch this up, and then again when I have to replace the patch, assuming our lovely captain gets the requisition order in soon.


PHAEDRA You should have your office back by the end of the day, Jamie. Until then, you can either go to the common ports and work there, or to the lab with Drs Ramirez and Turin.


JACK Or you could stay here while I work, tirelessly, for your benefit.


JAMIE (SCOFFS) Is there going to be any lasting damage to any of my equipment? I can already tell that my notes for today are toast, but what about the rest of my stuff?


PHAEDRA Your books should be fine, as should the computer terminal. Assuming the paper on your desk wasn’t too vital for what you’re working on today your materials should be fine.


JACK And the patch can for hold up to a month, so you’re fine on that end too.


JAMIE Good. Awesome. (JAMIE BEGINS COLLECTING THINGS FROM HER DESK) I’m going to the lab.


SOUND (JAMIE WALKS AWAY FROM HER OFFICE, SIGHING)


JACK (OFF MIKE, FADING AWAY) You know what they say: hate to see her go, love to watch her leave.


PHAEDRA (FADING MORE) Get to work, Jack. I want this done by dinner.


JACK (BARELY AUDIBLE) Aye-aye, captain.


SOUND (JAMIE WALKING TO THE LAB, CONTINUES)


JAMIE (HOT ON MIKE) Good lord, he’s unpleasant. I honestly think the only reason he hasn’t been fired is because PanOptics can’t find someone else to do the job for as cheap as he will.


SOUND DOOR TO THE LAB OPENING


This is all hear-say of course, but my source of gossip is usually good.


RAMONA (OFF MIKE) Is your source of gossip me?


JAMIE You know it. Mind if I squat for a bit while my office gets--well it’ll still be under water, but the water will all be back on the outside.


RAMONA Sure thing! Here let me (SOUNDS OF A SPACE BEING MADE -- GLOVES REMOVED, EQUIPMENT/PAPERS MOVED) this work for you?


JAMIE Perfect-- (A SOUND OF INTENSE DISTRESS, THEN IN A HIGHER PITCH) What in the fresh hell is that?


RAMONA (100% sincere) It’s so awesome, isn’t it? Like I can’t even express how jazzed I am to be elbow deep in this fish.


JAMIE That’s a fish? I’ve literally had nightmares less viscerally horrifying than that thing. God, are those...teeth? They look like potato shoots. Good lord. This is like the horror movies my sister made me watch but worse because it’s real and I can smell it.


RAMONA This is why I sweat the small stuff. Although, if it turns out that that this is a species that hasn’t been identified before, I get to name it. Hence the dissection.


JAMIE Huh. That’s pretty cool, actually. Wait, would you get to name the kraken too?


RAMONA Probably, but I wouldn’t call it “the kraken” I’d call it like Architeuthis arcanum or something, if that’s not taken.


JAMIE That is the neatest thing. (PAUSE) Hey, where’s Hamish?


RAMONA He’s off making eyes at his seismograph. Apparently there’s been some interesting activity in the vent and he wants to get a closer look at the data, I wasn’t paying very much attention.


JAMIE Tisk tisk Dr Ramirez. Not paying attention when an expert is speaking? What would your advisor say?


RAMONA He’d probably tell me to get the hell back to work, but there’s something slightly more interesting than this week’s silt samples in front of me right now.


JAMIE Are you talking about little old me?


RAMONA I don’t know, am I? (PREGNANT PAUSE; JAMIE SHOULD VOLLEY BACK BUT DOESN’T) Do you wanna see something cool?


JAMIE Only if it’s not another eldritch horror from the deep.


RAMONA (LAUGHS) It’s not, it’s a something considerably smaller, and you have to look in the microscope.


JAMIE Okay, can do. (PAUSE WHILE JAMIE WALKS OVER TO THE MICROSCOPE) Just like this--


RAMONA Yeah, turn that dial.


JAMIE Oka-y. (PAUSE FOR FOCUSING) Oh, wow. Oh that’s lovely.


RAMONA And here, if I turn the slide a little.


JAMIE (BREATHLESS IN AWE OF NATURAL BEAUTY) That is... what is it?


RAMONA It’s a little phosphorescent nematode. They’re pretty common, but living this deep they apparently developed little internal lights. Here


SOUND A SMALL BELL


JAMIE (GASPS) It just moved!


RAMONA (LAUGHS) Yeah, it did.


RAMONA CONT’D OVER

RAMONA CONT’D I needed them to move when I wanted them to, so I recorded the sound of one of their predators and found something close. I like this one; he’s big and responsive.


JAMIE He really, really is.


RAMONA Wanna see another one?


JAMIE Hell yes.


RAMONA Okay, here is (PAUSE, SHE’S REPLACING THE SAMPLE SLIDE) Joe. Or I call him Joe.


JAMIE (PAUSE) Alright, coming into focus... that is the cutest thing, and yet it’s still scary. It’s like a studio ghibli villain, but real. (LOWLY, FULL OF AWE) Caroline would have loved this.


RAMONA (LIGHTLY SHOCKED) Who’s Caroline.


JAMIE (A PAUSE; SHE’S TRYING TO SEE IF SHE CAN WIGGLE OUT OF IT) Caroline was my wife. (SHE CAN’T).


RAMONA Was?


JAMIE Yeah, she um. She died, about nine months ago now.


RAMONA Jesus, I’m so sorry. How’d it happen?


JAMIE Oh, you know. Mechanical failure, semi truck. Apparently she was gone before the car stopped moving.


RAMONA God. That’s. Wow, you have my condolences.


JAMIE Thanks. She liked weird, cool looking things like this, is my point, convinced me I like them too.


RAMONA What was she like?


JAMIE She was an astrophysicist. Very kind, very smart. I realized well before we got married that I would be the second great love of her life, and I couldn’t even begin to compete with the stars, not with how she felt about them. I accepted that. There’s a picture of her, over there actually. I brought it from my office, I didn’t want it to get damaged while Jack is playing with his pipe.


RAMONA The one in the Disney frame?


JAMIE Yeah, we went to Disney world a few months before she died; she was interviewing for a job post-grad at the Kennedy Center, and I’d never been so we decided to take a few days and make a trip of it.


RAMONA That sounds really nice. (PAUSE) Wait a second. Those costumes, that the cartoon characters wear, are at least six feet.


JAMIE If you say so.


RAMONA I do say so; I grew up in Anaheim, I went to Disneyland whenever my rich friends were bored, I know how tall those things are.


JAMIE Okay, what’s your point?


RAMONA Caroline is what, 5’9”, 5’10”?


JAMIE Around there, yeah.


RAMONA You’re 5’1”, tops, but you come up higher than that, close to Caroline’s eyes. Were you on stilts?


JAMIE What I lack in stature I make up in spunk.


RAMONA Seriously, Jamie, do they give short scientists a stool?


JAMIE I can’t look at this anymore, Joe is creeping me out.

JAMIE CONT’D OVER

JAMIE CONT’D (PAUSE) You really wanna know how I was that tall? (PAUSE, RAMONA NODS) I was in platform heels.


RAMONA You wore heels to Disneyworld?


JAMIE I wore heels every day. I wore heels to a marathon; I mean I wasn’t running in the marathon but I did watch it for eight hours straight and volunteered in the recovery tent. Heels have never been a problem for me.


RAMONA Why don’t you wear them around the station?


JAMIE I’m not sure all of my lovely shoes would go with this place’s “jumpsuit-chic” aesthetic.


RAMONA Do you have any down here?


JAMIE (PAUSE) Mona are you asking if you can see me in hooker shoes? Not that I’m objecting, I’d be happy to, I just want to know.


RAMONA (BLUSHING) I may be.


JAMIE (CONSIDERING) Hmm. Anyway, what’s your family like?


RAMONA Excuse me?


JAMIE Well I told you about my spouse in the attic, what’s yours?


RAMONA Spouse in the attic?


JAMIE Like in Jane Eyre? Crazy wife locked in the attic, trolls the shit out of Jane? Point is: tell me more about your family.


RAMONA My dad runs the LAX branch of Hertz, and I haven’t seen my mom since I was four years old.


JAMIE (WHISTLES) That’s intense. Do you know where she is?


RAMONA She’s in Cuba. I think she had pretty significant postpartum, and her mom got sick so she went back to Cuba to take care of her. My dad didn’t want me to have to give up my American citizenship, so my mom went and we stayed.


JAMIE What’s he like?


RAMONA He’s funny, but only in Spanish. He works really hard, and went without a lot of the time so that I could get an education.


JAMIE He sounds like a good guy.


RAMONA He is, I love him a lot.


JAMIE So: you gotta boyfriend, fiance, significant other, honey bunches of oats?


RAMONA Jamie, I’m gay. Gay, and lamentably single.


JAMIE Now there’s a feeling I know. Why are you down here, then, instead of being up where the ladies are?


RAMONA (FLIRT. FLIRT HARD. ALL THE FLIRTING. UNDRESS HER W/ YR VOICE) Walking around on those -- what do you call 'em -- hooker shoes? I’m also a shockingly well qualified Marine Biologist, and somewhat more interested in my career than my relationships right now. And I don’t know, I do alright for myself.


JAMIE (TRIES AND FAILS TO AVOID THE FLIRTING) Why did you become a Marine Biologist?


RAMONA I just think these little guys are fascinating. When I was a kid my dad and I would go out to the beach sometimes, and I sometimes watched the crabs walk across the beach; I loved their feet. They were small, and scuttley.


JAMIE That’s adorable. I can just see baby Mona laying on the beach looking at crabs run back and forth on the sand. It sounds nice.


RAMONA It was. I guess I fell in love with the ocean and never really got over it.


JAMIE There are certainly worse things to fall in love with. (LIKE ME).


A LONG, FULL PAUSE


RAMONA Are you happy here?


JAMIE What do you mean?


RAMONA You’re always asking us why we’re down here, if we’re, I don’t know, fulfilled or something. Are you?


JAMIE I’m...I like being here, I guess. It’s simple.

JAMIE CONT’D OVER

JAMIE CONT’D The things that made my life hard topside don’t go away just because I left. It’s hard to say.


RAMONA Hmm. (PAUSE) Can I braid your hair?


JAMIE What?


RAMONA Yours is so much longer than mine, and I miss having long hair to play with.


JAMIE I (PAUSE) Yeah, let me go get a hairbrush, while you wash your hands.


SOUND JAMIE WALKS BACK TO HER OFFICE; DOORS AND STEPS AS NEEDED


JACK Forget something, Doc?


JAMIE (SHOCKED) Jack, what are you doing?


JACK Fixing the pipe; I thought that’d’ve been obvious.


JAMIE (SHOCKED AND HORRIFIED) Why aren’t you wearing a shirt?


JACK Handling pipes, it's sweaty work.


JAMIE The heating’s off in here.


JACK Don't need heat for it to be hard.


JAMIE Please put your shirt back on. Please. I can’t think about you in my office, shirtless, when I’m not even here.


JACK Is it too much for you or something?


JAMIE Or something.


JACK Only for you, Dr Barrie, I will put on a shirt.


JAMIE It’s MacMillan-- you know, if you’re not even going to try to get my last name right, can you call me Jamie?


JACK (FLIRTY) I thought you’d never ask.


JAMIE (DOES NOT WANT) I’m, okay. I’m getting my hairbrush, and then I am leaving. Goodbye.


JACK Talk to you later, Jamie.


JAMIE (PLEASE STOP TALKING) Sure. And put your shirt on.


SOUND JAMIE WALKS DOWN THE HALL, TOWARD THE LAB. PHAEDRA IS ALSO THERE


PHAEDRA Jamie, I was just coming to find you.


JAMIE What can I do for you, Captain?


PHAEDRA Well, I know you blocked off this time for your research, but since you office is out of commission for the time being, I wanted to know if you’d like to take a look at the procedure for approving researchers and topics.


JAMIE I-- Excuse me?


PHAEDRA Would you like to learn how we--I--chose which researchers get to come down here and when?


JAMIE Yeah, but like. Why? Why are you asking me?


2PHAEDRA Teaching the procedure to a new person helps me keep it fresh in my own mind, and having someone else know how to work the systems is a vital redundancy.


JAMIE Yeah, but why me? Why not train up Mona or Hamish? Hell, why not train Jack; his whole life is down here. I’m leaving in three months.


PHAEDRA Yes, you’re leaving in three months. Perhaps you should see it as a learning opportunity; you can use this as part of your research.

PHAEDRA CONT’D OVER

PHAEDRA CONT’D Bureaucracy is everywhere, even on a state of the art research station. In any case, I run the place and I’d like to teach you if you’re willing to learn.


JAMIE But you still haven’t answered my question. Mona could do this; Hamish could do this. Jack probably is the one who should be doing this, if his job wasn’t so complex already. Sidney is a competent person, and of everyone on board they make the most sense to be doing this job. So. Why me?


PHAEDRA Mona and Hamish are busy, if you’ll forgive my insult, with their real jobs from their real research institutions. I’m not sure if I want Jack knowing much more about how this place operates than he already does, not that he’d understand even the basics if I tried to teach him, and besides, he’s busy fixing your busted pipe. And Dr Petersen.

PHAEDRA CONT’D OVER

PHAEDRA CONT’D Well, Dr Petersen doesn’t think my leadership is reliable, so I can’t rely on their support. That leaves you.


JAMIE Are you saying you’re not up for the job?


PHAEDRA I’m saying someone else needs to know how to be able to do it, not that I can’t. If you have any more questions, I can answer them on the way to my office


JAMIE (PAUSE) Let me go get my things.


SOUND JAMIE WALKS DOWN THE CORRIDOR, BACK TO THE LAB, AND OPENS THE HATCH


SOUND JAMIE THUNKS HER HAIRBRUSH DOWN


JAMIE I’ve been summoned. (JAMIE BEGINS GATHERING HER THINGS).


RAMONA What?


JAMIE Phaedra (PAUSE) wants to teach me about how research is approved on the station, for some ungodly reason.


RAMONA (WANTS TO BELIEVE JAMIE, BUT DOESN’T) Well if the captain’s calling, I suppose you have to go.


JAMIE I...yeah. I suppose I do. (IF THIS WERE A TV SHOW, JAMIE WOULD BE TURNING AND STARTING TO WALK OUT OF THE LAB). You know, Mona, I punted on your question before.


RAMONA What?


JAMIE You asked me before if I was happy here, and I didn’t answer. But yes. I’m happy here. I like being here; it’s peaceful. I didn’t think I would.

JAMIE CONT’D OVER


JAMIE CONT’D I thought that I’d spend all my time down here mourning and wondering if the entirety of the Pacific Ocean was about to come crashing down on my head, and I’ve done a lot of that, but I’m also more content with my situation than I have any right to be, given what brought me here. So yes, I’m happy. Are you?


RAMONA I’m (PAUSE; SHE DOESN’T WANT TO SAY “YOU COULD MAKE ME HAPPY HERE”) You have a red light on your shirt--it’s blinking.


JAMIE Oh, shit, my recorder is about to run out of battery.


SOUND SOME FEEDBACK, THEN THE RECORDER CLICKS OFF


SOUND THE RECORDER CLICKS BACK ON


JAMIE So as you may have surmised, I forgot to charge my recorder.


JAMIE CONT’D OVER

JAMIE CONT’D After I left Mona’s lab, I went to Phaedra’s office and learned that if you’re not doing my kind of research--that is, talking into a microphone and reading a lot of books--you have to get everything you’re studying approved beforehand, and you have to have an after action report on every experiment you run. I think I have a better understanding of why Sidney’s always so damn surly, with the amount of paperwork they have to fill out every time a sub docks to the station. I still don’t really understand why the Captain decided that I needed to know all of this, but it was interesting, I suppose. That’s a lie, it was incredibly boring, but maybe it’ll be useful someday.

I was going to say something more about time and how it works, but I lost my notes when the pipe burst. I’m fairly certain I can get them back, but it won’t be for a few days at least. I might make time a section in the paper I write when this is all over.

JAMIE I’m definitely going to be talking to Mona more--and maybe even Sidney--about the ethical implications of the effect we’re leaving down here. I wonder what those bioluminescent nematodes think about coming to call. In any case, I’m pretty much done with what I can do for now, so I guess that these have been the (rather lackluster) notes of Dr Jamie MacMillan-Barrie, signing off.


THE END


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