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Under Pressure 1.06 - Canyon's Brawl

Written by

Phoebe Seiders





SCENE ONE: Jamie’s Office – Day

JAMIE MACMILLAN-BARRIE (YAWNING) Hello. These are the audio notes of Dr Jamie MacMillan-Barrie aboard the DSS Amphitrite. I am recording these notes for review by the board of the Cassida Memorial Research Fund.


As evidenced by my continuing audio notes, the station hasn't fallen off the trench wall yet. It's been pretty quiet now for about--(COUNTS DAYS)-- five or six days now, I guess. Which reminds me: I can't believe I haven't mentioned this before, but -- day and night are completely arbitrary down here. It's the kind of thing that takes a while to sink in. You don't even really think about it until at some point it hits you, and then-- you can't put it out of your mind. Day and night have no meaning.

JAMIE CONT'D For convenience's sake, we operate on the same time zone as Guam, 10 hours ahead of GMT -- but there's no Daylight Savings Time. I'm still working on getting the conversion to Pacific time stuck in my head...we're ten hours ahead of GMT, and Pacific is seven or eight hours behind, which puts us...what, seventeen or eighteen hours ahead of Pacific time? Or, wait, does GMT count as another time zone and so it's nineteen...? (BEAT) Anyway. I'm living in the future.

JAMIE CONT'D And while it's useful to know when the States are awake or asleep, it's more or less academic when it comes to what day and night look like on the station. We're more than far enough down that the level of light remains totally constant, regardless of the hour of day. And by constant, what I mean is "nonexistent." Just like you can't sail across the ocean and look all the way down to the sea floor, you can't live on the sea floor -- or bolted to the side of a deep-sea trench, as the case may be -- and see any light coming down from the surface.

JAMIE CONT'D We've collectively ascribed certain arbitrary boundaries to the concepts of "day" and "night," even though they have no real connection to the state of the world around us. The lights are scheduled to brighten and dim at certain times. Dinner is scheduled for a particular time each "day."


JAMIE CONT'D But what I'm really saying is: six days out of seven, I have almost zero incentive to maintain any kind of consistent schedule on a day to day basis, because the entire concept of "day" means nothing down here. As long as I'm eating, occasionally exercising, and logging the requisite number of work hours, my time is otherwise more or less my own. Even the exercise is more of a...personal commitment than a requirement.

JAMIE CONT'D I really only even have to pay attention to what day it is when it's time for sabbath prayers. Before coming down here I talked it over with my rabbi and--


JAMIE Come-- okay, sure, don't wait for me to answer. Dr. Petersen. Is there something I can do for you?

SIDNEY Barrie.



JAMIE Dr. Petersen. How many times have I told you my name is not "Barrie," it's MacMillan-Barrie. Jamie. MacMillan. Barrie.

SIDNEY Yes, you tell me all the time, whatever. MacMillan-Barrie. It's been long enough since you were stationed on the Amphitrite that it's time for me to shift from short-term health evaluations to long-term. I need to start keeping track of how your body is adjusting to living in a high-pressure environment for an extended period of time.

JAMIE I-- feel fine. More or less. What do you need?

SIDNEY Blood oxygenation, pulmonary function, bone don't really want the whole list, do you?

JAMIE No, that's-- (SIGH) Fine. What do you need, blood pressure? Do you need to draw blood?

SIDNEY I can take your blood pressure and do some of the other tests here. For the rest you'll need to come to my lab.

JAMIE Fine. Okay. Blood pressure. Should I-- sit on the couch, or--?

SIDNEY Anywhere you can extend your arm without moving it. There is fine -- hold out your arm, set it down on the desk and don't move.

JAMIE Uh. Okay.


SIDNEY Now hold still.

JAMIE (SIGH) How long is this going to take?

SIDNEY Longer if you keep talking and don't hold still.

JAMIE (AUDIBLE HUFF) I can talk while holding still.


SIDNEY Good. Blood pressure 110 over 5Well within healthy range. Give me your hand.

JAMIE What for?

SIDNEY Blood glucose test. Again: hold still.

JAMIE ...O-- kay, what are you-- Ow!

SIDNEY (IRRITATED NOISE) It's one insignificant little finger prick.

JAMIE I can see why you got stationed at the bottom of the ocean where only a handful of people have to deal with you on a regular basis.

SIDNEY I assure you, I find it even less enjoyable than you do. But there's no other environment in which to conduct testing like this, especially long-term testing, except space -- and you won't find me volunteering to be shot into space in a tiny capsule balanced on top of thousands of pounds of extremely volatile and flammable liquid fuel anytime soon.

JAMIE (SURPRISED TO FEEL SIMILAR) Yeah, that doesn't sound like a great time to me either. But...I'm surprised. You really dislike the idea of going to space so much more than being stuck down here, where the smallest breach in the station's hull is guaranteed to kill us just the same as space would?

SIDNEY It's all a matter of scale and probabilities. If something happens that doesn't kill us instantly, there's a far greater potential for survival down here than there is in orbit. Here, all we have to do is make it to the surface under the appropriate decompression protocols. In space, well. Things are a little more complicated.


SIDNEY (TO THEMSELVES) Good. Blood pressure within tolerance, blood glucose slightly low, as expected. I'm familiar with what's in your medical record but just to confirm: have you been diagnosed as pre-diabetic or diabetic by a medical professional?


SIDNEY Ever been hypoglycemic?

JAMIE ...not that I know of?

SIDNEY Well, that's certainly for the best. It wouldn't have been healthy for you to be down here if you had been.

JAMIE What? Why?

SIDNEY Blood glucose levels tend to be lower than usual in hyperbaric environments. Fine if you tend toward hyperglycemia -- healthy for you, even -- but not fine if you already tend toward low blood sugar.

JAMIE Okay. Was that it?

SIDNEY For what I can do here, yes. Follow me back to the lab and I'll do the rest.

JAMIE What, right now?

SIDNEY (LONG PAUSE AS THEY LOOK AROUND) Do you have any other pressing demands on your time?


SIDNEY Then you can come to my lab for the rest of the testing.

JAMIE Do you do all this testing for the sub crews who visit the station? How long will it take?

SIDNEY (EXASPERATED) Of course I don't do all this for visitors, I told you this is long-term habituation testing. What does it matter how long it takes? There's electrodes to be put on and a number of specific measurements to be taken regarding lung capacity and function, but you'll be done well before dinn--


PHAEDRA Doctor MacMillan-Barrie? I-- Oh. (LIKE SPOTTING A DEAD COCKROACH) Doctor Petersen.

SIDNEY She's coming with me for some pulmonary function tests. You can talk to her afterwards.

PHAEDRA There's no need to conduct your testing right this minute.

SIDNEY I don't care. I was here first and I'm not done with my work. You can wait.

PHAEDRA You're not even doing anything right now. Doctor MacMillan-Barrie can take some time to speak with me before she goes to your lab for the pulmonary testing.

SIDNEY Or she can accompany me so I won't be sitting in my lab with my thumbs up my ass for an undetermined length of time while I wait for her arrival.

JAMIE Or she could make her own choices, thank you very much! Captain Aspros, what is it you wanted to talk to me about?

PHAEDRA Scheduling -- supply requests and delivery timetables, for example. It's something you'll need to keep aware of in order to function effectively.

SIDNEY (SARCASTIC) Right, yes, and that's incredibly time-sensitive. I can see why you barged in here to interrupt my work.

JAMIE Can I do both at once? Can all three of us go to Dr Petersen's lab and Captain Aspros can tell me about scheduling while I-- put on the electrodes or whatever?


JAMIE (SIGH) Great. Well, it's wonderful to see you two in agreement about something. (BEAT) Dr Petersen, let me talk to Captain Aspros first and then I'll come by the lab.



JAMIE Captain Aspros. What's so time-sensitive about supply scheduling?


JAMIE You just-- (PAUSE, ANOTHER SIGH) All right. Sit down. What do you need to tell me?

PHAEDRA The main thing you must remember when thinking about the ongoing health of the station is lead time. Supply drops are scheduled on a monthly basis. In order to have supplies included in the next drop, you have to file the necessary request form at least two weeks prior to the drop. Sometimes a particularly difficult request can't be accommodated in the next upcoming drop and will be pushed out for later delivery. Likewise, a monthly drop may be delayed or cancelled.

JAMIE (WTF IS HAPPENING) Should I be-- taking notes on this?

PHAEDRA I'll send you over a manual. But considering how often people don't read things like that, I thought it would be best to go over the pertinent details in person.

JAMIE O--kay. You do have a point there.

PHAEDRA Back to missed drops?


PHAEDRA We've never had more than one missed drop in a row. But for the sake of redundancy, we always plan to have at least 2 months' worth of supplies, preferably It's too likely that a particularly active hurricane season could cause delivery issues in successive months, so we need to be able to make it through at least 3 months without any new supplies.

JAMIE If we need 3 months' worth of supplies at all times, then why did you just say we plan for having 2-4?

PHAEDRA Because if push comes to shove, we've always got the ocean. It wouldn't be pleasant, but if there were an emergency of some sort that lasted several months, we could live for quite a long time on what we can catch and gather from the trench, supplemented by multivitamins, of which we have, to be frank, an absurd number.

JAMIE ...Is Mona...good at fishing? Is that part of her job? Emergency fisherperson?

PHAEDRA It's not like fly fishing. We cast out nets, we reel them back in, we toss out whatever we've caught that's known or likely to be endangered. Haven't you wondered where all the fresh fish in the mess has been coming from?

JAMIE Oh. I-- hadn't thought about it that much, besides "does it have fins and scales."

PHAEDRA Well, there you go. As I said, it would be a last resort, but it is an option.

JAMIE Wait! Does that mean-- has all the fish in the mess been leftovers from Mona's lab?

PHAEDRA Only the ones known to contain no toxins or venom to worry about.

JAMIE Euugghh. (QUEASY) I've seen the eldritch horrors in her lab, I didn't realize they were being served up for dinner!

PHAEDRA Do you need a moment, or can we get back to the topic at hand?

JAMIE We can-- yes. Sorry. 2-4 months' worth of supplies. Requests at least 2 weeks in advance.

PHAEDRA Yes. Also, there's only so much room in each supply drop, which means that keeping the station stocked up requires planning ahead, anticipating the rate at which supplies are being used, and dealing with both short-term and long-term needs for each shipment.

JAMIE I'll be honest, this seems like...a lot more than I really need to know.

PHAEDRA (PARTICULARLY INSCRUTABLE) I like to give people the full context, so they can make informed decisions. Also, you strike me as the kind of person who might be interested in how the whole process works.




PHAEDRA We can talk more later. As much as it amuses me, I can only wind Dr. Petersen up so much before they become completely intractable for days. You'd better get over to the lab with them.

JAMIE (AGAIN: WTF IS HAPPENING.) Okay. Uh. Thanks for the information.

PHAEDRA Take a break from the Verne and the O'Brian to read through the documents I send you, and let me know if you have any questions.

JAMIE Sure. Yeah.


PHAEDRA She's all yours, Doctor.

SIDNEY About time. Come on.

PHAEDRA (STONE COLD) When you're done, maybe you should think about getting a juice box and laying down for a nice nap.

SIDNEY I. Am. Not. Your. Child!

PHAEDRA No, you're obviously not. I raised mine to be much better behaved.

JAMIE (YIKES.) Well. Um. If anyone needs me, I' in Dr. Petersen's lab.

SIDNEY Finally.


SIDNEY Come on, I've been waiting long enough for her to finish up her business with you.

JAMIE It's only been a few minutes.

SIDNEY A few minutes completely wasted because Captain Aspros wants to yank my chain.

JAMIE ...So, pulmonary function testing? What does that involve?

SIDNEY Locking you in an airtight box and having you go through some breathing exercises.

JAMIE An airtight box? Is that really necessary?

SIDNEY Do you know of some other way to accurately measure the amount of air going in and out of someone's lungs? Perhaps something you were taught in English class?

JAMIE (BEAT) You know how long it's been since I took anything called "English class?" Probably about as long as it's been since you took anything called "Science class."

SIDNEY ...Doubtful.

JAMIE But you get my point.


SIDNEY Come in, sit down. You haven't eaten a large meal recently, have you?


SIDNEY Coffee this morning?

JAMIE I was just thinking of going to get some when-- all this started.

SIDNEY Good. Step inside the booth, put the mask on over your mouth, and this nose clip over your nose.

JAMIE So should I put on my own mask before assisting others? (LONG, AWKWARD PAUSE) Okay. Nose clip, booth, mask. Should I leave the recorder outside?

SIDNEY It doesn't breathe, so it's not affecting the test, and therefore, I couldn't care less.

JAMIE Okay, well, I'd rather have my hands free, so--


JAMIE (SLIGHTLY OUT OF BREATH) That Dr. Petersen had me stand in the booth and do a lot of-- breathing. Deeps breaths in, deep breaths out, rapid breathing, breathing in and out as much air as I could. I thought I was going to hyperventilate, which I'm sure would have made Dr. Petersen even more irritated than they already were.

JAMIE CONT'D (PAUSE) At least I've got some coffee now.


JAMIE CONT'D Oh, Captain Aspros sent over some example request forms as well as that manual -- that twenty page manual -- she mentioned. There's one form from just before I got here. Filed by a...Nicollette Brown? Wonder what her deal was. But none of this looks too complicated, that's good.

JAMIE I don't know what the deal is between Petersen and Aspros, but it definitely goes way beyond missing Clif bars and stolen leftovers, that's for sure. All that detail about scheduling -- yeah, it's good to know, but she could have just given me the paperwork for requesting supplies and told me the deadline was two weeks before each drop. I'm not thrilled about being used by those two to try and score annoyance points against each other.


JAMIE Like my own personal rimshot. And it is really warm in here. You'd think if the pipes were going to make this much noise all the time, they'd at least keep the station the appropriate temperature. But apparently they're better for comedic timing, and waking me up in the middle of the...well, the middle of whenever I've arbitrarily decide to call the night -- than for actual temperature control.

JAMIE So. Back to what I was saying about time having no meaning down here. When I talked with my rabbi about how to observe "sunset on Friday" when both sunset and Friday are functionally imaginary, we decided I'd go off the sunset times for San Francisco, where I was living before I came here. Since the station's agreed-upon working definition of time is based on Guam, that means in one sense it'll be midday Saturday for me. Which feels...I don't know, strange, no matter how much I tell myself Saturday is also functionally imaginary.

JAMIE CONT'D Still, on the other hand, it is a nice reminder that somewhere out there, the sun is going down over the horizon, probably creating a beautiful sunset, and other people are lighting candles and saying prayers. No open flames allowed down here, so, no real candles for me. But I've got a few of the battery-powered flickering LED kind. Close enough, right? Whether the candle flame is real or fake isn't the point. The point is the meaning we've collectively ascribed to the ritual.


JAMIE Well. That's probably enough for one arbitrarily-defined "day." These have been the audio notes of Dr. Jamie MacMillan-Barrie, signing off.


CREDITS Under Pressure is a production of the Procyon Podcast Network. This episode was written by Phoebe Seiders and edited by Margaret Clark. Madison Schaeffer played Jamie, Georie Taylor played Sidney Petersen, and Danielle Shemaiah played Phaedra Aspros. You can find us at, on tumblr at, and on twitter @U_P_podcast or @ProcyonPodcasts.

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