8 – The void
It’s all over. Season Finale.
Voices in order of appearance: Charles Hubbell as Narrator and Milton; Andrew Santoro as David; Kelsey Henry as Argus.
Cover art by Robert James Algeo.
Intro Theme by Just Star Stuff.
Content Notes: Swearing. Discussion of death and extinction.
Illustrated Transcripts for every episode and in-between are available to all Patreon members.
And here is the plain text transcript:
8 – The Void
BLIP! A filtered recording plays.
MILTON: (RECORDING) If you’re hearing this, you must already know that it’s all over. A planet going extinct… We thought we were the exception. After all, we proved the rule. I never was an astronomer. My galaxies and constellations were organisms and molecules. But you cannot escape what is written in your every atom. Yes, space was to be an escape. From our limits, our selves. Our demise. To think, we all shared in the same delusion. That the stars were ours. That it means something more to be human. Technology was our rocket, and its velocity climbed the higher we did. They told us we were to be astronauts, that we would be humanity’s way forward, we were the privileged few to see this new age, we were the lucky ones to achieve new heights. Nineteen ships that would transcend our mortal origins, nineteen because that was all we can muster. And we believed it. Perhaps they even believed it would work. But it’s a lie.
INTRO THEME: Tense strings swell up.
MILTON: (RECORDING) This is not a triumph. It is not a technological feat, a marvel of man’s abilities. Our technology progressed faster and faster and faster because there is a momentum behind us, and at first I saw it as by our design but it is nature’s, it is gravity, and we are plummeting ever faster and ever deeper. The stars weren’t our promise, they fly past us on our descent! We share the same end, the first and the last of us, because all circle this same black hole. We are not noble astronauts, every last one of us a blind fool. For space is a pit and they kicked us in!
Music cuts. Silence.
NARRATOR: Episode 8: The Void.
Atmosphere fades in: Bridge.
BLIP! Recording ended.
DAVID: Jesus. Is that it?
ARGUS: He has one more recording… from this morning.
BLIP! A recording plays.
MILTON: (RECORDING) I’m afraid I don’t have much I can clarify, so let this be my attempt at atonement. I did everything I knew to be right and true. And I failed you all. The malfunction of tank GY-232. David was correct in his assessment. A human introduced error in the system, causing a spike in energy large enough to blow the fuse. Five separate times. There are redundancies in place, fail-safes and countermeasures. But the cause was unknown, truly unknown, even to me. It no longer matters my suspicions at the time, because I have found the original source of disruption. The clone that emerged from the tank is proof of my conclusions. Let me be clear, as long as I am alive, I will not be the one that informs the crew that there is a clone onboard. Our mission must still be carried through. If the others knew what I know, that it has been entirely doomed from the start…I do not want anyone else to feel the complete despair I do now. I needed a purpose to continue. I do not expect forgiveness.
BLIP! Recording paused.
ARGUS: That’s why he locked you up.
DAVID: He wanted to keep up morale.
ARGUS: By keeping the rest of us in the dark? I don’t know what his long-term plan was.
DAVID: He had a warped sense of principles.
BLIP! Recording continues.
MILTON: (RECORDING) But here we are. There is a clone onboard. This tells us the exact nature of our failure when we couple what we observed with the prior malfunctions. It is obvious that David’s breach of protocol was the catalyst to the clone formation. I allow for one assumption in my conclusion: that this is the only time protocol has been overrode. Now, I’ll spell it out for you if it isn’t immediately clear. A clone should be impossible. Everything I told you is everything I know about the mechanisms at play. The tanks are not designed to gestate clones for any length of time. If you’re thinking it’s teleportation–well, your guess is as good as mine, but it doesn’t matter, because of the energy spikes. Whatever has climbed out of that tank was exposed to high amounts of radiation, and is likely to be radically mutated. It is a wonder it is alive at all.
BLIP! Recording paused.
DAVID: What does he mean about if it’s teleportation instead of clones?
ARGUS: He said it doesn’t matter which it is.
DAVID: Because they’re mutating either way?
ARGUS: Yeah, however these people are showing up, they’re not gonna be fully what they’re supposed to be. The batch is spoiled.
BLIP! Recording continues.
MILTON: (RECORDING) The worry of David interacting with the tank was of dis-entanglement, the DNA inside is not ascribed. There should have not been receptive material for this ghastly reaction, the clone being the resultant. We know, just from the observation of a clone, that one: the tank is dis-entangled. Two: the tank is non-functional. And three: the contents within irrevocably destroyed. Now, David would not have broken protocol if he did not have a malfunction to repair. So what caused the malfunctions of tank GY-232? Well, David, the catalyst, dis-entangled the tank. David did. I want to blame him. I made it clear that losing one tank, even all of them, is a safer alternative. When we mess with the entangled contents, we potentially disrupt all of the tanks in all locations. A local failure would not have the potential to destroy all of the mission’s efforts. But even then, the worst that should have happened was actualizing the data and leaving it susceptible to deterioration of time. But a clone?… I cannot blame you for that, David.
Argus shushes him.
MILTON: (RECORDING) There is one piece to the puzzle only I know. It wasn’t until now, when I looked at everything together did I realize it had anything to do with me. Let me say this: I have never deviated from protocol. I have never touched a single tank. I never ran experiments on a specific tank. I stopped publishing my research results well before the phase II acceleration cut-off. We cut off all communication channels at the right time. Those are not excuses. What bothered me about the malfunctions was really just the one detail: each incident occurred at the same time of night, but not every day in a row. The malfunction was triggered by something relative to our local time here, but it wasn’t an automated daily cycle. What is so special about the time 3:33 am? It’s David’s videos that made me look at our entire log of communication off-ship. David received his video messages at the exact same time as the fourth incident. We would know if we are not traveling at the correct speed. We are currently not open communication. I’m telling you, the time of 3:33 am means nothing to me. I had no idea what to make of it. But the twenty-four hour cycle made me look at what communication we had opened on our end. When we were still in orbit, my research and progress on the mission was sent to Earth to add to the data to be ascribed for long-term storage. The data was refreshed once a day. All of this data is open and logged, but there is one exception. It has been my secret. Not from you, but from Xenoa. My entire family’s genomes were entered into the project. Expect for my daughter’s. Her name was Astrid. I love her very much. She passed before the mission began. I wanted to include her in the genome mapping. They denied my request. Astrid had a genetic disorder. She died as a complication of the disease. It was yet incurable. There is one exception to the data I contributed to the mission, and it is her. I wanted her to be included, to know there is a future with her in it, too. They refused to let me add her to the colonization data on Earth. So I ascribed a single strand of data on the ship. I was so careful. I didn’t know which tank, which strand. There are trillions of strands. I wouldn’t disrupt the entangled particles. I was not reading, observing, affecting the entangled data, I encrypted my end to insure that. Ascribing the data locally meant that even if they found out, they couldn’t do anything to remove her. And maybe, in contact with all the rest of the entangled material, her DNA might become entangled, too. But at the very least, her DNA would be part of this ship’s mission. I didn’t know. I didn’t know. I didn’t even know if it would work, as part of keeping the lid on the box. I didn’t need to know if it worked, because I know I tried. I had to. The process of locally ascribing material. Well, I have my confirmation that it worked. It must have entangled, too. At 3:33 am some unknown night aboard the Dellingr. Introducing just enough energy to excite the material within the unknown tank, and, having been successfully written upon, it entangled with it the coding to accept further data; a coding that would make the inert, unencoded data open to the zygotic transference phase of the mission. A coding that would respond to a catalyst, such as interaction with other DNA, to begin work on the embryo gestation phase, unchecked, unknown, without that stage’s failsafes in place.
RECORDING: A knock on Milton’s door. He ignores it.
MILTON: (RECORDING) That is all. That is what my love has wrought.
RECORDING: Banging on the door. Fyodor talks through the wall. Calloway and Argus talk with him (This is the other side of the door of Milton’s Lab in Episode 4.)
MILTON: (RECORDING) Now you know, the material in all of the tanks, on all of the ships, is susceptible to catalysts in the same runaway manner. The data on the DNA likely to be open to deterioration by the affects of time. If any viable specimen is to miraculously step out into the terraformed home we planned for it, it will be drastically, unknowably alien to what species it has mutated from.
FYODOR: (RECORDING, MUFFLED) Let me know that I’m not yelling at, I dunno, a recording of your voice. Or a ghost.
RECORDING: Milton walks away from the microphone to the door.
MILTON: (RECORDING, DISTANT) Boo.
RECORDING: Milton walks back to the microphone. A final loud bang from Fyodor.
FYODOR: (RECORDING, MUFFLED) You’re so cruel!
RECORDING: Argus, Calloway and Fyodor talk, muffled.
MILTON: Before our last glimpse of the Sun. Before the first moon of Saturn, humanity’s final hope was doomed…We must all have a purpose to live for, or we will live to die. No one sharing in my grief, that is all I have left.
CALLOWAY: (RECORDING, MUFFLED) Milton? Please answer your captain. Are you refusing orders to cooperate?
Milton moves over to the door again.
MILTON: (RECORDING, DISTANT) I’m almost finished with my task at hand. You will have to wait.
MILTON: (RECORDING) If you are listening, I am sorry. I am a monster, humanity’s demise, for I know, in a million lives, I make the same decision. So now you know, and I am dead. Goodbye.
BLIP! Recording ends.
DAVID: I can’t connect what we’re hearing to what’s happened.
ARGUS: So much has happened in a day…
DAVID: I knew he was hiding something, maybe it wasn’t exactly what I thought, but still.
ARGUS: He said he’s a monster… If he saw–if he saw what happened to all of us, you think he’d still think his experiment was worth it? You still think he’d do it again? After Calloway? And Fyodor?
DAVID: His family was more important.
ARGUS: I don’t get that. The mission was his life’s work. Before it was a mission.
DAVID: This was part of the mission for him. You heard him.
ARGUS: It’s not hard to discern what’s mission and what’s personal.
DAVID: Was my part in this personal?
ARGUS: What part?
DAVID: We would’ve never known what Milton did if I didn’t break ‘the one rule’.
ARGUS: You didn’t set out to jeopardize. He set it up.
DAVID: He didn’t know. –I’m not defending him–
ARGUS: He made the decision for all of us.
DAVID: And I blew it up.
ARGUS: I know you did what you thought you had to–
DAVID: –And so did he. That’s what I’m saying. Both of us did something we shouldn’t have and if just one of us didn’t we wouldn’t be in this mess.
ARGUS: He did it–
DAVID: –Would you have broke protocol?
ARGUS: In your shoes?
DAVID: Yes. Would you have made the same choice?
ARGUS: I know you did what you thought was best.
DAVID: That’s not what I’m asking. Would you have broke protocol?
DAVID: That’s what I’m saying! Me and Milton are equally responsible in this.
ARGUS: You didn’t have much of a choice.
DAVID: The clones are David-centric. The tank would’ve stayed quietly defective but we wouldn’t have a rampaging family circus. Our crew would still be here if it weren’t for my choice!
ARGUS: That’s not what this means.
DAVID: What do you mean? The David clones are all my fault.
ARGUS: I know.
DAVID: Then what do you mean?
ARGUS: The tank wasn’t defective.
DAVID: What about the malfunctions?
ARGUS: If you were the catalyst, you began processes that were faster than light.
DAVID: I entangled or dis-entangled or whatever.
ARGUS: You were the catalyst for the malfunctions, they wouldn’t have happened at all if you didn’t interact with the material.
DAVID: Okay, you’re clearly saying it’s my fault now.
ARGUS: They wouldn’t happen if you weren’t the catalyst. You wouldn’t be a catalyst if Milton didn’t do his experiment.
DAVID: I made the repairs because of the malfunctions, Argus.
ARGUS: Yes! You didn’t have a choice but to make the repair! You didn’t have a choice to break protocol! The malfunctions mean you were always going to! You didn’t have a choice, but…
DAVID: But Milton did?
ARGUS: I…I don’t know.
DAVID: Milton didn’t think he had a choice, regardless. Me, either.
ARGUS: No. I get it.
DAVID: At least–Nevermind.
DAVID: I feel like an asshole saying there’s a silver lining. Just for the mission. Not for what’s happened, I mean.
DAVID: …At least it’s just our ship, even if it’s all of our tanks, there’s other ships.
DAVID: As Milton put it, I’m the only one that could possibly conceive of breaking protocol. The rest still have a chance.
ARGUS: But Milton didn’t know the clones were related to you.
DAVID: …I guess not. I mean, I told him I didn’t register anyone in the genome project.
ARGUS: It’s all gone.
DAVID: We can’t know that.
ARGUS: You didn’t register anyone at all?
DAVID: No. I didn’t want to bring any…I was alone then.
ARGUS: We need to figure out our options.
DAVID: Yeah. What’s going on?
ARGUS: I don’t know. I can’t think straight.
DAVID: You can tell me.
ARGUS: The tanks are all gone.
DAVID: No, we don’t know.
ARGUS: If the clones came from DNA that wasn’t entangled in the register. All the tanks are fucked.
DAVID: How? That doesn’t make sense. How?
ARGUS: You entangled with people from before the tanks were designed.
ARGUS: Think of the clones as data from before the tanks were ever designed. If that’s what was in the tanks, it’s kind of like they were always going to end up in there, because they showed up now, even though there was no way their DNA was in the tanks before you interacted with it. Your decision affected the past. It determined it.
DAVID: That’s just one tank.
ARGUS: The clones showing up means that everything they entangled with is disentangled. None of it will last the centuries left.
DAVID: I disentangled everything? All of it?
ARGUS: You couldn’t have known…no one could’ve known. Almost like it was doomed to happen no matter what.
DAVID: So I doomed us. I fucked up humanity’s last hope.
ARGUS: At least–
DAVID: I get it, there’s no at least.
ARGUS: Everyone on Earth is long dead. They died thinking the mission was a success. Everyone on the other ships will die thinking the same thing. At least the mission gave us hope.
DAVID: That’s fucking ridiculous.
ARGUS: That’s all I got.
DAVID: Everything will die. It’s over.
ARGUS: We could be the last people alive.
DAVID: Then it all ends when we do.
ARGUS: Everything in human history led to us botching this.
DAVID: It’s hopeless.
ARGUS: Where do we go from here?
DAVID: I should try and patch up Roberta for the ship repairs.
ARGUS: It’s not going to hold? …Why did clone David want to destroy the ship?
DAVID: He wanted us to abandon the mission.
ARGUS: You think he planned on taking Roberta to the cargo bay?
DAVID: I don’t know. He didn’t make it. Maybe he did the next worse thing.
ARGUS: Your clone’s fucked up.
ARGUS: Evil. Just evil. There’s no sense to it.
DAVID: We’re not done yet.
ARGUS: I know.
DAVID: So how did it look in the cargo bay?
ARGUS: You don’t need to check. I looked down every row. I checked all the tanks.
DAVID: The clones in there could try and hide the damage. If they found a way around the heat sink, they could blow a lid off.
ARGUS: I don’t think they could do much of anything. I only found… they all looked like clone David when he just…fell apart. I think they’re all dead.
DAVID: I should’ve gone in there myself–
ARGUS: It’s okay.
DAVID: Thank you.
ARGUS: How do we patch the wall?
DAVID: It’s not looking good.
ARGUS: What does it affect? Life support? Air filtration?
DAVID: Ideally, I’d do a spacewalk but we’re going so fast.
DAVID: I think we’re dealing with a fuel break.
DAVID: It could put us off course. It will. If we don’t sever the cargo bay.
ARGUS: The cargo bay has its own fuel, it can still land.
DAVID: Keeping the ship attached will punt it way off course. We’re still light-years off.
ARGUS: 130. Okay. The ship has all the life support. We’d freeze in the cargo bay if we detach the ship.
ARGUS: If we stay attached, we won’t make it to the planet.
DAVID: That’s where we’re at.
ARGUS: We could try to land anywhere in a 130 light-year range. We could even feasibly go back to our solar system. We could use the colonization material in the cargo bay to survive wherever we land indefinitely.
DAVID: We could.
ARGUS: The colonization tanks are ruined, so we don’t have to feel bad, if that’s what we try.
ARGUS: We wouldn’t have to feel bad. We’d be continuing on, as long as we can. There’s nothing to feel bad about that.
ARGUS: But if there’s any chance there’s life in the tanks, we’d ruin that.
ARGUS: It probably won’t be human, probably won’t live…but if it could…? And we give up on that?
DAVID: We have to decide what we do soon.
ARGUS: You already know what I’d choose.
DAVID: Me, too.
ARGUS: Nothing’d change my mind. I’m not changing yours. This is it.
Deep, sad harmonic synth builds.
DAVID: So much went into getting here.
ARGUS: I remember when they entangled diamonds for the first time. Diamonds. They didn’t even have to be the same size. What would it be like?
DAVID: To be a diamond?
ARGUS: I didn’t think I’d ever find out.
ARGUS: I used to get so lonely. Sometimes. Anywhere.
DAVID: I was never alone, was I.
ARGUS: Never. Not right now. Not a single moment.
DAVID: I love you.
ARGUS: I love you.
DAVID: If it means anything.
ARGUS: How could it mean anything else.
Music fades out.
End of Episode 8.