111: Nnhoh

No ship. No mission. No schedule. Barty’s taking it easy, and Bob is worried. Meanwhile, Beatrix makes a discovery by the river.

This episode is brought to you by Fiction Podcast Weekly!

And a reminder that Sean and Eli will be at PodTales in Boston on October 20th. Come and say hello!

Starring Kristi Boulton, Michael Divinski, Mbula Enobong and Sean Howard, with special guest Katie Kotulak.
Sound design: Eli McIlveen
Cover art: David Demaret
Announcers: Marisa King and Michael Howie

Content warning: violence and harm, and some body horror.

ANNOUNCEMENTS

ELI

Greetings, crew members! It’s Eli here, your producer/sound designer, letting you know that this week’s episode—the penultimate episode in this season of Civilized—is brought to you by Fiction Podcast Weekly. It’s an email newsletter that has the latest news from the world of audio fiction, audio drama—whatever you want to call it, they’ve got it covered. There’s article links, there are the latest shows that are launching, the latest shows that are crowdfunding, all of that in your inbox. Go to thepodcasthost.com/fictionpodcastweekly or just tap the link in our show notes.

I said penultimate episode; yes, there is one more after this, both of them starring our special guest Katie Kotulak. After which we will be on hiatus, working on the other shows in our roster here at Fable and Folly. In the meantime, there is going to be a very special surprise coming in less than a week. I will say no more, but follow us on the social media, or join our newsletter to be apprised of all the details on that.

Meanwhile… what’s happening down on that there mysterious planet?

Theme music plays.

NARRATOR

Humanity’s last hope to find and settle a new world. A small terraforming fleet sets out to prepare a lifeless planet for the colony ships sure to follow in their wake.

ANNOUNCER

Civilized.

THE HOUSE

Alien birds sing outside. In the house, Beatrix wakes slowly with a yawn.

BEATRIX

Bob! Bartholomew!

BOB

I’m right here.

BEATRIX

Oh, sorry.

BARTHOLOMEW

Me too.

BEATRIX

Oh, haha! Why’d you guys let me sleep in again?

BARTHOLOMEW

Well, the rules have changed a bit, haven’t they? It’s not as if we really have a schedule to keep anymore.

BOB

(darkly)

Some of us do.

Silence.

BARTHOLOMEW

Right.

BEATRIX

Okay. Well, we’re not going to get serious this early today. Okay, let’s just… What day is it, Bartholomew? It’s Sunday?

BARTHOLOMEW

I think that’s right. Yeah.

BEATRIX

Let’s just pretend it’s Sunday!

BARTHOLOMEW

Okay. Oh, it’s time for my reflection hour.

BEATRIX

Exactly! Time for your reflection hour… it’s time for rest and relaxation. The only thing we need to do today is go down to the river and get some fresh water. It’s the only thing on the agenda.

BOB

Okay, well, nobody go alone. Remember, we have to go with a buddy. It’s safer that way. It’s in the protocols.

BEATRIX

Okay, Bob. Fine.

BARTHOLOMEW

I mean, he’s right. It’s in the protocols, and we should go, but… I mean, things have changed a little bit. Bob, you’ve been hitting the protocols pretty hard, hey? That’s normally my job!

(laughs)

BOB

(serious)

Yeah, it is.

Silence.

BEATRIX

Okay, you know what? I-I’m gonna go. I’ll go get the water.

BOB

Okay, somebody has to… Barty?

BARTHOLOMEW

I’ll go.

BEATRIX

(over Bob’s protests)

No, y’know, I’m just gonna go. I’m just gonna go. It’s fine.

BOB

Fine. Fine.

BEATRIX

It’s fine. It’s fine.

I’m just gonna go get some water, and then we’ll have a nice game of you know, pick-up sticks, and everything will be fine. We’ll just have a nice Sunday. Okay?

BOB

All right. I’m gonna work on these windows.

BEATRIX

(sigh)

Fine.

She leaves. The door slams behind her.

BOB

You could help me with the windows, Bartholomew.

BARTHOLOMEW

(lets out a breath; unenthused)

Yeah, let’s do the windows. I can do the windows.

BOB

Okay, so let’s find as many big rocks as we can.

BARTHOLOMEW

Big rocks?

Bob heads for the door too.

BOB

Yeah, we’re just gonna close them in.

BARTHOLOMEW

But, what? No, it’s nice to have a bit of light in the shelter.

BOB

We can leave a slit and then we can shoot out and no one can get in.

BARTHOLOMEW

What are you protecting us from, Bob? I mean, I know we don’t have the ship. But you know, things have been relatively quiet. I think we’re okay here.

BOB

Oh, well, instead, you could just start talking to me about what our mission really is, if you prefer.

Silence.

BARTHOLOMEW

Let’s get some rocks.

THE RIVER

Beatrix is gathering water in a metal bucket.

BEATRIX

(grumbles under her breath)

…always making… this new Bob sucks…

Another voice speaks, matching Beatrix’s almost exactly.

THE STRANGER

(grumbling)

…new Bob…

Beatrix falls silent. Then:

BEATRIX

Hello?

THE STRANGER

(from inside the bucket)

Hello?

BEATRIX AND THE STRANGER

(simultaneous)

Hello?

BEATRIX

(gasps)

Is someone there?

THE STRANGER

Is someone there?

BEATRIX

(screams)

THE STRANGER

(screams)

Beatrix throws the bucket away. The STRANGER goes with it.

Silence.

BEATRIX

(to herself)

Oh my god—what is happening…?

THE STRANGER

…what is happening…

BEATRIX

(shouts)

Okay, who’s playing—

Bartholomew!

THE STRANGER

Bartholomew!

BEATRIX

Bob!

THE STRANGER

Bob!

BEATRIX

Okay, this isn’t funny.

THE STRANGER

(overlapping with Beatrix)

Okay, this isn’t funny.

BEATRIX

Okay.

THE STRANGER

Okay.

BEATRIX

Someone’s playing a mean joke—

THE STRANGER

Someone’s playing a mean joke—

BEATRIX

And that’s not even a good impression!

THE STRANGER

That’s not even a good impression!

BEATRIX

All right.

THE STRANGER

All right.

BEATRIX

Why don’t you come out? Why don’t you come out, this isn’t funny anymore.

Something slowly emerges from the reeds by the river.

BEATRIX

(trembling)

What the…? Whaaa—

THE STRANGER

Whaaaa—

BEATRIX

W-what are you—what—what are y…?

THE STRANGER

W-what are—who?

THE HOUSE

Bob sets a huge rock in the window opening.

BOB

All right, one more, Barty, and we’ll be sealed in.

(no reaction from Bartholomew)

What’s the matter? We’re not going to argue about the window again, are we?

BARTHOLOMEW

(sighs)

We did this to you.

BOB

You did… this to me?

BARTHOLOMEW

We haven’t talked about that room at the back of my office.

BOB

Yeah, the armoury? With the power suits?

BARTHOLOMEW

The other day, Beatrix and I were walking, and I gave her the opportunity for question time.

As much as I don’t think that knowing everything is good for her, or for you, or for anybody… you have my ear. Question Time. Go ahead.

BOB

Okay.

I might ask about the manifest, but I’ve read that now.

Instead, I want to ask about Code 27364.

BARTHOLOMEW

The override.

BOB

Yeah. And why has it been used three times?

BARTHOLOMEW

(carefully)

The Captain… was meant to be the leader of the original mission.

BOB

There is no mission, is there?

BARTHOLOMEW

The original mission has been scrapped.

BOB

Yeah.

THE RIVER

BEATRIX

Okay.

THE STRANGER

(still matching Beatrix’s voice)

Okay.

BEATRIX

Um… I am Beatrix!

THE STRANGER

I am… Beatrix!

Silence.

BEATRIX

Wha?

No, no, I’m Beatrix.

THE STRANGER

(cheerfully)

Oh, I see. It’s a greeting!

Hello.

BEATRIX

Hello.

THE STRANGER

Hello.

BEATRIX

Hello!

THE STRANGER

How many times do you do this?

BEATRIX

How many times do you do this? See, it’s not very fun, is it?!

I’m sorry. That was an overreaction. I’ve been living a very tense existence lately.

Um. Hi, let me start over. Hi. I’m Bea—whoa. Why are you changing shape?

A shuddering, shimmering noise.

BEATRIX

What is happening right now?

Oh. Oh! Oh! Why do you look like me? Ooooh. Oh no!

The noise fades.

THE STRANGER

Hi! I look like you now!

THE HOUSE

BARTHOLOMEW

So now you know.

BOB

Yeah. Bartholomew, don’t take this the wrong way, but… I don’t know if you’re the most qualified person to be making these decisions.

BARTHOLOMEW

I’d say I’m just about all we’ve got.

BOB

There’s a pod. It’s supposed to have a security officer in it. Why don’t we have a security officer, Barty?

BARTHOLOMEW

(terse)

Bartholomew.

THE RIVER

NNHOH

My name is Nnhoh.

BEATRIX

Nnhoh.

NNHOH

No. Nnhoh.

BEATRIX

Nnhoh.

NNHOH

(slightly more guttural)

Nnhoh.

(cheerful)

You’re very bad at this.

BEATRIX

That’s kind of rude, but okay, well… I’m sorry, I’ve just never met anyone like you.

NNHOH

Oh, there are very few like me!

But I am like you now, right? I am good, yeah?

BEATRIX

Um… I don’t know how to feel about that statement.

(laughs nervously)

NNHOH

Well, I’m trying to make you more comfortable by taking on your form.

BEATRIX

Yeah, um—that’s very kind, but I feel a little strange looking at myself when it’s not really myself; like things are just a little… off, you know?

NNHOH

Would you like more eyes?

BEATRIX

No, no, five is enough, thank you.

NNHOH

Oh!

BEATRIX

It’s already about three too many. But I mean, beggars can’t be choosers, right? Ha ha.

NNHOH

I can do less. I can do less eyes!

A slurping sound.

BEATRIX

Oh… they just went right into your face. Okay.

(laughs nervously)

THE HOUSE

Bob peers out the window.

BOB

Bartholomew, I don’t think this is the time. Look through the slit.

BARTHOLOMEW

Beatrix is coming back.

BOB

Beatrixes.

Outside the house. Bob opens the door and steps out, leveling his gun.

BOB

Stop there! I’m armed.

BEATRIX

(sighs)

NNHOH

(sighs)

BEATRIX

Okay, I’ll take care of this.

NNHOH

Okay.

BOB

I said stop!

BEATRIX

Bob…

The shimmering noise returns. Nnhoh’s voice deepens suddenly.

NNHOH

(in Bob’s voice)

Stop!

BEATRIX

Oh, my God.

BOB

Which one? Which one is the real Beatrix?

NNHOH

Which one? Which one is the real Beatrix?

BEATRIX

Woah, woah, woah! Everybody calm down!

Okay, Nnhoh, please stop transforming into Bob. We have enough of him—oh, you’ve gotten tall.

NNHOH

(still in Bob’s voice)

Okay.

An electronic whining sound as Bob powers up his gun.

BEATRIX

Okay, everybody calm down.

BOB

It’s me…

BEATRIX

Yes, it is you, but it’s not you, Bob. Okay. Put your gun down!

Bob powers down again.

BEATRIX

Bartholomew, say something!

BARTHOLOMEW

Bob. Remember what you said about the ship being gone. We don’t know what happens if we die.

NNHOH

(slowly adopting Bartholomew’s voice)

…what happens if we die…

BARTHOLOMEW

I-I got this, Beatrix.

NNHOH

I-I got this.

BEATRIX

No, I’m Beatrix!

BARTHOLOMEW

We don’t know what…

NNHOH

We don’t know what…

BARTHOLOMEW

We don’t know what happens if any of us die.

NNHOH

(almost simultaneous now)

We don’t know what happens if any of us die.

BOB

Ohhh, it looks like Bartholomew now. And I so want to shoot Barty.

BEATRIX

Bob!

BOB

Step away from the creature, Beatrix.

BEATRIX

No, I’m not letting you harm her… it… thing… Nnhoh. I’m sorry, I’m very bad at this.

Nnhoh’s voice slurs as she transforms back to an imitation of Beatrix.

NNHOH

That’s okay. I think maybe it’s better if I take this form. It seems to be the one that’s less offensive to your leader.

BEATRIX AND NNHOH

Heh…

BARTHOLOMEW

We haven’t decided on who’s leading this. It’s more of a group—

BOB

I could just wing you, Beatrix, and I can go right through your shoulder and get it.

BARTHOLOMEW

Bob. Where was this when we met the Moip?

BEATRIX

This is my point. This is not the Moip!

BOB

What Moip?

NNHOH

(brightly)

Oh, I know the Moips! I studied them. They were my last subject!

BEATRIX

Studied them… oh my—you know the Moip?

NNHOH

Yeah, I know the Moip!

BOB

Why do you all know the Moip and I don’t?!

BEATRIX

Bob… You know Moips…? Tickle bug?

BARTHOLOMEW

He’s been through an iteration since then.

BEATRIX

Oh, right.

NNHOH

Oh, you’re iterative! Fascinating! I should make a note.

A strange voop! noise.

BEATRIX

Wha? What’d you do?

BARTHOLOMEW

Your head just glowed.

NNHOH

I made a note—I believe you would call it a note? In your language?

BEATRIX

Okay, what is happening? Bob, Put the gun down. Let’s just—what is…?

First of all, this is Nnhoh.

NNHOH

Nnhoh.

BEATRIX

Nnhoh.

NNHOH

She says it wrong.

BEATRIX

Nnhoh.

NNHOH

Nnhoh.

BARTHOLOMEW

Nnhoh.

BEATRIX

Nnhoh.

NNHOH

You’re slightly better at it.

BARTHOLOMEW

Oh, thank you.

BOB

Okay, what is going on here?

NNHOH

Well, I was merely doing some studies down by the water when this interesting creature came by.

BEATRIX

That’s me!

BOB

I told you you shouldn’t go to water alone.

BEATRIX

Well, I didn’t come back alone!

I’m not making the same mistake that I did with the Moips. They don’t seem to pose a threat, beyond the ability to shape shift into whoever they are presently engaged with.

NNHOH

When she came upon me, I was swimming in the water like a tadpole!

BEATRIX

She was! She was in my bucket for a minute.

BOB

(serious)

So you can look like anyone?

NNHOH

(very serious)

Yes, I can look like… anyone.

BOB

Okay, that’s creepy.

BEATRIX

Well, when you say it like that… I mean, she could say it like, “Yeah, I look like anyone!”

NNHOH

(cheerful)

Yeah, I look like anyone!

BEATRIX

There you go!

NNHOH

I really feel like this is the form that offends you all the least!

Nnhoh and Beatrix laugh in perfect sync.

BOB

(sighs)

BARTHOLOMEW

Bob, they don’t seem hostile.

BOB

What do you want?

NNHOH

I would love to learn more about your language. It’s incredibly simple!

(amused)

Your linguistic use of vibrating vocal folds is rudimentary at best. It’s fascinating. I don’t know that I’ve seen a creature so low evolutionarily, oh, in at least 10,000 years.

BOB

Do you have a ship?

NNHOH

Oh, no. Do you still use ships?

(delighted laughter)

BEATRIX

I’m sorry… I’m feeling quite attacked right now.

BARTHOLOMEW

Yeah.

BEATRIX

Usually, it’s, you know, I’m fleeing from being attacked. But right now this feels kind of like an emotional attack. I don’t like it as much.

BARTHOLOMEW

They’re saying the Moip is more evolved than us.

BEATRIX

Rude.

NNHOH

No, I’m not attacking! I believe in your culture, you’d say “I come in peace”.

BOB

Uh huh.

NNHOH

So simple.

BOB

I’m gonna check the perimeter. Keep your eye on… whatever this is.

He stalks away into the woods.

BEATRIX

Anyway… I gotta ask… do you pose any threat?

(nervous laugh)

NNHOH

(laughing)

Well, it depends on what you think of as a threat!

BEATRIX

That doesn’t answer my… okay.

NNHOH

(unhelpful)

Yeah!

BARTHOLOMEW

In what way would you pose a threat?

NNHOH

(in the same cheerful tone as ever)

Well, my job is to study languages and civilizations. I’m a linguistic anthropologist, is the word I believe. Really, your brains are quite simple and easy to scan. It’s fascinating!

And essentially, my job is to come, take note—ha! Then I leave and go on to my next subject. And now that all of the species on this planet have been catalogued, we can exterminate!

BEATRIX

Uh, wha—woah , ha…

BARTHOLOMEW

I mean, most of that sounded fine…

BEATRIX

Yeah. But it’s—it’s that last word? You know how you say that you take “note”?

NNHOH

Sorry, did I use it wrong?

BEATRIX

Ha ha, oh no, you didn’t. I’m just wondering if you used the word “exterminate” correctly?

NNHOH

I may not be. I am still learning after all. It will take me probably about 48 hours to fully catalogue the linguistic properties of a language as simple as yours.

Um, “exterminate” would mean… to end? To eradicate. Um, to kill, there’s an easy one. You guys probably have that.

(laughs)

Silence.

BARTHOLOMEW

Well, the good news is, it sounds like you used it correctly.

THE WOODS

BOB

(to himself, sarcastically)

“Don’t worry about it, Bob. Everything’s fine. Just alien life. Let’s trust it!” I’m sure.

God, they don’t understand. They don’t see, why do they not see?

He punches some buttons. The power armour suit begins to power up.

BOB

Suit?

Beeping and whirring.

SUIT

Suit engaged. How is your day going, Bob?

BOB

It’s just like you said, Suit. They don’t understand.

SUIT

Oh, I’m sorry. Would a joke make you feel better?

BOB

No.

SUIT

Are you sure?

BOB

I’m sure you’re gonna do it anyway, Suit—

SUIT

Bob. What’s brown and sticky?

BOB

Uh… what I left in my suit after the jump.

SUIT

Ha. No, but true.

No, Bob. The answer is: “a stick”. Ha ha ha ha.

BOB

Suit—

SUIT

Do you feel better, Bob?

BOB

No.

SUIT

Aww.

BOB

I think we might have to engage Alien Life Protocol.

Beeping sounds.

SUIT

Humour systems disengaged. Going into Alien Monitoring Protocol.

A sonar-like pinging begins.

THE HOUSE

BEATRIX

(high-strung laughter)

All right! Let’s just take a second here, okay, ha ha…

NNHOH

This is quite, quite strange! Your vocal patterns seem to be changing quite a bit! Wow!

BARTHOLOMEW

(nervous laughter)

Beatrix’s laughter turns into a long, anxious whine, which Nnhoh mimics closely.

BARTHOLOMEW

Beatrix, maybe we could sidebar.

BEATRIX

Uh, yeah! Okay. Ha ha. Just one moment, please!

NNHOH

Okay!

Beatrix tiptoes along behind Bartholomew, a few steps away from Nnhoh.

BARTHOLOMEW

(lowers his voice)

Did you hear what she said about what she’s doing? She’s studying and then exterminating. As long as there’s plenty of interesting things that we’re doing to study, the extermination won’t take place, you see?

BEATRIX

(softly)

Oh, okay—that’s so smart. Yeah yeah yeah yeah.

BARTHOLOMEW

So we’ve just got to be… just out there, you know? Just crazy! Who knows what we’re doing?

BEATRIX

Yeah, but I don’t really know how to do that on command? What do you even do? Like…

(straining noises as she tries to think)

Nnghh… this is my problem!

BARTHOLOMEW

I tell you what, Beatrix—what if your life depended on it? Because I think it does.

THE WOODS

Bob walks back towards the pinging Suit.

BOB

Perimeter is clear, Suit. Any update on the alien?

Readout beeps.

SUIT

It appears that the alien life form is independent of itself and its species on this planet.

BOB

Right. Can we determine the motivation?

SUIT

Motivation is to study and then exterminate.

BOB

Okay. Engage hostile action protocol.

SUIT

Bob, are you sure this is what you want?

BOB

Yes.

Beeps and whirring servos

SUIT

Engaging hostile protocol.

BOB

I’m going to come back from the other side.

THE HOUSE

BEATRIX

Okay, what’s something we could do?

BARTHOLOMEW

Uh… uh… Make a face?

BEATRIX AND BOB

(wide-open mouths)

Bleagh!

NNHOH

Bleagh!

BARTHOLOMEW

Now lemon face!

BEATRIX BOB AND NNHON

(scrunched-up faces)

Ooooooo!

Whirring and stomping as Suit approaches.

BEATRIX

Wait… what’s Suit doing?

BARTHOLOMEW

But… oh.

Panels whir open.

Bob’s voice comes on over the Suit’s speakers.

BOB

Beatrix, Barty, can you hear me?

BEATRIX

Yeah…

BARTHOLOMEW

It’s Bartholomew…

BOB

Move-ay away-ay from the creature-ay.

NNHOH

Oh, this is an interesting development. Different linguistic structures within your own species!

BEATRIX

Bob we’ve talked about this, you’re going to learn Pig Latin. It’s that the first consonant goes to the end of the word, and then you add -ay, unless it’s a vowel, so it would say “Ove-may away-ay om-fray e-thay alien-ay.”

BOB

Just do it! Now!

BARTHOLOMEW

(whispers)

That’s good, Beatrix. That’ll keep the creature engaged.

(aloud)

Bob. I think we figured out a plan. Why do we need to move back?

Rhythmic beeping begins: a countdown.

BOB

You don’t want to be anywhere near the creature when that Suit engages.

Whirring from Suit.

SUIT

Bob, we are ready to take part in the protocol.

NNHOH

(mimicking Suit now)

We are taking part in the protocol.

SUIT

Protocol engaged…

NNHOH

Protocol engaged…

BARTHOLOMEW

Bob, what protocol did you engage?!

BOB

Get down!

A thump and a roar as a missile flies out from the Suit.

BEATRIX

Get down!

Beatrix runs for Nnhoh just as the missile strikes. A massive explosion.

BARTHOLOMEW

This is why we weren’t putting you in the leadership role!

CREDITS

Theme music plays.

ANNOUNCER

Civilized.

Starring Kristi Boulton, Michael Divinski, Mbula Enobong and Sean Howard.

Sound design and music by Eli McIlveen.

Cover art by David Demaret.

Join us on Patreon for bonus episodes and lots more. Look for the Support Us link at civilizedpod.com.

TAG: AFTERMATH

Fire crackles.

BEATRIX

(weakly)

Bartholomew… I think I’m hurt…

NNHOH

(weakly)

Hurt…

Music sting.

ANNOUNCER

A Fable and Folly Production.

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