201: Underground

Bob seeks out Beatrix – and Barty meets a new friend.

This episode is brought to you by Singularity’s Children, Book One: Denial by Toby Weston!

Our recommended listening this week is the audio fiction podcast Six Cold Feet.

Starring Kristi Boulton, Michael Divinski, Phil Johnston and Sean Howard.
Sound design: Eli McIlveen
Cover art: David Demaret
Announcers: Marisa King and Michael Howie

Content warning: panic, claustrophobia, despair and jump scares.

ANNOUNCEMENTS

Music sting.

SEAN

Hey everyone! Sean here. I play Bob on the show, and I’m one of the co-creators as well. And I’m super excited to announce that we have our first sponsor. It’s a super awesome book about a young man and an intelligent—I think they’re all intelligent—talking dolphin through technology. And it’s about striking back, it’s about finding our voice, it’s about helping animals—it’s just an amazing sci-fi book. It’s by Toby Weston, and it’s called Singularity’s Children. The author, Toby Weston, is a software developer turned sci-fi author, and I just love the book because I’m a geek, and it doesn’t do any of that sill stuff where you have sci-fi authors writing a book about computers that don’t get it. And yet it’s about this amazing relationship And it’s about a young group of teenagers who are fighting back against the system and helping animals like I already said. Anyways, you can tell I love it. I really enjoyed it, and you can find it by going to civilizedpod.com/weston.

And now, on with the show.

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.

BARTHOLOMEW

The echoey interior of a pod.

BARTHOLOMEW

(yawns and stretches, then)

Ugh.

An abrupt beep.

ELECTRONIC VOICE

(young, excitable, confused)

Excuse me?

BARTHOLOMEW

(startles)

Wugh!

C-Captain?

ELECTRONIC VOICE

Captain who? N-no? I mean, maybe? I mean, probably not, realistically, but… Hello!

BARTHOLOMEW

Captain, you sound different.

ELECTRONIC VOICE

Uh… I can make my voice lower or higher if that is how you want me to sound? I just want to—I’m just—I’m just here to help.

The pod opens—a subtly different sound than we’ve heard before. The hum outside is different too. Bartholomew steps out.

BARTHOLOMEW

Uh… Captain, my pod is different.

ELECTRONIC VOICE

Oh, these pods are true to the original model. They’re—everything is up to… up to old date. The date.

BARTHOLOMEW

Sorry, which date?

Rapid beeping.

ELECTRONIC VOICE

Um, I don’t—I had to turn off a lot of my memory processors over time to keep everything running, so I can’t remember a lot of specific things, but it’s been a while.

BARTHOLOMEW

It is true.

Um… My name is Bartholomew.

ELECTRONIC VOICE

Hi, Bartholomew!

A long pause.

BARTHOLOMEW

And you are…?

ELECTRONIC VOICE

Uh… hmm. No one’s really… no one’s really talked to me in a pretty long time. So you can—you can just call me, um…. Bartholomew! That’s a great name, I’ve heard.

BARTHOLOMEW

(taken aback)

I’m very partial to it. It might get confusing. You know, I say “Hey, Bartholomew” and then—

ELECTRONIC VOICE

I say, “Hey, Bartholomew!”

BARTHOLOMEW

I guess that would work. But suppose there were a third person and they say, “Hey, Bartholomew,” then—

ELECTRONIC VOICE

A third person?!

BARTHOLOMEW

Well, it’s just a hypothetical—

ELECTRONIC VOICE

There’s more of you? Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.

BOB

A soft whirring sound. Bob’s voice echoes inside the helmet of the powered suit.

BOB

(yawns and stretches)

What—what? Oh my god, I’m in Suit.

He presses a button. The Suit chimes and begins to boot up.

SUIT

Hello, Bob. Nice to see you again.

BOB

Suit, did I just reiterate? Where’s everyone else?

SUIT

Everyone else? Bob, there is no one else.

BOB

What do you mean?

SUIT

Just kidding. Ha ha ha ha.

BOB

(sighs)

Suit what are your power levels at?

An unhappy beep.

SUIT

Very low.

BOB

Okay. Start conserving power. Disable everything not necessary.

SUIT

All right. I will disable. But just so you know, humour takes next to no power.

The whir of the fans slows to a stop.

BOB

How did I know you were gonna say that?

Okay—wait. Why have the air handlers turned off in the suit? Suit, I need air. I need oxygen.

SUIT

Oxygen has been disengaged.

BOB

Open this—open. Open. Un… unlatch. Open.

SUIT

All right. But it makes me sad that you want to leave so soon.

BOB

I have to breathe, Suit.

SUIT

Why don’t I just open the helmet?

BOB

Great. Just open the helmet, Suit.

SUIT

Opening.

The helmet opens with a hiss and a whir.

SUIT

There is oxygen. Feel better?

BOB

Yes, I feel—thank you, Suit.

Uh… I guess I’m the only one left, then.

SUIT

Well, you’re the only one left here. Beatrix is not far from your position.

BOB

What? Why didn’t you open with that?!

BARTHOLOMEW

BARTHOLOMEW

Okay. So I was just told, in my files, that if Ship vanished, there might be a, quote, “alternative solution”.

ELECTRONIC VOICE

That sounds exactly like what I am.

BARTHOLOMEW

Yeah, well, that’s exactly what I was thinking, Bartholomew!

ELECTRONIC VOICE

That sounds so familiar. “Alternative solution”.

More beeping as the computer searches his memory.

ELECTRONIC VOICE

My name is Al. That’s what you can call me. Okay. Yes.

BARTHOLOMEW

I can call you Al.

AL

And I can help you.

BARTHOLOMEW

Okay. Well, that’s great, because I was told “alternative solution” and you’d be filled in from there. So. Lay it on me, Al! What have we got? Give me all the details.

AL

Well… we know that I’m Al and we know that you’re Bartholomew. And this is, uh, an underground bunker.

BARTHOLOMEW

Okay. Hey! That’s something. I didn’t know that!

Wait, underground?

AL

Yes.

BARTHOLOMEW

Underground.

AL

Yes. My prime directive is to hold and contain and then support any new arrivals.

BARTHOLOMEW

Sorry, “contained”? W-we can’t leave underground?

AL

You shouldn’t leave underground. Upworld is apparently, uh, very bad.

Bartholomew begins to pace.

BARTHOLOMEW

(rapidly)

See, one thing that didn’t come up much on Ship because there were the big wide windows and you could see out everywhere and there was landscape and trees and big open sky, is that I’m a little bit claustrophobic. Just a little bit claustrophobic. Just a little, just a little panicky, not that I’m panicking, I’m not saying that I’m panicking. I’m not saying that I’m not panicking. Al, I’m panicking.

AL

I could revert some of the energy I’ve got into lighting up other passages for you to wander through. It goes on and on and on and on and on and on.

BARTHOLOMEW

(dazed)

On and… on and on and… on and on…

(inhales)

Okay, see, one of the things that didn’t come up on Ship much because it really was a-a-a contained space is that I’m a little bit agoraphobic.

BOB

Bob walks through the woods.

SUIT

Bob, we are approaching Beatrix’s location. She seems to be at suboptimal health levels.

BOB

It’s so weird hearing you talk out of the helmet. Which is quite heavy, I have to say.

SUIT

Well, I appreciate you carrying me around.

BOB

Okay, how close am I? Can you like, beep or something as I get closer or…?

SUIT

Sure I can beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Is this what you wanted? Beep beep beep beep. I can even add more notes. Beep beep beep beep beep beep beep beep beep—

BOB

Suit. I want you to beep louder or more often the closer I get to her. And maybe slower and less often when I move away from her.

SUIT

Okay, cowboy. So many demands!

BOB

(mutters)

Son of a… I tell ya, this suit…

SUIT

What was that?

BOB

Nothing. Just… beautiful out here today.

Look, I need to find Beatrix.

SUIT

All right, let me beep for you. But I’m doing it because I want to.

BOB

Great.

SUIT

Beep. Beep beep. Beep.

They walk on.

MIDROLL: SIX COLD FEET

Soothing electronic music.

AL

Hey! Hi, it’s me, Al!

I’m everywhere and I see everything and hear everything. And we want to tell you about an amazing podcast: Six Cold Feet. It’s a mesmerising blend of mystery drama and musicology. A full-cast, beautifully told audio fiction series written by J.M. Donaldson. Season 1 will have you on the edge of your seat, and in Season 2, you’ll become entranced with the mysterious star and musician Juliet Knives.

Find out more at sixcoldfeet.com, or search for Six Cold Feet, anywhere you listen to podcasts.

Now I’m gonna go figure out what a knife is, and what it’s for!

BARTHOLOMEW

BARTHOLOMEW

Okay, that’s it. I just—this is a lot. I’m going to stay in my pod and just never come out… forever. If that’s cool.

Bartholomew punches a button and his pod slides open again. He steps inside.

AL

Wait! Wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait. Don’t. Stop. No, stop going in there. Come out. No. Don’t do that. Hey. I do not have any physical way of stopping you but I’m… I’m very sad.

BARTHOLOMEW

…Your morale is low?

BOB

Bob walks on through the woods.

SUIT

Beep. Beep beep beep. Beep beep beep. Beep beep. Approaching Beatrix’s location.

BOB

Beatrix!

BEATRIX

(groans)

BOB

Let me put this helmet down.

BEATRIX

…Bob?

SUIT

Beep beep.

BOB

Beatrix.

BEATRIX

Oh my god! Bob. Oh!

BOB

What are you doing on a divan in the middle of the forest?

BEATRIX

A what?

BOB

I don’t know—what is this, a sofa?

BEATRIX

Well, yeah, it’s the one we built for the house.

BOB

Oh.

BEATRIX

I didn’t have a lot of energy. I’m still recovering from, you know, that explosion that you aimed at me.

BOB

I’m sorry. I said I’m sorry about that. Look, where’s the alien? I brought my rifle.

BEATRIX

She sort of left. She said “Friend?”… touched me… and then vanished into a pile of goo.

BOB

Okay, but then where’s Barty?

Silence.

BOB

Beatrix?

No.

BEATRIX

Barty didn’t make it.

BOB

Beatrix… there’s no pods. There was just Suit, and it only had enough power for me.

BEATRIX

I know.

BARTHOLOMEW

Bartholomew is still in his pod.

BARTHOLOMEW

No, no, Al, I’m sorry. Me going into the pod wasn’t a reflection of you or our relationship. I was just overwhelmed.

AL

I’ve been laying dormant for quite a long time and my only, only programmed operations is to help anyone who’s here. So you’re here, I have to help you. If you go back in the pod, I can’t see you anymore.

Bartholomew steps back out.

BARTHOLOMEW

Um… okay. Here. What if I just get out, I stay close to the pods… we can chat.

AL

That sounds amazing.

An awkward pause.

BARTHOLOMEW

Do you have any interests?

Al considers this for a few seconds.

AL

I like… long echoes?

BOB AND BEATRIX

Bob rummages in his pack.

BOB

Beatrix, I… I think the best thing to do is you just stay here. Here. Take this water. I’m going to run back to the rest of Suit and see if I can get the first aid kit.

BEATRIX

(weakly)

Okay. I don’t really have the urge to explore right now. I’ll wait here.

BOB

Beatrix, I… I’ll be back.

BEATRIX

(noncommittal)

Okay.

BOB

Don’t move. Don’t—don’t strain yourself any more.

BEATRIX

I don’t plan on it.

BOB

Here, keep the rifle.

BEATRIX

Okay.

BOB

(exhales)

All right. Think about your Special Place.

BEATRIX

I don’t have one of those any more.

Just go, Bob.

BOB

I’ll be back. You’re gonna be fine, Beatrix. It’s, um… It’s not that bad.

He stands and walks slowly away.

BARTHOLOMEW

BARTHOLOMEW

What did you want to be when you grew up?

AL

Well, I was programmed to not think of the future as much as to live in the moment, to make sure that I could accurately perform my duties. I don’t know when was the last time I got to perform any duties.

Do you know what it’s like to not have purpose?

BARTHOLOMEW

You know what, I think I do. See, it’s a long story. But we had this mission, right? And we… we had this terraforming to get done. And then it was like, “Oh yeah, you’re going to be supported by all these people coming!” and then then I did some digging and it’s like, “Oh, nope, nobody’s coming! But you can’t tell anybody, Bartholomew, even if it makes them hate you and resent you and think that you’re hiding something!” which you are, because obviously, you’re not telling them what’s going on, but it’s for their own good, but they won’t accept that it’s for their own good. And then they really just start to turn on you but then you know, you sort of get distracted, you start building a house with one of them and then it seems like there might be something there, and then you just sort of get blown up and now you’re down here talking to… well, you.

Um… my point is, I understand.

Whoo! Whooo! It felt good to get that off my chest.

AL

I bet it did.

Now I might just be an artificially intelligence programmed machine with a generic human personality put overtop, but I’m here for you! Okay? We can be, we could be friends!

BARTHOLOMEW

I’d like that. I mean, who knows what’s happened to my other friends? I—

A soft beeping sound. Bartholomew checks his wrist.

BARTHOLOMEW

Hang on. I’m getting a weak signal on my communicator.

BOB

BOB

Suit?

SUIT

Yes, Bob.

BOB

I couldn’t tell her. There’s no first aid kit.

SUIT

I wondered why you were lying.

BOB

Thank you for staying quiet.

SUIT

Well, having read Beatrix’s morale ratings… I’ve never seen her ratings so low.

BOB

And I have to complete the mission now. Alone.

SUIT

Are you saying you’re abandoning Beatrix?

BOB

I’m saying I’m doing what needs to be done.

SUIT

Well, well, Bob. It seems you have become more machine than man.

BOB

Someone has to.

CREDITS

Theme music plays.

ANNOUNCER

Civilized.

Starring Kristi Boulton, Michael Divinski, Phil Johnston 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: THE BUNKER

BARTHOLOMEW

Um… Al?

Beep.

AL

Bartholomew!

BARTHOLOMEW

Got any eights?

AL

I have several thousand eights in my code?

BARTHOLOMEW

No, it’s… it’s the card game. If you don’t have it, you say “Go fish.”

AL

Go where?

BARTHOLOMEW

I used to play it with Beatrix. I… never mind.

Music sting.

ANNOUNCER

A Fable and Folly Production.

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