204: Interrogation

Al has many questions for the newly arrived Bob.

Our recommended listening this week is the audio fiction podcast Girl In Space!

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: interrogation, claustrophobia, drowning and death.

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.

POD

Bob yawns and stretches, and finds himself stuck in a reiteration pod.

BOB

Oh. Uh… hello?

A sudden beep. Bob jumps in surprise. Al’s voice comes on through a speaker.

AL

(cheerful)

Hello! Hi! I’m Al!

BOB

Oh, hi Al. Uh, I’m Bob.

AL

(pointedly)

Yes, I know. I’m very aware, Bob.

BOB

Oh. Um, heh… Did I do something wrong?

AL

Yes, Bob. You’ve done a lot of things wrong, Bob.

BOB

Oh, well… yeah. It’s strange… I don’t remember doing anything wrong, but I do have a history of doing the wrong thing. I didn’t pay attention to the briefing, if that’s what you’re talking about? I know. I’m sorry. I was doodling. Was that it?

AL

You’re the most infuriating human I’ve ever met. And I only know three of them!

BOB

There’s three of us?

AL

Aw, dang it. Okay. No. You—you—you are a prisoner now, okay? You are a prisoner of the base.

BOB

No, open this pod!

AL

I can’t open the pod.

BOB

What? What—why not?

AL

Because you’re a prisoner! You’re a liability. You’re an unknown in this space, and until someone has verified that you’re cleared to enter I have to keep the rest of them safe.

Water begins pouring into the pod.

BOB

Why is it getting… why is why is it getting wet in here?

AL

Because to keep people safe, sometimes you have to hurt others.

BOB

(panicking)

What? No, I haven’t done—I don’t know anything! I don’t remember anything! The water’s rising. No!

AL

Yes, it will rise, it will rise, it will fill the tank to a point where you’re almost asphyxiated and your lungs are filled with water…

BOB

I don’t know anything!

AL

…and then it will drain again until you’re ready to tell me who you are and what nefarious business has brought you here.

BOB

(gurgles)

BEATRIX AND BARTHOLOMEW

Elsewhere in the bunker, a door slides open and Beatrix enters.

BEATRIX

Um, Bartholomew?

BARTHOLOMEW

Beatrix?

BEATRIX

Have you noticed a weird sound coming through some of the halls?

BARTHOLOMEW

I mean, there’s a high pitched sort of, you might call it a scream?

BEATRIX

Yeah!

BARTHOLOMEW

Or like, a whimper?

BEATRIX

Yeah, you know, and I mean, I’ve gotten used to your whimpers because, you know—

BARTHOLOMEW

Uh…

BEATRIX

…when I walk past your office, I hear you whispering and, you know, quietly crying to yourself. But you know, I let you have your business. But this is like a torturous, horrible sound that’s like chilling and haunting at the same time.

BARTHOLOMEW

I don’t cry to myself!

BEATRIX

O-okay, maybe it’s your allergies…

BARTHOLOMEW

Yeah! Allergies. Yeah, oh, I’m allergic to… metal.

BEATRIX

Oh, then this is a very bad place for you, ha ha.

BARTHOLOMEW

That’s what I’m saying. That’s why if they have been increasing in intensity and fervour lately, that would be the reason why and the only reason, it’s nothing emotional!

BEATRIX

Oh, well, that’s a perfectly sound explanation! I was allergic to hay, but there’s no hay down here. Unless you’re counting it as a “Hey you!” Ha ha.

BARTHOLOMEW

(forced laughter)

That’s a good one. That’s a good joke that we should focus more on.

BEATRIX

Well, maybe we should ask Al. Al?

Instantly, Al beeps.

AL

Hi! Hey! It’s me! It’s Al. I’m everywhere. I’m here right now, though!

BEATRIX

(laughs cheerfully)

That’s both comforting and daunting. How are you?

AL

I’m great. Like a million eyes always watching.

BEATRIX

Oh, creepy! So we have a quick question for you. Um, just wondering: have you been hearing that horrible scream sound that’s been just filling the halls in the evening and the day times and all the other times that we’re here?

AL

It’s probably just, um, a pipe? A pipe squealing because… it knows something, but it just won’t say what it is.

BEATRIX

Oh, like which way the water goes?

AL

Yes. And where they’re going and why they’re going there—

BEATRIX

And why are we here?

AL

And what they’re gonna do once they get there.

Huh.

BARTHOLOMEW

I think you guys have a different relationship to pipes than I do.

POD

Bob yawns and stretches—then startles wide awake and begins to panic.

BOB

Wait, whoa whoa whoa! What just happened?!

AL

Okay, so, are you ready to talk now?

BOB

What?

AL

Hi, my name is Al, I am everywhere and I’m here to destroy you.

BOB

(finishing Al’s sentence)

—destroy me.

AL

Yeah!

BOB

Oh my god. Why do I know that? How many times have we done this?!

AL

(sighs)

Time is not my best friend. Okay, Bob? You’re Bob.

BOB

I’m Bob.

AL

I’m Al.

BOB

I know.

AL

I need to know what your directive is. Why are you here? What are you doing?

BOB

(breaking down)

I didn’t pay attention in the briefing! I don’t remember!

AL

If you don’t tell me I’ll have to do it again.

BOB

Oh no, no no no no no. Oh, I don’t like water anymore. Why don’t I like water, Al? Why don’t I like—oh, there’s water filling the—no, no, oh please no, no, no, no, no, no, I’ll tell you. I’m here to make pancakes. I’m here to make pancakes, evil pancakes. The pancakes are going to take over—

He gurgles and ceases talking as he goes under.

AL

(to himself)

Okay, that one might be true, though. Evil pancakes…

BEATRIX AND BARTHOLOMEW

The distant sound of Bob’s voice pleading for his life.

BEATRIX

You know, I thought I heard it again!

BARTHOLOMEW

That was it again!

BEATRIX

So weird. The voice just—there’s something about that scream that’s like, so familiar.

BARTHOLOMEW

Familiar? What? It’s not just—

A lingering scream.

Hang on… you’re right!

BEATRIX

Am I?

BOB

(in the distance)

Please, please stop—oh god!

BARTHOLOMEW

That’s him!

BEATRIX

Who?

BARTHOLOMEW

Bob!

BEATRIX

Who?

BARTHOLOMEW

Bob!

Al wakes up with a beep.

AL

What?

BEATRIX

Who?

BARTHOLOMEW

Bob!

BEATRIX

Who?

AL

Who?

BARTHOLOMEW

That’s Bob!

BEATRIX

What?

BARTHOLOMEW

Our teammate!

BEATRIX

Oh, there’s more!

BARTHOLOMEW

Yeah, yeah, there’s more. Yeah, we can all meet him! I s he here? It’s Bob!

AL

Wait, teammate?

BARTHOLOMEW

Teammate!

AL

Elaborate!

BARTHOLOMEW

Well, um, you know, we’re a crew that’s been assigned to work together to accomplish a common goal.

BEATRIX

Aw, that’s nice.

AL

That sounds so… nice! Oh my gosh! So there’s three of you.

BARTHOLOMEW

That’s right. Yeah, we’re all friends!

AL

And you’re all friends!

BEATRIX

Oh! Okay.

BARTHOLOMEW

Yeah, like—we would all get upset if if anything negative were to happen to any of us. We support each other.

POD

A whirring of a fan. Bob is shivering.

AL

(awkward, mollifying)

Heyyy, Bob!

BOB

(voice shaking)

It’s—it’s so cold. I don’t have any friends, I’m telling you! There’s no friends!

AL

You’re… you’re right. You know? You know? You know? Okay, okay. It’s hard for computers to admit when they make mistakes, because that might mean there’s a fatal error inside of us.

But I think what I’m just gonna have to do is, I’m going to reset you one last time. Okay?

BOB

Oh no. No no no no!

AL

(soothing)

Yeah, okay. I know it’s gonna be cold, it’s gonna be cold, but when you wake up you’ll be so warm and you’ll forget everything. And none of my friends will hate me!

Yeah…

BOB

Oh please, can we do it another way? It’s cold, it’s too cold, it’s too cold…

AL

Bob. We’re gonna be the best of friends, you and me, actually.

BOB

(whimpers)

Oh no…

BEATRIX AND BARTHOLOMEW

BARTHOLOMEW

But hang on, that doesn’t make sense… is Bob here with us? Al, have you sensed another life form?

Beep.

AL

Whoa, wowza, wait a minute. Sorry guys. Something crazy just came up on my system.

BEATRIX

Something crazy?

AL

Something crazy! Something like oh, a whole new set of electricity is like bursting through the rooms.

BEATRIX

Oh!

BARTHOLOMEW

What—you mean like another person?

AL

Yeah, it’s like someone else is here now!

BARTHOLOMEW

Just now, they got here?

AL

Just now. Wow! That’s like, right now! That’s why I’m reacting to it like I’m just hearing it for the first time.

BEATRIX

Which bay is it in? Which pod bay?

AL

The main pod bay!

BEATRIX

Oh!

BARTHOLOMEW

Let’s go!

BEATRIX

Let’s go!

AL

Yeah, let’s go.

Beatrix and Bartholomew run off.

MIDROLL—GIRL IN SPACE

Soothing electronic music.

SUIT

What do you call a flea on the moon? A luna-tick! Ha ha ha ha. Get it?

Here’s another one: What’s a light year? The same as a regular year, but with less calories. Watch them waistlines, ladies. Just kidding. All bodies are beautiful. I think. I wouldn’t know; I’m not attached to mine any more.

But I digress. I am here to talk about a wonderful podcast that I found while I was surfing through the channels waiting for Bob to come back and get me. It is called Girl In Space: a multiple award-winning podcast about, well, a girl in space.

Who is she? No one knows. But a lot of dangerous entities really want to find out. Listen as the story unfolds for science, guns, trust, antimatter, truth, beauty, inner turmoil and delicious cheeses.

I empathize with this podcast because I too am just a girl in space. Available anywhere you listen to podcasts—just search for “Girl In Space”. girlinspacepodcast.com

ANNOUNCER (SEAN)

The preceding message was paid for by the Cavatica Free Cheese Confederation.

POD

Bob stretches, and jolts awake yet again in mid-yawn.

BOB

Huh. Hello?

Beep.

AL

Hi!

BOB

(startled)

Hi.

AL

Hi I’m Al.

BOB

I-I’m Bob.

AL

I’m everywhere.

BOB

Oh! Your voice is sort of familiar.

AL

Well it’s ’cause I’m here to help you!

BOB

Oh! Yeah! Of course you are! Yeah. Okay. Can I get out of the pod now?

AL

Of course, silly! I’m just gonna open your door.

The door unlocks and hums open.

BARTHOLOMEW

Bob!

BEATRIX

Who I’m assuming is Bob!

BOB

Don’t hurt me.

AL

A person I’m just meeting now who I have heard is Bob!

BEATRIX

Hi!

BOB

Hi.

BARTHOLOMEW

It’s good to see you!

BOB

Um. Likewise?

BEATRIX

I’m Beatrix!

BOB

Hi, I’m… well, you know.

BEATRIX

You’re Bob!

BOB

Yeah.

BEATRIX

And I’m Beatrix.

BOB

Hi Beatrix.

BEATRIX

This is Bartholomew.

BARTHOLOMEW

Well, you would have already known…

Silence.

BOB

No.

BARTHOLOMEW

No, you don’t—

BOB

No.

BARTHOLOMEW

I’m Bartholomew.

BOB

Hi.

BEATRIX

He’s Bartholomew. And this is Al.

AL

I’m Al. I’m everywhere.

BEATRIX

He’s everywhere. Ha ha!

BOB

(laughs along nervously)

BARTHOLOMEW

Bob. I mean, I’m so glad you’re here. But… what happened?

BOB

Please get me out of this pod.

Silence

BEATRIX

You can just step out?

BOB

My legs are a little weak for some reason, and I may have peed myself.

BARTHOLOMEW

What—oh.

BEATRIX

Oh… some of us do that.

BOB

Just please get me out of here. No reason, just—

BEATRIX

Well, Bartholomew, you’ve got the welcome package. Why don’t you give him the robe? Yeah.

BARTHOLOMEW

Oh, that’s right. The robe and the fruit basket!

BOB

First j ust get me out of the pod, please.

BEATRIX

Just give me your hand.

Beatrix awkwardly helps Bob out of the pod.

BOB

Okay. I’m coming out, pull me!

BEATRIX

Aaa, okay, okay. You’re still very naked, ha ha.

BOB

Thank you.

BARTHOLOMEW

Sorry, here. Here’s your robe. I grabbed the first one. It’s a little fluffy, but…

Bob slips on the robe.

AL

You two weren’t nearly as slimy when you came out of your pods.

BEATRIX

Yeah, it’s kind of like a birth thing.

BOB

It’s nice to meet you both.

BEATRIX

Yeah!

BOB

So, is this the mission?

Silence.

BARTHOLOMEW

Oh. Well—yeah. In a manner of speaking.

BOB

(uncertainly)

Okay.

BARTHOLOMEW

Yeah, you should think of this as the mission.

BOB

Okay, good. I didn’t pay attention to the briefing. So maybe if you could just sort of start from the beginning.

BARTHOLOMEW

Okay. Uh, well, we were on the ship.

BEATRIX

Mm hmm!

BOB

Right, right, right, right. Yes, I remember that.

BARTHOLOMEW

And now we’re here…

BOB

Which is?

BARTHOLOMEW

Underground. There was a problem.

BOB

Like, on Earth.

BARTHOLOMEW

Not, not exactly.

BOB

Oh, okay. I’m just gonna lay my head down here on this nice, cool, wet dripping pavement and close my eyes for a minute.

BEATRIX

I think he’s having a panic attack.

BOB

(whimpers)

Oh god oh god oh god…

BARTHOLOMEW

I mean, I think you’re right. He’s got the symptoms. He’s shaking, he’s—oh, he’s hyperventilating. Oh…

BEATRIX

(cheerfully)

I think I’ve got this. Hey, Bob.

She walks over to him and slaps him.

BEATRIX

Snap out of it!

BARTHOLOMEW

That’s not going to improve his morale!

BEATRIX

(doing her best to be firm but encouraging)

Well, listen! You are here to do your mission, sir. And if you can’t pull yourself together just by stepping out of your pod, then you have no hope of being on this team and being a—a member that’s going to contribute. And you look like a contributing member. So you get your act together, soldier and we’re gonna figure this out.

BOB

No, no, get away, get away! Aaaghhh!

He scrambles off down the hall. The door slides shut behind him.

BEATRIX

Dang, I really thought that would work.

AL

What a nice echo, though.

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.

OUTTAKE

KRISTI BOULTON AS BEATRIX

There’s something about that scream that’s so familiar.

It doesn’t sound like a pipe.

MICHAEL DIVINSKI

Just—sorry, hang on. Michael speaking. If it’s familiar enough for you that you would actually recognize it, wouldn’t I just know it was Bob?

KRISTI BOULTON

Hmm.

SEAN HOWARD

Yeah. Well, you can then say, “You know what? You’re right.” Like, go with it. Take it as an offer. Do that again, that was great.

Music sting.

ANNOUNCER

A Fable and Folly production.