Tribulations of a Biologist in Space - Season 1 Episode 6
Dr. Eurus makes a slimy discovery and meets up with her avian friends.
Tides was written by Jesse Schuschu and directed by Jesse Schuschu and Ayla Taylor. It was produced by Ayla Taylor and edited by Bridge Geene. Art by Sarah Durst.
Dr. Winifred Eurus is played by Julia Schifini and Dr. Victor Stevens is played by Jordan Higgs.
Tides is the story of Dr. Winifred Eurus, a xenobiologist trapped on an unfamiliar planet with hostile tidal forces. She must use her wits, sarcasm and intellectual curiosity to survive long enough to be rescued. But there might be more to life on this planet than she expected. . .
Find us at www.tidespodcast.com and follow @TidesPodcast on Twitter or Tumblr.
Music in intro is "Shimmer" by Scott Holms and the ending music is "Drift" by Scott Holms.
Sound effects include those that were previously credited and:
"Beating Wings Dry Sound.wav" by Uzbazar on Freesound.org
Other sound effects used in this trailer were either downloaded in accordance with their copyright or were created for the use in this podcast.
Hi, Julia Schifini here! Before we start the episode we just want to say a quick thank you. We appreciate you all so much for listening and supporting this show. We couldn’t do it without you.
We have mentioned our Patreon at the end of each episode but I just want to go into a little more detail about it. For those of you that don’t know, Patreon is a website that allows you to support your favorite creators, hopefully us. You can pledge as little as a dollar an episode and get access to cool exclusive rewards. For Tides, you can get access to episodes several days early, as well as things like bloopers, extra scenes, annotated scripts, and more.
In addition, we’ve set some goals. If we reach our goal of $150 an episode, we will create a series of mini-episodes to air between season 1 and 2. These mini-episodes will act as prequels to the series, focusing on the relationships between the members of the Stribog’s crew. We are very excited to share these stories with you! Head over to www.patreon.com/tidespodcast if you are interested in helping us reach this goal!
Thank you so much!
Dr. Winifred Eurus: [Exhausted, lying down on top of the pile of rocks] Well I made it back up here, eventually. Hello, come in anyone? Oh, no, they’re over the horizon now, damn it. Montague’s going to be a little pissed I hung up on him. Oh well. Keep him in suspense. I wonder if there’s a betting pool going - alive or dead? He’ll put his money on dead.
Stevens will probably be on the ‘alive’ side, because he needs my coauthorship to get anywhere in xenobiology - although with me dead, he would be able to take all the data I collected and publish without me . . . nah. It’d still be better to have my name on it as well.
The captain would be betting on dead, but that’s not personal, just practicality and overly reasonable thinking. I’d like to think Melissa would be rooting for me.
If I had been thinking about it before, I guess I would’ve had no choice but to bet on myself of course - can’t collect a payoff if I’m dead. [Wistfully] There’s no option for me, but to keep planning for my continued survival.
My ankle’s feeling a lot better actually, which is good, because I might need to climb up and down to retrieve supplies before I get picked up. I lost some rations in the wave, I think. Hopefully everything else is okay. Speaking of which I should really drink some water, it’s been a while -
[Raising herself to her elbows and looking around] Still night, but the sky’s getting lighter in the east. I think?
My legs are like rubber. It was a surprisingly hard swim up. I’m not all that buoyant in this suit, actually. Didn’t encounter much fish or anything, and I couldn’t see anything because of the murkiness anyway. Other shell creatures were hidden away. I thought I saw a very angry-looking tentacle thing pulling itself up out of the mud in a cloud of sediment. I got out of there before seeing what it did next though.
I’m lying on my back, looking at the slowly lightening sky through all the scratches on my visor. [Prop feets up on a rock] Ah. The sky above me is clear aside from a few wispy clouds, still dark with some stars out. I did think there’d be more storms. Maybe this is just a relatively calm time of year.
I’m just gonna lie here for a moment.
Now I’m able to move around a little. Can’t have this whole broadcast be a record of all the naps I’ve attempted to take. Tide’s on its way down, about halfway down the rock. My ankle is feeling better - I still have a limp though, and it still feels a bit swollen.
For the first time I’m seeing the pattern start to repeat itself, as it gets less dark and at the same time the tide gets lower and lower. As the water flows away the trees one by one re-extend themselves. Inch by inch the rocks dry off again.
Jesus, the dawn is taking forever. Still no sun, just a gradual paling in the sky. I think I can almost see the ocean from here, glittering a bit on the horizon, blending into the shadowy incline. After spending all that time heading for higher ground it’s weird to turn around and face the other direction. It’s a flat, black, calm sea that's retreating from me. It doesn’t get lower so much as the texture of the ground rises out of it.
I’ve seen tides come in and out before - on Earth, that is. Near our place in Maine as a kid I’d climb down a little cliff to get to a rocky beach. I’d spend hours sitting there hoping to see a whale, or building driftwood houses. I never went swimming, because it wasn’t really a swimming kind of place. There was rarely anyone else there - sometimes it felt like it was all just mine, then I’d find a beer can or the remains of a fire and be reminded that no part of our homeworld is untouched. The part of us that is drawn to the empty places draws everyone else, too, and the empty places are not anymore. Not even here, really.
I’m imagining myself, a tiny speck on that muddy dark plane, walking this way, struggling bit by bit across it. The pools reflect a little of the glow from the sky, and I see now that they wind and squiggle all over the place. I can see ripples in one of them.
One, two - no, three - black shapes take off from it. They’re coming into focus - oh, I know those guys.
The biggest and most aggressive is Angelica; no angel by her looks of course. Still there’s a certain striking nature to her appearance. Even that face . . . and the other, upside-down face. She’s domineering, snapping at the others, sometimes trying to sit on them. Her skin is rougher, less sleek black and more scaly dark gray. That could be a sign of age. Or just a different phenotype.
The middlest one is quieter - it feels quieter, more thoughtful. [Laughs] Even I can’t avoid humanizing things. Anyway this one, Eliza, she’s less aggressive but not a pushover. She’s nearly as big as Angelica and she knows it too, she’s jabbing her beak at the bigger companion when she gets too close or tries to sit on her. Never in a serious attempt to injure, though, at least I don’t think so.
The third one is just a bit smaller, and distinctly perky. A juvenile, maybe? But definitely a Peggy. She crouches a little apart, spastically hopping around, sometimes interjecting herself into the others’ squabbling. I think out of the three of them she’s the only one that may have noticed me down in my crevice next to the boulder that they like to sit on. She sticks her head over the edge and I think maybe the lower two eyes can see me, but they’re just black featureless orbs in the dim light. She does this every so often, almost pointedly, keeping tabs on me. I’m just a weird orange-and-blue motionless thing in among the rocks, nothing too interesting, nothing like what they normally eat. I hope.
Sometimes they all just stop at once and face in the same direction, east, towards the sea. I don’t hear anything or see anything that could be getting their attention, other than the slowly approaching dawn.
They’ve swooped and climbed down to the lower slopes of my pile of rocks. I’m slowly following them down, though obviously I’m a little hesitant. My ankle feels a lot better now. I’m not going all the way down, though. Just enough to see what they’re up to.
What they aren’t doing, right now, is hunting. It’s eerie how quiet they are, moving among the tan shells in the gloom, not avoiding them but also careful to not touch any of them as they hunch along.
Angelica is pausing. What is she -
[Gagging followed by a splat]
She just spat out a whole wad of wobbly gunk, phlegm, whatever.
Eliza’s walking over - no! Don’t eat that!
Oh wait, she’s, ugh, something just came out of her beak too and into - oh.Oh okay. I think I see.
I saw these right after I started walking - these spheres of gunk, with a brown spotted orb inside. An egg, just left out there in the open.
Peggy’s coming over too. She’s sort of laying on top of it and . . . doing something I can’t quite see.
I have to say, not THE most disgusting reproductive behavior I’ve ever seen. If that’s what that was. It all raises interesting questions about sex and gender, but I think their names are their names for now. A little unfortunate that I named them after historical sisters.
Hmm. This shell I’m standing by is relatively high on the rocks. I remember when I was observing the animals moving around before, this one was unoccupied, and the others came and interacted with it.
There’s sort of an apparatus on one side. It’s just sort of a hole covered by a fine mesh, made of - I don’t know. It’s not calcium carbonate, or organic material I think, or even metal. There’s something behind it, like . . . a turbine?
Now this hatchway is pretty much the same as the others, except there’s a patch of different texture on the shell next to it. If I touch it - huh. It opens. But, huh, no one’s home.
Inside is . . . dark. No, I’m not climbing in, not again. Well . . . no. No. It’s not worth it.
I will, though, reach my arm in. [Grunts, stretching] I - uh, oh, okay, I got something. [Pulls it out] Oh. a handful of green slime. Wonderful.
Man, I wish I had known about this one last night. It’s more roomy, even if it is full of slime.
So, I have a theory - it’s about the algae. And other stuff too, phytoplankton and zooplankton. The shell creatures are filter feeders, which makes sense, because most of Fons’ biomass is located in the euphotic zone, densely packed with photosynthetic organisms. It’s an easy-to-obtain food source with little competition.
But there are problems with passively waiting for food to come to you. The environment of a region can easily change. An algal bloom leads to dead algae that bacteria decompose aerobically, depleting oxygen and killing other species. Upwelling from ocean vents can increase or decrease, and nutrients like iron and oxygen and phosphorus are necessary components of the ecosystem, and a lack can also lead to die offs. Not to mention, Fons goes into the shadow of Volturnus for a portion of every month, and it gets cold. And dark. And the algae die.
What humans historically do when facing an expected period of low food resources, say, winter, is store food. In modern times food is stored and distributed communally, distinctly different than birds and squirrels storing food for personal use. I think this empty shell, full of gunk, is a communal warehouse. A . . . gunk silo. Sure.
Not only that; it has a filter system. Plankton and algae are sucked in the hatchway and excess water exits through the hole covered by the screen. It was specifically constructed to function in this way. It might even be called mechanical.
An automated algae farm, a factory. Incredible.
[Angry screeching, birds attacking]
Oh no no no! Ah fuck! Ow! Jesus!
[Thick glass cracking]
[Hiss, screeching fades]
Aw, fuck. Aw, shit. I can’t see anything, I need to get this helmet off . . . no, damn it, I can’t take the helmet off.
No leaks I can tell, but it’s all busted up-
Sun’s coming up, I guess. Halleluja.
I’m sorry, future scientists. This planet isn’t going to be a clean slate. But that was true as soon as the lander entered the atmosphere. Uh, in a more general sense, I mean, in that everything affects everything else. But it’s a little different when the bacteria on my teeth gets blown out with my breath onto the breeze that carries a billion other spores and bacteria and they all get mixed up together and land in the the ocean where they spread because nothing can eat them and eventually. . . well, I don’t know what happens eventually. That’s the problem.
Like I’ve said before, the air here is just about breathable. A little high on the oxygen side, there’s a sulphurous smell of volcanoes, and the smell of the sea underneath it all. [Breathes in] Can’t smell the fish anymore. I’m just used to it by now, I guess.
That’s the thing though - it could never be pristine. It could never be perfect and untouched, and still have me here seeing it. Isn’t that weird to think, that we never were separate from the things we observed at all? Not even behind a microscope, or a hood, or in a clean room.
Montague, don’t use that as an excuse for the state of your work space. It will not work on me.
When Angelica attacked me - which is understandable, I stepped right on that egg - but the unexpected part was the shell nearby chasing the birds away. It was . . . kinda weird. Purposeful. It wasn’t Bob, Bob is much further down, so it was another one.
The birds made a lot of noise, when before they had been pretty quiet in among the shells. Maybe that’s what set it off. But, I felt like - like it was protecting me. It was only after I fell. The noise must have alerted it. Everything to them must be vibrations.
Yet even without sight, there’s something more to them than what I’m . . . seeing, I guess.
I couldn’t go more than a few minutes having my vision impaired before I ripped my helmet off. I’m just used it, I need to observe things that way. It’s silly. After all, it’s just one method of input, with its own limitations. Now I’m using some new ones, like smell, which [sniffs self] Urg, oh woo! I’m not glad to have that one back, really. I’ve been in this suit way too long. I just want a shower.
The helmet still seals, so there’s that, if conditions change, and they might. Around noon I might need to put it on and fire up the cooling systems.
Huh. It’s a long time til noon again. I’ve been trapped on this planet for a little over one day, now. They make Earth days seem very small and insignificant by comparison. Smaller cycles in bigger cycles. I brought the Earth cycle with me. The stupid SCN up above my optic nerve, it’s ticking away to oblivion, trying and failing to adapt to the change in light. I wasn’t really made for this place.
Stevens: Dr. Eurus? Can you hear me? Dr. Eurus?
Eurus: . . . Oh it’s you.
Stevens: Uh, yes. It’s me! You’re okay! [laughs nervously] It’s so great to hear your voice! We’ve all been rooting for you up here, Fred.
Eurus: . . . Stevens, how long until you come to get me?
Stevens: Oh, um, let me look at [knocks some papers over] I think it’s about, uh-
Eurus: I’ll wait.
Stevens: With orbital corrections and maneuvering around micrometeorite clouds we can be in geosynchronous orbit in . . . twenty hours? Then, you know, drop the lander down to the surface to pick you up. That’ll take a little while. Oh man, you must be so relieved. Montague got really upset when we lost contact, I mean he-
Eurus: He what? He got mad at me? I don’t see why, he wasn’t the one in danger on this stupid goddamn planet-
Stevens: Oh no, upset about, more the situation, than you exactly, actually he was pretty worried, we all are. How ARE you, exactly?
Eurus: I’ve been a lot worse . . .
Stevens: Oh, of course.
Eurus: . . . But I’ve also been a lot better.
Stevens: Do you want to talk about it? We’ll have good reception all the way in.
Eurus: Not right now, I think. [Sighs] Okay. Maybe. Maybe I do.
Tides was written by Jesse Schuschu and directed by Jesse Schuschu and Ayla Taylor. It was produced by Ayla Taylor and edited by Bridge Geene. The voice of Dr. Eurus is Julia Schifini. Dr. Victor Stevens was voiced by Jordan Higgs. Special thanks to Sarah Durst for designing our cover art. You can find us online at our website tidespodcast.com and follow us on Tumblr and Twitter at @tidespodcast. If you like our show and would like to help us keep making it, you can support us on patreon at patreon.com/tidespodcast. Special thanks goes to Abysmii, for their particularly generous contribution.
As always, thank you so much for listening.
And now . . .
This is Dr. Victor Stevens, and uh, this is Life Fact #1: