Pebble on the Ground - Season 1 Episode 7

 
 
 
 

Dr. Eurus discussed her rescue with her coworkers.

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. 

Cast:

  • Dr. Winifred Eurus - Julia Schifini 

  • Dr. Victor Stevens - Jordan Higgs 

  • Dr. Robert Montague - James Oliva

  • Dr. Melissa Wang - Emily Wang 

  • Captain Ed Ricketts - Zach Libresco 

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:

 "Buttons Sci-Fi (Multi One Shot)" by julius_galla on Freesound.org

 "Computer Beeps.wav" by spoonsandlessspoons 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. 

 
 

Winifred Eurus: So, and that’s why the . . . Stevens? . . . Stevens you went quiet again, are you still here?

Victor Stevens: Still here! Go on.

Eurus: That’s why the algae is so integral, Stevens, especially the collection of it in the empty shell. Now, have you managed to analyze the data I sent back from the sub?

Stevens: Sure, yeah, really interesting. We’ve got chemical profiles on the fish species you sampled, plenty of images to look through. Some of these substances are really exotic stuff, I gotta tell you -

Eurus: Yeah yeah, great. Pull up an algae slide -

Stevens: Okay -

Eurus: - and take a look at it for me. See that large vacuole? At least three times the size, proportionally, as plant cells, so what I’m wondering is -

Stevens: Why so much space?

Eurus: Exactly.

Stevens: Well, the lunar winters here are -

Eurus: Sure. Explains the hugely oversized lipid and carbohydrate storage. Or, stuff similar to that, at least. I want to collect some samples to assess potential for biofuels usage.

Stevens: Why would you care about . . .

Eurus: Not for our use, necessarily, not yet. I’ve been playing with some ideas. I’m . . . Uh, I’m interested in what the first steps would be, here.

Stevens: The first steps toward what?

Eurus: Industrialization.

Stevens: I don’t understand . . .

Robert Montague: Hey hey hey hey! Hey, can I talk to her for a minute?

Stevens: Oh, hey Rob! Didn’t see you there. Uh, sure, just a -

Montague: Thanks bud. First of all, what the hell, Fred?

Eurus: Nice to hear your voice too, Montague.

Montague: Cut the shit, Dr. Eurus. What were you thinking? You could have been, I don’t know, devoured by aliens, drowned, smashed to pieces . . .

Eurus: Uhhh. . .

Second of all . . . what was it like? In there?

Eurus: What?

Montague: . . . Creepy, right? Was there goo? Like, lots of goo, right? Can you regale me with terrifying tales of the horrifying worm-people of Fons?

Eurus: Oh my god!

Stevens: Rob, you can’t just ask her about that! She’s traumatized!

Eurus: [Sigh] There was - there was some goo. Not a lot.

Stevens: She’s not ready to talk about-

Montague: Hush. Soooo, tentacles? Teeth? What’s going on with all that? Telepathy? I bet they have telepathy. They always have telepathy. Watch out for that.

Eurus: No.

Montague: Okay but what about-

Eurus: No, Robert. Just no.

Montague: Aw, come on -

Stevens: Anyway, Dr. Eurus, do you want to get back to . . .

Eurus: No, no, it’s fine. Actually, do you think I can talk to Melissa? Just for a second, please.

Stevens: Yeah, sure, if you want. I can go get her - [gets up and walks out]

Montague: Okay, look. While he’s doing that, Fred, I’m going to be serious here for a moment. Are you ready for me to be serious, Dr. Eurus?

Eurus: I can’t wait.

Montague: Great. Are you okay? Really? Are you okay?

Eurus: Um. I’m as good as can be expected . . . I ended up taking my helmet off. The visor got cracked.

Montague: Really?! Look at you.

Eurus: You don’t have to make it sound like that.

Montague: Probably tastes a little sulphurous down there, huh?

Eurus: Which is fitting, because it’s hell.

Montague: [Chuckles] Yeah, I bet. What’s it been, a week?

Eurus: Yeah. About. It feels like a day. A really, really long, very bad, no good, actually super super shitty day. [Pause] But it’s not all bad, you know. I’ve been seeing a lot of things I wouldn’t have otherwise seen. I should have known, you can’t really observe from the outside and get the full scope of things, the sense of scale and connectedness. Understanding comes from, I guess, realizing you can’t view things objectively, even as a scientist, even through a visor or a microscope.

Montague: . . . Don’t worry Winny, we’ll get you out of there before your mind goes completely.

Eurus: Don’t call me Winny.

[Click]

Stevens: Hey, I’m uh, I’m back! Here’s Melissa.

Melissa Wang: Hello, doctor.

Eurus: Hello, doctor.

Wang: You’re feeling well? Other than the obvious. Existential despair and all that.

Eurus: Yes, so far. One swollen ankle. I haven’t brushed my teeth in a while. So that’s kinda gross.

Wang: Yes, that sounds unpleasant. Good. Sorry it’s taking so long to get to you. I’ve done my best, but there are all sorts of variables in a system like this - I’ve got asteroids to steer around, multiple intersecting gravity wells to chart. Even my prodigious abilities have not been able to speed it up.

Eurus: I have utmost confidence in you. And I’d rather wait a little longer than come back to a starship full of meteor holes. Who’s piloting the drop ship?

Wang: I am, of course.

Eurus: You? What? You couldn’t convince Erickson do it?

Wang: Unfortunately, I can’t trust her with something this delicate.

Eurus: Delicate? What? The landing?

Wang: No, you. I remember you fainting during atmospheric entry. You’ll need a smoother ride back up.

Eurus: Are you just going to hold that over me forever?

Wang: Forever.

Eurus: If you say so, doctor.

[Click]

Ed Ricketts: And you say you took your helmet off?

Eurus: Yes, captain, it happened. I actually had little choice in the matter.

Ricketts: You are aware of the Tellus Initiative protocols on the matter.

Eurus: Acutely, sir, and normally I’d be their strongest proponent.

Ricketts: I’m sure you have extensive knowledge of the incident at Fomalhaut. These protocols come from bitter experience, not theory or whim. Life is . . . life is too valuable, to let that happen again here.

Eurus: Like I said, I fully understand. The same won’t happen here. The ecosystem isn’t nearly as precariously balanced, or as young. I doubt we’d be able to eradicate it even if we tried.

Ricketts: I trust your professional judgement on the matter. Remember, we’re cultivating future lucrative research ventures and molecular resources. Entirely new approaches to chemistry and bioengineering are waiting on that planet. Don’t put them at risk.

Eurus: . . . Yes, sir.

Ricketts: Quit calling me that, we know each other too well after being stuck together on this ship. Hell I know some of you far too well. That Montague, for example . . .

Eurus: You had problems with him too?

Ricketts: Bastard spends all day drilling meteorites, in the glove box of course. I like to pop in unexpectedly and make sure he’s not taking them out. Still, every single day, dust in the filters. I have no idea where it comes from.

Eurus: All in his beard, too.

Ricketts: I thought he was just going gray.

[Eurus laughs]

Ricketts: How are you holding up?

Eurus: Not well, really. Physically I’m worn out. The day cycles, climbing, bruises starting to pile on bruises. Mentally I’m okay. Just tired, and isolated. But I’ll be fine until pickup.

Ricketts: Great. Can’t wait to get you back here safe. I have to say, not your fault, but this whole thing has been a massive headache. I’ve been back and forth with the Initiative on the quantum communicator. They’re pushing to keep on schedule with the mineral survey. There are a lot of moving pieces in this mission, Fred. Big, moon-sized moving pieces.

Eurus: And I’m just a small moving piece.

Ricketts: An important one, but yes. Biggest concern: we’re burning up fuel maintaining this orbit. We’ll have to collect more hydrogen on our way to Juturna. Luckily we’ll pass through the rings on our way there.

Eurus: What’s the big deal about that sterile rock?

Ricketts: That sterile rock is eighty percent iron-nickel ore and covered with hydrocarbon lakes. Raw material for stations, ships, colonies, research outposts. To make this system a base of operations to explore this region of space. Once we drop the Von Neumann factory -

Eurus: Uh, Captain Ricketts, can you put Stevens on really quick?

Captain Ricketts: What? Are you in danger?

Eurus: No no no, I just need to talk to him for a second.

Captain Ricketts: . . . Fine. I feel dismissed.

Eurus: Sure, great. Science stuff, you know. It’s really important, just one sec.

Captain: I see.

[Click]

Stevens: Dr. Eurus? What’s up?

Eurus: Oh my god, finally. So, did you hear the transmission I made about the big thing that I’ve seen around the shells?

Stevens: Uh no, I must have missed that one. You were pretty spotty there for a while.

Eurus: Okay, basically, there’s a whale-sized creature that swims in here sometimes and interacts with the shells. I didn’t get a good look at it before but. . . now I see three of them.

Stevens: Isn’t it low tide at your location? How’d they get there?

Eurus: Well it’s kinda complicated but -

Stevens: Are they air-breathing? How big are they exactly? Do you think you’ll be able to get close to one, or . . .

Eurus: Okay, slow down. One second. They must have come in with the tide, but I didn’t notice them before. They’re big, about orca size but rounder. Coloring is tan like the big shells but it’s shinier. They’re, well, they’re kinda like sea urchins, lots of protruding spikes. They’re immobile, stuck in the sand. Kind of like getting burrs stuck in your clothes, you know what I mean?

Stevens: Huh… Well, I imagine beaching happens there too, maybe more often. Waves and magnetoreception could be behind it, with the strength of the magnetic fields we’ve encountered. Which can be unpredictable.

Eurus: No,no these aren’t beached, I don’t think. There’s steam or something coming out of them. Not like breathing though.

Stevens: Going to try to get close?

Eurus: I would, but they’re a little bit far away. And I’m not certain that’s a good idea. I do want to see them up close, though, see if they’re dead or not.

Stevens: Might be dormant.

Eurus: That’s probably it. Then they move when the tide comes in. But that’s a long time to wait, for very little time to travel during high water.

Stevens: Yeah. I have all your notes from the sub on ocean creatures, I can add this to them while I’m going through and organizing everything.

Eurus: Okay, yeah, thanks. This one feels different somehow. Most of the other life is radially symmetric with a forward-facing mouth. But these don’t have anything like that. So, either it’s vertical like a sea urchin or it’s a shell. Or, both? I’m just, I’m getting weird vibes off of it.

Steven: What do you mean -

Montague: Hey, what are you nerds talking about? Heh? Come on.

Eurus: We’re just going over some observations.

Stevens: And Fred’s getting weird feelings about the aliens.

Eurus: Don’t -

Montague: Oh? Feelings? Winny I think it’s great you’re immersing yourself in your work down there, but if you’re getting any Captain Kirk ideas, I really don’t recommend . . .

Eurus: Okay, nope nope. Ha ha, really funny! I’m more a Picard fan.

Montague: Uh, I guess if that’s what you like, but he’s a little dry for me, you know.

Eurus: Of course he is.

Stevens: I’m more Sisko myself. DS9’s my jam.

Eurus: Oh my god.

Montague: Stevens, Stevens, oh dear boy. Who hurt you?

Stevens: Hey, it’s a VASTLY underrated series, with the most cohesive storyline of any of -

Montague: But to compare it to the original series, is like, fucking insane, no one in their right might would do that -

Eurus: OKAY ANYWAY NERDS, the feeling I’m getting is more one of, you know, impending doom.

Montague: Wait a minute, Fred. You’re going to want to hear this.[Intercom beep] Dr Wang?

Wang: . . . Yes? I’m a little busy

Montague: Star Trek captain?

Wang: Janeway. That should be obvious. Now, what in the world could you -

Montague: Thanks. [intercom beep]

Stevens: So doctor, what are they doing now?

Montague: Trying to change the subjust? Who’s doing whatnow?

Eurus: [Ignores] Nothing, really. No changes. Just waiting. [Sighs] Exposed, stranded, helpless. Feels familiar.

Stevens: Have you considered they might be the same as the shells? A sessile polyp phase and a mobile adult phase, like jellyfish. You said they were the same color, and came right in near them.

Montague: Jellyfish do what, again? Could someone just break that down for me?

Stevens: In fact, the snailiens could just be a juvenile form, a sort of larva.

Montague: Did you just say ‘snailiens’?

Eurus: I’m - I’m sorry? Did you call them ‘snailiens’? Snailiens!?

Montague: Because that’s fucking cool! Snaliens.

Stevens: Yeah! Snailiens!

Eurus: No it is not cool, Robert! We are not portmanteau-ing my scientific discovery dude!

Montague: Stevens! What is wrong with you, calling them Snaliens?

Stevens: [Noises of betrayal and disbelief]

Montague: Yeah! Uh-huh!

Eurus: Okay. Going off of your theory just for a second: That’s possible, I guess. But the things I saw in that shell - they weren’t natural. Well, ‘natural’ is . . .

Stevens: . . . a matter of perception, I know.

Eurus: Yeah . . . Okay. Well, I’ll just, I’ll let you know if anything changes. I just wanted to update you.

Stevens: Sure thing, Fred.

Montague: Yup, we’ve got you covered up here.

Eurus: Yeah. I’m sure you do. Okay. Yeah, Great.

Stevens: I’m still gonna call them snailiens, I don’t care what she says.

Eurus: Of course you are.

Montague: No, I think you should call them snailiens - oh, she’s still on the line.

[Click]

Wang: We’ll be coming into position soon. It’ll probably be about an hour before we can attempt an atmospheric entry. So, how is everything down there? Anything I should be worried about?

Eurus: No, you know, same old, same old. The sun is getting hotter now I have my helmet off, so . . .

Wang: You should have brought a hat.

Eurus: Uh huh, thanks Mom. Ooh, I bet I can make one actually. [Cloth rip]. Oh man, I’m so glad you can’t see this.

Wang: Oh I am sure it’s amazing. But if it gets too hot, just suck it up and put the helmet back on.

Eurus: But then I can’t see anything!

Wang: Well what is there to see?

Eurus: Plenty! I actually, I just found this sort of growth under one of these rocks, kind of like moss or mold, I guess.

Wang: Lovely.

Eurus: I’m trying to ah, okay okay, got it. The roots go deep into the rock, eating away at it and leaving these patterns. It’s holding on really tight. Oh . . .

Wang : What? What happened?

Eurus: When I took it out of the shade, it shriveled up.

Wang: Oh. I’m sorry.

Eurus: It - it’s fine. I shouldn’t have messed with it anyway. That sort of thing can take years to grow back, you know? Anyway, what’s your theory on the big spiky lumps?

Wang: Right, those. Um. . .  Well, you said there’s smoke?

Eurus: Yeah, but it stopped a little while ago.

Wang: Well, It could have been releasing steam to regulate its internal temperature. Maybe moving builds up heat?

Eurus: No no, it wasn’t steam. It was too dark for that.

Wang: Do you know how a diesel-electric submarine works?

Eurus: No Melissa, I’m a xenobiologist. I don’t know how diesel subs work.

Wang: Alright. A diesel sub has to surface to run its diesel engine and charge its battery. To move submerged, it uses the battery. If I wanted to design something to move across the tidal zone I’d want a vessel that can make the best use of the downtime between waves. Charging a battery would be a good use of that time. Granted, I’d also put some wheels on it. But maybe . . . I don’t know about wheels. Or moving across dry land in general. So it doesn’t occur to me.

Eurus: It’s an animal, it’s not something designed. For all we know, it could operate on similar principles to an engine, but still be biological. It’s not impossible.

Wang: I think it’s very improbable. Consider how many times animals on Earth naturally evolved combustion as opposed to invented it. Then consider how difficult it would be to evolve fire on a water world.

Eurus: But not impossible. Respiration is basically slow combustion, in a manner of speaking. Just with a lot of chemical steps on the way.

Wang: If you say so. Well what’s your theory, then, xenobiologist?

Eurus: Well I . . . well. It occurred to me too. That it’s something built instead of something alive.

Wang: Ah.

Eurus: I know, I know. Don’t start.

Wang: The big question is, what would you expect to find, if you opened one of them up?

Eurus: I have no clue. It could be mermaids?

Wang: I seriously doubt it.

Eurus: Well, listen. It could be. It could also be those birds at the controls? Or just an enormous relative of the snailiens, and it was never a submarine at all.

Wang: You know, that’s what interests me about alien intelligence, though. Not all the biology and how their bodies work. No offence.

Eurus: Thanks.

Wang: I want to know what they would make, and why, and how.

Eurus: I don’t see why that’s at all important.

Wang: Of course you don’t.

Eurus: Lots of animals make things. Termites make extremely complicated things. Beavers change entire landscapes. I don’t think it’d be easy to tell the difference between something intelligently created, and instinctive behavior, and especially with no frame of reference on an alien planet.

Wang: That’s a pretty bleak outlook you’ve got there.

Eurus: It’s a bleak place.

Wang: Do you really think that?

Eurus: No, I guess not. But even so, I want to leave it here, just immediately.

Wang: I hear you. But don’t worry, you’re in good hands. Isn’t that right, Robert?

Montague: That’s right. Me and Erikson’ll be acting as mission control, guiding her in. We’re still prepping, Dr. Wang, you want to head down to the shuttle bay?

Wang: Alright, just a second. We’ll be in contact. Are you nervous?

Eurus: Not much. Just the kind of rational amount.

Wang: Good. You should be nervous. These things always have risks. I’ll try my hardest not to land directly on top of you.

Eurus: That would just about be just appropriate with the week I’ve had.

Wang: Ha ha. Well, I’d better go. See you very soon.

Eurus: Yeah, sure.

[click]

Montague [singing]: Ground control to Dr. Wang. Is everything okay? [speaking] Doctor? Is everything okay?

Wang: Yes yes.

Montague: Ah, good.

Wang: All system are a-go on my end, reverse thrusters just warming up. It’ll be a few minutes . . . I should have brought some music or something. What would be - what would be appropriate for this occasion, Robert?

Montague: Oh, I don’t know, you up for some “Major Tom”? Huh? Or - or if you like we could do “Ride of the Valkyries”, maybe? I think I have my trumpet around here somewhere. . .

Wang: Ah, no. No, no. No. Still can’t believe they let you bring that into space.

Montague: Well, obviously, they thought we’d need the entertainment. I mean it’s fucking boring up here. They didn’t know that modern rock music would have ruined everyone on this ship’s appreciation for the nuances of classic jazz solos. And I like modern rock music and all - well more classic stuff -

Wang: Yeah yeah yeah. You’re just not nearly as good as you think, Montague.

Montague: Well that is some shit, isn’t it? Like I said, there’s absolutely no appreciation for my work up here. Oh, uh, we’ve got some, uh, weather moving in. Erikson, get me that readout. Sensors are showing magnetic interference, charged particles impacting the hull. Melissa, how are your systems doing?

Wang: Uh, I’m showing small systems malfunctions. I can still go, but I have to go now, or I’ll miss the window. Montague, are you ready on your end?

Montague: No, our telemetry is all screwed up, we can’t get a good lock on the beacon signal, I can’t just drop you down there blind. We might have to hold off.

Wang: What’s that? My com isn’t working. Robert?

Montague: We’re right in the middle of it.

Wang: Robert? Hey? Can you hear me? Hello?

Montague: God damn it. Okay, Melissa, can you hear me?

Wang: Oh right! Yes.

Montague: Do you think you can pilot this thing down there without guidance?

Wang: . . . Yes? I think so.

Montague: Well think fast. It’s going to happen. I’m going to uncouple the docking clamps and - ah, fuck. [beeping alarm]

Wang: What happened?

Montague: Safety protocols. I can’t do it from here.

Wang: For god’s sake Robert. Drop the damn shuttle. We are not delaying this. We are going to go get her, now.

Montague: I’ll have to - I’ll come down there and do it manually.

Wang: We don’t have a lot of time.

[Click]

Montague: [Tool sounds] Argh, I only remember what half of these wires do.

Wang: Listen. You can do it. Slowly, methodically. It’s not hard, it’s just circuitry. You got this.

Montague: Thanks. There- [electric sizzle] Ah! Shit! That wasn’t it.

Wang: Are you okay?

Montague: Fuck!

Captain Ricketts: [Static-y] Montague? Montague? This is Ricketts. Come in Montague.

Montague: Yeah, what? I’m kinda busy.

Ricketts: Are you in the docking bay still?

Montague: That is an affirmative, trying to get the damn dropship to, you know, drop.

Ricketts: I’m talking to engineering, we’ve got massive system malfunctions, power surges all over the place. We’re calling off the launch. We have to steer out of this storm, now.

Montague: No, we’re most certainly not calling it off! She’s been down there for a week! This is our window!  We won’t get another one for - for who knows how long!

Ricketts: Robert, I understand, but if you release that ship Melissa will be falling with no sensors, no navigation, she could end up as a crater on that moon, or she’ll land a hundred miles  away-

Wang: Captain, I’m sorry to inform you that this is happening. I can do this.

Ricketts: Dr. Wang, you’re our senior navigations officer as well as our lead astrophysicist. I can’t let you -

Wang: You aren’t letting me do anything.

Montague: Ricketts, if you’re not helping, get off the channel, we can handle this ourselves. Jesus, it’s like you don’t even - [Zap] AH!

Wang: . . . Robert?! Robert? Robert are you alright?

Ricketts: Montague, do you copy? Montague? Come in Montague!

Wang: Robert!

[Static increases to a crescendo, then cuts out abruptly]
 

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. Dr. Robert Montague is James Oliva, Dr. Melissa Wang is Emily Wang, and Captain Ed Ricketts is Zach Libresco.

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. We are nearly halfway to our goal of making miniepisodes! If you want to hear some explorations of these characters, please consider supporting us! Special thanks again to Abysmii, for their particularly generous contribution.

As always, thank you so much for listening.

This month we would like to recommend another great show you should be listening to. Marsfall is a science fiction story about the early colonists on Mars. But they wake from cryosleep and things are not exactly what they expected. Tensions run high as the colonists try to unravel the mysteries of the red planet. You can listen to Marsfall wherever you are listening to this podcast!

And now . . .

Wang: Hello! This is Dr. Melissa Wang and this is a Space Fact. So, go to your window and look at the sky. You won’t see any stars because it’s daytime and you should have been at work hours ago!