Abyssal (first draft)
The sub, then DIRECTOR’s lab
TECH is piloting the submersible again. On his mobile device he has a list of samples to retrieve, divided into ones for RESEARCHER and ones for DIRECTOR. The range counter is approaching fifty percent again. DIRECTOR’s list gives coordinates from which to take soil samples, and he is following them to a section of seabed due west of the lab to reach those. Again he hesitates and nearly pushes the sub out beyond the distance at which it would have the oxygen for him to return. Instead, he uses its arm to scoop up a soil sample from the last of the spots DIRECTOR asked for.
Cut to him delivering the samples to DIRECTOR in a plastic bin containing several smaller bins. DIRECTOR has taken over one of the facilities and it’s now scattered with books and half-built machinery, some of which he clearly tore apart himself. While he talks, DIRECTOR clears off a counter and has TECH help him set the smaller bins out roughly how they related to one another spatially. DIRECTOR rambles, TECH only halfway pays attention.
DIRECTOR: Do you know the most difficult thing? What outstrips the rest is: how to seize the time. What do I do today? It’s a matter of motivation. There’s no deadline, there are no stakeholders breathing down your neck…it’s just you, alone in a dimension you never imagined existed. Oh, I had my days of laziness, of sitting in my bunk and thinking about death and fire and my daughter and…but I got a grip on it, I lit the proverbial fire under myself. I realized: I could be sorry for everyone up above, or I could take hold and spend every day on what was important to me all along. You never realize, either, what time you used to spend on the needs of others. You find little bits of that time caked in the corners of the cannister that is your life, that you can scoop out and have just that much more of. For what’s important. What’s really important.
Then there’s the question: how to apportion it? If I’m being honest, right at this moment I would really prefer to work on what I was working on yesterday, but today is Wednesday, and Wednesday is dark matter day.
During DIRECTOR’s speech, TECH glances around the room. Beyond DIRECTOR’s work is evidence of his life. DIRECTOR has dragged a cot into his lab and it is unmade. Half-eaten meals left on plates in the corner, belying his fastidious demeanor. What look to be handwritten letters crumpled up. Numb as TECH is, it makes him uncomfortable to look between all that and the seemingly happy DIRECTOR.
DIRECTOR: Did you study dark matter?
TECH: No. I studied fish.
DIRECTOR: Now, as I recall, you have a Master’s degree! Be generous with yourself. You’re certainly not in competition with anyone anymore, there’s no reason to try and seem humble.
TECH: I don’t know dark matter.
DIRECTOR: (slyly) Well, most people would say I don’t either. But, unless our friend across the hall has something she isn’t telling us, then I’m the world’s leading expert now, aren’t I?
TECH: There’s dark matter in these samples?
DIRECTOR: No. Dark matter doesn’t interact with energy or matter in the conventional sense, hence the name. It is in fact only theoretical. But it has mass, some kind of mass, so it will affect things, however minutely. (He makes a model on the counter using the scattered items there. One is a headset with electrodes on it.) Say you are here and you observe something very distant. You expect light to reflect from it to reach you, like so. Yet in many distant clusters of stars, the light seems to curve as though there were something there, something with gravitational pull to affect it. There seems to be nothing there, but we know it is, because of how it affects the light. You see?
TECH has started to dissociate a little. DIRECTOR notices but only flashes a small disappointed look.
DIRECTOR: I’ve theorized in the past, based on my own calculations, that it isn’t matter, but energy. Such as the distinction may be, mind you. I can make the math work (he gestures to a notebook open to scribbled calculations), but there’s never been time to really investigate. Nor did my peers in the scientific community have much good to say about my interest in it. I should stick to geology, I was told. Or better yet, to middle management. You know what I say to that.
TECH: Uh huh.
DIRECTOR: My calculations tell me that clusters of dark matter that warp electromagnetic energy are nodes, where several strong waves intersect. By that token, there would be small waves everywhere, little nodes all around us. I don’t know what I would be looking for, but I know they would affect the chemistry somehow, and I’m starting with the soil. I think these samples will point me to a node.
TECH: Out where I took the sub.
DIRECTOR: Near there. It could be a breakthrough. It could be something really…really important.
TECH nods. He meets DIRECTOR’s eyes briefly, but it’s painful for both of them. DIRECTOR looks away and flashes a polite but rueful smile.
TECH: What’s the one you want to keep looking at?
DIRECTOR: (picks up the headset with electrodes) Why, ESP, of course. After a fashion. Detecting a thought in the forebrain, isolating it, translating it for another brain to receive. The calculations are quite intricate.
TECH is wary of the device.
DIRECTOR: I’ve had this device planned for years…but really, there are few places I’d rather less be than in the mind of any human being on land. (flustered) But now that they’ve gotten what they’ve had coming, I’m intrigued with it again.
He smiles at TECH, but TECH is put off.