Abyssal (first draft)
Around the lab
Nothing is different from before as TECH walks through the halls after docking the sub. He was gone for more than 24 hours, but the three survivors frequently don’t see each other for several days at a time. Nevertheless, he is full of nervous energy. It’s all over his face that he can’t think of where to begin if he gets the chance to talk, however.
Searching the halls, he finds RESEARCHER in the radio room. She has several radios, some old and some new, some broken open so she can tinker with them to try and get more or different reach. She’s hunched over a tablet, in which she has been drawing electrical diagrams. She glances up at him and back to her work.
RESEARCHER: I was being a shit again. Don’t worry about it.
When he continues to hover in the door, she looks back up at him. She can see something is amiss, though it’s hard to determine what.
RESEARCHER: Are you okay?
TECH is suddenly having trouble talking. It agitates RESEARCHER. Under the surface she is looking for reasons whatever he’s suffering from might be her fault.
RESEARCHER: No, talk to me.
TECH: I was in the sub. (pause)
TECH: There was…
The words aren’t coming to him, and RESEARCHER’s anxiety is rubbing off on him. His hands move in fragments of some of the sign language he tried with ALIEN. RESEARCHER watches and responds.
RESEARCHER: “Where is this,” where is what? I can’t. You’re being.
A sputter of static from a radio distracts her, but when she turns to investigate it nothing seems to come from it.
RESEARCHER: Were you going to say something? What are you doing here?
TECH: (gets a hold of himself) I took the sub out, and I went too far. I found a –
He fixates on her eyes, which are harsh and disbelieving.
RESEARCHER: You always do this. You always lock up when you have something to say. We’ve talked about this so many times, you have to meet me halfway. Did you fix the sub? That’s how you got back?
TECH: No, I…
His mood is vacillating rapidly between anxiety at her response and excitement about ALIEN. It makes him dizzy. RESEARCHER recognizes this, scrunches her face up, then stands up and puts her arms around him awkwardly but protectively.
RESEARCHER: You didn’t go out too far. You made it back. You shouldn’t go out, you’re not well enough. You just imagined it this time, what if next time you really do?
TECH just lets the embrace happen, awkward as it is.
RESEARCHER: God, it’s been so long…
TECH breaks away. He shakes his head and composes himself.
TECH: I’m fine. Nevermind.
He leaves, and RESEARCHER sits back down, staring anxiously at where he was standing for a while. Eventually she returns to her work on one of the radios. She’s interrupted, though, by an alert from her device.
DIRECTOR: (text) CORDIALLY TO THE ENTIRETY OF THE HUMAN RACE: WE SHALL HAVE A FEAST TONIGHT AT PRECISELY SIX THIRTY.
She grumbles and shoves the message aside. Frustrated, stands up and goes after TECH, only to see him shut the door to his quarters behind him before she reaches him. She hesitates. Instead of knocking on his door or sending him a message, she continues down the corridor and down a flight of stairs, until she finds herself near the storage closet that had been her and TECH’s downfall. This is evidently a space she has sheltered for privacy before. The rear wall is an exterior wall, transparent and illuminated. She curls up on a stack of boxes with her tablet.
When she wakes it up it shows the death count, and she scrubs it away. She starts to go through the lab’s public files to find her notes, but stops and navigates instead to the sub pen’s records. This immediately brings up a model of the submersible, which highlights several points of damage on it. Its charge is currently at 44%. RESEARCHER waves a hand irritably in front of her face, displeased at being reminded of percentages again. She pulls up the sub’s trip history.
This brings up a map of the abyssal plain the lab occupies, with the routes of several dozen trips the sub has made plotted in bold yellow and red lines. Most are concentrated around the lab, but a third or so venture out in roughly straight lines and then double back. There is a user-defined radius drawn just beyond that distance, denoting how far the sub can safely go at its most efficient speed. The most recent one makes a nearly due west line more than twice as far as any others, out over the edge of the trench that begins roughly 18 kilometers of the lab, before returning. RESEARCHER suspiciously taps on this line for details. As she draws a marker along the line, a window gives a detailed readout of metadata from that point in the trip, such as speed, direction, outside current, oxygen level, remaining fuel, power use. Just beyond the radius the speed falters, power use suddenly goes down, then returns. RESEARCHER bites her lip at that. Out over the trench, the line suddenly turns upward, and the metadata indicates that the sub was powered down and left to charge, and its hatch was opened.
RESEARCHER doesn’t know what to make of this. She turns her tablet off and presses a knuckle against her teeth in consternation. It is 3:23 in the afternoon.