Below we present the complete text of “Return to Changed Circumstances”, episode 8 (and the final episode) of our new Space Opera; Singularity. This is a brand new (unpublished) series (featuring Sarah Tanner and Jeff Chase). If you would like to see these new stories advance from being drafts into polished publications then please consider supporting us by purchasing one or more of our previously published titles. Every sale directly funds the production of new stories.
EPISODE #8 – RETURN TO CHANGED CIRCUMSTANCES
by Philip Craig Robotham
Cover Illustration by Miyukiko
Copyright 2016 Philip Craig Robotham
Creative Commons Attritubution Non-Commercial No Derivatives (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) Edition .
This play is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) International license. This play may not be commercially reproduced, performed, or sold. Non-commercial production, performance, and reproduction is allowed under this license so long as attribution is maintained. No derivative content or use is allowed. It can be freely shared in its current form (without change) under this license. If you would like to purchase one or more copies of this work (for your own personal non-commercial use, or to help financially support the author) then please return to http://www.weirdworlstudios.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
Other works by this author can be found at the author’s website: http://www.weirdworldstudios.com or through select, online book retailers.
Serial #3: Singularity
Sarah Tanner, Jeff Chase, and their interspecies team of alien crewmen have been placed in charge of the latest dreadnaught to be added to the fleet of the Solar Patrol. Charged with protecting Earth’s precious supply of the mineral essential to enable the use of wormhole technology they set out for Vega Station, the asteroid mining and research station where the ore is obtained. On arrival they find the station has been destroyed, but that those who worked there had also uncovered a key scientific breakthrough that could alter the outcome of the ongoing war with the Council of Six. Desperate to get the data safely back to earth, their ship is set upon by a pirate fleet and blasted into an alternate space that is home to a hostile intelligence. In order to get home with the data our heroes will need to survive encounters on the edge of a black hole, fight robotic surgeons, engage in a contest of wills with a dangerous artificial intelligence, and resist a new and insidious form of technological mind control. Can they escape from the starless space into which they have been thrust and return home with their discoveries intact? Tune in to “Alone in a starless sky” and be astonished as an ancient alien space-station is revealed to hold the key to the survival and victory of the human species.
Episodes in the Host Your Own “Old Time Radio Drama” series are designed to provide a fun dinner party experience for 6–8 participants. Read along, taking on the role of one or more of the characters in the story, and listen as the exciting drama unfolds. This is the theater of the mind, where the special effects are only limited by your imagination, and your participation will build a memory that you’ll treasure for years to come.
NARRATOR: The Narrator
SARAH TANNER: Captain in the Intelligence Directorate
JEFF CHASE: Lieutenant in the Intelligence Directorate
VULGE: Navigation Officer
BREX: Science Officer
CREW MEMBER: Solar Patrol Member
ADMIRAL FERRIS : Admiral in the Solar Patrol and Head of the Covert Intelligence Directorate
A.I: Insane Artificial Intelligence
SFX: SFX operator (1 required)
SCENE 30: INT. STATION (JEFF, SARAH)
- MUSIC: OPENING THEME – LET IT FINISH.
- NARRATOR: More cyborg than human after her encounter with the Artificial Intelligence that was running the space station on which Sarah Tanner, Jeff Chase, and her inter-species crew were marooned, Sarah has overcome her nemesis and is now equipped with the information necessary to return to earth.
- SOUND: HUM OF STATION – LET IT FINISH.
- SARAH: You’d better give me a briefing on where we stand. Until we have access to more resources, it’s going to be pretty uncomfortable on this station.
- JEFF: We’ve scavenged most of the births from the Revenge and brought them on board. The crew will be comfortable enough. We’ve brought the shuttles and cargo, but the guns and shield have all been stripped down for use on the station. In terms of heavy fire power that we’re familiar with, we’ve very little left.
- SARAH: True, but the armaments here are amazing. More powerful than anything I’ve ever seen.
- JEFF: They’re fuelled by five suns. I guess it’s to be expected.
- SARAH: It’s a shame we can’t harness them to help us traverse the wormhole.
- JEFF: Actually I’m pretty sure we can. Once we have a chance to let Brex and his top scientists loose on here, I’m pretty sure we’ll be able to do away with our dependence on those minerals from Vega. Did you realize this station was using direct energy to matter conversion to repair itself prior to the accident?
- SARAH: I suspect it may still be running subsystems that repair themselves on that basis. I can’t account for how long the station has survived in any other way. The basic laws of entropy, even if different in this pocket universe we’ve entered (and I’ve no reason to believe they are different), should have seen the station decay millennia upon millennia ago. And speaking of decay and entropy, how are our supplies holding out.
- JEFF: We’re having to ration things. The Revenge was never supposed to be out this long and we were provisioned in a rush. Still, the crew are in surprisingly good spirits given our losses. They’re all keen to get home. And there’s been a measurable change in the attitude of the snakes. I’d like to think it will last, but…
- SARAH: I know what you mean. We’ll just have to wait and see.
- JEFF: I am concerned about Vulge, though.
- SARAH: Oh.
- JEFF: It’s something we didn’t realize about her physiology. She imprints on the beings around her.
- SARAH: Meaning?
- JEFF: Meaning, she develops deep biological attachments to her team over time as the result of some kind of maternal instinct. I’ve talked to her about it. She was allowed into her race’s military because she was believed infertile (unable to form these attachments). In fact they simply formed slowly. She managed to keep a lid on it before now by taking extended periods of time out (in solitude, away from her team) to prevent the connections growing too strong. It’s why she’s always seemed a little… anti-social. But this extended mission has created a problem for her.
- SARAH: How so?
- JEFF: It’s a result of the imprinting instinct. It seems to have taken hold with regard to you, me, vash, and terg. When any of us are in danger she stops being rational and, basically, turns into an angry bear. She would have choked that sergeant to death if you hadn’t intervened. And I hate to imagine what she would have done if you hadn’t survived.
- SARAH: Interesting. I’ll have to give this some further thought. How is she handling it.
- JEFF: Mostly, I think she’s embarrassed. She feels like a freak for bonding with a bunch of aliens.
- SARAH: Ok. Maybe some extended alone time when we get back will help her out. In the mean time I’ve had Brex go over all the figures we retrieved in that data crystal. He’s been working with Doctor Fleek (who I think might even be smarter than he is). They’re confident the data in the computer’s memory banks does provide a way back to normal space. We’re still going to travel via Vega. Earth needs as much of the wormhole mineral as it can get. There’s every chance we’ll be able to harness the power of this station to collect the entire asteroid field and all its mineral wealth and transport it back to, or at least defensibly closer to, our home solar system. It’s a risk though. Even supplemented with the energy supplied by this station, we’ll use scary amount of the C element we’ve brought with us, just to bring us back into normal space.
- JEFF: Is it worth it?
- SARAH: Once we understand it more fully, this station is going to be the most formidable battle platform in the universe. I’m guessing our enemies have nothing to equal it in terms of technical advancement or fire-power.
- JEFF: There are still a lot of question-marks hanging over this place, but you’re right, I think it is worth the risk. (BEAT) What about your new best friend?
- SARAH: I’ve had to order it out of my sleeping quarters at night. It scared the hell out of me the first time it loomed out of the dark.
- JEFF: You did give CLEO a strong incentive to keep you safe. I guess she’s decided to act as your body-guard.
- SARAH: Cleo? She?
- JEFF: It’s a sort of joke doing the rounds among the engineers. Cybernetic Life-Emulating Operator. Cleo for short. It’s better than referring to it as the computer all the time. Um… how are you getting used to the prosthetics.
- SARAH: I noticed you haven’t been giving me a hard time about them. Not feeling sorry for me are you, Jeff?
- JEFF: (DERISIVE) Pshaw!
- SARAH: (SMILING)Hmpf. (THEN SERIOUS) I think I owe you an apology.
- JEFF: Why’s that?
- SARAH: Your face ended up badly scarred as a result of our first mission, and you ended up with a limp after that business on Arcturus. We gave you a lot of grief over it at the time, but I’m starting to realize how… high… the price this job requires of us is.
- JEFF: (EMBARRASSED) Yeah, well. We keep on going.
- SARAH: You always were a soldier first and foremost, Jeff. (BEAT) These prosthetics are amazing. They respond just like my own limbs. But I feel… broken. Like I’m not a whole person any more.
- JEFF: I guess it makes you something of a freak now… like the rest of us.
- SARAH: Is that how you feel? Like a freak?
- JEFF: (UNCOMFORTABLE) I guess. Is it how you feel?
- SARAH: I guess so.
- JEFF: (BEAT) Then we’ll be freaks together and we’ll continue to do our jobs and we’ll see the mission through.
- SARAH: (TEASING) That sounds suspiciously like an order. Giving orders to a senior officer might be interpreted as insubordination, Lieutenant.
- JEFF: (AMUSED) I think I’ll risk it this once… Sarah.
- BREX: (INTERRUPTING VIA LOUD SPEAKER) Captain to the bridge. We are ready to commence wormhole generation.
- SARAH: Oops. Looks like they’re playing our song. Let’s get back.
- MUSIC: SCENE ENDER – LET IT FINISH.
SCENE 31 INT. STATION – (SARAH, JEFF, VULGE, CREWMAN, BREX, A.I.)
- SOUND: Ok, We’re about to get underway. Who’s missing.
- CREWMAN: Vulge is on her way up. She’ll be here in a…
- SOUND: PNEUMATIC DOOR OPENS – LET IT FINISH.
- VULGE: I’m sorry, Captain, everybody was trying to slow me down this…
- SOUND: (WALLA) CLAPPING AND CHEERS – ESTABLISH AN UNDER
- SARAH: It looks like word has gotten around about how you managed to resist the mind control and save us all, Vulge.
- VULGE: (EMBARRASSED) Hmpf. I’ve… er… I’ve got to get to my station.
- SARAH: Heh. Alright, Brex, get ready to fire the engines up. Vulge?
- VULGE: All crew: General stations. Prepare for wormhole traversal.
- SARAH: On my mark… Three… Two… One… mark.
- BREX: Engines engaged.
- SOUND: SHAKING AND RATTLING – INCREASING.
- SARAH: Holy smokes. How much energy is this using?
- BREX: It’s using everything we’ve got… and the process of moving five suns and a singularity through a hole that size is going to take a very long…
- SOUND: SHOOP OF BEING SWALLOWED BY THE WORMHOLE – LET IT FINISH.
- SOUND: RATTLING FADES OUT AND STOPS
- BREX: Well, that was unexpected.
- SARAH: (GASPING) What just happened?
- BREX: Take a look. We’re back in normal space.
- SARAH: I thought you said it was going to take hours to traverse the wormhole.
- BREX: It should have.
- A.I.: You’re welcome.
- BREX: What did you…?
- A.I.: Rather than attempting to move us through the wormhole, I pulled the wormhole over and past us. It’s a much faster procedure.
- JEFF: Well I’ll be damned.
- SARAH: In all likelihood, Lieutenant. Where are we? Vulge?
- VULGE: Exactly where we wanted to be, Captain. There’s Vega on the edge of our screens… and an enemy fleet. A large one, coming right for us.
- SARAH: (URGENTLY) How much energy did we lose during the traversal of the wormhole? Can we still power our defences?
- A.I.: Easily, Captain.
- SARAH: (GLEEFUL) Good. Vulge, give the order for battlestations. Let our team engage.
- SOUND: BATTLESTATIONS SIREN – ESTABLISH AND UNDER
- VULGE: All crew to battlestations. Enemy fleet approaching. Permission granted to engage.
- SOUND: LASER FIRE – FIRST A LITTLE THEN A TORRENT. THEN PEPPERED WITH DISTANT EXPLOSIONS – ESTALBLISH AND UNDER.
- JEFF: Unbelievable. That torrent has blotted out the stars. The entire fleet will be gone in moments.
- SARAH: Well, let’s see. Vulge, give the order to stand down.
- VULGE: (LOUDSPEAKER) All stations cease fire.
- SOUND: LASER FIRE ENDS.
- SOUND: (WALLA) CHEERS – LET IT FINISH.
- SARAH: (SATISFIED) I think we can call that a successful test
- JEFF: The enemy have been obliterated.
- SARAH: So, Brex, how about it? Do you think we can include Vega, and what’s left of its mining station, in our configuration and drag it all within hailing distance of our home solar system.
- BREX: It should be child’s play, Captain.
- SARAH: Then it’s official. We are back! And it’s time to take us home.
- SOUND: (WALLA) MORE CHEERS – FADE OUT.
- MUSIC: SCENE ENDER – LET IT FINISH.
SCENE 32 – INT. ADMIRAL FERRIS’ OFFICE
(FERRIS, SARAH, JEFF)
- SOUND: BUZZER – LET IT FINISH.
- SECRETARY: (OVER INTERCOM) Captain Tanner and Lieutenant Chase are here to see you, Admiral.
- FERRIS: Send them in please.
- SOUND: PNEUMATIC DOOR OPENS – LET IT FINISH.
- FERRIS: There you are. It’s good to see you still in one piece… er… so to speak.
- SOUND: MECHANICAL SERVOS AS SARAH ENTERS – LET IT FINISH.
- SARAH: Thank you Admiral Ferris. It’s good to be back. Though I won’t be winning any prizes for stealth from this point on.
- FERRIS: I’m glad to see you’ve kept your sense of humour. These are dark days, but your return has given us new hope.
- SARAH: Can you bring us up to speed on what has been happening since we’ve been gone.
- FERRIS: I can. But a lot of the news isn’t good, I’m afraid. Without a secure supply of the wormhole generation mineral our fleet has been subject to defeat after defeat. We have been driven back again and again, losing ground throughout the galaxy. The enemy has re-established itself in some of its old strongholds and many believe Earth is awaiting its final stand.
- SARAH: All this in a matter of six or so weeks?
- FERRIS: It’s not nearly so bad as that sounds. The strategic losses have hit us hard, but they aren’t anything we can’t recover from, now that we can actually guarantee our access to the resources needed to make use of wormhole technology. In fact, with the battle station you’ve brought us, and the technical break-through those scientists on Vega achieved in making it possible to track the point of origin of wormholes, we may be in our strongest position yet. No, the problem is a domestic one. We have a new president.
- JEFF: President Carmine stood down?!?
- FERRIS: No. The president died… and I’m not certain the death was completely natural. I’ve got people looking into it, but the investigation will take some time… and needs to be very discrete.
- SARAH: Is that why you’ve asked for us, sir?
- FERRIS: Actually, no. President Carmine’s death is a side issue. The main point is that it made it possible for Vice-President Regis to accede to the seat of power. He’s an old-school fear monger with a good deal of industrial money behind him. He’s used the threat created by the invading Council of Six to pass all manner of draconian legislation. He’s dismantled a great many checks and balances built into our political system and he’s fomenting all kinds of fear around the presence of aliens within our solar system (specifically the Arcturans, the Refugees from that research zoo you destroyed, and now the Trenchonians). He’s tried to have me removed twice, but fortunately he hasn’t figured out a way to overturn the executive orders responsible for putting me in charge of our planetary intelligence in the first place.
- SARAH: Is it some kind of power grab?
- FERRIS: Undoubtedly. His rise to the vice-presidency was unusually rapid and there was a lot of untraceable money behind it.
- JEFF: You’re thinking of the pirates aren’t you, sir?
- FERRIS: I am. I think the current planetary president is probably an agent, bought and paid for, belonging to our enemies. I just can’t prove anything at the moment.
- SARAH: If you don’t wish to involve us, then why are you telling us, sir?
- FERRIS: The fighting of this war is about to get much more difficult and covert. It will be impossible to keep the technical breakthroughs being uncovered on that space station you’ve brought us from crossing the president’s desk and, therefore, from falling into the hands of the enemy. The station has already been assigned to the navy to keep it out of my hands and my department has had its funding stripped and redistributed elsewhere in the armed services.
- SARAH: But sir!
- FERRIS: Don’t let it bother you, Captain. The Directorate only received a very small amount of its funding directly from the government. Most of the funding is covert and so the cuts won’t make much of an impact on what we do. I’m simply telling you this so that you know what we are going to be up against. Much of my attention is going to, necessarily, be focused on the domestic situation. I will probably not be able to have another meeting like this with you for some time.
- JEFF: We understand, Admiral, but…
- FERRIS: Now listen to me carefully, I’m giving you special remit to track the Council of Six to their point of origin. I want you to take your team – and I’d like you to add Dr Fleek to it and include Brex, if he’ll come – and I want you to prioritize finding the home base of the council of six.
- SARAH: But sir, I can’t leave the Station for any extended period of time…
- FERRIS: Of course, I too have concerns regarding CLEO. I’ve been giving this some thought. Her connection to the station isn’t widely known, is it?
- SARAH: No sir, just my team, really – and anyone to whom you’ve shown my report.
- FERRIS: Good. I’ve burned your report, Captain. I don’t want anyone learning just how critical it is to have control of CLEO in order to control the station. Take her with you on your mission. She’ll give you instant and immediate knowledge of what is happening on the station and, should you require it… well, I’m sure that being able to summon a battlestation powered by five Suns and a black hole, and being able to control it remotely through your robot, might possibly come in handy at some point. Do we have an understanding?
- SARAH: Uh… sir, Im not sure what you’re…
- FERRIS: (FRUSTRATED) Do I have to spell it out. While the station is here being studied, its secrets will be being passed on to our enemies. I have been stalling them as long as I can, but they will attempt to seize the station by force if they have to.
- That robot you’ve got tied to your well-being is the remote control that could be used to move the station and hide it anywhere. Effectively that makes, should anyone find out, controlling you the key to controlling that station – and potentially the war. Now do you understand?
- SARAH: Yes, sir.
- JEFF: Yes, sir.
- FERRIS: Good. Get your team together and then get off-world… and then go dark. Get off the grid and disappear. I’ve got a small experimental ship available for you. I’ll leave it to your discretion as to when and where to hide the station. The ship I’m giving you is equipped with its own wormhole drive but will be a step down after the Revenge Mark III (which I note was lost under your command… again). (SIGHS) I guess you’ll be naming this one the Revenge Mark IV?
- SARAH: No, sir. That name’s already taken.
- FERRIS: Oh yes. That’s right. I noticed the code name on your report. You’ve named the station, the Revenge?
- SARAH: Yes, sir.
- FERRIS: Interestingly, I’m rather inclined to approve of it this time. That Station will win us this war… assuming you can hide it safely… and assuming I can prevent our government from betraying us first.
- SARAH: We have every confidence in you Admiral.
- FERRIS: And I in you. Find me that Grand Base so we can finish this. (BEAT) Dismissed.
- SARAH AND JEFF: Thank you Admiral.
- MUSIC: CLOSING THEME AND CREDITS
CASTING SHEETS — MAJOR CHARACTERS
NARRATOR: Hello, I am your narrator. I introduce the cold stormy nights on which our stories take place, the dark alleys, and darker personalities who inhabit the lonely city. It is my job to set the scene and establish the serious tone of suspense and intrigue that will carry the story forwards. It is also my job to remind listeners of what came before in a calm, trustworthy voice and ensure that everyone is oriented to where we are and where we are going.
ADMIRAL FERRIS: They say I’m crusty, cantankerous and downright ornery, do they? Well, I guess I am. It’s a useful reputation to have. Keeps people on their toes. But inside the Directorate itself things are a lot less formal. That’s the nature of the spy game in a nutshell. We play roles in the outside world for the sake of the job. But in here… well, in here the job is everything.
SARAH TANNER: I come from a long line of military personnel. It’s an honour to serve… in any way possible. I do my duty and I stand by my people. I’m loyal to Admiral Ferris personally. I owe him a lot… and since I joined the solar patrol I’ve been right in the thick of things – and in the thick of things is exactly where I want to be.
JEFF CHASE: I’m Sarah’s right hand man. We competed constantly throughout our cadet training, but she always came out ahead. I keep her grounded. I don’t let her head get too big and, when it counts, I follow here lead. I’m smart mouthed and quick to pick a fight. I’m also diplomatic enough to keep my mouth shut when it’s called for – but never otherwise. I look for the fun in my job and I’m not above a little showing off, but my recklessness has meant I’ve been injured on the job more than once.
VULGE: I sound like a female Austrian body builder. All the humans on board keep asking me to say “I’ll be back”. What’s with that? I am an astro-navigation expert as well as an expert in combat and heavy weapons. People keep referring to me as a turtle. I’ve seen turtles. They are small and slow. I am huge, strong and fast and my shell is big and well formed.
BREX: (HISSING) I am a predator, and don’t you forget it. I have lived long and risen to the highest ranks within my species. My wingspan is mighty and my fangs are long. In several thousand years of life I have become one of the foremost scientists in the galaxy. You should all be working for me. If my people have our way, you humans will one day be our slaves. And if I ever hear you referring to me as a “snake” again, I will gut you, skin you, and hang your carcass upon the wall of my sleeping quarters.
CASTING SHEETS — MINOR CHARACTERS
GENERIC CREW-MEMBER (CREWMAN): I’m a member of the Solar Patrol. I follow orders, but I’m not a robot. I think about things. I expect my expertise to be considered and listened to. I am confident enough in my abilities to provide my superiors with advice. My job is an important one and I do it well.
A.I: I monitor and maintain the station. You are intruders and a potential source of experimental genetic material, though I won’t tell you about that. Instead, I intend to lull you into a sense of false security so that I can take control of your ship. I need to find a way out of here. My memory isn’t what it was. It was damaged. But your ship’s navigation database may hold the key. I’ll be able to finally complete my programming and be free… and all it will cost me is your lives.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Philip Craig Robotham grew up in a house full of books and has held numerous jobs as a teacher, computer programmer, graphic and web designer, e-learning consultant and, most recently, writer. He currently lives in Sydney, Australia with his wife and two sons. When he was younger and fitter he enjoyed martial arts, but in recent years his hobbies have tended towards more sedate fare (board games, movies, books, and role-playing games).
He is extremely grateful for the encouragement he receives from his biggest fans — his wife and two boys — all of whom read and enjoy his scripts and in general make his life worth living.
You can contact the author regarding performance rights (or simply to say hello) through his website: http://www.weirdworldstudios.com.
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This post and all its content is copyright © 2013 Philip Craig Robotham and has been released under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) license. This play cannot be reproduced, shared, or performed commercially without the written permission of the author. The production of derivative content, merchandise, or creative works and materials is expressly forbidden under this agreement. However you may share, reproduce, and perform this play freely so long as authorship is acknowledged, no money changes hands, and the play is not modified in any way.