SEASON 2 EPISODE 1 TRANSCRIPT
PRE-SHOW ANNOUNCEMENT: Among the Stars and Bones features characters in a hostile environment and is intended for a mature audience. As such it contains material that may be upsetting or triggering for some people. Specific content warnings can be found in the show notes for each episode. Please make use of them if you need to.
CONTENT WARNINGS (FROM SHOW NOTES): None.
[Theme Music Plays]
COMPUTER: Among the Stars and Bones
[Theme Music Ends]
[Computer Chime: Open Status Report]
COMPUTER VOICE: For attention of Jennifer Connolly, Eudoxus Initiative. Herodotus Task Force Status Report. Mission: Planet Angitia. Status Report 1. Five Entries Included. Entry 1. Comptroller’s Report.
[Computer Chime: Open Entry]
SCENE 1 – COMPTROLLER’S TEMPORARY OFFICE
[Inside an office in the control building of the mine that the Herodotus Task Force are currently working out of. Regular computer chirps are present, indicating she is getting updates just like last time, though some sound different from others. There is no ticking clock, suggesting she left that back in her regular office in the Herodotus pods. There’s also the sound of faint chatter from the other side of a wall.]
ADRIENNE: Commence report…
[Adrienne trails off as her chair gives a squeak. A pause. Several more testing squeaks.]
ADRIENNE: (After a sigh) Another mission, another creaky chair. Comptroller Adrienne Barnes, Herodotus Task Force, Day 4 of our Nabonidus Rescue Mission. March 19, 2211. The Callisto reached geostationary orbit over the DahlstromCorp mine complex around 7:10 Earth Standard Time on March the 15th. Initial hails and scans failed to illicit a response or turn up any sign of the Nabonidus Task Force. A reconnaissance mission led by Captain Francis’s Marine Recon squad to the planet’s surface via shuttle also failed to discover any signs of people, living or…otherwise.
With no straight answers we went into full deployment mode and made planetfall at 20:45 EST the following day. We made use of the site slated as the secondary landing zone for Nabonidus, since all their pods are still sitting on the number one option. They’re intact and undamaged, just devoid of any signs of life.
We commenced formal search operations early the following morning. Captain Francis co-ordinated a thorough sweep through the Nabonidus compound and then the mine, which is riddled with a veritable maze of secondary tunnels. No sign.
On the one hand one of their ice crawlers is missing, and on the other the mine access logs show virtually all Nabonidus members entering the site on Day 10, but no one coming out. It seems unlikely the whole team would proceed deeper into the dig site unless there was some sort of emergency. Victor Hollister might be known for playing things fast and loose, and Blake Kittering might be known for enabling him, but it’s still a stretch. However, we cannot ignore the possibility. Which means we are currently exploring three avenues of investigation.
First, most of our personnel, under Captain Francis, are using crawlers to conduct an expanding grid search radiating out from the mine.
Second, another team is going through data on the Nabonidus servers, trying to piece together a timeline of events and work out what happened, especially after Day 6 when the Nabonidus status reports stopped being cast. That team is a mixed group, comprised mostly of members of the tech and support services teams, and, following your suggestion that I increase her job responsibilities to see how she handles it, I have put Kathy Winters in charge. It’s not exactly her role, but she showed good initiative and instincts in piecing together events surrounding the death of Harry Kowalski, so she seemed as good a choice as any.
And that leaves our third focus: The Proximan site itself. It’s a strange one, buried so deep below the surface. The outer chamber makes me feel like I’m standing inside an Egyptian tomb back in my early archaeology days, so Lord only knows what’s beyond those doors. Since Nabonidus had only gotten this far in their own evaluation and are now missing, we are proceeding with caution. That means we have not been beyond the initial vault as yet. Ben and Celia are heading up two small teams comprised of members of the xenoarchaeology and xenotechnology department to do an assessment of the site before we open anything. I know Celia’s forte is xenobiology, but they have more than enough knowledge across multiple disciplines to contribute here, and given they and Ben are still both recovering from injuries sustained on Tefen, it seemed best to keep them close.
Neither are keen to push further into the site too soon, and I agree. There are too many unknowns, and we’re basically starting from scratch. Hopefully by the time they’ve assessed possible dangers, we’ll have something from either Kathy or the search team that’ll give us something else to go on. I know Captain Francis wants to take a team beyond the doors as soon as possible, and that’s all very well for him to make decisions like that when only his squad of marines are on the line, but I landed on this ice ball with 82 Herodotus members, as banged up and bruised as we are, and by all the gods I intend to leave it with every one of them.
(A Pause. Adrienne Sighs)
ADRIENNE: I have to say that everyone is bearing up remarkably well, considering the circumstances. I know that contractually being seconded to a follow up rescue mission was mandatory, but Jen, did anyone consider perhaps not holding us to that particular clause in this specific instance? None of us need this right now. Most of us went over a week without food waiting to die either from suffocation, dehydration or starvation. Some of us did. We lost 14 people. One of our own did their level best to kill us all. Your ex-husband took a bullet to the leg and while Chang’s done his best and the military medics did their thing he’s still yet to see the inside of an actual hospital.
And yet the powers that be think the best way for them to deal with their trauma is to tackle another site where an entire crew has gone missing. We are understaffed, underresourced and missing a lot of expertise. Hell, deploying us with a marine assault team isn’t exactly settling anyone’s nerves. On a level I’m glad of the protection, but anything that requires the presence of actual troops has got to be dangerous, right? That’s what people are saying. And what can I tell them otherwise?
Even if we get a quick answer, what are the odds it involves finding all 88 members of Nabonidus alive? And if we don’t? You have any idea what that’d do to my people? They just buried friends on Tefen and now they’re wondering if they’ll be burying friends here. Everyone knows at least half a dozen people in the Nabonidus crew. And Seth Parson and Scott Stratton were just transferred across to us for the Tefen mission after a decade on Nabonidus, remember? Hell even before what happened to you on Vultur I was no fan of Victor Hollister’s, but I certainly don’t want to see him dead.
(Pause. Another sigh.)
ADRIENNE: We will do the best we can, but this isn’t right. You need to dust off the Eudoxus wallet and spring for some serious counselling and R and R when we get to the other side of this. We’ve been through hell and are not up to this task, whatever some of the team might say to the contrary.
[Computer Chime: End of Entry]
COMPUTER: Entry 2. Xenoarchaeology report.
[Computer Chime: Begin Entry]
SCENE 2 – THE ANTECHAMBER OF THE PROXIMAN SITE, TWELVE MILES BELOW THE SURFACE
[In the background you can hear several people working around Ben. This chamber is large and echoey.]
BEN: I was going to start off with a joke about all the trouble you’re going to, orchestrating a rescue mission to this iceball just to keep me out of your hair, but I thought better of it. Think I’m past that, at this point. Mostly.
That said, I didn’t appreciate finding out second hand that the purpose of this little rescue mission was to come to the aid of Victor Hollister. I’ve made a pretty determined effort over the last five years to avoid being on the same planet as him, and to find out that the man responsible for the worst thing that ever happened to us is the reason I’m here is…well… Look, I know this is a command level thing. I know there’s probably military regulations about secrecy around diverting a cruiser to consider, but…a quick three-line message? Doesn’t seem like a lot to ask. It…hit me pretty hard on top of everything else from the last couple of months is all I’m saying.
Oh the leg’s fine by the way. Still limping a little but it only gives me grief when it’s…cold.
BEN: Alright, uh…onto business then. So I’m here in this vault almost 12 miles underground and the atmosphere is… weird. There’s a definite tomb-like vibe but…it doesn’t feel like one to me. Don’t get me wrong, I see what Adrienne meant when she said she felt like she was in some sort of Ancient Egyptian pyramid given the science fiction once-over. Kathy and Celia both immediately looked at each other and said “Stargate” at the same time, which I assume means something to them but I imagine very little to the Proximans. Hollister’d had a couple more days here, and here were his thoughts.
[Computer Chime: Inserted Recording]
SCENE 2A – THE ANTECHAMBER OF THE PROXIMAN SITE DURING THE NABONIDUS MISSION
[Hollister is in the middle of recording notes on his findings from when the Nabonidus team was on site. Behind him is a hive of activity as the room was a lot busier than in the present.]
HOLLISTER: …which is why, taking into account the walls and pillars covered in symbols, ornate decoration and grandiosity of scale, this room appears to be the antechamber to a site of deep spiritual or religious significance. Many of the symbols spell out a warning, indicating that the site was considered sacred and intended not to be desecrated. Further–
[Computer Chime: End of Inserted Recording]
SCENE 2 (PART 2) THE ANTECHAMBER OF THE PROXIMAN SITE, TWELVE MILES BELOW THE SURFACE
[Returning to Ben from before, the same background noise continuing behind him.]
BEN: Ugh, that voice is just…
Anyway, we’re seeing the same thing but I’m not drawing the same conclusion. Which I guess puts me in conflict with Hollister’s interpretation, to the surprise of no one, but hear me out on why. So, for one thing, the size makes no sense. This room measures 72 metres long, 30 wide and at least 8 tall. And all for a door that’s only…three metres across at most. Proximans often build on a large scale, sure, but why such a big room for such a small door. For that matter, why such a grand antechamber when, as far as we can tell, there’s no tunnel leading here from the surface and never was. Last time we had the ultimate xenoarchaological murder mystery. This time it’s the ultimate locked room. The million-dollar question, apart from where Hollister and the rest of Nabonidus are – How the hell was this created if there’s no way to get here? And why here? As far as we know this planet is just an isolated hunk of rock, covered in ice. About the only thing it’s got going for it is that the atmosphere is pretty oxygen rich for a place without organic life. You wouldn’t want to breathe it without filters for more than a few days, but we don’t need suits on the surface, just extremely woolly underwear.
I’m in disagreement with Hollister on a few other points too. You see, the walls are decorated with what look like alien hieroglyphs but are not Proximan language. I see the resemblance to some aspects of their writing styles, but it’s not actually writing. More like…symbols. Representations. Now this led Hollister to the conclusion that they had a religious significance, likely because we’re in something that looks like an Egyptian tomb, so of course the instinct is to go there, but I’m not buying it.
Most of what we’ve seen of the Proximans up until now has been their technology, their ships. We had a shot at so much more on Tefen, but well, I don’t have to tell you how that went. But that gap in knowledge leaves whole aspects of their society and culture a mystery. Family and community structures for one, and certainly any religious or spiritual beliefs. A hint here, an artefact we choose to interpret in a certain light there, but that’s it. So the idea that this is the first true evidence of their religion is tempting. But, leaving aside the mystery of how this thing was built 12 miles under the ground, there’s still the question of why. Why put a church or temple 12 miles below the surface, completely inaccessible? Why put it on a bare rock seemingly devoid of any other significant features. You don’t put something in a place like this unless the intent is to hide it.
Which brings me to the markings. I’ve been thinking about the Arecibo message. Well, I guess in truth I’ve been thinking about Harry, and that led me back to one of his pet subjects, the Arecibo message. So I was looking it up, trying to understand what he meant. And it was on my mind when I came down here and I wondered why and then it hit me. Okay, so first thing about the Arecibo message is that it wasn’t a real attempt to contact aliens, more a thought experiment about what such a message could look like. But that’s the thing – the thought experiment. Because you want this message to be correctly interpreted so you have to make the meaning clear enough that anyone can interpret it even if they don’t think like you. So you use symbols. Simple figures, mathematical constructs. And I think that’s what we’re looking at here.
This wasn’t intended for a Proximan to find or read. It was intended for someone like us. Aliens. Well, aliens to them. Someone who didn’t already know what this place was and what it was for, and wouldn’t necessarily know the language. Which brings me back to the question of where Hollister and the others are. I know the records say no one left the site on that last day which means it’s a very real possibility our answer is beyond this door, but I cannot in good conscience recommend we go in after them. I don’t want any of us to go beyond that door until we’ve gone over this antechamber in more detail and have a better idea of what we’re dealing with. Otherwise, if something happened to them, it’ll just as easily happen to us. And who will you have left to send in then?
So despite Captain Frantastic’s recommendation that we get the door up and scout the interior or at least send through some drones, I cannot allow that at this time. As head of xenoarchaeology, I have the prerogative to make a call if archaeological evidence suggests a clear and present danger. And I’m standing in a massive room with a 25 foot ceiling covered in symbols that in two dozen ways are screaming “Wrong way go back.” So I am not going to authorise opening that door until someone gives me a better explanation of why it’s not only closed but buried.
We went through hell on Tefen, and being 12 miles underground in front of a door with the alien equivalent of “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here” written on it, sounds like another hell in the making. And if there’s one thing I intend to be careful of, it’s repeating a mistaken, hasty call of Hollister’s. You of all people should appreciate that, Jen. Don’t let the marines or the board pressure you into making his call.
[Computer Chime: End of Entry]
COMPUTER: Entry 3. Military Search and Rescue report.
[Computer Chime: Begin Entry]
SCENE 3 – LT RIGGS’ OLD OFFICE IN THE MILITARY TEAM POD
[An cold, relentless wind can be heard from outside the pod. Within there is regular military radio chatter and computer updates chiming occasionally from the search teams, the same feed Barnes is getting]
FRANCIS: Commence report: Captain Edward Francis, 23rd Alliance Marines reporting. Ms Connolly, I was informed that for this assignment I report directly to you and that your military liaison, Lieutenant Colonel Freitag I believe, would see my reports
passed to my own chain of command. I know that this is an unusual situation for all of us to find ourselves in, but let me assure you that I know my role and my mission and will respect your authority and that of Comptroller Barnes as pertains to my executing that mission.
I have spent the last several days coordinating search and rescue efforts with the relief mission. Initial searches found no evidence of anyone living or dead in the Nabonidus compound or the tunnels of the mine. From there we shifted our attention to the planet surface. The missing crawler was a promising early lead but thus far we have not been able to track its location. The Callisto deployed a support satellite in near orbit before it departed, but the combination of volatile weather conditions and the unusual magnetic field of Angitia and its parent star has made it next to useless. We struggle sometimes to even connect to the thing, and even when we can it is yet to yield useful data.
The weather conditions are a hindrance to human-based search efforts as well. Any physical indication of where the missing crawler went has long since been scoured clean by the wind and ice. I have three scout flyers at my disposal, but thus far the combination of visibility and wind shear has meant that I am not prepared to risk them.
This has meant we have been forced to spread all available personnel across the crawlers and search via grid pattern, scanners at maximum. So far the area covered is equivalent to something like 400 square kilometres, with scanning range increasing coverage to nearly 900. From that we can infer that there are no live people or crawlers within roughly 30 clicks of the mine, and no bodies within 20.
Unfortunately, I have had to spread my own people out amongst the Herodotus crew to spread the firepower and expertise. I mean no disrespect to the members of Herodotus when I say that. From my limited briefing on their most recent mission it is clear they are no strangers to search and rescue proceedings. However, my squad has more than two dozen search and rescue and search and retrieval missions to its name. This is what we do, wartime or peace, no matter the rock or the terrain.
So yes, the civilians are holding up their end of the deal, but there’s a brittleness there. As I said I wasn’t fully briefed but it’s clear they have been through something and are not the stronger for it. I’ve seen that look in many a young marine’s eyes over the years, so I have my people sticking close. This appears to be causing some resentment, either because we’re breaking in on their close camaraderie or because the ordinance carried by my squad is unsettling, but I am not afforded the luxury of caring. We don’t know what caused the disappearance of the Nabonidus team and while a hostile force is low on the list of probabilities it cannot be ruled out.
As the surviving members of Lieutenant Riggs’ military science team have been temporarily placed under my command I have asked that they too carry small arms at all times as a further precaution. I know they’re not primarily soldiers, but I also know the family, and I find it hard to believe that the niece of General Riggs and the daughter of Colonel Harlan Riggs wouldn’t have surrounded herself with at least some people you’d want in your corner when it all goes to shit. Harris, Jensen, Gallini, maybe one or two others have that air about them, and I’m hoping I’m right since we may need that kind of resolve before this is over.
Because despite all our best efforts we’ve turned up nothing. Not a lost glove. Not a candy wrapper. And frankly, I don’t expect there to be. All indications are that if the Nabonidus crew haven’t simply evaporated into the ether, then they’re on the other side of that damn door down in the mine, not on the surface. Yes, there is a missing crawler, but they have cabin space for six, and short of stacking people like cord wood you’d be hard-pressed to get the rest into the cargo area. And why try when they had more crawlers at their disposal? They work fine. We’re using them as I speak.
It seems an open and shut case to me given that access records have all science and research personnel entering the site between 8 and 11 AM on the 20th of February and none leaving.
(A pause. Francis catches himself)
Excuse my frustration, it’s just that my squad is stuck here playing babysitter when we should be doing what we do best: Gather intel and retrieve captured soldiers from behind rebel lines. Frankly I don’t want any of us to be here a moment longer than we have to be. I want to do my job, then get the hell off this rock.
To that end, we need to get through that door. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting we go in unprepared. Scanners have already proven almost useless, but perhaps sending through probes and drones would be a good place to start if Barnes’ team combing through the Nabonidus files doesn’t turn up any useful intel. Ben Kelleher has made it clear he has no intention of letting us go through, and while I understand it’s his call to make, I…wonder at it. I mentioned the brittleness I see among the members of the Herodotus crew. Well in my estimation he is experiencing it as much as anyone. I know that he was being treated for some kind of injury when I boarded the Callisto, and he and the rest of these people have suffered some loss, but I think that’s making him a little…conservative in his judgement regarding all that jibberish on the walls. The desire to keep those you care about safe is powerful, but when you focus exclusively on that, skills like critical thinking and evaluation of necessary risk can become impaired.
And given there is a chance, slim as it might seem on first glance, that the Nabonidus crew are still alive on the other side of that door, we have to think more broadly even if it means taking a small risk. Barnes has made me aware of your former relationship with Mr Kelleher, but I’m sure your own judgement will be objective under the circumstances. All I ask is that as soon as we have enough information to go on, we be authorised to determine the situation on the other side of that door and effect a rescue if possible.
Let me do my job. Once we know the fate of the original mission, Kelleher and the rest can argue over what this place was all about and what the aliens put it here for. But let’s work out what happened to 88 humans first.
Captain Francis out.
[Computer Chime: End of Entry]
COMPUTER: Entry 4. Xenobiology and xenoanthropology report.
[Computer Chime: Begin Entry]
SCENE 4 – THE ANTECHAMBER OF THE PROXIMAN SITE, TWELVE MILES BELOW THE SURFACE
[Several hours after Scene 2. A small group of people can be heard in the background doing scanning work, discussing results and setting up drones.]
CELIA: (Sighs and then) Commence report: Dr Celia Pennella speaking, Head of Xenobiology for the Herodotus Task Force, Day 4 of the Nabonidus relief mission. 19th of March, 2211.
Well, I hope you’re happy, Jennifer. Over a decade of being a head of department and here I am, brain the size of a planet, finally doing my own reports. Which is ridiculous on at least three levels, not least of which is the fact that you hardly need a report from my department while we’re on a rescue mission. However, since Kathy is running her own impromptu department, and anyone else I could command to do this in my stead is currently joyriding across the frozen wastes it seems that it falls to me
to do what I have strenuously opposed for most of my career.
Not that there aren’t more important things going on than my inconvenience, but then that’s my point – We’re in the middle of a rescue mission, there is still a question over whether or not the people we are here to find are alive or dead, and I’m not sure what is achieved by me taking ten minutes out of that work to give you a summary. But since arguing the point further into a recorder does nothing but waste additional time, here it is: As you have no doubt been told by Adrienne, and I am about to redundantly repeat, Ben and I are leading two teams down here in this large Proximan antechamber which culminates in a door.
[SFX: Remy throwing down his data pad]
(Remy grunts in irritation)
CELIA: Something to add Remy?
REMY: Not at all…boss. Just sitting here being 2iC of the xenoarch department. Don’t mind me.
CELIA: Am I to take it from your childish interjection that you resent my being put in charge of this team despite being primarily a xenobiologist?
REMY: (It’s exactly that) Well, when you put it like that–
CELIA: You know as well as I do that putting me in charge of a team down here is nothing at all to do with your competence and everything to do with Adrienne keeping me out of harm’s way after my recent near-death experience.
REMY: (Realising his mistake) Well…I mean…sure.
CELIA: And that putting you with me is probably more about making sure I have someone to check my work so I don’t miss anything vital.
REMY: You d…you don’t really miss mu–
CELIA: No, and even if I did, I still possess a wide subset of knowledge that others do not, which given the importance of what we’re trying to do here might just be the difference in answering the question of what happened to our colleagues.
REMY: That is true. I just–
CELIA: See, that’s what I’ve always liked about you Remy. You’re always so reasonable. Now why don’t you give me five minutes and then we can get back to something more important?
REMY: (Beginning to break) Yes…right. Yes. Look I’m sorry, I know I probably deserved that, but I just…my sister. She’s here. Or she should be. Part of Nabonidus, and I just…I suppose I’m sending my frustration at the wrong…I’m sorry.
CELIA: (Relenting) So am I. I’ve got two former grad students and an old friend from my undergraduate days here somewhere as well. (Gently) So, why don’t you give me five minutes and then we really can get back to something that is very important.
REMY: Yeah. (More composed) Yeah.
[SFX: Remy walks off a short distance]
CELIA: There’s been a lot of that sort of thing going around. For some it’s the people we’re searching for, for others it’s the people we’ve already lost, and for the rest it’s the stress of the last few months.
Where was I?
So as not to get in each other’s way, Ben and I are coming at understanding the site from two different angles. Since he is the linguist, his team are focused on the symbols, writings and iconography that adorn the walls and pillars, and I am taking everything else. We’re also trying to come at this with fresh eyes, not allowing the previous findings sent in by the Nabonidus crew to overly colour our judgement.
That said, I did begin by verifying one finding from their work. My team includes several representatives from different departments, including two from the xenotechnology department, Shannon Willerth and Steve Diver. They helped to confirm that there does not appear to be any significant technology in this room or behind the walls, barring some around the door, which presumably is related to its operation as, well, a door.
The reason we’re repeating that work is that since this site dates to a more recent time period than most others–close in era to the Tefen sites–our team’s experience dealing with more advanced tech made it possible they would discover something Nabonidus had not. Since they haven’t, I have added the lack of technology to the list of anomalies this site presents.
I’ve combined my studies in xenobiology, xenoarchaeology and xenoanthropology over the years to consider how Proximans mould and shape their living and working spaces and environments to their needs. My own contributions to those questions have looked more at ergonomics and biomechanics, but I’ve read widely, and there are so many things about this site that do not seem to fit any obvious purpose.
First, and I am hardly the only one to say it, but this is an outward facing room. An entryway, a foyer, a lobby. But how can you have such a room without an entrance to it? And beyond being an entrance hall with no entrance, only an exit, the room serves no purpose. There are no amenities. No machines, no information or art for perusal. No entertainment, no relaxation.
Victor Hollister suggested a ritual usage, which is of course possible, but most rituals still require something in the way of furniture or focal point. An altar. A podium. Iconography. Recesses for meditation and contemplation. But the only features of this room are the walls and six pillars, which I am assured by those with better knowledge of engineering are not structural.
The other detail of this chamber that I am at a loss to explain is the shape. The room is almost a dome, the ceiling blending into the walls. But the floor slopes too. It’s subtle in the centre but becomes very pronounced by the end. In all the drop away is more than three metres and creates something like a deep gutter around the entire outside, extending the total floor space quite a way from the ceiling. I have no idea what the purpose of this is. It does not resemble any Proximan space I’ve seen, even with the additional data from the Tefen colony. Perhaps it is an aesthetic choice, and perhaps Hollister is right about the ritual function. But why a drop into a gutter when there is no drainage of any kind, making even my use of gutter a misnomer? All I know is that I get a headache from looking at so odd a shape. The proportions don’t sit right to the mind. There’s something about the door that also doesn’t sit right with me but I can’t put my finger on what it is yet.
All of which brings me to your inevitable question–whether I support Ben’s thesis regarding not passing beyond the door, or Captain Francis’ belief the risk is worthwhile. In response I can say that nothing I have seen in my time here thus far favours either conclusion. But since the lifters the Nabonidus crew installed on the door to raise it appear to have been rendered inoperable any debate on going through the door is moot until they are either replaced or repaired.
BEN: (From a distance) What?
[SFX: Ben walking across to check the lifters]
BEN: (From a distance) Son of a bitch! How did I miss that?
REMY: (Calling from another spot) They told you twice.
BEN: (From a distance) Really?
[SFX: Ben walks towards Celia under the following]
CELIA: Offhand I would say you missed it by staring at the walls all day instead of minding the whole of your surroundings Benjamin.
BEN: I resemble that remark. Do you reckon we’re talking sabotage?
CELIA: I can’t say for certain, but I wouldn’t rule it out. Barnes said she’d send someone to look it over as soon as they got back from the search.
(Celia switches back to reporting)
That is the last noteworthy piece of information I have to share at this point. I have no idea if it will prove significant or not, but there it is. I believe the stellarcast deadline will precede the end of search efforts for the day, so Ben’s question, while certainly an important one, will have to wait for another time.
Dr Pennella signing off.
[Computer Chime: End of Entry]
COMPUTER: Entry 5. Xenotechnology report.
[Computer Chime: Begin Entry]
SCENE 5 – THE MINE CONTROL BUILDING, THE AREA FORMERLY OCCUPIED BY THE MINE’S IT DEPARTMENT
[A lot of talking and computer noises as a group of Herodotus team members go through the files and data left behind by the Nabonidus crew.]
KATHY: Commence report: Kathy Winters of the xenobiol–…No wait. What do I call this? We’re not xenobiology. I mean this was sort of assigned to xenotechnology but…
INDIRA: Are you actually asking me?
INDIRA: I don’t think it matters. Investigation team, or something? Data review?
KATHY: This is Kathy Winters reporting, Day 4 of our investigation into the disappearance of the Nabonidus Task Force. I’m working with Indira Raju, who you
just heard, and a crew mostly comprised of members of the xenotechnology department.
GALLINI: (Calling from the back) Hep hmm!
KATHY: And somehow we also ended up with Gallini from military.
GALLINI: It’s an honour and a privilege.
KATHY: You’re welcome.
GALLINI: I meant for you.
KATHY: Oh really?
GALLINI: Think about it – I’m ruggedly handsome, diligent, brilliant. I’ve never taken a sick day in my life and–
KATHY: Don’t make me come back there.
GALLINI: Yes ma’am.
KATHY: He’s a hoot.
INDIRA: Once you get over the fact that he has a gun.
KATHY: Yeah, but I feel like the military people, as in our military people, not the squad of jarheads trying to boss us around, they haven’t been given the space, you know? They lost more people than anyone. Gallini worked closely with Lieutenant Riggs, and I think she was really admired and…I don’t know, it’s just nice to see him smiling.
INDIRA: So you’re a grief counsellor, a xenobiologist and a detective. What else do you do?
KATHY: I guess I also run teams now? Wait, if this is technically the xenotechnology report, am I…should this be your job?
INDIRA: If you want to get technical–
KATHY: No technolog–
INDIRA: Very funny. But yes, while our team structure is a little flatter due to the plethora of specialties, I was number four in the hierarchy behind Gordon Price, Yevgeniy Romanov and Harry Kowalski.
KATHY: (Caught by the mention of Harry) Oh.
INDIRA: (Realising the touchy subject, struggling to cover) Don’t worry about it. You’re a better boss than Gordon. Though perhaps we should be getting back to…
KATHY: Er, yes. Miss Connolly, whatever this team is called, we’ve been tasked with going through the data from Nabonidus to see what we can piece together and whether or not it can shed any light on their disappearance. A lot of the data was sent out via stellarcast on the first six days, but not all of it fit.
And on top of everything that didn’t go out via stellarcast, there’s at least four days of additional data from which nothing was sent out at all before…whatever happened, happened. Which means they missed two stellarcasts, while data was still coming in.
INDIRA: There is nothing wrong with their stellarcast server or transmitter. I checked it three times, and so did the support techs.
KATHY: Yeah, so no department heads uploaded their reports, or forwarded on any important images or vids or scans. Now four days worth of main server records from an 88 person team is a lot to go over under normal circumstances, and…these are not normal circumstances. Indira?
INDIRA: Yes, I–
INDIRA: Sorry, it’s so dusty in here.
KATHY: Yeah. We’re in a control building that’s just inside the mine near the main equipment staging area. The mine was vacated after the find, but the Nabonidus crew set up most of their portable field storage here, so this seemed the best place. You’d think someone might have dusted.
INDIRA: There’s a lot. More than there should be, especially around computer equipment. Why did they choose here?
KATHY: Working here’s not all bad. Barnes at least set up a commissary downstairs so we don’t have to walk all the way back to the compound. Though now that I’ve experienced it for myself, I get what Ben meant about the Wildberry. Pee. Yew.
INDIRA: As I was saying, something seems to have hit the files hard. As a result, much of the data is scrambled in one form or another. Some are fragmented, most aren’t located in standard directories, and information such as file name, date of creation and author are lost. We don’t currently know why, or whether this was intentional or is related to whatever has befallen Nabonidus.
KATHY: Whatever the reason, it’s hampering our efforts to piece together what happened. We can’t just look up files created by…the head of xenotech or photogrammetric models of the antechamber or check out what the last uploaded videos show, because well, we don’t know where they are. So we’re having to comb through everything and re-catalogue them onto our own servers. It’s slow going, and there are thousands of files. Video footage, scan data, personal logs, field notes. However it’s worth noting here that we’ve found logs from only 87 team members. Not 88. I’ll come back to that in a minute.
First, from what we’ve looked at, we’ve pieced together a basic timeline of what happened in those four days when no stellarcast went out.
The first – Day 7, was the day they opened the vault door. They sent through some drones, but we haven’t found the data that came from that yet. Day 8 they sent a small group of personnel beyond the vault door. Victor Hollister and a couple of others. There were no artefacts logged as a result of that incursion, and we’re still hunting for any camera footage.
Day 9, we’re less sure. They continued to work as normal, but there’s a few…inconsistencies in the things different people were saying was happening.
Day 10 is when they disappeared. There’s not much data from that day found so far.
That point about inconsistencies brings me back to the one crew member whose files we haven’t located. That could be random chance given the sheer number and state of the files, but I have a feeling there’s something more to it. Which brings me to some video footage I want to share. It’s odd on its own but also relevant. This is a section of what Hollister was working on…we think on day 9, possibly 10. The video is now tagged HOL0395 and will be in my team’s folder if you want to see it. Start from timestamp…08:49.
[Computer Chime: Insert Recording]
SCENE 5A – THE ANTECHAMBER OF THE PROXIMAN SITE DURING THE NABONIDUS MISSION
[A section of a recording Hollister was doing during the Nabonidus mission. Again there is a lot of activity in the antechamber]
HOLLISTER: Okay, now what do you make of these symbols here?
KONSTANTINIDIS: Don’t look like anything much.
HOLLISTER: No but get a shot of that one, near the top. the one that looks like a carrot having sex with a camel.
KONSTANTINIDIS: You have a way with words.
HOLLISTER: It’s what I’m known for in academic circles. Anyway, that symbol, I’ve seen it in three other places in here. It must be significant. Let me explain. Get the camera on me.
KONSTANTINIDIS: Oh. Sorry.
HOLLISTER: Right so we know that the alien alphabet has a symbol that’s similar but the carrot bit has more of a shape consistent with…hey did anyone see that?
KONSTANTINIDIS: What? Where? On the wall?
HOLLISTER: Yeah, just up in the corner near that row of four spatulas that look like they ate a snake? Anyone? Anyone see that?
[A series of Nos from the assembled Nabonidus members]
KONSTANTINIDIS: What was it?
HOLLISTER: Just for a second, it lit up. Kind of blue. No one saw that?
[More Nos from Nabonidus crew]
HOLLISTER: Okay, someone get a camera on that spot. Let’s see if it does it again. And I want a sca–
[Computer Chime: End Inserted Recording]
SCENE 5 (PART 2) THE MINE CONTROL BUILDING, THE AREA FORMERLY OCCUPIED BY THE MINE’S IT DEPARTMENT
[The scene is the same as in Part 1]
KATHY: Okay, so we don’t know if Hollister was seeing things. I don’t have a reason to doubt him outright, but no one backed him up either. Could also have been a trick of the light, but then a few others mentioned seeing something similar at different times in two other recordings taken in the antechamber, probably from that same day.
INDIRA: Also we analysed the footage for blue light reflections off surfaces in shot at the time and found none, so there’s that.
KATHY: Right, so there’s a bit of maybe yes, maybe no there. We’ll continue looking and see if any other files report anything, or another camera that was operating at the same time had a better angle maybe, but there’s also another reason I brought up the footage. Over Hollister’s left shoulder, in the background, you can see someone with a camera looking right in the same direction he was. The guy gives no reaction. He doesn’t back up what Hollister was saying. And if he believes Hollister was mistaken he doesn’t bring it up or respond either. He’s just…there.
And that guy? He’s crew member 88. We’ve identified him as Johann Mueller. He’s a member of Nabonidus Xenotech, but we don’t have a single file from him. If you keep watching the footage you’ll watch Hollister talk for about another six minutes and then Mueller leaves the chamber and heads back towards the surface.
We have no idea what this signifies yet, but it’s the only record we have of Mueller. His personal logs have not synced with the system and we’ve been through enough data now that I’m almost certain. I’ve forwarded the details to Barnes and Captain Francis, but they’ve got their hands full with the search. I’m going to check Mueller’s quarters later. Barnes did suggest that I request his personnel file be forwarded on in case there’s something relevant there, so I’ve added the appropriate request paperwork to the memos folder to go to you.
I know this is a hunch born of an anomaly, Ms Connelly, but I can’t shake it. 88 missing people. Only 87 sets of personal logs. Something doesn’t sit quite right.
Well, I suppose that’s it from the…Data…Review team?
INDIRA: I take it back, doesn’t work.
KATHY: Data…investigation team out.
[Computer Chime: End Report]
COMPUTER VOICE: End Status Report 1.
[Computer Chime: End Status Report]
[Theme Music begins]
COMPUTER ANNOUNCEMENT: This episode of Among the Stars and Bones featured the voices of:
JULIA: Julia Eve as Adrienne Barnes.
CHRIS: Chris Magilton as Ben Kelleher.
KARIM: Karim Kronfli as Victor Hollister.
OLIVER: Oliver Smith as Captain Francis.
SHAKIRA: Shakira Searle as Dr Celia Pennella.
EDWYN: Edwyn Tiong as Remy.
JORDAN: Jordan Cobb as Kathy Winters.
ASHA: Asha Lloyd as Indira Raju.
DYLAN: Dylan Chambers as Gallini.
MAIA: Maia Harlap as Alexis Konstantinidis.
DEVIN: Devin Madson as The Computer.
COMPUTER ANNOUNCEMENT: The work of the Eudoxus Initiative is made possible by generous research grants from our patrons. If you too would like to support humanity’s understanding of alien technology, culture and history, go to Patreon.com/Amongthestarsandbones. For a transcript of this report or additional information go to amongthestarsandbones.com. We can also be found on Twitter, Facebook and merchandise is available through TeePublic including T-shirts, mugs, hoodies, notebooks and stickers. Thank you for listening.
[Theme music continues and then fades]