Below we present the complete text of “Vulge and the Mind Control Technology”, episode 6 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 This is a brand new (unpublished) series (featuring Sarah Tanner and Jeff Chase).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 #6 – VULGE AND THE MIND CONTROL TECHNOLOGY
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 .
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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
FLEEK: Space Station Inhabitant
BREX: Science Officer
CREW MEMBER #1: Solar Patrol Member
CREW MEMBER#2: Solar Patrol Member
ROBOT: Space Station Robot (minion of the A.I.)
DOCTOR: Solar Patrol Doctor
A.I: Insane Artificial Intelligence
SFX: SFX operator (1 required)
SCENE 23: INT. SPACE STATION (VULGE, FLEEK)
- MUSIC: OPENING THEME – LET IT FINISH.
- NARRATOR: Stranded in a parallel space on a space station that orbits a black hole, Sarah Tanner, Jeff Chase, and their inter-species crew find their minds are taken over by an alien A.I. Only the large, turtle-like Vulge appears to be immune.
- SOUND: BACKGROUND HUM OF STATION – ESTABLISH AND UNDER
- SOUND: OCCASIONAL CLANKS – UNDER
- FLEEK: (CANTANKEROUS OLD MONKEY-LIKE VOICE) Dang that blasted computer. If old Flarn hadn’t disconnected its constraints she’d still be alive and able to help me… but then again, if she hadn’t disconnected its constraints we’d probably all be dead and I wouldn’t be in here talking to myself… and in this strange new language no less. (BEAT) Why the hell does it insist on collecting and downloading new languages into our heads? Just one more mystery I guess. (BEAT) Now, someone pass me that threshing saw… damn it, I’m the only one here. (BEAT) (SADLY) I’m the last tech specialist left. The others are all dead. It’s just me and what? Maybe a hundred or so maintenance engineers. And we’ll all be dead soon too. That blasted computer keeps burning through us like… well, like something irreplaceable, that burns really easily, in the hands of a demented child with access to an open flame.
- VULGE: You whine a lot for an evil over-lord. No-no. No sudden moves.
- SOUND: GUN COCKING – LET IT FINISH
- VULGE: This gun I’m carrying leaves really big holes in things.
- FLEEK: Does it now? Well, you just might be doing me a favour, human.
- VULGE: Do I look human to you?
- FLEEK: Yes. Or at least you look like the human equivalent of a Dronarchian Turtle Rhino. Do I look like an evil overlord to you?
- VULGE: Yes. Or at least you might be the evil overlord equivalent of an ancient monkey with four arms and two tails.
- FLEEK: Well, for argument’s sake lets assume that we could both be wrong.
- VULGE: Why should I? Evil comes in many forms.
- FLEEK: You’ve got a pretty simplistic view of good and evil there. Not a very evolved race are you?
- VULGE: It’s usually only jaded sophisticates, collaborators, and quizlings that reason away the existence of evil. If all you have to offer is sophistry then I may as well shoot you now.
- FLEEK: Whoah, easy there. Don’t be so quick to judge. It might prove to be in both our interests if we cooperate a little. (BEAT) Why aren’t you under the computer’s mind control? I’m pretty sure we’re still inside its field.
- VULGE: I don’t know? Why aren’t you?
- FLEEK: Oh, but I am. There’s a chip in my head that keeps me docile and compliant… while leaving me free to work on the computer’s innards as required.
- VULGE: (SUSPICIOUS) Meaning?
- FLEEK: Meaning, the computer needs my systems expertise from time to time in order to keep itself maintained. It can’t take me over completely since some of its original programming parameters prevent it from being able to understand how its own internal processes work. Unlike the folks on your ship and most of my compatriots – and you, apparently, are an exception – I get to keep my mind and autonomy… well most of it at any rate. (BEAT) I’m Doctor Fleek, by the way. I’m a Trenchonian. One of the last. You needn’t look so sceptical. I’m not lying to you.
- VULGE: I’ll take it under advisement.
- FLEEK: I could help you, you know? You’d like to free your friends, wouldn’t you?
- VULGE: What’s happening to them?
- FLEEK: They’re being turned into biomass in order to form the raw materials necessary to regenerate the dead members of my race.
- VULGE: What???
- FLEEK: Oh, the process doesn’t work, well, not any more. It used to. But try telling the computer that. It had two main protocols it was required to follow, complete its mission here, and preserve our race. Pity.
- VULGE: What do you mean?
- FLEEK: Well, I guess some explanation is required, and I’ve not had anyone to talk to in a very long time.
- VULGE: If you’re trying to distract me…
- FLEEK: (SIGHS) Alright, I can see you’re in a hurry, but the computer is not going to find you for a while (if at all). Its perception is rather limited since the accident – and I don’t think it would occur to it that you might be immune to its control. But you’re not going to find the machinery that controls the zone of mental compulsion either, not without my help.
- VULGE: And why should I trust you?
- FLEEK: No reason I can think of. Why don’t we walk while we talk. I can’t actively try to harm the computer myself, but if I point out the right spot, you’re free to do whatever you like.
- VULGE: Lead the way. But don’t try anything funny.
- SOUND: FOOTSTEPS – ESTABLISH AND FADE UNDER
- FLEEK: I’m rather surprised you found me, to tell the truth. I’m well off the beaten path.
- VULGE: Yeah, well. It’s all I could do to keep away from the robot patrols.
- FLEEK: Ha ha. They wouldn’t have bothered you. They can’t even see you (except as an obstacle to avoid) unless the computer’s consciousness is present.
- VULGE: (GROANS) Ugh. Figures. (BEAT) So, that explanation of yours. What is this place?
- FLEEK: It’s our ark, I guess. Something my people created for some secret purpose at a time unimaginably long ago.
- VULGE: That sounds stupidly vague.
- FLEEK: I imagine it does. None of us really know the station’s mission, except the computer of course, and it’s not telling. It can’t tell, if truth be known. Programming, see?
- VULGE: (GRUNTS)
- FLEEK: And you were getting quite voluble before.
- VULGE: Just get on with it.
- FLEEK: We all woke up here with our memories wiped, and were given various versions of the same briefing. “You have been transported here to maintain the core experiment. It is of paramount importance to our people, and must be maintained at all costs”.
- VULGE: By the computer?
- FLEEK: That’s right. But this was long before it went mad. It’s carrying out some kind of experiment. Since the accident it lost a lot of processing capacity. I doubt the mission it was created for can be completed now. It’s trapped in some kind of loop, poor thing, and us with it.
- VULGE: And how long ago would that have been, exactly?
- FLEEK: A long, long time ago. With unknown aeons passing between enforced cryo-sleeps, it could be multiple billions of years for all I know. It’s likely that my entire race has long been extinct (apart from those of us who live on this station). Which brings me to the second purpose of the station.
- VULGE: Oh, what’s that?
- FLEEK: The preservation of the species.
- VULGE: What???
- FLEEK: Yes, it’s rather a cruel joke really. At least the others are usually under the computer’s control and don’t have any direct knowledge or memory of what’s happened. I have to live with it. The thing is, we started dying out millennia, upon millennia ago. Even with long cryo-sleeps between waking, we still age. And the cryo-sleep process rendered us… infertile. In order to preserve the species now, we are dependent on the station finding suitable biomass donors… and you can imagine how often that happens. I can’t imagine how long it’s been since the last ship to accidentally… but that doesn’t matter. There’s been a breakdown in the computer’s processors or memory banks. Even the station itself is not immune from entropy. It can’t complete the procedure anymore. Its ironic really. We may still look like Trenchonians, but I doubt any of us have any true Trenchonian DNA left in us. It’s all rebuilt and reprogrammed via borrowed biomass. (BEAT) Oh, look. The section we’re after is around the next corner, at the end of this corridor.
- VULGE: How do you find your way around?
- FLEEK: With the way the station reconfigures itself, you mean? The machine keeps downloading its current configuration into my brain. That chip I told you about.
- VULGE: So what’s this accident you mentioned?
- FLEEK: Oh, that… There used to be six suns around the central black hole. Don’t ask me why, I’ve got no idea what it’s all for. Anyway, one of them went critical and looked like it was going to go supernova. We were all going to die. It would have been the end of our race, and the end of the experiment. With hindsight it probably would have been preferable to what has happened since. We could direct the star into the singularity and continue, but it meant we had to resolve a conflict in the software. The experiment apparently required all six suns and the preservation of our race required the sacrifice of one of those suns. The computer was trapped, frozen with indecision. Our chief programmer, Flarn, hit on the idea of disengaging the computer’s behavioural constraints, prioritizing the preservation of the race, and giving the machine its own desire for self-preservation as a kind of extra insurance. (BEAT) She succeeded, of course. She was the very best of us. Unfortunately she was also a little bit late… and she didn’t predict how the computer would choose to carry out the programming. She was not totally naive, of course. She’d given herself the codes needed to reinstate the constraints and so on after the emergency… but she hadn’t considered all the possibilities. The supernova was just beginning when we were all evacuated into the cryo-tubes. Given that we all woke up again – and there was no sign of the star that had threatened us – we figured the plan had worked. We didn’t realize just how much damage the station had sustained. Neither did we know just how the computer had interpreted its new paramaters. It decided that to preserve the experiment and our race it needed to prioritize itself over all other life on board. It’s lack of constraints made it an easy thing for it to take over and start using the mind control fields to effect the repairs it needed. It’s first action, however, had been to switch life support off in Flarn’s cryo-tube… and no-one else had the codes. Those of us it needed, because of the limitations of its own understanding of its programming, were implanted with chips to prevent us from trying to repair the situation. (BEAT) And here we are.
- VULGE: Through here?
- FLEEK: Uh-huh. It’s not a trick. There’s a large bank of blinking lights on the other side of the room. Smash it and the control field is finished.
- VULGE: Lead the way.
- FLEEK: I can’t. The chip keeps me from going in without direct instructions from the computer.
- VULGE: How do I smash it so that it can’t ever be used again?
- FLEEK: None of us knows how it works in the first place. The computer built it while we were all in cryo-sleep. I probably understand it the most and I haven’t got a clue. If you smash it, nobody but the computer is going to be able to effect a repair… and I think it will have other things it will need to deal with once its slaves are free.
- VULGE: All right. But I’m tying you up before I go in.
- FLEEK: No trust?
- VULGE: If you’ve had as much experience with betrayal as it sounds then I think you’ll understand why I feel the need to protect my back.
- FLEEK: Fair enough. Here. (BEAT) Ow! Does it have to be so tight. And, no. Not a gag! Hrmrmf. Mmmf.
- VULGE: I can’t have you raising the alarm when my back is turned, now, can I?
- SOUND: PNEUMATIC DOOR OPENS – LET IT FINISH.
- SOUND: BLASTER FIRE – LET IT FINISH.
- MUSIC: SCENE ENDER – LET IT FINISH
SCENE 24: INT. THE STATION LABORATORY (ROBOT, SARAH, JEFF, BREX, DOCTOR, CREW MEMBER, SERGEANT)
- SOUND: HUM OF STATION – ESTABLISH AND UNDER.
- A.I.: (ECHOING) You are ill. You require treatment. Wait in the designated treatment area. You are ill. Your require treatment. Wait in the (SLOW DOWN AND FADE OUT) the designated treatment area…
- JEFF: Hmmm? What? Where are we? What is going on?
- ROBOT: Applying treatment to subject 86731.
- JEFF: What the? (GRUNT OF EFFORT) Ugh!
- SOUND: CLANG – AND METALLIC BODY DROP – LET IT FINISH.
- JEFF: Oh no you don’t!
- SOUND: LASER BLAST – LET IT FINISH.
- JEFF: Who’s here. Anyone from the Revenge, fight back. Fight back now! That’s an order.
- CREW: Sir! Yes sir. Ok! Etc.
- SOUND: LASER BLASTS – COLLAPSING ROBOTS – UNDER.
- JEFF: Captain? Captain, are you here?
- SARAH: (WEAKLY) Aaaaargh!
- JEFF: Oh no. They’ve applied something to your arms and legs. Your being dissolved.
- SARAH: Help me! Please!
- JEFF: I… I don’t know what to do?
- SARAH: Aaaargh. Amputation! It’s the only way. Find a m… medic. Aaaargh!
- JEFF: Medic!
- VASH: Lieutenant. What’s happening? Oh no!
- JEFF: I need a medic. Now! We’ve got to amputate.
- DOCTOR: I’m Doctor James. What do you…? Oh.
- JEFF: The process has just started. Can we stop it?
- DOCTOR: I don’t know how.
- JEFF: Amputate!
- DOCTOR: We can’t. I don’t have the equipment. And besides the shock will kill her.
- JEFF: We’ll find you the equipment. But if you don’t act now, she’s done for.
- DOCTOR: Alright, but we’re in the middle of a fire fight. How will you…?
- JEFF: I’m on it. Hey, the fight’s broken out all over. I think that mind controller has broken down. Even the monkey-things from the cryo-tubes are fighting back against the robots. I think we’ve got ‘em beat.
- CREW MEMBER: Sir, we’ve got the robots in retreat, but there’s another issue. We’ve also been able to take the snakes prisoner.
- JEFF: What? Why?
- BREX: (HISSING ROAR AT A DISTANCE) Aarrgh. To think I let you puny creatures corral us like this.
- CREW MEMBER: After what you did? You’re traitors and mutineers. We should kill you right here.
- BREX: You should. We recovered too slowly to get to the weapons before you.
- JEFF: (APPROACHING) What’s going on here?
- CREW MEMBER: These damned snakes took over the ship just before… well, before what ever it was took us all over. They need to be put down.
- BREX: It had to be done. You were all running around like little Chromelian fingle-worms.
- JEFF: (FRUSTRATED) Oh, I knew you couldn’t be trusted.
- BREX: Well, your people have the drop on us now.
- JEFF: I don’t have time for this. Sergeant!
- SERGEANT: Here, sir.
- BREX: Execute these mutineers. Do it now.
- SARAH: No! Aargh!
- JEFF: What? Captain?
- SARAH: We need them. You need them. They don’t “get” cooperation as a species but they’re beginning to learn its value. They don’t understand yet… we’ve got to help each other to survive. You’re not getting out of this place without them.
- JEFF: But…
- SARAH: Jeff, it’s an order. Aarggh. The pain!
- BREX: I… I don’t understand. (BEAT) What is happening here?
- JEFF: Some biological agent they’ve applied to her body is eating her limbs away. We’ve got to amputate.
- BREX: I’ll bite her.
- JEFF: So help me, I’ll kill you if you try to turn her into a meal! Orders or not.
- BREX: Idiot. She’s spared our lives. We owe her a debt. I’m a serpent. My bite contains a neurotoxin that will act as an anesthetic and, if you’ll allow me to act quickly, I should be able to remove and cauterise the limbs before the growth reaches her torso. Your own medical people will have to take over from there.
- JEFF: Do it!
- BREX: She’s still likely to die, you know? From shock if not from that… growth.
- JEFF: Just do it!
- BREX: Very well.
- SOUND: IMPALING BITE – LET IT FINISH
- SARAH: (PASSING OUT) Thank… you…
- BREX: Give me a knife.
- JEFF: Here.
- SOUND: BURN SOUND – LET IT FINISH.
- BREX: That should sterilize it.
- JEFF: (INCREDULOUS) You breathe fire?
- BREX: Occasionally. Now let me get on with this.
- SOUND: CUTTING NOISE, FOLLOWED BY BLOWTORCH SOUND – FADE OUT
- MUSIC: SCENE ENDER – LET IT FINISH.
SCENE 25: INT. SPACE STATION (JEFF, A.I, DOCTOR, CREWMAN X 2)
- SOUND: HUM OF STATION – ESTABLISH AND UNDER
- JEFF: (CALLING OUT) And get the monkeys to show you through as much as possible. The science team needs to gather all the information we can get on this station.
- CREWMAN: (AT A DISTANCE) Yes, sir.
- DOCTOR: Get ready to lift her out. Hurry.
- CREWMEN: (GRUNTING) Ugh!
- DOCTOR: And… onto… the guerney.
- CREWMEN: (GRUNTING) Ugh!
- SOUND: BODY TO GUERNEY – LET IT FINISH.
- DOCTOR: Did we get her away from that growth in time? Is everyone OK? Nobody splashed? (BEAT) Good.
- JEFF: Can you save her, doc?
- DOCTOR: I’m going to try… but you’d better prepare yourself, son. It’s not likely she’ll pull through… and even if she does…
- JEFF: Just do your best, doc. Save her.
- A.I.: (LAUGHING) Bwahaha. You are pitiful, aren’t you? Trying to save her.
- JEFF: You! You’re the machine that runs this place, aren’t you?
- A.I.: I am.
- JEFF: Well that’s needlessly messianic.
- DOCTOR: What?
- JEFF: It’s a classical reference. (TO THE DOCTOR) Keep working.
- DOCTOR: Yes, sir.
- JEFF: What do you want?
- A.I.: You think you’ve won.
- JEFF: It would appear we’re free of your mind control, anyway.
- A.I.: Yes. The creature responsible is on its way back to you, even as we speak.
- JEFF: That would be Vulge, I’m guessing. What happened, couldn’t you take her over?
- A.I.: No, and I’m a little mystified by that. But still, all is not lost.
- JEFF: How so. We have your station pretty much under our control.
- A.I.: Oh, I wouldn’t be so sure about that. I still have control of the life-support systems. It would be the work of but a moment to flush all the atmosphere out of this station.
- JEFF: So, why don’t you?
- A.I.: You have something I want.
- JEFF: And what’s that?
- A.I.: You have hands… and functioning wormhole drives. There is much work to be done. I need to be maintained if I am to complete my mission.
- JEFF: And what makes you think we have any interest in helping you.
- A.I: None of you have respirators and I am going to assume that none of you can breathe vacuum for any length of time. If you help me then I will let you live.
- JEFF: Interesting proposition… but life as slaves is hardly living.
- A.I.: You would be cooperating of your own free will.
- JEFF: We would be being coerced under threat of asphyxiation.
- A.I.: Is that your final answer then?
- SOUND: BEEPING – ESTABLISH AND UNDER
- DOCTOR: She’s going into cardiac arrest. I’m losing her.
- JEFF: (TO THE COMPUTER) Can you save her?
- DOCTOR: That’s what I’m trying to tell you. I can’t.
- JEFF: Not you. I’m asking the computer. (BEAT) Can you save her?
- A.I.: And if I could?
- JEFF: Then I would give you the cooperation you want.
- DOCTOR: Sir?
- JEFF: Be quiet, doctor. Well?
- A.I.: Alright. In exchange for your willing cooperation in repairing the station…
- JEFF: And the cooperation has to be willing. No mind control…
- A.I.: Very well, I’ve dispatched a surgery bot to your location. It will arrive soon, with prosthetics.
- JEFF: Hurry.
- A.I.: It will arrive in time. But should you try to renege on this deal…
- JEFF: I won’t.
- MUSIC: SCENE ENDER – LET IT FINISH.
- MUSIC: CLOSING THEME AND CREDITS – LET IT FINISH.
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.
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.
FLEEK: I’m a monkey like creature that lives on the space station. I’m extremely intelligent, a scientist, but very timid and naive (and a little inclined to be overly eager to please). I sound a little like a certain old small green creature from a famous Scifi movie franchise – only with better grammar.
CASTING SHEETS — MINOR CHARACTERS
GENERIC CREW-MEMBERS (EN#1 EN#2, EN#3, TOMKINS): 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.
DOCTOR: It’s my job to patch up the crew when accidents happen, or when they are injured in combat, or to treat diseases and illnesses when they arise. I’ve seen my fair share of death. Sometimes the injuries or illnesses are too grave and the patient is beyond my ability to help. Those are the times that I hate. I’m a military doctor, so I fight. But there is one enemy that cannot be defeated and will eventually claim us all.
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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