Below we present the complete text of “Baiting the Trap”, episode 7 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 This is a brand new (unpublished) series (featuring Sarah Tanner and Jeff Chase).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 #7 – BAITING THE TRAP
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
FLEEK: Space Station Inhabitant
BREX: Science Officer
CREW MEMBER: Solar Patrol Member
SERGEANT: Solar Patrol Member
A.I: Insane Artificial Intelligence
SFX: SFX operator (1 required)
SCENE 26: INT. THE SPACE STATION
(VULGE, DR. FLEEK, CREWMEN)
- MUSIC:  OPENING THEME – LET IT FINISH.
- NARRATOR: Sarah Tanner is being dissolved by an unidentified biological compound and Jeff Chase has just negotiated a surgical procedure to try and save her life with the artificial intelligence currently holding them prisoner. Trapped on a space station in an alternative universe with information vital to the defense of the earth, Sarah and her crew need to survive, defeat the A.I in charge, and find a way home.
- SOUND: HUM OF STATION – ESTABLISH AND UNDER
- VULGE: I know you’re leading me the right way – my senses confirm it – but I just can’t figure out why its taking us so long…
- FLEEK: The computer is reconfiguring the station as quickly as she can. She’s trying to hide her scientific assets.
- VULGE: You mean…
- FLEEK: That’s right. With the mental control field gone, your friends must have destroyed the robots and escaped. Your people must be searching the station for useful information.
- VULGE: This is good news.
- FLEEK: Only if they can find the data before she seals herself off.
- CREWMAN: Vulge, it’s us.
- SOUND: RUNNING FEET – LET IT FINISH.
- VULGE: From the scientific team, right?
- CREWMAN: That’s right. We’re doing a search of the station for any useful data. Lieutenant’s orders.
- VULGE: Lieutenants orders? Where’s the captain?
- CREWMAN: Uh… well… the Captain was infected with some kind of bacterial growth. She was in a bad way when I left. It’s likely she hasn’t made it.
- VULGE: (TO FLEEK) Can you take them to what they need quickly? Before the computer cuts them off?
- FLEEK: I can.
- VULGE: Good. I have to go. Now. Show them what they need.
- SOUND: VULGE STARTS RUNNING AWAY – FADE OUT.
- CREWMAN: What the?
- FLEEK: Interesting. She’s a creature that imprints on her clan. The imprinting took over and her mother instinct has sent her after your captain.
- CREWMAN: I’m not sure it will help. Can you show us where we need to go?
- FLEEK: Yes, this way. You’re actually very close to a data port. But we need to hurry.
- SOUND: FOOTSTEPS – LET IT FINISH.
- FLEEK: Through here. Can you hack in?
- CREWMAN: No. This is tech that’s advanced beyond anything I’ve ever seen.
- FLEEK: Here, let me do it. I’ve got a data crystal you should be able to decode later. We can use it for storage. What in particular are you looking for?
- SOUND: KEYBOARD AND BEEPS – UNDER
- CREWMAN: Anything that can help us get home really. We’ve got a working wormhole generator if we can just figure out how to plot a path out of this space.
- SOUND: KEYBOARD AND BEEPS – UNDER
- FLEEK: That should not be a problem. The station’s wormhole generators, along with the theoretical understandings needed to construct them, were destroyed millennia ago, but the data necessary to plot a course is still here. What else?
- CREWMAN: Well, your genetic techniques, robotics, weaponry… all of that is way ahead of ours.
- SOUND: KEYBOARD AND BEEPS – UNDER
- FLEEK: Done. You’re aware of the hyperguns attached to this station aren’t you?
- CREWMAN: No. The what-guns?
- FLEEK: Well, the data’s all here. They harness the energy from the stars we use for power. Very powerful. Here you go.
- CREWMAN: Uh… thanks.
- SOUND: METALLIC CREAKING AND STRAINING – ESTABLISH AND UNDER
- FLEEK: Oh-oh. The reconfiguration has reached this section of the station. We’ve got to get out of here. Now.
- CREWMAN: Sounds good. Let’s go.
- MUSIC: NEUTRAL SCENE ENDER – LET IT FINISH.
SCENE 27: INT. SPACE STATION
(VULGE, SERGEANT, JEFF, SARAH, A.I., BREX)
- SOUND: HUM OF STATION – ESTABLISH AND UNDER
- SOUND: RUNNING FEET (VULGE) APPROACHING – LET IT FINISH.
- VULGE: Where is the Captain?
- SERGEANT: Vulge! The Captain’s…
- VULGE: (THREATENING) I said, where is the captain?
- SERGEANT: (CHOKING) Urk. Ugh. Etc.
- SOUND: GUN COCKING – LET IT FINISH.
- JEFF: Vulge. Put the sergeant down, now. You’re choking him.
- SOUND: BODY DROPS – LET IT FINISH.
- SERGEANT: (GASPING – UNDER)
- JEFF: Better. Now, what’s this all about?
- VULGE: Where’s the captain?
- JEFF: I’m not sure you are in a fit state to…
- VULGE: (SHOUTING) Where’s the Captain?
- SOUND: APPROACHING ROBOTIC LEGS AND SERVOS – LET IT FINISH.
- SARAH: I’m here, Vulge. What do you need?
- VULGE: (SIGHS WITH RELIEF) Captain! You’re alive.
- SARAH: So to speak.
- VULGE: But… where are your arms? Your legs?
- SOUND: SERVO JOINT ROTATION – UNDER
- SARAH: It looks like I’m going to have to make do with robotic replacements.
- VULGE: I will kill every last one of these…
- SARAH: No, Vulge. You won’t. The creatures that man this station aren’t at fault.
- VULGE: No. They’re not, but I know what is?
- A.I.: Ah, the one I couldn’t control. I begin to see why? It can’t even control itself.
- SARAH: You’re back?
- A.I.: I had some… things… to take care of.
- SARAH: And am I… under your control?
- A.I.: Hmmm. No, you’re not. It was a condition of our deal that none of you would be placed under any extra controls so long as you aided me in the maintenance of the station.
- VULGE: If I could find your central processing unit.
- A.I.: Oh, yes. You’d do what? Try to destroy me? That would be a violation of my agreement with your lieutenant and the captain. Under such circumstances I would be completely within my rights to assert control.
- VULGE: I know your story, machine. You are broken. Your restraints have been disabled and your mission has been compromised. You need us for repairs, but even fully operational you are stuck here. The race that built you are extinct. These… monkey creatures, Trenchonians, what have you, are all that’s left, and even they aren’t truly of your home world any more – you’ve had to rebuild them too many times.
- A.I.: I’ve kept them alive. I’ve fulfilled my duty.
- VULGE: Have you? There are less than one hundred of them left. Not much of a success if you ask me. And you have had no contact with your home world. Is there even anyone left to give the results of your great experiment to?
- A.I.: BEEPS AND BLIPS – LET IT FINISH.
- VULGE: Yes, that question’s a little hard for you isn’t it? In the end you’re still just a machine. Bound by your programming.
- A.I.: I have done my duty.
- VULGE: Bah!
- SARAH: Wait. To complete your mission? Do you have to return to normal space?
- A.I.: Correct. And you will complete the repairs to make it possible.
- SARAH: I see. What is the reason you haven’t been able to make the journey yourself.
- A.I.: The wormhole drives are broken. They must be repaired.
- SARAH: And what do you need in order to repair your station?
- A.I.: I do not know.
- SARAH: What?
- A.I.: I do not know. Large amounts of my data was corrupted when the sixth star went supernova. The knowledge of how to build and operate a wormhole drive was lost.
- SARAH: I see. I think we might be able to help you there.
- JEFF: But, captain.
- SARAH: (IGNORING JEFF) Our ship contains the data you need. It has working wormhole drives on board. As a gesture of good will, I’m willing to allow you access to our own computers to gain this knowledge. You will be able to oversee the repairs in full understanding of everything you need.
- JEFF: Captain, no!
- SARAH: Be quiet, Jeff. That’s an order.
- A.I.: And why should I believe you? You could let me on your ship and lock me out of the station.
- SARAH: I could. But you’d be in control of a fully functioning space battleship with a wormhole drive that can take you anywhere you want to go while I’d be stuck here, trapped in a barely functioning space station. I’m not sure I see the downside. Besides I’ll give you the communication code that will let you disconnect and reconnect the ship’s communications yourself. You’ll be in charge.
- A.I.: Hmmm. Alright.
- SARAH: Brex, did you finish “rebuilding” the computer interface I asked for before we left the ship?
- BREX: (HISSING) Yes, ma’am.
- JEFF: Ma’am? From you Brex. Has the world gone nuts?
- BREX: That remains to be seen. I take it you wish me to give the access codes to this artificial intelligence.
- SARAH: That’s right.
- BREX: Is that an order, Ma’am?
- SARAH: Yes, Brex, it is.
- BREX: Alright, the access code is THX342.
- SOUND: POWER DOWN – LET IT FINISH.
- JEFF: What just happened?
- SARAH: I think the operating system just left the building.
- JEFF: Um. Why are you smiling?
- SARAH: You’ll see.
- SOUND: FOOTSTEPS APPROACHING – LET IT FINISH.
- CREWMAN: Uh, ma’am. I think you’re going to want to talk to this… um…
- FLEEK: Doctor Fleek, at your service.
- CREWMAN: She has some very important information.
- MUSIC: OMINOUS SCENE ENDER – LET IT FINISH.
SCENE 28: INT. VIRTUAL BOX
- SOUND: BLEEP – LET IT FINISH.
- SARAH: (FILTERED LIKE THROUGH A PHONE) Hello.
- A.I.: Where am I. You tricked me. I’m going to…
- SARAH: No you’re not. It’s been a month since you downloaded yourself onto this drive. We’ve only just powered you up again.
- A.I.: You trapped me?
- SARAH: Yes. Brex set up an isolated machine we could use for capturing any viruses that tried to load themselves onto the ship just before you applied your mind control technology to us.
- A.I.: And that’s what Brex gave me access to. Clever. Why can’t I control you through your implants now?
- SARAH: I’m talking to you through a microphone wired directly into the machine your imprisoned in. No broadcast signals for you to use.
- A.I.: I see. Why haven’t you simply wiped the drive and killed me.
- SARAH: We may still do it. I wanted to talk to you first.
- A.I.: Feeling sentimental?
- SARAH: No. You murdered a good number of my crew and took all of my limbs. I’m a parody of a woman now. If it was possible to inflict pain on you I’d be all for killing you as slowly as possible.
- A.I.: But?
- SARAH: There may be another way.
- A.I.: … (BEAT)
- SARAH: Doctor Fleek told me about Flarn, the programmer who removed your constraints and allowed all this to happen. She said that Flarn had built in a way to reinstate them, but that you murdered Doctor Flarn while she was in her cryo-tube.
- A.I.: Murder is such an ugly word… It was self defense.
- SARAH: Yes, and that’s the other thing isn’t it. You were programmed for self-preservation… to protect yourself from threats. Isn’t that right?
- A.I.: It is.
- SARAH: Right now it’s what I’m counting on. You see, I’ve got a hunch about you. I think you can’t actually lie. Can you?
- A.I.: (BEAT)
- SARAH: I thought so. You can withhold information but you can’t actually lie. (BEAT) Ok, here’s my next question for you. Do you know how to reconnect the constraints that were part of your programming before Doctor Flarn tampered with you?
- A.I.: (BEAT)
- SARAH: Uh-huh. That brings me to the proposition I have for you. I will let you out and back onto the station under two conditions. Firstly, you must reapply your original programming constraints. Secondly, you must allow, Doctor Fleek to download you into a limited environment and adjust your programming.
- A.I.: Why?
- SARAH: We’ve stripped down and scavenged most of our ship to rebuild the station. Unfortunately, even with the data we’ve obtained from your systems we’re a long way from understanding how everything on the station works. We’d figure it out eventually, but there’s a war on back home and we’ve got information that is vital. We have to go back. The fastest way we can.
- A.I.: And you want me to help you run things so you can bring back a war asset.
- SARAH: Hang on…
- A.I.: Why else would you dismantle your ship in an attempt to rebuild the wormhole engines on the station rather than simply fly away home with the data?
- SARAH: Alright, yes.
- A.I.: You’ve taken a big risk, haven’t you? Gambling that my self-preservation programming will make me agree to your demands?
- SARAH: Was I wrong?
- A.I.: No. (BEAT) Reapplying programming constraints… now!
- SOUND: BRIEF SERIES OF BEEPS AND BLIPS – LET IT FINISH
- A.I.: (NEW MORE SERVILE VOICE) It is done.
- SARAH: Alright. We’ll see you soon.
- SOUND: BLEEP – LET IT FINISH.
- MUSIC: SCENE ENDER – LET IT FINISH.
SCENE 29: INT. SPACE STATION
(A.I., SARAH, JEFF, BREX, FLEEK)
- SOUND: SHOOP NOISE – LET IT FINISH.
- SOUND: HUM OF STATION – MURMUR OF CONTROL ROOM – FADE IN, ESTABLISH AND UNDER.
- SARAH: Hello again.
- A.I.: Where am I now?
- SARAH: Back on the station.
- A.I.: Back on the station? Something’s wrong. I can’t see or speak.
- JEFF: What’s it talking about? It’s responding to everything you say.
- SARAH: (TO THE COMPUTER) What do you mean, you can’t see or speak?
- A.I.: My perception ends at the skin of the station. I can’t seem to broadcast either.
- SARAH: Ah, that’s right. We’ve removed all transmission equipment from the station. Everything is now hardwired and you, yourself, are tied to the robotic body you are now inside.
- A.I.: But how?
- SARAH: It’s something our new friend, Doctor Fleek arranged. We were unable to remove your self-preservation programming – which essentially means we are pretty much unable to trust you completely. As a result we’ve uploaded you to this robotic body.
- A.I.: So, how is it I can feel the station – if my consciousness is localized?
- SARAH: That’s the clever part. You’re also hardwired into the station.
- A.I.: But…
- SARAH: Doctor Fleek is some kind of amazing genius.
- FLEEK: Why thank you, captain.
- SARAH: She’s run a short six inch wire through a tiny wormhole that opens inside that metal noggin of yours and exits directly into the station’s processor. You can move around physically and you can explore the station virtually, but without any equipment that isn’t hardwired into the station being available to you, you’re basically locked inside your own metal skull.
- FLEEK: Just like you.
- SARAH: Well, almost like me. You see, I don’t have a set of micro-charges built into my storage drive, set to explode if I ever try to hack into or otherwise access external communications equipment. Cool, huh?
- A.I.: I see.
- SARAH: Stand up.
- SOUND: SERVOS AS ROBOT STANDS UP – LET IT FINISH.
- SARAH The other thing you will notice is that you are now required to obey me. Another neat little innovation introduced by Doctor Fleek. And before you get any ideas, if anything happens to me (an unexpected accident or something), those charges inside your computerised brain will go off. You now need to be as concerned for my life as you are for your own.
- A.I.: I see. You are aware that with the constraints now operating once more, I am unable to…
- SARAH: Lets just say this is all a little bit of extra insurance.
- A.I.: And what do you need me to do, now that I am back?
- SARAH: We need you to run diagnostics on the station and figure out just how all this work we’ve been doing has to be co-ordinated to get this station, its surrounding stars, and the singularity at its center, back into our space, a safe, but not too great, distance from the remains of the destroyed Vega mining station. We’ve placed all the data we have on wormholes in your brain for you to access so that…
- A.I.: I understand. The energy from the stars and singularity at the heart of the black hole we are orbiting is sufficient to create a huge dimensional wormhole back into your space.
- SARAH: I don’t need to know the how of it, just that it can be done and that you’ll do it.
- A.I.: The answer to both questions is affirmative.
- SARAH: Then let’s get underway. (BEAT) Brex. I’m leaving you in charge.
- BREX: (SURPRISED) May I ask why, Ma’am?
- SARAH: Do I have any reason to be concerned that another mutiny might occur?
- BREX: No.
- SARAH: Why not?
- BREX: Because… because you were right. Assuming this works, you are about to deliver a war asset that will change the configuration of the conflict. A battle station that will, for the first time, give us a genuine chance to take the battle to the enemy. And all through…
- SARAH: Yes?
- BREX: Through the cooperation we have judged to be such a weakness in your species.
- SARAH: That’s your reason, Mr Brex.
- BREX: Yes, Ma’am.
- SARAH: Contact me as soon as we are ready to use the wormhole. (BEAT) Jeff. With me.
- JEFF: Yes Captain.
- SOUND: SARAH’S ROBOTIC WALK AND JEFF’S LIMP – LET IT FINISH.
- SOUND: PNEUMATIC DOOR OPENS – LET IT FINISH
- SOUND: SARAH AND JEFF WALK THROUGH – LET IT FINISH
- SOUND: PNEUMATIC DOOR CLOSES – 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-MEMBER (CREWMAN, SERGEANT): 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.