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October 31, 2019 24 mins

Synøve Pan arrives at Atlas Station and encounters a bustling hub of deepsea industry. She comes face to face with the station’s authority figures -- and begins asking inconvenient questions. 

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Episode Transcript

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Speaker 1 (00:01):
Follows the production of my R Radio. This episode contains
depictions of drug use in mild violence a second oil.

(00:35):
Most of my job comes down to first impressions, a
little intimidation, the questions, the digging, the hand dirty ng
that always comes later. When I arrived at Atlas, I
arrived as a symbol for decorum's sake. I slipped a
black wool cap over my cranial tattoos. I hid my

(00:58):
neck with a scarf calm collected, evened out by the
basilisk drug. I strolled out into the gladious cargo bay.
Two land spoke security guards in gray and navy awaited
me just inside the loading door. Their communits were strapped
to their chests, police style you dex logos on their shoulders.

(01:22):
One of them brandished a squid gun. The others scrolled
the menu items on his communit's hollow display. He didn't
even look up. Sigh, nove pan sure ambassador credentials. Do
I need to ask you about firearms? Or did they
do that? On the other end, I just have knives,

(01:43):
a bunch of knives. An ambassador with knives. She's a
company murk Jack's according to her name tag. I ignored
her look of contempt and nodded at the blunt nosed
weapon in her hands, or more specifically, at the tape
masked sensor mounted on top of it. Nice squid gun. Yeah, well,

(02:09):
welcome to the bottom. Squid guns are everywhere, and I
wasn't surprised to see one on Atlas. They fire specially
designed lumps of meta gel. When it hits, it wraps
around you like a foe armed bolo, glues you right
to the floor, the wall, or whatever hapless jerk showed

(02:30):
up at the wrong protest scale the gel with the
side of the gun and it melts off. It's the
most popular compliance weapon on the market and non lethal,
provided you don't fire it at someone's face. That's where
the cranium recognition scanner comes in. Tape up the CRS

(02:51):
and you're either a psycho or someone who wants the reputation.
I wasn't entirely sure which category she fell into yet,
but I suspected the ladder. I've seen what happens when
a squid hits someone in the face, usually with enough
force to blacken both eyes, maybe break the nose. It

(03:14):
wraps itself around the head, even pours into the mouth.
That's when the clawing starts. The basilisk took the sting
out of the memory for me, but it still gave
me pause. Director Hoffman says he can meet with you
now or at that work, your choice. I think he

(03:35):
also has some time tomorrow. I'm kind of on a schedule.
Let's do it now this way, ambassador. As they led
me out of the sub bay, we ventured down the
first of many compact hallways through hatches that would auto
seal in the event of a breach. They'd dissembled the

(03:55):
station out of preconstructed modules like a space station, to
ubes and wires trailed through the hallway, pinned neatly to
the ceiling. They occasionally sneaked away into maintenance conduits, but
mostly remained open and serviceable. It felt more like a
trek through the bowels of some giant parasite ridden beheemoth

(04:16):
than a human habitat. There were no viewing portholes, of course,
With some three hundred atmospheres of pressure outside, the hull
windows were an extravagance, so was space itself. The earliest
deep sea explorers squeezed into beach ball sized steel capsules

(04:37):
for a reason more leg room would have required thicker structure.
Engineering has come a long way since the nineteen thirties,
but industrial design, like evolution itself, is a miser. Keep
it small, keep it cheap. The guards led me through
cramped hallways, passed doorways to chambers and offices no bigger

(05:01):
than bathrooms. Dolls, mobility aids would make life difficult. Here.
We passed other uniformed U DEX employees, probably landsfolk. They
walked almost hand in hand, conversed as closely as lovers
in a park. Personal space was probably the first concept

(05:22):
to die down here, so I was surprised when we
emerged into a much larger module. As it opened up
around us, the ceiling seemed vaulted, like the roof of
some unfinished deep sea basilica. But I quickly realized the
space consisted of several large convergent spherical chambers. Stalls and

(05:45):
merch stands filled the space, all of it packed so
tightly that members of the crowd frequently squeezed past and
around each other like insects in a neon hive. They
bought coffee from an automated food They stood in line
to update their communits with the latest virus free dose
of news and celebrity schadenfreude. They gobbled clam rolls from

(06:08):
foil pouches and conversed in tight clusters around shared hollow displays.
It was all the usual surface world crap, only stuffed
into a tighter package, less air circulation. Amid the mingled
aromas of beer, ramen and sweat, we moved through the swarm.

(06:29):
I had to dial down my reflexes the first time
someone squeezed past me, but I'm a professional. Out of
the corner of my eye, I noted two recombined women
in dark wetsuits. They were both bald except for tattoos
of octopods and squid arms, dolphins, and spills of phytoplate.

(06:50):
I noted the lines of neck frills above the high
collars of their suits, the slight ridges that protruded from
their skulls. The one on the left blink dat me
with her secondary transparent eyelids. We passed by one of
those franchise joints where you wear VR goggles in a
massage chair and a cramped bar called the barrel ee.

(07:14):
I was gazing at its weird neon fish sign when
a bottle of pists exploded on the steel wall behind us.
Hi free jack ass crap Jack's didn't waste any time.
He fired up the squid. As the piste thrower shoved
his way through the crowd, she missed. Of course. The

(07:37):
projectile crashed through the side of a sausage stand and
wrapped itself around a pair of hanging skillets. But I
marked the guy. I gave into the urge, you know,
first impressions. I left over the nearest kneeling bystander, then
used the counter as a springboard. My landing brought down

(07:57):
two other bystanders in the process, but I kept the
guy in my sights. Another wet suited worker dodged me,
and I followed the piss thrower into a narrow kebab
shack thick with the aroma of grilled shrimp. I planted
a knee to the square of the assailant's back and
sent him sprawling, knocking three more customers into the flimsy
prefab walls. At the joint. The piss thrower scrambled to

(08:21):
his feet. He was recombined, but more to the point,
he was clearly wasted. He eyed me drunkenly and reached
into his wool lined jacket. I wouldn't, but he did.
He drew a diver's knife. I don't think he'd thought
any further than that. I can tell when someone's comfortable

(08:45):
leveling a blade at another human being, and this guy
didn't have it. He acted out of fear, casting about
for his next move. I didn't give him the chance.
I hit him with a basic jiu jitsun defense, a
downward foe arm strike to his knife arm. Then I
locked the limb, twisted it and spun him down. I

(09:07):
cranked his wrists near the breaking point and pinned the
side of his head to the gritted steel floor with
my knee. Who were you aiming? Poor? He craned his
neck to avoid looking at me, opened his mouth to speak,
and that's when Jack's answered the question for me. The

(09:30):
squid hit the piste thrower square in the belly, knocking
the wind out of him and gluing him to the spot.
I released the hold and grabbed the dive knife up
off the floor. It's the tank for you, pal. You're
lucky she got you before I did. I scanned the bystanders.
Five of them crammed in behind us. Two of them

(09:52):
flinched and looked away. Some sort of need another one down.
Don't look at them before. You might want to cover
that thing up. I checked my cap and realized it

(10:15):
had slipped up during the scuffle. I pulled it back
down into place. I don't want to antagonize the locals.
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(11:48):
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the first step toward building it better you and a
safer world. What would Vale have made of that little encounter.

(12:13):
It probably wasn't her idea of shared culture, but it
certainly filled in some of the blanks for me. Maybe
a recombined person was better off here than your average
coastal region, but they still had to put up with
the same sort of crap. Jack scanned and melted the squid,
then left her partner to cuff the guy. The bystanders

(12:36):
didn't quite disperse. I imagine it took more than a
minor scuffle to clear out a public area in this place.
But landsfolk and recombined alike averted their eyes from us.
As we exited the kebab shack. They whispered no doubt
about the woman with the elder signed tattoos. Jack's led on,

(12:58):
not saying another word on the matter. We took a
twisting side tunnel out of the bazaar and weaved our
way through the bowels of Atlas once more squeezing past
recombined divers suited for deep grid work landsfolk workers tending
to internal matters. After all, we can't collapse our lungs

(13:21):
and equalize pressure with the deep. Here we're the weirdos.
We arrived at a sealed door labeled Atrium Hoffens and there,
probably doing yoga or something. Oh and let me have
Dave's knife. You know his name, Yeah, everyone knows Dave.

(13:47):
She hit a switch and the circular door rolled off
into the side of the wall, opening up on yet
another of Atlas's surprises. I stepped inside onto a cobblestone
path that snaked through a large circular garden. The domed
ceiling overhead glowed with soft, pleasing light. The ferns and

(14:12):
bushes glistened with beaded moisture. Moss grew thick on ornamental stones,
and water trickled through a rocky stream. The occasional tree
reached for artificial sky, but most of the vegetation stopped
at waist height. It was clearly another large sphere, half

(14:33):
filled with soil and transformed into a terrarium space. It
was empty save the iron statue at its center. Jesus
of Nazareth. A pane of water moved beneath the statue's
feet and cascaded over the edges of the pedestal to
create the effect. I heard a voice from the ground

(14:56):
behind it. Yeah, I thought that was in twenty minutes.
I'm in the middle of shavasana right now, ken Hoffman.
He sat up and peeked over a hedge. I walked
closer and saw the matt underneath him, a thermis in
yoga block by his side. His face flashed a look

(15:17):
of disappointment before shifting into the smiley, glad hand expression
I expected. He rose to his feet, A tall man
dressed in starched white pants and a matching kurta. He
extended his hand. Ah Sin ken Hoffman, director of Operations

(15:37):
here on Atlas. You caught me finishing up a little yoga.
Great way to maintain a little right brain dominance. Plus,
you gotta keep moving down here the place we'll get
to you. Yeah, it's also cramp. Yeah, I know what
it looks like. The boss seals himself up in a
spacious garden while everyone else works. But no, this is

(16:00):
a public space. Most of the time. Five occupant macs
to maintain the chill. I just book it for a
couple of hours most mornings. I can I get your
water coffee. Someone just splashed piss on me, so I'm good.
He stared off into space for a second, clearly listening
to an inner ear feed from his communit. Then he

(16:23):
met my eyes again. Oh I see, Well, you know
people are gonna throw bottles of piss from time to time.
You know that with your background, at least it was piss.
Am I right? It seems Old Dave had an issue
with your head of security, interim head of security, And yes,
I'm well aware of the personnel issues involved, but really

(16:46):
it's it's hardly indicative of the general vibe around here.
The flare ups are always going to happen. You hope
that they happen at least in manageably small doses. But
let's have a seat and discuss what you're really here for.
He led me to a pair of opposing benches by
the Christ's statue and took one for himself. He pulled

(17:07):
out a communit, activated a holographic display and scrolled through
several files, as if he really had to check you
were here about Peter Booklan, son of you dex Euro's
Frederick Bookland. We filed a full report on that weeks ago.
I don't think they were happy with that report. Well,
obviously if they sent one of you down here, I

(17:30):
didn't think they had any Epathis agents to spare. The
Bookland name carries a lot of weight that it does. Plus,
Peter is a bit of a firebrand. You've heard his
talks deep seabiotics, hydrothermal energy could shake a lot of
things up around here. Did you meet him? No, Look,
it's all on the report. He arrived here in March
on a v I P sub with the rest of

(17:51):
the v I P s. We logged him, he disembarked,
maybe he had a drinks all the sites, and then
we have him boarding again an hour later. The manifest
says he never reboarded v I P subsurd intentionally discreet.
They don't have video footage, but we do. He swiped

(18:12):
his fingers through the air and swiveled the holographic display
around to show me alone. Jumpsuited guy with sandy blonde hair,
scanned his communit and vanished through a docking porthole. Charismatic guy,
right future, Look, we're not happy about it either I
maintain a careful balance. The last thing I want is

(18:33):
increased drama on Atlas. I'm already wrestling with a possible
Mariners guild strike, tech problems and sporadic vent activity. I
don't dispute the subs data, but if he's down here,
we know you keep tabs on everyone, all personnel. The
Tritons and Narret's too, well, that's a different matter. They

(18:54):
have embassy status and I have ambassador credentials. When can
I meet with them? I figured that's why they sent you.
You really think that Triton stole the guy away, kidnapped
him to hold one over you, Dex. The Triton's already
have the upper hand if you hadn't noticed. They didn't
want Bukelyn. They just wanted his genes, the same as

(19:17):
the rest of the v I P passengers. It was
all a part of the larger Triton genetics program. Their
end of the deal with you, Dex. The deep opened
up unreachable oil reserves, placated the environmentalists with vague hopes
of deep thermal but in return, we agreed to the

(19:39):
gene sharing program. We needed workers who could thrive in
the deep, so we let the Triton's augment those workers,
infusing them with the genetic changes they need, but they
required something from our genes as well. They continually requested

(19:59):
certain attributes, even particular individuals and bloodlines, often relatives of
key you Dex brass, and they were not content with
a tissue swab. There art required in person summons to
the deep. Thus, the specially designed subs for their v

(20:20):
I P passengers, each outfitted with every earthly luxury. Whatever
it took to ensure these fortunate sons and daughters of
the Second Oil Age fulfilled their end of the blood bargain.
Or perhaps you think it was suicide, it wouldn't be

(20:41):
without precedence. You're still left searching for a body. There
are a lot of ways to lose a body. Subs
aren't the only way in and out. Who speaks for
the Triton's down here, Asia marsh one of the encapsulated
old school interspecies communicator. She's perfectly sasonable, really, but I
almost never meet with her directly. You know why, because

(21:05):
she's always accompanied Mary. It's two of them. They venture
out among the general populations sometimes, which keeps me up
at night. Believe me, if you meet with Marsh and
she will insist upon in person meeting for something like this,
she's going to have them in tow. They will try
to influence you. They're going to put all that precious

(21:28):
a path is conditioning to the test. And if you
start flashing a bunch of elder signed tattoos around you,
don't think I can withstand. I don't know what you
can do, but it takes a lot of work to
keep things running around here. A lot of finesse, like
taped CRS units. Is that finesse? Yeah, actually it is.

(21:49):
You want to balanced cocktail, You've got to mix the
bitter with the sweet, and that's what I like here.
Balance caution, inhale exhale. Obviously, I'll arrange the meeting if
you insist on it, but you've got to promise me
you'll keep things level headed. I've already asked Marsh about

(22:10):
Booklands whereabouts and she flat out told me they don't know. Again,
it's all in the report. Who's lying you or her?
I think we're done here. I transferred your lodging details
to your calm via secure connection. Get some sleep, get
cleaned up, talk to some locals, and if you still

(22:30):
want your meeting with Asia Marsh. I can arrange it
for tomorrow, but I'll sleep a lot easier if you
give me that promise. No, seriously, I need to hear
you say it. I promise good. He smiled, But I

(22:52):
saw the worry in his eyes. It made sense. He
didn't want to rock the boat or unbalanced his cocktail,
whatever the metaphor. But it was too late. They'd sent
me and I was going to get answers. The Christ's
statue is a nice touch. Oh yeah, well he walked

(23:17):
on water. Some of the recombined the Christians. Anyway, They
say he walked under the water. Did you know that
they depict the spear wound as a gill slit. I
finally noticed the inscription on the base of the statue,
the words blurred by tendrils of cascading water, A New Covenant.

(23:55):
The second oil age was produced by Robert Lamb, Alex Williams,
Lauren Vogelbaumb and Josh Stay. This episode featured on Joe
Masters Is snov Pan, Robin Bloodworth is Kim Hoffman, Andy
Reese as Jack's and Jonathan Strickland as Salty Squid. Supporting
voice work by Jed Drummond, Nicholas Takoski, Gina Rikiki, Eden

(24:16):
Brown and Bim Bolan intro, outro and supporting music created
by the Weirding Module. Learn more at Module dot band
camp dot com. From our podcasts, from my Heart Radio,

(24:54):
visit the IRN radio app, Apple Podcasts, or whinever we
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