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October 31, 2019 16 mins

UDEX agent Synøve Pan descends toward Atlas Station in search of a missing person, but discovers she’s not alone aboard the automated sub. 

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Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:01):
Following a production by r point of this episode contains
depictions of drug use a second oil. Someone told me

(00:37):
once that history is a spiral, a vortex, the shell
of a vaulted nautilus. It has a beginning, it has
an end, it has a shape. There's an impression of narrowing.
I'll tell you what happened. This is where I entered

(00:58):
the spiral. Gladious class sub automated. The Udex Oil Company
uses them to relay cargo between the surface and their
deep grid stations on the ocean floor. Sometimes they haul garbage,
a maintenance team or in this case me. My name

(01:23):
is sinove Pan. They sent me down to Atlas Station
to find a missing person. I found something else. In
the subs cramped modular cabin. I bowed my head in
the sink and let the tap batter my skull as

(01:44):
hot and violent as the sub's plumbing allowed. It numbed
my mind. It held me over till the treatment kicked
in and found its groove in the bloodstream. It began
to settle my nerves. The fear melted back into something
more manageable. They called it the basilisk. The black drug,

(02:07):
an anti psychedelic of the highest order. I'd packed four
applicators plus two subdermal doses that could be deployed at will,
enough for a five day trip six if I rationed
it out. The water dripped from my chin. A few

(02:28):
streams ran down my neck and darkened the corners of
my shirt. I turned my head and let the water
hit the tattoo on my forehead, one of twelve identical
symbols on my body. You dex covers everybody in my
line of work with markings like this. For my protection,
they said, elder signs something like a star exploding into

(02:53):
a labyrinth. Command insisted they did the job. That's why
I had them on my crown, brow, throat, chest, and
on and on. Every little advantage counts. I cut the
water and rubbed one of the cabin's yellowed towels over

(03:13):
my scalp. I stepped away from the sink, suddenly lightheaded.
Part of it was the heat, and part of it
was the basilisk sinking its claws into my amygdala, a
familiar swoon before the tightness took hold. I braced one
hand against the hull and felt the rumble and groan

(03:34):
of the sub's carapase adjusting to external pressure. It was
still descending, still sinking along its terrible trajectory toward Atlas,
a place that shouldn't be. My vision blurred for a moment,
I could sense the enormity of the ocean, the teeming,

(03:57):
scuttling expanses, the crushing debt. It's the distant dirge of
the world's last whales, singing the song of their extinction.
It was probably a hallucination. Sometimes they leak in at
the peaks and pits of the black drug's influence, sounds, voices, lights.

(04:21):
I peeled my hand away from the hall and stepped
back towards the cabin's lone cot. My equipment still laid
out like surgeons tools, the applicators for umbra, black throwing knives,
my scrubbed communit. Suddenly I saw something movement in the
steam covered sink mirror. For a second, I thought it

(04:45):
was just a trick of the light, some flickering of
the drug through my visual cortex. But there was no
mistaking the intruder. Eight hours into the journey, leagues upon leagues,
into the alien depths. Somehow she'd hidden on a vessel
no larger than a surface tug. I moved in a heartbeat.

(05:09):
I'd slipped two of the knives up from the cot.
My fingerprints on the handles tightened the nanoparticles at the
edge of the blades to sublime sharpness. I flicked my
wrist and let one fly intentionally wide. It quivered in
the bulkhead behind the intruder. Then I was on her.
I slammed her against the bulkhead, forearm against the flesh

(05:31):
of her throat, blade tensed to slice. I looked into
her fearful eyes, and I hesitated independence, ambition, in infinite potential.

(05:56):
The modern world offers possibilities that previous generations would only imagine.
And you DEX Petroleum is proud to provide the energy
for your ascension. Through the use of the deep grid
system and patented Proteus well and subsea template technology, we're
able to safely harvest the Earth's deepest petroleum riches without

(06:17):
endangering ocean or inland environments. Thanks you, DEX, Thanks you X,
Thank you X. You're the flame. We provide the fuel.
You Dex Petroleum, Welcome to the second oil Age. If

(06:40):
your skin is blank, are you even really fair? Where's
your ink? Where's it? Don't worry about your job. Don't
worry about forever. You don't have to. With graphic tattoo tech,
you change your ink as often as you like, manipulating
the pigment particles under your skin, and do exactly who
you want to be. Tribe up with your crew, dragon
sleeves for the weekend, black bars on the job. Let
the crowd know if you're looking for love, looking for trouble,

(07:02):
looking to be left alone. Your flesh is a canvas.
Graphic applicators are compatible with all com unit models and
graphics software. Just press all into the skin and watch
it change. Master your flesh, make it graphic recreation. Graphicking
technology is not compatible with graphic kings. Pro Removal of
our citing tattoos is a violation of federal and international law. Yeah,

(07:32):
it would have been easy. A stiff head butt to
the bridge of our nose, disorient her just enough to
drag her back into the gladious cargo bay and restrain her.
Or I could have simply opened up one of her
carotid arteries where we stood. The basilisks would have made
it too easy. But I hesitated. Maybe it was the

(07:54):
fear in the blonde woman's eyes. The quivering weakness in
her body, and of course I needed to know. I
unpinned her from the wall, pointed to the cot with
the black tip of my knife. Sit, Sit, Who are you?

(08:20):
I'm press a journalist. Your name Tabitha Veil. I write
for the New Humanist, the New York doesn't matter. How
do you get aboard? I stowed away in a shipment
of farm tab mules. It's a big crate. We followed
out of space beneath the top layer of packages. Who's
we members of the Mariner's Guild. They liked my story

(08:41):
pitch and you stumbled out? Just now? What bathroom brake?
Neighborly visit? They told me the cabin was empty, there
was no passenger manifest This much was true. I didn't
think I'd have to get out of the crate, but
my leg cramped, and well, let's have it. I have
what your pitch, the one the mariners liked the whole time.

(09:06):
The tip of my knife never wavered. I drilled into
her with my eyes tight, with the drug pupils gleaming
beneath the sigel on my forehead. She also had a
clear view of the mark on my throat and half
of the one on my sternum. They make quite a statement.

(09:27):
The various symbols on my arms just added a little
extra flare. Old fashioned ink, a dagger, a skull, a
fractured world tree. I had em all from the old
days before my current line of work. Veil mostly studied
the floor, cast a nervous glance or two at the

(09:49):
other knives laid out beside her on the cot, But
when I asked about her work, she finally looked me
in the eye. I want to bring back a first
hand account of Alasta San Why. It's the biggest underwater
habitat ever constructed, and nobody knows anything about it all.
We've got our some schematics and a few photos of
unassembled modules. Hundreds of people live and work there. It's

(10:12):
a central hub for deep work, and we know next
to nothing about the place outside what they feed us
and press releases. Some call that corporate espionage. Do you
I thought I was asking the questions land spoken recombined,
working side by side, even representatives of the deep Myriads
and the Tritons themselves. You've never been there either, have

(10:34):
you my first visit? I smiled? This one was sharp, bolder,
than I judged at first. I flipped the knife around
in my palm and laid it beside the sink, then
grabbed a pair of disposable plastic cups from the medicine cabinet.

(10:56):
I want to reveal the conditions there. We all know
what it's like on the surface. But if the rumors
are true, Atlas is one of the few places where
recombined workers have equal footing with landsfolk, shared culture, even
And what can we learn from a place where a
recombined person is more in tune with their environment. It
won't play well with the heartland because they're so out
of tune with theirs. They need it more than anyone.

(11:18):
You've seen the conditions they enable. She was right, of course.
I had seen the recombined populations of the surface, the
endless sprawl of the coastal communities where the rising tide washed,
the ruins of metropolis, where a swelling population teemed beneath
the walls of inland governments amid those ruins, the New

(11:41):
California Coast, the Florida Stump, Atlanta, Mumbai, guang Zoe, Gothenburg.
Those were just the ones I'd seen with my own eyes.
But it was the same all over a new people
live at the edges of the old, a product of

(12:03):
the bargain you dex made to save the world. It
was the price of the second oil age. I walked
over to my bag and pulled out a half empty
bottle of whiskey. I splashed a little into each cup
and held one out to her. You'll get caught, you

(12:27):
know that. Maybe When she reached out to accept the drink,
I grabbed her forearm and twisted it just enough to
make out the black tattoo on the inside of her wrist,
a ten character serial number starting with the letters r CEO.
You're recombined. Yeah, we both took a sip of our

(12:53):
lukewarm liquor, and you can look at these marks without flinching.
If she were pure blood Triton, she'd be in convulsions.
Even some recombined individuals can experience a mild episode at
the sight of an elder sign. They call it the
Watts effect, the tendency for certain combinations of lines and

(13:18):
angles to induce seizures in the triton brain. Scientists claim
it's some kind of photosensitive epilepsy. The legacy of a
species long adapted to an undersea world in its own
mysterious architecture. But then again, I've heard supernatural explanations as well.

(13:38):
Pick your poison. I guess yeah, we're all different, you know.
Part of the human condition birth is obscure, and men
are like rivers whose origins are often unknown. What's that
from the Mahaparata? What happens now? I'm just a passenger.

(14:02):
They're not paying me to deal with stowaways. As long
as you don't get in my way, you're not my problem.
I downed the rest of my whiskey and tossed the
cup in the sink. I considered dragging her into the
cargo hold anyway, it would have simplified things, but we
were still eighteen hours from our destination. Maybe I wanted

(14:25):
the company, the sound of some one else's voice. I
figured i'd probably hand her over once we arrived. But
for now, what's your business on Atlas Station? A missing
person's case? Who goes missing on the bottom of the sea,
some one who should have known better. For now, she

(14:49):
was another way to distract myself from the weight of
my destination. Atlas Station, threshold of the Triton Kingdom, the
bottom of the World, m M m m H. The

(15:29):
second oil Age was produced by Robert Lamb, Alex wood S,
Lauren Vogelbaum, and Josh Stank. This episode featured en Jo
Masters as Sinov Pond and Lauren Vogelbaum as Tabitha Veil.
Supporting voice work by Annie Reese, Matt Frederick, Ben Bolan,
Alexander Williams, Alison louder Milk, and Sebastian Lamb intro outro,

(15:51):
and supporting music created by the Weirding Module. Learn more
at Modules dot band camp dot com. Music for the
graphing Media segment Fourth Way by a Lith provided by
King de Luxe Records. Learn more at King de Luxe
dot c A form more podcasts from iart Radio, visit

(16:33):
the irt radio app, Apple Podcasts or winning listener to
your favorite shows
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