Gateways: “Calisto Base” by Brian Pastor read by Kate Akerboom

TRANSCRIPT: This story is written by Brian Pastor. Brian is a playwright, whose plays have been performed on three continents, including at Otherworld’s Paragon Festival. They aim to tell modern, thought-provoking works that explore familiar relationships in sometimes foreign environments. They also like robots. This is “Callisto Base”


Callisto Base, Earth Year 2112 (I think?), the journal of Dr. Blake Longbottom


Entry 1: I arrived here just over a week ago. Everyone had to be thoroughly rehydrated after emerging from stasis, so it really took awhile to feel like myself again.

The food is better than I thought, but digestion is a bit of an issue. The gravity here seems…I’m not really sure how to put it…forced? There’s plenty of water thanks to the

subsurface lakes. We can even bathe twice a week! Everything else seems pretty much as anticipated. Except that it’s so damned hot!

For a celestial body that’s over 480 million miles from our sun, you wouldn’t think overheating would be a problem. But between the atmosphere-proof domes and the

radiation shielding (not to mention all the artificial lighting), it’s a toasty 32 degrees Celsius in the shade most days.

Anyway, I should probably try to sleep. Circadian rhythms are artificially mimicked here, but it still takes a while for your body to adjust. Call it interplanetary jet lag, I guess.


Entry 2: I can’t sleep. This lousy heat is shockingly oppressive. I wish we could open a window in this place and get some air flowing. I used the latrine six times tonight and

I’ve had at least two gallons of water. But again, my body’s not quite working like I’m used to. I’ll have to remind myself to see about getting a fan. And some Gatorade.


Entry 3: Today, I met the project lead, Dr. Chamberlain. When I complained of the heat, he offered me a suit that would help regulate my body temperature; but like most people

here, I just don’t want to be cooped up in a modified space suit 24 hours a day. All the drilling isn’t helping. Besides the obvious noise concerns, these machines

generate a ton of heat. Apparently, they can dig way down into the moon’s core. Not sure why they’d want to do that, but by the size of them, I believe it’s certainly possible.

Entry 12: I got to observe some of the mineral-rich rocks they’ve dug up here. They don’t look like much…just brown rocks…but they’re light and porous. There are

thousands of little holes that trap all kinds of sediment: minerals, water molecules, bits of organic material…

Speaking of organic material, they haven’t found evidence of any large animals on Callisto, not even in the lakes. Just some simple plant-like structures and a couple

dozen microorganisms. Not a single living creature larger than a dime and no fossilized bones of any kind.


Entry 13: I finally got a communication from Earth. Just when I had resigned myself to thinking interplanetary mail was actually a hoax! An old colleague was enquiring about

my excursion and wondering if I’d frozen my butt off yet. Don’t I wish!


Entry 14: The joke about freezing actually started to depress me. The heat continues to be a problem and I overheard Dr. Chamberlain talking about how they’re having trouble

cooling off the drilling equipment. It requires a great deal of water and everyone’s worried that the “endless” supply of water might not, you know, be endless after all.


Entry 15: So, apparently, they have to cool the water before they flood the machinery or else it won’t work. They’ve built these huge compressors to cool giant tanks of water

each day so they can then, in turn, cool down the equipment at night. Of course, the compressors are just contributing to the heat problem here, so it seems we’re caught in

something of a vicious cycle. 


Entry 46: I’m seriously ready to go blow up a docking bay just to get a taste of the cold night air. Like, how bad could it be? I don’t care if it’s pitch black and full of fatal levels of

carbon dioxide; if it’s cold, I want it. Just for a minute. A second. Hell, a nanosecond. A blast of cold, refreshing air to save my sanity!


Entry 47: OK, things are beginning to make more sense. I heard a rumor from the wife of one of the drillers that the reason they’ve drilled so deep is because they found some

kind of rare metal down there. Ever since, they’ve been running these things 20 hours a day. The ground is starting to crack all around the drill sites, but the bosses don’t seem

to be too concerned. I guess if you can see dollar signs, you can’t see anything else.


Entry 48: According to Dr. Chamberlain, they discovered an incredibly valuable metal in the core. It’s lightweight and can absorb large amounts of kinetic energy. Sound

familiar? That’s right, the bosses here on Callisto believe they’ve found vibranium, or at least its close relative. And you just know some idiot is going to try to make Captain

America’s shield out of some of it! It could be a very valuable scientific discovery…but based on the tenacity of their drilling, the bosses have other things in mind.


Entry 49: With the drills running almost non-stop, the heat has become truly unbearable. There’s no way they can keep this up…well, not safely at least. The cracks

in the ground around the drill sites are more like ravines at this point. We’re registering a lot more seismic activity as well.


Entry 50: People at the barracks have noticed the problems with the drilling as well. The cook over at the mess hall I frequent told me a story about a neighbor’s dog who

was lost when the ground gave way beneath the growing fissures in the ground, and my new friend Marcus says he’s been suffering from painful tinnitus that he attributes to the

incessant drilling. I’ve expressed my concerns to the inspectors, but to no avail. 


Entry 51: I’ve made a decision. I’m going to request leave to go back to Earth. I can’t concentrate on my research and, despite assurances to the contrary, I’m convinced this

place is becoming more and more unsafe. If the heat doesn’t get us, the quakes probably will. And the noise near the drill sites (our research tent is less than two

kilometers from the largest one) is enough to drive anyone mad.


Entry 52: I’ve sent a communication to my department head at the University. I’ve barely scratched the surface of my research, but I can’t stick around here much longer.

This place is a powder keg. I plan on collecting some more samples this week and then getting on the next transport out of here.


Entry 53: Dr. Chamberlain seems disappointed that I’ll be leaving so soon, but said he understood. I think he saw the relief on my face when I told him I’d booked passage

back to Earth. He helped me run some final tests on the soil samples and gave me a hand bagging and tagging the rocks and mineral compounds. He’s truly one of the

nicest people I’ve ever met. I just don’t understand how he stands it here. This is the third year of his residency at Callisto Base and he doesn’t seem ready to leave anytime

soon. I think he’s a bit blinded by the promise of ongoing scientific discovery and doesn’t seem to recognize a situation that is almost certainly spiraling out of control. I

wish him the best, naturally, but I’m anxious as hell to get out of this place.


Entry 54: Oh, fuck…

Kate Akerboom is a multi-creative individual living in Chicago. She loves telling stories, especially about the past, and considers it an honor to tell new ones that people come up with. By day, she talks about animals at Shedd aquarium. By night she creates as much as she can. Kate is a proud graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay holding degrees in Theatre Performance and History.