The time: The early 1960’s.
The Place: In a space capsule, Aries 1, orbiting the earth, and on the ground at Mission Control.
The Cast: Terry Archer, Astronaut. Gene Morris, Mission Chief. Robert Mason, Mission Crew member
The stage is split roughly in two. Stage right is the capsule set. It is dark, except for some interior illumination. Terry Archer sits in the capsule, fidgeting slightly. Stage left is the Mission Control set. A clock on the wall reads 0400 hours, military time (4:00 AM). Robert Mason is seated at the center monitor. His sportcoat is slung over the chair back. He also wears a communications headset - and an extremely bored expression.
Mason: (Yawning, irritated) Where the hell is Gene?
Archer: Houston? Is that you? Over?
Mason: Roger, Aries - copy. Sorry, just talking to myself - and yawning. I need some shuteye.
Archer: Roger, Houston - tell me what that is again, huh? Over.
Mason: (Chuckles, yawns) Copy, Aries. You’ve been up how long now? Over.
Archer: Coming up on 26 hours. Whatever you gave me, it worked. Over.
(Gene Morris enters, stage left, carrying a cup of coffee. He sets it down near Mason.)
Morris: Your relief has arrived. (He removes his sportcoat, hangs it over the back of a chair, rolls up his sleeves).
Mason: Yeah, and just in time. (He removes the headset, places it on the console). I was beginning to think you forgot me.
Morris: You? Never. I forgot the coffee. (He picks up the cup, takes a sip). How’s our boy? (Indicates the monitor).
Mason: (Sarcastically) Oh, great. How’d you feel if you’ve been up eighteen hours straight? (he stands, puts on his coat).
Morris: I guess it couldn’t be avoided.
Mason: He was supposed to have a sleep period but when the on-board computers malfunctioned we had to switch to manual control for re-entry. We’re approaching the re-entry window now and we need Archer awake and alert during this whole procedure, piloting that craft. So we had him take the pills. So far he doesn’t show any sign of fatigue.
Morris: (Shaking his head) NASA has redundancy after redundancy and still something like this happens.
Mason: I know, I know. . . But it’s the pills or Archer gets stuck up there. And I don’t think NASA wants that ship turning into a man’s casket, forever orbiting the earth.
Morris: I don’t think anyone wants that. (He sits down in the chair vacated by Mason). There’s nothing we can do about it now except see to it that Archer gets back on terra firma. How long ago did he take the pills?
Mason: Ten hours ago. I wish I had some. I hate sleeping on those cots.
Morris: How do you suppose Archer is feeling about now?
Mason: Oh - that reminds me. (He picks up the headset, puts it on) Aries, this is Mason. I now turn you over to your company for the next ten hours, Gene Morris. Goodnight, Terry. Goodnight, Gene - don’t work too hard. (He pats Morris on the back and exits, stage left).
(Gene Morris sits quietly at the console, reading a magazine and sipping his coffee. All is quiet for a few moments)
Archer: Uh, Houston? Houston you read me? Over.
Morris: Roger, Aries. This is Mission Control. I read you. Over.
Archer: Uh, Houston we have a problem. Over.
Morris: (Straightens up in his chair) A problem? Over.
Archer: Affirmative. A problem. I don’t think I want to go through with this. I don’t think I want to come back. Over.
Morris: (Long pause) Uh, Roger, Aries. Don’t know if I copied that, Can you repeat?
Archer: I said I don’t think I can go through with this. I don’t think I want to come back. Over.
Morris: Copy, Aries. (He is quiet for a moment) Is there a malfunction? I mean, besides the one we already know about? Everything else looks fine down here. Over.
Archer: No - no malfunction. Well, that’s not exactly true. There’s a malfunction with me. I just am seriously depressed right now. The whole idea of coming home s really unappealing. Actually (long pause), I’m thinking of just staying here. Over.
Morris: Copy, Aries. (Scrambling through a notebook on the console) When did these feelings start? Over.
Archer: Oh, I don’t know... about half an hour ago. Over.
Morris: Roger, Aries. (He sits silently for a moment). Okay, Aries - that would’ve been around the time when the amphetamines began tapering off. That’s not an anomaly, repeat, that is not an anomaly you are experiencing. The report I have here says that one of the side effects of the pills might be (reading) “depression”. Over.
Archer: Yeah, well. The report says that? Over.
Morris: Copy, Aries. Over.
Archer: It’s just that everything seems so utterly useless. I am deeply unhappy and feel like my life is over. Over.
Morris: Copy. I don’t know if you should become alarmed, Aries. Over.
Archer: Become alarmed? I feel like I am floating in a void. And not the one I’m actually floating in. A metaphysical void. Over.
Morris: I don’t know if I copy that. A metaphysical void? Over.
Archer: Yes, a metaphysical void. I’m not sure what I’m doing here or why. Or if I should come back. Over.
Morris: Roger, Aries. (Flipping pages of notebook)
Archer: Well? What am I supposed to do? Any guidance? Over.
Morris: Roger, Aries. I am checking now, trying to determine the best course of action, based on the parameters and what’s in the report. It says here “the drug is a central nervous system stimulant which has been used to suppress appetite in persons trying to lose weight...”
Archer: That’s not bad. I can stand to lose a few pounds. Over.
Morris: Copy. It’s also used “to relieve depression”...
Archer: An admirable thing, Lord knows. But it also causes depression? Over.
Morris: Affirmative. When it wears off, apparently. It also says here: “The drug is a major physiological and mood-altering substance which may create a sense of euphoria...”
Archer: “A sense of euphoria.” Damn! I knew I was feeling too damn good. Damn. I thought those things would just keep me awake. Damn. Over.
Morris: Roger. Copy, Aries. (Continuing) “a sense of euphoria and an immense feeling of power.” Over.
Archer: “An immense feeling of power.” That’s just great. Just great. Well, Gene... sad to say, but the “sense of euphoria” and “immense feeling of power” are gone. Wonderful, huh? Over.
Morris: Roger, Aries. Copy. That seems to be how we’ve come to where we are. Over.
Archer: So I guess I’m on the downside of this thing, huh Houston? Should I take some more? Over.
Morris: Negatory, Aries. Repeat, negatory. At this phase, your body’s metabolism needs to resume normal levels of activity. Over.
Archer: Copy. So I just have to suffer like this, go through the side effects? Over.
Morris: Affirmative, Aries. That seems to be the case. Over.
Archer: Gene, what are the side effects anyway? Over.
Morris: Roger, Aries. The report goes on to say: “Possible side effects of which users should be aware include: a tendency to talk incessantly...
Archer: Copy. (Cataloging) A tendency to talk incessantly... Over.
Morris: Affirmative. (Continuing) “A tendency toward violent and aggressive behavior...”
Archer: Copy. A tendency toward violent and aggressive behavior. Great. Over.
Morris: Roger, Aries. (Continuing to read) “and possible overt sexual behavior due to relief of feelings of sexual inadequacy.” Over.
Archer: “And possible overt sexual behavior due to relief of feelings of sexual inadequacy.” That’s just peachy, Gene. Why didn’t anyone brief me on any of this? Over.
Morris: Roger, Aries. It was part of your pre-flight reading. Over.
Archer: You mean it was in that big bag of stuff? Jesus, Gene... I didn’t read most of that stuff. I looked at one of those books and, frankly, couldn’t see the point to reading it. It seemed like so much nonsense, you know? Over.
Morris: Roger, Aries. I’m sorry if no one impressed upon you the importance of a thorough reading of the materials. There isn’t much that can be done about it now. Over.
Archer: (Sarcastically) I guess not, huh? Over.
Morris: Roger. Except to get you through this thing somehow. Over.
Archer: So let’s see if I have this right: (Listing items) I am in a capsule millions of miles from earth...
Archer: ...the on-board computers are out of commission...
Archer: ...unbeknownst to me, I’ve ingested a major physiological and mood-altering substance, which creates “a sense of euphoria”...
Archer: ...and “an immense feeling of power”....
Archer: and those feelings have worn off and have been replaced by “a tendency to talk incessantly”...
Archer: ...and a “tendency toward violent and aggressive behavior”...
Archer: ...and “possible overt sexual behavior due to relief of feelings of sexual inadequacy”...
Morris: Check. Over.
Archer: Is that everything, Gene?
Morris: Roger, Aries. That seems to be everything. Over.
Archer: I mean, there’s nothing you’ve left out...
Morris: (Scanning his notes) Copy, Aries. Uh, I don’t think so... Over.
Archer: “Cause if there’s anything else - anything, no matter how small or insignificant it might seem...
Morris: (Still checking his notes, hesitant) Copy. I (pause) don’t. (pause) think (pause) so. Over.
Archer: You sure?
Morris: (Still searching, flipping pages) Check...
Archer: I mean, I’m not going to feel my limbs go numb...
Morris: (Checking notes) Uh, no...
Archer: ...my hair’s not going to fall out...
Morris: (Checking notes) Uh, no...
Archer: ...I’m not going to get the dry heaves...
Morris: (Still checking) Uh, no...
Archer: ...I’m not going to go blind...
Morris: (Still checking) Uh, no...
Archer: So I’m going to talk incessantly and express some violent and aggressive behavior?
Morris: Copy, Aries. Over.
Archer: I guess I can live with that. I hope I can...
Morris: (Finding something in his notes) Copy, Aries... there is just one more thing. Over.
Archer: Jesus, Gene! I asked you how many times? What is it?
Morris: (Reading) “User may experience paranoid delusions”. Over.
Archer: Shit. Shit. You bastard. You set me up for that didn’t you? You were just holding that back, weren’t you? You son-of-a-bitch! I asked and asked and asked and you kept saying “No” and then you spring “paranoid delusions” on me. How long have you been planning this whole thing, you bastard?
Morris: (Taken aback) What whole thing? Over.
Archer: This whole thing where you get me up in a capsule, get some amphetamines in me and make me into your little monkey...
Morris: (Perturbed) I assure you, Aries, there has been no such plan. Please believe me. Over.
Archer: I’ve got my eye on you, Morris. Don’t you worry. I have your number...
Morris: Copy, Aries. (Getting personal) Terry, I’m really sorry this has happened. I’m going to try and get you down, okay? Will get through this thing together, alright? Over.
Archer: (Sighing) I want to trust you, Gene...
Morris: Copy. That’s a start. Let’s just discuss this; let’s keep talking...
Archer: (Suspicious) What do you want to talk about?
Morris: Whatever you want. Anything at all.
Archer: (Hesitant) Can we talk about... girls? You know, women?
Morris: Sure. Whatever you’d like. Over.
Archer: Despite being an astronaut... a fairly impressive job, right? Over.
Morris: I think so... Over.
Archer: Despite being an astronaut, I don’t really have much luck with women. Over.
Morris: What happened to that pretty brunette a couple of years ago? Over.
Archer: You mean Laura? Over.
Morris: Yes. Laura. Over?
Archer: Over. Over.
Morris: That’s tough. Over.
Archer: Yeah, over. Over for a long time. I was madly in love with her but she wasn’t madly in love with me.
Morris: I’ve been there. Over.
Archer: Yeah, but you’re married now. You have three kids. You seem happy...
Morris: Well, it is hard work...
Archer: Shit. I always hear that. (Mocking) “It is hard work.” Shit. That isn’t hard work. Being alone all the time is hard work. Telling yourself there’s still hope, there’s still someone out there for you, even though your youth is gone, your looks are gone, you vitality is gone... that’s hard. Over.
Morris: I would imagine it is. Over.
Archer: You would imagine. You would “imagine”. You’ve never been without a girl, have you Gene?
Morris: I married Kim when I was twenty-three. We’ve been together seventeen years, this August. Over.
Archer: Jesus. Seventeen years. You sonofabitch. What I wouldn’t give for seventeen days right now. (Pause) I had a one night stand just before coming up here...
Morris: Copy. And? Over.
Archer: Not much to say. She’s a doctor, very sweet, very smart, very funny, very pretty. What she saw in me I’ll never know...
Morris: You mustn’t talk that way about yourself, Terry. Over.
Archer: Gene, I’ve pretty much always felt this way about myself, as far back as I can remember. I never talked about it. Must be the drug, huh? Over.
Morris: Copy that, Aries. Let’s just talk then. Over.
Archer: Well, it’s just that - despite being an astronaut and all - confidence has never been in abundant supply for me. I get by okay, I suppose. I have had relationships over the years. They’ve kinda dried up recently. It’s funny because I had high hopes for the doctor. She seemed to like me despite my imperfections. Over.
Morris: Copy. What happened? Over.
Archer: She’s got some other guy. She just wanted to fuck me. She’s pretty sure it won’t happen again.
Morris: That’s hard to take. Sorry.
Archer: What are you gonna do? You meet a great girl, she likes you enough to sleep with you but doesn’t want to try and make a go of it with you. She’d rather hold out for some other guy who’s acting all hesitant, has been putting her off for four years, even was engaged to her and broke it off...
Morris: Copy. Sounds like a variation on the old “hard to get” routine. Over.
Archer: Really? Is that what that is?
Morris: Copy. Most people - in my opinion - are uncomfortable with someone being 100% sure about them. They probably aren’t 100% sure about themselves. Over.
Archer: We all have misgivings...
Morris: Copy. Those misgivings - those feelings you fight against, try not to have - can come to rule you. Over.
Archer: You spend so much time trying not to have the bad feelings that no other feelings can break through.
Morris: Affirmative. So imagine this doctor, who has misgivings about herself, maybe feels bad about some things, hears you say “You’re great. You’re wonderful. I love you, unconditionally.” Over.
Archer: I haven’t said that. I said “I think I could be in love with you”. Over.
Morris: Copy. That’s fine. That’s a very nice way to put it. My point is, if you were to come on real strong, tell her you love her right off the bat, you’d stay by her side forever and all that...
Archer: I thought women liked that romantic stuff. I thought they sit around waiting to hear it. Over.
Morris: Copy. Women like that may be out there but you should endeavor to steer clear of them. Over.
Archer; Why? Over.
Morris: It’s my opinion; romance has to be leavened with a solid dose of reality. That lovesickness that locks two people together, right at the start, does not last. It’s impossible to make it last because it’s too intense. Over.
Archer: Yes, I know that. Love has to mature. Etcetera, etcetera... Where are you going with this? Over.
Morris: Just that the doctor, although she might have some romance in her and she might respond to your affirmations of love, is probably also thinking with her head. She’s been with this other guy for four years; she’s invested in the relationship, emotionally and otherwise. She meets you and may feel that she wants you but knows she can’t throw away what she has. Over.
Archer: Gene, not to be disrespectful but I am aware of all of this. What are you trying to get at? Over.
Morris: Copy. Just that there is some need she has that is satisfied by being in a rocky relationship. She may not want to commit. If she did, there are men out there who would walk her down the aisle. She may feel their love is too easily won and so she doesn’t believe it. It goes along with how she feels about herself. Over.
Archer: Not too great. Over.
Archer: Come to think of it, I was on the other end of this thing not too long ago. I jettisoned a woman because she liked me too much, right off the bat. Over.
Morris: Copy. It made you uncomfortable, right? Over.
Archer: Yes. But I also felt she wasn’t right for me. Over.
Morris: Copy. Now you’ve hit on something. Over.
Archer: What’s that? Over.
Morris: Again, this is only my opinion...
Archer: Let’s have it...
Morris: Any energy expended on wondering why someone doesn’t want you or won’t be with you is wasted energy. When it’s right, it will happen. Over.
Archer: You really believe that? Over.
Morris: Affirmative. You can’t trick love out of hiding - it comes out on it’s own accord. Over.
Archer: Jesus, that is really depressing. But didn’t you say something earlier about playing hard to get? Isn’t that a trick? Over.
Morris: Copy. It is a trick. But - and again, this is only my opinion...
Archer: Copy. Duly noted. Go on. I mean “over”.
Morris: Any relationship predicated on one partner engaging in a prolonged act of playing hard to get is based on a fundamental dysfunction. Over.
Archer: And what dysfunction is that? Over.
Morris: Fear of death. Over.
Archer: Sorry, Houston - I didn’t copy. Did you say “fear of death”? Over.
Morris: Roger. Fear of death. Over.
Archer: Explain, please. Over?
Morris: Roger, Aries. “Until death do us part”. See? Over.
Morris: It’s just that many of us equate the idea of choosing one person, above all others, and pledging to be together “until death do us part” with - well, clearly enough - death. Over.
Archer: (Interested) Uh huh. Go on. Over.
Morris: Well, while we all have life drives and death drives very few of us can strike a comfortable balance. We either go about - in the case of an over-developed death drive - being entirely self-destructive...
Archer: Or - let me try this - in the case of an over-developed life drive, we keep from committing to anything in a futile attempt to maintain a state of perpetual adolescence?Over.
Morris: Very good. Copy that, Aries. It’s because commitment is seen as being an adult thing, a big step, a life choice. And then there’s procreation...
Archer: Let’s not even go off on that. I can’t think about it. (Pause) Is it nice to have kids, Gene? Over.
Morris: Most times, yes. Sometimes, no. Over.
Archer: Well, before I think of kids I have to have a successful date. I just don’t want the games, ya know? The endless rounds of who should call whom, how interested should I act, what will she think if I say this, etc., etc. I hate all the maneuvering. Like the doctor and her fickle boyfriend. Over.
Morris: Copy. He’s maintaining control by being the less-interested party. Over.
Archer: Yeah. It’s always the less-interested party - even if it’s a false stance he’s taking - who controls things. I learned that long ago. Over.
Morris: Well, I’m glad I no longer have to be part of the dating world. Over.
Archer: (Pause) Gene?
Archer: It’s Terry. Over.
Morris: Say again, Aries? Over.
Archer: It’s Terry. You said “Roger”. I was trying to make a joke. Forget it. Gene, sometimes I really feel like I can’t take it anymore. You know, like offing myself. Like nothing is worth it. Like death claims us all eventually and life is just an endless parade of shit I’d rather not deal with. I get to feeling utterly negative and wonder if I should turn on the gas or something. Over.
Morris: Roger. It’s possible that you (scrambling through the notebook, reading) “…are normally able to experience negative feelings in the context of your life, alongside and concurrent with any positive feelings you might have.” You may be (again, reading) “honing in on one particularly bothersome facet of your life’s experience, blowing it out of all psychological proportion.” Aries - just out of curiosity, what set you on this course of thinking? Over.
Archer: Oh, Christ - let’s see: I was looking out my window, into space and I thought about the light years between objects and how space is not unlike my family: cold and empty. I started thinking about my stupid fucking parents and the fact that they never expressed any love whatsoever for me or my brothers and sisters. My stupid fucking father never being around and beating us with his belt when he was around. I thought about my mother becoming a bitter alcoholic who mentally abused me until the day I left home. I thought about the fact that there was never enough money to go around. And the fact that my brothers and sisters thought I was special because I was the youngest and how this misconception made my life a living hell.
Morris: Roger. Copy. Anything else? Over?
Archer: What do you mean “anything else”? Of course there’s more. Did I say “over”? Did you hear me say “over”?
Morris: Uh, no, Aries. Sorry. Over.
Archer: Goddamnit, you did it again. I did not say “over” that time either.
Morris: I thought you did. I swore you did. Over.
Archer: I was using the word “over” in the context of the sentence, you dickhead. I was saying “over” as in “I’m done talking now. It’s your turn to speak.” Jesus Christ on a bike. And you interrupted me, you sonofabitch. When I get down there - IF I get down there - I am going to kick your ass from one end of that compound to the other. NOW I’m over, numbnuts.
Morris: Gee, real sorry about that Aries. My mistake. Over.
Archer: Damn straight. And another thing, why aren’t you saying “Roger” to confirm you’ve heard me? Or “Copy” to indicate you’ve heard me and you think we’re in agreement? Jesus, what’s the point of being a friggin’ astronaut if you’re not going to use the jargon? Come on, Gene - we’re all on the same team, right? I mean, work with me here. Over.
Morris: Roger, Aries. Copy that. Won’t happen again.
Archer: Thank you, Houston. That’s all I wanted to hear. Now what the hell was I saying? Over.
Morris: Aries, I should tell you that you are running out of time for the re-entry window. Over.
Archer. Screw that.
Morris: Okay. You were talking about youngest child syndrome. Over.
Archer: Jesus, you mean it’s a syndrome? Over.
Morris: Copy, Aries. It was documented during Libra III. Remember? We couldn’t get Chet out of the capsule? Over.
Archer: Yeah - I thought that was a technical thing, you know a boondoggle. Over.
Morris: Roger. Uh, no, Aries. Chet curled up in a fetal position and refused to come out of the capsule. He said nothing he did mattered since it had all been done before. He said we didn’t care about him because we were bored with the whole thing. Over.
Archer: Jesus. Chet? Really? Over.
Morris: Roger. It was quite a mess. The capsule sat on the deck of the Nimitz for three hours while we tried to talk him out. Over.
Archer: What happened?
Morris: Roger. We tried Chaplain Charlie and when that didn’t work we brought in Mrs. Sanderson from Psychological Services. Over.
Archer: You mean the shrink? Over.
Morris: Roger. The shrink.
Archer: Did she get him out? Over.
Morris: Negatory, Aries. Over.
Archer: Then what happened? Over.
Morris: Roger. That material was classified and sealed. It’s on a need to know basis, Aries. Over.
Archer: Jesus, Gene. Lighten up. I mean, I may never be back, right? I mean, where the fuck are your “scenarios” anyway? Throw me a lifeline, here, huh? Over.
Morris: Roger, Aries. You really want to know how we got Chet out? Over.
Archer: Shit - what the hell have we been talking about here? Over.
Morris: Roger. Copy. Okay. When the shrink didn’t work we told him if he didn’t come out within four hours he’d be out of oxygen and would suffocate. Over.
Archer: Duh. How is that maneuver going to work with a suicidal man? I mean, I’m sitting here and I’m not sure I want to come back. I feel pretty lousy. Over.
Morris: Roger. Copy. Exactly. We had to go back to the drawing board. Over.
Archer: Yeah? And? Over.
Morris: Roger. We flew in Marilyn Monroe. Over.
Archer: You what? Over.
Morris: Roger. We sent an F-14 to California, picked up Marilyn Monroe and flew her to the Nimitz. Over.
Archer: You’re shitting me. Over.
Morris: Negatory, Aries. This is classified information. You asked me to tell you and, frankly, I am jeopardizing my career. Over.
Archer: Sorry, Gene. Didn’t mean to imply you were lying or something. It just seems incredible. I mean, Marilyn Monroe? Over.
Morris: Roger. Chet had it really bad for Marilyn. Over.
Archer: Jesus, every red-blooded male in existence had it bad for Marilyn. Over.
Morris: Roger. But Chet was - well, he was what Doc Sandeson called “obsessed” with her. He made us call him “Joltin’ Joe” on the mission. Over.
Archer: No shit? Over.
Morris: Negatory. No shit. Over.
Archer: (Whistles). Who knew? Old Chet? Who knew? Over.
Morris: Roger. There’s more. Over.
Archer: Whadda ya mean “more”? What else? Over.
Morris: Roger. He made me talk like Marilyn. Over.
Archer: Oh, come on Gene! Now you’re just trying to make a jerk out of me. Are you laughing over there? I swear, if I get back there and find out you ‘re pulling my dick I will take a major shit on you. Over.
Morris: Copy, Aries. I am not, repeat, not pulling your dick. Over.
Archer: Oh yeah? So let me hear this Marilyn voice. Over.
Morris: Roger. (In a breathy voice) “Roger, Joltin’ Joe. You certainly know how to make a girl feel like a girl.” Over.
Archer: (Laughing uncontrollably) Oh Jesus! Oh Shit! (Serious) Uh-oh.
Morris: What is it, Aries? Over.
Archer: I peed in the suit. Shit. Over.
Morris: I did not copy that Aries. Did you say “peed” or “shit”? Say again, please. Over.
Archer: (Loudly) I fucking wet myself, okay? I did number one in my friggin’ spacesuit. Oh, Goddamnit. Here I am floating in the void, wanting to kill myself and now I’m all fucking wet and I stink of piss. Goddamnit. God-fucking-damnit! Over.
Morris: Roger, Aries. What about the doo-hickey? Over.
Archer: The what? Over.
Morris: You know, the doo-hickey, the dingus. Over.
Archer: Gene, you butch wax-wearin’ fuck. What the hell are you referring to? Over.
Morris: Roger, sorry Aries. The thing you pee in. The thing with the bag. Over.
Archer: You mean the “liquid waste receptacle and storage unit”? Huh? Over.
Morris: Copy. The “liquid waste receptacle and storage unit”. That’s what I meant. Over.
Archer: Jesus, Gene - what the hell is going on with you? First you drop the all-important snazzy astronaut lingo and then you’re using hick expressions like “doo-hickey” and “dingus”? What were you, born on a fucking farm or something? Over.
Morris: Copy. Actually, yes I was. Over.
Archer: Yeah? Really? Well, you can drop the corny shit now, Genius - you work for NASA. You know, Never Actually Solves Anything? So drop the shit-kicker act. Over.
Morris: Roger. What do you mean “Never Actually Solves Anything”? What is that? Over.
Archer: It’s an acronym I came up with, ya moron. Over.
Morris: Copy, Aries. I know it’s an acronym. I’ve been to college. What does it mean? Over.
Archer: Just that while we’re looking for god-knows-what out here - fucking moon rocks and what-have-you - this organization for which we work is one of the biggest money-sucking black holes that ever existed. And it Never Actually Solves Anything. Over.
Morris: Roger. You can’t really mean that, Aries. Over.
Archer: Don’t tell me what I mean, you pencil-pushing piss-ant. I’m up here, staring down a tunnel, thinking seriously about bringing about my own death. Got it, fuckwad? You’re talking to a man who forgot to use the fucking “doo-hickey” and pissed his pants. And a man who has nothing to lose. Over.
Morris: Roger. You mean “the liquid waste receptacle and storage container”? Over.
Archer: Yes. I was being sarcastic, for chrissakes. Shit. Look Gene, I like you, really I do. I’ve been out to your house and sat around your barbecues talking about thrust and vectors and all that egghead shit and I genuinely like you. Don’t be angry with me because I’m cranky right now. I’m fermenting in my own piss and I want to die, so put everything I say in it’s proper context. Okay? Over.
Morris: Roger. Copy. Over.
Archer: Shit - you’re pouting, aren’t you? You’re sitting there sulking, aren’t you? Shit. Okay, ya big baby - if you won’t talk I’ll tell you what I mean by my little acronym, I mean, I’m not going anywhere, right? Over.
Morris: Copy. Over.
Archer: Our beloved employer, NASA, has us shooting all over space, spending a billion gazillion dollars of taxpayer money every fucking year and for what? You tell me.
Morris: You didn’t say “over”. Over.
Archer: I swear to Christ, Gene - don’t play that game with me. You prick. Over. Over, over, over, over! Fucking OVER!
Morris: Roger. Sorry. Over.
Archer: All I’m trying to say is didja ever stop to think about what we’re doing out here, Gene? Over.
Morris: Roger. We’re, you know, pioneers. We’re uh, pushing the last frontier. Over.
Archer: Jesus, you don’t really believe that horseshit, do ya? Tell me you don’t really believe that? Over.
Morris: Roger. I’m not sure what to say. I guess I do believe it. We’re trying to make life better, aren’t we? Over.
Archer: Gene - come on. You can’t be that fucking naive. “We’re trying to make life better” huh huh huh. How the fuck are we making life better? Over.
Morris: Roger. By finding out what’s out there. You know, intelligent life, where we come from, the origin of life - what’s out in space. That stuff. Over.
Archer: What’s out in space? What’s out in space? Shit - THERE AIN’T NOTHIN’ OUT IN SPACE, COWBOY!! I’m out here right now, you know what I see?
Morris: Uh... stars? Planets? Over.
Archer: That’s right, college boy - a bunch of fucking stars and a big dead orb. That’s all. There’s no fucking Martians out here. There’s no life out here. Got me? Over.
Morris: Roger. Maybe it’s farther out. Over.
Archer: “It”? “It” what?
Morris: You know, the “answer”. Over.
Archer: The answer to what? What the fuck are you talking about, Houston? Over.
Morris: The answer to why we exist. The answer... you know...
Archer: You mean, God Gene? That is what you were going to say, isn’t it? Just fucking say it. I want to hear you say it. Over.
Morris: Negatory, not God. I don’t mean God. I mean the answer to why we’re here, where we came from, where we’re going. That kind of thing. Over.
Archer: Jesus, you really are an ignoramus, aren’t you? IT’S THE SAME FUCKING THING, SHITHEAD! This stupid fucking answer you think is out there is the same concept as God. I don’t care what your philosophy or religion is, it all comes down to the same thing.
Morris: Uh, Roger. What’s that? Over.
Archer: Some things are unknowable. Other things are not worth knowing. Jesus, to this day no one can tell me why Mary Jane Konopski wouldn’t fuck me in seventh grade. She just wouldn’t. You can’t tell me, can you Gene? Over.
Morris: Negatory. Over.
Archer: I didn’t think you could. And that’s my point. Over.
Morris: Sorry, Aries - I didn’t copy that. What point? Over.
Archer: Jesus - you stupid fucking tie-wearing ape. Just that IT DOESN’T FUCKING MATTER why she wouldn’t fuck me. There’s no use searching for an answer because even if you find one I STILL DIDN’T GET LAID. So the answer is not important because IT WON’T CHANGE THE OUTCOME. Not in my lifetime, not in your lifetime, not in a million lifetimes. And this other answer we’re looking for: who God is or where the universe ends or where we come from or whatever - it won’t change what we are, it won’t make us immortal, it won’t make us BETTER. This is not 2001: A Space Odyssey, Gene. I’m not coming back as the Star Baby, for chrissakes. We’re nothin’ but space pagans looking for our daddy (long pause). And why do you think we want to find him? Huh?
Morris: I don’t know. Why? Over.
Archer: Because none of us want to die. Not really. Chet didn’t want to die, did he?
Morris: No. He wanted to fuck Marilyn Monroe. Over.
Archer: Shit. Did he? Over.
Morris: That’s an affirmative. That’s how we got him out of the capsule. Over.
Archer: Holy shit! Old Chet and Marilyn “I don’t wear undies” Monroe. Jesus Christ.
Morris: Hell, Terry - you ever get back there’s some tape I can show you. Over.
Archer: You’re kidding.
Morris: Probably not wise to say more now. Walls have ears and all. Over.
Archer: Yeah, and cameras, apparently. So what was I saying?
Morris: That none of us really want to die. Over.
Archer: Oh, yeah. The death wish is an evolutionary aberration. You know what the definition of life is?
Morris: Umm, why don’t you tell me? Over.
Archer: Continuance. Over.
Morris: Sorry - didn’t copy. Can you repeat? Over.
Archer: Con-tin-you-ince. Continuance, continuance.
Morris: Oh, you mean like “continue”? Copy. Over.
Archer: Yeah, yeah - same shit. Gene, all we really want to do is go on living. Our genes are SCREAMING for continuance, constantly. The desire to leave a part of one’s self behind. Over.
Morris: You mean, like kids? Over.
Archer: Well, yes. It’s usually kids. I also think works of art count as progeny. I mean, Shakespeare had no kids, right?
Archer: Shakespeare, you uncultured fuck. Shakespeare?
Morris: Oh - sorry. I didn’t copy you. I know who he is. Over.
Archer: Good. “Cause I’m having a “to be or not to be” moment right now.
Morris: “That is the question. Whether it is nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune or to take arms against such troubles, thereby vanquishing them.” Over.
Archer: Wow. Laurence-fucking-Olivier. Nicely done.
Morris: Thank you. Over.
Archer: See, that’s what I mean. You remember that shit. And when the hell did you learn it? Over.
Morris: Um, seventh grade. Maybe. Over.
Archer: Shakespeare lives. He didn’t have to go into outer fucking empty space to find immortality. Shit. What a monumental waste. Why don’t we all just fuck, you know, have some kids, maybe write something or draw something or make some music. Leave something behind. What are we leaving behind? What do you think the legacy of all this NASA shit is?
Morris: Well, uh - you know, science gets a big shot in the arm. An increased body of knowledge, uh...
Morris: Umm, new techniques for the fusion of plastics...
Archer: Gene, baby...
Morris: Advances in micro-biological...
Archer: Gene, sweetheart... just stop. Just stop, okay. Stop trying to sell me on the bounty that space exploration has provided. You know what’s come out of all this?
Archer: Fucking Saran wrap and Tang, Oh, and lots of really awesome military gadgets, you know new and improved ways to kill. Why do you think the Pentagon and NASA are locked in a lover’s embrace? Don’t you know about Werner Von Braun and all the Nazi rocket scientists we smuggled over here after World War II? You know about all that, right? I mean. V2s were NOT created for space exploration. They were made to carry payloads of explosives. You dickwad. Over.
Morris: Roger, Aries. You are really getting cynical up there, Terry. I’m trying to get my scenarios back. I think you might still be experiencing a comedown from the amphetamine. Over.
Archer: I don’t even fucking care anymore. To be honest. You can just leave me up here, for all I care. I am SO fucking depressed right now.
Morris: Copy that. Over.
Archer: Actually, I’m also VERY horny. It’s been a long time, ya know?
Morris: Copy, Aries. Over.
Archer: How come there are no women in the space program?
Morris: Uh, there are. There are women in the space program, Terry. Over.
Archer: No, not really, Gene. There are a few women - tokens, really. But it’s actually just a boy’s club, isn’t it?
Morris: Uh, I don’t see it that way. Over.
Archer: Jesus, Gene - look around you. Nothing but a bunch of men. If you ask me, this whole space thing is VERY homoerotic.
Morris: Homoerotic? Over.
Archer: Yeah, you know - all that “exploration” stuff, penetrating space with huge rockets, Titans and Saturns and all that Greek and Roman crap. You know about those Greeks, right Gene? Over.
Morris: Meaning what, exactly? Over.
Archer: Don’t be coy, Gene. You know how they liked their men. And the Romans - what a decadent bunch, huh? And all our spaceships, our space vehicles - we give them these names from mythology, these names denoting war and violence. Nothing about women, nothing life-affirming or positive. Not really.
Morris: Terry, you’ve gone off in a very bizarre direction here. I’m not really able to go along with you on any of this. Over.
Archer: You think I’m just talking out my ass, right? You think none of this makes any sense, right? You think I’ve gone off my nut? I’m an astro-nut, right Gene? Over.
Morris: (Long pause) I didn’t say that. I think the amphetamine has had a strange effect on you. Over.
Archer: Yeah, well - that may be. I still don’t feel like going to Mars.
Morris: There are a lot of people here on the ground who are going to be SERIOUSLY disappointed if that is the case. Over.
Archer: Fuck ‘em. Let ‘em come up here and get me. THAT I’d like to see.
Morris: Terry, as someone who considers himself a friend - it’s time to snap out of it and get this mission back on course. Copy?
Archer: (Long pause) Gene, you ever been to Appalachia?
Morris: Did not copy. Please repeat. Over.
Archer: App-uh-lay-chee-uh. Appalachia.
Morris: Copy. No. Over.
Archer: Well, it’s the poorest region in this country and it stretches on for thousands of miles, just incredibly poor miners and dirt-eaters coughing up their lungs and screwing their sisters and shit. Without doubt some of THE worst poverty you ever seen in your life. Over.
Morris: Roger. And? Over.
Archer: So you think Becky Sue and Bobby James give a shit about us up here, searching for spacemen, digging up fucking MOON ROCKS? What in the hell does that do for them? How in the hell does it help them, Gene? How is it at all important in the face of human suffering and misery, what’s going on right now in our own backyard?
Morris: Roger. But I don’t copy. I can’t buy that we are just wasting our time. I think what we’re doing is important. For the future. Over.
Archer: Fuck the future. We’re IN the future, dickhead. The future is NOW. Look Gene, not only are we wasting our time - we are wasting more money than you can possibly ever CONCIEVE! How much do you think this hunk of shit I’m sittin’ in cost? Go ahead, guess, genius.
Morris: I don’t know - a couple of million. Maybe. Over.
Archer: Try twelve million. Twelve million fucking dollars. And for what? To go stand on a dead piece of rock and chip golf balls into space. So we can find out “where we’re from and we’re going and what it all means.” Shit. Don’t you think that money could spruce up good ol’ Appalachia a bit? Don’t you think some of those folks could maybe get a fucking VCR or something? Don’t you think we could help people with our budget? Instead of this narcissist - and ultimately meaningless - search for some fucking supernatural space daddy we’re all on?
Morris: Jesus, Terry - you’re really beginning to scare me. That amphetamine is some nasty stuff. This isn’t like you. Over.
Archer: No, Gene - this is EXACTLY like me. This is as close to me as I get. I am lonely and scared and wet. I feel old before my time, used up, like no woman will ever love me again. I want to have a kid someday and I can’t even get a date. I hate what I’m doing. I hate the waste and stupidity of it. I hate that we think it’s so fucking important. Over.
Morris: Roger. Hey - I just thought of something. When we were talking earlier about nothing important coming out of the space program. What about all the lives that have been saved by new technologies? You know, artificial hearts and treatment for burn victims and so on? Over.
Archer: Big fucking deal. That was never the endpoint of what we do. Those are civilian applications of what is essentially a military-industrial patent pool. Gene, we only license technologies if there’s money in it. We’re not fucking altruists, you know.
Morris: Copy. (He pauses) Listen, Terry...
Morris: You have to decide now what you want to do. You’re almost out of time. If we don’t hit his re-entry window you will not get another chance. You’ll run out of oxygen. Over.
Archer: (He is silent).
Morris: Terry? Did you copy that?
Archer: I am such a chickenshit, aren’t I? I just can’t bring myself to do it, Gene. I can’t say goodbye to life, even in the pits of depression. I guess I just can’t comprehend the finality of death.
Morris: Terry, I don’t think you’re chickenshit at all. t takes a pretty brave man to stay in the game. It’s easier to quit. Life contains a lot of pain and suffering. I know. And it only ends when you die. But death is not a way to remove pain. You won’t even know the pain is gone. Copy?
Archer: Yeah, I copy. I hadn’t really thought of that. (Pauses( Thanks, Gene.
Morris: For what?
Archer: For not getting angry with me. For understanding.
Morris: Just doing my job. Now let’s get you home. Over.
Archer: And can we not talk about this little incident again? Ever?
Morris: Affirmative. Not a word.