I Am a Brain in a Jar

Between Eris and Mercury

February 24, 2021 Klaus Brenner and Doctor Brandon Winter Season 1 Episode 27
I Am a Brain in a Jar
Between Eris and Mercury
I Am a Brain in a Jar
Between Eris and Mercury
Feb 24, 2021 Season 1 Episode 27
Klaus Brenner and Doctor Brandon Winter

Doom and despair for a woman far from home.

The voice of The Brain is Sarah Nightmare. "RUDDER" was written by Dr. Brandon Winter, "Between Eris and Mercury" by Klaus Brenner. 

Show Notes Transcript

Doom and despair for a woman far from home.

The voice of The Brain is Sarah Nightmare. "RUDDER" was written by Dr. Brandon Winter, "Between Eris and Mercury" by Klaus Brenner. 

Good evening, gentle listener.

Let’s get real for a moment. I’m fading, slowly phasing into another realm of existence. I don’t know where I’m going, but it’s somewhere you can’t follow. Our time together is drawing to a close.

Not immediately, though. We still have this episode, and three more after that, if my calculations are correct. So don’t lose hope. Yet.

But enough of that. Time to see who’s paying the bills this month.

Let’s face it: you’re a real piece of shit. You make the wrong choices. You say the wrong things. And telling right from wrong? Let’s not even go there. If this sounds like you—and we know it does—you need Rudder. 

Rudder is the first of its kind, a life-choice augmentation app that helps you outsource life decisions that you’re too shallow, too cowardly, or just too damn depraved to make. 

A strange skin condition you can’t bring yourself to get checked out? Rudder will take the initiative, hijack your phone’s camera, and send a picture to a medical professional. Weasel out of paying your part of the bill when out with friends? Rudder will automatically deduct the money from your account and transfer it to the establishment, with a five percent asshole gratuity. 

Let Rudder be the angel on your shoulder. Become a premium member,  and we’ll implant a small chip in your frontal lobe to govern your cognitive functions.. If and when you’re confronted with a situation that requires high-level ethical or moral reasoning, Rudder will make sure you stay on the right track. No longer will you insist on driving home after too many drinks. Or use your position of authority to terrorize and extort your subordinates. Or take the last piece of pizza without asking.

Rudder! They can’t fix your problems, but they can pave them over. And at this point, you’ll take what you can get, right? 

Mercury is my home. It’s where I grew up, where I met my wife, where we had our son. But then the Depression came, and I travelled to the only place I could find work, a space station orbiting the dwarf planet Eris, at the outer edge of colonized space.

I watch Ryan recount his first day of school through a small video monitor bolted to my desk. Back on Mercury, he should be midway through his second week. The vast distance makes it so that any communication from there takes over ten days to reach us.

My glance drifts to Megan, laughing. And then grimacing. 

The lights dim. Ryan stops speaking mid-sentence. Megan is starting to freak out, looking around all panicky, clutching Ryan to her. 

Then the transmission ends. 

I stumble out of my quarters and into the promenade. A small group has gathered around one of the monitors. On it, a news broadcast from Earth. 

The atmospheric shields on Mercury have malfunctioned. Millions are dead, even more homeless, in transit to refugee camps throughout the solar system.

The company is of no help, of course. They don’t know any more than we do, the representative assures me. But once they’ve received word of my family’s well being, they’ll let me know right away. Till then, I’m free to take as much time off as I need. Unpaid, of course.

I decide to work instead, hoping it will provide some sort of distraction. It does, at first. Maneuvering a craft onto an orbiting asteroid, extracting anything of value from it, then making a quick retreat before it collapses or burns up in the atmosphere is something that will take up most of your mental energy.

But once back at the station, the news keeps trickling in. Collapsed governments, riots, mass starvation. And those are just what the official reports are telling us. The rumors are much, much worse. Crew members speek in hushed tones about slavery and cannibalism, about market squares where the recently deceased are butchered and sold.

This is what’s on my mind, late into the night, as I stare into my monitor, hoping for a message of any kind, any news at all on whether my family’s alive or dead.

My friend Konrad tells me to keep my head up. He’s another Mercurian exile, one who’s also left a family at home. He assures me the news is only reporting the worst, that we all should be receiving messages from our loved ones forthwith.

I wish I could believe him, but all I have burnt into my mind are these images of Megan and Ryan lying cold and lifeless in each other’s arms, slowly being covered by the sands. These thoughts are all-consuming now, even work is no longer a respite.

As  I sit on the promenade, finishing a cigarette, I see them approaching. The representative, the pastor, and two company goons. My heart sinks. I dig my fingernails into my hands, bracing for the worst.

And then they walk past, stopping at Konrad’s door. As he weeps and wails and falls to his knees, I feel relieved. Then guilty.

I lay awake that night, wondering when it would be my turn to weep and wail, visions of Megan and Ryan dead and cold ever present when I close my eyes.. 

It’s why I can’t concentrate, why I fuck up the approach and slam sideways into the asteroid. As the walls around me collapse, I think to myself, “At least I’ll be with them soon.”

I wake up in the infirmary. The company’s happy I’m alive, claims the representative, but I had destroyed a half a million dollars worth of property and they’d have to let me go.

“Go where?” I ask. The representative declines to answer.

It’s three days before I’m well enough to hobble back to my quarters. I am to stay there until the company figures out what they’re going to do with me.

It isn’t until I’m laying my crutches on my bed that I notice it, a blinking light on my monitor, a message from a refugee camp on Venus. I click.

There they are. Megan and Ryan. Thinner, their clothes ragged, their faces dirty, but alive. I reach out to touch them on the screen, then collapse into a sobbing mess on the floor.