ptahrrific: Cecil and Carlos with science in the dark (night vale)
Erin Ptah ([personal profile] ptahrrific) wrote2013-08-29 12:25 pm

Welcome to Night Vale | Cecil/Carlos, ensemble | PG | Welcome to Night Vale

Title: He Says He Is An Oceanographer (2/5?)
Fandom: Welcome to Night Vale
Characters/Pairings: Cecil/Carlos, scientists, assorted Night Vale residents
Rating: PG for some dead animals
Disclaimer: Night Vale and everything related are the property of Commonplace Books.

Oceanographer Carlos is going through teammates at an annoyingly fast rate, but he can't help being drawn back to the weird, weird sea. Which is good, because it misses him when he's gone. And he's on the verge of figuring that out.

Part 1 | AO3 Mirror




A brief update on the strange, multicolored bloom of algae that has completely eclipsed the sun over our little town. John Peters (you know, the flatfish?) called in to let me know that it has begun dropping small creatures down through the water. Starfish, anchovies, the occasional sea turtle, at least one otter. Most of them would be able to swim away unharmed, except that they all appear to be dead, so they can do nothing but fall to the sea floor.

On second thought, 'dropping' is probably a misleading term. It implies that these bodies are being gently released into the water, to drift downward, buoyant, gently bobbing with the undersea currents, until they come to their eventual resting place. The Glow Bloom is really more 'spewing' small creatures. Or perhaps 'firing'.

The point is, be careful on your commute today!

Several members of the Sheriff's secret police, specifically those members with sturdy carapaces, have tried to ask the Glow Bloom questions, swimming up as close to it as they can get before choking on deadly, anoxic water that is reported to taste like vanilla. So far, the Glow Bloom has not answered.

THE GLOW BLOOM DOES NOT NEED TO CONVERSE WITH US. IT HAS NO NEED FOR PUNY MARINE COMMUNICATION. THE GLOW BLOOM SIMPLY IS.

ALL HAIL THE MIGHTY GLOW BLOOM.

ALL HAIL.


~~~


Carlos knocked back another gulp of coffee and gazed out his window. The sky over Ocean Bluffs was dark and forbidding, and the radio had warned this morning that it wasn't safe to take a boat out, but he couldn't help missing it anyway.

He missed his original team, too. They had gone down to the Ocean Bluffs archives to look up the history of StrexCorp drilling, and the next thing Carlos knew he had gotten emails from both Kendra and Alex announcing they had given up on finding meaningful results in this area and were moving on. When he contacted the university back home to complain, they just sent him a dozen applications and told him to take his pick of replacements.

The new team he had settled on, Gwen and Rashid, were currently assigned to re-testing Carlos' water samples. Not because he thought they would find anything new, but because they might as well get used to the fact that nothing from the local marine ecology made sense.

And Carlos himself had been going over Kendra's sonar data for hours, with no results except a headache.

As soon as it was a reasonable hour for a lunch break, Carlos fled the rented lab and took a walk in the gloomy weather. He didn't aim for anywhere in particular, although he wouldn't have minded stumbling on a restaurant that wasn't filled with the smell of rotting fish. That odor was so hard to get out of lab coats.

It shouldn't have been a surprise that his feet carried him down to the docks.

Most of his underwater pictures kept coming out badly, but the sheer entertainment of diving meant he always looked forward to going back in. If scientific analysis was a constant struggle in this region, scientific observation was as easy and enjoyable as ever. And there was so very much still to be observed.

For example: the red tide currently washing in along a broad swath of the shoreline.

Carlos took a stroll along the white sand, as far back as possible from the line of foam traced by the farthest reaches of waves. Not all red algal blooms were dangerous, but this one clearly was, to judge by the bodies that lined the shore: a four-foot smooth-hound shark, an olive ridley sea turtle, a couple of mackerels, some smaller fish that he'd have to get closer to identify.

The National Ocean Service would have to be notified. Carlos followed their updates religiously, and, in a worrying oversight, they hadn't mentioned anything about harmful algal blooms in this area. An unwarned local population could be in danger.

At the same time, part of him was relieved to have some clear evidence that the water was hazardous. If the measure of oxygen in the ocean was going to keep coming up as zero, it had no right to keep containing so many healthy-looking fish. Good to see a few of them display the normal reaction to deadly hypoxic conditions.

...If it was algae-related hypoxic conditions that had killed them. He would have to go back to the lab and retrieve the necessary equipment to collect a specimen safely.

On his way back towards town, Carlos turned to get one more look at the tide. The hues of the algae involved were dispersed in patches, some a rusty red, some more pinkish, some almost purple...and some....

He shook his head to clear it. When he looked again, the colors were within the normal range of algae, and certainly within the normal range of the light spectrum visible to humans. The dimness must have been playing tricks on his eyes.

For some reason, in spite of all the cautionary evidence, he didn't worry for a minute about the sea creatures out by the trench and the reef. As if he was already sure they would be fine.


~~~


Sorry about that, listeners! I seem to have blacked out for, or at least lost my memories of, the past few minutes. Or maybe a few hours. It's hard to tell, being as how time is an illusion created by the government and all.

I would ask Intern Shelly, but she is nowhere to be found. If anyone runs across a lost, disoriented, and/or unconscious smooth-hound shark wearing public broadcasting ID tags, please direct her gently back to this grotto.

In any case, the Glow Bloom appears to have moved on, leaving nothing but several hundred animal corpses behind. And, now that it's gone, you know, I sort of miss it. Sure, we had to dodge missiles of dead flesh being spat at us from the surface, and they have left a trail of destruction in their wake, but the colors were pretty, weren't they? Whereas the sky above the surface is grey and cloudy today, making everything down here feel grey and cloudy too.

Or maybe that's just because Carlos hasn't visited today.

Carlos! Sweet Carlos! What could be keeping him? Listeners, if you have any news, any news at all, I implore you: please, whisper it into the potted kelp that mysteriously appeared in your living room even though no one can remember buying it. The Sheriff's secret police will hear you, and, if they have any hearts nestled within their stony carapaces, pass the word on.


~~~


"I'm telling you, Carlos, I don't know how your pictures could have come out so badly," said Gwen's voice over the radio, this time with her in the depths and Carlos listening topside. "This is beautiful, clear water. Maybe you've had trouble with the camera settings."

"Maybe," said Carlos distractedly. "The fish are okay, though, right?"

"All the fish I've seen are fine," Gwen assured him. "The plants and anemones look perfectly healthy too."

"What about an octopus? Any sign of that?" Not that Carlos had any logical reason to worry about the octopus in particular. It was an offhand question, nothing more.

"No octopus. Sorry. Although...ooh, you guys are going to love this. I think I see a couple of seals!"

An electric shock ran through Carlos. "Seals? Get pictures. Can you identify the species?" Once upon a time, the Caribbean Monk Seal had been native to this area...but the last recorded sighting of one was in 1952, and a few years go they had been officially declared extinct. What a find it would be if they discovered a live one!

"Unsure," said Gwen. The static crackled even more thickly around her words. "Can't get [...] scale from here. Dark head, spotted pelt, [...] with dark patches [...] growth, on the head, similar [...] hooded seal [...]"

"Did she say hooded seal?" echoed Rashid, whose own research concentrated on marine biology. "That can't be right. Those are native to the Arctic."

Carlos nodded. What if they had a genuinely new species on their hands? "Gwen, you're breaking up. Can you confirm if you have photos? Photos of these mysterious hooded seals, yes or no?"

Nothing but static answered him.

"We're bringing her up," decided Carlos. Rashid's hands were on the winch almost before the words were out of his mouth. Together they hauled Gwen back to the surface, and hoisted what turned out to be her unconscious body up onto the rear deck.

"She has a pulse," reported Carlos to a terrified Rashid as they got the breathing apparatus out of Gwen's mouth. "And she's breathing. C'mon, Gwen, snap out of it...."

Rashid detached the camera from its harness, the better to get it out of her way. At last Gwen stirred, eyes fluttering. "Eh? Why am I back up here?"

Carlos breathed a sigh of relief. "We lost contact, so we pulled you up. What happened after you saw the hooded seals?"

"Hooded seals?" Gwen furrowed her brow at him. "Couldn't be...those are Arctic...."

"Maybe you got something on the camera," said Rashid in a weak, hopeful voice. "Maybe we can figure it out from that."

The camera chose this moment to spark, fizzle, and have its insides shaken by a small bang that left it spewing thick black smoke.

"Or maybe not," said Rashid.

"Well, at least now we know why the pictures weren't coming out well," said Carlos, trying to put a bright spin on things. "After we recheck all the settings on the breathing apparatus, we'll go into town and buy another camera."


~~~


It is with a heavy heart that I inform you that Intern Dory has met her demise.

We all know, because we are good citizens who do what is best for our community, that Dogfish Cove is forbidden: to dogfish, and to all other forms of marine life. We do not approach Dogfish Cove. We do not think about Dogfish Cove. And we especially do not think about the hooded seals who are its only inhabitants.

Sadly, our scientist friends — who have returned! — are newcomers, outsiders, and while this is wonderful — especially for Carlos — perfect Carlos! — they have not had the benefit of a good re-education.

So when they parked their boat dangerously close to the mouth of Dogfish Cove, I naturally sent Intern Dory out to keep an eye on things. Not to break the Statute of Secrecy, oh no! But maybe, if our beloved strangers ventured too close to the hooded seals, she could find a way to subtly nudge them in the other direction.

Sure enough, according to Old Merwoman Josie, one of the scientists — but not Carlos, HAIL AND THANKS TO THE GLOW BLOOM — got too close to things we are not allowed to think about. Josie reports that the angelfish saw this scientist lose consciousness, and, before the seals could descend, the angelfish witnessed Dory engaged in a heroic display of defense against their awesome and unknowable powers.

The last reported news we have of Dory involves her disappearing into the mouth of Dogfish Cove, which means she will never be seen again, and is almost certainly dead already. All of us honor her bravery and her sacrifice.


~~~


"I don't think we should risk it, Carlos," said Rashid. "The sky doesn't look too good."

"It only looks weird because you expected sunrise to have passed an hour and a half ago," said Carlos stubbornly. His equipment was all packed, he was standing at the front door, and the only thing keeping him from getting to the boat was his teammates. "Look, the radio said the weather was going to be fine today. Don't you trust the radio?"

"I don't know what to trust in this town!" exclaimed Gwen. "Nothing we've seen or recorded has made sense for weeks now! We get seismic ratings that would only make sense if the boat were floating over an active undersea volcano, the tides go in and out at random times, I can't find anything at the grocery store that isn't coated in a thin film of something sticky...I wouldn't go diving out there again in the most perfect weather in the world."

"And I wouldn't ask you to go diving," Carlos assured her. True, accidents could happen anywhere, not just off the coast of Ocean Bluffs...but when someone had been through a nerve-wracking incident the way Gwen had, you had to give them some leeway for irrational and unscientific fears. "I'm just asking you to be ready to pull me up if something happens while I go diving."

"Well, you're not going out there with us today," said Rashid. "And you can't possibly be crazy enough to go diving on your own."

Carlos admitted that no, he wasn't.

But he had to stop and think about it.


~~~


Here's something odd, listeners: there is a catfish trapped next to the entrance to the broadcasting grotto.

He has no tangible physical restraints. To all appearances, he is simply floating in place, as all ordinary catfish do. The trouble turns up when you try to move him, perhaps to gently nudge him to the side so you don't inadvertently knock him in the face with one of your tentacles as you go in. He is totally fixed in place, solid as a spur of rock protruding from the sea bed.

I'll admit, I've never been much of a catfish person, but this one is just so cute. The way he twitches his little whiskers at you! And since he can't move anyway, I figure we might as well make him an unofficial station mascot. It would certainly be nice if we could get some food for him classified as a business expense.

Since we are between interns right now, I had to settle on a name all on my own. After some thought, I've decided to call him Koishekh. It has a ring to it, don't you think?

By the way, if you would like to apply to be an intern...don't. If you are to be the one, you will be summoned at the appropriate time.

And on that note, let's go to....


~~~


THE WEATHER





~~~


The day Gwen left, hinting that she was disillusioned with geological oceanography entirely and was planning on designing her next research project to take place in a desert, Carlos went out on the boat again.

No one else had come along, which wasn't best practice, safety-wise, but Rashid had a fish to finish dissecting and Carlos didn't want to drag him away from it. Besides, someone had to sign for the equipment delivery they were expecting from StrexCorp in the afternoon.

So Rashid agreed to stay behind, after Carlos swore up and down that he would keep his feet planted safely on deck.

Today the water tests came back as acidic. Impossibly acidic. So much so that the fluid should have been eating through the hull of the boat. Since the hull appeared to be fine, as did the fish and plants near enough to the surface for Carlos to see, he risked lowering a fairly expensive hydrophone down there anyway. A stream of normal undersea audio came pumping up through the speakers.

He slapped on a pair of headphones and ran numbers to the sound of underwater tides and whalesong.

The clicks and whistles and long, haunting notes were downright soothing. For once, though Carlos was getting physically impossible data trying to make Gwen's seismic readings match up with Alex's fluid dynamics, it wasn't killing him with frustration. Things, he thought, were going to be okay.

He even thought — although this was pure anthropomorphization bias, and not scientific in the least — that whatever creature was singing today sounded cheerful too.


~~~


So sorry about the delay in broadcast today! It was incredibly unprofessional, and I am terribly, terribly ashamed.

That is, if anyone is in fact listening. And if any sea creatures other than me do, in fact, exist. Koishekh so far has still been outside every time I've checked, but the rest of you I frankly am not sure about.

The reason I was late, you understand...is that I was checking up on that most perfect of existent non-sea-creatures, our favorite scientist, Carlos. He anchored by the rocks again today, so I was able to creep up awfully close and get a good look without risking breaking any secrecy laws. Not that he would likely have noticed anyway, as he was engrossed in some very deep science!

His hair, in case you were wondering, is still perfect.

I would have been even later getting to work, except that all of a sudden Carlos began lowering some kind of microphone into the water. A microphone! For listening! I don't know how well he can hear when he's down under the surface himself, given that damnable hood that covers his ears as well as his magnificent locks, but with a microphone, dear listeners, he has to be hearing me very clearly right now!

This is the most romantic thing anyone's ever done for me.

Oh, but he probably doesn't even know that I exist. And while I did minor in Humanish in school, it's not like the City Council would authorize me to start speaking it when an actual human is listening.

Maybe it's all for the best. I would probably get all flustered and say something totally embarrassing. Like, hello, Carlos, how's the science today? See? I've been thinking about him all afternoon, and that's the best I've come up with!


~~~


Carlos sat up so fast he knocked the headphones down onto his neck.

Heart racing, he shoved them back up over his ears. Nothing but totally normal ocean sounds greeted him. And certainly nothing that sounded like a water-garbled version of English.

Pareidolia, he told himself. The human tendency to perceive significant patterns in random stimuli. A normal evolutionary adaptation, which did not mean he was losing his mind.

No. No, wait. He was recording this. He could play it back. Carlos pulled off the headphones and raced into the cabin, tapping the keyboard to wake up the computer that was archiving the audio. He could play it back while paying close attention this time, and the random sounds would turn out to be random sounds after all, and he would feel much better...

...or he could have, if not for the error message declaring "Destination Disk Full, Operation Terminated" and the series of audio files only timestamped up to an hour ago.

Carlos played the latest one anyway. It turned out to contain twenty minutes of irregular static.

He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and went back outside to take up anchor. With more malfunctioning equipment and his own brain clearly ready to pack it in for the day, he might as well return to town and have dinner. After some balanced meals and a good night's sleep, he would be able to do a better job of not hearing the ocean ask him (of all things) "how the science was today."

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