Episode 2: “Sprites”

 *scene opens in the engine room of the Phantom Star.  It is larger than the bridge, perhaps large enough to hold twelve full sized adults comfortably, and about two stories tall.  Tai and Tea are in the room working.  Tea is studying a monitor, tapping at the controls occasionally and looking very frustrated.  Tai is watching her, leaning against a console in the center of the room.


Tea:    Where is it?


Tai:      Maybe we should take a breather Tea, it’s been six hours – and we aren’t going to get anywhere if we’re too tired to think straight.


Tea:    It’s got to be here somewhere... what am I missing?


*Tea casts a restless look around the room and realizes that Tai isn’t working.


Tea:    And what do you think you’re doing?  Get back to work!


Tai:      Tea, this is stupid.  Go get something to eat or something.


Tea:    (turning back to the console) do what you want; I’m going to find this problem.


*Tai sighs reluctantly and reaches down to pick up an abandoned tool, he goes to the far wall and removes an access panel, then begins working once more.  There are a few moments of silence – only engine room noise is heard.


Tea:    What the-?  Tai, were you adjusting the intake valves earlier?


Tai:      No.  I don’t touch anything in here unless you make me...


Tea:    (glaring at him) well, someone must have, because the primary coil is out of alignment.


Tai:      There are coils in our intake valves?


Tea:    There are coils in the mechanism that operates our intake valves.   And that isn’t the point!


Tai:      (flinching slightly) And what is the point?


Tea:    Those coils are out of alignment – I didn’t do it and you didn’t do it.  (pauses a moment in thought, and then hits her right fist against her left palm and strides purposefully toward the door.  Muttering) That does it!  I’ve about had it with that little vagabond... I’m gonna...  


*Tai intercepts her just before the door, holding an arm out in front of her.


Tai:      Where are you going?


Tea:    To find the brat!


Tai:      Tad?  What for?


Tea: (visibly grinding teeth) Because I didn’t touch them, and you didn’t touch them.  So that leaves our “ops officer” as the most likely suspect.  I swear that kid is gonna drive me crazy.


*Tea tries to storm off again, but Tai still won’t let her through.


Tai:      How do you know those coils didn’t fall out of alignment on their own?  It happens.


Tea:    After all of three weeks in space?  Not likely. (beat) Let me go Tai.


Tai:      (stepping completely in front of her) Why don’t we take a look at the intake system first?  Before we cut off any heads?  If it looks like someone messed with them, we’ll take it up with Soto.  He’s still monitoring most of Tad’s work.


*Tea complies, though she is grumbling.  She heads to the far left corner of the room, behind the engine, and drops down to a crouch, pulling off a section of paneling and pulling out a tool from her belt.  Tai follows behind her, snatching his own tool belt off the floor.  A moment later Tea pulls out spitting mad.


Tai:      What is it? (tries to lean in to take a closer look)  It can’t be that bad.


Tea:    It’s missing!


Tai:      (taken back) What?


Tea:    M-I-S-S-I-N-G.  Missing!  Still think it “fell out” on its own?


Tai:     (rubbing the back of his neck) I guess not.


Tea:    (Pushing past him) That kid is dead!


Tai:      (overcoming his shock to grab her) Look, I know you don’t like him.  But why would he snatch the intake coils?


Tea:    Because he’s a brat!  He’s trying to make my life miserable.


Tai:      (eyeing her strangely) What’s gotten into you recently?  I mean, you’ve always been uptight, but this is just         stupid.


Tea:    Tai – shut up.


Tai:      Look, all I’m saying is that maybe you should ask him about it before you call in the firing squad, alright.  Even if he did take them, he might have a good reason.


Tea:    (skeptical, but calmer) There is no good reason to remove components of the operating system from the engine room while the ship is still running.  It could cause the engine temp to go critical.


Tai:      And blowing up the ship is bad.  I agree.  But he’s still learning.  If he did take them, we’ll just explain the situation to him and he won’t make the same mistake again.


Tea:    I’m not a babysitter, and I’m not a teacher.  And I’m not going to put up with this.


 Tai:     (moving behind her to guide her by both shoulders) Talking first, killing later – trust me on this one.




*Tea, Tai, Soto, Ken, and Kat are in conference.


Tea:    Over the last two days we have lost five components!  Three of them from the engines.


Ken:    Theory?


Tai:      We believe that something must be removing them, sir.


Ken:    (eyes darting to him, narrowed) You think someone stole them?


Soto:   For what purpose?  It is not as though we have a thriving black market on board.


Tai:      We realize that, however -


Tea:    Those parts didn’t remove themselves.


Ken:    And who do you think did?


Tea:    Isn’t it obvious?


Ken:    (giving her a stern look) No.


Tea:    There are only 7 of us, Captain.  It has to be someone.  You wouldn’t sabotage your own ship. And Tai and I would just be making more work for ourselves... I hardly think that Romi is collecting random parts, and we all know it wasn’t Kat or Soto –


Ken:    (eyes narrowing dangerously) You think it’s Tad?


Tea:    He’s the only one left!


Soto:   Again, what reason would he have to do this?  Allowing that he even had the opportunity?  As you will recall Mr. Arishima spends a great deal of his time under my supervision.


Tea:    (through clenched teeth) I’m telling you there isn’t anyone else!


Ken:    That’s enough. I trust everyone on my ship (glances meaningfully at Tea) everyone.  Katsumi and I will discuss your concerns and begin an investigation.  But you will pursue this no further.  Understood?


Tea:    (clearly unhappy) Yes, sir.


Ken:    Good.  Dismissed.


Everyone except Kenzan and Katsumi stand and file out.


Ken:    What was that all about?


Kat:     (leaning against the table) she was certainly upset.


Ken:    I’d say hostile.


Kat:     Agreed.  Interesting, I wouldn’t have pegged her as so irrational.  Even when she’s angry she’s generally more collected, analytical…


Ken:    Yes.  That’s what I would have said too – until today.


Kat:     Even Tai seemed a little shocked.  Perhaps she’s sick?


Ken:    I’ll have Romi check her over – discreetly.  (Coming to lean against the table near her he looks at her sideways) but about these missing parts… they do have a point. Things don’t just disappear.


Kat:     (shaking her head) They’re a new crew, but they’re good people.  I just don’t get that sense from any of them.


Ken:    (nodding once firmly) Then we start looking for another answer.


Kat:     What about Tad?


Ken:    You know he didn’t take those parts.  He’d have no reason.


Kat:     I know, but we have to at least look into it.  You did promise to address her concerns.


Kenzan looks slightly pained


Kat:     (recognition dawning on her face, and sympathy) I’ll speak with him.  (he looks at her, a little surprised)  Well, you can’t very well do it.  You’re his guardian – conflict of interest and all.


He smiles in gratitude.


Ken:    Alright Ms. Nakamoto.  I think I can live with that.




*Cut to a corridor, Tad is working in an open panel.  Kat walks up and knocks on the bulkhead above him.


Kat:     Mr. Arishima


Tad pokes his head out, eyeing her warily.


Tad:    Yeah? (she raises a brow and he sighs, standing and wiping his hands on a cloth) Yes, ma’am.


Kat:     Mr. Arishima, I am certain you are by now aware that certain components aboard ship have gone missing.


Tad:    (Blinks at her, mouth falling open slightly) Wh-what?


Kat:     If you are not, know that they are.  You should also know that you have been brought up as the only suspect.  (he looks frightened, and tenses.  Seeing this Kat visibly softens and speaks very casually) Naturally, I am required to investigate.


Tad:    (gritting his teeth and speaking tightly) Go ahead.


Kat:     Are you taking things?

Tad:    No –


Kat:     (interrupting him) Alright then.  Let’s find out who is.


Tad:    (looking at her with disbelief) That’s it?


Kat:     (looking squarely at him) You’re a good man Mr. Arishima.  You work hard. The Captain has faith in you, and so do I.


Tad:    But-


Kat:     (arching a brow) Unless you’d rather I have Soto lock you in the hold?


Tad:    (straightening) No ma’am.


Kat:     Then I’d suggest you find him yourself and ask him what you can do to help.


Tad:    Yes, ma’am


*Tad hurries off to find Soto, but casts a backwards glance at Kat just before she is out of sight.  As his head is turned he literally runs into Soto.


Soto:   Easy there.


Tad:    S-sorry.  Umm… Ms. Nakamoto sent me to find you.


Soto:   (raises a brow) hmmm…


Tad:    She told me to help you find out who took the missing parts.


Soto:   Did she… and she’s certain it was someone?


Tad:    (looking uncertain) Well, uh… I don’t suppose… I didn’t… I mean, it had to be someone didn’t it?  I mean, there are only the seven of us.


Soto:   And you think it is one of the crew.


Tad:    You don’t?


Soto:   Hnnn


Tad:    But if it isn’t one of us... what other possibility is there?


Soto:   In space - anything is possible.  No matter how improbable.





*Tea is sitting on the floor in the engine room with a blanket, a thermos, and some sandwiches.  Tai walks in.


Tai:      What are you doing?


Tea:    Someone took those components, and I’m going to find out who.


Tai:      And how are you going to do that?


Tea:    I’m staying here tonight.  I’ll catch that dirty thief!


Tai:      Tea –


Tea:    (glaring at him) I didn’t ask you to stay, so butt out, Tai!


Tai:      (shaking his head as he turns to go.  When the door shuts behind him he mutters to himself) at least she brought food this time…


*Time shift – it is now later that night.  Tea is alone in the engine room, she pours coffee from her thermos into a mug and sips it slowly.  She hears a metallic thump and jumps, startled.  Her eyes dart around and then, just as she begins to relax, she hears it again.  Setting down her thermos she stands and slowly walks around the room, careful to make no noise.  She finds nothing and begins to return to her seat.


Tea:    Great, next thing you know I’ll be seeing ghosts…


*At this moment a small psychedelic, semi-transparent object darts directly in front of her.  She starts and her eyes follow it.


Tea:    What the?  (she takes off running, the door barely sliding open in time for her to get through.)


*Once in the corridor Tea cannot see the object.  She runs to the left.  Cut to a door.  Tea pounds on it several times.


Tea:    Come on! (her gaze darts all around the corridor, up to the ceiling and then down along the floor)  Tai! (she pounds again)


Tai:      (looking very mused and sleepy. He runs a hand over his face and through his hair, blinking uncertainly) Tea?


Tea:    And who else comes to your quarters at 2 am?!


Tai:      (looking slightly irritated, but mostly just sleepy) Yep, must be Tea, I mean, all the decent people are asleep at this hour.


Tea:    (tapping a foot impatiently and looking around once more.  Tai follows her gaze, frowning in confusion)  Oh, get off it and come on (she grabs his arm as she speaks and starts dragging him down the corridor)


Tai:      (stumbles for a few moments and then pulls his arm free and regains his balance, but he does continue to follow her) What is wrong with you?  Where are we going?


Tea:    I saw something, in the engine room – and we’re going to find it!


Tai:      (jerking to a stop.  Exasperated now)  What are you talking about Tea?


Tea:    (stopping and turning to face him)  I heard a noise in the engine room and when I got up to check it out this… this… thing darted out in front of me.  It was heading toward the bridge.


Tai:      (concerned and suspicious, he reaches cautiously for her arm) Tea, did you get any sleep tonight?


Tea:    (hissing and pulling her arms out of his reach)  I did not imagine it Tai Matsuki!  And even if I did – the only way you are going back to bed tonight is if you help me search this ship from stem to stern and either find that thing or not!


Tai:      (with a resigned sigh) Yes, ma’am.


*Fade out*




*Cut to “morning” on bridge.  Soto, Tai, Romi, and Kenzan are at their stations.


*Tai lets out a jaw cracking yawn and Kenzan looks up in surprise.  After a moment he looks back down.  Tai’s movements are lethargic as he pilots the ship.  A few moments later the doors hiss open and Katsumi steps onto the bridge.  Tai doesn’t even look up, and, when she leans over the edge of his console to look at a readout he doesn’t react.  She pulls back and eyes him suspiciously.  She glances at Kenzan, who shrugs, and then she comes around behind Tai, placing a hand on the back of his chair and leaning just far enough that her hair brushes his neck and shoulder.  He still does not react.  Kat’s eyes widen and she pulls away, stepping back a few steps and assuming a casual pose, hands behind her back.


Kat:     (lightly) feeling alright helmsman?


*Tai gives no indication that he heard her


Kat:     (arching a brow) Mr. Matsuki?  (no response) Tai!


*Tai stiffens and turns his head slightly.


Kat:     Something the matter, Tai?


Tai:      I, uh (yawns hugely once more, and belatedly throws up a hand to cover his mouth) Sorry, I didn’t get much sleep last night.  Tea had me running around chasing ghosts.


*Shot of Kenzan – he sits forward in his chair, his eyes narrowing with interest


Kat:     Ghosts?


Tai:      (turning to face her fully)  Yeah, she was sitting up in the engine room and she thought she saw something.  But we checked the whole ship and there was nothing…


Soto:   (frowning) If there was a possible threat she should have alerted me.


Tai:      It was nothing.  She hasn’t had much sleep, and she’s been really jumpy – even for her.  Anyway, she thought she saw this iridescent, glowing, floating thing.  She said it headed toward the bridge.


Ken:    (slowly, as though piecing something together in his mind) Iridescent… floating…  (Suddenly he stands and moves over behind Romi)  Romi, I need you to find something for me.


Romi:  (emotionless) Sir. (Her fingers are already flying over her station)


Ken:    I need some information from the Shikoshounin database. (she works as he speaks) Pull up the life form database.


Tai:      Sir!  It was just a hallucination.


Ken:    (ignoring Tai) further, further, try that section.


*Kat and Soto have now walked up to flank him on either side, also peering at the screen.


Ken:    Yes. That’s it. (jabbing finger at the screen.  He turns his head toward Soto)  Do you see it?


Soto:   (nodding) Hmmm.


Kat:     Well, that certainly clears things up a little.


Tai:      What is it?


Ken: (straightening and smiling) Our ghost.


*Quick shot of Tai’s startled expression and then fade out. 




*Cut to briefing room.  Full crew is gathered.


Tai:      So Tea did see something.


*Tea shoots him an “I told you so” glare, which he ignores


Ken:    (smiling) Yes, she did.  More specifically, she saw this.  Soto?


*Soto pulls out a container.  In it is the glowing ball Tea had seen.


Tad:    What is it?


Ken:    That, my young friend, is a sprite.


Tad:    Sprite?


Ken:    Yes.


Tai:      I thought sprites were an old Earth legend.


Romi: (looking at Kenzan who is about to speak) If I may captain?


*Kenzan nods, and relaxes in his chair.


Romi:  (pushing back her chair and standing.  She walks to the far wall and activates a screen.  A picture of green countryside with rolling hills appears and on it is a small white being with human shape, but no bigger than a human palm.  Next to the picture is text)  In Irish mythology sprites were mischievous spirits.  They stole things from human villages and towns, stirring up trouble.  The Irish believed that they simply enjoyed the chaos left in their wake.  They thrived on human anger and conflict.


Tai:      Yeah, but those were just stories to explain why stuff went missing all the time.


Romi:  It has been my experience that most legends are based in facts.  And a myth is just a legend that has become obscure and vague over time.


Ken:    The actual point of the story is to let you know where the name came from.  You see, space sprites probably have never made their way to Earth.  They live in a relatively small section of space and rarely survive a trip outside of that area.  They live off certain subspace particles found in this region of space.


Tea:    (skeptical) You’re telling us they’re called sprites because they like taking stuff and seeing us get mad?


Ken:    They aren’t actually sentient.  They take no pleasure from our quarrels, but they do emit a low-level electric field that can affect the temperament of some humans. (meaningful look at Tea)


Tea:    (irritated that someone suggested she might be irrational) So why do they take stuff?


Romi:  It is believed they “take stuff”, as you say, for the same reason they create irritability.  Sprites are an electricity based life form. They are attracted to certain electrical pulses and magnetic signatures.  Thus why they steal only mechanical pieces and not, say, your hair brush.


Tea:    So where are my engine pieces?


Soto:   Recovered.  Tad can help you finish repairs when we’re through here.


*Tea opens her mouth as if to object and Kenzan cuts her off.


Ken:    And, yes, that was an order, Ms. Matsuki.  (looks around the room.  Tea looks unhappy, Tad looks uneasy)  Dismissed.




*Kat is waiting for Kenzan outside the door of the briefing room.  She is leaning against the wall and pushes off when he exits.  He makes eye contact and nods in acknowledgement, but keeps walking. She falls into step beside him, walking comfortably in silence for a few moments.


Kat:     (casual) You’ve seen these things before have you?


Ken:    Once.  When I was very young, (gives a small, humorless laugh) nearly destroyed my dad’s ship.  Really I should have thought of it earlier, but I only remembered when Tai said Tea saw a ghost.


Kat:     Well, you did say that you were very young…


Ken:    Yes.  The odd thing is, there shouldn’t have been any sprites out here – like I said, they live in a pretty small region of space and are almost never found outside of it.  And they’re almost never alone… (trails off, staring at the floor)


Kat:     (watching him with mild concern) We won’t have any more trouble will we?


Ken:    (shaking his head) No, once you know to do it, it’s fairly simple to mask any signals they might be attracted to.


Kat:     And the one we found?


Ken:    We’ll drop it at our next pick up point.  Someone can take it home. (they have stopped in front of a porthole)


Kat:     Well then, I guess I had better make certain Tea and Tad aren’t killing one another… not that I don’t trust Soto


*Looks to Kenzan for a response, but he is just staring out the window.  She sighs.


Kat:     Good night, Captain.


*Katsumi walks off camera as it stays focused on Kenzan’s profile.  Zooms in on his face, his eyes have a far away look in them.


Ken:    (murmuring)  The oddest thing…




End episode 2