ACT III, SCENE I
* NEWTOPIA, TOWN SQUARE — SIX MONTHS LATER *
[Yet another picnic. Aida and Zhavvorsa lie comfortably side by side, Aida reading, Zhavvorsa seemingly asleep with a small glowing disc on each side of their temple]
[The backdrop screen displays results of the latest Vote]
[Vote E74: A Vote to categorize Turbidian elixirs with demonstrated technological benefit as universal goods, available to all the Public]
[Result: 94.23% Yes, 5.77% No]
May I be honest, no reservations?
[Pulls off the discs — which retract into the metal collar around their neck — and sits up to face Aida, giving her their full attention]
After careful consideration,
This conclusion have I drawn:
The nature of our relationship
Is fundamentally flawed.
Is this so?
[Stands and begins to pace, as if making a presentation]
You have visited my planet
And been exposed to my culture.
You observe all of our activities
In both neurons and behaviours.
A one-sided exposé,
To correct this grave inequity,
There’s much information you should share.
So today I ask that you grant
All requests and inquiries,
And demand that you satisfy
My every curiosity.
It’s really only fair.
What would you first ask?
Is it at all feasible
To show me your vessel?
You’ve seen mine,
And so should show yours.
Your argument is valid,
Hold close and don’t let go.
[Stands and pulls Aida close, grabbing her by the waist]
While ascending anti-grav beacons,
It is prudent not to look.
[The two rapidly begin their ascent, as if flying. Aida looks down and gasps. Her legs falter but she is laughing. Zhavvorsa tightens their hold on her, laughing as well]
I predicted you would look.
* TURBIDIAN SPACECRAFT *
[They soar into the spaceship, several gates closing beneath them as they pass through, and remain floating midair as they reach the control room. Once the last doors have hissed and sealed, the pair fall to the ground, Zhavvorsa keeping Aida steady. When they rise, Zhavvorsa is considerably shorter, as if in constant kneeling position. Aida is confused, but is immediately distracted by the ship’s interior]
[The walls encasing the control room are transparent, offering a 360-degree view of outer space. It is empty except for a large white cylindrical container hovering in the center of the room, surrounded by slightly smaller and differently coloured tubes. A pair of sensors glow and dangle from the top of each container]
Tell me, tell me, please,
However does it work?
Turbidian crafts operate
By synthetic telepathy.
[Guides Aida to stand below the central cylinder, which lowers itself around her. Once it has sealed tight, it becomes weightless, with Aida now floating]
These electrode sensors measure
The pilot only need concentrate
On mental navigation.
The craft responds to neural signals,
Run on intent and deliberation.
[One of the smaller cylinders lowers around Zhavvorsa. Levitating, they place the discs on each temple]
Apply sensors and focus on the map,
Conceiving the craft’s location.
Then imagine it now shifted;
Slightly forward with great precision.
[As Aida puts on the sensors, the cabin darkens and is filled with a three-dimensional rendering of space. A speck of bright light pulses on the outskirts of Newtopia’s atmosphere, depicting the Turbidian ship. Using their controls, Zhavvorsa highlights an empty space just in front of the speck. As Aida concentrates, the ship moves forward. She laughs in delight]
[Pulls the sensors off. The hologram disappears and the cabin lights turn on again]
And what of fuel limitations?
It runs on stellar energy
Captured in reserve aplenty.
[Grinning mischievously, Aida places the sensors back on her temples. The ship thrusts to Newtopia’s North Pole, covered in ice, before zipping towards the opposite end. She removes the sensors and exits the chamber, walking to the window to gaze at the glow of the Southern Lights]
[Following the human, they smile and lightly — without having Aida notice — strokes the ends of her hair]
How would you like to see
Something of significant rarity?
[Enters the Captain’s tube. As they touch various controls the 3D map zooms out, more and more stars filling the room, until Newtopia and eventually its entire solar system becomes a miniscule speck. In the center of the map, two black holes circle each other in constant, steady rotation, the surrounding stars of each appearing to swirl as space-time is distorted]
Behold the dance before they merge —
A binary supermassive black hole.
[Riff from Supermassive Black Hole by Muse]
[Beams at Zhavvorsa]
Now, in terms of cultural lessons
This is what I request.
A one-sided barrage of questions,
But this time you receive no passes.
What do you do for recreation?
[Exits the tube. They pull two sensors from the metal contraption around their neck and gently places them on Aida’s temples]
[The backdrop screen shows various scenes from a convex, first-person perspective, as if filmed through a fisheye lens — of a ship’s liftoff, of a marketplace bustling with diverse aliens, of two Turbidian lovers entwined. Through it all, Zhavvorsa’s voice is loud and clear]
Each of us is capable
Of extracting our own memories
To upload into The Hive Mind —
Its access to all Turbidians, free.
[Still from a first-person perspective, the screen shows different Turbidians, flashing from one to the next. We can see the flow of blood throughout their bodies, leaving distinct patterns swirling in the brain]
It’s more than simple knowledge,
More than tribute to history.
We can feel whatever we choose to feel,
Can see what we choose to see.
And what do you see
When you look at me?
[The screen shows Aida, a swirl of colours]
Constant change and fluidity.
Life — colour, vibrancy —
Of rare, breathtaking complexity.
[Clears her throat and looks down at her feet]
Your lifespan and most common cause of death?
‘Century’ and ‘Age’.
And … reproductive process?
[Aida blinks several times]
With the exception of our Queens
We are androgynous:
Without a single sex
Assigned from birth to death.
We are gender neutral
Until presented with a partner —
With reproductive organs determined
In reaction to the other.
Everyone has a receptacle
Inside which the male counterpart is put.
The pair move in back-and-forth action
Until egg and seed can meet.
And the touching of lips …
Is it at all significant?
A common show of affection
Used to develop social bonds
Between parents and their offspring
Or between potential mates.
I perceive much activity
In your caudate nucleus.
Can you hypothesize why?
[After a few moments Zhavvorsa pulls away and slowly bends down, as if stretching to reach their toes. They lie down, curling into the fetal position. When they rise again, they shed a layer of skin to reveal a female body]
I thought you were supposed to change
In reaction to me?
[Looking down at her new body]
We change in response to hormones
And not anatomy.
That … would explain a lot.
[Takes Zhavvorsa by the waist, kissing her deeply. They slowly lie on the ground where Zhavvorsa spins them over, now straddling Aida. The pair hold hands and Zhavvorsa lifts herself in the air. They begin a dance — a visual representation of sensuality, mutual exploration and reciprocation — taking turns lifting each other. When the music stops they join in embrace, Zhavvorsa pressed against Aida, her head thrown back, Aida lifting Zhavvorsa’s thigh high against her hip]