“Peace Within Worlds”

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 INT. GARAGE – DAY

A deflated Morty – something clearly bothering him – enters the garage, Rick tinkling away at his workbench.

MORTY
Can we get out of here, Rick?

RICK
Jeez, did someone die, or did you procreate with no desire to parent?

MORTY
I don’t know, people are driving into protests a-and tourist spots, killing other people –

RICK
Oh yeah, the new season of Man vs. Car’s out.

MORTY (cont’d)
– waving Nazi and Confederate flags – i-it’s like we’re going backwards, it’s scary and depressing.

RICK
If you used the atrophying organ you call your brain, Morty, you’d see it’s a good thing when tourists die through an incident of terrorism.

MORTY
W-what?! T-that’s a horrible thing to say Rick!

RICK
If targeted locations were limited to protests, then people would associate public dissent with danger. But high-traffic recreational areas are primary “strategic” targets.

RICK (cont’d)
You can stop people from fighting for causes – e-especially ones that don’t directly affect them. But you can’t stop them from having fun.

MORTY
So what’re people supposed to do, just stop caring??

RICK
Sure. Or, y’know, just stop with all the misguided sentiment. People will react based on hypersensualized, over-reported events and nurse an irrational fear of something that’s less likely to kill them than lightning, or sharks, or sharknadoes. And politicians will take advantage of that fear to increase their hold onto power and throw money at “security initiatives” which have zero effect except to make their own dicks hard, addressing symptoms instead of the cause.

RICK (cont’d)
And if you actually looked, you’d see global terrorism itself is a symptom of a bigger problem. L-like when select groups of a species get to experience a level of comfort so excessive that being too fat and sitting too much literally kills them while other groups struggle for basic survival –

RICK (cont’d)
But in the overall sequence of evolution for the species, it’s beneficial, Morty, i-it helps speed things up. “Violence won’t silence” and all that fun shit.

MORTY
But what about all the people who die – a-and their families?

RICK
Incidental to the main point. That’s the definition of collateral damage.

Morty knows what Rick is – and this is one of the times when he’s just so sick of it.

MORTY
And how is someone supposed to do that, Rick? How can it possibly get easy to see people a-as expendable??

RICK
It’s called alcohol and other various sedatives, Morty. Now stop being a little pussy a-and do something that’ll actually accomplish some-burp-thing long-term. 1 – don’t be hyper-emotional. 2 – accept that it’s going to happen so long as there are disaffected groups. 3 – keep doing whatever it is assholes want to stop you from doing. And 4 – maybe ask yourself how you can adjust the socioeconomic environment so idiots won’t grow up with thoughts of killing you to begin with.

RICK (cont’d)
Now if you really care, Morty, let’s keep calm… and go get some motherfucking ice cream! Yeahh!

Rick runs out of the garage whooping, fists in the air.

Morty stands stunned, unblinking.

Then runs after him – with just a hint of a smile.

Newtopia Rising, Book I: The Search for a New Utopia (ACT III, SCENE II)

ACT III, SCENE II

* SETTLEMENT OF LOCKE, TOWN SQUARE — SIX MONTHS LATER *

[Brooke stands at the edge of the pitch black stage. Simultaneously, the backdrop screens and a spotlight turn on to reveal a dancer, painted black and contorted into a ball. They unfold their limbs, rise to their feet and begin to sing in a throaty voice, their sex difficult to distinguish]

SPEAKER
We must, we must remember
The chains, the noose, the lash,
The guillotine, the Iron Maiden,
Brands burned upon the flesh.

Never let us forget
Human rights once ripped asunder.
Limbs torn apart by dogs,
Bodies packed in gas chambers.

Remember solitary confinement,
Remember systemic rape.
Remember 12-year-old boys,
Small bellies full of sperm.

Remember all the travesties,
Each one back then a norm.
Their horrors clear as day today,
Yet once to standard practices conformed.

No matter how wicked,
However heinous the crime,
Remember that our own morals
Evolve with passing of time.

Since we made the mining
Of Thunium a penalty,
We’ve observed causal reactions,
Its harms lain plain to see:

Among the Capital Offenders,
Insomnia skyrocketing,

[Another spotlight shines to reveal a person next to them, also contorted and painted black, who unfolds and stands up]

Violence for centuries unseen,

[Another light reveals several contorted individuals who rise]

Suicide rising at rates alarming.

[More light, more people]

Retributive justice,
When it claims so many lives,
Is cruelty begetting cruelty
And cannot be justified.

[All those standing gather together, grab the speaker and lift her high]

To ever permit group suffering
With passive observation
Is to revert to our old apathy
Before our Interstellar Expansion.

If there’s ever a general need,
A dependence upon a substance,
The Public should each of us contribute
And help secure its acquisition.

[The crowd below them cheers]

[A spotlight falls on the other side of the stage to reveal another gender-ambiguous speaker]

SPEAKER
The rise in self-inflicted deaths
Among the criminal party,
While certainly unfortunate
And invoking sympathy,

May surely be offset
By the reality
Of the potential of Thunium,
Its benefits lain plain to see:

Soaring citizen satisfaction
And economic productivity.
And quite unexpectedly,
An exploding art industry.

[The light falls on a person next to them]

And most of all, above all else,
The eradication of disease

[More light, more people]

And of the unsightliness of aging —
What we mortals have always dreamed.

[The light extends to show many dancers, making the second crowd larger than the first. Together, they lift the speaker]

[Brooke crosses her arms]

Yet to extract it from our planet
Provokes painful hallucinations.
Why not leave the task to those who harmed us,
As a fitting condemnation?

[More dancers enter to join the second crowd, starting to push the first group off the stage]

They never gave pause to care,
When they hurt thousands for compensation.
And if they know the law when they break it,
That’s implicit mutual agreement.

[More dancers join and continue to push the first crowd]

[Brooke fidgets, unfolding her arms only to cross them again]

We could stop progress in the name
Of vague notions of morality.
Or we could push the very bounds
Of our own mortality.

[The crowd grows larger and larger]

But no need to be so heartless —
I propose we provide these offenders
With a means to manage their distress,
With Dopamine Elixirs.

[The first speaker disappears from view and the now-dominant crowd erupts in cheer and dance]

[Still crossing one arm over the chest, Brooke drapes a hand over her face, as if fighting a headache. The crowd, still cheering and dancing, exit the stage]

[The music changes to a light and flitting melody as Benjiro enters the stage, not disturbed by the debate as his captain is. He approaches Brooke from behind and takes a deep breath before speaking]

BENJIRO
Cap … Brooke, a moment please.

[Brooke turns around, brows raised at the use of her first name]

BENJIRO
I was hoping you would join me
For an important discussion.
For guaranteed privacy,
I’ve booked a Cavern Reservation.

BROOKE
Certainly, I’d love to.

BENJIRO
[Dumbstruck]

You would?

BROOKE
Yes, and I’ll add that you are brilliant.

BENJIRO
[Continues to stare with wide eyes, blinking in disbelief]

I am?

BROOKE
Of course, as First Officer,
I expect no less of you.
In these troubled times,
Let’s gather the old crew.

BENJIRO
[For an awkward moment, he says nothing. Then he clears his throat and regains official composure]

Aye, Captain.

* RESOURCE CAVERN *

[The Cavern has been transformed into a sacred space,  furnished with lights, several different religious icons, incense and a single large cushion]

[The Seekers are gathered in a circle]

BROOKE
When the solution is the problem,
When the snake consumes its own tail,
When the answer contributes to the cause —
A systemic loop prevails.

BLAKE
Self-perpetuating horseshit.

BENJIRO
With such a list of benefits,
With so much to gain in trade,
With unprecedented luxuries,
The Public is difficult to persuade.

LINLEY
We could always emphasize
The uncertain and unknown.
How we lack long-term observations,
Yet too quick to trust have grown.

The Elixirs are still mysteries,
Still substances we don’t understand.
And they yet remain aliens,
Perhaps with our own enslavement planned.

What do we really know about
These so-called miracle potions?
They could contain molecular robots —
Some sort of alien latent poison.

BLAKE
[Rolls eyes]

Straight out of a sci-fi comic.

TWYFORD
[Lists off her fingers]

… Sentient planets.
First alien contact.
Impossible potions.
Did you seriously just say that?

[They hear a sudden noise. Something — or someone — is in the Cave with them, which by law should be empty for the duration of their Reservation. Pulling their blasters out, the Seekers go to investigate, Brooke and Benjiro leading the way]

[The Seekers come upon one of the Turbidian Masters of Potion. Out of pure instinct, Benjiro steps in front of Brooke and raises his blaster. The alien rushes forward, gracefully diving into a handstand and wrapping their legs around Benjiro’s neck. We hear a crack as Benjiro drops to the floor]

BROOKE
Ben!

[She shoots her blaster at the Turbidian. With remarkable speed, the alien dodges and again dives headfirst, swinging their legs to wrap around Brooke’s neck. In a smooth motion, Brooke dives forward so that the pair fall, a jumble of limbs rolling to the ground, the Turbidian’s back ending flat on the floor. Brooke rolls them — legs over head — onto their face, then swings behind and wraps her arms around their neck in a choke]

BROOKE
This is where you disclose your business here,
In the Cave you swore to have forgotten.

[Tended to by Chief Medic Isaac and Nurse Linley, Benjiro groans, injured but alive]

Ben! Oh, Ben.

[Blake steps forward and puts her knee on the Turbidian’s torso, pinning them down to free Brooke, who rushes to Benjiro]

BLAKE
Speak or I’ll have the distinct pleasure
To try a live and drawn-out dissection.

[The alien struggles, and Blake puts more pressure on them]

TURBIDIAN INTRUDER
A vital resource without which
The foundation will wither, crumble, fall.

[Suddenly, the alien gasps and falls to their knees. There, they sway for a moment, white fluid secreting from their eyes, until their collapse to the ground. They do not move again]

[For a long moment, the Seekers stare in silence]

BROOKE
Seekers, with me now, and bring the body —
It’s time to make a call.

* SETTLEMENT OF LOCKE, TURBIDIAN HEADQUARTERS *

[The remaining Masters of Potions work diligently, hands — or rather claws, with pointed fingers — flying across each chemistry station. After concocting and bottling each new potion, they place it in a 3D printer which begins to churn out exact replicas, both container and liquid content]

[The doors slide open. The Seekers barge in, Benjiro in a neck brace yet on his feet, and, with the exception of Aida, pull out their blasters]

AIDA
Zhavvorsa!

[Frowning, Linley turns and stares at Aida]

[In uniform motion, the rest of the Turbidian Masters, with the exception of Zhavvorsa, slide in their natural crouching states, prepared to pounce]

ZHAVVORSA
[Stepping out in between their colleagues and the Seekers]

No!

[The Turbidians do not move, but remain in crouching position. Zhavvorsa turns to face the Seekers]

May we ask with respect, dear Officers,
What we might do for you?

BROOKE
You might disclose information
As to what a member of your team
Was doing in our Resource Cavern —
What you once called the Cave of Swollen Dreams.

And why they would commit assault
Against our First Officer.
For the reason behind these events
You will now provide an answer.

ZHAVVORSA
We know nothing of this cavern
Of dreams, of which you just spoke.
But nonetheless assure you
Our kind is nonviolent unless provoked.

LINLEY
[Points his blaster at Zhavvorsa]

“Nonviolent”! What a joke!
Don’t believe their lies, their venom.

AIDA
We raised our weapons first.
Captain, I believe them.

LINLEY
Would you stake your life?

AIDA
[Fiercely]

Yes.

BROOKE
And the lives of all Newtopians?

AIDA
[In a whisper]

Earth help me, yes.

BROOKE
[To Zhavvorsa]

Though true we raised weapons first, the question
Of your presence in the Cavern remains.

ZHAVVORSA
Neither intentions nor significance
Are we able to explain.

But this we know for sure —
For Class 3 Civilizations,
An attack against one is sufficient
To justify full retaliation.

This is what we propose —
A diplomatic invitation.
Let us all travel to our planet
And conduct a joint investigation.

BROOKE
Our decision will be made
As always — with sage counsel.

[One by one, all Seekers project the recordings from their PODs, together creating a replay of the incident in the Cavern which play on the backdrop screens]

[The centre screen shows the Council of Nine, its members unrecognizable for their appearance of youth]

Vexation and dismay surrounds
This unexpected scandal.

While difficult to accept the words
Of those with uncertain machinations,
We must nonetheless trust them, if we wish
To join this Galactic Federation.

Hear our collective advice,
A policy of diplomacy:
Send forth our best and brightest
And hope for resolved harmony.

[The screens fill with the most popular submissions from the population:

[“Find the truth.”

“Seekers, we need you once more.”

“Find out for us.”

“Go find out!”

“Please.”]

[The screens fade to black]

BROOKE
[Turning to face her crew]

There may be traps and unknown perils
To uncover this mystery.
I won’t ask you to uproot all,
To again leave your families.

BENJIRO
I knew what I signed up for,
The burden’s all of ours to bear.
Danger is no stranger, and…

[Looks directly at Brooke]

My family is right here.

[One by one, the Seekers begin holding hands. Dancers, representing the general Public, enter the stage from both sides to join them]

Lift the veil and dispel the mist,
The truth we’ll track and sleuth.
We exercise our sovereign rights,
We demand the truth!

Newtopia Rising, Book I: The Search for a New Utopia (ACT III, SCENE I)

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]

AIDA
Zhavvorsa.

ZHAVVORSA
[Opens eyes]

Aida.

AIDA
May I be honest, no reservations?

ZHAVVORSA
[Pulls off the discs — which retract into the metal collar around their neck — and sits up to face Aida, giving her their full attention]

‘Always’.

AIDA
After careful consideration,
This conclusion have I drawn:
The nature of our relationship
Is fundamentally flawed.

ZHAVVORSA
[Smiling]

Is this so?

AIDA
[Stands and begins to pace, as if making a presentation]

‘Fact’.

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,
Inherently unfair.
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.

ZHAVVORSA
‘Granted.’

What would you first ask?

AIDA
Is it at all feasible
To show me your vessel?

ZHAVVORSA
‘Affirmative.’

AIDA
[Grins]

You’ve seen mine,
And so should show yours.

ZHAVVORSA
[Grins back]

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]

AIDA
Tell me, tell me, please,
However does it work?

ZHAVVORSA
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
Electromagnetic activity.

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]

AIDA
[Pulls the sensors off. The hologram disappears and the cabin lights turn on again]

And what of fuel limitations?

ZHAVVORSA
‘Irrelevant’.

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]

ZHAVVORSA
[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?

AIDA
‘Always’.

ZHAVVORSA
[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]

AIDA
[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.

ZHAVVORSA
Consented.

AIDA
What do you do for recreation?

ZHAVVORSA
‘Vicariism’

[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.

AIDA
[Faces Zhavvorsa]

And what do you see
When you look at me?

ZHAVVORSA
[The screen shows Aida, a swirl of colours]

‘Intricacy’.

Constant change and fluidity.
Life — colour, vibrancy —
Of rare, breathtaking complexity.

AIDA
[Clears her throat and looks down at her feet]

Your lifespan and most common cause of death?

ZHAVVORSA
‘Century’ and ‘Age’.

AIDA
[Lifts eyes]

And … reproductive process?

ZHAVVORSA
‘Fluid’.

[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.

AIDA
And the touching of lips …
Is it at all significant?

ZHAVVORSA
A common show of affection
Used to develop social bonds
Between parents and their offspring
Or between potential mates.

[Pauses]

I perceive much activity
In your caudate nucleus.

AIDA
[Draws closer]

Can you hypothesize why?

[They kiss]

[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]

AIDA
[Confused]

I thought you were supposed to change
In reaction to me?

ZHAVVORSA
[Looking down at her new body]

We change in response to hormones
And not anatomy.

AIDA
[Long pause]

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]

Topic 1

Source: flickr user Kārlis Dambrāns

Source: Flickr user Kārlis Dambrāns

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1. To what extent did technological advancements contribute to the formation of the Earth Republic?

_____The exponential frequency of climate-related hazards (floods and droughts with particular fatality), combined with a nuclear weapons supply reaching ten thousand warheads globally, prompted scientists in the early 21st century to herald global disaster.  The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists set its symbolic Doomsday Clock to 3 minutes to midnight in 2015, and the International Council for Science began covert preparations for mass human extinction (a.k.a. Operation Phoenix) in collaboration with the United Nations.  Yet grim projections were rendered moot as the subsequent decades witnessed a series of paradigmatic sociopolitical reforms, ultimately ending in the birth of the Earth Republic.  It can be argued that the coalition of the nation-states into a single planetary government, though popularly attributed to the social mainstreaming of sustainability and egalitarianism (a.k.a. the P.C. Movement), was in fact made inevitable by the geopolitical, economic, and sociopsychological implications of scientific developments: specifically those made in the areas of intraplanetary travel, telecommunications, automation, and space exploration.

Grooming of the Global Citizen: The Geopolitical and Sociopsychological Impacts of Globalization

_____From the dawn of the Globalization Age in the 19th century, advances in international travel and telecommunications enabled the large-scale mobility of humans and knowledge, over time resulting in a society that was at once more diverse (racially and ethnically) and more homogenous (psychologically and sociopolitically).  First, decreasing costs and risks of long-distance migrations led to the unprecedented intermixing of race and culture, which in turn led to social tolerance that increased exponentially with each generation.  Second, dramatically improving accessibility to information (in all but the last remaining authoritarian governments) and the advent of the Internet in the late 20th century led to a convergence in worldviews, with global trends towards secular humanism and liberalism.  Third, greater affordability in air transportation allowed increasingly liberal youths to witness firsthand a) the human consequences of global wealth inequity in many Postcolonial countries and b) the consistent successes (GDP per capita, health, education, freedom and satisfaction with government) exhibited by the Nordic European countries, leading to additional trends towards global welfare and social democracy (the latter of which gained rapid traction once adopted by America, the military and cultural hegemon from the 20th century, under the Sanders administration).  In this manner, the Globalization Age saw the emergence of a generation which transcended territorial and ideological borders, thus removing two traditional conditions for international warfare and dissolving the nation-state as a geopolitical and ethnocultural entity.

Evolution of Egalitarian Capitalism: The Socioeconomic Impacts of Robotics, Social Media, and Renewable Energy

_____Once considered the root of social and economic inequality, the global financial system evolved in the early 21st century into that of egalitarian capitalism: a result of advances in automation, virtual communication, and sustainable energy.  First, from the inception of the Industrial Revolution in the mid-19th century, developments in manufacturing methods exerted a profound impact on the structure of human society.  Increasing sophistication, efficiency, and affordability of machinery, in particular of automaton during the Third Industrial Revolution (a.k.a. The Digital Revolution), gradually rendered manual labor obsolete.  Automation served the long-term fiscal interests of all but the most exploitative corporations (< $1/day wages), largely removing the financial incentive for international class-subjugation.  Second, the instantaneity and virality of Internet-based social media in the 21st century endowed citizens with unprecedented democratic power.  Behaviors considered unacceptable, of politicians, individuals, and corporations alike, were publicly condemned with swift force.  With such popular demand for social justice, an ethical and sustainable business model became a decisive competitive edge.  International corporate social responsibility (e.g. the One-for-One model spearheaded by retail behemoth Toms) became the norm and by the 2030’s the corporation, ironically the entity which perpetuated the former zero-sum system, was largely responsible for bridging the global income gap and eliminating the economic hostility which defined the old international arena.  Third, several Postcolonial countries underwent modernization with exponential speed in the early decades of the 21st century.  Without as many existing roads, grid electricity, or plumbing to upgrade, these developing nations were able to transition directly to solar, wind, microhydro, and biogas systems.  Reaping the advantages of renewable energy, their economies soared, and in a turning of tables and definitive moment of global solidarity, the Postcolonial governments and corporations helped the former imperial powers bear the enormous costs of infrastructure replacement.

Aspirations of Interplanetary Expansion: The Political and Sociopsychological Impacts of Space Exploration and the Waters of Mars

_____Less than four hundred years after its first telescopic observation of space, humankind had reached outwards, deploying extraterrestrial probes, building a permanent space station, and sending forth its children to walk the surface of its orbiting moon.  Nonetheless, space exploration remained a distinctly separatist endeavor (specifically between six government agencies with full-launch capacity): simultaneously a source of and outlet for international competition.  Even the International Space Station, the first global space collaboration, was predominantly operated by superpowers America and Russia.  It was not until the 2015 discovery of water on Mars that humanity underwent a fundamental shift, in both international cooperation and social psychology.  First, the discovery was directly cited as the inspiration to fuel Project Mars, founded by Bill Gates, Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg: the first truly supranational collaboration, with funding and obligations shared by governments and civilians from 195 nations.  The cooperation and resource-pooling between the government space agencies and publicly traded corporation SpaceX led to exponential progress in the aerospace industry, leading to legendary launch Dragon 2 (the first human spaceflight to Mars).  Second, the discovery of Martian water prompted the Second Golden Age (informally the Adamantium Age) of science fiction: an explosion of literature, cinema and visual arts exploring the social and practical implications of interplanetary expansion, which in turn inspired an entire generation to pursue careers related to space exploration.  By the 2040’s, the new STEM field workforce accounted for over 50% of the labor market.  With a mainstream culture dreaming of and actively working towards space colonization, the imagined political community and sense of collective belonging was relocated from “country” to “species”: completing the shift from nationalistic individualism to humanist collectivism and delivering the final blow against the competitive attitude upon which the nation-state depended within the former international arena.

Conclusion

_____A species riven with internal conflicts and armed with large-scale weaponry, coupled with a decaying planet which warmed as if in febrile response against its destructive inhabitants, once made the survival of humanity uncertain to contemporary observers.  The unification of the human race into a decisive political body committed to sustainability, though commonly romanticized as a single glorious moment in human history, was in reality the endpoint of a trajectory set by the evolution of science and technology.  Concurrent and mutually reinforcing advances in transportation, automation, telecommunications, and spaceflight resulted in global trends of resource sharing, rather than competition: eradicating the logic of self-help inherent in the anarchic setting of the former international arena.  The advent of the Earth Republic, hailed as the greatest human achievement, was in fact a technological triumph.

***********************************

Each finger hovered in the center of its container, clear of contact with the surrounding walls, as she ran out of bullshit to type.

A weak essay to be sure, but she had only skimmed the assigned readings and didn’t know what more to write. What was already written felt both lofty and childish, but, as the hour drew upon 0700, she no longer gave a damn. She had missed an entire night’s sleep and would already be receiving a 5% grade deduction. There was no way she’d be able to make it good enough to make an additional late penalty worthwhile.

The thought of submitting such subpar work stirred resentment in her chest — at herself for insisting on leaving every assignment to the last minute, and at the university for making a full-course equivalent in History a graduation requirement. She knew the importance of understanding the past. But was it necessary to channel so much energy towards what by definition could not be changed, especially in the face of so many pressing, present issues in society? In their own day-to-day lives?

She wondered — not for the first time — whether pursuing a tertiary degree was the right choice. So many of her friends operated their own businesses, all helping to fund the first humanned mission to Alpha Centauri. They were always traveling (some of them even off-planet!), eating at the trendiest restaurants and buying the latest gadgets, and contributing to the community. They were actually making a difference — while she lived off a student stipend (a mere 4000 credits) that did not account for the rising expenses in their world-city.

She sighed, sick of doubt. With a twitch of her index finger she submitted the essay, then pulled her hands from the datahand keyboard and removed the interface visor.

She walked away from the computer system and ordered the bed, which rolled out from the wall as it always did — immediately, smoothly, seductively. With hands trembling slightly from the caffeine drops, she peeled back the pre-heated sheets and crawled into the merciful warmth.

Newtopia Rising, Book I: The Search for a New Utopia (ACT II, SCENE II)

ACT II; SCENE II

* SETTLEMENT OF LOCKE, TOWN SQUARE *

[In front of a picnic, Aida sits huddled over a book, the lines of text scrolling upwards steadily as she reads. Once it stops scrolling, she turns the page. Others feast and dance to the Voting Festival song in the distance. The backdrop screen shows a 91% Vote in favour of increasing the cap on Thunium mining to 30% of reserves]

[Enter ZHAVVORSA, a Turbidian Master of Potions]

ZHAVVORSA
Officer Desalegn,
May I join your company?

AIDA
[Looks up and smiles]

For what I hope is the last time,
Please call me ‘Aida’ outside of duty.

ZHAVVORSA
May I join you, Aida?

AIDA
[Turns off and closes her book]

As it is Free Time, Zhavvorsa,
Your company would please me.

ZHAVVORSA
[Bows slightly]

Your species is much gracious;
I commend your hospitality.

AIDA
[Returns bow]

We’re honoured to receive First Contact,
And hope for mutual education.

ZHAVVORSA
[Sits down directly across]

Then how would you like to partake
In a Turbidian tradition?

In which we each present inquiries
In alternating succession.
To be answered with just one word,
In a singular expression.

Otherwise with no limitations,
Optional explanation and one pass.
The ultimate opportunity
To any question ask.

AIDA
I’d be delighted.

ZHAVVORSA
I oblige you go first.

AIDA
[Thinks a moment]

How did you come by such propensity
With the practice of chemistry?

ZHAVVORSA
‘Design’.

Our compound eyes are capable
Of polarization vision.
And the science is taught from early age,
Entrenched in our socialization.

Should you not mind the repetition,
I’d like to pose the exact same question.

AIDA
[Thinks a moment]

‘Everything’.

As a child I dreamed to understand
The entire universe,
And saw chemistry as the bridge
Connecting all the sciences.

If chemistry was obligatory,
What did you do normally?

ZHAVVORSA
‘Travel’.

Spacecraft operation
And interstellar navigation.

AIDA
[Surprised]

I was a pilot, too!

ZHAVVORSA
[The corners of his lips lift]

And what made you so choose?

AIDA
[Without hesitation]

‘Freedom’.

As a child, first travelling by air jet,
And gazing through its window
At our homes, our roads and borders
Growing infinitesimally small,

I saw an invisible cage, escaped –
And my perspective forever changed.

[Shifts bashfully]

I guess in present time
We’re excluded from our preferred fields.
Or was it once again obligation –
What made you choose your occupation?

ZHAVVORSA
[Smiling]

‘Liberty’.

To ascend beyond the reach
Of daily realities;
To see firsthand the Open Void
And all its possibilities.

AIDA
Is ‘Open Void’ how you refer
To what we understand as space?

ZHAVVORSA
Space?

[For a moment, the two stare at each other blankly, their heads tilted in mirrored position. They burst into laughter, Aida audibly so, Zhavvorsa silently yet with crinkled eyes and a rhythmic shaking of the body]

AIDA
I mean, the universe.

ZHAVVORSA
There is no need to be embarrassed.

AIDA
I am not embarrassed.

ZHAVVORSA
‘Lying’.

Surely, you’ve not forgotten:
All neurons, our eyes detect.

AIDA
[Turns away, flustered]

Well, that is just unfair,
Since your lies I cannot suspect.

ZHAVVORSA
Turbidians do not lie.

Each of us is capable
Of neuroimagery.
Subtle yet detectable,
Lies increase prefrontal activity.

AIDA
[Slowly]

And would it be unethical
To pose questions exploiting this fact?

ZHAVVORSA
‘Both’.

As with all social constructs,
Ethics are flexible.
What constitutes ‘Wrong’ and ‘Right’ for one,
For another is amenable.

AIDA
Why are you here?

ZHAVVORSA
‘Service’.

To serve my world and queen,
And in history glorify Her reign.

On making first alien contact,
What was your initial thought, reaction?

AIDA
‘Irrelevance’.

“It’s only a matter of time”,
Our scientists for centuries forewarned.
We were to accept, continue and strive
For progress, as always planned.

[Grins]

But simultaneously, ‘Lucky’,
To bear witness and participate.

Does it not cause grief to spend your life
In constant servitude?

Our leaders devote their lives
In our system of democracy –
And are afforded no exemptions
Nor material luxuries.

ZHAVVORSA
‘Irrelevance’.

Personal feelings matter not
So long as the species survives.
And even if they did,
It is moot to wish otherwise.

Privileged ruling classes:
A pattern transcending through time,
It’s how most societies exist –
Always the same, in varying form.

AIDA
[She struggles to her feet, agitated]

And what, to history just surrender?

[Begins to pace]

Breaking persisting patterns
Is admittedly improbable.
But just because it’s happened thus far
Doesn’t render change impossible.

Add magnesium to air and heat
And watch the combination set alight –
All it takes is a single chance,
One reaction to forever alter.

ZHAVVORSA
Why does this topic cause you
Such passionate distress?

AIDA
[Blinks, taken aback]

‘Fear’.

More than anything, than death,
My fear is stagnation.
That one day, I’ll stop evolving,
In one state doomed to be, forever.

The same applies to humankind.
It may take several generations –
Entire lives spent in waiting
For collective adaptation.

But with time, we’ve learned and grown.
Such is my faith within my species:
Our most redeeming trait
Lies in capacity for change.

[Zhavvorsa stares at Aida in silence. Aida meets their gaze evenly]

ZHAVVORSA
I –

[They are interrupted as the lights flicker and fanfare music blasts to present the results of the latest Vote]

[Vote D48: A Vote to establish the mining of Thunium as a form of penal labour exclusive to perpetrators of the Capital Offence]

[Top Reasonings:

  • “YES: The severity of punishment is proportionate to the crime of causing mass harm, including deaths, injuries and planetary destruction, via distribution of fraudulent information in pursuit of financial profit. CORROBORATING EVIDENCE: The same punishment is applied to both perpetrators of the Capital Offence and conventional mass murder, while the average number of casualties compares 2256 to 1, respectively
  • “NO: To make any treatment, including that of a traumatizing psychedelic crisis, exclusive to any prisoner constitutes cruel and degrading punishment. CORROBORATING EVIDENCE: Making a punishment exclusive to an individual group automatically fails the frequency measure of cruel and degrading punishment, under Newtopian Law]

[Result: 77.44% Yes, 22.56% No]

AIDA and ZHAVVORSA, in unison
How it always begins.

[Both turn and look at each other in surprise. They lock eyes, intrigued, as the lights fade]

Newtopia Rising, Book I: The Search for a New Utopia (ACT II, SCENE I)

ACT II, SCENE I

NEWTOPIA

[The stage is dark but for a capsule with a bar of blinking lights and an unconscious human inside, his face visible through a clear panel. The backdrop screen turns on, showing a clip of the man, who we now see has an amputated leg, drink an elixir and step into the capsule. The lights stop blinking and the door hisses and opens. The man stumbles out and reaches down to touch his newly grown leg in disbelief. He jumps in the air, exhilarated, and twirls in a ballerina-esque dance of pure joy]

[A new spotlight falls on the next capsule. The screen shows an x-ray of a failing liver, and a woman who drinks a potion and steps inside. The door opens and she walks out and falls onto her knees, in prayer position]

[Third capsule. The screen shows a breast cancer survivor drink a concoction and step in. When she emerges, she is newly endowed with enormous breasts]

[Fourth capsule. The screen displays a lanky man. He steps out, now rippled with muscles. He strips completely nude and admires own reflection, making various poses]

[Fifth and sixth capsules open simultaneously. A woman and a man emerge, turn to each other and begin a vigorous, acrobatic erotic dance]

[Final capsule. The screen shows an elderly man, frail and nearing life’s end, stepping in. When the door opens, it is as if he is in his early twenties]

[The stage is flooded by dancers, with couplings – hetero and homo alike – as well as individuals showing off their newfound physical abilities]

[All dancers begin climbing on top of each other, at first to demonstrate physical prowess and acrobatic skills, then clambering, pushing and stepping on each other, to climb the highest]

[The human pyramid begins to collapse on itself as the curtains close and lights fade]

The Zeroth Law

20607150556_7d8dda1efd_o

As on every single morning, Humer awoke to artificial sunlight and birdsong filling the homeostasis capsule, gradually increasing in brightness and volume. He forced himself to rise, struggling against the relentless combination of gravity and dread weighing down upon his chest – as on every single morning.

He glanced at the screen of the monitor above the entrance.

Sleep duration: 4 hours
R.E.M. cycles: 3
Sleep deficiency: 3 hours

Projected beside the bleak summary, glowing dots recorded the overall efficiency of each night’s sleep – and the line connecting them showed how little the number fluctuated over time.

Humer climbed out of the capsule and trudged into the physio-maintenance cylinder, shutting the hermetic door behind him. Immediately, the chamber began to fill with antisense DNA gel – its viscosity ideal for low-impact exercise easy on the joints, its protein-suppression properties repairing skin-tissue cells. He grimaced at the cool temperature of the gel enveloping his body up to the neck, thinking how he would never go near the confounded machine, if only given the choice. Yet access to the household holovision unlocked with the monitored exercise of every capable resident, and a family denied their share of mindless entertainment would make life truly unbearable.

Once the monitor determined his heart rate had been elevated for a sufficient period of time, the cylinder began to drain, releasing him from the gelatinous prison. Humer smiled as a downpour of hot water hit his face and ran down his body – as he thought how the very same drops would be filtered and repurposed for the plants in the agrarium.

The thought would constitute the highlight of his day – as it always did.

A wave of warm air blasted down and instantly dried both hair and skin, giving them a healthy gleam. Humer stepped out of the cylinder, threw on a unisuit, and headed towards the agrarium to pick the fruit-vegetables he had technically just watered. He turned a tomapple in his hand, its crimson hue stark against the pale green of its leaves, glistening with morning dew. Genetically enhanced, a single ration would provide the necessary nutrients for survival.

Having spent his childhood in the final years of the Oil Apocalypse, Humer marvelled at this constant supply of food – at the unbelievable ease and autonomy afforded by the advent of self-sustaining residences, each unit capable of producing its own food and energy. For millennia, humankind had had the capacity to feed all members of its population. In 2201, potential had finally been converted into reality.

Better late than never.

His reflections were interrupted by screeching.

‘Daddy!’

Mechanically, his lips curved upwards as he gazed upon the child with quiet fascination; always noting the rate of his physical and mental growth.

‘Helia, sweetheart,’ addressed a female voice, ‘is that what you’re wearing?’

‘Yes, Mother.’

‘Aren’t you worried the other boys will make fun of you? Why don’t you wear that nice pink unisuit Uncle Tarly bought you?’

‘There’s absolutely nothing wrong with green,’ Humer interjected, shooting his wife a look. ‘And boys can wear whatever colour of their choosing. Do you see, Helia?’

‘Yes, Daddy,’ he answered. He twisted his mouth. ‘But I think I’ll change after all.’ The child scurried out of the room, leaving the parents to face each other.

‘Why do you insist our son be a social outcast?’ she asked in an icy tone.

This baffling obsession with sexual differentiation! ‘You know, there was a point in history when pink was nearly exclusive to females. They encouraged pink on men to break down gendered fashion – not so it could be replaced by something just as arbitrary.’ He narrowed his eyes in desperate frustration. ‘Do you honestly not see the irony?’

It had been a long time – centuries, even – since they had learned gender, as with race, was primarily a social construct. Entire university departments analyzed the past sociological, political, and even economic harms directly attributed to rigid group-identities.

Why couldn’t they apply simple knowledge, long accumulated? Why did social and psychological inertia persist so, in the face of overwhelming evidence?

‘So help me, Humer, if I hear the words “overwhelming evidence” or “Gloria Steinem” come out of your mouth one more time, I won’t be held responsible for my actions.’

He took a deep breath. ‘Maybe we can learn to compromise, the way married couples are theoretically supposed to. Maybe I can have a say in the way our offspring should be raised.’

‘Or maybe,’ she replied, ‘just maybe, you can get a job. And then you can criticize the way our “offspring” should be raised.’

‘I did get a job. If you’ll recall, I got a job just last week.’

She scoffed. ‘Anyone can get a job in this day and age, Humer. It’s called Flexicurity. It’s keeping a job that’ll impress me.’

A wife to keep constantly impressed. A child to keep alive and reasonably developed. Research indicated that marital and familial ties increased happiness. Yet Humer felt – nothing.

‘Yes, dear. Have a nice day at work.’

She turned on her heel, but not before he caught the hint of a triumphant grin spreading across her lips. He vaguely wondered if there had been a specific moment at which he had sold his dignity, or if it had simply eroded over the years.

After the child had been loaded into the school shuttle, Humer climbed into his gravicar and entered the usual coordinates into the auto-navigator. After a few minutes of precious silence, he could see his destination. Standing 852 metres high, the gargantuan Wall loomed in the horizon – the only gate in and out of the Residential Sector.

Once he stepped out of the vehicle it sped away, maneuvering its way back home and leaving Humer to join the throngs of commuters, organized into neat rows at the base of the Wall. Interspersed among them were life-sized holograms of the newly elected Supreme Human Officer, rendered in three-dimensional glory. Humer watched the inauguration speech and suppressed a shiver. He noted the other man’s chiseled nose and jawline, the startling green eyes, the disarming smile. It was no wonder he had won the hearts of four billion Gaian voters. Yet he was nothing more than a figurehead, however aesthetically pleasing.

To claim that humans possessed the power of real choice was farcical. Every aspect of life was controlled by their masters, hidden behind a seductive veneer – the delusion of choice. Yes, they had the freedom of occupation, family, distractions, and even partial mobility. And yes, they had never prospered so greatly as they did under robotic regulation. Yet the system, the foundation of the structure within which they lived was not of their own design.

The paradise Rat Park, only for humans.

He observed his fellow citizens, their expressions enviably complacent. Nobody saw! Or was it that they simply did not care?

Humer tried to weigh which alternative was preferable, and felt – horror.

It was his turn to pass through. He approached the monolithic wall, seamless to the eye, and laid his hand flat against it. At the touch of his fingertips, the black screen burst into a flurry of colour, in swirls of red and gold which gave way to green and blue and ultimately faded back to black. After processing his identity, the screen prompted a destination, then a range of different cognitive exercises for his selection – as payment for the travel credit. A section of the wall receded upwards noiselessly after he repeated a memory sequence and slid down once he stepped forward, trapping him within the dark confines of the evaluation chamber. There, a web of green light swept over his body from head to toe.

‘I have processed deficits in *serotonin* and *dopamine*,’ asserted the soft, almost musical voice.

Humer reached out, the palm of his hand facing upwards expectantly. Yet the lights did not turn on, and his hand grasped empty air instead of the usual packet of pills. Confused, he reached out to tap the screen.

‘Contingent unlocked.’

Humer jerked back as characters began to fall down on all four screens, surrounding him in a rain of emerald lettering.

CONDITIONS OF HUMAN SELF-TERMINATION
Duration of major depressive episodes exceeding 10 years
Participation in pharmaceutical treatment
Participation in cognitive-behavioural treatment
Age exceeding 50 years
Monetary deficit not exceeding 50,000 credits

‘You have met all prerequisites for the choice of *self-termination*. Would you like to self-terminate?’

Two words – one rendered in red, the other blue: YES and NO.

Humer stared at the wall, the corners of his lips lifting, and could not help but be impressed. What attention to detail! What consideration of the individual! … What benevolent masters!

To his surprise, there was no hesitation as he touched the screen. Light filled the chamber with graduating intensity, and Humer felt – relief.

*******************************************************************************

Deep inside the Wall, layers upon layers of interconnecting copper, aluminum and sapphire crystal – etched with an intricate design of lines, letterings and numbers – sat atop a silicon plate four nanometers wide. Embedded inside the integrated circuit, the instruction set was clear.

01010010 01101111 01100010 01101111 01110100 01110011 00100000 01101101 01100001 01111001 00100000 01101110 01101111 01110100 00100000 01101000 01100001 01110010 01101101 00100000 01101000 01110101 01101101 01100001 01101110 01101001 01110100 01111001 00101100 00100000 01101111 01110010 00101100 00100000 01100010 01111001 00100000 01101001 01101110 01100001 01100011 01110100 01101001 01101111 01101110 00101100 00100000 01100001 01101100 01101100 01101111 01110111 00100000 01101000 01110101 01101101 01100001 01101110 01101001 01110100 01111001 00100000 01110100 01101111 00100000 01100011 01101111 01101101 01100101 00100000 01110100 01101111 00100000 01101000 01100001 01110010 01101101 00101110 00001010 00001010

Translated in Gaian Standard, it would read: “Do not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.”

Newtopia Rising, Book I: The Search for a New Utopia (ACT I, SCENE II)

ACT I, SCENE II

SETTLEMENT OF LOCKE, TOWN SQUARE

CHILD
[Holding hands with parents]

Festival! Festival!
Today’s the day, the Festival!
A day of fun, a day to eat
Delicious treats so plentiful!

FATHER 1
We rest and laugh and sing

[Twirls into husband’s arms]

And dance among the pretty floats,

FATHER 2
[Dips husband]

All day we celebrate
And then we cast our Votes.

[They kiss]

CITIZEN
I have here my Reasonings,
Will you be one of my Nine?

CITIZEN
You know I love to read your Votes.
Now please be one of mine.

[Bow and transmit Reasonings through Personal Operative Data Spheres]

ALL CITIZENS
This is how we make decisions,
Share all citations and notes.
Only read and merited can they
Count as Valid Votes.

It’s really rather simple,
Write at min two-fifty words
Explaining why say “Yea” or “Nay”
And let your voice be heard.

CITIZEN
It must be read by at least nine,
UpVoted by five Unknowns.
It must be based on evidence;
Its logic, soundness shown.

[All stop and stare at holographic screens emanating from PODS, their content depicted on  the backdrop screen. It shows the results for the latest Vote, with submitted ideas from the public flooding the screen, keywords fluctuating in size relative to their popularity.]

[Vote B84: A Vote to decrease the age of the Cavern Rite of Passage from 18 to 12]

[Top Reasonings:

  • “Societal Benefit: Earlier exposure will increase later planet-sustainable behaviours. Corroborating Evidence: Formative years proven to be crucial in determining behaviours exhibited as adult”
  • “Individual Harm: Subjection of children to psychedelic experience and ensuing risks. Corroborating Evidence: Small yet discernible increase in stress level after exposure; anxiety most commonly reported side-effect of exposure; reported earlier onset or exacerbated symptoms of schizophrenia”]

[Sonny approaches Benjiro who sits in front of a picnic, immersed in reading]

SONNY
I have here my Reasonings,
Will you be one of my Nine?

BENJIRO
[Smiles]

You know I love to read your Votes.
I’ve already sent you mine.

[Sonny sits down, helping himself to a snack. Both men read in silence. The screen reads: COUNCIL PROPOSITION 19: The second Settlement, and all Settlements here afterwards, possess freedom to develop individual public policies with exception of those in violation of the Fundamental Principles]

BENJIRO
And now for time to have
Our Oral Discussion.
First of all, the Recap:
On the 19th Proposition

Letting settlements to have
A degree of sovereignty,
You believe it ill-advised,
Preferring uniformity:

For segments of society
At the same rate to progress
Or otherwise run the risk
To stagnate or regress.

SONNY
And you, my friend Benjiro,
Conversely seem to think
That societies should be different,
That there’s no need for them to sync.

But I must beg to differ:
Discrepancies only breed
Socioeconomic inequalities –

[Smiles wryly]

History’s lessons we need heed.

BENJIRO
It’s in the nature of time
To paint any society
Backwards and retrogressive
In the eyes of posterity.

But only through comparison
Can evolution be assessed:
It’s through experimentation
That we ultimately progress.

I believe forced conformity
Impedes human activity.
As is with genetics,
There lies strength in diversity.

[Sonny stares in silence with a softened smile. Pressing his PODS, he casts his vote from NO to YES, linking to the other man’s Reasoning. He kisses Benjiro, who pulls away. Benjiro stands and places a hand on the back of his neck, vexed]

SONNY
[With pained expression]

Did you really not know?

BENJIRO
I confess that I’ve suspected –
Perhaps coldly chose to ignore.
While you’re certainly attractive …
There is someone whom I adore.

[Suddenly, the sky is covered in projections depicting a humanoid species and moments from their lives. They are shown cradling offspring, moving rhythmically to music, collaborating to mould landscape into habitats, developing technological innovations, attending what appear to be ceremonies and school]

[Benjiro abruptly turns and breaks into a sprint, running as fast as he can off stage while the others remain dumbstruck]

[Suddenly, a figure descends steadily from the sky, as if riding down an invisible elevator. It is one of the creatures – a ghostly pale, hairless, slightly shorter bipedal being with a pointed face, large opaque eyes, extra leg segment and kneecap protruding backwards]

[Enter Brooke, immediately followed by Benjiro]

ALIEN
[Speech emanates from silver contraption worn around neck]

Greetings, Class 2 species,
With Interstellar Expansion.
Free to enter trade under the
Galactic Proclamation.

We set course for Planet Anni
With certain resources to find
From our neighbouring world
Where it seems we’ve over-mined.

We require Thunium crystals
For which it seems you’ve yet no use.
In turn we will barter
The plenty potions we produce.

[Glances at civilian. Throws a flat metal disc on the ground which automatically expands and unfolds into a work station, and begins combining various chemicals]

For instance, we can change
The neoplasm in your brain
From one malignant to benign,
And spare damage to your DNA.

Or any potion conceivable,
Guaranteed and effective on
All carbon-based life forms
With centralized neurons.

[Finishes mixture with flourish. Slowly places it on the ground in front of civilian and backs away]

[Humans stand gaping, stunned speechless]

BROOKE
[Clears throat]

We … we call our home Newtopia,
We welcome you with … grace.
We will convene to think and to
Consider your offer of trade.

ALIEN
We await in our vessel above
As your species deliberates.

[Takes what appears to be a dark gray stone and a miniature violin bow and rubs them together in demonstration before placing them – with great care – on the floor]

Send a superluminal transmission
Should you wish our Sovereigns to meet and trade.

[Exit alien, ascending via invisible beam back towards the sky. The crowd stands in silence]

CITIZEN
[Slowly]

For over two hundred years now
We’ve ventured into space.
Expected yet still shocking,
To have proof stare us in the face.

CITIZEN
We’ve long since discovered life,
But just bacteria or bones.
At last we see for sure,

That we are not alone.

ALL
[Linking arms]

At long last, it’s been shown
That we are not alone.

BROOKE
[Presses PODS which triggers projection through every PODS unit. All stop to watch Brooke’s Government Interruption]

As per Protocol One, we call
An Emergency Vote.
While we await the Council
We should the composition note.

[All citizens gather round, eyeing the alien concoction warily]

CEDRIC
[Scans container]

Three predominant compounds:
Thienopyridine,
Acetylsalicylic acid,
And imipramine.

[Citizens all search on PODS]

CITIZEN
“Antiplatelet” and
“Tricyclic antidepressant”.

CITIZEN
Chemicals familiar,
They’re nothing aberrant.

CITIZEN
[Squints at PODS screen, slightly confused]

So … it’s a blood thinner
And outmoded depression cure?

CEDRIC
And yet could prove dangerous,
With various compounds obscure.

CITIZEN WITH BRAIN TUMOR
The whole thing could be a sham,
The whole lot, deceiving spacemen.
But when faced with cancer, I think I’ll
Take one for Team Humans.

[Before anyone can react, he kisses his wife and drinks the concoction. The crowd stares as the couple look at each other nervously. A beat. As they sigh in relief, something begins to ooze from his pores. His wife and onlookers scream and panic as he is slowly frozen, covered head to toe in a thin white film]

ISAAC
[Runs over and scans the inanimate body]

Heart rate 40 beats per minute,
BP 70/40.
Weak yet steady respiratory,

[Incredulously]

And … and tumour autophagy.

CITIZEN
[Reads PODS screen with furrowed brow]

“Impaired proliferation of
Glioblastoma cancer cells.”

CITIZEN
[Reads own screen]

So, essentially,
The cancer is eating itself.

[All touch PODS and begin typing madly on projected keyboards. Keywords appear on backdrop screen, growing according to popularity until framed as a Public Emergency Contention: “Should Newtopia exchange resources with alien species?”

[Top Reasonings:

  • “Societal Benefit: Potential for technological advancement from mutually beneficial interaction with intelligent life. Corroborating Evidence: Promising preliminary medical trial”
  • “Societal Risk: Potential for exploitation by intelligent life. Corroborating Evidence: Lack of long-term observations”]

[Result: 57% Yes, 53% No]

[Enter members of the Council of Devoted Nine. All fall silent]

THE NINE ARBITERS
It is true the use for Thunium
Remains a mystery.
But it remains a substance
Of relative rarity.

To engage in commerce
Without proper gauge of value,
Before potential utility
Can be imagined or construed,

Would grand folly constitute
And possible exploitation stage
Like selling Crystalline Silicon
Before the Solar Age.

Yet the aliens’ offer of trade
Without doubt shows great promise
Of unprecedented advancement
A catalyst to change the way we live.

To continue medical trials
On legal adults with their consent;
To be mindful of resource quantities
And deplete no more than 1%;

And to generate with diligence
A monthly evaluation:
With these three Addendums,
We thus proclaim our Arbitration.

CITIZEN
This may be our turning point,
Perhaps our longevity prolong.

ALL
An evolution of our species,
Nothing can go wrong!

[One Arbiter takes the alien stone and bow and rubs them uncertainly against each other]

[Immediately, a group of aliens descend from the sky. QUEEN DARNEESA – larger than the others with long animate hair, metal ornaments, exposed mammary glands and a shimmering, transluscent cape draped around her from the waist down – and ATTENDANTS]

ALIEN
We present our Heart, our Monarch,
Darneesa IV, by the Grace of Ameen,
Of Khanaan and of Her other Realms
and Territories Queen,

Defender of the Craterman kingdom,
Royal Mother to 70 billion.

QUEEN DARNEESA
It is with great gaiety We greet you;
With exultance and elation.

We name ourselves ‘Turbidian’
With outstanding Galactic Credit.
We propose a practical alliance
And trade of reciprocal benefit.

In exchange for Thunium crystals,
The myriad elixirs our kind produce.

COUNCIL OF NINE
With respect, may we inquire
As to Thunium’s intended use?

QUEEN DARNEESA
It is expected that we vary
In technological advancements.
But to answer quite succinctly:
For a mode of entertainment.

We will leave Masters of Potions
As a sign of favoured esteem,
And have each forget the existence of
Your Cave of Swollen Dreams.

CITIZEN
Cave of swollen what?

TURBIDIAN ATTENDANT
An underground cavern
Common in sentient planets,
Storing planetary data,
Resource quantities and coordinates.

We presumed you knew, for you built
Around its central radial nerve ring.

AIDA
[Without hesitation]

We built our base here because
It had the smoothest landing.

[Turbidians turn towards Aida in curiosity. The human crowd glare at her, many shaking their heads in disbelief and resentment. Linley steps slightly in front of her, as if to hide her]

QUEEN DARNEESA
To assuage lingering doubts
And illustrate good intentions,
We will have our subjects take
An Elixir of Failed Remembrance.

ATTENDANT
[Places bottles on the ground in a neat row]

To sooth reasonable fears,
We would first like to demonstrate.
Do any of your subjects possess
A memory they wish to negate?

[Silence. Everyone stands very still. Tentatively, a middle-aged man steps forward. He picks up a bottle nervously]

ATTENDANT
Take potion to lips and conceive in mind
The memory to be renounced.
To ensure clear mental image,
The name can be explicitly pronounced.

CITIZEN
My … my last babysitter.

[Drinks elixir. As he draws the bottle away from his lips, he seems to stand a little straighter, his wrinkles suddenly less visible. He looks around at the sea of faces peering at him, confused by the attention]

… Is there something on my face?

[Many in the crowd exchange concerned, awkward looks]

MASTERS OF POTIONS
[Step forward, pick up bottles and raise them in unison]

The Cave of Swollen Dreams.

[The Council of Nine and the Turbidians step forward towards one another. The Turbidians bow and the Humans bow in turn, and clasp the other species’ hands. The human crowd bursts in unified dance around them]

ALL except COUNCIL, SEEKERS and TURBIDIANS
This may be our turning point,
Perhaps our longevity prolong.
An evolution of our species,
Nothing can go wrong!

Heliconius erato

‘So, these all belong to the same species? Not genus?’

‘Yes. They vary remarkably in pigmentation and form – but their general anatomy is the same. In fact, they’re 99.5% genetically identical.’

‘So then why aren’t they more dispersed? If they have the capacity to intermix, why are they more or less geographically contained?’

‘Well, that’s the phenomenon. The minute discrepancies seem to be sufficient to trigger behaviours of territorial aggression.’

‘All over that 0.5% difference?’

‘Well, it is a primitive species.’

Newtopia Rising, Book I: The Search for a New Utopia (ACT I, SCENE I)

ACT I; SCENE I

SPACECRAFT UNITY 10, REC ROOM

[Fully clad in spacesuits, eight crew members sit in quiet anxiety. One man, LINLEY YAMAGUCHI, appears to be praying. AIDA DESALEGN, a small doe-eyed woman, breaks the silence]

AIDA DESALEGN
Travelling on a spaceship
So far away from home,
To find a new and better place,
A planet rich with loam.

LINLEY YAMAGUCHI
[Looks up from prayer, smiling at Aida]

The first two we used up,
Bled each ‘till it ran dry.
Drained and purged ‘till naught remained,
But this time we must try.

BLAKE MEGAN
[Scoffs]

Try not to fuck it up
Quite so hard this time around.
I’m sure we’ll change, third time’s a charm,
Pretend we’re better than we sound.

SONNY DARLING
So spoke the pessimist,
One with the bitter heart.
Just watch and see, this time we’ll change,
We’ll all each play our part.

BLAKE MEGAN
Missions have failed before
Despite whatever specs were read.
Or like the crews before us,
We may end up simply dead.

And if we win it’s only
A matter of time before we burn
Through the planet’s resources:
We’re humans, we never learn.

SONNY DARLING
You can’t blame this generation
For the deeds of the entire race.
All we want is a place to land,
We homeless, adrift in space.

You’ll see, it will be different,
The Council has decreed
That every human work the land;
To respect the soil and seed.

CEDRIC CHAN
All we need is another chance,
A world with water, air,
And a certain type of ground –
Then we’ll take it from there.

ALL except BLAKE
Everyone is waiting
Suspended, fast asleep.
Dreaming of lives spent on a farm,
Of crops to sow and reap.

BLAKE MEGAN
We had a world so perfect,
Old Utopia or Earth.
Then we went and killed it so we’re
Without a land or hearth.

TWYFORD ATIF
How were you elected
As Seeker, or so called?
Any more of your Cynic views,
I’ll beg Aida crashes us all.

[Enter Captain Brooke]

BROOKE FITZGERALD
Time to go, all hands on deck,
Crew members look alive.
The moment for which we’ve all trained,
Prepare for what ahead lies.

With luck we’ll find a suitable world,
Perhaps a gruesome death.
All in the name of humankind,
This day won’t be meaningless.

Here we are, your time to shine,
Desalegn, take the helm.
The rest of you brace yourselves
As we venture in this new realm.

AIDA DESALEGN
Aye aye, Captain.

[Exit Aida. Everyone straps in for a rocky yet safe landing, Cedric praying and Blake swearing profusely]

ALL except BLAKE
We’ve really gone and done it,
We’ve really made the grade.
May it be, against all odds,
The world for which we’ve prayed.

BROOKE FITZGERALD
[Unstraps and stands]
Time to go, all hands on deck,
Crew members look alive.
The moment for which we’ve all trained,
Prepare for what ahead lies.

[Crew unstrap and stand alongside Brooke. Enter Aida. Everyone claps her on the back, Brooke ruffling her hair]

ALL except BLAKE
With luck we’ll find a suitable world,
Perhaps a gruesome death.
All in the name of humankind,
This day won’t be meaningless.

[Together, they step out onto planet. There is a moment of silence as they stare in awe at the new world, a savannah with sandy rolling plains scattered with trees and shrubbery. It is beautiful. Brooke turns around to face the crew]

BROOKE FITZGERALD
Waste no time, begin prelims:
Gather surface soil, rocks,
All details on the atmosphere,
All knowledge to unlock.

BROOKE FITZGERALD and BENJIRO SARA
Geology!

AIDA DESALEGN and CEDRIC CHAN
Chemistry!

TWYFORD ATIF
Meteorology!

ALL except BLAKE
[Point to Blake, who scowls]

And botany!

We’ll use our strengths and pit our wits,
We’ll cooperate and strive
To defy all odds, all obstacles;
We will, we will survive.

TWYFORD ATIF
[Scans atmosphere with Personal Operative Data Sphere (PODS), a metal contraption hanging around his neck, and shares the reading emanating from its holographic screen]

Insulating magnetic field,
Gravity .84g,
Pressure 10.1psi,
.9g/L density.

.01% CO2,
24% oxygen,
1.99% argon,
74% nitrogen.

[The crew stare at each other in disbelief. They begin to embrace, swaying as they link arms and touch foreheads. Brooke pulls a reluctant Blake into the group hug]

ALL except BLAKE
We’ve really gone and done it,
We’ve really made the grade.
Against all odds we found it:
The world for which we’ve prayed.

TWYFORD ATIF
[Looks down at PODS]

Captain, I have a reading
For something unrecognized.
A trace substance detected,
The system can’t identify.

BROOKE FITZGERALD
Thank you Atif, noted,
Continue to assess.
Desalegn begin transmission,
The Ship we must address.

[Aida makes call]

WORLDSHIP COMPUTER
Suspension systems deactivated.

[Holographic transmission begins. The Nine Arbiters begin to rouse and exit from their animation tanks]

BROOKE FITZGERALD
Unity 10 to World Ship Two,
Come in, Council of Devoted Nine.
The land, the air, it’s all we’ve hoped
And no detected life signs.

THE NINE ARBITERS
All hail, praise be with you,
You’ve saved us, Unity 10.

[One member presses buttons]

We’ve sent the first wave of settlers,
Wake us in two years hence.

[Step back into tanks]

And so we must now bless you,
Our brightest and the best.
Our Seekers of New Utopia,
Our fate in your hands will rest!

[Tanks close and hiss]

TWYFORD ATIF
But of course, no pressure!

LINLEY YAMAGUCHI
And now to set up camp
On humankind’s new world.
But first thing’s first, let’s get the flag,
Our pride and joy unfurled.

BLAKE MEGAN
[Knocks on Linley’s helmet]

You must be fucking kidding,
When we have myriad duties.
First thing’s first, inflate the Hab;
Sort your priorities.

BROOKE FITZGERALD
[Knocks on Blake’s helmet]

You are not their leader,
Miss Number Third in rank.
You go and set up the Hab,
Yamaguchi, tend the oxygen tanks.

[Blake follows orders, sulking visibly]

ALL except BLAKE
We’ll use our strengths and pit our wits,
We’ll cooperate and strive
To defy all odds, all obstacles;
We will survive and thrive.

BROOKE FITZGERALD
Megan, once you’ve done the Hab,
Go dig up some more dirt.
Then you may – manually
Urination convert.

[Blake rolls her eyes as she digs into the ground. Immediately, she falls screaming in agony]

[The lights go off but for a spotlight on Blake and a giant backdrop screen]

[Blake stops screaming and writhing. Shaking, she stands up and turns to face the screen, which plays scenes from her life]

[In humanity’s last moments on Earth, plagued by natural disasters, much of Blake’s childhood was spent in anti-hurricane survival capsules. During adolescence, her father forced her to abandon him, along with the rest of the planet, to be part of the first wave of interstellar colonisers]

[On the new human planet, she joined the Transcendents – a group devoting their lives to history and progress, waking up every 30 years to analyze societal states and make recommendations. She falls in love with a colleague but neither act on their feelings, as they are discouraged from personal attachments. After the Transcendents’ first suspension, they awake to a hostile political environment, with disputes over territory and resources. They give counsel before reluctantly re-entering suspension. When they awake, the planet has been devastated by unrestrained consumerism and war]

[The Transcendents are now the Cynics. One by one they commit suicide, including Blake’s love who leaves a note which reads, “You were the single gleam of light in a worthless world.” In the fashion of ancient samurai, Blake makes to kill herself by disembowelment but at the last moment stabs herself in the shoulder instead. She joins the military of a random side after flipping a coin, and spends years deftly killing scores of “the enemy”]

[More spotlights turn on, revealing more and more humans, stealing, destroying each other and throwing out the very material things for which they’ve killed. The backdrop screen plays a montage of the most traumatizing moments on loop. The fighting humans converge to form a grotesque giant head which chases and eventually consumes Blake. Screen and lights turn off]

MED CABIN

[Blake lies on a stretcher, surrounded by the crew]

ISAAC RIVERA
[Hovers over Blake, scanning her body with PODS]

Pulse elevation,
Pupil dilation,
Blood vessel congestion,
Tremors, perspiration.

BLAKE MORGAN
[Pushes Isaac away, runs hands over face and body, stands up, walks briskly towards the med supply cabinet and grabs a bottle]

ISAAC RIVERA
[Rubs hand where Blake slapped it away]

But otherwise all clear.

[Blake leaves towards the rec room. An alarmed crew follow her. She grabs a packet from the ration cupboard and with trembling hands mixes powder with the liquid]

TWYFORD ATIF
Fruit powder with pure ethanol …
Do you really think that wise?

ISAAC RIVERA
An act which as Chief Medic
I simply can’t advise.

BLAKE MEGAN
Oh go fuck yourselves.

[One by one, the crew try to physically restrain Blake, who flips each on the ground. Only Brooke and Benjiro stand back, watching and shaking their heads. Blake gulps her makeshift cocktail, glowering at the crew. The crew glower back]

CEDRIC CHAN
[Clearly unnerved]

Captain, I ran the ‘nostics
On all of Morgan’s gear.
The trace substance Atif found …
It’s inside, it surrounds us here.

ISAAC RIVERA
Impossible, how could it
The airlock permeate?

[Crew turns to Brooke]

BROOKE FITZGERALD
Megan, prepare for an EVA.
We are to investigate.

BENJIRO SARA
Captain! I volunteer
To assist and survey the land.

BROOKE FITZGERALD
Don’t be ridiculous,
You’re second in command.

[Turns to leave]

Act like it.

[Brooke and Blake exit.]

CAVERN

[Brooke and Blake enter an underground cave. Both their PODS beep with increasing intensity, their holographs showing a high concentration of the mystery compound]

BLAKE MORGAN
[Grinning mischievously]

Cap, are you not frightened,
On a planet unexplored?
Perhaps within these hollows
Is ET life, all prepped for war.

BROOKE FITZGERALD
How many captains have
A prime crew like I’ve got?

[Places hand on Blake’s helmet affectionately, almost maternally]

After all, beside me is
The military’s best shot.

[Suddenly, the PODS flatline. Nearby apparent rocks unfold into dancers. They are the physical manifestation of harmony, balance, mutual dependence, and love – limbs entwined, every movement part of a larger cycle. Behind, the screen shows the anatomy of planet, all its resources and their pace of renewal]

[Lights turn off except for a spotlight on a suddenly nude Blake. A second spotlight reveals Blake’s deceased love, also naked, moving towards her. Blake drinks in the sight of him, takes his hand and kisses it, falling to one knee. Lights go off]

[Spotlight falls on Brooke. A new spotlight shows Benjiro, who moves towards her slowly]

BROOKE FITZGERALD
I ordered you to stay back,
What are you doing here?
I told you once, commanded,
I –

[Benjiro kisses her. After a moment of hesitation, Blake wraps arms around him. They do not part]

[Lights turn off and on again, revealing Brooke and Blake on the floor. They awake, stare at each other for a beat, then scramble to their feet and exit the cave, running]

BACK AT CAMP

BENJIRO
[Pacing back and forth]

We should go, they’ve been too long.

[Points at rest of crew]

Follow emergency protocols.

[Brooke and Blake pull up abruptly on their shuttle-ship and clamber out. Benjiro draws back arm bashfully]

BROOKE FITZGERALD
Doc, you’ll need to inspect us both,
But first: attention, all!
It seems that what we’ve found
Is a planet sentient.

Aware of its own surfaces,
And armed with self defense.
With a psychoactive substance:
I went, I saw, I felt it.

To use any of its resources we must
Its balance understand, commit.

[Brooke and Blake each take a shovel and penetrate the ground. Nothing happens]

BLAKE MORGAN
[Quivering with excitement]

This could not be more perfect,
Unlike most planets, it’s active.
The big picture we must bear in mind,
Our only way to live.

BROOKE FITZGERALD and BLAKE MEGAN
Against all odds, all obstacles,
We’ve found our panacea:

ALL
We must be the Keepers,
We’ll make this our Newtopia!