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!

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