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]
May I join your company?
[Looks up and smiles]
For what I hope is the last time,
Please call me ‘Aida’ outside of duty.
May I join you, Aida?
[Turns off and closes her book]
As it is Free Time, Zhavvorsa,
Your company would please me.
Your species is much gracious;
I commend your hospitality.
We’re honoured to receive First Contact,
And hope for mutual education.
[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.
I’d be delighted.
I oblige you go first.
[Thinks a moment]
How did you come by such propensity
With the practice of chemistry?
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.
[Thinks a moment]
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?
And interstellar navigation.
I was a pilot, too!
[The corners of his lips lift]
And what made you so choose?
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.
I guess in present time
We’re excluded from our preferred fields.
Or was it once again obligation –
What made you choose your occupation?
To ascend beyond the reach
Of daily realities;
To see firsthand the Open Void
And all its possibilities.
Is ‘Open Void’ how you refer
To what we understand as 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]
I mean, the universe.
There is no need to be embarrassed.
I am not embarrassed.
Surely, you’ve not forgotten:
All neurons, our eyes detect.
[Turns away, flustered]
Well, that is just unfair,
Since your lies I cannot suspect.
Turbidians do not lie.
Each of us is capable
Subtle yet detectable,
Lies increase prefrontal activity.
And would it be unethical
To pose questions exploiting this fact?
As with all social constructs,
Ethics are flexible.
What constitutes ‘Wrong’ and ‘Right’ for one,
For another is amenable.
Why are you here?
To serve my world and queen,
And in history glorify Her reign.
On making first alien contact,
What was your initial thought, reaction?
“It’s only a matter of time”,
Our scientists for centuries forewarned.
We were to accept, continue and strive
For progress, as always planned.
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.
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.
[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.
Why does this topic cause you
Such passionate distress?
[Blinks, taken aback]
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]
[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]
- “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]