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!

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