“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.

“Love Song of Ice and Fire”

*Game of Thrones SPOILER ALERT*

May as well share, since HBO confirmed the theory. A vision of how L+R=J <3

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‘Remove helm,’ he commanded, ‘or find it lifted from fallen body.’

Slowly, the mystery knight pulled off the headpiece, sending dark tresses falling in cascades.

He nearly dropped his sword for shock. ‘Lady Lyanna?’

‘Prince Rhaegar,’ she greeted coolly, as if they had not attempted to hack each other to pieces a moment past. She pushed a lock of hair from her eyes. ‘Truly, your prowess in battle is matched only by that with the harp. I must needs thank the gods that we did not meet on the jousting grounds.’

‘My lady …’ His tongue felt a stranger in his mouth. ‘Why … what were you … the jousting grounds is no place for a lady,’ he finished lamely.

‘Must I needs a cock to chastise those without honour? If so, I should gladly grow one.’ She feigned melancholy and shrugged. ‘Alas, I cannot, and thus must rely on wiles alone.’

‘You were certainly blessed with more than wiles, my lady,’ he remarked, laughing. His arm throbbed where she had struck him.

She looked at him sharply. ‘Do you mock me, sir?’

The laughter died in his throat. ‘No,’ he assured her. ‘I meant no harm, only … only …’ Had he ever been so slow-witted?

‘Only to flatter?’ she finished for him, frowning. ‘Do you think me so vain?’

‘No,’ he said miserably. ‘I only meant …’

Her face broke into a smile. ‘I only jest, my prince. ‘Tis a rare sight indeed, to see the solemn Prince of Dragonstone so vexed.’

‘My lady is cruel.’

‘I am of the North, my lord – and thus as cold and cruel as winter.’

‘And as beautiful.’ The words escaped upon his breath.

She stared at him a moment then broke her gaze, biting her lower lip. ‘Many call the North cold and cruel. Few name it beautiful.’

‘And I name her merciless and haunting, mesmerizing in her ferocity.’

‘The dragon prince has many talents and queer tastes, conjuring sweet words for maids in armour.’

‘The lady wolf is as mysterious as she is wild and breathtaking.’

She turned her eyes from his once more, flustered.

‘His Grace believes you a foe. He has commanded me to retrieve you, to be unhorsed and unmasked.’

‘And will you reveal me, my lord?’

‘I shall take your secret to my grave.’

‘Then … in your hands, I place my trust.’

He drew closer and took her hands in his, feeling as if he had emptied a flagon of wine down his throat, blood rushing to his face.

This time, she did not turn her gaze.

“Topic 1”

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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 government committed to planetary sustainability, though popularly attributed to the social mainstreaming of environmentalism 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 gradual 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 worldcity.

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.

 

Photo Credit: Flickr user Kārlis Dambrāns

“The Zeroth Law”

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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, manoeuvring 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 soft brown 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.”

 

Photo Credit: Flickr user Christiaan Colen

“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.’

 

Photo Credit: Lily M (Małgorzata Miłaszewska)

“Newtopia Rising, Book I: The Search for a New Utopia”

Source: Netflix/BoJack Horseman

“It’s Tommy by way of Cirque du Soleil, set in space with heavy erotic overtones … I call it Newtopia Rising, Book I: The Search for a New Utopia.”

–Todd Chavez, BoJack Horseman


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ACT I; PART I

* SPACESHIP UNITY 10 *

[Fully clad in spacesuits, eight crew members sit in quiet anxiety. Behind them loom three backdrop screens, showing a cockpit view from a spaceship as it approaches a blue-and-green planet]

[One man, LINLEY YAMAGUCHI, appears to be praying. AIDA DESALEGN, a small 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, Linley 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.

[The 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 the planet]

* UNDISCOVERED PLANET *

[Part of the ship’s exterior lies on one side of the stage. There is a moment of silence as the Seekers stare in awe at the new world, a rolling plain completely covered in moss. 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 the atmosphere with his Personal Operative Data Sphere (PODS), a metal contraption worn around everyone’s necks, 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.
Return to Unity,
The Worldship we must address.

[They walk back to the other side of the stage. All their data devices light up and whirl for a second when in proximity to the ship. The three backdrop screens read “Video transmission requested”, and then “Video transmission answered”]

WORLDSHIP COMPUTER
Suspension systems deactivated.

[A holographic video emits from their data spheres — also displayed on the screens. The Council of Nine Arbiters, all elderly men and women draped in white regalia, begin to rouse and exit from 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 Arbiter presses controls]

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 her 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 and digs into the ground. Immediately, she falls screaming in agony]

[The lights go off but for a spotlight on Blake and the backdrop screens]

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

[In humanity’s last moments on Earth, plagued by natural disasters, a young Blake spends most of her childhood in floating survival capsules. During adolescence, she and her mother prepare to join the first wave of interstellar colonizers. But as she steps aboard the first Worldship, her mother says goodbye in tears, remaining behind — Blake has been tricked into abandoning her only family, along with the only planet she’s ever known]

[On the new human planet, she is elected to join 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. 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 now identify as the Cynics. One by one they commit suicide, including Blake’s love. Standing over his corpse, she clutches a note which reads, “You were the single gleam of light in an abysmal 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 the planet with waste. The backdrop screens play a montage of the most traumatizing moments on loop. The fighting humans converge to form a grotesque giant skull which chases and eventually consumes Blake]

[The screens and lights turn off]

* SPACESHIP UNITY – MED CABIN *

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

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

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

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

ISAAC RIVERA
[Rubs his hand where Blake slapped it away]

But otherwise all clear.

[Blake leaves towards the rec room. An alarmed crew follow her. She takes a packet from the ration cupboard and, with trembling hands, empties its contents into the bottle]

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, gasping for breath and glowering at the crew. The crew glower back]

CEDRIC CHAN
[Clearly unnerved]

Captain, I ran the diagnostics
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?

[The 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 lined with glowing crystals, their colour constantly changing. As they slowly walk across the stage, the clusters of crystals grow larger and their PODS beep with increasing intensity. The backdrop screens show the atmospheric scan, 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, what appeared to be large rocks turn out to be dancers, as they unfold their previously contorted bodies and begin a sequence. They are the physical manifestation of harmony, balance, mutual dependence, and love – limbs entwined, every movement part of a larger cycle. Behind, the screens shows the anatomy of the planet, all its resources and their pace of renewal]

[The 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. The lights go off]

[The spotlight now falls on Brooke. A new spotlight shows Benjiro, who approaches 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 her arms around him. They do not part]

[The 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 his arm bashfully]

BROOKE FITZGERALD
Medic, 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 planet’s keepers,
We’ll make this our Newtopia!

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

ACT I, PART II

* SETTLEMENT OF LOCKE, TOWN SQUARE *

[On the left side of the stage, a crowd of people dance and feast. On the other, Benjiro relaxes in front of a picnic]

[Enter a child, holding hands with her parents]

CHILD
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, then together with their daughter run to join the dancing crowd]

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.

[They both bow and transmit their essays through their respective Personal Operative Data Spheres]

[The crowd begins to sing]

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.

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 their PODS, their content depicted on the backdrop screens. The results are in for the latest vote, with submitted ideas from the public flooding the screens, 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:

  • “YES: Earlier exposure will increase later planet-sustainable behaviours. Corroborating Evidence: Formative years proven to be crucial in determining behaviours exhibited as adult”
  • “NO: 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”]

[Voting Participation: 69%]

[Results: 65.32% Yes, 34.68% No]

[The music and the lights on the left side of the stage dim, the dancing crowd now silhouettes. On the right side, Sonny approaches Benjiro]

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

Permitting 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 a 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 transparent sphere with blue lights — resembling a spherical jellyfish — descends steadily from the sky, as if down an invisible elevator. Inside is one of the creatures – a hairless, slightly shorter bipedal being with a pointed face, large opaque eyes, extra leg segment and kneecap protruding backwards. They are ghostly pale except for a brown circle on their forehead]

[Enter Brooke, immediately followed by Benjiro]

ALIEN
[They point a small silver contraption at the humans. When they speak, their speech is translated]

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

We set course for this planet
With certain resources to find
From a neighbouring world
Where it seems we’ve over-mined.

[The backdrop screens display the same glowing crystals seen in the cave]

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 a nearby civilian. They step out of the clear sphere which contracts into a withered branch and throws a flat metal disc on the ground. It expands and unfolds into a work station, and the alien begins combining various chemicals with dexterous hands, with four pointed fingers]

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 the mixture with a flourish. They slowly place it on the ground in front of the civilian and back away]

[The 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 the invisible beam back towards the sky. The crowd stands in silence]

CITIZEN
[Slowly]

For over three 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 her PODS which triggers a projection through every PODS unit — both of civilians and Seekers. Everyone stops to watch Brooke’s Government Interruption, displayed on the backdrop screens]

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
[She squints at her 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 her own PODS screen with a 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 the backdrop screens, growing according to popularity until framed as a Public Emergency Contention: “Should Newtopia exchange resources with alien species?”

[Top Reasonings:

  • “YES: Potential for technological advancement from mutually beneficial interaction with intelligent life. Corroborating Evidence: Promising preliminary medical trial”
  • “NO: Potential for exploitation by intelligent life. Corroborating Evidence: Lack of long-term observations”]

[Voting Participation: 98%]

[Result: 57.81% Yes, 52.19% No]

[Chaos ensues as the crowd bursts into a near riot, all bickering, pushing, shoving, some even throwing punches]

[The lights flicker and fanfare music blasts as the members of the Council of Devoted Nine glide onto the stage. The mob falls still, and for a moment there is silence]

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 10%;

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, translucent cape draped around her from the waist down]

ALIEN ATTENDANT
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.

NINE ARBITERS
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,

[Four aliens dressed in bright yellow robes step forward]

And have each forget the existence of
Your Cave of Swollen Dreams.

TWYFORD
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]

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

ATTENDANT
[Places bottles with clear liquid on the potion station]

To soothe 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 towards one another. The Turbidians incline their heads and the Humans bow in turn. The crowd bursts in unified dance around them]

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

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

ACT II, PART I

* NEWTOPIA *

[The stage is dark but for a capsule with a bar of blinking lights and a clear panel showing an unconscious human inside, their face coated with a white film. The backdrop screens turn on to show a clip of the man, who we now see has an amputated leg, drinking from a bottle labelled ELIXIR OF REGENERATED LIMB and stepping into the capsule. The lights stop blinking and the door hisses and opens. The man breaks free of the thin film covering him, stumbles out of the capsule 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 screens show an x-ray of a failing heart, and a woman who drinks a potion, labelled ELIXIR OF REPLENISHED ORGAN, and steps inside. The door opens and she walks out and checks her pulse. After a few moments she falls onto her knees, in prayer position]

[Third capsule. The screens show a breast cancer survivor drink a concoction labelled ELIXIR OF ENGORGED MAMMARY GLANDS and step in. When she emerges, she is newly endowed with enormous breasts]

[Fourth capsule. The screens display a lanky man. He steps out, now rippled with muscles. He strips completely nude and admires his own reflection, striking various bodybuilder poses]

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

[Final capsule. The screens show an elderly man, frail and nearing life’s end, stepping in with the help of a walker. When the door opens, though he remains leaning on the walker, 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]

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

ACT II; PART II

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

[On one side of the stage leaning against a moss-covered boulder, Aida sits huddled over a book, the lines of text scrolling upwards steadily as she reads. Once it stops scrolling, she turns the page]

[On the other side, a crowd of humans and a few Turbidian Masters feast and dance to the Voting Festival song in the distance. The backdrop screens show a 91% Vote in favour of increasing the cap on Thunium mining to 30% of reserves]

[Enter Turbidian Master ZHAVVORSA, who walks in the direction of the crowd but stops when they notice Aida. They observe her for a moment and then approach]

ZHAVVORSA
Officer Desalegn,
May I join your company?

AIDA
[Looks up and smiles]

Only if, Master Zhavvorsa,
You call me ‘Aida’ outside of duty.

ZHAVVORSA
May I join you, Aida?

AIDA
[Turns off and closes her book]

On this day of recreation,
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
‘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 their lips lift]

And what made you so choose?

AIDA
‘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 the same direction. Despite the Turbidian’s lack of pupils, their expressions are strikingly similar, as if a mirror image of the other’s. They burst into laughter, Aida audibly so, Zhavvorsa silently yet with the same crinkled eyes, upwardly curved lips 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
‘Lie’.

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 our 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 that causes suffering or harm exclusive to prisoners constitutes cruel and degrading punishment. CORROBORATING EVIDENCE: Any extraction of natural resources that exceeds necessary and sustainable levels inflicts a traumatizing psychedelic crisis]

[Voting Participation: 79%]

[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]

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

ACT III, PART I

* NEWTOPIA, TOWN SQUARE — SIX MONTHS LATER *

[It is yet another picnic. Aida and Zhavvorsa lie comfortably — remarkably at ease with each other — side by side with Aida reading and Zhavvorsa seemingly asleep]

[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]

[Voting Participation: 98%]

[Result: 94.23% Yes, 5.77% No]

AIDA
Zhavvorsa.

ZHAVVORSA
[Opens eyes]

Aida.

AIDA
May I be honest, no reservations?

ZHAVVORSA
[They sit 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. The backdrop screens show clouds passing down. 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. They stand there for a moment, until the human is distracted by the craft’s interior]

[The walls encasing the control room are transparent, offering a 360-degree view of outer space. It is empty except for a layer of interwoven branches which lowers from the ceiling and hovers in the air]

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

ZHAVVORSA
Turbidian crafts operate
By synthetic telepathy.

[Guides Aida below the centre of the branches. One lowers itself in front of them and extends into a clear sphere with pulsing blue lights, encasing them. Once it has sealed tight, it becomes weightless, with the pair now floating inside]

[Zhavvorsa pulls two small brown tendrils from the ceiling of the sphere]

Electrode sensors measure
Electromagnetic activity.

The pilot only need concentrate
On mental navigation.
The craft responds to neural signals,
Run on intent and deliberation.

Apply sensors and focus on the map,
Conceiving the craft’s location.
Then imagine it now shifted;
Slightly forward with great precision.

[The Turbidian places the tendrils on Aida’s temples. 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 tendrils 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 a bit farther, then to Newtopia’s North Pole, covered in ice, before zipping towards the opposite end. She removes the sensors and exits the sphere, walking to the window to gaze at the glow of the Southern Lights of her planet]

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 control sphere. 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]

[Zhavvorsa exits the sphere to join an awestruck Aida]

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 bring out a shard of Thunium and puts it in Aida’s hand. They pull two tendrils from the brown circle on their forehead and gently places them on the human’s temples, where they begin to glow]

[The backdrop screens show 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, their limbs and tendrils 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 screens show different Turbidians, flashing from one to the next. We can see the flow of blood, leaving distinct patterns swirling in the brain and body]

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 screens show Aida — mostly a dark outline, yet with a swirl of blue, black, crimson and gold throughout her body]

‘Intricacy’.

Life — colour, vibrancy —
With warmth, compassion, empathy,
And rare 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 and curl 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
[The music stops and for a long moment, Aida stands silent]

That … would explain a lot.

[The music starts again as Aida 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]

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

ACT III, PART II

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

[The stage is dark. The backdrop screens flicker on to show an enormous mine. With chaired ankles, men and women in black dig into the ground. One man is forced into the driver’s seat of a crane attached to a giant drill. After struggling in futile to open the door, he takes a deep breath and presses the control. As the drill descends, he slumps in his seat, screaming and convulsing]

[As the screens continue a montage of different prisoners, a spotlight turns on to reveal a dancer, painted black and contorted into a ball. As they unfold their limbs and rise to their feet, we see the other side for their face and body is painted with a psychedelic pattern of colours. They 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 with one side painted black, who unfolds and stands up. Their other side is also painted with bright swirling colours, completely unique from the first pattern. They hold the first speaker’s hand and join them]

Violence for centuries unseen,

[Another light reveals several contorted and painted individuals who rise, hold hands and sing]

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 and lift one another, so that they compose the profile view of a human head, the lips of which move in sync with the lyrics]

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.

[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, who rises, joins hands and sings]

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 form a second speaking head]

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

[More dancers enter to join the second group, crowding around the giant head and pushing 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]

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 group disappears from view and the now-dominant crowd erupts in cheer and dance]

[Enter Captain Brooke. She stares at the celebrating crowd, shaking her head, and drapes a hand over her face. 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 pigshit.

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 Turbidians — wearing a metallic armoured vest and lowered to their first pair of knees, as if prepared to pounce]

[Instinctively, Benjiro steps in front of Brooke, half raising 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 history’s longest vivisection.

[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, then 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, STATE HEADQUARTERS *

[The remaining Masters of Potions work diligently, aided by human assistants, hands flying across each chemistry station. The atmosphere is symbiotic and amicable, both species engaged in a pleasant dance. After concocting and bottling each new potion, they place it in a box which begins to churn out exact replicas on a conveyor belt, with 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 into their natural crouching states, prepared to pounce]

ZHAVVORSA
[Stepping 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, each Seeker projects the recordings from their PODs, together creating a multi-view replay of the incident in the Cavern, which plays 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]

ALL
Lift the veil and dispel the mist,
The truth we’ll track and sleuth.
We exercise our most basic right,
We demand the truth!

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

ACT IV; PART I

* SPACESHIP UNITY 10 *

[The entire stage is pitch black. The screens show Unity’s interior and exterior]

[In the ship, the Turbidians and Seekers sit in tense silence, strapped in securely. In the cockpit, Aida manoeuvres the landing. The centre screen shows the pilot’s view as they hurtle into the atmosphere of a brown planet]

[The terrain is barren and treacherous, covered with craters — Unity is headed towards the largest of them. At the edge of the planet’s stratosphere hovers a fleet of uniform spacecrafts, from which hundreds of thousands of Turbidians beam up and down]

[As they descend, we see that the aliens have carved a concave city into the natural crater. With the exception of a single, circular patch of green in the centre, everything is brown and covered with giant translucent domes — an overwhelmingly populated urban city]

[The coordinates on the pilot’s screen leads them to the largest dome, on top of which various spaceships are parked. The screens fade to black as Unity lands on this alien parking lot]

* TURBIDIAN VISITOR STATION *

[There is a gate with a line filled with various alien species — mostly humanoid, several insectoid, one amoeboid. The Masters lead the Seekers, bypassing the line and going through the gates until they reach an elevated platform. On top stands a smiling Turbidian]

TURBIDIAN TOUR GUIDE
With great gaiety I greet you,
With much joy and great privilege.
As a Galactic Mandatory Tour guide,
Your safety and learning, I will pledge.

At the end of our excursion
Our laws you’ll each be prompted to agree.
Refusal returns you to this station,
Consent grants free mobility.

[All lights except a spotlight on the platform turn off. The backdrop screens show a third-person view of a circular platform separating from the roof and descending]

Behold below, Khanaan,
The capital planetwide city
Of the Craterman kingdom,
In its twenty thousandth-year glory.

The oldest of seven worlds,
The first to use Planetary Domes.
The epicentre of our kingdom,

[As we draw closer to ground level, we see Turbidian citizens in the midst of their daily routines. A staggering percentage are hooked to their virtual Hive Mind, billions of their glowing tendrils twinkling together like starlight]

To twenty billion turbidians a home.

Who enjoy the highest life expectancy,
Our greatest collective achievement;

[The video stops moving downwards and starts to move forwards, exiting the dome through a connecting tunnel]

And the second largest economy —
Our main export virtual entertainment.

[They exit the tunnel and are welcomed by open land with lush greenery and waterfalls]

As with most Federation members,
A democratic monarchy.

[The tour moves around the circumference of this land, giving a 360-degree view. As we turn round the bend, we see in its centre an enormous structure — a building with ancient walls and columns and a metal convex roof shining brightly in the light]

Behold the Garden Palace,
Home to the Imperial Families.

Upon whom we bestow the luxuries
Of disproportionate space and nature,
In exchange for their burden of ruling —
A fair sociopolitical structure.

And we, the Civilian Body,
Are in turn guaranteed
Justice and protection,
And provision of all our basic needs.

Of shelter, food, and health,
Of education and recreation —
Safe and free from any stress or concern
Of planetary operation.

It’s ultimately with us Civilians
Where you can find true sovereignty:
We proudly possess the power
To choose the Ruling Family.

Throughout the Federation we’re renowned
For our system of transparency,
And boast the highest Voter Turnout
In the entire galaxy.

We are obliged for your patience
As we thus conclude our tour,
And now request telepathic consent
To legal compliance ensure.

[There is a giant wall covered with alien inscriptions and the same brown circles on each Turbidian’s foreheads. Tendrils sprout and attach themselves to each Seeker’s temples, and the centre backdrop screen shows a scrolling translation. Once there are no more words to scroll, the tendrils retract into the wall]

And now that we possess
Agreement clear and explicit,
We may lead you to the Palace
For your diplomatic visit.

[The backdrop screens show a first-person perspective as the platform draws steadily closer to the palace]

* GARDEN PALACE, THRONE ROOM *

[The interior of the palace is covered with greenery, with fantastical flowers and natural crystals. Unlike in the residences outside, there are no Thunium crystals to be seen. On an elevated platform sits Queen Darneesa, surrounded by attendants. The Turbidians Masters prostrate themselves onto their topmost knees, and the Seekers follow example, kneeling]

ZHAVVORSA
Your Radiance, we bring You
A matter of great gravity.
We —

QUEEN DARNEESA
[She raises a hand and Zhavvorsa falls silent]

We are made shocked, aghast, appalled,
By such blatant discourtesy.
Though not our usual ambassadors,
We should not deny formalities.

Though admittedly a Class 2 species,
These are most valued trade partners.
Why to the Interspecific Games
Should we not an invitation proffer?

[The Seekers look at one another, bewildered and wary]

BROOKE
With all respect… “Your Radiance”,
We did not travel here for games.

ATTENDANT
They are much more than merely games,
But a standard in the Federation:
It is on species’ capabilities
Which they base a weighted voting system.

[The centre screen shows a chart of various planets and their rankings, while the other backdrop screens depict scenes from past games. They show various alien participants racing, engaging in close combat, and standing victorious in front of cheering crowds]

Deciding Member Planet influence,
They are part diplomatic tradition.
And part interspecific bonding
Via friendly competition.

Of course, as a Class 2 species
Humans are under no obligation.
Yet participation is essential
To join the Galactic Federation.

QUEEN DARNEESA
Come, deny Us not Our desire
To see beloved, hallowed tradition,

To symbolize and celebrate
Mutual beneficial relations.
Your concerns We shall address afterwards —
We promise upon Our divine name.

BROOKE
[For a moment, she stares at the alien queen]

… With respect, may we inquire
As to the nature of these games?

ATTENDANT
Testing physical reflexes and strength,
Requiring endurance, agility,
Challenging comrade co-operation,
Gauging observation and strategy,

[The screens show the aerial view of a square arena rearranging itself into five trajectories — resembling to those of League of Legends and Defense of the Ancients. The map divides into smaller windows which show first-person perspectives travelling through each path, with varying terrains. The top, centre, and bottom paths are unobstructed, while the two lanes surrounding the centre are muddled with what appear to be bare white trees]

The Games take place within an arena
Divided in territories.
Each team possesses Markers —

[The screens display closeups of two circular pads — one flat and one with a sphere embdedded in the centre, pulsating with light]

Five in their base and one on their bodies.

The objective is to hit these with Orbs,
Projectiles which launch in straight direction,
Which require 10 pulses to recharge,
And return to their point of origin.

Hit a player’s Marker to freeze them,

[Screens display two aliens. One hits the other with their Orb, freezing them for one light pulse. They hit them again, this time stunning them for two pulses]

Stun duration increasing exponentially.
Infiltrate the opponent’s base

[Travels from one end to the opposite — where there is a giant pad on the wall]

And hit the End Marker for victory.

[Screens – light in centre of each territory]

Each side has three protective structures

Which render stun durations shorter,
And which — while in their home territory —
Recharges each player’s Orb much faster.
If Markers on all three are struck

These benefits are nullified.
Yet the structures remain invulnerable
Should an unstunned home player be nearby.
Finally, regarding physical damage,

There is no reason for worry:
All trauma, including death,
Can be reversed if done immediately.
Do we have your consent?

[The Seekers look at each other uncertainly. Brooke nods curtly. Grimly, the crew nod back]

BROOKE
Yes.

QUEEN DARNEESA
Marvelous! Let us play and bear in mind
Competing should further our acquaintance,
And incite neither insult nor outrage,
Nor, as on primitive planets, violence.

[Attendants surround the Seekers, equipping them]

ATTENDANT
We provide non-telepathic species
With communication devices —
As well as time and targets
Suggested for strategy and practice.

[A thin red light draws a line across the stage, separating the aliens from the Seekers]

Proceed to this point when prepared
To begin the Interspecific Game.

[The platform beneath the Seekers elevates and the rest of the stage darkens. The backdrop screens show a 2D map with a cluster of lights in one corner, each light depicting a player]

[The humans move around. Once they’ve determined whose light is whose, they practice hitting the targets and then take turns freezing one another]

BROOKE
Veterans, to my right by rank,
Newest soldiers, across by name.

[Benjiro Sara, Blake Morgan, Linley Yamaguchi and Cedric Chan stand next to her. Across them, Twyford Atif, Aida Desalgn, Sonny Darling and Isaac Rivera face them]

Divide into five units,
Fireteam 2 commanded by Sara.
Sara: cover the bottommost ground
With Atif and Rivera.

Your lane’s terrain is roughest and the longest,
Mind the bend and tread carefully.
Darling and Desalegn,
Form Fireteam 1 under me.

Megan: take centre lane as our Guard,
The shortest, a strategic key.
Never leave your structure’s vicinity,
You will play defensively.

Supporting from above and below
Are Chan and Yamaguchi:
In the obstructed paths as Sentinels,
You will listen and move quietly.

Stay alert and attentive,
Of your surroundings constantly aware.
Recall all your physical training,
And attack with certainty and care.

Risks and outcomes always calculate,
Opportune moments observe and choose.
And above all else, remember:
To panic, in games or life, is to lose.

[The stage is covered in a red light. White curtains fall and divide the stage into five sections]

[The Seekers split up and begin jogging in place. On the backdrop screens, their respective dots begin moving across the map]

[Section 1:

A black rectangular prism — one of the protective monoliths — rises from the ground under a blue spotlight. Brooke signals silently and Sonny remains behind]

[Brooke and Aida press on. A blue spotlight falls upon them as their dots on the map cross the midpoint, into hostile territory. The enemy’s monolith rises and they approach it cautiously. As they get within firing distance, a pair of orbs shoot from above and hit their markers, freezing them for a moment, and two Turbidians jump from the trees. Now unfrozen, Brooke and Aida fire their orbs, but miss and get frozen once more. The aliens draw closer, attacking, and the Seekers retreat]

[Behind at the monolith where Sonny stands guard, a Turbidian jumps from above. He spins out of reach, moving away just in time. The alien attempts to strike him continuously, one attack after another, but he gracefully evades them. The enemy dives into a handstand and aims a kick at Sonny’s head, which the human blocks, and simultaneously shoots at his marker. Sonny is frozen for a second. He dodges a second shot but takes a kick to the side and is frozen again. He moves discernibly slower and is stunned easily for a third time. The alien turns towards the monolith and takes aim. At the last second, Sonny throws himself in front of the monolith, getting frozen once more. The Turbidian spins and with a vicious kick sends his body flying out of the way, and hits the monolith’s marker. The light loses its blue hue and the alien runs in the direction of its teammates. After eight seconds, Sonny is unfrozen. He shakes his head, climbs to his feet and follows, holding his side]

[Section 2:

Behind a white tree, Cedric waits in hiding, listening intently with his eyes closed. His eyes snap open and Brooke and Aida fly past, the Turbidians close on their trail. He ambushes them, kicking one to the ground then tackling the other, and his teammates close in, both stunning the enemies from a distance. The third Turbidian attacks from behind, freezing Aida. They fire at Brooke who rolls away. Sonny joins them from behind and returns fire. The three Seekers take aim and freeze the aliens again and again]

[Section 3:

At the second monolith, Blake walks towards a white tree at the edge of her pathway. She touches it lightly, then smacks it hard on the side. She jumps and hangs for a few moments from a branch. It does not wobble. She walks away then runs back, climbs high and waits]

[An orb shoots at her from across — the Turbidians are in the branches as well. Blake lets her body fall — almost sleepily — and catches a lower branch. She swings herself onto a higher level and targets where the orb came from. Three aliens disperse from their hiding spot, shooting. She is an acrobatic wonder — spinning, jumping, weaving through the branches, dodging shots and returning fire. By the time she has stunned all of them nine times, she casually leans against a tree and waits, counting the pulses. When they unfreeze, she shoots them again for the tenth time and waits once more, sitting down comfortably]

[Section 4:

Linley waits alertly behind a white tree — vigilantly looking around and above, and at the 3D map for his teammates’ positions]

[Section 5:

At the third monolith, Benjiro makes a silent gesture and Twyford stands guard as the others move forward without her]

[As Benjiro and Isaac nearly reach the midpoint, they slow down and lower their centre of gravity, moving with their backs to each other. A pair of orbs hit their markers from above and two Turbidians jump from the trees, flying towards them. Instead of moving out of the way, the two men stand their ground and catch each alien by a limb. The Seekers pivot and fling their opponents away, and the Turbidians somersault onto their feet. They charge each other headfirst and engage in close combat. Little by little the Seekers retreat, drawing their opponents close to the back of the stage]

[Back at the monolith, an enemy drops from above Twyford and she spins, throwing them over the shoulder. She pounces on them and the Turbidian grabs her by the head with their feet and throws her over in turn. The pair begin to grapple on the ground, their strength and speed relatively matched]

[Twyford and her opponent roll away from each other and onto their feet, panting. The Turbidian circles Twyford like a predator and the human rotates in the same position, always facing her foe. The alien feints reaching for her arm then tackles her low — and Twyford pulls her feet from underneath herself, dropping her weight on their back and flattening them. She chokes them by the neck and rolls like an alligator onto the ground, where she remains until the Turbidian grows still]

[Automatically, the limp alien body begins to float upwards and is lifted from her grasp and out of view. Twyford lays there for a moment, then checks her teammates’ positions. She gets up and runs in place, her dot heading towards the rest of her Fireteam]

[Once Benjiro’s and Isaac’s dots move farther into the Seekers’ territory, Linley ambushes the Turbidians from behind, immobilizing one for a moment and cutting off the road behind him. He makes a kick at their head but they are unfrozen and dodge it. The two lock in a one-on-one fight, kicking and evading. The other alien jumps and kicks Isaac with both feet, sending him flying into a tree and stunning him twice. Benjiro chokes him from behind but gets flipped on his back. He pivots his body, swinging his legs, sweeps the Turbidian off their feet and shoots them. They dodge his second shot, rolling onto their feet, shoot him and charge forwards. Benjiro takes two strikes to the head but parries a third and elbows them in the face repeatedly]

[Twyford joins them from behind. Kneeling on the ground, she snipes the aliens twice from a distance. She misses on the third round and they spin and shoot Benjiro and Linley midair. As soon as they land on their feet they somersault away from Twyford’s orb. One tackles Benjiro and they begin to grapple; the other freezes Linley and picks him up, using him as a shield as they approach Twyford. She keeps shooting and hits them in the head with her orb, then scrambles to her feet. In the same moment, Benjiro immobilizes his opponent and rushes to help her. The Turbidian throws Linley’s frozen body at Twyford, who grabs him and rolls over, laying him on the ground, and hovers over him protectively. Just as the humans and alien are about to clash, the latter is frozen — Twyford and Benjiro turn to see Isaac, clutching his side and smiling weakly. They rush forward to support him, and are joined by an unfrozen Linley]

[In all the sections except for Blake’s, the Seekers catch their breath]

BROOKE
Pincer manoeuvre!

[Everyone, again except for Blake, start running. Their dots move across the centre screen, converging on the middle lane. Once they reach Blake’s position, the curtains separating the stage lift]

BLAKE
[As her teammates join her, she stands up, stretches in exaggeration and dusts herself, grinning]

What took you so damn long?

[The others laugh and whoop, a few shaking their heads. Brooke smacks her upside the head then pulls her into an affectionate headlock. The rest of the group join them, slapping Blake on the back]

TWYFORD
Does anyone else feel like a victim
Of gross underestimation?

BROOKE
Time for a Counter-offensive,
To punish miscalculation.

[They all run in formation. Deep in enemy territory, they spot the now unfrozen Turbidians charging towards them. The Seekers stand their ground. When they clash, six of the aliens focus their attacks on Blake and Brooke. The other three form a defensive line, isolating the two Seekers from the rest of the team]

[Brooke fends off two attackers, kicking one behind their lower knee. She takes a blow from the second but spins in the same direction and rolls away. She runs, her face bleeding, and the two Turbidians go after her]

All hands assist Megan!

[The other Seekers obey and run towards Blake — except for Benjiro, who immediately chases after Brooke’s attackers. Together, back to back, they fight]

[The remaining four aliens and Blake attack each other relentlessly. Blake strikes one down, takes a kick to the face from another, twirls midair and rolls away. She blocks another kick and punches the offender down. Both human and Turbidians are constantly rolling, cartwheeling and somersaulting, looking for all their physical differences as if they are the same species, engaged in a martial-arts dance]

[The other Seekers work together to immobilize the defensive line]

[Once the Turbidians have been frozen or incapacitated, they all sprint deeper into Turbidian territory. Once they reach the wall, Blake takes aim and fires at the End Marker, ending the game]

[While the rest cheer and jump on Blake in celebration, Brooke and Benjiro awkwardly stare at one another]

BROOKE
[She pulls Benjiro into a hug. He stands dumbfounded for a moment. Just as he puts his arms around her, she steps back]

A token of appreciation.

[She punches him in the gut]

And one for insubordination.

[She turns to join the group hug]

BENJIRO
[Holding his stomach yet smiling, Benjiro follows]

[The lights lose their red hue and the platform descends. The rest of the stage is lit again, revealing the Throne Room]

[There is complete silence, with a break in the music]

QUEEN DARNEESA
Absurd, impossible, outrageous!
The little Humans dare — you dare!
You are but a lowly Class 2 species
So this game does not even matter!

[Laughs hysterically]

You are a lesser species
A nonsensical species — a great jest!
You attained interstellar expansion
Before Planet-Species Symbiosis!

Imbeciles, you skipped a crucial step!
By Galactic Law, you may be enslaved
Without any legal repercussion —
Too dumb to be worthy of protection.

[She takes deep breath and suddenly regains composure. The music begins again]

And so it shall be.

No more gentle benefactor,
No more benevolent queen.
No more guise or pretence,
We shall do precisely what We mean.

We henceforth establish Newtopia
Vassal state to the Craterman Kingdom —
Sovereign yet expected to export
All reserves of Thunium.

Attendants, hold the offending Humans
Within Palace Species Exhibition,
And give Counter Potions to the Masters,
Along with laurels and compensation.

[An attendant gives each Master an elixir. They all drink it at once except for Zhavvorsa, who glances at Aida before drinking hers]

ATTENDANT
Selected for your uncommon levels
Of affective empathy,
In gaining trust and even affection,
You rendered infiltration quite easy.

For far surpassing expectations,
For your fealty and your service,
We offer each one of you a garden
And rights to freely enter the Palace.

[A crowd of surrounds the Masters, tittering happily. Another group of attendants gently guide the Seekers to the other side of the stage]

AIDA
[She turns and rushes towards the queen, and the attendants form a wall between them]

Wait! Darneesa!


If they’re so empathetic,
How could you have been so sure
That they would not betray you?
Are you such a psychopath?

Could you not consider that affection
Might be a two-way street?

[Several attendants grab Aida, but Darneesa raises a hand and they let go]

QUEEN DARNEESA
Primitive, young and underdeveloped,
You know nothing, and yet you bleat.

Every Turbidian prior to their birth
Undergoes genetic modification
The mere thought of betraying the species
Triggers a lethal neural reaction.

[Aida falls silent, deflated. The attendants resume leading the Seekers away]

ATTENDANT
There is no reason for worry —
Our system of incarceration
Is among the very best,
Praised for comfort and compassion.

ATTENDANT
[Pulls out a piece of white plastic]

If I may inquire, what is this here?
It is a substance never before seen.

AIDA
[Mechanically]

Very common in our world,
That is polyethelene.

TWYFORD
[She smacks Aida on the arm, then turns to the attendant]

If I may inquire, where did you acquire?

ATTENDANT
From your repurposed ship,
Dissected for parts that we may use.
As with all Class 3 species,
We advocate perpetual re-use.

[They have reached the prison. Once all the humans have entered, the Turbidians step out and the doors slide together and form a seamless wall. The backdrop screens change to show the audience what lies on the other side — young Turbidian royals observing the strange aliens on display. They grow bored and walk away, leaving the Seekers unguarded]

[For a long moment they sit in silence. Isaac lies in fetal position, holding his side]

TWYFORD
[Slowly, she rises to her feet. One by one, the rest of the crew stare up at her expectantly. In a melodramatic falsetto, she sings]

And that’s why this planet sucks.

[Suddenly, they all break into hysterical laughter, which dies off as the stage and screens fades to black]

TWYFORD
Seriously, what do we do now?

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

ACT IV; PART II

* TURBIDIAN PALACE — SPECIES EXHIBITION *

[The Seekers’ accommodations are pristine and comfortable. There is plenty of space, furniture to lounge on, food and water constantly replenished in individual dispensers, and even stationary exercise contraptions — a hamster cage, for humans]

[In the centre, the humans huddle together. They all stand normally, their wounds apparently healed. Aida stares off distantly]

CEDRIC
Still restless legs, soothe itching hands,
We must make our escape.
They’ve left us alone and absent guards,
Our plan we should formulate.

LINLEY
Break the chains, silence screaming souls,
We must make our escape.
An entire day, we’ve been far here too long,
Our planet, our kind awaits.

BLAKE
[She laughs loudly and slightly maniacally]

You must be fucking kidding,
As if we stand a single chance.
There is no way off this rock,
Understand your own circumstance.

BENJIRO
There may be too many dangers,
Perhaps no possibility.
Yet without attempt there remains no point,
Life is not life, without liberty.

[Suddenly, a metal square falls from the ceiling — the Seekers jump into combat stances, a few yelling in surprise — and is followed by an armoured Zhavvorsa, who lands and rolls gracefully into standing position. Aida immediately races forward and the two embrace]

ZHAVVORSA
After much intense debate
I have arrived at this conclusion:
Democracy likely holds the key
To optimized evolution.

[All stare in stunned silence. Zhavvorsa continues]

A marked cultural schism
Will change genetic sequence:
Eons of repeated behaviours
Will end in physical adaptation.

Two groups, the Ruled and Ruling,
Subject to static conditions
Will over time grow vastly different —
An evolutionary division.

The current system jeopardizes
Integrity of our genetic link.
So in helping you, I commit no betrayal,
My answer is to doublethink.

[The Seekers continue to stare. Blake breaks the silence]

BLAKE
Okay… This is all well and good,
But same obstacles yet remain.
How will we get off your planet —
Is there a ship you can obtain?

ZHAVVORSA
I yet possess access to my craft,
To which I can easily beam us up.
All we need is to reach the open air,
Which we’ll reach through ventilation ducts.

[She walks away from Aida and pulls out a small grappling hook. She throws it up in the direction she came from, hooking it to the side of the grate]

[As Zhavvorsa makes to start climbing, Aida throws her arms around her from behind]

AIDA
I knew that it wasn’t all a lie,
That you wouldn’t stop caring for me.

ZHAVVORSA
I know now I possess no other choice —
Meeting you has altered me.

[She turns and they kiss deeply. The others shift awkwardly, several looking away, some smiling. Linley stares and crosses his arms]

[The Turbidian and human part. Zhavvorsa leads the way and begins to climb, and the rest follow]

[Lowering herself to her first pair of knees, Zhavvorsa navigates through the enclosed ducts comfortably. Aida is small enough to try and imitate her crouching gait, while the others crawl on all fours. The backdrop shows them making their way through the vents from several angles]

[When they reach a side opening, the Turbidian stops]

ZHAVVORSA
Until my express signal
I would have you here remain.

[She pulls out a robe and puts it on. She jumps out and moves around the corner to check that the coast is clear. Just as she goes to clear the other side, she collides with one of the other Masters]

MASTER
Greetings, Master Zhavvorsa,
I did not mean to frighten!
I presume you are visiting, as I,
To check on precious, awarded gardens?

ZHAVVORSA
Greetings, Master Shierakee,
How the Stars shine upon this hour!
More than the whole garden I must confess,
I checked on one particular flower.

SHIERAKEE
[Stares intently]

Master, pardon me but you seem to be
In a state of mental anxiety.

ZHAVVORSA
Palace visits can be overwhelming —
A state of neither interest nor worry.

SHIERAKEE
[They pause, but then looks Zhavvorsa up and down and smiles]

And with closer look I now see
You are once again gendered.
Funny, we only returned yesterday!
When did you have time to find new partner?

[For a long moment, Zhavvorsa does not answer. As she finally opens her mouth, all the lights start flashing. The tendrils from both aliens’ foreheads extend to their temples and the backdrop screens flash images of each Seeker and their now empty enclosure. The montage and flashing stops and the tendrils retract]

ZHAVVORSA
We should go our parting ways,
In this state of emergency.

[She makes to pass Shierakee]

SHIERAKEE
[They turn and block Zhavvorsa]

I believe we should remain together,
Simply for sake of security.

ZHAVVORSA
Two pairs of eyes perceiving same sight,
We would decrease search efficiency.

SHIERAKEE
A single view yet different perspectives,
We may spot what the other cannot see.

ZHAVVORSA
[Pauses a moment]

You know I know that is not true reason —
Comrade, speak with more veracity.

SHIERAKEE
I cannot help but find it all strange —
Brain activity, remaining gender.
Now we learn of prisoners escaped,
Amongst them former, alien partner.

ZHAVVORSA
Master, come and think and reason,
Look with your eyes and see.
To betray our kind yet still stand breathing,
You know is an impossibility.

SHIERAKEE
[Their voice loses its previous pleasant tone]

I do not question reason,
I am questioning what I see.
Though I cannot understand the logic,
You must regardless come with me.

[They make to grab Zhavvorsa. Quick and fluid as water, Zhavvorsa dives, grabs hold of the other’s neck with her thighs and brings them down. She squeezes until they stop moving]

ZHAVVORSA
[She goes back to the duct opening. One by one, the Seekers land on the ground, and she pulls out a large, thin black blanket]

It’s wise to cluster and cover yourselves
In improvised disguise.
Then grab what limb of mine you can reach,
Cling close and we will begin to rise.

[They all huddle, grabbing what they can of the alien and wrapping the sheet over themselves. A few Seekers yell as they quickly soar through the air and into the Turbidian ship]

* TURBIDIAN CRAFT — CONTROL ROOM *

[Zhavvorsa moves beneath the hovering branches and the largest pulsating sphere lowers around her. She places its tendrils on her temples and the 3D map turns on. Aida pushes the others to follow and a sphere for each of them descends, suspending them midair]

[Zhavvorsa controls the speck of light representing the ship and highlights the human’s planet. The backdrop shows their journey’s progress]

[The Turbidian removes the tendrils and the spheres all recede]

BENJIRO
In shock that we really made it,
And so grateful that you came through.
Yet I cannot help but wonder —
Zhavvorsa, what will you now do?

ZHAVVORSA
I confess for all my scheming,
I did not quite expect
To see it all go so smoothly,
That we’d be met with such success.

I did not care to think of the future
And cared only that Aida was not hurt.

TWYFORD
So much warmth and comfort
To be found in those words.

[The others chuckle and walk to one side of the stage, pointing at and admiring the open view of space. Zhavvorsa takes Aida’s hand and leads her to the other side, and a curtain drops to separate them from the rest]

[They draw closer and begin a slow and sensual dance, spinning each other. They remove each other’s clothing. The Turbidian lifts the human, wrapping her around her waist]

AIDA
[She presses her forehead against the alien’s]

We could find a little farm,
We could become partners, wives.
We could settle down,
We could share our lives.

[Zhavvorsa suddenly cries out and drops her. They both tumble to the ground]

[Aida scrambles to her feet and rushes to Zhavvorsa]

Zhavvorsa?

[She holds her partner in her lap. In her arms, Zhavvorsa gazes up at her]

ZHAVVORSA
‘Beauty’.

[She falls very still]

AIDA
[Screaming]

Isaac!

[The medic rushes to her]

Help her, help me, fix it,
Something’s wrong, make it better please.

ISAAC
[Scans the Turbidian with his PODS]

There’s no sign of life as I can detect —
Aida, I’m so sorry.

BLAKE
I can’t imagine what happened,
Why she would die so suddenly.

ISAAC
From what their queen explained, my best guess
Is that something made them feel guilty.

[For a few long moments, no one says a word. The 3D map turns back on, and the speck of light changes colour and ripples through the entire map repeatedly]

LINLEY
It seems we have no means to land
And we’ve reached the outskirts of our planet.
So tell me, are we to hover here,
To resort to a cannibal diet?

BROOKE
Desalegn, do you have a clue
As to this vehicle’s operation?

[Aida does not respond. Brooke picks her up onto her feet]

Aida, did Zhavvorsa ever tell you
How to work the navigation?

[Aida nods slowly]

Then your mission here is entirely clear,
To fly and land us safely.

AIDA
Yes, Captain.

[She walks beneath the branches and is encased in the centre sphere. She pilots the alien craft through Newtopia’s atmosphere, but the descent grows more and more turbulent. Just as they are about to crash, the ship pulls up. The bottom hits the ground, sending the whole craft spinning as it finally lands upside down]

[Aida pulls off the tendrils and the spheres recede, sending them all falling to the former ceiling. Picking up reception, all their PODS light up and whirl]

BROOKE
[She runs off stage, speaking into her PODS]

The Seekers here to declare
A state of emergency!

[One by one the crew follow her off stage, except Aida who remains on the ground. Linley backtracks and pulls her up and away by the hand, and the stage fades to black]

* TOWN OF LOCKE – STATE HEADQUARTERS *

[The stage is divided into a small and large section, a residential bunk and the hallway outside. Inside the bunk Aida, now clothed, sits on a bed, her lap covered by a blanket. Linley hovers in the hall, pacing back and forth]

LINLEY
Now it’s clear for me to see
What she means to me.
I thought time was without limit,
Thought we’d be together eventually.

Yet while I was getting ready,
This woman, she was changed
By no other than an alien —
The mere thought is so deranged.

All I need is another chance,
A brand-new, fresh, clean slate.
I can fix her, I can fix this,
I know it’s not too late.

[He pulls out a clear Elixir of Failed Remembrance, pours it into a cup and enters the bunk]

[Linley sits on the bed next to Aida]

Rest your weary eyes and sleep,
And get a little bit of peace.

[Aida makes no response or acknowledgement]

I know happiness seems impossible,
Like there will never be another chance —
But trust me when I assure you
That you’ll again laugh and sing and dance.

If they truly loved you,
They’d only want the best.

[He places the cup in her hands]

Now drink the medic’s concoction,
I promise it’ll help you rest.

AIDA
[After a moment, she takes the cup and gulps its contents down]

Linley, what are you doing here
And why do I feel so terrible?

[Blake enters the stage. She stands awkwardly in the hallway in front of the bunk]

LINLEY
Do you not remember
Saying how you felt ill?

AIDA
[She rubs her eyes and lies down]

Strange, I feel so tired,
And can’t seem to recall.

[Blake knocks and enters the room]

BLAKE
I came to check up on you,
Aida, how are you doing?

AIDA
I think I may have the flu,
I can’t explain this pain I’m feeling.

BLAKE
[She stares for a long moment. She looks at Linley, the cup, then back at Aida, her eyes slowly widening in horror. Her voice is hoarse when she speaks]

Yes, the flu — and what you need is sleep.
Come Linley, let us leave her in peace.

[As soon as they exit and the curtains close behind them, she turns on Linley]

BLAKE
What have you done?!

LINLEY
I made things right.

[Blake stares as if seeing Linley for the first time]

Don’t you, can’t you see it,
That she’s better off this way?

Even if we had brought it back,
Even if it had lived,
Aida would have been ostracized —
Certainly no way to live.

BLAKE
What pigshit are you spouting,
When you and I are fully aware
That when it comes to personal affairs
Outsiders don’t interfere nor care?

According to our Civil Rights
Instilled due to human history which still haunts —
So long as your choice does not harm another,
You can do whatever the fuck you want.

LINLEY
All very good in theory
Yet imperfect in practice.
And you’re naive to think society
Would have left those two in peace.

She would have ended up in quarantine
For fear of transmittable infections.
And it would have taken generations
Before complete, mainstream acceptance.

What I’ve done was to spare her
From the memories and the pain.
What I’ve given her is another chance,
To start life once again.

BLAKE
It may be that we did not understand,
That we fundamentally could not see.
But to Aida it held meaning,
Something to respect and let be.

Few things in life are worth
Risking, forsaking all.
To forget the pain is to forgo the joys —
A decision which should have been her call.

LINLEY
[With a hardened voice]

This argument may have had a point
Before the fact, not after.
What’s done is done, it can’t be changed —
And it doesn’t even matter.

[Blake looks at Linley in silence and revulsion. As he turns to leave, Blake grabs his shirt and punches him in the face, knocking him down. Linley spits blood to the side, stands up and leaves. Blake stares after him, backs against the wall and slides down to the floor]

[Simultaneously, Blake and Aida hug their knees, becoming very small in the fetal position, and disappear as the lights fade]

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

ACT V; PART I

* SETTLEMENT OF LOCKE *

[The screens show a montage of footage showing what happened on the aliens’ planet. On the stage, the humans are gathered with the Seekers and Council of Nine in the centre of the crowd]

BROOKE
Now it’s clear for us to see
They were never friends to believe.
They thought us weak and simple-minded,
Thought to exploit us easily.

They thought to use and to abuse us,
To make us do their dirty work.
They planned to control and to distract us
And not mind which of us they hurt.

NINE ARBITERS
They thought to buy us off with comforts,
To pacify us through our greed.
Yet they cannot place a price tag
On our rights, our sovereignty.

CITIZEN
I thought it too good to be true,
All their promises and potions.
So they were weapons of infiltration,
To run and rig the system.

[One by one they start throwing elixirs in a pile on the ground]

CITIZEN
Volition is what makes us human,
Having a choice is what makes us free.
And we choose to struggle and to fight
For our own liberty.

[Rows upon rows of blasters and armour slide onto the stage, and the people arm themselves]

ALL
We may be fragile creatures,
But just challenge us and see
How we’ll fight to the very bitter end —
This is our Propaganda of the Deed.

Try to conquer and divide us,
To bring any of us to harm.
Try to control and to subvert us,
And as one we’ll raise our arms.

We may not have nighttime vision,
May lack retractable teeth or claws —
But when we come together,
You won’t underestimate us for long.

[Everyone’s PODS begin to glow and the backdrop displays various citizens and their physical and mental statistics, and one of the following labels: Strength, Speed, Accuracy, Support, and Strategy. Most of the Strengths are men, most Speeds women, and the other categories roughly equal]

Of our own advantages and weakness,
Of our own statistics we are aware.
We optimize this information
And so invaders should beware.

Both conscious and quite confident,
We are prepared for self-defense.
And while our bodies may be delicate,
We are armed and competent.

[Now all fully prepared, the humans line up facing the audience]

Try to control and to oppress us,
Just challenge us and see
We will fight to the very bitter end —
This is our Propaganda of the Deed.

[A single Turbidian attendant descends. Unlike during First Contact, they remain within their protective sphere when they reach the ground]

ATTENDANT
On behalf of the Craterman Kingdom
I offer sincere congratulations —
For achieving certain prerequisites
Set by the Galactic Federation.

Any species that can demonstrate
Cognizance of its own oppression
And the willingness to retaliate
Must be exempt from exploitation.

By assembling together as you have,
Prepared to fight and to defend,
You’re under protective legislation
And so our relationship must end.

I also offer apologies —
It was never malice, just commerce.
And express hopes to reconcile
And resume trade in the future.

BLAKE
And just like that, you’ll leave us
Without any confrontation?

ATTENDANT
We could continue to dominate
But then would face economic sanctions.

So with this we bid you farewell
And speedy evolutionary progression,
And will attempt contact once more
With your new, unbiased generation.

[They bow and ascend]

[The humans all look at one another, murmuring and chattering]

NINE ARBITERS
While we are still gathered here
There remains an issue to address —
This sequence of events has shown
We have room for social progress.

No matter how great the benefits
To be reaped by the majority,
There should never be a comfort
At the expense of a minority.

And no matter the good intentions
Of trusted authorities,
We ourselves acknowledge
No one is exempt from vanity.

So the Council of Nine Arbiters
Declares our abdication
After this Arbitration,
Our final legislation:

Human society is henceforth
Self-ruling and self-governing
With the stipulation
That no group is subject to suffering.

[They remove their robes]

ALL
We embrace this social change
With grace and swelling hearts,
And for the progress of our species
We will all each play our part.

[Everyone begins to remove their armour and put away their blasters]

CITIZEN
I confess slight disappointment
That we did not get to fight —
While relieved we are all unharmed,
We were eager to demonstrate our might.

CITIZEN
What should we do with pent-up energy
Reserved for violent confrontation?

CITIZEN/FORMER ARBITER
Well, the ancient Bonobo primates
Used coitus to diffuse tension.

[For a moment, there is silence. Then we hear armour drop to the floor with a clang as Brooke jumps on Benjiro, and the two kiss passionately, ripping each other’s clothing]

[With their cue, the stage breaks into a giant erotic dance, with hetero-, homo-, and polysexual partners stripping]

ISAAC
Try to limit activity to two partners!

Most venereal diseases
We’ve managed to eradicate.
There’s no need to try actively
To new infections create!

[A nude Twyford shuts him up with a kiss and he responds keenly]

CITIZENS/FORMER ARBITERS
And so we’ll dance and celebrate
The Day of the Opposite of War —
A day to shamelessly indulge in
What our bodies were made for.

[They join in as well]

SEEKERS
[One by one, the Seekers come to the front of the stage, all completely nude, their hair dishevelled]

We learned a lot and had some laughs,
But they couldn’t make us slaves.

ALL
Oh, no!
No, they couldn’t make us slaves!

Photo Credit: Netflix/BoJack Horseman

“Shadfly”

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‘I’m leaving.’

She could tell he didn’t believe her. ‘OK.’

‘You could come with me. Which would be awesome, seeing as you’re my best friend and I love you and all – or you could stay. In which case it would suck, but I refuse to stay here.’

He turned to consider her. ‘You can’t be serious.’

‘No – just deadly serious.’

‘And go where, exactly?’ he asked, bemused. ‘Where could we possibly even go?’

‘Oh, so you are going with me,’ she teased, tilting her head in mock innocence.

‘C’mon. I thought you were being serious.’

‘We’d travel. As long as we follow the bank, we won’t stray too far out into the water.’

‘Why do you even want to go? It’s not that bad here.’

Effie looked at him incredulously. ‘Not that bad? How many of us are sick? How many died as fucking virgins?

Mero rubbed his forelegs together, the long bristles bending against each other. ‘This is our hatchery, though. We can’t very well just leave.’

‘Why not?’ she challenged.

‘Well, for one, we’d miss the final moult. And the nuptial dance. I mean, what would be the point?’

For a moment, she was silent. ‘We’ve waited over two thousand years to fly,’ she said gently. ‘Do you ever really think about that?’ She often remembered the moment, glorious and shining, when their swarm (if it could have been called as such with their numbers so sparse) finally emerged. She remembered the resistance of the water as she burst through its skin; the explosion of freedom and ecstasy and sheer terror. She remembered lingering, clumsy in her newest body, before spreading her wings and rising with her siblings in the air, a single cloud at one with the sky – flying and dancing and alighting on every possible surface, exploring a world they had only ever dreamed of.

Yet festivities were fleeting as they realized in horror that the disease that had plagued them in the bedrock had followed them above. That someone, anyone, could be afflicted with the debilitating sickness; could so quickly deteriorate before one’s eyes. The only difference was that up here, there often were no bodies to mourn – the victims simply folded their wings and plummeted towards the water, leaving behind nothing but air and grief, much as if they had been devoured.

Mero cocked his head to the side. ‘What does that have to do with staying or leaving?’

‘We’ve spent most of our lives hiding. From this disease and every asshole in the water – even those Stonefly bastards.’ The larger larvae had always attacked from behind or below. She remembered watching, utterly helpless, as monstrous pincers sank into her sister’s abdomen and consumed her alive, indifferent to flailing limbs or agonized pleas.

‘And the most fucked up part …’ She would never admit it to anyone but Mero. ‘All I could hear myself thinking was, please don’t let it be me. I was hoping it would be somebody else – anybody – just not me.

‘That’s when I realized … how much of a coward I really am.’

He ran his antennae over her face, the myriad protruding curves of her eyes and the crease between her head and thorax, caressing and soothing. She hated how safe he made her feel, when they weren’t really. Not safe. Not here.

She murmured, calmer now. ‘The shit we’ve been through, all the shit I’ve seen, I promised myself – swore that once we were above, it would be better.’

‘It is better, Effie.’

‘Yeah, Mero, at least we’re not being cannibalized. But it’s still horribly wrong. We may not be able to see it, but something’s still destroying us in masses.

‘And maybe it’s just too late. Maybe even if we figure out the cause, we won’t be able to do anything about it. Maybe we’ll have a better chance if we leave.’

‘Effie, we don’t know what’s out there. It could be so much worse.’

It could be so much better. How will we know unless we try? Fuck, I’m not asking for paradise or anything! Just a place where … where the odds aren’t so stacked against us. Where we might actually stand a chance.’

‘Everything’s going to be OK.’

She pulled away from him. ‘I don’t need you to tell me everything’s going to be OK. I need you, for the first time in your life – no offense, but this is something you know about yourself – to make a decision.’

For a moment he said nothing, and she feared he’d sulk irrationally.

‘All right. I’m always with you.’ He swung his tails, suddenly playful. ‘So does this mean we’re gonna be mates for sure?’

Her heart skipped a beat, though Effie refused to show it. ‘Yeah, it would.’

‘But only ‘cause of the complete lack in alternatives,’ she added slyly.

They took flight at the same time, him chasing and her throwing further taunts and both laughing – and for a moment, all worries and tribulations were meaningless.

They spent the next two years in blissful solitude. There were plentiful places to land, serene and inviting. Yet they pressed on, talking and joking and racing as if nothing and no one existed in the world but them …

In their third year they alighted on an isolated plant with sturdy broad leaves, instantly recognizing the quickness of breath and the constriction of their shells, weighing them down. Since her days as a hatchling, Effie had moulted over forty times. Yet panic still took hold as her breath stopped abruptly; as her joints grew stiff and immutable, trapping her within her own body. Desperate, she writhed until at last the old shell split open, exposing her to a shock of air, cold and biting against her soft skin. For what always felt an eternity she struggled, pushing, twisting, wriggling. When she finally pulled free, she perched atop the abandoned casing and slowly unfurled her new wings, the tips rolling out from under and stretching in a dull, sweet ache. Then, with a deep gasp, she resumed breathing.

‘Mero?’ she called out, panting heavily.

‘I’m here.’ The voice came from behind.

Effie wheeled around and for a moment was struck mute and dumb, her mind wiped of all coherent thought. Standing before her was a full-fledged male. He was bigger, his legs and tails much longer. His thorax was enlarged and powerful, sunlight gleaming off his already hardening shell. His wings were now sleeker; transparent and glossy, no longer opaque or covered in fine hairs. He was beautiful, strong, irresistible. She had been close to Mero ever since they were hatchlings, young and innocent – had always had a crush on him. Yet in their final skins, everything had changed.

‘What is it?’

‘You’re … you’re the most beautiful creature I’ve ever seen,’ she said stupidly.

‘You’re one to talk.’

They drew closer to each other, drinking in the sight of the other as though they had never met before. Then they took to the air with a newfound agility, their exhaustion from the moult forgotten. They propelled back and forth in harmony – in an ancient dance, their wings beating a routine that had never been taught yet were known all the same – titillating with flight and desire.

She shuddered with pleasure as he stroked her abdomen with a leg, leaving her shell tingling where he traced it. She was engulfed by passion, by insanity, by a heat which told her to climb on top of him, to ride him fast and hard. She knew he was driven by the same madness, that he also knew what to do as he dipped midair and positioned himself beneath her, his long forelegs wrapping around and clutching her thorax. The moment she felt him inside, she realized she had been half a sandgrain all along, realizing its brokenness only when the waters, with rare mercy and by impossible chance, had reunited the two pieces. They were whole, now in this embrace. They consumed each other with neither reserve nor shame, until she demanded that he shoot it inside her.

When they climaxed, they did not pull apart. They drifted downwards in tandem, two leaves with a shared stem, their interlocking bodies descending lazily upon the breeze.

They closed their wings in upright position, ready for sleep. ‘Y’know,’ Mero said softly, ‘I wouldn’t have minded staying back.’

‘What?’

‘The hatchery. I mean, yeah, it wasn’t perfect. But it was home, it was easy, and we were with everyone.’

Effie bristled, at once angry and frightened. ‘Then why did you come with me?’

‘Because our entire swarm didn’t mean half as much as you do to me.

‘I initially thought it didn’t really matter where I was, so long as I was with you. But now I’m starting to think you may have been right.’

She stared at him and wondered what she had ever done to deserve him. ‘I do tend to be right,’ she quipped. He pushed against her playfully.

‘Maybe leaving really was the best chance for us. And for what’ll hopefully be like, three thousand of our babies.’

Effie twitched her hind wings with a pang of uncertainty. Since they were larvae, everyone had looked forward to becoming parents. Everyone except her, it seemed. She had only imagined procreation with trepidation – with overwhelming fear. How much would it hurt? What if they came out wrong? How many would end up dying? Yet when she thought of making life with this beautiful male, nothing seemed more fulfilling.

‘One thousand. No one lays three anymore.’

‘Two.’

‘One or nothing!’

They fell asleep in peace, the tips of their antennae touching lightly. When they awoke, they exchanged a single glance before taking flight – taking to each other’s legs once more before setting out.

She was the first to know. She could feel the eggs growing within. Her entire body felt different: heavy yet with unprecedented alertness, her two sights sharpened as never before. He was ecstatic, just beside himself with joy. She laughed and called him an animal, obsessed only with reproductive instinct. He called her a miser obsessed only with guarding themselves and letting the world think they were more angsty than they really were, and continued to titter and babble like a larva, newly hatched from egg. Then they made love – wildly, recklessly, completely without abandon.

He was the first to die. They had always been cautious, travelling far above the surface. They were supposed to be safe. Yet the scaled behemoth jumped – flew – from beneath, closing its jaws around Mero and taking him down to its watery hell.

Her best friend, her love, her brother, the father of her eggs. There all her life, and lost in one moment. Gone forever. Effie had laughed hysterically. Didn’t they always say men lived longer?

She went on through the heat and haze, every wingbeat an agony.

She knew when it was time. She descended towards the surface of the river, dipped the tip of her abdomen into the water, and let loose the children. She tipped her wings and circled back to watch them: two thousand and twelve eggs swaying and spiralling as they sank towards the riverbed, leaving a trail of bubbles in their wake.

She watched, and felt nothing.

 

Photo Credit: Flickr user Trey Ratcliff

“Afterparty”

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I wake up to everything shaking, my head pressed against the frame of the bed, the frame repeatedly hitting the wall.

Wha – earthquake?

I open my eyes as wide as possible, trying to blink away the sleep and make sense of everything through the darkness, and know I’m not alone.

There’s someone on top of me, shifting back and forth, their skin hot against mine.

You’ve woken me up with some morning oral action in the past – never sex, which is a little weird. And except it’s not morning. But hey, I’m not complaining. I reach up to hold you, and start moving back.

Just as I start getting into it, realization hits me and it’s like blood is literally being drained from my fingertips. Chris went home for the holidays.

You are not Chris.

‘What the fuck?!’ I try to get up but you keep going, slamming your weight down on me. I push you, hard, and finally you get off.

‘What?’ You’re panting. Your tone is nonchalant and slightly annoyed, as if I’ve interrupted you. Your voice is somewhat familiar, but I still don’t know who the fuck you are.

I swing my legs over the bed and rush to the door. I turn and hit the lights, and it takes me a moment to recognize your face.

You’re the chick from last night’s party. The chick who kept trying to cling onto my arm even when I said to stop, that I have a girlfriend. The chick Rob refers to as ‘the hottest piece of ass’ he’s ever seen. The chick who’s fucked Jim – and Mike and Jason and Tommy and God knows how many more from the frat.

‘Get out.’

You actually scowl at me. ‘What’s your problem?’

Incredible, audacious, un-fucking-believable is what you are. This is unreal. ‘Are you fucking kidding me? I told you I have a girlfriend. I told you I’m not interested. And you just come in and start fucking me as I’m sleeping?!’

You actually roll your eyes at me. ‘God, it’s just some harmless sex. Stop being such a pussy.’

I’m shaking and I can’t control it. I’ve never hated anyone, never visualized bashing anyone’s face in and sending blood and teeth down their throat – until now.

‘GET THE FUCK OUT!’

You jump off my bed and have the decency to look scared – maybe you’re not a complete sociopath, after all. You grab some clothes off the floor and run out the door. I slam it shut behind you, and try to think.

What will Chris say? Would she break up with me? I look down at my dick and see no condom.

Holy fuck. Oh, Jesus Christ.

I try to calm down but it’s impossible. All the stats from Bio are running through my head. Genital herpes: 1 in every 6. Hepatitis B: 1 in every 20. Chlamydia: 1 in every 15 for sexually active adolescent females. HIV: 6 in every 1000.

I try to tell myself it’s illogical, that it’s moot to panic before getting tested, but I’m already imagining my life with HIV. How much do the drugs cost? Will my insurance cover it?

Somehow, I get myself across the hallway to the washroom. My hands are still shaking as I climb over the bathtub ledge and turn the hot water knob as far as it’ll go. I’m aware venereal diseases can’t be boiled away – but I still feel like trying.

I stand there wincing as I let the water scald my crotch, and know I won’t go back to sleep. I wonder if I can just go to emergency and get tested now – what would I even tell them? – or if I should wait until morning.

My chest heaves. I place one hand against the mosaic wall, the other over my mouth.

I think I’m going to throw up.

 

Photo Credit: Beta Theta Pi Fraternity, Wesleyan Chapter by Joe Mabel, adapted