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

ACT III, SCENE II

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Among the Capital Offenders,
Insomnia skyrocketing,

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

Violence for centuries unseen,

[Another light reveals several contorted individuals who rise]

Suicide rising at rates alarming.

[More light, more people]

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

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

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

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

[The crowd below them cheers]

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

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

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

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

[The light falls on a person next to them]

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

[More light, more people]

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

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

[Brooke crosses her arms]

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

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

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

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

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

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

[The crowd grows larger and larger]

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

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

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

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

BENJIRO
Cap … Brooke, a moment please.

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

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

BROOKE
Certainly, I’d love to.

BENJIRO
[Dumbstruck]

You would?

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

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

I am?

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

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

Aye, Captain.

* RESOURCE CAVERN *

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

[The Seekers are gathered in a circle]

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

BLAKE
Self-perpetuating horseshit.

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

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

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

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

BLAKE
[Rolls eyes]

Straight out of a sci-fi comic.

TWYFORD
[Lists off her fingers]

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

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

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

BROOKE
Ben!

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

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

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

Ben! Oh, Ben.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* SETTLEMENT OF LOCKE, TURBIDIAN HEADQUARTERS *

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

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

AIDA
Zhavvorsa!

[Frowning, Linley turns and stares at Aida]

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

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

No!

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

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

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

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

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

LINLEY
[Points his blaster at Zhavvorsa]

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

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

LINLEY
Would you stake your life?

AIDA
[Fiercely]

Yes.

BROOKE
And the lives of all Newtopians?

AIDA
[In a whisper]

Earth help me, yes.

BROOKE
[To Zhavvorsa]

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

ZHAVVORSA
Neither intentions nor significance
Are we able to explain.

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

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

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

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

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

Vexation and dismay surrounds
This unexpected scandal.

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

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

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

[“Find the truth.”

“Seekers, we need you once more.”

“Find out for us.”

“Go find out!”

“Please.”]

[The screens fade to black]

BROOKE
[Turning to face her crew]

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

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

[Looks directly at Brooke]

My family is right here.

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

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

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

ACT II; SCENE II

* SETTLEMENT OF LOCKE, TOWN SQUARE *

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

[Enter ZHAVVORSA, a Turbidian Master of Potions]

ZHAVVORSA
Officer Desalegn,
May I join your company?

AIDA
[Looks up and smiles]

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

ZHAVVORSA
May I join you, Aida?

AIDA
[Turns off and closes her book]

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

ZHAVVORSA
[Bows slightly]

Your species is much gracious;
I commend your hospitality.

AIDA
[Returns bow]

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

ZHAVVORSA
[Sits down directly across]

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

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

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

AIDA
I’d be delighted.

ZHAVVORSA
I oblige you go first.

AIDA
[Thinks a moment]

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

ZHAVVORSA
‘Design’.

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

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

AIDA
[Thinks a moment]

‘Everything’.

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

If chemistry was obligatory,
What did you do normally?

ZHAVVORSA
‘Travel’.

Spacecraft operation
And interstellar navigation.

AIDA
[Surprised]

I was a pilot, too!

ZHAVVORSA
[The corners of his lips lift]

And what made you so choose?

AIDA
[Without hesitation]

‘Freedom’.

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

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

[Shifts bashfully]

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

ZHAVVORSA
[Smiling]

‘Liberty’.

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

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

ZHAVVORSA
Space?

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

AIDA
I mean, the universe.

ZHAVVORSA
There is no need to be embarrassed.

AIDA
I am not embarrassed.

ZHAVVORSA
‘Lying’.

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

AIDA
[Turns away, flustered]

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

ZHAVVORSA
Turbidians do not lie.

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

AIDA
[Slowly]

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

ZHAVVORSA
‘Both’.

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

AIDA
Why are you here?

ZHAVVORSA
‘Service’.

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

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

AIDA
‘Irrelevance’.

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

[Grins]

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

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

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

ZHAVVORSA
‘Irrelevance’.

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

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

AIDA
[She struggles to her feet, agitated]

And what, to history just surrender?

[Begins to pace]

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

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

ZHAVVORSA
Why does this topic cause you
Such passionate distress?

AIDA
[Blinks, taken aback]

‘Fear’.

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

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

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

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

ZHAVVORSA
I –

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

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

[Top Reasonings:

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

[Result: 77.44% Yes, 22.56% No]

AIDA and ZHAVVORSA, in unison
How it always begins.

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

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

ACT II, SCENE I

NEWTOPIA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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