Ellie Carmichael Early thirties, Information Systems TechnicianTom Carmichael Late thirties, Life Support Systems Engineer Yinzi Chen Mid-forties, Project Manager Joe Green Late-twenties, Communication Officer Liz D’Souza Late-twenties, Supplies Officer Tyrone Symonds Mid-thirties, Construction Manager Sophie Carmichael Five years old
SCENE ONELights up DSR. Ellie peers through a large telescope facing the audience. She adjusts the focus then steps back. She stares straight ahead, face blank, then raises her head as if scanning the stars. Lights fade to B/O Date appears on back wall: 18th November 2034 Words appear under it: Project Manager’s Office, Space Port Alpha Lights fade up on white room with circular table in the centre. Six people sit around it on white chairs YINZI: We all know why we’re here, so let’s get on with it. Ms Carmichael, do you have full control of all the systems yet? ELLIE: Yes, and they’re all working as they should. YINZI: What about MeDDS? ELLIE: (hesitates) Not yet. It’s all installed but there seems to be a bug. YINZI: A bug? Elaborate. ELLIE: It detects meteorites but doesn’t deploy the missiles to destroy them. Not in the simulations, anyway. I’m working on it. YINZI: Make it a priority. (Ellie nods. Yinzi addresses Tyrone.) Report, please. TYRONE: All work on the port has stopped, as per your orders. The entire crew are completing the habitat pod snagging list and making a thorough inventory of everything we’ve got. YINZI: And you’re conserving the suits and oxygen? TYRONE: I will do as soon as the jobs are done. Tomorrow, I hope. YINZI: Excellent. Tom? TOM: I’ve nothing to report; all life support systems are running fine. YINZI: As they should be. Thank you, Tom. Miss D’Souza? LIZ: Not so good, I’m afraid. Food supplies aren’t critical, yet, but we’re short of first-aid supplies, painkillers, cleaning equipment, toiletries… I had a large order placed for our next supply run. YINZI: Which, I’m afraid, isn’t going to arrive. Folks (clasps her hands together) I hope you all understand that the chance of tomorrows launch happening is zero? (Worried faces all round but they murmur agreement.) TOM: No supply runs for the foreseeable future, I’d say. YINZI: Exactly. With that in mind, Liz, can we cope? LIZ: Yes. The food rations won’t run out for some time and the garden’s producing far more than we envisioned. It won’t sustain us completely, we’re not growing enough for that, but we could supplement our rations far more than we have been. YINZI: And our numbers won’t increase now. LIZ: Yes, there’s that. We’ve plenty of food for thirty-five. At present. YINZI: Hmm… We should start rationing anyway. LIZ: I put that in place three days ago. YINZI. Good thinking. The rest of you, (Looks around) spread the word that no-one takes anything without Liz’s say so. Not a thing. Understood? (General agreement around the table) Okay… Joe? JOE: (sighs) Static. Nothing but static. YINZI: And the Mars mission? JOE: They’ve had no communication with Earth either and coms between us and them are, well, unpredictable. And, yes, I’m working on that. YINZI: (softly) I know. Get some sleep, Joe. (Joe rubs his eyes and nods.) To fill you all in, The Mars mission are carrying on as normal, for now. Like ours, their systems are working independently of Mission Control, and they have enough supplies for eight months – more if they’re strict. So they’re okay. ELLIE: (snorts) Hardly! YINZI: Ms Carmichael, (glares at Ellie) try to stay positive, it’s only been a week. ELLIE: A week long global blackout. That’s not ‘only a week’, that’s a whole week. A large scale crisis. TOM: Ellie… ELLIE: No, (waves a hand at Tom) there’s no sign of life down there; the cities are in darkness, there’re no radio signals— YINZI: (raising voice) There’s also no sign of global disaster – no change in the cloud formations, no huge areas on fire, no new craters… TOM: (calmly) So, it’s not an all-out nuclear war. Good. Then it’s just the electronics that have failed. JOE: Smart bombs. ELLIE: Coupled with chemical weapons, in my opinion. (Looks directly at Yinzi) Mission Control’s got back-up systems for everything, and back-ups for the back-ups. They’d have sent a message unless they were all— YINZI: Okay, enough. (Raises her hands until everyone settles) There’s no point speculating and until we know otherwise, I’m going to assume the problem on Earth is temporary. So, the plan stays the same: we stay alive until the crisis is over. Right? ELLIE: (speaking for the group) Yes. Absolutely. YINZI: (softly again) Talk to your teams and get some rest. Dismissed. Lights fade to B/O
SCENE TWOThe words One Year Earlier appear in the B/O. Lights up DSR. Ellie is peering through the telescope. Tom enters from SR, puts his arms around her, and kisses her. TOM: How’s it looking? ELLIE: Beautiful. Oh, sweetheart, I can’t believe we’re actually going. TOM: I know. Remarkable, isn’t it? And I get to go with you. (kisses her) ELLIE: (smiles and looks back at the moon) Do you think it’ll work? TOM: The Space Port? ELLIE: Yeah. You don’t think it’s a bit premature? (turns to him) The Mars reconnaissance mission hasn’t even launched yet and the political climate isn’t exactly stable, is it? TOM: All the more reason to get the space port built. Babe, (hugs her) it’ll be fine – more than fine – it’ll be great! Think about it; regular flights from the Moon to Mars within ten years, established colonies on both planets. Our colony. Our new home. Sweetie, we’re part of this from the beginning. Isn’t that exciting? We’re so lucky. ELLIE: (smiling) Yes, we are, aren’t we. (Suddenly animated) And you’re right; it’s going to be amazing! Lights fade.
Date in B/O – 4th December 2035 Lights fade up on the Yinzi’s Office. YINZI: Reports, please. TOM: All systems are running perfectly and the water-recycling is back on the main system. YINZI: Is it likely to go wrong again? TOM: No, it was a teething problem. Won’t happen twice. YINZI: Good. Ellie? ELLIE: Nothing to report either. Nothing new. YINZI: Tyrone? TYRONE: My team are on top of everything, apart from the boredom. YINZI: Isn’t farming stimulating enough? (smiles) TYRONE: (scratching head) Not quite what we’re used to. YINZI: I’m sure. Well, I appreciate your efforts, we all do. The new garden pod’s coming on nicely. LIZ: I second that. I know it’s a squeeze sharing one dormitory pod but the additional garden will make a huge difference to our supplies. TOM: Even more tomatoes. TYRONE: (groans) LIZ: Sorry folks, we can increase the quantity, not the variety. (Tom waves a hand dismissively) Food supplies from the gardens are good. Our other rations are dwindling. YINZI: I’m amazed we’ve anything left. You’re doing a great job. LIZ: Thank you. JOE: I have something to report. Mars mission are going home. (All look at him, concerned) Their supplies have run out so they’ve no choice. YINZI: (sighs) I’m sure you’ll all join with me in wishing them well. Returning without ground support is going to be, well, risky. JOE: If… (pauses) If they’re successful, maybe we could launch the emergency escape capsules. YINZI: No, Joe. JOE: Why not? ELLIE: Because they’re for getting us away from emergencies here. They’ve only got basic navigation, you know that. And they’re designed for a water landing. JOE: If the Mars shuttle lands safely they can co-ordinate a rescue. ELLIE: (frowning) No… YINZI: Maybe. I won’t discount it. JOE: It’s possible. A possibility. It is. (Awkward silence) TOM: Well then, let’s all wish them luck and keep our fingers crossed. Lights fade to B/O
Lights up DSR. Ellie and Ted stand next to the telescope. Ellie is crying. ELLIE: They actually did it, didn’t they? TED: We don’t know that it’s all gone. ELLIE: All the cities are; all that technology and progress. (Wipes tears) I’m so angry. So very angry. TED: (comforts her) I know, sweetheart. ELLIE: (Looks out above audience) It’s such a waste and I don’t understand… Earth’s so beautiful. If they’d seen it as we do, if they could stand here… TED: That was the idea, wasn’t it – the very foundation of Space Port Alpha. (Spoken as if quoting) To make our solar system accessible to all. To open new horizons, widen our thinking, and branch out. ELLIE: While appreciating what we have. (Smiles weakly) Didn’t work, did it? TED: (hugs her) Not for them. Lights fade to B/0.
SCENE FIVEDate in B/O – 6th June 2044 Lights up DSR. Ellie crouches beside a small child who is peering through the telescope. SOPHIE: Why is it blue? ELLIE: It’s water. SOPHIE: Water? ELLIE: Yes. Water so deep you can dive into it. SOPHIE: (Wide eyed, looks at Ellie) Wow! ELLIE: The green and brown patches are land. It’s all covered in trees. SOPHIE: Like our apple trees? ELLIE: Much bigger. And animals live in the trees and in the water. They’re everywhere. SOPHIE: Elephants? Are there elephants? ELLIE: Uh-huh. Big herds of them. I’ll show you one day. SOPHIE: If they’re not all dead. (Ellie gasps) Joseph said they were all dead. ELLIE: Joseph’s too little to know, ignore him. (Looks out towards the Earth) I think they’re fine. Flourishing. SOPHIE: Do you? And the flamingos, are they okay? Tom enters DSR, running TOM: Ellie, you’re needed. ELLIE: Now? TOM: Yes. We’ve got a meeting. ELLIE: Another? TOM: (crouching) Go and find Aunty Nadine. She’s picking tomatoes with Joseph. SOPHIE: Aw, Daddy. Do I have to? TOM: Yes. Go. SOPHIE: (stamps foot) I don’t want to. She’s not my aunty, she’s Joseph’s mummy and I don’t like tomatoes. TOM: Since when? Now go on, be a good girl. SOPHIE: (pouting) Okay… Exits DSR ELLIE: (Looks enquiringly at Tom) TOM: She says it’s urgent Lights fade DSR and fade up on Yinzi’s office. The others are already seated and looking apprehensive when Tom enters with Ellie. They sit. YINZI: Thank you all for coming so promptly. I don’t want to alarm anyone but there’s been a development. (She hesitates) Reports, please. LIZ: (looking surprised) What about the development? YINZI: Reports first. LIZ: Okay. Food rations from Earth are long gone, as you know, but we’re coping. We’re all a bit undernourished but basically okay, considering how long it’s been. YINZI: And your long term prediction? LIZ: (shrugging) We can’t survive like this forever. TYRONE: No we can’t. I’m hungry all the time but maybe that’s because I don’t like tomatoes. TOM: Neither does Sophie (smiles) apparently. YINZI: And your report? TYRONE: The structure of the habitat pods is sound and my team are doing fine. What I don’t have is a plentiful stock of working space suits. I’m sure you can figure out what that means. So no more damage from meteorite strikes, yes? (Glares at Ellie) ELLIE: I can’t promise that. TYRONE: Oh? ELLIE: MeDDS doesn’t work and I can’t fix it. TYRONE: (aggressive) Not good enough! The dents are bad enough but one hundred feet to the right and that meteorite would have punched a hole straight through the dormitory pod. ELLIE: (defensively) It doesn’t work. I don’t think it ever has. TYRONE: (gapes) What? LIZ: Seriously? ELLIE: (shakes her head) It’s the one system I’ve never been able to get operational. LIZ: So, why didn’t you say something? If it’s never worked, why didn’t you ask for help? YINZI: She did. She asked me and when I couldn’t fix it I told her to keep quiet. TYRONE: (wipes his brow) Woah! So all this time we’ve been vulnerable to meteorite strikes? YINZI: I guess we’ve been lucky. TYRONE: Lucky? Luck! YINZI: Look, the meteorite defence and destruction system doesn’t work. End of. Probably best not to think about it too much. TYRONE: (sits back, blinking) Right. (Uneasy looks all round) YINZI: Tom. Report? TOM: Yeah, (glances sideways at Ellie). Well, the life support systems do work and are functioning well. Even with the demands of the crops, we’ve got enough water, oxygen, and the temperature is stable. It’s all good. YINZI: So, we’re hungry, a little malnourished and we smell pretty foul. But we’re not likely to starve, freeze or suffocate any time soon. TYRONE: Just be flattened by meteorites. YINZI: Thank you, Tyrone. Seriously, I know we’re all in agreement that staying here any longer isn’t an option. We need to set a deadline, not least because of our mental states. The losses we’ve suffered, both on Earth and here, have taken their toll. (The gathering become sombre) And yet, I’m proud to say that in spite of the uncertainty and hopelessness, we’ve stayed strong. TOM: I think Sophie and Joseph have helped. YINZI: Oh, yes, most certainly - new life, new hope. But it’ll get harder. Much harder. LIZ: (leaning forward) So what’s this about? Why are we here? YINZI: Because the time has come to act. Right now. TYRONE: Are you proposing launching the emergency life pods? TOM: Oh, surely not? Not after the Mars shuttle— YINZI: No. We ruled that out years ago. (Draws a breath) This is something different. A new possibility. (Pauses) Joe, will you do the honours? JOE: Okay… A few days ago, we received a signal. ELLIE: (gasps) From Earth? JOE: No, ’fraid not. It’s coming from the outer limits of our solar system, according to my calculations. TOM: A signal from what? One of our probes? JOE: I thought that, at first. But it’s not. I’ve been tracking it, studying it, and I’m confident it’s not ours. Not the right frequency or pattern. LIZ: And it’s manufactured, not a natural phenomenon? JOE: (nodding) Yes. TOM: So, we’re talking about…what? Aliens? JOE: (shrugs) TOM: You’re not serious? YINZI: It looks that way. The signal is being sent by an intelligence of some kind. So, the question is: what do we do about it? (Everyone stares) Do we send a message back or stay quiet? ELLIE: Say ‘Hello’ or hide. YINZI: Essentially. Look, this is mad, I know. We don’t know who or what is sending that message. If we reply, we don’t know if they can or will respond. LIZ: If it is alien life. It could be nothing. YINZI: Or (looks at them one by one) it could be our salvation. (Stunned silence) So what do we do? Make contact? If we do, it has to be something we all agree to; a unanimous vote from everyone. The potential consequences are too great for it to be done any other way. Agreed? ALL: (pause) Agreed. (Tom grasps Ellie’s hand and holds her gaze) Lights fade to B/O
Light fades up DSR. Ellie and Tom stand next to the telescope gazing out above the audience. TOM: How’s it looking? ELLIE: Incredible. Beautiful. TOM: Are you scared? ELLIE: Terrified. You? TOM: I’m trying hard not to be. (Holds her shoulders) They’d have destroyed us by now if they were going to. Don’t you think? ELLIE: I’m not sure. TOM: I think so. ELLIE: They’re just hovering there, it’s weird. TOM. They’re being cautious. That’s good. I think. ELLIE: (Looks through telescope) My goodness… Look at it (steps back so Tom can look) Tom… TOM: Hmm? ELLIE? Have we been cautious enough? TOM: What d’you mean? ELLIE: Is this is premature? Should we have watched and waited longer before making contact? TOM: Premature… (smiling) That reminds me of a conversation we had before coming here? Remember? You were studying the moon through this scope. ELLIE: Oh yeah… TOM: You told me building the Space Port was premature. ELLIE: I was right. The world wasn’t ready. TOM: No, but we were. (hugs her) My darling, Ellie, coming here not only saved our lives but gave us a life we’d only dreamt of. It gave us time together; gave us Sophie. And the experiences we’ve had… Goodness, there was nothing premature about our trip to the moon. (Kisses her) The timing was perfect. ELLIE: (hugging him) I guess it was. But what now? What about that ? TOM: (blows out air) It’s certainly something. ELLIE: It’s huge. Scary. TOM: Magnificent? Never thought you’d see a genuine UFO close up, did you? ELLIE: Nope. TOM: Me neither. (grasps her hands) Oh, darling, let’s not be afraid. Let’s seize this opportunity and see what happens. After all, this whole port was designed as a stop-off point, a springboard into space. Now it can be. And we’ll be the first to experience it. ELLIE: I don’t know… TOM: There’s no future here, Ellie, for us or Sophie. There could be with them. ELLIE: (shudders) I’m just so scared. TOM: Of course you are, that’s human nature. We always fear the worst, don’t we? ELLIE: Yes… but we also have a habit of ignoring our fears and blundering onward anyway. TOM: (grinning) Yes, we do. So how about it, sweetheart? Shall we take the next giant leap for mankind; you, me, Sophie, and the rest of this motley crew of survivors? ELLIE: (Stares out at audience and draws a breath) Yes. I’m ready. TOM: (Looks out too) It’s going to be great, you’ll see. ELLIE: No. It’s going to be amazing! Lights fade.