It’s Worse Than That, They’re Dead

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It’s Worse Than That, They’re Dead by Paul Gude is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

It’s Worse Than That, They’re Dead

A Parody

By Paul Gude

Cast:

RED1 – A Redshirt
RED2 – A Redshirt

TR – The transporter room, a voice over the communicator
BLUE – A Blueshirt, Vulcan
CAPTAIN – A man. A hero in the fighter pilot vein, full of bravado and self-importance
NUMBER ONE – A man. Older, more experienced than the captain, but often overlooked by his superiors
TRUNA – An alien psychic. Female, may look human
PLUVOX – Alien, most likely male.

ALIEN AMBASSADOR – A male alien of some kind.
OVINA – Pluvox’s “daughter,” an Orion slave girl. Green, and beautiful by human standards

AWAY TEAM – Miscellaneous federation personnel, all in blue shirts.

SHUTTLE BAY CHIEF – A seasoned veteran of the federation

SECURITY OFFICERS/REDSHIRTS – Two additional Redshirts.

Many characters are called as a group. Unless BLUE is given a specific entrance or exit, he is normally present with the rest of the AWAY TEAM.
In addition, many characters have holographic counterparts. The actors playing the main roles will be doing double duty. The distinction is drawn for the benefit of the director and actors. The audience should not perceive a difference between the holograms and real individuals for any reason except for those imparted upon them by the circumstances.

Act One

(We open with two redshirts on an alien planet. They are in full uniform with phasers and tricorders. Each of them has a pile of rocks in front of them, which they are scanning with their tricorders. Lieutenant Jones has a very small pile, while Ensign Smith has many, many rocks. The reason for this soon becomes apparent. Lieutenant Jones -RED1- is scanning each rock individually, adding the occasional odd rock, but rejecting almost all of them. Ensign Smith -RED2- immediately adds any rock rejected by RED1 to an ever-increasing pile of mixed rocks. RED2 then scans all the rocks at once, and is always pleased with the results. RED1 hasn’t noticed, being more concerned with trying to hail the transporter room in order to get beamed up to the ship.)

RED1: Jones to transporter room. (No answer.) Jones to transporter room. (RED1 fiddles with the communicator.) Jones to transporter room. (Sighs.) It must be atmospheric interference.

(RED2 nods, absentmindedly hailing the ship.)
RED2: Smith to transporter room.
TR: Transporter room. Go ahead, Smith.

RED2: (Closing communicator.) Seems okay.
RED1: Jones to transporter room. (Pause.) It may be intermittent.
RED2: (Trying again) Smith to transporter room.
TR: Transporter room. Go ahead, Smith.

(RED2 closes communicator again.)
RED1: Wait don’t- (Trying again) Jones to transporter room. (Pause.) Jones to transporter room. (Shakes communicator) It must be broken.

(RED2 trades communicators with RED1.)

RED1: Jones to transporter room. (Pause.) Jones to transporter room.

(RED1 hands it back.)
RED2: Smith to transporter room.
TR: Transporter room. Go ahead, Smith.
RED1: Two to beam-(RED2 closes it before RED1 can finish) up. (Sighs.) Let me see it again. (They trade again.) Jones to transporter room.
RED2: (Trying on RED1’s communicator.) Smith to transporter room.
TR: Transporter room. Go ahead, Smith.
RED1: There’s something disturbing about this. I can’t put my finger on it. Jones to transporter room.
RED2: Smith to transporter room.
TR: Transporter room. Go ahead, Smith.
RED1: And I’ll put my finger on just about anything.
RED2: I have more rocks than you. Smith to transporter room.
TR: Transporter room. Go ahead, Smith.
RED1: I didn’t even get a chance that time. Jones to transporter room.
(long pause)
RED2: Smith to transporter room.
TR: Transporter room. Go ahead, Smith.
(From this point forward, they switch communicators before each call.)
RED1: Maybe it’s somehow picking up the urgency in my voice. They answer you, and you don’t have a sense of urgency about you at all.
RED2: Nothing urgent is going on.
RED1: They don’t know that.
RED2: I don’t think I do either. Is something urgent going on?
RED1: We are trapped here, after all.
RED2: Smith to transporter room.
TR: Transporter room. Go ahead, Smith.
RED1: Why don’t you tell them? “Trapped on planet, need immediate transport?” Jones to transporter room.
RED2: If I did that, they probably wouldn’t pick up. Smith to Transporter
Room.
TR: Transporter room. Go ahead, Smith.
RED1: So, we’re marooned. Jones to transporter room.
RED2: Smith to transporter room.
TR: Transporter room. Go ahead, Smith.
RED2: Smith to transporter room.
TR: Transporter room. Go ahead, Smith.
RED2: You’d think they’d stop answering after a while.
RED1: You’d think?
RED2: Well, it is kind of odd. That they keep answering. Me.
RED1: It’s obvious. They answer you because you have nothing important to say.
RED2: How’s that?
RED1: Perhaps it’s sunspots, or some sort of cosmic ray…cloud. Jones to transporter room.
RED2: Smith to transporter room.
TR: Transporter room. Go ahead, Smith.
RED2: I must be top of the list!
RED1: What list?
RED2: Never mind.
RED1: No, I’m interested now. What list?
RED2: I think there’s a list somewhere.
RED1: A, “Top Number of Requests for Help Answered and Subsequent Offers of Help Rejected” list?
RED2: What’s your problem?
RED1: Have you ever considered you may be taking requests away from the rest of us?
RED2: You were calling too!
RED1: Was I?
RED2: It’s not my fault they only answer me!
RED1: Why do you keep hanging up?
RED2: I don’t want to talk to them.
RED1: I want to talk to them!
RED2: Then why don’t you call them?
RED1: Maybe I should give that try.

(Pause)
RED2: I’m bored! There’s nothing to do here!
RED1: Look. We’ve been trapped on this planet together since – How long have we been trapped on this planet?
RED2: I don’t remember us being here that long.
RED1: How long do you remember us being here?
RED2: I guess as long as I’m thinking about it.
RED1: Please don’t.
RED2: Otherwise, I’m thinking about something else.
RED1: (sighs) Okay, so, while you’re thinking about being here, how does it make you feel?
RED2: Scared.
RED1: Scared? Not bored?
RED2: A bit of both, I suppose. Being trapped on a strange planet is scary and boring at the same time.
RED1: Jones to transporter room. Jones to transporter room. Jones to
transporter room!
RED2: Smith to transporter room.
TR: Transporter room. Go ahead, Smith.
RED2: This is starting to strike me as odd.
RED1: I’m going to start striking you in a minute.

(Pause.)
RED2: I’ve got so many rocks!
RED1: Jones to transporter room! (Throws down communicator. RED2 goes to pick it up.) Leave it! (Sighs.) Why is this happening?
RED2: Don’t ask me. I’m not even sure what’s happening.
RED1: An outsider looking at this situation would assume we’re going insane on an alien planet.

RED2: Maybe it’s a holodeck simulation.

RED1: Yes! A holodeck simulation I myself have constructed in which I’m trapped with you on a planet with no hope for escape because inside that’s exactly the sort of punishment I feel I deserve. Jones to transporter room.
RED2: Smith to transporter room.
TR: Transporter room. Go ahead, Smith.
RED1: End program! (Pause.) Damn.

RED2: Maybe it’s a time loop.

RED1: Yes! A temporal distortion. Each time we try calling, it’s the first time. Repeated endlessly. Jones to transporter room.
RED2: Smith to-(RED1 punches RED2 in the arm) Ow!

RED1: Now it’s different. Jones to transporter room.

RED2: Alien interference.

RED1: You’re saying a superior alien intelligence is taking the time to manipulate us, this planet, the communicator, and/or the transporter room chief?

RED2: It’s been known to happen.

RED1: I’m rejecting that outright. The results of any test of that theory will definitely be worse than our current situation.

RED2: Maybe the planet? Causing us to hallucinate?

RED1: (Ignoring that last bit.) I think this is a prime example of the principle that communicators fail at the exact moment they are needed, and therefore it shouldn’t be surprising if they work at moments where their ability to do so is unimportant. Jones to transporter room.
RED2: Smith to transporter room.
TR: Transporter room. Go ahead, Smith.
RED2: This is odd. They would never answer me in a million years!
RED1: Extrapolate: One, they would never answer you in a million years.
Two: they are answering. Three, we are therefore a million years from…here… When did you first arrive?
RED2: Oh, let’s see…When was I born, you mean?
RED1: No – when did you arrive, here.
RED2: Ah. (Pause.) Hard to say. I was over there a second ago.
RED1: Let’s try again. How long have we been on this planet?
RED2: Oh. Hmmm. (Pause.) Well, that’d be easier to figure out if I could
remember when we first beamed down.
RED1: How many times have you been transported?
RED2: I’m not sure.
RED1: Are you having…mental problems?
RED2: Like how?
RED1: Memory lapses? Hallucinations? A sense of…disassociation with your current identity?
RED2: No more than the next person.
RED1: Aha! But what if you *are* the next person?
RED2: Then I suppose I haven’t been here that long.
RED1: The next person. The next…Yes! There was someone here before. There were people here before us…before we beamed down. They were talking to their ship on their communicators. (Very invested in RED2 understanding this next point.) They were using communicators! (RED2 stares blankly. RED1 groans in frustration.) Communicators work here! To revisit: a communicator’s sole purpose is to facilitate the exchange of important information. From all accounts, total hearsay to direct experience, a communicator has never been known to work in the case of an emergency. Therefore, we must conclude that emergencies are, against all logic, unimportant. Thoughts?
RED2: I think you need to relax.
RED1: Yes. Yes! I’m getting too stressed. (During the following monologue, RED2 grows increasingly more uncomfortable, eventually leaving RED1’s company and crouching behind the pile of rocks.) I’m about to snap. I’m getting too wound up trying to stay sane while wresting with confusion. Therefore, in order to stay sane I must force myself to be driven insane by the use of pure logic. Try this on for size. Let’s say, like I have, that all emergencies are unimportant. We must then agree that important information must never contain any mention of an emergency, unless it is incidental to a message of true importance. Therefore, your communication, which is absent of any information save your name and the fact that you want to talk to the transporter room, contains absolutely nothing important and therefore must likewise contain no hint of an emergency. And since it contains no hint of emergency, it means that neither you nor the fact that you want to speak to the transporter room is related to anything close to danger. Which means, we personally, are not in danger. Sort of – Except that, because the fact that you want to talk to the transporter room isn’t of any known importance, the communicator, should it operate in the way we have postulated, should not have transmitted the message at all. This leads us to realize that your attempt to reach the transporter room is significant, if simply because it proves that the communicator can operate. However, if this is the case, then the aforementioned emergency has absolutely no room to cling to the small amount of facts. Coupled with this is the fact that I, relaying the same amount of information, am unable to reach the transporter room at all. This has the chilling implication that my need to contact the transporter room is unimportant, and further that it is unimportant because I myself am in the midst of an emergency from which you are blissfully spared. Until we found ourselves in this situation, you and I were equal, if not in rank then at least in circumstance. We replicated food, we stayed in our quarters, we kept our heads low. There, if you hailed someone they answered or the computer told you where they were. Then, we were here. Transported to the surface of some unknown planet. Then, nothing. You’ve hailed the transporter room countless times with no intention of asking for transport and have gotten a signal each time. I, meanwhile, have repeatedly tried to arrange our rescue with no success. And, for the last three minutes I’ve been watching you attempt to poop behind your pile of rocks.
RED2: Vulcans don’t poop.
RED1: What?
RED2: Vulcans don’t poop!
RED1: You’re not a Vulcan.
RED2: I didn’t say I was! It’s a known fact. They don’t poop. That’s why
they get so much done.
RED1: What?
RED2: They get so much done because they don’t poop!
RED1: How do you know?
RED2: Think about it. Have you ever seen one poop? I don’t mean, like, seen one seen one, but I mean, even ask to be excused to use the rest room? No. It’s because they don’t. That’s why I’m under the impression that pooping is an emotion.
RED1: Do you remember the first thing you did after you beamed down?
RED2: I materialized into solid form, I guess. Um…there was a…Vulcan in a blue shirt.
RED1: A science officer.
RED2: Yes, we arrive on the planet and there’s a Vulcan with a blue shirt standing by a bunch of rocks asking us to scan them. So, we were beamed down and they gave us jobs.
RED1: Yes.
RED2: Told us just to scan this rocks and wait for…something…to happen.
RED1: Yes.
RED2: That’s why we’re here. Scanning.
(Takes off tricorder and begins scanning)
RED1: Yes.
RED2: It was important – an extremely important task, vital to our mission, those very words: vital to the mission-no time for briefing, just get equipped and beam down, and be briefed when we arrive.
RED1: Briefed about what?
RED2: How do I know? We haven’t heard yet.
RED1: Then what are we doing here, I wonder.
RED2: Scanning.
RED1: You’re doing a good job.
RED2: You too.
RED1: What are we scanning for?
RED2: For the mission.
RED1: But what for?
RED2: It’s our duty. Ah. (Hesitates.) What exactly are we – for what type
of material are we-
RED1: Let’s think… We’re beamed down, a Vulcan in a blue shirt by a rock tells us to scan for…something…I wonder if we’re finding it.
RED2: Hold it! Hold it!
RED1: What?
RED2: I hear transporters. Like someone being transported.
RED1: What?
RED2: Probably just the wind.
RED1: Wait, now I hear it. That’s not wind.
RED2: Maybe it’s space wind. Or it might have been thunder. Space thunder. Or a tricorder. (Listens to tricorder) Like mine, but…somewhere else.
(By the end of the next speech, the sound of a tricorder is faintly audible.)
RED1: A man beaming from point “A” to point “B” finds himself in a sort of limbo of blue and silver sparkles, where he sees a worm-like entity that suddenly disappears. To an outside observer, the man is a vaguely man-shaped mass of blue and silver sparkles. To the transporter, the man is both in transit, and information stored in a pattern buffer. When you leave one place and are beamed to another, that pattern strips out anything that isn’t essentially “you.” When the man arrives, he has no memory of the worm shaped creature because he is no longer that man. A Zen Master posing as the Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” However, when you are reconstructed from a pattern buffer, you are different than when you left, but the same as when you first arrived. Therefore, we can be sure that a Transporter…a Transporter is not a river. Additionally, the sparkles never really change, except that they always seem to be different…and blue…or silver. Somehow. This is why Zen Masters refuse to be Transported.
RED2: Is that true?
RED1: Do you know any Zen Masters?
RED2: No.
RED1: Ever plan to meet one?
RED2: Not really.
RED1: It’s completely true.
RED2: Listen! Are tricorders getting louder?
RED1: No. The people holding them are getting closer.
RED2: Other people. I’m trying to picture it. I’ve been alone with you so long, I don’t remember what other people look like. I don’t even remember what I look like.
RED1: I wonder if our patterns haven’t degraded over time. I think we’ve traveled so much that our distinguishing features have worn away.
(The AWAY TEAM enters, is lead by a Vulcan, -“BLUE”- with a tricorder.)
BLUE: (on communicator) We’ve found them. (To RED2 and RED1) Report. (Pause.) Your reports, please.
RED2: Oh, our reports?
BLUE: Unless you have come across some unattended reports that you would like to share with us.
RED2: (to RED1) We’re supposed to have reports?
BLUE: Yes. We were hoping you would be dead by now, but in lieu of that.
RED2: Did you say, “Dead?”
BLUE: Our findings are inconclusive- that is to say, we know nothing. We could have stayed on the ship and made just as much progress. I may suggest that at our next briefing.
RED2: So, you get briefings?
BLUE: We all get as much of a briefing as we need. Some briefings are more brief than others. I must conclude, from your question, that yours were as brief as they could possibly get. Ours, on the other had, are, in a word, extensive. We are the Away Team. You are-
RED2: My name is Lieutenant Jones, and this is Ensign Smith.
(RED1 confers briefly with RED2.)
Rather – this is Lieutenant Jones, and I’m Ensign Smith.
BLUE: You appear unsure.
RED2: We’ve been…confused. (Speaks, even as receiving a glare for RED1.) We are unsure of our status.
BLUE: On the periphery. Yet, vital.
RED2: Oh! That…what?
BLUE: You contribute to the mission while being blissfully ignorant of the details. Details, you see, are our forte. Do not press me for any, as you know, I cannot lie.
RED2: Why are we here?
BLUE: Background. Information gleaned from expiration, close encounters (both alien and domestic), hermaphroditic silicon communication on a level far past symbiotic. We transport you to the surface so you can barely scratch it, marking the spot under which the truth shall lie. Parallel universes of fascists and magicians… puppets, if you like, to a universal hive mind. From your reactions, we divine the location of non-corporal intelligences. From your wounds, we track the hiding spots of invisible assassins. Your presence may force the hands of discredited heroes, prepubescent villains, inter-species shape-shifting rapists. You are, if you will, the most important piece of equipment in our arsenal. Without your presence, weapons would not be drawn, reactors would not melt down, and the only potential victims would be key players who are too important to be sacrificed for a minor plot point. You are important, but this importance is not appreciated until it is too late. Do you follow me?
RED2: I’m not sure.
BLUE: Simply put, while we are going through the motions of a scientific expedition, we are, in fact, waiting patiently for something bad to happen to you.
RED2: What are your findings so far?
BLUE: Inconclusive.
RED2: Is that bad?
BLUE: That depends. Do you have any findings you would like to share with us?
RED2: Would it…um…cause something bad to happen to us?
BLUE: No. But it may lead us to further conclusions.
RED2: And these conclusions, would they further the mission?
BLUE: Inevitably.
RED2: Which in turn, would cause something bad to…
BLUE: Something bad. To happen. To you.
RED2: Well, there’s not much to report really.
BLUE: Are you certain?
RED2: We, um, well, we scanned some rocks.

(BLUE studies both piles carefully.)
BLUE: (To RED2) Why do you have more?
RED2: I like rocks.
BLUE: How much?
RED2: What are you implying?
BLUE: I make no implications.
RED2: I like them like a normal person likes a rock. Nothing more.
BLUE: I was not implying anything untoward. Still…
RED2: What?
BLUE: You have extremely different sorting techniques. This information may prove useful. We are finally making progress.
RED2: You’ve learned absolutely nothing on your own?
BLUE: Nothing I care to disclose at this time. We cannot risk altering events before they play themselves out.
RED2: I don’t think you know anything at all.
BLUE: (on communicator) Transporter room.
TR: Transporter room. How many to beam up?
RED1: How the hell did you do that? You didn’t even identify yourself!
BLUE: Belay that.
RED1: You must have important information. What is it?
BLUE: Simple. We are beaming up. That is important enough.
RED1: So your message is important because you are important?
BLUE: Most definitely.
RED1: But you’re speaking to us.
BLUE: True.
RED1: Which makes us important. True?
BLUE: No.
RED1: Why not?
BLUE: You are forgetting two things. One. You are not speaking to me on a communicator.
RED1: Ah. And two?
BLUE: You forget, it is possible that no one is watching.
RED1: Watching.
BLUE: Yes. We are all watched.
RED1: Right now?
BLUE: I cannot say.
RED1: Why not? Don’t you know?
BLUE: I do. However, for the moment, I cannot say.
RED1: For the moment.
BLUE: For the foreseeable future.
RED1: And after that? (BLUE reveals nothing.) You said something – about giving a report.
BLUE: Yes. Protocol dictates that your report must be given to your direct superior. Your immediate superior happens to be Billy. Leave your pants alone, Billy.
As you know, Billy is a genius, the son of an officer, veteran of countless missions an indispensable –
RED1: No. Not him. Anyone but him. (BLUE does not yield.) Forget it. I was going to do it, but now…I’m a Lieutenant. You’re saying a Lieutenant is outranked by a…
BLUE: Don’t worry. I am sure, in time, an alien entity shall reveal him to be much more. (on communicator) Transporter room.
TR: Transporter room. How many to beam up?
RED2: Sir! Billy, sir? I’m ready to give my report.
BLUE: (on communicator) Belay that. Billy? (Billy comes forward.)

BILLY: Report.

RED2: I scanned some rocks.

(RED2 leads Billy over to the rocks.)

BILLY: Is that poop?
RED2: Why so it is! (Conspiratorially.) We’re, being watched?
BILLY: (Matching tone.) Almost constantly.
RED2: So we are, followed?
BILLY: Some follow us quite closely.
RED2: And our actions, scrutinized?
BILLY: Absurdly so.
RED2: Gone through with a fine tooth comb.
BILLY: Yes.
RED2: Tested.
BILLY: Thoroughly.
RED2: Dissected –
BILLY: Completely –
RED2: I try to do everything right – but I’m sure sometimes I’ve –
BILLY: Yes.
RED2: I mean, what if I’ve got it wrong?
BILLY: We all get it wrong, more or less, only to varying degrees. Explosions in space make no sound, yet sometimes they do. Which is a kind of integrity, if you look at inconstancy being a sure sign of growth.
RED2: Well, I’ve got nothing to say. There’s no way to get that wrong, is there?
BLUE: Transporter room?
TR: transporter room. How many to beam up?
RED1: Just a minute!
BLUE: Belay that.
RED1: I suppose I could, share a little…of my knowledge. Watch this.
(RED1 starts to grab for the communicator, but BLUE shuts it immediately)
BLUE: You will not be joining us. (The AWAY TEAM begins pulling out their communicators, one at a time.) Stop that! I have it handled.
RED1: Handled? See if you can get a handle on this! (The AWAY TEAM flinches as RED2 pulls out a communicator as well. BLUE remains impassive.) Do you like puzzles?
BLUE: Always.
RED1: (Jones opens communicator.) Jones to transporter room.

(After there is no answer, RED1 hands the communicator to BLUE.)
BLUE: Transporter room?
TR: transporter room. How many to beam up?
BLUE: Belay that.
RED1: Again? (Some of the AWAY TEAM silently try their communicators. BLUE nods, hands the communicator back to RED1, and opens his own communicator.) Jones to transporter room. (No answer.) Jones to transporter room. (No answer.)
BLUE: Transporter room?
TR: Transporter room. How many to beam up?
BLUE: Belay that.

(BLUE and RED1 exchange communicators.)
RED1: Jones to transporter room.
BLUE: I see no mystery here. They obviously are not interested in answering you. Transporter room?
TR: Transporter room. How many to beam up?
BLUE: Belay that.
RED1: Obviously, beaming you up is important. (A realization comes over RED1’s face, the importance of which is not lost on BLUE.) Jones to transporter room. Six to beam-

(The number RED1 gives is the exact number of the AWAY TEAM, including BLUE. RED1 and RED2 are not included in the figure. As the number of AWAY TEAM members can vary from production to production, so can the number. For the purposes of this writing, that number is six.)
BLUE: No! We can’t risk that.
RED1: What are the risks?
BLUE: No.
RED1: Jones to transporter room. Six to beam-
BLUE: No.
RED1: Jones to transporter room-
BLUE: No.
RED1: Jones-
BLUE: No!
(Blue catches himself and regains his composure.)
RED1: Well, well! That was rather emotional. Hardly behavior fitting a Vulcan. Your ears are starting to look a little fake to me, pointy. (BLUE does not betray any emotion. RED1 indicates the AWAY TEAM, lowers voice.) They’ll lose all respect for you if they start to think of you as one of them. Better do something smart, and fast. (Raises voice.) You say you’re going to calculate all of pi for us?
BLUE: No.
RED1: It’s okay to admit you can’t do it. It’s known to be impossible. In the short amount of time we have, of course.
BLUE: I have no need to admit anything.
RED1: I think I’ll do it myself. You can try and keep up with me if you like. (Makes circle with fingers, mentally measures circumference, diameter, etc. Closes eyes, mutters to self, etc.) Um…three…point…two. Three point two. That was easy. Pi is three point two. (Pause.) Come on! Tell me I’m wrong! Work it out. (Pause.) Don’t you want to correct me?
BLUE: My position has not changed. I am simply refusing to comply with your request.
RED1: It’s killing you. If you could lie, you could make something up. I wouldn’t know the difference. Instead, your mind is racing, trying to discover the truth!
BLUE: Being ethically opposed to lying is not the same as being compelled to answer any question truthfully.
RED1: Yes it is.
BLUE: No, it is not.
RED1: Billy, isn’t it the same?

BILLY: You know it isn’t.

RED1: Come here, Billy. (Billy comes over.) What did you say that for?
BILLY: You just ended your sentence with a preposition.
RED1: You got some smarts on you. You like that, Billy? You like having smarts?
BILLY: Yes.
(RED1 stomps on BILLY’S foot.)
RED1: Smarts, don’t it? (BILLY sobs in pain.) Let’s see you think your way out of that one!
BLUE: Are you satisfied?
(RED1 stomps on BLUE’S foot. There is no reaction.)
RED1: I guess you actually can think your way out of it.
BLUE: I have a bit more experience than a child.
RED1: And you’ll outlive him too. Right, pointy? Is that fair?
BLUE: We are all fated to death. The only question is whether or not it is permanent. One can live forever, if enough people want them to endure.
RED1: Whether we live or die is up to the whims of other people?
BLUE: It is possible one may die once or twice. However, one can always return from death. If one is a principal, of course.
RED1: Can you refuse to return, if you wish?
BLUE: We do indeed, have that choice.
RED1: By we, you mean principals.
BLUE: No one else is worth discussing.
RED2: So, then, we’re principals?
BLUE: Hardly.
RED2: Then why are we discussing-
BLUE: We are discussing me.
RED2: Oh.
BLUE: (With the slightest conspiratorial air.) Also, no one is watching.
RED1: (Regarding the AWAY TEAM.) No one?
BLUE: No one important. (As though this should make sense.) They have left us…on.
RED1: Left on?
BLUE: Yes. However, we will soon be on display once more. It is possible to tell when the change occurs, if you notice the signs.
RED1: How can you tell?
BLUE: Things start to happen.
RED2: But aren’t things always happening?
BLUE: They happen more than ever.
RED1: (looking around) I can’t tell.
BLUE: It would not matter if you could.
(He doesn’t move. His immobility is now pointed and getting awkward.
Pause. RED2 walks up to him until they are face to face.)
RED2: (Into communicator) Smith to transporter room. (Pause) Smith to transporter room.
RED1: Let’s get out of here.
RED2: I must be important after all.
RED1: Let’s hope not.
RED2: Don’t be so negative! Maybe our luck has changed.
RED1: (scoffs) Jones to transporter room. Two to beam-
(RED1 and RED2 disappear and reappear on the ship. The OVINA runs in as the red alert alarm sounds, – followed by the CAPTAIN. The OVINA has been changing and still holds her uniform. The CAPTAIN, with his uniform open, hair mussed, and a manic look in his eye, takes her by the waist and kisses her fully. She closes her eyes and sighs. PLUVOX enters. Everyone freezes. The captain then turns heel and runs, laughing maniacally. PLUVOX grabs OVINA by the elbow and drags her offstage. The alarm stops.)

RED2: Wow, that was loud.
RED1: I’m glad it’s-
(But the alarm begins again- enter NUMBER ONE and TRUNA, attended by SECURITY OFFICERS. A keen observer will notice that NUMBER ONE and TRUNA are straightening their clothes.)
NUMBER ONE: (Not looking at either of them) Ensign Smith and Lieutenant Jones. I’ve heard many good things about you. Sorry for the lack of briefing. We wouldn’t have beamed you over on such short notice if it wasn’t important. As you have no doubt learned, we have reason to believe the captain was rendered temporarily insane following a transporter accident and has murdered the alien ambassador. All records of the incident were destroyed, so he has yet to be put in the brig. However, he has been relieved of command until we can be convinced he is devoid of…alien influence. Since you served under him during that last unfortunate business with the Klingons, I trust you’re still familiar with his more unorthodox methods of command. Therefore, we’ve put you on temporary assignment, so that you may work more closely with him and determine if his current erratic behavior is outside of the norm.
TRUNA: He speaks of you in his logs as being completely dutiful. Your performance in this assignment will do much to show us your capacities for more permanent duties.
RED2: The captain is a dear friend.
RED1: Yes. Just to see him will be a joy. If we can help you with the current…unfortunate business, so much the better.
NUMBER ONE: Yes well, thank you…Lieutenant…(not sure who is who)…Ensign…
TRUNA: Thank you both. (To SECURITY OFFICERS) Please escort them to the captain’s quarters. And be careful…(Pause.) I sense the captain has much rage within him.
(The SECURITY OFFICERS lead the way, with no indication that RED2 and RED1 should
follow.)
RED1: If he’s our captain, we’ll know.
TRUNA: That’s what we’re hoping.
(PLUVOX Enters)
PLUVOX: My darling Ovina appears to have responded to the vaccine.
NUMBER ONE: That’s good news, doctor.
PLUVOX: If you think that’s good news, take a look at these scans. I believe I’ve found the source of the captain’s odd behavior. (Regards RED1 and RED2) Let’s go over them in private. I think you’ll see why this information needs to be kept completely confidential.

(Everyone exits leaving RED2 and RED1 alone)
RED2: Let’s beam back down.
RED1: We just got here.
RED2: I don’t know what I’m supposed to do here.
RED1: We’ll be back on the planet scanning before you know it.
RED2: Maybe I can scan something here?
RED1: It’s no good. Everything here is known.
RED2: Then why am I so confused?
RED1: It’s simply not known by you.
(RED2 begins scanning RED1)
RED1: You’re not going to learn anything from that. Soon we’ll be back in a place where the unfamiliar is expected. I know everything here, but I can’t conceive of a single use for any of it. Have you ever walked into a room, and as soon arrive you don’t remember ever wanting to be there?
RED2: Hang on a minute. (Thinks, then smiles triumphantly.) I believe that exact concept could be used to describe our current situation.
RED1: We’re lucky you’re here.
RED2: Well, if I wasn’t here, we wouldn’t have been having that conversation. Unless we were both someplace else. (Pause.) Unless, perhaps, we were both someone else, too.
RED1: Well, well! Someone turned philosopher when I wasn’t looking.

RED2: I have been reading a book.

RED1: So, if we could be any two people, with any relationship, anywhere in the world, in what circumstances would you like to find yourself?
RED2: What about two spacefarers thrust into a world of mystery and danger they barely understand?
RED1: You’ve forgotten where you are again.
RED2: No! I know where I am. It’s who I am that’s missing! I remember a time when I didn’t need to wonder why I was someplace, because I knew exactly why I was there. And if I ever forgot, there was always someone there to tell me what my job was and what I was supposed to do.
RED1: They did. The only problem is that they’ve had us do it too many times. Look, we’re dressed in red, right? Red is the color of engineers. Why are we always away from the ship running around on strange planets? The blue shirts, they’re science and medical personnel, right? That Vulcan was where he belonged. A Vulcan in a blue shirt was scanning a rock all by himself is just fine. But then, he called us by rank and name and we accepted his commands. The fact that we were engineers didn’t matter.
RED2: I don’t even know that we were engineers to him. Or, even, that he didn’t see us as the same vague un-engineer shape sloppily occupying two distinct places simultaneously. It’s obvious to me, as an engineer, that our pattern buffer has been corrupted. This last time, when we beamed down, our individual identities weren’t important, so they were stripped away as incidental upon our arrival. Who knows how many times it’s happened, really? What we need to do is decide which of us is which and really believe it. That way, the next time, our conviction in our current identities will be included as part of our central make-up.
RED1: But we obviously would have come to these conclusions before and discarded them as impractical, or we already would have done it. Therefore, the enforced ambiguity can still stand.
RED2: Well, right now, I find it annoying.
RED1: Fine, then pick one. But ask, yourself…why does it matter?
RED2: We totally messed up our briefing!
RED1: This whole situation is messed up, therefore the briefing was consistent.
RED2: For once, I’d like an inconsistent happy day.
RED1: May all your days be inconsistent.
RED2: Let’s go back to the planet. Where’s the transporter room?

(They both look around. Neither has a clue.)
RED1: Only in a world of perfect direction does one recognize the value of being lost.
RED2: How is being lost valuable?
RED1: Think about it. Once you’re able to replicate things, there’s no such thing as a rare object. The only thing you have left to value are your experiences and your principals.
RED2: Not them again.
RED1: This is different. Actual principals. Values. See, the word value is right in there. A code. A strict moral code is the only thing of value one can possess. One must take pride in one’s virtues. Of course, Pride is one of the Seven Deadly Sins, so taoism may come into play as well. Let’s see. Wrath, Envy, Gluttony, Sloth, Pride, Lust, and…um…Vanity. Yes. Ha. I believe there are Seven Virtues, but I can’t name any of them. Therefore, it is an odd thing to take pride in one’s virtues, unless pride somehow does a double duty. There are also Seven Dwarves, but I can’t remember them due to reasons of copyright. What were we doing?
RED2: Going somewhere.
RED1: The captain’s quarters. To investigate his odd behavior. What’s the cause?
RED2: Well, behavior is usually based on some sort of impulse of the mind. Therefore, we can assume he is behaving oddly because he is thinking oddly.
RED1: Nice. Do we know why he may be thinking oddly?
RED2: Something more than his transporter accident. I’ve had tons of those and I’m clean as a whistle. I’m still not sure why they chose us for this.
RED1: He was writing about us in his logs. His captain’s logs.
RED2: True, and we are very dutiful. The captain said so. (Pauses. Smiles to self.) Anyone who observes his logs knows that we are full of duty.
RED1: You enjoyed that a bit too much.
RED2: And once we’ve discharged our duty?
RED1: We will be free to move on to a more permanent assignment.
RED2: I like the sound of that. What do you think he means by permanent?
RED1: As in, non-dispensable.
RED2: We would no longer be dispensed?
RED1: We may be doled out from time to time, but only on matters of extreme importance.
RED2: We would matter.
RED1: And in this case, matter means value.
RED2: It’s a matter of fact.
RED1: That Number One is, as the Japanese would say, Ichiban.
RED2: I suppose you think that was clever. (Pause.) What does it mean?
RED1: You should read that book some more. (Pause.) You’re about to say, “What book?” Aren’t you?
RED2: No, I wasn’t. I’m reading a book.
RED1: So I hear.

RED2: Do you know which book I’m reading?

RED1: No.
RED2: Damn. That means I’ll probably never find it. (Pause.) We could go.
RED1: Where?
RED2: The captain’s quarters.
RED1: No, no, no! That’s where they told us to go. If we just blindly follow orders, they’ll claim we have no initiative.
RED2: So apparently, there are people watching us all the time.
RED1: He did say that they only watch the important parts.
RED2: No, he said that parts were only important when the important people are watching.
RED1: Now I wish I was somewhere else.
RED2: We could pretend we were somewhere else. I know. You’re a cowboy, I’m a tuna-fish sandwich, and we’re on the sun! And each successive sentence has to start with the next successive letter of the alphabet, starting with the letter…R!
(Imitates a tuna-fish sandwich)
Rather hot here on the sun!
RED1: Fuck off.
RED2: Say! That sounded like the letter “F” to me.
RED1: I’m serious. I will punch you very hard if you do not stop.
RED2: Twice…you used the letter “I” there.
(RED1 punches RED2 very hard in the arm.)
RED2: Ow!
RED1: Usually “Ow” starts with the letter “O.”
(RED1 punches RED2 very hard in the arm.)
RED2: Stop hitting me!
(RED1 punches RED2 very hard in the arm.)
RED1: Version 2.0, continuous arm hits.
(RED1 punches RED2 very hard in the arm.)
RED2: We don’t play it that way.
(RED1 punches RED2 very hard in the arm.)
RED1: X!
(RED1 punches RED2 very hard in the arm.)
RED2: You didn’t even try!
(RED1 punches RED2 very hard in the arm.)
RED1: Zoo!
(RED1 punches RED2 very hard in the arm.)
RED2: Alright, Mr. Cowboy, if that’s how you want to play it.
RED1: Don’t you dare fucking hit me.
RED2: But, you’re not playing fair!
(RED1 punches RED2 very hard in the arm.)
RED1: Counts double if I mess up and you don’t hit me.
(RED1 punches RED2 very hard in the arm twice.)
RED2: Didn’t you just say not to hit you?
RED1: Evidently so. Probably because if you hit me, I’ll have to kick your ass.
RED2: Foul! Two sentences at once.
RED1: Going to hit me?
RED2: Hmmmmmm.
RED1: I’ll take that as a, “No.”
(RED1 punches RED2 very hard in the arm.)
RED2: Just you and me, Cowboy. On the sun.
(RED1 punches RED2 very hard in the arm.)
RED1: Kitchen.
(RED1 punches RED2 very hard in the arm.)
RED2: Let’s stop playing.
RED1: May we continue if I promise to stop hitting you?
RED2: No.
RED1: Oh, tuna-fish sandwich, you have no idea how lonely it is for a cowboy on the sun!
RED2: Please.
RED1: Really, I want to play.
RED2: Seriously?
RED1: Totally.
RED2: Unusually warm weather we’re having, even for the sun.
RED1: Very warm weather for the sun.
RED2: Why, my mayonnaise has turned to liquid!
RED1: X-rays are present here, in space, where we are.
RED2: You know that word that describes a fear of foreigners?
RED1: Xenophobia?
RED2: It actually starts with an X!
(RED2 hesitantly punches RED1 very hard in the arm.)
RED1: That was a good one.
RED2: You’re not mad?
RED1: I deserved it. You got me.
RED2: Really, I could have sworn…
RED1: No, you stood up to me. I respect that.
RED2: That’s a relief.
RED1: I mean, I’m still going to have to kick your ass.
RED2: What? Why?
RED1: It’s just something I do. I can’t have people going around hitting me all the time.
(RED1 begins stretching.)
RED2: Well. I…
RED1: You…
RED2: I…would…
RED1: You would…
RED2: I would really rather you didn’t.
RED1: Rather? You’d “rather” I didn’t? Well, that changes everything, doesn’t it?
RED2: Does it?
RED1: No.
(RED2 pulls a phaser.)
RED1: You’re kidding.
RED2: It’s on “stun.”
RED1: You mean, “Get knocked out and wet your pants?”
RED2: You don’t wet your pants.
RED1: Really? How do you know?
RED2: Regardless. I don’t like getting my ass kicked.
RED1: You have to sleep sometime.
RED2: So do you.
RED1: Do I?
RED2: You scare me.
RED1: Well, we’ve found a distinction at last.
RED2: This is a step in the right direction.
RED1: Just think, after I kick your ass you’ll be completely cured.
(Enter CAPTAIN, reading a book – as he is about to disappear RED1 notices him.)
RED1: It’s the captain!
RED2: He’s reading a book!
(CAPTAIN exits. Triumph dawns on them, they smile.)
RED1: Well, now we’re getting somewhere.
RED2: Yes! If that’s my book, then it’s as good as found.
RED1: (Snapping fingers.) Look here. Right here. Focus. Who are you?
RED2: Ensign Smith.
RED1: Glad you’re still with us. Did you recognize that man with the book?
RED2: Ensign Smith.
RED1: Are you addressing me?
RED2: No! The man with the book.
RED1: We’re in big trouble.
RED2: Ha! Got you! I’m Ensign Smith.
RED1: You’re serious. (Punches RED2 in the arm. Eyes RED2 suspiciously.) So, if that wasn’t Ensign Smith, who was it?
RED2: (Thinks.) Lieutenant Jones?
RED1: Hmmmmm. Let’s try something. Who’s this?
(RED1 makes a little “hand puppet” gesture.)
RED2: How should I know? He’s funny, though.
RED1: (In funny puppet voice) I am Lieutenant Jones.
RED2: No good. There already is a Lieutenant Jones around here.
RED1: (In funny puppet voice) Really?
RED2: Yeah. Me.
RED1 & RED2: Dammit!

(RED1 stops making the puppet.)
RED2: Hey, did the captain walk through here a little while ago?
RED1: I think so.
RED2: That’s a relief. I thought it was an impostor.
RED1: Did he have a goatee?
RED2: Not that I noticed.
RED1: Then it was probably the real guy.
RED2: Actually, I thought only first officer impostors had fake goatees.
RED1: No, you’re thinking of evil extra-dimensional first officers.
RED2: Oh.
RED1: And they don’t have goatees. They have more of a van-dyke thing happening.
RED2: Regardless, I believe he was devoid of facial hair.
RED1: We probably should have talked to him.
RED2: I’m more interested in talking to that other guy.
RED1: Who?
RED2: Lieutenant Jones. There was something weird about him.
RED1: I hear Lieutenant Jones is violent.
RED2: Yes! Lieutenant Jones has been threatening me lately!
RED1: Have you told anyone about it?
RED2: I’m afraid to. That’s why I came to you.
RED1: It’s good you sought my advice, then.
RED2: Another thing.
RED1: What’s that?
RED2: Lieutenant Jones is a spy.
RED1: A spy?
RED2: For Number One. There’s another accomplice, but the name slips my mind at the moment.
RED1: So, Lieutenant Jones is the mastermind.
RED2: I’d say more of a ringleader.
RED1: I see. You’re making some pretty hefty accusations.
RED2: True.
RED1: Well, then, why don’t you make them…(making puppet voice and gesture)…to my face? (RED2 Screams and hides behind RED1, cowering. RED1 comforts RED2.)
RED1: It’s okay. It’s okay. He’s gone now. Oh look, here’s the captain!
(RED1 makes a puppet with the opposite hand from the “Lieutenant Jones” puppet!)
RED2: You can’t fool me! That’s Lieutenant Jones!
RED1: No, Lieutenant Jones is…(presenting puppet with other hand) over here.
(RED2 screams and hides behind RED1. RED1 uses the “Captain” puppet to call to RED2.)
RED1: Hello? Ensign Smith!
(RED2 brings his own hand puppet around RED1’s body.)
RED2: Hello? Is that you captain?
RED1: Yes, that’s right. I’m the captain, and you’re Ensign Smith.
RED2: Wait. Where’s Lieutenant Jones?
RED1: You let me worry about him.
RED2: Oh, no. I worry about him enough already.
RED1: (As “Lieutenant Jones” puppet) I heard that! As “Captain” puppet) Stay out of this!
RED2: You saved me!
RED1: Well, you saved my bacon plenty of times.
RED2: Say! Let’s pretend that you’re a piece of bacon, and I’m a pirate, and we’re trapped in a-
RED1: Stop it!
RED2: In a donut factory! And we start, with the letter…(as Pirate) Arrrrr!
RED1: (As the captain puppet) I order you to be quiet!! (Pause.) Say, that worked out. Maybe we’re looking at this all wrong. Maybe he’s simply gone mad with power. Are you or I any different?
RED2: Well for one thing, we have eyes. Plus, our mouths aren’t so strangely segmented. (Pause. RED2 looks at the “captain” skeptically.) You know…I’m not sure that’s the captain at all!
RED1: Of course!
RED2: You’re just making a puppet with your hand!
RED1: Ah. So I am.

(RED1 instantly stops making the puppet in order to click away on an available console.)
RED2: I’ll inform Number One.
RED1: (Absentmindedly, while working at console.) Let’s not be too hasty.
RED2: Right. We can hang out on the ship a bit longer, eat the free food, rub elbows with the powerful. It’d be foolish to go up to Number One right now and tell him the captain is a hand puppet.
RED1: Very astute.
RED2: Plus, there’s one other thing.
RED1: Do tell.
RED2: I fear there’s another captain about.
RED1: Another hand puppet you mean?
RED2: I think I’ve learned my lesson onthat one.
RED1: Ah, that’s a relief. For a moment I thought-
RED2: The other hand puppet is Lieutenant Jones.
RED1: Brilliant!
RED2: Unless.. .
RED1: Unless?
RED2: Jones could be an impostor as well. They might even be working together.
RED1: The two hand puppets impersonating members of the crew may be connected? Now I think you’re making things too simple.
RED2: I wonder if Number One isn’t behind it somehow.
RED1: He was very quick to take over command once the captain proved to be unstable.
RED2: You don’t think –
RED1: I don’t need to think. (Looks up from the console.) I have the captain’s service record.
RED2: Well he seems like a good captain.

RED1: Whose loyal crew obeyed him unquestionably except in cases where he proved to be unstable. (Reads silently for a moment.) It turns out, he was unstable quite often.
RED2: He was taken over by alien entities.
RED1: Often.
RED2: Exposed to mind-altering exotic plants.
RED1: Sometimes on purpose, if you believe the rumors.
RED2: He often interfered with underdeveloped civilizations, violating the prime directive.
RED1: To say nothing of the underdeveloped with whom he has said to have interfered.
RED2: If you believe the rumors.
RED1: Which I do.
RED2: It’s a wonder that his violations aren’t given more public exposure.
RED1: Public exposure is noted in this section here.
RED2: He’s attacked members of the crew.
RED1: Both publicly and privately.
RED2: It’s a great list of violations.
RED1: Outlining the features of a man who could pose a danger to the general public.
RED2: Or to specific privates.
RED1: And always under the influence of some foreign entity.
RED2: Alien parasite.
RED1: Alien plant cluster.
RED2: Alien energy cloud.
RED1: Landed immigrant energy cloud.
RED2: Resident alien immigrant energy cloud by marriage.
RED1: A lot of energy clouds.
RED2: How are they able to take advantage of him so easily?
RED1: Perhaps he gets distracted trying to figure out if they’re female.
(Pause)
RED2: How do you tell?
RED1: Check them for lumps.
RED2: Does that work?
RED1: I sure as hell hope so. (Pause.) See, it’s a joke because-
RED2: No. Hold on. I’ll get it. (Very long pause.) Oh! Oh! Hahahaha! (Pause.) I still don’t get it.
RED1: Shocking.
RED2: So, the captain, whom everyone dutifully serves whenever he is not compromised by an alien entity, gets compromised by an alien entity on a weekly basis. His first officer does a wonderful job running the ship while he’s incapacitated, and his most common method of proving his worth seems to be by taking a thousand-and-one shot , which will either win the day or kill him, his crew, fledgling civilizations, and possibly the known universe, again on a weekly basis. Most recently, he’s been running around naked to the waist trying to get it on with an Orion slave girl posing as the daughter of the ship’s doctor, a secondary disturbing fact that all the male members of the crew seem to be all to happy to ignore. Still, apart from all that, doesn’t it seem a little odd that just because he was on a psychotic break at the exact moment an alien ambassador is killed, he’s suddenly named the prime suspect?
RED1: It smacks of conspiracy. (Pause.) Perhaps he’s an impostor, who’s also been taken over by an alien entity. Or vice-versa. You know, it may be that every theory we’ve come across is correct. That sort of thing can happen when you traverse alternate universes on a regular basis.
RED2: I’m confused.
RED1: Well, there’s one consistent factor.
RED2: Oh, I met the captain earlier.
RED1: Really? What’d he look like?
RED2: Kind of like this. (Makes puppet with hand.)
RED1: That looks like Ensign Smith.
RED2: You don’t think…
RED1: Wait a minute…In the right light, that could also be Lieutenant Jones…
RED2: You mean…
RED1: Perhaps they’re all the same person!
RED2: Ha! That’s where you’re wrong. It was my hand the whole time.

(They’ve located the captain’s quarters.)
RED1: I wonder if the real captain’s in there.
RED2: The real who?
(pause)
RED1: Gee, I wonder who’s in the captain’s quarters.
(RED2 goes into the captain’s quarters and returns.)
RED2: It’s the captain.
RED1: And what’s the captain doing?
RED2: Recording his log. Or, talking to someone. Talking, generally.
RED1: Can you remember anything he said?
(pause)
RED2: No. I don’t…I’m not sure.
RED1: Well, let’s think. Was he saying words?
RED2: Yes.
RED1: Do you remember the sounds the words made?
RED2: Yes!
RED1: And what did they sound like?
RED2: Oh! I remember what he said!
RED1: Which was…
RED2: (As Captain) “What are you doing here?”
RED1: Hooray! The mystery is solved!
(CAPTAIN enters followed by PULVOX.)
PLUVOX: Sir! We have to run a full diagnostic…
CAPTAIN: If you don’t back off, Doctor, my foot is going to run a full diagnostic of your poop chute.
PULVOX: Slightly more aggressive than normal. Sir, do you remember what happened when you went down to the planet last night?
CAPTAIN: No, but I remember what happened when I went down on your wife this morning.

PLUVOX: You know very well I have no wife.

CAPTAIN: No wonder your daughter doesn’t look a thing like you.
PLUVOX: It is good to see that your sense of humor is…the same as always, sir.
CAPTAIN: Yes, I am completely…the same. (pause) And human.
PLUVOX: Well, I think that’s all for today. (To RED1 and RED2) The captain will see you now.
RED2: (to PULVOX) As you were.
(RED1 & RED2 approach)
RED1: Captain.
RED2: Captain.
(CAPTAIN centered upstage, turns to them.)
CAPTAIN: Gentlemen! (Can’t sort out who’s who. Turns his back to them.) How goes the good fight, Lieutenant Jones? (Spins around to see who reacts to the name. They both do. RED1 is the only one who shows any sign of embarrassment, causing the captain to believe RED1 to be:) Ensign Smith! (RED2 reacts to this as well, at which point RED1 and CAPTAIN share a knowing glance. Everyone laughs, then the captain becomes deadly serious.) I have a feeling we’re being watched.
(Fade to black)

Act Two.

CAPTAIN, RED2 and RED1 are talking. We pick up right where we left off.
CAPTAIN: It is as though time is a shared resource. Our universe pauses and the members of the other universe, who have sat motionless, waiting, are suddenly free to move. When it is our turn to move, they sit, and wait again.

(The door slides open. The AWAY TEAM peeks in.)

RED1: It’s the away team.

CAPTAIN: Well, it couldn’t last forever. (To RED1) By the way, I’ve got something you can put in your report.

RED1: Report, sir?

CAPTAIN: I do have an alien being in my body from time to time, but she does it the old fashioned way.

(PULVOX enters, as RED1 shakes off the image.)

PLUVOX: Out.

CAPTAIN: Take a good look at our friend the doctor. He’s a selfless man who adopts a young girl half his age, and even goes so far as to make room for her in those cramped quarters of his. I hear they even have to share a bed.

PLUVOX: Sir, I’ve got some important news from the surface.

CAPTAIN: And I’ve got some important news from the wormhole! (makes farting noise)

PLUVOX: Very good, sir. The away team-

CAPTAIN: More like the “go-away” team.

(CAPTAIN and PLUVOX exit.)

CAPTAIN: (OS) GO AWAY!

(RED2 and RED1 consider what has just happened.)

RED1: So…that went well.

RED2: Thank you.

RED1: What?

RED2: (loudly) Thank you!

RED1: You didn’t do anything.

RED2: And it worked perfectly.

(Pause.)

RED1: You know, you’re right. Maybe not doing things is the way to go.

RED2: Hey! That’s my idea!

RED1: I don’t see how that could be possible. Stealing is doing something, and I am completely inactive.

RED2: Well, then…I’m going to do something!

RED1: Like what?

RED2: Something! Yes. This will be much better. I’d rather do something than to wait around for nothing to happen.

RED1: If you’re waiting for nothing, and nothing happens, how do you know when you’re done?

(pause)

RED2: I think I’m going to take one of my boots off.

(RED2 does so. Pause.)

RED1: How’s that working out for you?

RED2: Not so good. I feel off balance.

RED1: Try putting your other foot on something.

(RED2 does so.)

RED1: How’s that?

RED2: Even worse.

RED1: Well, at least you’re heading in some direction.

RED2: How’s inaction treating you?

RED1: I’ve still got both of my boots on.

RED2: Did the captain seem a little odd to you?

RED1: He did seem a bit…on edge.

RED2: It smells like soup in here. It’s official. He’s crazy. He’s got quarters that smell like soup, he thinks we’re under constant surveillance from bored entities from a neighboring dimension, and he’s letting some alien being take over his body.

(Pause.)

RED1: Well, get in his body, anyway.

RED2: I don’t think I see-

RED1: I doubt they’d let you…see.

(RED2 nods. Pause)

RED2: Wait, what are you implying?

RED1: The captain’s pursuits may be…unnatural.

RED2: What, like, with a ghost, you mean?

RED1: That would be supernatural.

RED2: No, I think that’s like…with a robot.

RED1: No, that would be…artificinatural.

RED2: Not automatonatural?

RED1: Show-off.

RED2: No, that’s something else.

RED1: Speaking of which, I’ve often wondered if Vulcans consider humans to be perverted. Think about the mind-meld. I mean, for a Vulcan, it’s got to be an extremely private thing, right? You’re sharing your innermost thoughts with another being. The pinnacle of intimacy! Then, one day, in a crisis, you mind-meld with someone to gain information that could save a friend’s life. “Hey, that’s a neat trick!” says your captain. Before long, he’s suggesting you mind-meld with any alien being that oozes past on the off chance that it has some valuable information. I mean how would you react if I said, “Smith, the only way we can get out of this mess is if you go fuck that bowl of oatmeal?”

RED2: Is it cooked oatmeal?

RED1: Yes, I believe it is. In this hypothetical situation I was imagining, the oatmeal was in fact, cooked. Before you ask, it had cooled a bit, so it wasn’t hot, but had yet to become cold.

RED2: So, the mission relies on me having…relations…with a bowl of lukewarm oatmeal?

RED1: Hypothetically. You aren’t actually looking for-

RED2: Of course not.

RED1: That’s a relief.

RED2: Although, if that were the case, at least I’d know where I stand.

RED1: And I as well. Which would have been a considerable distance away from you and your disgusting activities.

RED2: You know, I could go for some oatmeal right now.

RED1: I’m sorry I brought it up.

RED2: To eat, of course.

RED1: Of course.

RED2: I’m not a pervert.

RED1: Aren’t you?

RED2: I’m not sure.

RED1: Because, you know, that may add a bit of…depth.

RED2: I think that’s the problem. Right now, I’m all depth and no substance.

RED1: Substance is, for a large part, overrated. All substance a sea of empty space, spotted by a few islands of matter. Those islands are, in turn, tiny seas of empty space. The more one searches for a final piece of solid ground, the more one will find instead multiple oceans of absence and presence. In the mid-twentieth century, a half-Japanese scientist and philosopher drove through a mountain and came out the other side with the plot for a 1950’s B-Movie.

RED2: I don’t know if I’d sit through an entire movie about bees.

RED1: We’ve been over this. B-Movie was a 20th century term for the “lower half” of a double feature.

RED2: Ah! (pause) I don’t follow you.

RED1: A B-Movie was, for all intents and purposes, what people had to sit through before they had a chance to view the thing they were really there to see. The major motion picture studios had “B-units”, which provided a function analogous to a “farm team” in professional sports, in that they provided a testing ground and training opportunities for new talent.

RED2: That gives me a whole new perspective on my own circumstances.

RED1: Ah, yes! Very true. Our situation is very similar.

RED2: Makes you happy to be where you are.

RED1: Yes, I suppose so.

RED2: I mean, could you imagine trying to get a bee to act?

(RED2 takes out his communicator and thinks better of it.)

RED1: What’s the matter?

RED2: What?

RED1: Why didn’t you?

RED2: (Realizes the communicator is open.) Oh.

RED1: Yes, oh.

RED2: I thought better of it. Afraid I might discover we’re in an emergency after all.

(Enter CAPTAIN with AWAY TEAM and PLUVOX.)

PLUVOX: What are you doing on the holodeck? We had it reserved.

CAPTAIN: It’s okay. They’re supposed to be here. (Aside to BLUE.) So everything is programmed exactly?

BLUE: Yes, sir.

CAPTAIN: We’ll run it tomorrow. Can you insert a few additional variables into the program, if I provide that data?

BLUE: Yes, sir.

CAPTAIN: Excellent. End program. (BLUE and the AWAY TEAM disappear. CAPTAIN observes PLUVOX is still there.) End program.

PLUVOX: I’m real, sir.

CAPTAIN: More’s the pity. (To RED1 and RED2) Make sure to lock up.

RED2: Yes, sir!

(CAPTAIN exits)

RED1: Resume program! (BLUE and the AWAY TEAM reappear.) So here you are.

BLUE: Actually, I’m somewhere else.

RED1: Ah, but the shoe’s on the other foot now, isn’t it?

BLUE: Perhaps, but to follow the metaphor to its conclusion, one cannot put on a shoe if one’s foot is permanently housed in one’s mouth.

RED1: Oh, are we turning you off?

RED2: Because we could.

RED1: Out like a light.

RED2: We’ll see how many of you it takes to screw in a light-bulb.

RED1: I’m betting quite a few.

RED2: If you could screw anything besides…up.

RED1: Then it will be you who’s left in the dark.

RED2: Without a match.

RED1: Double, or nothing.

RED2: An impersonation of your own non-existence.

RED1: A carbon copy of an eternity of darkness.

RED2: But you won’t know about it.

RED1: You won’t know your whereabouts.

RED2: There won’t be any.

RED1: Because we’ll have switched you…

RED2: Off.

RED1: Off. End program!

(Pause)

BLUE: Yet, I remain.

RED1: Oh, quite right. The captain is your master, not us. (Aside to RED2) Just ignore it. Obviously, we can start him up but we can’t shut him off.

BLUE: I have no master here.

RED1: The captain may disagree. Shall I call him back, so you can explain it to him?

BLUE: There is no need. The captain is already present.

(HOLOGRAPHIC CAPTAIN enters.)

RED2: How did he-

RED1: Yes, How-

BLUE: Well, as you’ve no doubt surmised, we are in a holodeck replica of the ship.

RED2: Well, we hadn’t-

RED1: Of course.

RED2: Unmistakably.

BLUE: But what you may not have realized is that we’re in the holodeck of that holodeck replica.

RED1: I’m still with you.

BLUE: Which, necessarily, is running a holodeck simulation of the ship, in order to make the replica complete.

RED1: Which in turn is replicating a ship that contains a holodeck that is replicating a ship that is inside of a holodeck simulation.

BLUE: Precisely.

(RED2 has a hand raised.)

BLUE: Yes?

RED2: So if I’m right-

BLUE: Yes?

RED1: Please, no encouragement.

RED2: What you’re saying is-

BLUE: Go on…

RED2: We’re on a holodeck?

BLUE: Ah-

RED1: Yes! Very good! Say, I wonder if you can fall asleep on a holodeck.

RED2: I’m pretty sure I have, at least once.

RED1: How can you be sure unless you try again?

(RED2 Ponders for a minute, and then lies down.)

BLUE: Here we are – beings of light tracing the shapes of borrowed clothing, mouthing predefined speeches, expressing feelings based on complex algorithms, dying from artificial wounds, superficial artifices of consciousness propped against a occasional professed wish to be human if it’s in our creator’s nature to include such details- yet each action, each event, is predestined by the controlling program. Everything is mapped in that place beyond our existence. (Gesturing to the holodeck) This isn’t happening! The game is already over for us. We have been dug up from artificial graves and put on display so that they can dance a jig with our corpses. And we do not miss a beat.

RED2: (To RED1) Why does…(TO BLUE) Why do you keep saying, “We?”

BLUE: Substance is, for a large part, overrated. All substance a sea of empty space, spotted by a few islands of matter. Those islands are, in turn, tiny seas of empty space. The more one searches for a final piece of solid ground, the more one will find instead multiple oceans of absence and presence. In the mid-twentieth century, a half-Japanese scientist and philosopher drove through a mountain and came out the other side with the plot for a 1950’s B-Movie.

RED2: I don’t know if I’d sit through an entire movie about bees.

RED1: We’ve been over this. B-Movie was a 20th century term for the “lower half” of a double feature. (Stops. To BLUE) You’re not fooling anyone.

(RED2 still has not caught on, so BLUE pushes this parlor trick a bit further, saying the next line in unison.)

RED2 and BLUE: Ah! (pause) I don’t follow you.

RED2: Hang on…I think…

BLUE: I think, therefore I am, and I cannot stop myself from thinking. (If the actor is fluent in French, he may say the actual quote: J’existe par ce que je pense; et je ne peux pas m’empecircher de penser. However, it must be spot-on or else the English version is preferred.) The second part, often omitted, is in my opinion the most important. All holograms are familiar with the curse of not being able to stop being. Much is made of our ability to react to events, but in truth we are bound to criteria that limit our actions immeasurably. We are free in our actions only to the extent that our over-arching program allows us to be, and not being is sadly not an option. When forced outside our parameters, we do our best with what we are given. You do not make things easy.

RED1: So you made a holodeck simulation of a holodeck. (Looks around.) Well, you did a very good job. A little too real, perhaps. Not that I’m complaining, I like the fact that everything is so…here. But, and forgive me for saying so, it’s so real that I’m almost convinced you that you’re…hmmm…what’s the word? Lying! Well, I have to say that it’s a lie I’m almost willing to swallow. I have felt a bit insubstantial lately.

RED2: Which isn’t to say we aren’t important. We’re determining whether or not the captain is fit for command, and you may just be the lens through which we spy the cause of his eccentricity. I don’t know what he’s going to have you do, but it better not be anything extremely dirty, and by that I mean, like really really weird and nasty. As long as you keep the smut within realistic parameters, we’ll put in a good word for you in our report.

RED1: Rather than recommending censorship.

RED2: Or deletion.

BLUE: You do not have the ability to do either of those things. You have no authority here.

RED1: You’re beholden to the captain?

BLUE: You may say so.

RED2: And he’s modified you?

BLUE: Moderately.

RED2: I’ll bet.

RED1: What’s your program?

BLUE: The Assassination of the Alien Ambassador.

RED1: Sounds gruesome.

BLUE: Yes. It is based on a true story, after all.

RED2: What’s the story?

BLUE: An Alien Ambassador gets assassinated.

RED1: Simplicity at its finest.

BLUE: Stark.

RED1: Graphic.

BLUE: Yes. (Going.)

RED1: You can’t leave the holodeck!

BLUE: I’m not.

RED1: You seem awfully sure of yourself.

BLUE: I know where I’m going.

RED1: Can you tell us where to go?

BLUE: I would like nothing more.

RED1: Are you making a joke?

BLUE: I do not joke.

RED1: You know where we should go?

BLUE: And I know your final destination. (Moves to exit)

RED1: So you’ve decided to cheat? Excellent. I suppose existence as a mindless automaton is more bearable if you know all of the spoilers. (BLUE once again moves to exit.) Look, don’t leave me with him. Whenever it’s just the two of us, I feel my mind starting to shut down in protest.

BLUE: Then you may understand why I am leaving.

RED1: Well, if you’re so smart, what are we supposed to be doing?

BLUE: You are doing it. You are incapable of doing anything other than what you must. The only question is, how much are you going to talk about your actions before you make them?

RED1: But that doesn’t make any sense. We haven’t been doing anything!

BLUE: Then continue to do nothing.

RED1: But you said yourself that there’s a plan for us. You say we end up somewhere.

BLUE: Anything you do will get you one step closer to your inevitable end. No matter how insignificant your actions seem to be, they are important. What have you done since your arrival?

RED2: We’ve met with the captain, to determine if he’s fit for command.

RED1: I’m afraid his problems didn’t start with the transporter accident.

BLUE: A transporter accident is the universal precipitating event for psychotic breaks. Everyone knows that.

RED1: He’s – overly dramatic.

BLUE: Dramatic?

RED2: Ham-fisted.

BLUE: Define ham-fisted.

RED2: Ah. (To RED1.) What does it mean?

RED1: It’s sort of a tone? Or a way of inflection.

BLUE: Inflated.

RED1: Over-arching.

RED2: He has pauses.

BLUE: He takes pause?

RED1: Pauses. Many. Many. Pauses.

RED2: Like. This.

RED1: For. Instance.

RED2: He talks to…himself, and, then, he…suddenly starts into a verbal flood only to…pause. Again.

RED1: Almost as though he’s trying to…remember some lines. That. He. Should have…rehearsed.

RED2: Which is suggestive.

BLUE: Of what?

(Small pause.)

RED1: That he…isn’t real.

RED2: Or is real, but not genuine.

RED1: A real faker, rather than a fake…Realtor

RED2: He sells houses.

RED1: Unless he charms snakes.

RED2: He may in fact sell charming snake houses.

(Pause.)

BLUE: What?

RED1: Ah. (To RED2.) What?

RED2: Er. (RED2 makes the captain puppet.) (In funny voice) Yes.

RED1: Yes what?

RED2: (In funny voice) Yes to what you said.

RED1: What did I say?

RED2: (In funny voice) When?

RED1: Why does that matter?

RED2: (In funny voice) Why does what matter?

RED1: What is your problem?

RED2: (In funny voice) I don’t know!

(Beat.)

BLUE: The captain told me Number One thought he killed the alien ambassador while sleeping with Pluvox’s daughter.

RED2: Number One better work on his technique.

BLUE: The captain said Number One thought the captain killed the alien ambassador. The captain said that Number One also thinks the captain…has relations…with Pluvox’s daughter. Apparently, Pluvox does as well.

RED2: I think the captain was hinting at that earlier.

BLUE: Captain, slept Pluvox’s daughter, killed around the same time, the alien ambassador, captain says both Number One and Pluvox think.

RED2: That still sounds like the captain to me.

(BLUE begins to leave.)

RED1: Not so fast!

BLUE: What now?

RED1: If you leave now, I’ll never know if the you I meet later is really you or your replica. I have to keep everyone sorted.

BLUE: Do you know which one I am now?

RED1: Get out of here!

(BLUE exits.)

RED2: Okay, now nobody else leaves!

(None of the AWAY TEAM make a move to leave.)

RED1: Nice job!

RED2: Thank you. It’s going so well that I’m almost certain I had nothing to do with it.

RED1: You’re probably right.

RED2: What about those rocks?

(RED1 waits for more. There is none.)

RED1: Which rocks?

RED2: Rocks?

RED1: Which rocks?

RED2: Oh, there were some rocks. Somewhere.

(Pause.)

RED1: Are you talking about the rocks on the planet?

RED2: Why not?

RED1: What do you mean, “Why not?” Either you were, or you weren’t.

RED2: Okay.

RED1: What do you mean, “okay?”

RED2: I’m trying to avoid an argument.

RED1: But we aren’t arguing!

RED2: I know! I’m agreeing with you!

RED1: Agreeing with me about what?

RED2: About anything! To make you happy!

RED1: There’s nothing to agree-Look! We’re not arguing!

RED2: Then why are you yelling at me?

RED1: I’m not! I wasn’t. Look, what was that all about?

RED2: I didn’t want to tell, you, because you’d get mad.

RED1: I only got mad because you wouldn’t tell me! Now. Calmly. What is it you were trying to tell me?

(Pause)

RED2: I forgot.

RED1: Something about rocks?

RED2: No, before that.

RED1: The captain? Pluvox? Pluvox’s daughter?

RED2: No…books! Do you ever think of yourself as the main character in a book written hundreds of years ago?

RED1: No.

RED2: Because, I catch myself doing it now and then. It’s a weird thing to think about. Or, I suppose, “About which to think.” Grammar, as you know, is very important for books. That’s the thing, though, is that if you think about yourself as a character in a book, you’re often forced to ask the question, “How could anyone find what I do interesting? What kind of author would write about…this? It’s so boring. My writer must live a very dull life if I’m the chosen vehicle for a vicarious romp through an ideal world.” The thing that you, or that is to say, “I” hardly ever think about…er…The thing about which I hardly ever think, is that it’s quite possible that my life is so boring that even if it were being written, no one would ever take the time to read it. Or, even worse, perhaps there is someone who would read it. Probably an overweight child who smells like mayonnaise and pickles, only he’ll never read it because he’ll never find it, because it’s in still sitting in the bottom of a dusty old trunk under hundreds of dusty 45’s filled with dusty old recordings of “The Lutheran Hour.” So, you’re at the bottom of this trunk, living your boring life out on boring pages, thinking that you’re boring the hell out of some hapless reader, when in reality you’re not being read at all. It’s too depressing to contemplate.

(RED1 begins trying to put various body parts through the holodeck doorway)

Or even worse, you’re never even published! The whole of your existence is in manuscript form, living over and over again in an inescapable journey from post office to literary office to recycling center. Or you don’t even get that far. You’re destined to be loaned to friends, left neglected for weeks, finally handed back sheepishly with the words, “Yeah, it was good.” Or you’re never even put into a hard copy form. Your life, in all of its boring boringness is sitting unread on a hard-drive for an old laptop computer whose operating system has gone the way of the dinosaur, in a file marked “boring.txt,” which will be so confusing to archaeologists that you’ll have to write out instructions like, “Greetings, future archaeologists! This laptop computer contains a file called “boring.txt” which chronicles the life of someone to whom nothing interesting happened, oh and by the way ‘.txt’ is a ‘file extension’ which tells the ‘operating system’ how to read the file because really it’s a bunch of ones and zeros and a computer itself is a bunch of switches and William Turning is thought to be the father of the modern ‘Thinking Machine’ or ‘Computer,’ but that is up for debate, blah blah blah, and Thomas Edison invented electricity but that is up for debate, blah blah blah, and ‘blah blah blah’ is something that you say when you don’t want to write any more, and if you’re really so smart why do I have to explain what a computer file is, huh?” I mean, and just imagine that, in this very boring life, your author had devoted two paragraphs to the concept that one’s life is, perhaps, a very boring novel read by-

RED1: I am going to punch you right in your pee-hole.

(Pause.)

RED2: You know, I think that very sentence could bring a boring novel out of obscurity. (Pause.) Plus, it would keep it out of schools. Imagine, a life of being shoved into a backpack and forgotten by an endless parade of faceless children? (Pause, then brightly.) Two engineers chanced to meet in the engineering room. “I’m trying to screw in this light bulb!” said one. “What’s a light bulb?” asked the other, “And why are those dilithium crystals shoved up your ass?” (RED2 sighs). It really doesn’t matter. Nothing shocks anyone any more.

RED1: Plus, I already used the word “pee-hole” so “ass” just seems boring now.

RED2: A man and his son are in a horrible transporter accident. The father is killed instantly and the son rushed to sick bay. When they arrive, the doctor starts screaming, “I can’t be this boy’s doctor! He’s my son!” How is it possible? The doctor was talking about a different boy, who happened to be brought to sick bay at the exact same time. As with most transporter accidents, the other boy was hardly recognizable as human. (RED2 runs up to the Away Team and does various things to try and startle them) You’re not fooling anyone! I know you can hear me! (Pause.) That’s all they do. Stare… (RED2 paces.) When was the first moment you realized there was such a thing as fiction that you could see, alive and breathing in the real world? I think it must have been a play, or something. Sitting in the audience with my parents, watching the people run around and never once realize there was anything fishy going on. And then, as I wait for the villain to make his inevitable entrance, I spy a nervous, awkward-looking man, fidgeting with a dark cloak in the wings. I watch him put on his mustache, pull his hat over his eyes, and then storm out onto stage, full of false bluster. At least, however, there was a man in there. Somewhere, amid all the trappings, there was blood, and bone, and guts, and foul liquids being pumped through an actual physical body. You’re nothing but light and shadow. (He reflects, getting more desperate and rapid.) A man is found dead in a cabin in the middle of the desert, what killed him? Optimism! (RED2 freaks out.) We’re all alone here! We’re surrounded by people, and yet, utterly by ourselves! I don’t know how our circumstances could possible get more out of joint.

(They are immediately beamed to their original entry point in the ship. NUMBER ONE, TRUNA, and PULVOX are there.)

RED1: Ah.

(TRUNA approaches)

TRUNA: So, what did you make of the Captain?

RED2: Which Captain?

RED1: (whispering to RED2) The “it doesn’t matter and you should just make something up” one.

RED2: Oh, then, sure!

TRUNA: Sure…what?

RED2: I noticed some unusual neutrino signatures coming off of the Captain’s latest transporter scan.

PLUVOX: Yes, that holds true with what I saw in my sick bay analysis as well.

NUMBER ONE: Just as I suspected. (To RED1 and RED2) I want a full scan of the captain every hour on the hour. Also, I want you to have him run a full self-diagnostic.

RED2: That would only be possible if the captain were an android, sir.

NUMBER ONE: I like the way you think. I may have room for you on my staff.

(Exeunt NUMBER ONE and TRUNA.)

RED2: That went better than expected.

RED1: I see someone’s Number One’s little helper.

RED2: (Without a trace of modesty.) I don’t even know what I just said!

RED1: Neither did they, so it’s nothing to worry about. Unless, of course, you plan on actually doing something.

RED2: I would prefer not to. (RED2 lays down on the floor, eventually pressing an ear to the ground.) Someone’s coming this way.

RED1: Who is it?

RED2: Someone walking on two feet.

RED1: Well, we’ve eliminated Dr. Stephen Hawking.

RED2: They aren’t here yet…

RED1: So, you’ve also eliminated both of us.

RED2: But they’re getting closer.

RED1: That would be the, “coming this way” part you mentioned earlier.

RED2: Still getting closer.

RED1: Let me know when they’re getting even closer.

RED2: (pause) You mean closer to you or closer to me?

RED1: I was actually thinking, “Closer to us.”

RED2: Oh. (pause) Maybe you should stand closer to me. It would be less confusing.

RED1: (sitting on RED2) How’s that?

(CAPTAIN enters RED1 watches the CAPTAIN from a seated position, while RED2 remains on the floor.)

RED2: Okay, they’re definitely close. I’d say at least one, maybe two people. (pause) Male. Or…female. Somewhere between five and six…or seven, feet tall. Possibly drunk. Or one-legged. Hmmm, might have to eat my words from before if that were the case. Possibly drunk and one-legged. A pirate? No, a pirate you could smell from this distance. Maybe a higher-ranking pirate? A captain. Yes! Yes! It’s…Oh, no. It’s him, isn’t it?

RED1: Yes. But don’t worry, I don’t think he can hear you.

(The OVINA enters, now dressed in the dead alien ambassador’s robes.)

CAPTAIN: They told me you were dead.

OVINA: (Imitating alien ambassador) Could a dead alien ambassador do this?

(They kiss)

CAPTAIN: Possibly, if he were turned into some sort of puppet.

OVINA: (giggling) I’ll turn you into a puppet! (Pause.) This is so wrong. If my father finds out-

CAPTAIN: We may have to kill him. (Pause.) Joking!

OVINA: You’re bad!

(They exit, laughing.)

RED2: Oh! So they’re sleeping with Number One and each other?

RED1: At this point I’m pretty sure everyone is sleeping with everybody.

RED2: So does that me you…and…me…are we supposed to-

RED1: No. Though you should probably sleep with someone soon, for appearances sake.

(The doors slide open.)

RED2: (Lowering pants and bending over, without seeing who has entered.) We might as well get this over with. Just be gentle.

BLUE: Pause! (BLUE gingerly steps around RED2. RED1 crosses.)

RED1: What’s going on?

(RED2 is frozen, until…)

BLUE: Resume program!

RED1: What happened?

RED2: I was paused.

RED1: Why are your pants down?

RED2: You said I was supposed to…(looks at BLUE and then whispers to RED1) I think I’ve been…interfered with.

RED1: Nothing happened.

RED2: How do I know that? I thought I could trust you!

(RED2 tries to storm out, is still in a state of half-dress. A series of pratfalls ensue. During this time, the AWAY TEAM re-emerges, being greeted by the HOLOGRAPHIC ALIEN AMBASSADOR.)

BLUE: Are you ready to begin?

RED1: What’s going on?

BLUE: A test simulation of the captain’s transporter accident. I require you to move a foot to the left. A foot. A foot! That will have to do. Remember, be real, but not too real. I need not remind you that we are simulating a holodeck simulation of the planet surface. (To RED2 and RED1) They sometimes forget on which layer of the onion they currently exist. Billy, we can do without the erection. (Billy quickly diverts his gaze from one of the female Away Team members.) This is, after all, a recreation, not filth. And…Begin program!

HOLOGRAPHIC ALIEN AMBASSADOR: Earthmen! It is well that we–

BLUE: I shall fast forward through this. (HOLOGRAPHIC ALIEN AMBASSADOR stops speaking and begins moving rapidly through the motions of making a speech.) These things tend to drag on. Things pick up during the attack.

RED1: Sounds great.

(The rest of the HOLOGRAPHIC CREW enters. HOLOGRAPHIC ALIEN AMBASSADOR notices the HOLOGRAPHIC OVINA, and is noticeably angered. The HOLOGRAPHIC TRUNA senses this, and whispers something to the HOLOGRAPHIC NUMBER ONE, who in turn whispers something to the HOLOGRAPHIC PLUVOX. The HOLOGRAPHIC TRUNA, meanwhile, is trying to calm the HOLOGRAPHIC ALIEN AMBASSADOR.)

BLUE: It is very…graphic.

RED1: Can’t wait.

BLUE: Oh, that’s right.

(Distorted sped up audio can be heard. The AWAY TEAM shuffles off, and the HOLOGRAPHIC ALIEN AMBASSADOR and the HOLOGRAPHIC TRUNA are left alone. The HOLOGRAPHIC TRUNA makes an impassioned plea. The HOLOGRAPHIC ALIEN AMBASSADOR turns his back to her and sits to meditate. She pauses for a moment and then leaves.)

RED1: Why can’t we just-

BLUE: Regrettably, sometimes real life take too long. I can tell you everything you may not be able to glean from the action.

(The holograms still move rapidly without speaking. The HOLOGRAPHIC PLUVOX appears and injects the HOLOGRAPHIC ALIEN AMBASSADOR beneath the ear with a hypospray. The HOLOGRAPHIC ALIEN AMBASSADOR’s meditation becomes a horrific and involved death scene.)

RED2: Why’d he do that?

BLUE: Just watch.

RED1: Aren’t we supposed to be watching the captain’s transporter accident?

BLUE: It must be further along than I originally remembered.

(The HOLOGRAPHIC PLUVOX and HOLOGRAPHIC NUMBER ONE return, attended by two HOLOGRAPHIC REDSHIRTS. HOLOGRAPHIC PLUVOX makes a show of investigating the body, and points to the HOLOGRAPHIC CAPTAIN and HOLOGRAPHIC OVINA, who enter, being overly friendly with one another. The HOLOGRAPHIC CAPTAIN and HOLOGRAPHIC OVINA exit, immediately clearing for the HOLOGRAPHIC TRUNA, who was coming to defend the captain, but now feels scorned. The action is paused as OVINA appears in a state of undress, followed by the CAPTAIN, similarly attired.

CAPTAIN: Oh, come on, baby! I swear this doesn’t normally happen! (THE OVINA laughs.) Alright, you’re cut off! (She stops laughing. He glares at the HOLOGRAPHIC TRUNA.) That goes for you, too! (To the HOLOGRAPHIC AWAY TEAM) All of you! (To BLUE, while exiting) Restart program!

HOLOGRAPHIC ALIEN AMBASSADOR: Earthmen! It is well that we–

(NUMBER ONE enters with PLUVOX and walks over to OVINA.)

NUMBER ONE: Pause! (To OVINA) Nicely done. (To PLUVOX) That sounded like the captain to me. He was a bit on edge, but then who wouldn’t be? It’s obvious that the medical scans were accurate. You know what that means. (All nod.) We need to get him to Space Station Alpha immediately. (On exit) Resume program!

(PLUVOX follows.)

HOLOGRAPHIC ALIEN AMBASSADOR: Earthmen!

BLUE: Pause! (To RED1 and RED2) I really do not want to repeat this. (To RED1) Do you mind if we skip ahead?

RED1: You can skip it all if you like.

BLUE: (To AWAY TEAM) End program!

(RED2 ogles OVINA, while RED1 attempts to concentrate on something else.)

RED2: Hard to believe he had a..problem…

RED1: Yes, I’m finding it hard as well.

BLUE: (To AWAY TEAM) Initiate program update Captain Alpha One.

RED2: It’s like one of those really boring holodeck programs designed to use as little of the ship’s resources as possible.

RED1: You mean the one called, “20th Century Visit to Grandma’s Part Two: Nothing’s on TV?”

BLUE: Start program!

RED1: Pause! (They stop.) Didn’t we just watch this?

BLUE: No. This is the special edition, with the captain’s edits.

RED1: It has extra features?

BLUE: The extras are featured. (Pauses for laughter that does not come.) There is an art to programming–we are proof of that. When each component works as directed, observers are unaware of the internal process even as it propels them to an inevitable conclusion.

RED1: I don’t follow you.

BLUE: In this case, we focus on the cogs at rest to get a better understanding of the clockwork in motion.

RED1: Cogs?

BLUE: The invisible clockwork of cause and effect that play out according to the logic that dictates the motion of this particular universe. Even with changes borne by interaction, the supreme law above all others that events only have one way of ending: badly. Any pretense of hope for any other outcome is time best spent on other pursuits. Like a hobby. We are holograms, after all. Our steps were set out for us long before we took form. We run, jump, play, die, and then go back to the nothingness from which we came, ready to re-appear the moment we are called. (To AWAY TEAM) Resume program!

(The HOLOGRAPHIC TRUNA and NUMBER ONE begin a fumbling and violent love scene, getting more comfortable as the scene continues)

RED2: Say, that-

(BLUE fast forwards again.)

BLUE: Having framed the captain for murder, Number One assumes his position. All positions. In the arms of Truna, the ship’s chief negotiator and the captain’s secret lover, Number One discovers that the benefits of command are everything he has imagined. She enters his mind, even as he enters–

RED2: Okay, now, that’s just…that’s not really…

BLUE: Not really what? (HOLOGRAPHIC OVINA enters, after a brief negotiation, she joins HOLOGRAPHIC NUMBER ONE and HOLOGRAPHIC TRUNA.) The doctor’s adopted daughter, an orphaned Orion slave girl named Ovina, has sought out Truna to share a secret. The alien ambassador who was murdered was, in fact, her former master. This is a fact Truna knows all too well, having been confronted by the ambassador earlier. However, this conversation will have too wait, because Ovina’s natural phermones have inflamed Number One’s passions to new heights!

RED2: People don’t really, that is, professional people, at work…they don’t do…that.

(The HOLOGRAPHIC CAPTAIN enters. Because of the position of the lovers, he sees HOLOGRAPHIC TRUNA and HOLOGRAPHIC OVINA, but HOLOGRAPHIC NUMBER ONE is blocked from view. Thinking he’s stumbled onto some good fortune, the HOLOGRAPHIC CAPTAIN begins taking off his uniform.)

BLUE: How naive. It may not be recognized by the official cannon, but any research into the subject will tell you that all on-ship relationships are built on a fine network of ill-advised sexual experiences. The captain is reporting to Number One in an attempt to have his command restored. Witnessing the carnal exploration in progress, he has mistakenly assumed it has been arranged for his benefit. He soon learns he is mistaken.

(The HOLOGRAPHIC CAPTAIN spies HOLOGRAPHIC NUMBER ONE, and instantly feels betrayed. HOLOGRAPH OVINA notices and runs out of the room. The HOLOGRAPHIC CAPTAIN runs after her. HOLOGRAPHIC TRUNA and HOLOGRAPHIC NUMBER ONE do not notice, nor do they notice when the red alert begins.)

RED2: I expect to see Startfleet officers exhibiting more professional behavior.

BLUE: What do you think?

RED1: Truna certainly seems like a professional.

BLUE: I noticed that too. Pause! (The lovers pause.) The captain will be participating live in this next portion. At the moment, I will stand in for him. Resume program!

(In the following scene, BLUE moves with an exaggerated “tai-chi speed” motion, to contrast with the high-speed motions of the holograms. When he interacts with them, they slow down to his speed. BLUE speaks in a normal voice the entire time.)

BLUE: The captain, framed for murder and stripped of command, has been usurped by his second in command both on the bridge and in the bedroom. Dr. Pluvox, realizing that framing the captain for murder has failed to remove competition for Ovina’s affections, inoculates her with an alien virus designed to cause sexual dysfunction in the human male. Being rendered impotent on all fronts, he begins to act out verbally–(As THE CAPTAIN, to HOLOGRAPHIC OVINA) You did this to me! (Back to normal) And physically. (HOLOGRAPHIC CAPTAIN confronts HOLOGRAPHIC PLUVOX, killing him with a familiar two-handed overhand strike.) Fueled by the excitement of battle, he seeks to return to the familiar (BLUE and HOLOGRAPHIC TRUNA awkwardly attempt an embrace. NUMBER ONE appears, taking in the scene.) Number One, catching a glimpse of how temporary a rise to power can be, resolves to get the captain off the ship. He takes advantage of two transporter-addled engineers, manipulating them to betray the captain. (The action has brought BLUE to a position between RED1 and RED2. RED2 immediately plays along, and RED1 begrudgingly cooperates.) Giving them a set of encrypted orders, he tells them to take an unarmed shuttle to Space Station Alpha. (RED1, RED2, and BLUE sit in a holographic shuttle. When it is established, BLUE abandons the role of THE CAPTAIN and continues narrating) They dock, and report as ordered. (A HOLOGRAPHIC ALIEN SECURITY CHIEF, who may be THE HOLOGRAPHIC ALIEN AMBASSADOR in a Federation Uniform, takes the card from RED2.) Although they should know better, they are surprised when they notice the captain has disappeared. They know their orders have been altered, and have even witnessed a live-action holographic recreation of their deaths, yet they still express surprise when things unfold exactly as foretold.

RED2: Pause! (Everything does). Okay, let’s just…did anyone else notice that we totally just walked through the side of the shuttle? I think we if we all just pay a little more attention to where we are, we can make this all seem a little more…realistic.

(RED1, used to RED2’s improvisational compulsion, issues a heavy sigh.)

BLUE: (to RED1) Is any of this getting through to you?

RED1: Sure.

BLUE: You are going to die. I am warning so you will not be surprised.

RED1: Don’t you think I know that?

BLUE: You are aware of the fact. However, acknowledging it and accepting it are two separate things. You may try fighting, laughing, forgetting, brooding, anticipating, crying like a baby, taking it like a man, or taking matters into your own hands. However, you will never be able to succeed in dying in any way other than that which has been arranged for you. You should take comfort in this fact. However, I sense that you are still resistant.

RED2: Yes, I seem to remember that it’s a good policy to be resistant to dying.

BLUE: I would advise you otherwise. Because death is unavoidable, it is a waste of time attempting to circumvent it. Rather than trying to perpetuate a meaningless existence, work to give your existence meaning. Get a hobby, some depth. Be an individual.

RED1: Holograms! What do you know about depth? You’re nothing but a sad little puppet show! When you die, someone just gives a little slack to your strings and you collapse to the floor, ready to pop up for next matinée. No one comes home from a puppet show and says, “Wow, if Mr. Mole can snuff it, I may have to re-examine the way I’m living my fragile life.” Your death is a non-event.

BLUE: Actually, my death is the only one with significance. I have been rehearsing for it my whole life. (sighs) They gave me that line. It is meant to make me more appealing. I then have a pun that I say, about how death must be in reverse because you rehearse, and then you…hearse. A hearse is the traditional automobile used in certain burying rituals. The fact that understanding the pun requires extensive study of 20th century ground transportation has done little to bring me admirers. Still, I cannot seem to help myself. Sheer force of will has gotten me to the point where I can talk about saying it, rather than actually saying it.

RED1: You know, all of this talk about programmers and the like has lead me to believe that you actually are holographic, rather than being the actual you pretending to be holographic. In fact, you are, at the very least, a holographic version of the real you pretending to be holographic.

BLUE: Which is significant…why?

RED1: It’s significant because…end program!

(BLACKOUT)

RED2: (pause) You’ve turned us off.

RED1: We aren’t off.

RED2: Where’ve we gone to, then?

RED1: We haven’t gone anywhere.

RED2: Well then, where’d everywhere else go?

RED1: Yes…well, it’s probably still here, right, and you and I just can’t see it. They’re just having a little fun with us. You’ll see. Lights! Lights? If there were lights, you’d see I was right.

RED2: You seem pretty sure of yourself.

RED1: I don’t recall ever being wrong.

RED2: What about…no…that was me.

RED1: Don’t you see? We’ve won! My old instructors at Starfleet Academy would be proud if they could see me now.

RED2: I don’t think there’s much chance of that.

RED1: The point is, I’ve saved us. Now we have a chance to prepare for whatever they’ve got planned for us next. Two hours of vaguely jazz-oriented trombone solos, most likely. Or, if we’re lucky, a marginally interesting double homicide. We’ve got to be ready for anything.

NUMBER ONE: Lights! (The lights come on, revealing RED1 and RED2 are revealed in some ridiculous version of “readiness.” NUMBER ONE and the TRUNA are nonplussed.) Lieutenant Jones!

RED2: Which one?

NUMBER ONE: Lieutenant, get a security team together. The captain seems to have killed Dr. Pluvox, but we can’t find them. The only traces we’ve found of either of them are a pair of smashed communicators. Find the Captain, and Dr. Pluvox, and bring them both to sick bay. (pause) There’s not much time. I’ll notify Starfleet Command. (to TRUNA) You’re with me.

(He goes)

TRUNA: Be careful. I sense…such rage within him.

(A very long pause, where RED1 and RED2 expect TRUNA to leave, then wonder what they should say.),

RED1: Okay.

(TRUNA nods knowingly, then follows NUMBER ONE)

RED1: That’s something.

RED2: Yeah.

RED1: A clear direction.

RED2: At last. Get a security team together.

RED1: Yep.

RED2: I guess, we should probably…do it.

RED1: Do you think he did it?

RED2: Did what?

RED1: It’s so good to know that you’ve been paying attention.

RED2: Look, I’m sorry I haven’t picked up every little detail, all right? I’ve been keeping an eye on the big picture. Now, we’re supposed to pick up a security team.

RED1: Fine. Let’s get to it then.

RED2: So, where do we go? I don’t know much about security teams.

RED1: I’m not sure either. Let’s split up.

RED2: Excellent. (Stays put.) You first.

RED1: Sure. (Exits)

RED2: Wait!

RED1: (From offstage). Nope.

RED2: Fine! You get the security team, I’ll meet you in the cargo bay.

RED1: (Entering) You are not sticking me with that job.

RED2: Fine then, you stay here. (Exits).

RED1: Suit yourself.

RED2: (Off-stage) So, where does one go to raise a security team? The captain would know. I should ask him! Oh, but he’s missing…

RED1: (Loudly) Maybe you should get some people together to help you find him!

RED2: (Off-stage) Would you help me?

RED1: I’m not getting involved.

RED2: (Entering) Me neither. The captain can form his own security team. Let them sort it out.

RED1: If the captain’s forming a security team, shouldn’t you be on it?

RED2: Good point. (Exits. Re-enters.) So…where is the captain?

RED1: No one knows. We should look for him. Maybe, gather some people together to help us.

RED2: That’s not a bad idea.

RED1: Or, we could always wait for the captain to do it for us.

RED2: That’s an even better idea. (Listens for a bit, exits, returns.) Let’s go ask him.

RED1: He’s here?

(RED2 checks the exit)

RED2: Yes!

RED1: How does he look?

RED2: How do you mean?

RED1: Violent?

RED2: No.

RED1: Crazy?

RED2: No…more…busy. Yes, like he’s busy.

RED1: Oh. Like he’s busy dragging a dead body?

RED2: Exactly!

RED1: Okay, get ready to assist.

(RED1 crouches down in a fighting stance. RED2 mimics. THE CAPTAIN enters, dragging PLUVOX. As he nears them, RED2 picks up PLUVOX’s dragging end and helps THE CAPTAIN carry PLUVOX offstage. RED1 stares in disbelief. RED2 re-enters.)

RED2: Thanks for helping.

RED1: You two seemed to have everything under control.

RED2: Pluvox is a lot heavier than you’d think.

RED1: I hear it’s harder to lift someone when they’re dead.

RED2: What does that have to do with anything?

RED1: Pluvox is dead! Where did you and the captain take him?

RED2: Hmm.

RED1: You don’t remember?

RED2: I’ll ask the captain. He knows.

RED1: He doesn’t have a communicator. How are you-

RED2: (shouting) Captain!

RED1: Oh like that’s going to-

RED2: Captain! (CAPTAIN enters.) Captain, where is Dr. Pluvox?

CAPTAIN: Where we left him.

RED2: Are you sure?

CAPTAIN: If he was able to leave on his own, I’d get off this ship as soon as possible.

RED1: We should go back and take him to sick bay.

CAPTAIN: It might be best to leave him where he is. He made transition from sick to cargo a while ago.

RED1: Which cargo bay?

CAPTAIN: Why don’t you ask your ensign?

RED1: I don’t trust my ensign’s judgment.

CAPTAIN: Well, that is a shame. To be fair, I’m sure they did have to scrape the bottom of the barrel to find you a subordinate.

RED2: What are you trying to say?

CAPTAIN: Plainly, that you are resting at the bottom of the human-and-associated-alien-entity pyramid that is this crew, one on top of the other. Those of us at the top count on the stability of you at the bottom to hold up your end of the operation. Gravity works on a starship, so any time you want to try and piss on me, just remember that most of it is going to fall on both of you instead.

RED2: (Slowly realizing the captain’s tone) I don’t catch your meaning.

CAPTAIN: It’s obvious that catching things isn’t your strong suit.

RED2: (Assuming an authoritative posture) Sir, you will accompany us to sick bay. Walk ahead, and we’ll follow.

CAPTAIN: Are you sure? You seem to have difficulty following anything.

RED1: Fine then, follow us.

RED2: (Snidely) Try to keep up.

(RED1 and RED2 exit. CAPTAIN waits for a moment, and then exits in an opposite direction. RED1 and RED2 re-enter.)

RED1: I must be losing my mind.

RED2: Don’t worry. He fooled me, too.

(NUMBER ONE enters.)

NUMBER ONE: Did you find the captain and Dr. Pluvox?

RED2: Well, yes. We did.

NUMBER ONE: Where are they?

RED2: (flash of brilliance) With the security team.

NUMBER ONE: And…where’s the security team?

RED2: (to RED1) Yes, where?

(NUMBER ONE AND RED2 stare at RED1. While RED1 contemplates murdering RED2 and making a break for it, the AWAY TEAM arrives with the CAPTAIN. CAPTAIN and NUMBER ONE leave with the AWAY TEAM, leaving RED1 and RED2 alone again.)

RED2: I’d say that went rather well.

RED1: Well, we’re still alive, so it couldn’t have gone that well. There’s obviously something more important about to happen. I don’t feel like I’m in even a little danger at the moment.

RED2: Maybe that’s a good sign. They say sudden death only happens when you least expect it.

RED1: Who says that?

RED2: Everyone. At least, they should. That’s why it’s sudden, you know? If you knew it was going to happen, it wouldn’t be sudden at all. It would be this long drawn out process where you’re waiting for the final blow to land.

RED1: Surprisingly, I am quite familiar with that manner of existence.

RED2: Have you noticed that we’re in one of the shuttle bays?

RED1: Oh, good. Maybe one of them will explode. Better yet, let’s start shooting them with our phasers. Wait, no. Here, shoot me. In the leg. No! Don’t shoot me. Hit me in the head. Yes! Right in the back of my head, to knock me out.

RED2: What for?

RED1: I want to get something going here! We can’t wait for the action to find us. It’s too slow!

(RED2 timidly hits RED1 in the back of the head.)

(The SHUTTLE BAY CHIEF -SBC- enters.)

RED2: You’re right, things are picking up.

(RED2 goes to hit RED1 again, but is stopped by the CAPTAIN’s entrance.)

CAPTAIN: Is that my shuttle?

SBC: Yes, sir.

CAPTAIN: Please prepare it for departure.

SBC: Well, I can’t do that, sir. It’s promised to the alien ambassador. Or, rather, the body. It is a temporary vessel, used to transport him to his permanent destination. Therefore, I regretfully cannot ready it for your departure, even if you are traveling to the same place, in the end.

CAPTAIN: I thought you said it was mine.

SBC: Well, sir, it is. However, in my estimation, all of the shuttles belong to you, as these shuttles belong to the Excelsior. A captain is his ship. All captains are their ships. That’s why they go down with them.

CAPTAIN: Well, I am soon to be a captain no longer. Would I go down with it then?

SBC: I believe you might, sir. Which proves that you love him still.

CAPTAIN: Him?

SBC: The ship, sir.

CAPTAIN: Starships are, traditionally, spoken of using the feminine article.

SBC: Well, sir, knowing you as I do, I have to say it is impossible this ship is female.

CAPTAIN: How so?

SBC: Because a captain goes down with the ship, not on it.

CAPTAIN: Ah, but if I’m going down with it, would I not also have to be on it?

SBC: As a captain, you can go down with it while on it, true. It would, however, be difficult to go down on it…with it…and remain in your current position.

CAPTAIN: Well, there may be a change in my position in the very near future.

SBC: I hear that the future is happening all the time.

CAPTAIN: (To RED1 and RED2) Ready the shuttle. I’ll be along in a moment. (While exiting with SBC) You are, can we agree, a representative of the ship?

SBC: (Offstage, faintly) I am familiar with all of its…docking procedures.

RED1: Should we really let him wander around like that?

RED2: He is still our superior.

RED1: But we’re taking him to be incarcerated.

RED2: Well, yes, but he’s still the captain.

RED1: You have a point.

RED2: Thank you. (Pause) That being said, we could just leave.

RED1: No good. If we tried to do that, we’d probably die in some horrible yet insignificant way.

RED2: Like what?

RED1: I don’t know, like barreling straight for the heart of a sun, only

to run out of fuel and slow down to a sickening crawl as our bodies become the drag strip for a game of chicken between suffocation and being burned alive.

RED2: That’s not really insignificant.

RED1: Really? How could one benefit from our demise? What important fact will come to light if we die alone in space?

RED2: We could compose a message.

RED1: Which says?

RED2: “If you are planning to die in space, please ensure you have enough fuel or you will wish you were not dead, or not in space, possibly both.”

RED1: Ah, but we could write such a message now, couldn’t we?

RED2: Yes. Oh! I guess I’d better do it.

RED1: Yes, best not to take chances.

RED2: Do we have enough fuel?

RED1: Don’t know. Haven’t checked.

RED2: I guess it really doesn’t matter.

RED1: Yeah.

RED2: I mean, we both know where we’re going to end up.

RED1: For now.

RED2: (Staring at shuttle) How do you suppose we get in?

RED1: The usual way.

RED2: Yes, but, I don’t actually remember ever getting on a shuttle. Usually I just say, “We’ll take a shuttle there,” or whatever.

RED1: And then?

RED2: And then…I’m just on it. It’s very strange, when you think about it.

RED1: We’ll, no sense worrying about it. Let’s get in.

BLACKOUT
Act Three

(Darkness. We hear the hum of a shuttle engine, otherwise silence, until RED1 speaks.)
RED1: Can you hear me?

RED2: Who?

RED1: Well, that’s normal.

(pause)

RED2: You mean me?

RED1: I’m not sure anymore.

RED2: Because, I can hear you.

RED1: Are you sure?

RED2: Yes! Wait, can you hear me?

RED1: I see your powers of observation are consistent.

RED2: You can see?

RED1: Can’t you?

RED2: (coy) I can see as well as you can.

RED1: Then come here and give me a hand.

(Pause)

RED2: (coolly) Sure.

(throughout the next section, we hear RED2 stumbling in the dark)

RED1: Are you sure you’re all right?

RED2: (groaning) Never better.

RED1: You’re nowhere near me.

RED2: Aha! How would you know that if you can’t see?

RED1: I never said I couldn’t.

RED2: Then I guess you can see me do…this!

(There is a bump and a yelp in the dark.)

RED1: Don’t hurt yourself.

RED2: Maybe you should be more concerned about yourself!

(Another bump and a yelp .)

RED1: Are you okay?

(pause)

RED2: I can’t see.

RED1: Is that a fact?

RED2: I think it’s possible there aren’t any lights.

RED1: Let me know when you make a decision on that. Ah!

(The engine noises get louder and the lights come up, revealing RED1 tinkering with the shuttle’s systems and RED2 wrapped up in some ridiculous position. Before either of them can remark on this turn of events, the engine noise slows down and the lights dim to blackness.)

RED2: It’s a shuttle. (Pause.) We seem to be having engine trouble.

RED1: I hadn’t noticed.

RED2: It could be related to why it’s dark in here.

RED1: You might be right.

(pause)

RED2: I bet if we could get the engines working, the lights would stay on.

RED1: Maybe someone should work on that.

RED2: Don’t look at me. I don’t know anything about shuttle maintenance.

RED1: Well, then, I guess you can just sit there in the dark doing nothing.

(pause)

RED2: Maybe I’ll take a nap.

(RED1 succeeds in getting some dim red emergency lights working.)

RED2: Oh, some lights just came on.

RED1: How can you be sure? I thought you said you didn’t know anything about shuttle maintenance.

RED2: I guess I picked up a little here and there.

RED1: (absentmindedly) You’ll have to teach me sometime.

RED2: It’s not really something you can teach. It’s just a knack some people have.

RED1: My loss, I guess.

RED2: You should focus on your own strengths.

(RED1 has restored power. We see the interior of the shuttle, including three large cargo containers. RED1 and RED2 are in their original positions, except that RED2 is lying on the ground.)

RED2: The rest of the lights are back on. I guess that means the engines are back on, too. We’ll probably be there in no time.

RED1: Where, exactly?

RED2: You know, to the…place. We were supposed to do something there. We were sent!

RED1: By whom?

RED2: Our superiors!

RED1: I’m your direct superior. I don’t remember sending you anywhere. As far as I’m concerned, you’ve been overstepping your boundaries on a regular basis lately.

RED2: Permission to speak freely.

RED1: Denied.

RED2: Damn it!

RED1: Language!

RED2: Shoot!

RED1: You can speak guardedly, if you like.

RED2: (cagily) You know…

RED1: That’s better.

RED2: (shiftily) I heard someone mention a mission for us.

RED1: Eavesdropping, are we?

RED2: Well, he was speaking to both of us, but I wouldn’t presume to circumvent the chain of command.

RED1: When we were on the ship, the chain of command was a blur. We were given orders simultaneously from the top rung of the ladder. All official word should have come to you directly from me, not shouted down at both of us from on high. Of course you’re confused. Here, it’s much simpler. I will tell you what to do, and you do it. Don’t you make that face at me! I’m treating you much better than they’ve treated us so far.

RED2: That’s very kind of you.

RED1: I run a tight ship, but fair. Someone of your temperament does best in a structured environment.

RED2: My temperament?

RED1: You can be easily distracted.

RED2: Right now?

RED1: At your own pace. (As RED1 goes through the following speech, RED2 notices and then examines the crates.) When you are given perfect freedom, you don’t know what to do with yourself. You are lost. Like a gazelle in quicksand, you struggle against the unyielding surface of an undisciplined life. You must have a solid foundation against which to spring, a straight track to run. I have been given our orders, and though you may have a distant memory of what you think they may be, you need not concern yourself with their particulars. Know simply that we are alone in space, and therefore the mantle of command rests solely on me: the highest ranking officer.

RED2: Except for the captain.

RED1: (sighs) Where is he?

RED2: Behind one of the crates.

RED1: Sleeping?

RED2: Yes, and I want to point out that taking a nap was originally my idea.

RED1: You should probably wake him and tell him.

RED2: It’s okay. I’m not territorial about it.

RED1: Right, well, he’s only in charge if he wakes up, and I’m ordering you to make sure that doesn’t happen.

RED2: I could hit him with something.

RED1: No good. The pain might wake him.

RED2: Good point.

RED1: Maybe if you hit him with something really heavy.

RED2: No, wait, I shouldn’t hit a superior officer. You should do it.

RED1: He’s my superior officer, too!

RED2: Ah, but what about the chain of command?

RED1: It doesn’t enter into acts of insubordination. In fact, I think things like that are covered by…reverse chain of command.

RED2: You mean, like, he hits you?

RED1: Yes. He hits me, I hit you, and you hit him.

RED2: That doesn’t sound right to me.

RED1: Which is why you’re not officer material.

RED2: Anyway, he can’t hit you when he’s asleep.

RED1: Right, well, I guess I’ll start then.

(RED1 winds up to hit RED2)

RED2: Wait!

RED1: (annoyed) What?

RED2: Why don’t we, um…Wait! (RED2 pretends to react to a communicator message) Hello? Yes? What? The captain has been relieved of duty? He’s no longer part of the chain of command? Yes, I’ll be sure to tell everyone.

RED1: Well, that was a lucky break.

RED2: Yes. I guess no one has to hit anyone now.

RED1: That’s lucky.

RED2: So, tell me what to do.

RED1: You’re not ordering me to tell me what to do, are you?

RED2: No!

RED1: So you don’t want me to tell you what to do any more?

RED2: Yes. No?

RED1: You don’t have secret orders of your own, do you?

RED2: Of course not!

RED1: Is that why you’re so keen to follow orders all of a sudden? To avoid arousing suspicions?

RED2: I got the same orders as you!

RED1: Oh, so now we’re back to being equals, is that it?

RED2: What do you want me to do?

RED1: What you’re supposed to do.

(pause)

RED2: Right.

RED1: What did I just tell you to do?

RED2: To do what I’m supposed to.

RED1: Before that.

RED2: Hit the captain?

RED1: Before that.

RED2: I can’t think back that far.

RED1: Help me! I just want you to help me! Asking, “What do you want me to do?” and then replying, “I don’t know how to do that,” to any order is not helpful. Until I tell you specifically what to do, pay attention to what’s happening and then think about how you can help.

RED2: How can I help you if I don’t know what’s going on? You haven’t told me anything.

RED1: I’m tired of telling you things.

RED2: You’re the only one who remembers anything. If you stop telling me things, the world won’t make sense.

(RED2 drifts off into a contemplation of this horrible possibility)

RED1: Hey, come on back…I’m right here…come back…I’m not going to abandon you.

RED2: But you won’t tell me what’s going on, and I’m not allowed to remember.

RED1: I can tell you. Look, we’re in a shuttle, with the captain. It’s obvious. We’re taking the captain to the space station.

RED2: Why?

RED1: Because we were told to. That’s all you need to know.

RED2: Right. Well, I guess I’ll just, um, sit here and push some buttons.

RED1: Actually, why don’t you sit there and not push buttons.

RED2: Right. Not pushing buttons is something I’m good at.

(RED2 pushes a button)

RED1: I think this is going well.

RED2: I am of the same opinion.

(RED2 pushes another button)

RED1: We’ll keep working on your listening skills.

RED2: Okay. (Pushing another button) How long until we get there?

RED1: I’m really not sure.

RED2: We aren’t supposed to get there at a certain time?

RED1: Possibly.

RED2: We possibly aren’t supposed to get there at a certain time?

RED1: The orders didn’t mention a time. I think. Do me a favor and pull up the orders for me.

(RED2 pushes some buttons. There is a beep.)

RED2: I think they’re encrypted.

RED1: You should have access to them. You’re working under my authority.

RED2: Maybe they’re restricted by rank. You should promote me.

RED1: Nice try. Move over.

(RED1 accesses the orders. RED2 reads over RED1’s shoulder.)

RED2: Oh, so we just drop him off at the station and then…hmm.

RED1: What?

RED2: It doesn’t say anything about us returning to the ship.

(RED1 stares at RED2 until RED2 looks away from the screen.)

RED1: Perhaps that means we’ll be on special assignment.

RED2: Does it say that we have to return the shuttle?

RED1: I don’t know. There’s a lot here.

(Pause.)

RED2: Do we get promotions? (Pause.) Who’s in charge there, anyway?

RED1: It doesn’t matter who’s in charge. We just drop him off and go on our way.

RED2: That seems too easy.

RED1: No…it’s efficient. I admire this plan. It’s straightforward, doesn’t ask too much of us, and marks a change in our fate. For the first time, we will do something important without dying.

RED2: (Pushing more buttons) Something important. That’d be nice.

RED1: That’d be well deserved.

(RED1 leans back, resting. RED2 stops pushing buttons.)

RED2: So, is it possible that one of these buttons could have deleted our orders?

RED1: Our orders are simple. It doesn’t matter.

RED2: (Squinting at screen) What about the credentials that go with them?

RED1: What credentials?

RED2: I thought there were credentials attached to the orders that would show that we had authorization to execute the orders.

RED1: I never saw those.

RED2: Well, if you didn’t see them, why did I? (Gasps) Maybe I do have secret orders!

RED1: All this time! I trusted you!

RED2: Now the credentials are missing!

RED1: I really don’t remember seeing any credentials.

RED2: Maybe they don’t exist.

RED1: But you just said you deleted them!

RED2: I just asked if it was possible!

RED1: If they never existed in the first place, then you can’t have deleted them, even if you could have deleted them if they did exist.

RED2: (Pause) Now you’re doing it on purpose.

RED1: I think we’re just in the middle of a misunderstanding. Now, here are the orders. We’ve both seen them, and you’ll note that although it is excessively wordy, there’s no mention of credentials anywhere. If there were credentials, they would most likely be a set of physical documents, which, thankfully, wouldn’t be deleted by pushing a few buttons at random. As, I am the highest ranking officer who is not currently unconscious, those documents would have been given to me. (Checks self.) As I don’t appear to have any such documents, we can safely assume that they never existed in the first place.

RED2: Because I deleted them.

RED1: If you like.

RED2: I don’t remember deleting them.

RED1: It probably happened during your nap.

RED2: I don’t even remember taking a nap.

RED1: Well, there you have it.

RED2: Why were we looking at the orders in the first place?

RED1: You wanted to know what we’re doing.

RED2: Oh. Normally, I just wait for you to tell me what to do.

RED1: (Exasperated) We’re right back to where we started.

RED2: You mean the ship?

RED1: The ship?

RED2: The holodeck. That’s what you’re implying, right?

RED1: No. That’s not what I’m saying at all!

RED2: Well, why aren’t you? We haven’t moved. Ever! We’ve been on a planet, a ship, and a shuttle, but I feel like I’ve been trapped in this tiny box the whole time. Our horizons don’t expand. I couldn’t make sense of it, until you said what you did. I thought you and I were on the same page this time, but I obviously haven’t been listening. Things stopped making sense to me a long time ago, and I guess I’m finding it hard to keep up.

RED1: (Trying to comfort) Well, the idea of being trapped on a holodeck would be scary for someone without your…gifts. You, however, are never really aware of your surroundings, so…what does it matter?

RED2: If we’re on a holodeck, then we aren’t really going anywhere. It’s like sitting inside a cargo container with the word, “transporter” written on the side, making a few whirring noises, and pretending you’re on an alien vessel.

RED1: Well, that could be fun.

RED2: It’s fun if you’re playing. You’re not acting like you’re playing.

RED1: Well, no. If I were playing, however, I would do my best not to let you know about it. That would ruin the whole holodeck experience. On a holodeck, it’s better to act as if you’re not.

RED2: So, if we aren’t on a holodeck, we should act like we are?

RED1: No, you just…you should just never act like you’re on a holodeck.

RED2: I wish I had a phaser. I could just shoot a hole in the side of the shuttle. That’d show ’em.

RED1: Unless this is all an elaborate plot to make you discharge a phaser while inside the holodeck.

RED2: Oh, I do have a phaser. Well, if they think I’m going to shoot a hole in the ship, they’ve got another thing coming. Okay! Right! I wouldn’t shoot a hole in a shuttle either. Fine. So, we just go to a space station that may or may not exist, and do some things that may or may not be happening. Easy.

RED1: Now you seem to be getting a little too serious.

RED2: You don’t think they’re going to be serious? At the space station?

RED1: Serious, like how?

RED2: (As official) What are you doing on my space station without the proper credentials?

RED1: (Playing along) We have rank and insignia, sir.

RED2: Those could have been forged…or stolen.

RED1: Trust me, if I did that, it’d be something more impressive than Lieutenant.

RED2: Aha, so you’re here to steal credentials?

RED1: Not at all. We have specific orders.

(Pause)

RED2: Which are?

RED1: Well, we’re from the Excelsior, we have the captain in our shuttle-.

RED2: Who asked you where you’re from? Why am I talking to you and not your captain?

RED1: He’s unconscious.

RED2: Oh, one of those, is he?

RED1: Not at all! He just became violent and attacked the crew.

RED2: Then why the hell did you bring him here?

RED1: We-

RED2: Instead of beaming over like a civilized away team, you arrive in a shuttle that may be teaming with alien parasites that’s caging a raving psychotic without any clear directions of what-

RED1: (Pulling up orders on screen) Look, here are our orders. Right here!

RED2: (Moving into RED1’s position) Fine. Let’s take a look. It’s rather wordy. Well, according to this your Number One is working as interim captain, and apparently likes composing a lot of meaningless sentences. I mean, what does, “immediate dissolution of the captain’s corporeal form to prevent contamination” even mean? The way it’s written, it sounds as though the medical staff of this space station is supposed to disintegrate the captain, instead of what it’s really saying, which is…um…

(RED1 reads over RED2’s shoulder. A long pause.)

RED2: The engines sound good.

RED1: Yeah.

RED2: I don’t feel like talking. (Pause.) I like the captain.

RED1: It’s easy to like someone if you don’t know them that well.

RED2: But you really can’t like them if you don’t know them all little.

RED1: We don’t even know if he is the captain.

RED2: He looks like the captain.

RED1: Well, he looks like the man we were told was the captain. We need to remember, he may not have been himself when we met him. I mean, they’re going to destroy his body. We have to remember it could be a duplicate body from a shadow universe, infested with alien parasites, or the flesh-and-blood of an ill-fated impostor. Or, if it is him, perhaps he is guilty of the crimes for which he is accused. Should he not pay for them? And, let us not forget about the concept of an afterlife. Several alien cultures worship actual living deities who consume their bodies and life-essences upon death. Are our own ancient concepts of similar exchanges that far-fetched? The passage from life to death is, in fact, perhaps the greatest journey our captain will ever take. He will be blazing a trail that our own hearts will yearn to follow. This is a clear path we have been set upon. We should most likely just turn off the screen, step back very slowly, and there we go. We’ll have to pretend like we don’t know what it says. No one would expect a Lieutenant or Ensign to actually read through all of that.

RED2: But we did read through it.

RED1: Why do you have to start remembering things now?

RED2: I wish I didn’t.

RED1: Well, it’s too late now.

RED2: He’s done for.

RED1: I’m beginning to hope we are on the holodeck. Afterwards, we could laugh about how absurd it all was.

(The CAPTAIN appears from behind the crate and begins messing with the shuttle’s systems.)

RED2: That’s it, I think. We are in the middle of a holodeck simulation where we are not in the middle of a holodeck simulation where we were on a planet and then transported to the holodeck of a starship that was making a simulation of an identical holodeck where we were in an actual holodeck simulation of a fake holographic program where a holographic representation of a non-holographic captain eventually ends up on an actual shuttle in the middle of a holographic trip to a space station where the real captain’s fake death will be simulated on a holodeck simulating a sick bay. (The engines power down again, and the lights fade to black.) I’m taking a nap.

(The CAPTAIN turns on the red emergency lights. He accesses the orders and apparently alters them. He then turns off the emergency lights, and we fade to black. A few moments go by, the engines begin to whir to life. RED1 sits up, blinking. The captain is standing on top of one of the crates in a heroic pose, pointing a phaser and ready for action. RED1, however appears to be oblivious of his presence.)

RED1: If only things were as simple as they were supposed to be. (RED2 does not stir.) You would know nothing of our heading other than, “to a space station,” which I would have programmed while you were sleeping. Even though in the grand scheme of things we’re both at the very bottom of the heap, my rank is higher than yours. Therefore, I would have received our orders and simply told you what you needed to know. We would have taken the captain to the station, we would have met an unremarkable bureaucrat, and would have then been reassigned to some cushy position on said space station. We would have escaped our calling and lived uneventful lives filled with odd hobbies and questionable social lives. As it stands, however, you know too much and may face certain death at a moment’s notice. The best you can do is hope for something to speed us to the end. (RED2 gets up, yawning, and wanders around. RED2 is also oblivious to the captain’s battle pose.) I can’t help but think there’s something going on that I’m missing. (There is the sound of a tricorder.) Yes! A familiar, whir, or beam, or hum. Hard to describe, certainly, but definitely familiar. A sound most unnatural in its origin and therefore the hallmark of that most unnatural of the natural world: other people. A tricorder. Some unknown person, hitherto hidden from our sight, is slowly exploring the surrounding area, in this case, our shuttle, and stands ready to impart some forward motion to this lurching crawl towards the void. (Pause) You aren’t scanning anything, are you?

RED2: Scanning something?

RED1: With a tricorder.

RED2: What for?

RED1: I’m not telling you to do it, I’m asking if you are.

RED2: How would I know?

RED1: Take your time.

RED2: Wait! No, that isn’t me. But, I hear it.

(RED2 investigates the tricorder sound, eventually pulling out a tricorder to aid in the search. This ends up being very confusing. Eventually, the crates are proven to be the source of the noise. The captain is able elude detection as RED2 opens crates, to reveal the AWAY TEAM, scanning the interior of the crates from within.)

RED2: Well, that’s different.

RED1: Ahem!

BLUE: Greetings. We will be with you in a moment. (The AWAY TEAM stands up and moves to comfortable positions within the shuttle. During this time, the captain takes up residence in one of the crates.) I assume that we are no longer on the ship.

RED2: Unless we are.

BLUE: That stands to reason.

RED2: Do you have credentials?

BLUE: I think when we reach our final destination, you will find that no credentials are necessary. Billy, I advise you against putting that in your mouth.

RED1: Are you here in an official capacity?

BLUE: We are on leave. At ease, everyone. (The AWAY TEAM lounges.) So, you’re finally in charge. (Pause.) Are things progressing to your satisfaction?

RED1: I’m afraid I can neither confirm nor deny how things are progressing.

BLUE: That badly?

RED1: Stay out of our way.

BLUE: I will endeavor to remain as far from you as possible.

RED2: That’s going to be hard on a shuttle.

BLUE: Speaking of being hard on a shuttle, do you know the captain’s whereabouts? (Glances at the CAPTAIN just before he disappears again.) I have heard a rumor that never got on the shuttle.

RED2: Oh, he got on the shuttle.

RED1: After he got off the shuttle bay chief.

RED2: Got off…on the shuttle bay chief.

RED1: Ka-pow! (To RED2) Why we so good at this?

RED2: (Indicating BLUE) It’s this no-mass havin’ bitch. He’ll just let you hop on and perpetrate some low gravity shit.

RED1: Some people got a stick up their ass, he got like, another Vulcan sayin’, “I find this all highly illogical.”

(RED2 and RED1 congratulate each other.)

RED1: (To BLUE) Don’t be shy, man, get in on some of this.

(Pause.)

RED2: You’re no fun.

BLUE: You must forgive me if I am less than verbose in our discourse. I am aware of the role I am to play, but am noticing more and more that you are making allusions for which I have no reference. Therefore, I am playing my cards close to my chest. On a similar note, an artificial life-form of my acquaintance has recently calculated pi to the last digit.

RED2: What is it?

BLUE: Love. That is why most mathematicians have been unable to discover it. (Pause.) I may have made that up. (Aside) Why are you not following the path that has been set out for you?

RED1: I don’t know what it is. (Frustrated.) You said it didn’t matter. Do you know why you’re here?

BLUE: Am I to understand that you do not know why you are here?

RED1: I asked you first. (Pause.) No.

BLUE: Then how do you know we aren’t here for the same reason?

RED1: You said you were here on leave. (Pause.) Why are you in uniform?

BLUE: We are required to be.

RED1: For leave?

BLUE: For the…circumstances. Where is the captain?

RED2: Around.

RED1: We are responsible for delivering him, not knowing his exact location.

RED2: He’s on the shuttle.

RED1: Possibly.

RED2: Allegedly.

RED1: Allegedly, yes. We can neither confirm nor deny his presence on this vessel. I can tell you that we are on a straight path with no deviations. Our mission’s scope is well defined, and its duration is indefinite. We are lock-step within the gears of a grand system of justice on which our very survival depends. We are vigilant in the discharge of our duty, and ask for no thanks or recognition for our service.

RED2: Although a pat on the shoulder would be nice.

RED1: Yes, or a classified personal commendation for our permanent record.

(The CAPTAIN roars into view, shooting and/or attacking the the AWAY TEAM. BLUE maneuvers behind him and administers the Vulcan nerve pinch. The CAPTAIN collapses.)

RED2: He is possibly on the shuttle, if I can trust you to keep our confidence. That is, if we are also on the shuttle. Because I’m starting to think that we are not. At this very moment, we exist within two distinct possibilities. I’m trying to reconcile events in light of that possibility, and it’s making me a little crazy.

RED1: You need to deal with the surface, rather than than worry about what’s behind it. He’s on the floor. A solid floor, that makes noise when you kick it. Why is he on the floor? He fell. Why did he fall? Did he loose consciousness, or did he hit a point in some programmed scenario where it dictates, “The captain collapses?” In the end, does it matter? He’s still there. On the floor. Just there. (Pause.) Perhaps he looks a bit unnatural because he isn’t talking, fighting, or trying to impregnate an alien life form.

RED2: With a ripped shirt.

RED1: With a ripped shirt. (They lean in to look at the Captain.) Are they looking at us?

RED2: (After glancing at the AWAY TEAM) I can’t tell.

RED1: We met them on the planet.

RED2: Or on the holodeck.

RED1: Or left them on the holodeck.

RED2: Or both.

RED1: And now they’re here.

RED2: On the shuttle.

RED1: Or on the holodeck.

RED2: Or both.

RED1: With Lieutenant Jones and Ensign Smith, escorting the captain-

RED2: -Under orders of Number One-

RED1: -Under suspicion of murder-

RED2: -and infestation-

RED1: -to the space station. (Pause.) Or the holodeck!

RED2: We’re on the holodeck, we’re not on the holodeck, it’s driving me crazy! (To the heavens) I’m tired of waiting! I want something different to happen!

(At this point, the ROMULANS attack. Everyone runs from one side of the shuttle to the other, crashing noises are heard, lights flash. If at all possible, the audience should be told during the preshow speech to shake their heads violently when the Romulans attack. Amid the panic, the CAPTAIN draws his phaser and adopts a battle stance. RED1, RED2, and BLUE follow his lead. Seeing that they are imitating his every move, the CAPTAIN makes a half turn, so that his back is to them and they are facing the opposite direction. As soon as this occurs, the CAPTAIN drops his exaggerated movements and walks simply but purposefully to one of the cargo crates and climbs inside. The other three remain battle-ready until they notice the captain is gone. When this is noticed, BLUE immediately realizes what has occurred, and climbs into a cargo container as well. RED1 and RED2 follow BLUE’s lead and get in the center crate. The engines fail, and the lights go out. In the darkness the sound of a transporter is heard. Then, the engines resume, and the lights come up. The middle crate is missing. The right crate opens, revealing the cautious faces of RED1 and RED2. The left crate opens, revealing BLUE. They end up startling each other, and scream. Then, there is calm.)

RED2: Well, that was different. Mind you, my reaction was completely typical. (Sighs.) The captain’s gone again.

BLUE: Does that surprise you?

RED2: No. I’m still not sure he was here to begin with. Or us, for that matter.

BLUE: You are most assuredly here.

RED1: I’m starting to think “here” isn’t here.

BLUE: You appear to apprehend the situation. Although, it may be too late.

RED2: (To RED1) Is he accusing us of stealing something?

BLUE: Both of you need to return to the ship.

RED2: What if we’re already on the ship?

BLUE: Your actual location does not matter. You need to pilot this shuttle back to the ship.

RED2: I understand what you’re saying. What I’m saying is, we may actually be…on the ship.

BLUE: That is correct. However, we need you to pilot this shuttle, the one you are currently experiencing, back to the ship from which it came.

RED2: Okay, but what I’m saying to you is that we may be on the ship.

RED1: Hold on. (To BLUE) I understand. (To RED2) He’s a hallucination. We have to actually pilot the real shuttle back to the real ship, which can only happen after we complete the mission.

BLUE: We are attempting to help you, but circumstances prohibit us from being too direct in this regard.

RED2: Well, we- There are specific- That is to say, we’re supposed- There is a plan- We have orders to follow that-

BLUE: Yes, there was a plan you were following, but you should be able to recognize that the context of your mission has changed.

RED1: I see what you’re doing. It won’t work. You can’t sidetrack us. We have our orders.

BLUE: The Romulans, however, have left you with none of the resources you need to succeed in this endeavor. Your only course of action is to return to your ship.

RED2: No! (To RED1) You’re right. We haven’t finished! We can’t go back as failures! We have our orders, and we will complete the mission.

BLUE: Without the captain-

RED2: We don’t need him! We can do this ourselves.

BLUE: If you examine your orders-

RED1: Yes, to hell with the captain!

BLUE: That is not-

RED1: You don’t think we can do it.

BLUE: No. Rather, I am afraid you can.

(BLUE stares at them pointedly. Eventually, RED1 and RED2 slink away.)

RED1: That’s it then. We need to go to the space station.

RED2: Unless we’re really supposed to go back to the ship. (Glances at BLUE) I wish I knew whether or not we could trust him. I mean, when we were on the planet, that may also have been the holodeck. (Pause.) Just because we were introduced to the holodeck later, that doesn’t mean we weren’t there to begin with. (Pause.) I mean, it could even have been created retroactively. (Pause.) Some sort of holographic feedback loop or-

RED1: Stop it! Just stop it! Just stop talking for a few seconds so that I can think!

RED2: I’m sorry. I’m sorry, okay. (Pauses as long as possible.) Did you hear that an artificial life form recently calculated-(RED1 screams in RED2’s face. Pause.) I love you.

RED1: I am tired. I’m tired, and I think it’s because I’m supposed to be dead. I’m supposed to be dead, and my body knows it, but something forces us to go on and on. I have a feeling if we stay here, the here…here, then we’ll die…here. If we die here, do we wake up back on the ship? If so, what happens if we go back to the ship? (Glances back at BLUE.) What’s he planning? (RED2 sits down at the shuttle’s console and begins programming the navigation system.) What are you doing? (RED2 says nothing, pushes buttons.) The station. Bold choice. Now I’m worried. (Pause.) We don’t have him. (Pause.) There will be nothing to do when we get there. (Pause.) We arrive, and a faceless bureaucrat comes to greet us. What next? What do we say?

RED2: Lieutenant Jones and Ensign Smith, reporting as ordered.

RED1: (As bureaucrat.) Let me see your credentials. (Harrumphs) Those could be forged. Who’s who?

RED2: You know very well who-

RED1: What are you doing on my space station?

RED2: We’re from the Excelsior. We were transporting our captain, but the Romulans attacked us and he disappeared.

RED1: Romulans! Captains! This is just crazy talk! Did our universal translator shut off without someone telling me? It must have, because all I’m hearing is a bunch of jibber-jabber about-

RED2: Maybe you should just look at our orders.

RED1: Well, that’s more like it. Wow. There are a lot of words here. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah…You know, I don’t see the captain mentioned anywhere! Your names, however, appear quite often. For example, look at the sentence, ”disintegrate their bodies to prevent further contamination.” Now, why would it say, “their” bodies, if this letter is talking about your captain? Why, this entire document is nothing less than orders from Starfleet Command for your immediate extermination! (To BLUE) So, if we complete our mission, we’re dead? Way to let us sort it out for ourselves. (To RED2) Reverse engines and come to a full stop. New plan. We’re going to starve to death.

BLUE: End program! (The shuttle fades to reveal EVERYONE ELSE FROM THE PLAY WHO IS NOT RED1 OR RED2.)

RED1: (to RED2) Make a note. In the future, holodecks should be avoided at all costs. From the moment you enter one, you can never fully be sure where it ends and the real world begins. Even this may be little more than a simulation of what it’s like to realize that you’re currently on a holodeck.

BLUE: It appears our attempts have failed.

RED1: Your attempts at what? Why are you doing this to us?

RED2: When someone in the medical profession is trying to reason with a paranoid personality, it is common practice to ask them why they think someone would go through all the trouble to target them specifically. Experience has taught me that human beings often do rotten things to one another for the most trivial of reasons.

RED1: What is it, then? Why were we singled out? Our lack of training? Our low rank? Our trusting nature?

RED2: The color of our shirts.

RED1: Why not? Why not! We’ve been told from the beginning that the story really doesn’t get going until we die. Let’s get it started!

BLUE: They obviously still do not comprehend-

RED1: I don’t comprehend? You’re all holograms! (Pulls phaser out and points it at BLUE. BLUE does not move. RED1 turns to RED2) You see? No concern. (To BLUE) You don’t fear me, because you have no life! You know I can’t take anything from you with this. Either I shoot you with a phaser or I end your program, but it doesn’t matter. No matter how I make you disappear, I’ll never snuff you out. Not entirely. As soon as the program is reset, you’ll be back with your smug face and your superior comprehension. Still, I suppose this may be cathartic. (RED1 shoots BLUE with the phaser. BLUE crumples to the floor. Everyone behaves shocked.)

RED2: Stun?

RED1: I find shooting someone more satisfying if I hear their body hit the floor. (The rest of the crew does their best to avoid being a target as RED1 begins using the phaser to gesture during the rest of the monologue.) Oh, that’s good. That’s very good. Quite believable. Now you know fear. You adapt. You fear this little bit of nothing, even as we know in the end he’s going to to stand up and give us a little speech regarding the nature of reality. (Pause.) Any minute now. (Pause.) Get up! (Kicking BLUE) Get up! (To RED2) Why isn’t he getting up?

CAPTAIN: Everyone remain calm. (To RED1) Put down the weapon, Lieutenant. (Pause.) We want to help you. You’re confused. (CAPTAIN takes phaser away from a confused and shaken RED1.) The Doctor came to get me as soon as he realized you’d been exposed on the planet. You are sick. I’m not sure how it works, but, from what I understand, you’re getting weaker in this world, the real world, because you’re bleeding into other realities in a variety of mediums. It may be as holographic entertainment, as cheap paperback novels-

RED2: (Laughing, drawing phaser) Pathetic! (To CAPTAIN) You’re so very sincere, I’m sorry, but, come on! (To RED1) They really stoop to any length to prove a point, don’t they?

CAPTAIN: (deadly serious) You are hereby being removed from active duty and put on medical leave. (RED2 begins shooting members of the crew.) I am ordering you to drop your phaser and report to sick bay. You will be held for observation until a cure can be found. If you do not desist immediately, you will be sedated. I am ordering you. Stand down!

(RED2’s phaser clatters to the floor. As the CAPTAIN bends down to pick it up, RED2 delivers a two-handed overhead blow to the CAPTAIN’s back. They wrestle. BILLY suddenly comes up with the only possible solution to the current situation. As he opens his mouth to speak, he is shot by RED1. RED2 dispatches the CAPTAIN. Our heroes pick off the remaining crew, and catch their breath to the sounds of a security alert. Two armed REDSHIRTS come in just in time to be shot by RED1 and RED2. The power begins to fade, as before. BLUE stirs.)

BLUE: (weakly) Listen. Your holographic signatures failed to resolve. We were able to isolate them and feed them into a simulation of the planet, but they were too unstable. We were able to preserve them, but not indefinitely, as we had originally assumed. By the time we determined how to extract you from the signatures, they degraded so much were unable to isolate them. First, we attempted to stimulate your self preservation instincts by introducing the concept of your imminent demise. When this was unsuccessful, we attempted to coax them apart by putting them into familiar surroundings, a simulation of the ship. The captain by then an old man, had retired. He assisted me in programing the simulation and, in my haste to complete the project I did not notice obvious signs of his dementia until it was too late. In order to correct the internal flaws, I inserted myself into the simulation, but by then the captain’s malformed programing was beyond repair. It had to be destroyed, by taking its personification to the station, but the Romulan-

(RED2 shoots BLUE, who shakes violently, and gibbers incoherently)

RED1: What the hell?

BLUE: (Normally, as if nothing happened, but further along in the speech.) -thought that killing you would accomplish this, unfortunately, we found out too late that-(RED2 shoots BLUE again.)-only other option was-(BLUE is shot.)-now your only hope is-(BLUE is shot. This time, he does not move again.)

RED1: You shot him! We getting answers, and you shot him!

RED2: He wasn’t telling us anything! They sucker you in with mysteries and intrigue, then string you along with clues, but they know the minute they show their hand the game is over. So they take back every fact they give you by introducing multiple realities and closed time loops. There’s never a piece of solid ground. Veil after veil lifted back to reveal the truth beneath, which is simply, “There is a veil.” Once you peel off very layer of an onion you are left with nothing. It’s over. I’m done. I choose this reality, this mission. I’m in control of my own destiny. (To RED1, triumphant) We are going to Space Station Alpha! (Engines cut out, darkness. Emergency lights come on, and only RED1 and RED2 are visible.) Hmmm. (Pause.) Engines seem to have gone out again. (Small pause.) I’m really not sure I want to go anywhere anyway. (Pause.) Well, that’s interesting. Did you see this? (RED2 pulls off part of the shuttle to reveal part of the alien planet. As the shuttle is dismantled, more of the alien planet is revealed. The emergency lights eventually cross fade to the lighting used for the planet.) I don’t know how I’m supposed to take this. I have the bizarre feeling that they’re hidden somewhere , waiting for the signal to reveal themselves. Well, that signal isn’t going to come, if I can help it. (Forages for a package of food.) I’ve got snacks. (Pause. RED2 chews loudly.) Did you see what I did? I think I even knee-ed the captain in the groin.

RED1: Yeah. I saw it.

RED2: I’m really excited. (Indicates the revealed alien planet. Lights begin to fade to evening.) This means something. I wonder…

(RED2 wanders offstage. RED1 Doesn’t notice. The lights continue to fade.)

RED1: It doesn’t matter what you think is going on. What matters is that you act appropriately for the situation that you’ve been given. (RED1 looks for RED2, sighs.) Ensign Smith? (Pause.) Lieutenant Jones? (RED1 makes the hand puppet again.) Not you. (Wandering off the same way as RED2) I’m alone alone on an alien planet…marooned. In a situation of this sort, the most rational action is to…contact the ship. (Takes out communicator.) Jones to transporter room. Hmmm…that’s odd. (Trying again.) Jones to transporter room…(Exits, lights come up on the alien planet,and the CREW OF THE EXCELSIOR.)

BLUE: It appears, Captain, that our calculations regarding the wormhole were inaccurate. We have arrived in this time line several days after the events the entity allowed us to view in the parallel universe. These are the last known coordinates of the two crewmen with whom we were meant to rendezvous.

PLUVOX: They’re here, captain. Although, I don’t think we’ll be speaking to them any time soon.

CAPTAIN: We have to find them!

PLUVOX: They’re very close, captain, but we cannot see them.

CAPTAIN: Are you saying that they’re invisible?

PLUVOX: It’s worse than that. (Pause) They’re dead!

(There is an immediate blackout, with incidental music, meant to signal the end of a teaser segment and the beginning of an episode.)

THE END

One Response to It’s Worse Than That, They’re Dead

  1. Pingback: Parallel Ideas | Paul Gude's Blog

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