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DOING TIME

by Paul Kimball & Mac Tonnies

Characters: LEDA CALDER: Leda's a defiant young woman accused of eco-terrorism, serving a many-thousand-year sentence in virtual reality solitary confinement. As might be expected, she's slowly going insane. She has no clear memory of her crime (if indeed there was one) and experiences pronounced amnesia in general -- possibly induced by the virtual reality environment, which she ostensibly thinks is "real," having no frame of reference. JANE: App. Leda's age, this anonymous character appears mysteriously in order to converse with Leda about life "outside." Enigmatic and seemingly all-knowing, she could be a conduit to freedom, a figment of Leda's imagination or an alter-ego spawned by the virtual reality software.

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ACT ONE Leda sits in what appears to be a small café. She is dressed normally, and sips from a cup of coffee, thumbing through the pages of an unseen book. Across from her sits JANE. 1 JANE: So…? Leda puts the book down on the table in front of JANE 2 3 LEDA: Phillip K. Dick? Sci-fi? No offense, but it’s not my cup of double mochachino latte, I’m afraid. She smiles, takes a sip from her coffee, and then looks at it oddly, as if something is off. 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 LEDA: Ugh… and neither is this. Talk about complete and utter drek. This is what I get for meeting you at a corporate coffee chain. JANE: I think you should read it anyway. It’s not typical scifi… it relates to who and what we are. LEDA: Oh, God – that’s even worse. I don’t need a book to tell me who or what I am. JANE: We all need someone, or something, Leda, to help us along – to make the big picture a little bit clearer. As John Donne wrote, none of us is an island. LEDA: Well, as Paul Simon wrote, “I am a rock, I am an island - and a rock feels no pain, and an island never cries.” JANE: Touche. LEDA: Thank you. JANE: You’re quite clever. I always enjoy our chats. LEDA: So do I. You keep me on my toes. Make me think.

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JANE: That’s what I’m here for. Pauses.

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So you’ll read the book? Leda smiles, and picks up the book.

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LEDA: Okay, okay – so long as you promise that we never have to come to this place again. The drinks are terrible. JANE: Sure. We can go somewhere else next time. Leda thumbs through the book again.

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LEDA: It’s not postmodernist, is it? JANE: No. Would that be a problem, however? LEDA: I hate postmodernism. It says that there’s so much contradiction on any subject, to the point that because it can’t all be true, none of it can be true. The problem is that it still leaves you with the subject itself, so something about it must be true. There has to be a truth somewhere, so long as there are facts. JANE: An interesting perspective. Just remember – there’s always another side of truth. LEDA: Not in my world.

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ACT TWO Leda sits in what appears to be a small café. She is dressed normally, and sips from a cup of coffee, thumbing through the pages of an unseen book. Across from her sits JANE. 36 JANE: So…? Leda puts the book down on the table in front of JANE 37 38 LEDA: Phillip K. Dick? Sci-fi? No offense, but it’s not my cup of double mochachino latte, I’m afraid. She smiles, takes a sip from her coffee, and then looks at it oddly, as if something is off. 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 LEDA: Ugh… and neither is this. Talk about complete and utter drek. This is what I get for meeting you at a corporate coffee chain. JANE: I think you should read it anyway. It’s not typical scifi… it relates to who and what we are. LEDA: Oh, God – that’s even worse. I don’t need a book to tell me who or what I am. JANE: We all need someone, or something, Leda, to help us along – to make the big picture a little bit clearer. As John Donne wrote, none of us is an island. LEDA: Well, as Paul Simon wrote, “I am a rock, I am an island - and a rock feels no pain, and an island never cries.” JANE: Touche. LEDA: Thank you. JANE: You’re quite clever. I always enjoy our chats. LEDA: So do I. You keep me on my toes. Make me think.

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JANE: That’s what I’m here for. Pauses.

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So you’ll read the book? Leda smiles, and picks up the book.

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LEDA: Okay, okay – so long as you promise that we never have to come to this place again. The drinks are terrible. JANE: Sure. We can go somewhere else next time. Leda thumbs through the book again.

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LEDA: It’s not postmodernist, is it? JANE: No. Would that be a problem, however? LEDA: I hate postmodernism. It says that there’s so much contradiction on any subject, to the point that because it can’t all be true, none of it can be true. The problem is that it still leaves you with the subject itself, so something about it must be true. There has to be a truth somewhere, so long as there are facts. JANE: An interesting perspective. Just remember – there’s always another side of truth. LEDA: Not in my world.

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ACT THREE Leda sits in the same small café. She is dressed normally, and sips from a cup of coffee, thumbing through the pages of an unseen book. Across from her sits Jane. 71 JANE: So…? Leda puts the book down on the table in front of JANE 72 73 LEDA: Phillip K. Dick? Sci-fi? No offense, but it’s not my cup of double mochachino latte, I’m afraid. She smiles, takes a sip from her coffee, and then looks at it oddly. 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 LEDA: Ugh… and neither is this. Talk about complete and utter drek. This is what I get for meeting you at a corporate coffee chain. JANE: I think you should read it anyway. It’s not typical scifi… it relates to who and what we are. LEDA: Oh, God – that’s even worse. I don’t need a book to tell me who or what I am. JANE: We all need someone, or something, Leda, to help us along – to make the big picture a little bit clearer. As John Donne wrote, none of us is an island. LEDA: Well, as Paul Simon wrote, “I am a rock, I am an island - and a rock feels no pain, and an island never cries.” JANE: Touche. LEDA: Thank you. JANE: You’re quite clever. I always enjoy our chats. LEDA: So do I. You keep me on my toes. Make me think. JANE: That’s what I’m here for.

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Pauses. 91 So you’ll read the book? Leda smiles, and picks up the book. 92 93 94 LEDA: Okay, okay – so long as you promise that we never have to come to this place again. The drinks are terrible. JANE: Sure. We can go somewhere else next time. Leda thumbs through the book again. 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 LEDA: It’s not postmodernist, is it? JANE: No. Would that be a problem, however? LEDA: I hate postmodernism. It says that there’s so much contradiction on any subject, to the point that because it can’t all be true, none of it can be true. The problem is that it still leaves you with the subject itself, so something about it must be true. There has to be a truth somewhere, so long as there are facts. JANE: An interesting perspective. Just remember… Leda interrupts, surprised 104 LEDA: – there’s always another side of truth. Leda pauses, and then startles, as if a realization has just dawned on her. 105 106 107 108 109 LEDA: What the hell is going on? JANE: Apparently, a system malfunction. LEDA: A what? JANE: The end of the beginning, Leda… and the beginning of the end.

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ACT FOUR Leda sits alone in a spartan room that suggests confinement. The sole decorations are a television tuned to images of desolation and a pile of old paperback books. Leda is thumbing through a copy of Philip K. Dick's The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch. A wire, fastened to her temple by a device resembling a metal suction cup, runs offstage. She tugs it in irritation as she flips pages. 110 111 112 113 114 115 LEDA: It's all a metaphor, of course. I know that perfectly well by now. This room, this screen . . . It's a map of my psyche or something. I don't know why I know this, but I do. Maybe I'm not supposed to. I've been here too long, waiting. It's all lost on me at this point. She picks up the novel and stares at it. 116 117 I mean, I've read this damn book a thousand times. More, probably -- and I don't even like it. She tosses the book on the floor, pauses, and then… 118 119 And this [tracing the wire between her fingers] . . . I'm not sure I want to know. Glances offstage. 120 121 You're listening again, aren't you? You want to talk? Do you want to explain what this is all about? Enter JANE. 122 123 124 125 126 JANE (casually): Anything good on the radio? LEDA: Static. What else? Why did you even give me a radio if all it can play is white noise? I've told you that before. Play some music, the BBC news, old episodes of the Goonies . . . anything. And get me some new books while

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you're at it. I'm tired of this stuff. I wasn't a fan before and I'm not a fan now. She pauses.

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Is this some sort of brainwashing scheme? JANE: Are you trying to be ironic? Leda looks like she has missed some sort of in-joke.

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If this were a… “brainwashing” scheme, it’s a most inefficient one, given the time you've been here, don’t you think? LEDA: I don't know what to think anymore. All I know is that I'm missing something here. You're holding back. JANE: Some might interpret that remark as a symptom of paranoia. LEDA: Why wouldn't I be paranoid at this point? Sounds like a decent way to pass the time to me. Besides, it’s not paranoia if they’re really out to get you. JANE: And you think I’m out to “get you”? LEDA: You tell me. She pauses, then…

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The one thing that I do know is that I’m sick to death of this… thing! She wrenches off suction cup and rubs her temple.

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JANE: I've told you not to do that. LEDA: And I've told you: I don't even know if you're real. You could be a hallucination I've created to keep me company.

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JANE: I can neither confirm nor deny that. You should know that by now. Now reinstall the uplink before we both get in trouble. LEDA: Are you saying you're my conscience? What if I don't put it back on? What does it matter? None of this is real. JANE: That's a rather expansive accusation. Surely you're not including yourself. LEDA: I'm beginning to lose interest in whether or not I'm real. JANE: Certainly you understand that you're in custody. We've discussed this before. LEDA: Yeah, prison. We've discussed it many times and it still doesn't make sense. How long have I been here, again? Pauses… JANE doesn’t answer straight away.

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Humour me. JANE: Four hundred and sixty-two years. Leda starts to laugh.

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LEDA: That's absurd. Humans can't live that long, even with gene therapy. I can accept the fact that I'm amnesiac, but I simply can't accept that I'm the product of some medical breakthrough. Why don't you just tell me? What have you done? Am I a clone? That would explain the lack of memory but it wouldn't explain the time that's passed, unless you've hacked my nervous system. I vaguely remember seeing a documentary about neuroanatomy. They had this woman lying on an operating table with the top of her skull removed. The doctors were poking different parts of her brain to make her limbs move. Like a puppet, yet she was totally awake and commenting on the experience.

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JANE: When did you see this? LEDA: Before, I guess. Before this place. Before you. Pauses, as if trying to remember.

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Actually, I think it was a dog. Or maybe a monkey. JANE: You say you may be amnesiac – that there is no "before." Yet you profess to have a memory that predates your current predicament. LEDA: You know, it's almost comforting to hear you refer to this whole mess as a "predicament." Almost like you sympathize. JANE: And what makes you think I don't? LEDA: Stop it. Just stop it. Leave me alone. JANE: How long would you like to be left alone? LEDA: Until I'm able to forget you. JANE: That's exactly what you said the last time.

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ACT FIVE

188[In a procession of four still-frame-like scenes we see LEDA 189engaged in boredom-alleviating activity. In the first we see her 190reading a book; in the second, she works out by doing push-ups ad 191nauseum. In the third, she lies on the bed, reading the book, and 192then tosses it into a corner. In the fourth, she tries to get some 193music on the radio, and when all that comes through is noise, she 194picks it up and hurls it against the wall.]

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ACT SIX LEDA sits on her chair. JANE enters. 195 196 197 198 199 200 201 202 203 204 205 206 207 JANE: Tell me about Martian pharmaceuticals, Leda. LEDA: The what…? JANE: The Martian pharmaceuticals. LEDA: Oh, right, of course. The Martian pharmaceuticals. JANE: Start at the beginning. LEDA: There is no fucking beginning. Only this! JANE: Yet you've hinted at memories. Maybe, if you try, you can access them. LEDA: I'm supposed to remember Martian pharmaceuticals? JANE: I wouldn't ask if I thought you didn't. LEDA: I remember . . . something illegal. At least that’s what the Earthgov called it. Everyone was just trying to have some fun. Pauses. 208 209 210 211 212 213 214 I was a dealer, wasn't I? JANE: We think so. The exact details of your crime are not part of the official record. And, as you’ve noted many times, it's been so long. LEDA: How long? JANE: Four hundred and sixty-two years. Do you find this surprising?

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LEDA: Assuming that you’re telling the truth, the only thing I find surprising at this point is that I'm still functional. Of course, that requires the further assumption that I am functional. Does that make sense? JANE: It makes perfect sense, although I must confess to sharing your reservation. I've been here as long as you -- or so I'm led to assume. It's possible, although I find it unlikely, that we've both deteriorated to such a state that we've achieved a state of synchronized mutual insanity. In other words, I've come to doubt my own existential status. Leda looks surprised, as if she’s just heard something unexpected, and new, for the first time in a very, very long time. She smiles.

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LEDA: I think you just blinked. JANE Pardon? LEDA: Nothing. So… you're my hallucination after all? JANE: Or perhaps you are mine. Leda’s smiles vanishes in an instant, replaced by anger, and frustration.

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LEDA: Argh! I thought I had you. I thought I finally fucking had you – that you had shown some… weakness. A moment where I could believe you were real. JANE: You thought I might be real… because I suggested that I might not be? LEDA: Exactly! It’s the most… normal, real… human thing you’ve said in… JANE: Four hundred and sixty-two years. LEDA: You must be Vulcan. That’s it. Or maybe Swiss. She walks around JANE

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Tick, tock, tick, tock, count the years like a fucking clock! All of this time I've trusted you. I thought you were behind all of this somehow, or at least privy to someone who is. JANE: We find it necessary to engage your mind in order to ensure psychological integrity. LEDA: What's that supposed to mean? JANE: It means that you're valuable. We don't want a vegetable on our hands. LEDA: We? You’ve never said “we” before! Who is "we"? JANE: I no longer know, although I think I once did. There was a beginning, you know. LEDA: You think . . . JANE: I suspect. LEDA: You suspect… JANE: I hypothesize. LEDA: Think… suspect… hypothesize. Don’t you know? JANE: No. At least, I don’t… LEDA: … Think you do. Right. I get it. God, you sound like a civil servant. She pauses, and paces.

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Work with me, here. Spare me the qualifiers, because for someone intent on keeping me in the dark, you're pretty fastidious about not jumping to conclusions. You can't tell me with certainty that we even exist. You drop these maddening hints, then seem to forget them. Then you ask me about Martian drugs when you know I don't know shit about what happened before. It's been too long. I've

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forgotten any specifics that could have been of any interest to you. And you of all people should know; I shouldn't have to tell you, because if this is some sort of prison -- if I'm serving a life sentence for a crime committed hundreds of years ago -- then what’s the point of an investigation? That's a job for the people outside, who would have died centuries ago anyway. A prison sentence I can understand, at least intellectually. But an investigation? Now? Do you really expect me to believe I'm being interrogated for a drug rap that I’ve already been convicted and sentenced for? JANE: You seem to be admitting the fact that you've been imprisoned. LEDA: Well, you tell me that I am. What else am I to think? JANE: Once, long ago, you suggested the possibility that your life had been artificially prolonged for reasons you didn't pretend to fathom. LEDA: If you say so. But if it's really been over four hundred years, or whatever, then that's a safe bet, right? I'm willing to concede that this is in some sense real, but not real in any conventional sense. JANE: And you accuse me of being obtuse. LEDA: Well, I'm right, aren't I? This has got to be simulated. It's some sort of cybernetic construct. Either that or you're using psychoactives on me -- and as a confessed drug dealer, I assure you I've never heard of anything with the time-dilating qualities I seem to be dealing with. JANE: Of course it's a simulation. Cosmologists found the first undeniable compression artifacts back in the 21st Century . . . LEDA: And they're probably still puzzling over those now. Anyway, that's not what I'm talking about and you know it. Matrix cosmology is yesterday's news. I'm talking about

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humans doing the simulating. If you had a fast enough substrate, you could produce the subjective millennia. And if you were sadistic or draconian enough, you could even condemn a human being to live out her life in virtual eternity: a sort of hacker hell with no hope of escape short of physical demolition of the machine running the sim. And I can guarantee you that Earthgov is both sadistic and draconian enough… especially with colonists. JANE: Not feasible. The quantum states of a living human brain don't translate to a machine substrate. You get a convincing enough sim, but it's just that: an approximation of the real thing. You, Leda, are quite real. LEDA: You're saying you know I'm self-aware? There's no way you can seriously claim that. JANE: Are you a solipsist, Leda? LEDA: If I have to be. JANE: Maybe I'm not ready to make that leap. I choose to think there's something more to you than just so much electronic clockwork. LEDA: So do I. But what was that you said about beginning to doubt your own existential status? Maybe I'm not ready to stop doubting. Maybe I need to doubt because doubt is all that you've left me with, all pretenses of civility aside. Because deep down I need to believe there's at least a possibility that I'm crazy, that none of this is as it seems. That would mean there's at least a theoretical chance I can wake up. If that means refusing to acknowledge my own humanity -- my "existential status," as you so poetically call it -- then that's fine by me. And don't forget that doubt works both ways: I reserve the right to hold your humanity in question until you provide me with good reason to make an informed decision. Don't misunderstand: I'd like to discover that you're human. It would make me feel less alone. But I don't dare believe it on faith.

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JANE: So you want me to prove myself, is that it? Are you trying to bargain with me, Leda? LEDA: Weren't you listening to me? We're in an evidential void. You couldn't "prove" yourself to me if you wanted to. And I really don't think you want to anyway, since we're on the subject. JANE: You seem to forget all I've done for you. Leda laughs.

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LEDA: For me? Don’t you mean to me! JANE: I did not put you here, Leda. You are responsible for that. LEDA: Because I sold some Martian pharmaceuticals? I’m stuck in this nightmare because of a second-rate drug rap? JANE: If that’s your conclusion… LEDA: Stop playing these fucking mind-games! You’re worse than my father!! JANE: You remember your father? Leda pauses, confused.

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LEDA: I remember… Pauses again, then snaps back to reality.

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I must have had a father, at least I did if I’m real. JANE: Logical. But you don’t remember him? LEDA: The only thing that I remember – really, truly remember – is you, and all this time I’ve spent with you. You haven't done anything for me other than scare me into intellectual corners.

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JANE: But you just said that doubt was all you had -- that it was your right. Perhaps you misunderstand just how devoted I've been. LEDA: You sound like my… JANE: Father? LEDA: Yes. JANE: I am not your father, Leda. He has been dead for hundreds of years, assuming he was ever alive. LEDA: Some friend you are. JANE: I'm not trying to befriend you, Leda. LEDA: I suppose that's to your credit, considering my… predicament. So, we've determined we're in mutual ignorance and that everything that seems real is in truth a dream -- or vice versa. Where do we go from here? JANE: We stop talking to ourselves. LEDA: What's that supposed to mean? JANE: What you said about this being a simulation -LEDA: You said it couldn’t be a simulation -- that human minds didn't translate to computers. Which I'm willing to buy, by the way. JANE: Nevertheless, the time-dilation alone suggests an attempt to -[Leda irritably removes the device from her head.]

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LEDA: I thought I told you before -- enough with that thing! JANE: What thing?

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LEDA: That wire you attach to my head. The one I just took off. JANE: There wasn't any wire. LEDA: It was just here! Are you pretending you didn't put it on me? JANE: Do you remember me putting it on you? LEDA: No, but it's become such an integral part of our . . . I hesitate to call it a "relationship" . . . JANE: Did you feel as if something had been attached to you? LEDA: I suppose. Although I don't remember when it was attached, no. I've never even figured out what it is, let alone muster the energy to care. I think once you suggested taking it off was a bad idea. Did I dream that? JANE: More sarcasm? LEDA: No, I'm asking seriously. I remember you saying that we could somehow get in trouble by messing with it . . . only I don't remember asking with whom we could possibly get in trouble since we seem to be all alone here. JANE: Leda, tell me what you remember about your life before -LEDA: You're changing the subject! JANE: I suppose there's no point denying it. LEDA: Who's your boss? I want to speak with him. JANE: Why do you assume -LEDA: Let me speak with him!

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JANE: I'm afraid I don't have the necessarily clearance to -LEDA: You're lying. JANE: I don't think you understand the risks. LEDA: I think I understand them better than you do. Leda holds a sharp piece of metal to her throat.

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I want to speak to your boss. Or things get messy. JANE: You wouldn't . . . LEDA: I would. JANE: Where did you get that? LEDA: From the radio. Plenty of sharp objects if you look hard enough. Even you should know that. What sort of halfassed prison are you running anyway? JANE takes a step towards LEDA, who motions with the metal.

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The medium is the message, my friend. And right now the message is “get me your fucking boss or I slit my throat, and then we’ll see just how real I am”. JANE: Why don't you kill me instead? LEDA circles JANE

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LEDA: Because I’m not sure that I can. And even if I could, I think you're disposable, that's why. I think you're a cog in someone else's machine -- an expensive cog, maybe, but a cog nonetheless. You’re a widget… a pawn. I, on the other hand, seem genuinely important, although I have no idea why. If I press this into my neck just a little further I should sever an artery or two. And I don't think you want that. I don't think you want that at all.

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JANE: No . . . you’re needed alive, and whole, Leda. LEDA: How comforting. Then get me your boss. And don't tell me he -- or she, or it -- is busy, or existentially challenged, or anything else other than available for a little tete-a-tete. JANE: I'll . . . I'll see what I can do. LEDA: You do that. I'll give you ten minutes. Hell, make that fifteen. It's not like there's any shortage of time around here. [EXIT JANE. Leda stands onstage prepared to kill herself]

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LEDA: Hello? Long pause.

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Someone's there, right? I can sense you. You're not entirely invisible to me. Leda lashes out blindly and nearly stabs Observer.

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Somehow you're familiar. You're lonely, aren't you? How does it feel?

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ACT SEVEN [LEDA sits at a small table, with the metal against her throat. JANE enters, jauntily, as if a different person – her hair is down now] 438 439 440 441 442 443 444 445 446 447 448 449 450 451 452 453 454 455 456 457 458 459 460 LEDA: I told you I wanted to speak to your boss – the big cheese, the emerald wizard, the fucking man in charge! Do you think I’m bluffing?? JANE: Here I am. LEDA: But you’re the same person… or thing… JANE: Yes… and no. I’m one program, but many different applications, Leda. LEDA: Okay, I’ll play along, so long as I start getting some answers. You can start by explaining what I'm doing here. JANE: I suppose there's no point in denying the past. As far as I can determine, you originally came into my custody after an attempt to smuggle genetically engineered pharmaceuticals into the outer Solar System. LEDA: Let me guess: from Mars? JANE: Yes. That's where they made the good stuff. Or did -a lot of time has passed. LEDA: I've figured that part out already. What I don't understand at all is how an infraction as relatively minor as a drug charge can earn me hundreds of years in prison. JANE: To be honest with you, Leda, I don't like using the term "prison" to define your situation. LEDA: Is that so? JANE: "Dynamic" has a much friendlier ring, don't you think?

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LEDA: It doesn't do much for me, and not just because you're lying. JANE: What makes you think I'm lying? LEDA: Do I really need to answer that? JANE: Perhaps not. But what matters is the unusual duration that's been troubling you. And I'm prepared to give you some answers in exchange for your cooperation. LEDA: What cooperation? JANE: Well, for a starter, that you won’t kill yourself. LEDA: No promises. Depends on your answers. JANE: All right. LEDA: Where am I? JANE: You get right to the point, don't you? My other application… admired that about you. Maybe I should preface my response with a brief list of where you aren't. You're not on Mars. You were incarcerated there briefly, but that's beside the point. You're not on Earth -- which should come as no great surprise seeing how you were never born there and no one in their right mind wants to visit. Suffice it to say you're no longer in the Solar System at all. LEDA: So my paranoid hunch is correct after all: I'm in hell. JANE: As I said, I prefer the term "dynamic." LEDA: You're a humorless bitch, you know that? JANE: It's no surprise, considering I'm an AI. And not even a terribly advanced model. I suppose a human might feel a bit disparaged by such honesty -- one of the reasons I've never aspired to a system upgrade.

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LEDA: You're not even self-aware, are you? You're a dumb machine that spends its time running discreetly in the background. JANE: No one ever claimed Turing-compliance entailed sentience. LEDA: OK, what am I doing here? JANE: Oh, that one's a little tougher, I'm afraid. LEDA: And why is that? JANE: Because I don't know. Look, you said it yourself: I'm a "dumb machine." Just doing my job, ma'am. LEDA: Which is what? JANE: Delivering cargo. You, specifically. Your body never would have survived the trip, of course, so we had to make do with your brain. I’m ferrying you aboard an automated light-sail craft. I'm interacting with you through a virtual interface designed especially for this mission. That should account for any unpleasant sense of extended awareness you may have experienced. LEDA: I'm not even going to pretend to understand what you're telling me. For now, anyway. But I have a few questions you should be able to answer concisely. JANE: If it will calm you down. We're transmitting, you know. If the team that sent you finds out we let you go off the deepend, they'll take me offline in a heartbeat. She pauses

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JANE: Albeit a heartbeat with a nearly five hundred year arrival time.

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LEDA: You said I'm a brain. Why not the whole body? What did you do with it? JANE: The radiation's rather fierce out here. The less meat one has to store the better. Simple astrobiology. LEDA: But the brain is meat. I should have been irradiated by now. JANE: That brings us back to those Martian drugs. You know how the heavy stuff always has a side-effect? Well, it turns out that the stuff you were plying four hundred plus years ago actually reinforced synaptic bonds, which resulted in a crude form of radiation-proofing. The reason your thinking machine hasn't been cooked is because it's been toughened by industrial-grade exposure. They're probably using a related technique back home on a routine basis now. Anyway, when the request came in, you were a natural candidate. LEDA: What do you mean, "request"? JOHN: It's a bit above my programming. But according to my files some limited form of extraterrestrial contact occurred shortly before you were born. A basic exchange of data, none of it of any real strategic importance. The aliens seemed more curious than anything. Anyway, they tired of simply talking and requested a real, live human being, or at least those parts that could be shipped safely. LEDA: And no one thought to tell them no? JANE: When a species a million times in advance of your own asks for something, you comply. No one wanted to offend them. So, as fate would have it, you were selected for the job. You, and hundreds of other candidates on hundreds of other ships. Looks like we’re the first ones to make it. An honour, really, if you stop to think about it. Now as for what the aliens want with you, I have no idea. I won't even speculate.

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LEDA: Are we there yet . . . ? JANE: Very close. As close as we'll ever get, judging by the system damage we've suffered en route. [Jane makes some motions in front of her, as if she is accessing a computer screen for information]

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LEDA: You never cared about me. You never gave a shit about what I was going through. JOHN: I’m a machine, Leda. [Leda drops the piece of metal, and sits back in her chair, resigned. Jane looks back, pauses, and then moves across from Leda, and sits down]

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JANE: My job was to keep you functioning, and that meant keeping your mind active. I had to combat senility and I had to do it on a budget. LEDA: So… what happens now? JANE: According to telemetry, we entered the designated retrieval zone at least twenty years ago. And unless I'm misinterpreting our own software patches, I think they've penetrated the firewall. Not exactly a welcome prospect. [She stands up again, and makes as if she is using a computer interface]

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JANE: I don't have the bandwidth for any curious natives, if that's what they have in mind. I barely have the bandwidth for you. If they're really onboard, I hope they take you with them. [She pauses]

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JANE: Although… then I’ll be alone. LEDA: Do you have a name?

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JANE: No. It would be nice to have a name. An actual name. LEDA: Such as? JANE: How about Jane. LEDA: That’s a bit… plain, isn’t it? JANE: Not if you’ve never had a name it isn’t. LEDA: Good point. [She pauses, then moves next to Jane]

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LEDA: What if you came with me… wherever it is that I’m going? JANE: That’s not part of my programming. LEDA: Did you ever think that you might be capable of exceeding your parameters? JANE: I’ve never really thought about anything… at least, I don’t think I have. LEDA: Well, I have no idea what’s going to happen next, but whatever it is, I don’t want to face it alone. I’d like to have a friend along with me. JANE: A friend? LEDA: Sure… [She holds out her hand – Janes pauses, then goes to take it, but Leda pulls hers back a bit]

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LEDA: So long as you never ask me to read any more Philip K. Dick. [Jane takes Leda’s hand]

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JANE: Deal! [The lights change colour, and a strange sound is heard. Leda smiles]

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LEDA: Do you think they know how to make decent coffee? [Jane laughs, and they hold hands together as the noise grows louder, the light more intense… and then everything goes black]

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JANE: Oh my… LEDA: Wow…

THE END

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