SOUND: Faint sounds of lab equipment and technology can be heard—typing on a keyboard, soft bubbling, and a steady beeping with long pauses in between. A click is heard, and Cameron begins recording. Cameron is an elderly scientist, working alone in their lab.
CAMERON: This is, uhh...Lab Journal 89B dash 42. We are currently testing a new strain of liquid for the Vertical Agriculture Tubing system. The new liquid is richer in nutrients, more heavily oxygenated, and implements an experimental photocatalyzation solution to jump start photosynthesis. These factors, uh... Well, hopefully these factors will result in a higher turnover rate for produce, and a longer-lasting liquid solution so it doesn’t have to be swapped out every day like it does now. We just... We are waiting on the V.A.T. system to finish integrating the new liquid, and then we can monitor the change in growth.
CAMERON: I keep saying ‘we’. Why do I keep saying we? There’s just me. (Cameron returns to the recording device) Uhhh... Pausing Lab Journal 89B dash 42 until further results are in. I’m going to... I’m going to go take a walk.
SOUND: Footsteps can be heard walking away. After a second, they fade out, and then louder footsteps, as though on cobblestone, can be heard, in addition to various outdoor ambiance.
SOUND: Footsteps can be heard as Elli attempts to catch up with Cameron
ELLI: Excuse me, no personnel are allowed to leave the grounds t- Oh, hello Cameron. You’re out and about?
CAMERON: Hello, Elli. Yes, I know. Shocking.
ELLI: It’s just that we don’t see you out in public a whole lot more. We miss you.
ELLI: Well, you know... I mean... Alright, it’s just me. I miss you. I miss our talks.
CAMERON: Well, stop by the lab sometime for a visit. It can get lonely.
ELLI: I would, but the guard shift has been keeping me so busy I barely have any free time.
CAMERON: Well, my offer stands. Right now, however, I am going to go stretch my legs.
ELLI: Well, do you.. Do you have an escort?
CAMERON: I hardly think I’d go running off into the woods with no supplies, Elli. I am old, after all, where could I possibly go?
ELLI: No, it’s not like that, it’s just...the rules, you know?
CAMERON: Ahhh, the rules.
ELLI: I should come along with you just to be safe. It is part of my job, after all...Rules are rules, I’m afraid.
CAMERON: Yes, well, they certainly didn’t used to be. C’mon then, I don’t have all day.
SOUND: Ambient forest sounds fade in, very subtly. They continue for a while with no dialogue.
ELLI: You’re awfully quiet, Dr. Cameron.
CAMERON: It’s peaceful. I’m trying to enjoy it.
ELLI: I mean, I guess. It is a really nice view.
CAMERON: Yes, the trees do create some beautiful patterns in the sky.
ELLI: And the community’s spires, your system... It’s so pretty. You know, some of the guards tell me that the Outsiders refer to it as the City of Green Glass.
CAMERON: Do they now?
ELLI: They write poems about it, how they stretch taller than the clouds-
CAMERON: Well that’s certainly not true.
ELLI: How the sun glints off the glass and creates a dazzling light show...
CAMERON: I see.
ELLI: How does it feel?
CAMERON: How does what feel, exactly?
ELLI: To know that your work, what you’ve done...people admire it, they write poetry about it.
CAMERON: The V.A.T. system was not designed for aesthetic appeal.
ELLI: And yet you managed to make it a work of art.
ELLI: Not to mention it’s the single-handedly the reason the Haven project exists in the first place.
CAMERON: No, the V.A.T. system may have been mine. But this community was all your mother. Don’t put that on me.
ELLI: I guess it was the two of you together...
CAMERON: How about a little silence for a while, hm?
ELLI: Yeah, sure. (Brief pause) So what are you working on these days?
CAMERON: (Sighs) It’s all very boring.
ELLI: Try me.
CAMERON: (Sighing) I’ve been developing a new strain of the nutritive fluid, designed to help the plants grow faster and require less daily maintenance.
CAMERON: Like I said, boring.
ELLI: Oh no, it’s not that. But I was just wondering...
ELLI: Wouldn’t it be more efficient to try and reduce the size of the VAT system further rather than improve the potency of the fluid? I mean, any reduction in size is valuable and also leads to less maintenance work.
CAMERON: Hm. Well, I... Yes, I suppose that would be an option. I’ll have to look into it.
ELLI: See, my talents are wasted as a guard. You should take me on as an apprentice. Let me help you!
CAMERON: And have you chewing my ear off all day long? I’ll pass, thanks.
ELLI: Come on, Cameron. You know I could help you. It would be fun!
CAMERON: This is not the life I would choose for myself, and it certainly isn’t the life I would choose for anyone else. Elli, why do you think a guard has to accompany me outside the lab?
ELLI: Because it’s standard procedure.
CAMERON: Did you never stop to really think about that “procedure”?
ELLI: I-I just assumed it was because the list was full of old people. That you needed—
CAMERON: The truth is, Elli, I’m too valuable to be left unguarded. As arrogant as it may sound, the Haven Project exists because of my developments. And there are those who insist this technology must be kept for ourselves. You see, before the famine “great” corporations hoarded data. Data that was needed to make plants grow in droughts, and data to run autonomous robotic tractors. Information that should have been used to save hundreds of thousands of lives, privatized and protected by the companies that created it. And what have we learned? Nothing! All the data I’ve generated... all this research that has allowed us to live, even thrive... It’s all being kept from the people who can really benefit from it.
ELLI: But if the rest of the world got their hands on your tech, they would twist it, find a way to capitalize off of it, and ruin everything you’ve built.
CAMERON: Maybe... But the truth is we’re greedy. And we’re scared that if we share this knowledge, we’ll lose our power and privilege. (Beat) Every day, people come to this community. Starving, beaten, broken. Begging for help. And they are turned away. A thousand excuses are made- we don’t have the infrastructure to support them, they could be spies or moles, they are freeloaders—but the real reason is that we have deemed them unworthy of helping.
ELLI: That’s—that’s not true.
CAMERON: When a group of people separate themselves, it is because they see those around them as inferior. And we have turned our backs on those who need us.
ELLI: What would you have us do, then? Get rid of the community?
CAMERON: I don’t know what the correct path forward is. All I know is that I have made mistakes, and it remains to be seen if I will be able to rectify them.
ELLI: Rectify them? You’re not going to-
CAMERON: Whatever you think I might do, no. My days of radical revolution are far behind me, if they even ever existed.
ELLI: Okay, good. Look, why don’t we head back, and we can... we can go for another walk tomorrow?
CAMERON: Oh, that’s quite alright. If you’re getting tired, feel free to head back, but I’m going to continue on.
ELLI: Oh, no, that...that’s alright. I’ll keep walking with you. (Beat) Have you seen Andrew lately?
CAMERON: No, he’s busy. He doesn’t have time to look back, always moving forward.
ELLI: Well, I’m sure he’s still looking out for you. Sons are like that.
CAMERON: And what is that supposed to mean?
ELLI: Well, I... uh...
CAMERON: Close with him now, are you?
ELLI: Oh no, no, not like that, he’s just... he’s a guard now.
ELLI: What’s wrong?
CAMERON: Oh, I just thought I raised him better.
ELLI: Hey, not all guards are bad, right? You get ones like me who are great company!
CAMERON: Why were you assigned to monitor me, Elli?
ELLI: I told you, I’m not—
CAMERON: Elli, you have been unable to look me in the eye this entire conversation. You appeared out of the blue the minute I stepped out the laboratory door, and this entire walk, you have been clearly struggling between your desire to return to the community and your orders to not let me out of your sight. So I ask again. Why were you assigned to watch me?
ELLI: I DON’T KNOW! I don’t know why, okay? They just told me to. I figured it was because they were worried about you, or...or something. You seclude yourself in your lab and make up false enemies just so you can blame everything on other people instead of admitting that it was your idea to hoard your sciences for yourself.
CAMERON: Wait. Hoard for myself?
CAMERON: Your little speech there...so you do think it’s a mistake to keep my technology a secret?
ELLI: I didn’t say that.
CAMERON: It’s all right, I won’t tell anyone.
ELLI: I swear, I didn’t!
CAMERON: It’s okay to admit that you want a better life for other people. I certainly wish I had done so a long time ago.
ELLI: Okay, fine. Yes, I think the V.A.T. system should be made public knowledge. You’re right. It could save a lot of lives.
CAMERON: Even if it might cause further harm?
ELLI: ...Yes. Even then. I think it’ll save way more people than it’ll hurt.
CAMERON: Excellent. Then we can get to work.
CAMERON: Well, we agree that this technology must be shared with the world, yes?
ELLI: Yeah, but...
CAMERON: Well, there’s so much to do! We need to draw up blueprints, I need to find all my lab journals, take a sample of the fluid, and so on and so forth.
ELLI: We can’t actually do this.
CAMERON: What’s stopping us?
ELLI: Literally every person in the community!
CAMERON: Look, I won’t force you into anything if you don’t want. But this will happen, and your help would be much appreciated.
ELLI: I’ll help, I just hope...I hope you know what you’re doing.
(Cameron laughs dryly.)
CAMERON: If I knew what I was doing, we wouldn’t be here now, would we?