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Tatiana Pavela as Constance, Carolyn Marie Monroe as Nadine, Kris Corbitt as Gunmetal Sally. Photo by Joe Iano.

Miles To Go Before I Eat

Produced at 14/48 Nordo: Food Theater Thunderdome, 8/27-8/29, 2015. The randomly drawn theme for that night: "First Ones There." My random actor draw: write a play for one man and four women. 14/48 Nordo also adds a few other random options: in this case, I was assigned the entree course (play #3 out of 4 in the lineup), and my chef received the randomly rolled surprise ingredient of "popcorn". (Play #1's surprise ingredient was "sumac".)

MIRANDA, teenager
NADINE, healer
GUNMETAL SALLY, constable
CONSTANCE, chef
ALAN BLAKE, admiral

Lights up on a supply capsule on stage. It's big, surfaced with sheer steel, and scorched all to hell. No blinky lights; no antennae; no stripes or fancy markings; we might just possibly see signs of tiny little rocket thrusters inset at points. Itís basically a very sturdy refrigerator that someone launched out of the equivalent of a big catapult millions of miles away; it traveled ballistically that entire way and then used these little tiny rockets to make minute course adjustments as it descended to the surface of this planet. Hopefully, we see some kind of small, hydraulic-looking lever on the side as the only visible ornamentation.

MIRANDA stands next to the capsule at the opening of the show.

MIRANDA: What happened was, planet Earth turned into a shit hole and we all had to leave. Way before I was born, so I had nothing to do with it. But now here I am, stuck living on a different shit hole halfway across the galaxy. Mom said we were the scouting mission and all we had to do was survive until the fleet got here. Ships big as this whole continent, she said, full of people. And I was like, full of the same people who made planet Earth a shit hole in the first place? And she was like, what are you, an asshole? Sheís dead now, so whatever.

NADINE, CONSTANCE, and GUNMETAL SALLY enter. Everyoneís got big backpacks. These are settlers in distressed American clothes of various stripes: shouldnít all be camping gear, but a blend of hand-me-down clothing of various fashions dating back to an original generation of refugees who left Earth long ago. A mix & match quality to the costuming would be appropriate. Gunmetal Sally might be clever enough to have the trappings of a uniformed shirt or even just a badge dangling on a chain; Nadine might wear rubber gloves as a sign of her station; etc. I wouldnít go over the top silly here; theyíre all living in the equivalent of stark subsistence level poverty on a hostile planet, wearing literally the clothes the original settlers had on their backs.

SALLY: There you are, Miranda. Shouldnít be surprised youíd get here first. Why didnít you signal us?

MIRANDA: Thatís Gunmetal Sally. Sheís the constable.

NADINE: She was smart not to signal. Might be men nearby.

MIRANDA: Thatís Nadine. Best healer we got.

CONSTANCE: Iím sure the men saw the capsule crash, same as us.

MIRANDA: And thatís Constance. She runs the mess tent.

NADINE: Miranda, step back away from there. Might be radioactive.

MIRANDA: Donít feel hot or nothing.

NADINE: Might be medical supplies inside, might be a breach in the heat shield-

MIRANDA: If there was a breach in the heat shield, capsule woulda burned up in atmo.

CONSTANCE: You can say ďatmosphereĒ, Miranda, youíre a civilian.

MIRANDA: Mom was an officer-

CONSTANCE: You donít inherit rank, girl, specially not when youíre fourteen.

MIRANDA: Anyway, donít feel hot or nothing.

SALLY: We probably got half a day before the men get here. Fission tractors are mighty slow and theyíre too lazy to walk.

CONSTANCE: I ainít lazy, Sally, but I donít imagine we can haul this thing down off the mountain without a tractor either. We need to blow it open before they get here and take what we can.

NADINE: We canít risk damaging the supplies! If thatís a laboratory pod, we could finally have a way to manufacture medicine again!

SALLY: Or it might be weapons inside - what if we explode a pile of ammunition by mistake?

MIRANDA: Donít need to blow it open. This hereís the release lever for the lid.

CONSTANCE: Your mother teach you that too?

MIRANDA: The whole point of a supply capsule is, getting the supplies out.

CONSTANCE: Officer material I see.

NADINE: Letís get on with it, then. Plenty of sick women got their hopes wrapped up in that pod. Iím sure you know the feeling, Miranda.

CONSTANCE: Nadine, for godís sake.

NADINE: I just mean-

SALLY: Time is of the essence, yes thatís true. Miranda, would you do the honors?

Miranda throws the release lever, and the lid pops open. Nearby in a white pool of light, ALAN BLAKE appears: primly dressed, but even his clothes show some wear. He pauses to take in his surroundings, then smiles and addresses them.

BLAKE: Greetings, brave explorers. Congratulations on retrieving this supply capsule! Iím afraid I donít recognize any of you, and I suspect you donít recognize me either. Iím Admiral Alan Blake.

MIRANDA: No you ainít.

BLAKE: Well, of course not, young lady. Iím an intelligent software agent, scanned from the mind of the original Admiral, stored on the capsuleís quantum drive, and holographically projected by the capsuleís signalling beacon. I bring you a message from the fleet.

NADINE: Can it wait until after we see whatís inside?

BLAKE: By all means, donít let me slow you down. Youíve waited a long time for these capsules!

Nadine and Constance go to the capsule, edging Miranda out of the way. Sally remains focused on Blake.

SALLY: ďCapsulesĒ?

BLAKE: We sent thirty-eight.

SALLY: Only found one.

BLAKE: You only tracked one signalling beacon?

SALLY: Didnít track no beacon, just watched the damn thing fall out of the sky.

Nadine and Constance each pull flat silver pouches out of the capsule.

CONSTANCE: What are these - seed kits? Protein gels?

BLAKE: Theyíre ingredient packs.

NADINE: I donít see any medicine, can that be right?

BLAKE: Several capsules contained medicinal packs-

SALLY: Only found one.

BLAKE: You mentioned that.

NADINE: Shouldnít medicine be in every capsule? Redundancy in case one got lost?

BLAKE: We packed them haphazardly I know. We were under so much pressure to organize the launch-

CONSTANCE: So this entire capsule is nothing but ingredient packs?

BLAKE: Very tasty ingredient packs!

CONSTANCE: I think you mighta guessed, based on losing contact with the colony years ago, that we might not have any god damn working printers on this planet-

BLAKE: The capsule itself also functions as a printer!

NADINE: Can it print medicine too? Antibiotics or painkillers or anything?

BLAKE: Yes, if you can find the medicinal packs in the other capsules-

NADINE: And just where the hell are these other capsules? How the hell did you even target us?

BLAKE: We couldnít target you! We had your last position, but your beacons all vanished-

SALLY: So you just launched them blind?

BLAKE: Dispersion pattern. Best we could do.

CONSTANCE: But that means - men could have those other capsules.

SALLY: What else is in them? Did you send weapons into a combat zone?

BLAKE: Of course not, of course not!

MIRANDA: Admiral Blake, permission to speak?

The women fall silent; they knew this moment was coming.

MIRANDA: Sir, my name is Miranda Blake. My mother was Lieutenant Cecilia Blake, communications specialist. She sent the last message you ever got from us before they blew up her transmitting station. She was always real proud she managed to send it. She told me, just be patient, girl, Dadíll sort this mess out when the fleet gets here. But the fleetís been due, ainít it? For so long itís been due. The fleet ainít coming, right, Admiral? Thatís your message for us?

BLAKE: Fleet tore itself apart, once they heard - what the men were doing on the colony. Fleet ainít comingÖ fleet ainít there anymore. Youíre all thatís left, and you gotta make do.

NADINE: Fleet shoulda had two hundred supply capsules left.

BLAKE: Took a lot of heroics just to fire off thirty-eight.

MIRANDA: So Momís last message killed the fleet.

BLAKE: No, young lady, no. Men killed the fleet. What your mother did with her last message was - she sent you that very capsule, full of ingredients, and she expected you to use Ďem.

Beat.

SALLY: Whatcha got there anyway, Constance?

CONSTANCE: Less Iím mistaken, we got ourselves several hundred packs labeled ďpopcorn.Ē

BLAKE: Check again, there should be a couple marked ďsumac.Ē

SALLY: We canít get the capsule off this mountain without a tractor, which we ainít got. But we got a hungry search party gathering all around us here. Constance, think you can print up something edible for dinner?

CONSTANCE: They were eating popcorn back home five thousand years before Christ. Expect itíll be good enough for us. Iíll figure something out, Sally.

MIRANDA: Ain't never had "popcorn" before.

CONSTANCE: The printer can make more than just actual popped corn from the compounds in these packs. You'll see, we're getting quite a treat here today.

NADINE: Weíll have to destroy the capsule before we leave here. Canít let the men get hold of it. Canít let them to talk to you, Admiral, or learn what else is on that ďquantum driveĒ.

MIRANDA: But letís say out of all thirty-eight capsules, weíre looking at the first one to make it here. Ainít the rest gonna re-target the only active signalling beacon on the planet?

BLAKE: To be sure.

MIRANDA: Then I guess I better strip that beacon out and take it with us.

BLAKE: Want me to talk you through how to remove it safely?

MIRANDA: Uh, pretty sure I know my way around a comm system, Admiral.

BLAKE: I imagine thatís trueÖ Lieutenant.

MIRANDA: Ladies, whatever we can't print in the next few minutes, I want packed up and carried back to camp. If we score another capsule down the road, we'll want to print popcorn again some day. Now who brought the charges?

CONSTANCE: I did. But I suppose I should keep printing dinner instead of planting explosives?

MIRANDA: I suppose that's true, Chief.

CONSTANCE: Oh please.

MIRANDA: Oh please, Lieutenant.

CONSTANCE: Ain't calling you "Lieutenant" til you go through boot camp, young lady.

SALLY: What boot camp?

CONSTANCE: The one I'm setting up special when we get back.

NADINE: I'll set the charges. But do me a favor, Constance, print up some actual kernels, will you? Let's show the young Lieutenant what some real popcorn actually looks like.

MIRANDA: Anyway, that was popcorn dinner. Sally got us moving as fast as possible, trying to get the beacon well out of sight of the men, and sure enough, other capsules started landing - sixteen altogether. We set up a new camp where they all collected. Got a new holiday now. Pretty stupid name, we just call it Popcorn Day. Once a year, we fire up all the printers and let 'em rip.

An explosion of popcorn shoots out the top of the capsule. Blackout.




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