1.3 Volunteering

IMMUNITIES EPISODE 1.3 – VOLUNTEERING

SETTING – Underground Security Office. Literally underground, basement room with office equipment humming.

SOUND: Craig hunts & pecks a message on a laptop computer.

SOUND: Knock on the door.

CRAIG

Yeah?

(THERESA BREWSTER, a very focused, athletic young woman pokes her head in. She speaks very correctly, but as if English, or the American version of it, is her second language.)

BREWSTER

Nicole is here, Major Craig.

CRAIG

Ah, finally. Send her in, Thee. [“th” pronounced as in Smith]

BREWSTER (outside)

Go on in.

NICOLE BALTROW. She’s a little intimidated about her job, but often hides it under a somewhat stoner-ish bravado.

NICOLE (outside)

Thanks.

SOUND: Nicole walks in, Craig continues to type.

CRAIG

Nikki! How’s the open road?

NICOLE

(weary)

Not as open as it used to be, sir.

CRAIG

Ha! You sound old beyond your years.

NICOLE

I’m fine, sir, really, just tired. The Lookers are tailing our trucks even closer now, and the truckers are getting jittery. Someone followed the apple truck I was on for twenty miles, and the the driver gave me a choice between tossing my data card out the window, and walking.

CRAIG

And you preferred to walk?

NICOLE

*scoff*

I would have preferred to keep going like we were and take our chances. I could always wipe the data and dump it at the last second. But the driver wouldn’t go for that, so I figured maybe I could make him feel guilty by saying I’d get out. But he made me go through with it.

CRAIG

Called your bluff.

NICOLE

Yeah. But I remembered there was a friendly farm about seven miles away. So I hoofed it over there, helped the old farmer put out a westbound pick-up signal, and a panel van carrying plumbing supplies took me on five hours later. They picked up a tail too, so I was afraid it might be tricky getting out, but the tail disappeared and they dropped me at a quiet bend about four miles out of town. I met up with my cousin Dominic, he led me around the Looker stake-outs, and here I am, just nine hours late. Hopefully something in here is worth it.

SOUND: Nikki puts a data card on the desk.

CRAIG

(bantering)

Hate to say it, but I wouldn’t bet on it. You showed a lot of nerve and moxy, Nikki, but try not to strand yourself like that again. You’re little, I wouldn’t want you eaten by coyotes out there.

NICOLE

I can handle it.

CRAIG

(sounding more serious)

Nikki, it is sometimes necessary to ignore danger, but don’t do it just to sound tough. The coyotes thing was kidding but not kidding, you get me?

NICOLE

Uh…yes sir.

CRAIG

How was the farmer?

NICOLE

Happy of the company. He says he doesn’t talk to his Looker neighbors much and he always fights with his Looker family when they visit. He made me dinner, and said I reminded him of how his daughter-in-law used to be. Really nice guy, but maybe getting a little buggy from being on his own.

CRAIG

Well, I guess it’s good you paid him a visit, then. Maybe Jordan can get the Lookers to authorize some car travel, so we can make visits to isolated Immunes in the name of mental health.

NICOLE

*mirthless chuckle*

You’re doing social work now, sir?

CRAIG

It’s all one thing, Nikki. Trust me. And also trust me when I say that next time you’re given that choice you should dump the data unless you were told it’s urgent

NICOLE

People who dump their cargo don’t get promoted to Guide, sir. When you’ve got a human package you can’t just dump it.

CRAIG

That’s your ambition? Spend your life smuggling non-Immunes from one Overlook to another? That’s a lot of sleepless nights.

NICOLE

They need good people, sir, and I think that I am good people. Though I guess I’ve never seen how it could be so important to move anyone from Point A to Point B. All the vehicle changes, the waits, the sweats, the layovers, and then maybe you get caught anyway and your package gets turned into a Looker. SD cards are lighter, more disposable, and they don’t forget details.

CRAIG

Yeah, but our puny human brains need contact with other brains in order to function, and the Lookers are snooping on all the long distance lines. So the only way to have a real give-and-take without them knowing about it is to put the actual givers and takers together.

NICOLE

If you say so.

*pause*

What do they give-and-take about?

CRAIG

That is above your pay grade, courier. Rest assured, if they set the Guides to move someone, it’s important. Now, let’s see what Regional sent.

*pause*

Is this all covert?

NICOLE

No, sir, some of it is overt. They threw it onto my package so their regular guy could save a trip and all the inspections.

SOUND: Craig puts an SD card into a slot and gets his laptop to read it.

CRAIG

Hm.

NICOLE

I told them you wouldn’t like that.

CRAIG

I don’t love it. Treat the public stuff like secret stuff and pretty soon they’ll start treating the secrets like they’re public. Plus it’s good to give the Lookers something to inspect, keeps them busy and happy. But I imagine the Regional folks are distracted by the preparations for Thursday.

NICOLE

Thursday, sir?

CRAIG

Now I’m doing it. Forget I said that.

NICOLE

Yes sir. And I’ll also forget that they did seem to be busy about something.

CRAIG

Good to know. Let’s see here…Huh, the Lookers are going to let us resettle 53 of our Betas in the Overlook downstate. Looks like Jordan has really been on their case.

NICOLE

That’s great.

CRAIG

Mmm-hmm. Wonder if we could get them to deport Weird Gwen.

NICOLE

Well, we could tell them she-

CRAIG

Belay that. Gwen’s an institution at this point; people would get nervous if she wasn’t there.

NICOLE

Yes, sir.

SOUND: Laser printer prints a page. Craig hands it to Nicole.

CRAIG

Here, take this to Smith. Tell him I’ll need two buses and four people. Two licensed drivers, and two EMTs if he can find them, in case any of the Betas have a bad reaction. They should all be primary immune, and all clean, the buses and the people. Jordan’s gotten them to call this a Department Of Health contract so they’ll get diesel rations and everyone gets paid in newdollars. But they’ve all got to have good current documents, right?

NICOLE

Right.

CRAIG

Aw Christ they’ve got Sylvia Scholl handling the Looker end of it. I’d rather be dipped in red ants than have to be civil to that psycho witch again.

NICOLE

*gulps*

Yow.

CRAIG

*chuckle*

Sorry. I probably shouldn’t let her get to me. They’re all interchangeable, right? But something about her just gets under my skin. It’s like, they all think they’re better than us, but she’s not satisfied unless she lets you know it at least once a minute.

NICOLE

Accurate.

CRAIG
Ah, you’ve met her?

NICOLE

A couple times in passing. I’ve heard of her more than I’ve actually seen her.

CRAIG

That’s a good way to keep it. Have Smith look down the list for someone who can liaise with Scholl so I don’t have to. Lawyer, accountant, someone with paper-shuffling skills. Those things worship procedure.

NICOLE

I’ll do that.

CRAIG

And don’t let Smith give you any grief for pushing this onto him. He’s gonna earn points with somebody for giving them a job with real money and travel attached and he knows it.

NICOLE

Got it.

SOUND: Craig goes back to typing, briefly, then stops.

CRAIG

You still here?

NICOLE

Um, sorry sir, I’ll get-

CRAIG

Just kidding, just kidding. Hang out for a little while. Sack out on the couch while I go through this stuff. There might be more deliveries to make.

NICOLE

Will do, sir. Um…while we’re talking, there’s another thing.

SOUND: CRAIG mouse-clicking.

CRAIG

(mind on his computer)

Yeah?

NICOLE

I should probably have taken it to Thee- I mean to Ensign Brewster but-

CRAIG

Yeah well I’m listening now, talk.

NICOLE

Well when I met up with Dominic, he had his girlfriend with him.

CRAIG

(amused but disapproving)

Hm. Keeping him company?

NICOLE

That was my assumption too, but it turned out she was waiting to talk to me. She told me she has some important information, but said it was very dangerous and she didn’t want to write it down. All a little dicey but I guess she’d been waiting for nine hours, so that counts for something.

CRAIG

Huh. What’s her name?

NICOLE

Roxanne Scholl. She’s a Stayer, lives with her Looker family. Works at one of their retrotech shops.

CRAIG

You check her file?

NICOLE

I asked Ensign Brewster to pull it, just now. I figured you’d want to know. Certified primary. We’ve never used her for anything, but she’s come in for training a couple times, fills out the monthly questionnaire on time. Her sister’s in the Data Exchange. Mom & Dad work at the Liaison Office.

CRAIG

Her mother is Sylvia Scholl, then?

NICOLE

Yeah.

CRAIG

And that explains your reaction to my reaction earlier. Hm. And Dominic’s your actual cousin?

NICOLE

Yeah.

CRAIG

It’s a good and rare thing to have real family around these days.

NICOLE

I try to keep that in mind, sir. Especially when he pulls a stunt like this.

CRAIG

*chuckle*

Good.

(musing)

Hmmm…Roxanne Scholl. I must have seen her at some point, probably before I knew who Sylvia Scholl was. I’m picturing someone about Dominic’s age, a few inches shorter, pretty, and looks smarter than him?

NICOLE

That’s fair to say.

CRAIG

Well it was just a guess, I can’t picture her at all. Okay, ask around about her. If she seems clean I’ll meet her.

NICOLE

YOU will? Um, I was thinking we could push her off on anybody. She’s not impressed with me because she knows me, but anyone else-

CRAIG

Nah, I should get to know more of my troops. We are ALL the Resistance, after all. Tell Thee to set up a time and place, asap. She won’t like it, so tell her it’s your idea.

NICOLE

Yes, sir.

CRAIG

Okay. Any more surprises?

NICOLE

No, sir.

CRAIG

Dismissed, then.

NICOLE

Yes-

Craig

Oh and Nicole?

NICOLE

Yes?

CRAIG

Keep Thursday afternoon open, okay? I might have a job that a guide-to-be would find interesting.

NICOLE

Yes sir!

SETTING – Railroad siding.

SOUND – Train horn.

SOUND – Roxanne walks on gravel.

ROXANNE

*hums “Yellow Rose Of Texas” to herself, then stops on a false note out of alarm*

*pause*

Nicole.

NICOLE

Hey Rox. How was work?

ROXANNE

Dragging even more than usual. I still haven’t made up the sleep I lost waiting on you the other night.

NICOLE

Not my choice, I promise you.

ROXANNE

No! Of course. Sorry. So wait, are you here because of what I….

NICOLE

(cutting in)

Just follow me.

ROXANNE

I usually wait for Dom here.

NICOLE

(again)
I told him you’d won’t be meeting him.

Beat.

ROXANNE

You know, you’re a lot scarier when you’re on a mission.

NICOLE

I kind of try to be. Let’s go.

SOUND: Gravel footsteps turn to traill footsteps.

ROXANNE

Are you taking me to the Major?

NICOLE

No, I’m not cleared to know where you’re meeting. We keep everything pretty compartmentalized in case someone gets arrested.

ROXANNE

How often does that happen?

NICOLE

Not at all around here lately, but it’s happened in other places I’ve been.

ROXANNE

What do they do to the people they arrest?

NICOLE

Interrogate them. Try to convince them to cooperate. Trade them for favors. Let them go, randomly, in order to confuse us. They’ve got a veritable panoply of stratagems.

ROXANNE

But not around here.

NICOLE

The Major’s a careful man.

BREWSTER

That he is.

ROXANNE

*gasps*

NICOLE

*chuckles*

Roxane, this is Ensign Theresa Brewster. She’s the one who taught me how to be scary.

BREWSTER

Good to meet you.

ROXANNE

Hello. What should I call you?

BREWSTER

My friends call me Thee. Since you were considerate enough to ask, and you’re Nicole’s friend, and Nicole is being so polite today, you may call me Thee.

NICOLE

This is where I bounce. Good luck, guys.

ROXANNE & BREWSTER

Thank you.

SOUND: Footsteps away. Then Roxanne & Theresa’s steps begin.

BREWSTER

Let us go. We have some distance to cover to get to the rendezvous.

ROXANNE

Are you going to blindfold me or something?

BREWSTER

(amused)

Hm. That would be impractical. And with apologies, I won’t take you anywhere particularly important to us.

ROXANNE

But it’s still too important for Nicole to know.

BREWSTER

There was no reason for her to know. And besides, habit is important.

ROXANNE

The Major said that, at my briefing, months ago.

BREWSTER

He says it a lot.

SOUND: Just footsteps for a few moments.

ROXANNE

ENSIGN Brewster. Were you in the navy?

BREWSTER
Yes I was. Though I was in the Reserve by the time the Look happened. But the Major likes those of us who had ranks to use them, for instance his own. There aren’t many immune servicepeople around here, and he thinks it inspires confidence.

ROXANNE

Do you guys, the resist-

BREWSTER
Do not use that word out here.

ROXANNE

Oh right, gotcha. Do you guys give out ranks?

BREWSTER

No. We think it would needlessly antagonize the Lookers. Make it seem like we’re building an army.

ROXANNE

And we’re not?

BREWSTER
We do not want it to seem like we are.

SOUND: Footsteps for a few moments.

ROXANNE

This is all pretty intimidating for me. I almost chickened out a bunch of times. But the information was just too important-

BREWSTER

Save your information for the next stage. I don’t need to know it.

ROXANNE

Oh okay. I’m sorry.

BREWSTER

Do not be sorry. Learn.

SOUND: Footsteps

BREWSTER

I hear you strip down TVs.

ROXANNE

Lately, yeah.

BREWSTER

What sort? CRT, LCD, Plasma?

ROXANNE
All of the above. Different procedures for each.

BREWSTER

I imagine the CRTs are tricky.

ROXANNE

Oh definitely. There are a bunch of grounding and non-grounding procedures to keep us from getting zapped or frying something with the residual electricity.

BREWSTER

And you have mastered those procedures?

ROXANNE

I’m pretty good with procedures in general, once I force myself to concentrate and learn them. I was pretty good at science in school. I guess that’s why Mom is always going on at me about my potential.

BREWSTER

Always? Now AND before?

ROXANNE

Yeah, definitely both. Some things are stronger than alien energy I guess. I was just thinking that the other day.

BREWSTER

Why do you live with your family?

ROXANNE

*noise of uncertainty*

Just seemed like the thing to do, I guess. They said they’d take care of me, and I kind of wanted to test that.

BREWSTER

And you haven’t regretted it?

ROXANNE

I’ve regretted it lots of times. But then I’d have regretted leaving too. And then there’s…well the stuff I need to tell the Major about, which I guess I should keep to myself.

BREWSTER

Indeed you should.

*pause*

I couldn’t do it.

ROXANNE

Couldn’t…stay with your family?

BREWSTER

Couldn’t stay with anyone I used to know. That is why I came here. Everyone here has already changed or never will. A lot easier to keep track of, emotionally.

ROXANNE

Yeah, I imagine that’ll make it a lot easier for you if things get hairy. I’m still sorting out how I’d react if you guys asked me to…wait.

BREWSTER

Hmm?

ROXANNE

When you asked me about work, was that to assess my skills, to see if I’d be able to build a…some kind of device?

BREWSTER

It’s good to know what people are capable of. Or would be if they applied themselves to fulfilling their potential, as I am guessing your mother would say.

ROXANNE

But what about things I’m just not willing to do? That’s one I’m already fighting with Mom about.

BREWSTER
That is also a consideration. But such priorities can change along with the stakes of the situation one finds oneself in.

ROXANNE

Well, I hope things don’t reach that stage.

BREWSTER

Of course you do.

ROXANNE

That’s not super-reassuring.

BREWSTER
The Major handles morale. I deal in facts and probabilities. We and the Lookers are on cross trajectories. Both sides have tried to slow down, but unless something unexpected changes those trajectories, a collision is inevitable. So we must prepare for the worst.

ROXANNE

And I imagine you can’t tell me about that part.

BREWSTER

No, I cannot. Perhaps we should walk in silence for a while.

SOUND: Footsteps fade out, as keyboard typing fades in.

SETTING – Abandoned classroom.

SOUND: Knock at door.

CRAIG

Come in.

SOUND: The door opens.

BREWSTER

I’m here with Roxanne Scholl.

CRAIG

Send her in. Wait outside.

BREWSTER

(outside)

He can see you now.

SOUND: Craig rises from his chair.

CRAIG

Hello Ms. Scholl, I’m Jefferson Craig. Good to meet you. Pull up one of those chair desks.

SOUND: They shake hands and sit.

ROXANNE

Thank you…Major Craig. Funny. I went to school in this building. I guess the Lookers don’t do school the same way.

CRAIG

No they do not.

ROXANNE

Um…I’ve met you before. You gave a speech at one of my training sessions.

CRAIG

I’m glad you remember.

ROXANNE

You had some good things to say about us all doing our part. It helped me to not dwell on my own personal situation, and see the big picture. And to keep alert for anything I could do, to help us all.

CRAIG

That’s good.

*pause*

I’m told you have something to tell me?

ROXANNE

I’m sorry. So yeah.This is something that’ll sound…well obviously six months ago I’d have thought everything that’s going on now sounded crazy and even a week ago I wouldn’t have believed anything like this…

CRAIG

Why don’t you just start at the beginning?

ROXANNE

Yeah okay. Well you know I live at home, and the rest of my family are all Lookers.

CRAIG

Mmm-hmm.

ROXANNE

So, well, the past week or so, I’ve been having dreams where I talk to my sister, Shelly. And in the dreams she’s normal. Unaltered.

CRAIG

(disappointed, but trying to be helpful)

You know, everyone has The Dream.

ROXANNE

Yeah yeah, I know. But it’s not The Dream. I’ve had that too and it’s totally different. Which…I know that just because it’s not The Dream doesn’t make it real. But I’ve tested it.

CRAIG

(not expecting anything to come of this)

Tested it how?

ROXANNE

My sister and I, in real life, she barely talks to me. My mom harangues me a lot but my sister ignores me. Which isn’t really such a big change. But in my dream she told me about the books she’s reading at the Data Exchange. About Ornithology. And then the next day I asked the…the alien her about what she was reading and she said the same thing. The Looker version of my sister was reading the book my dream version told me she’d be reading.

CRAIG

Hm.

ROXANNE

So I don’t know, it’s like the real Shelly is trapped in there.

CRAIG

M-hm.

ROXANNE

You don’t believe me.

CRAIG

I believe…it could be you’ve had the experiences you describe. But there are a million ways you could have known about the books on some subconscious level.

ROXANNE

*swallow*

That’s true. And when it was just the bird book I didn’t say anything. Believe me I know how crazy it sounds, and on its own it’s not that helpful. But a couple days ago my sister told me something important. She said that they’ve gotten some kind of announcement, directly, via that sky-communication they do. Her and some of her co-workers, specifically ones in their 20s and late teens and in good shape, are going to be mobilized soon to do something against you…against us…against the Resistance.

CRAIG

(highly sceptical)

To do what?

ROXANNE

They didn’t tell her. They just said that on Thursday she should go to a different place than her usual work assignment. Her and the others.

CRAIG

(interest piqued, but trying not to display it)

Every Thursday, or just this Thursday?

ROXANNE

Um, maybe every Thursday?

CRAIG

And is it just her and her co-workers, or other people in the area?

ROXANNE

She couldn’t tell. The messages they get from the sky seem to address just a few of them at a time.

CRAIG

(calmed)

And is this all the information that you have?

ROXANNE

Well, I think that’s the only really important thing. She’s told me some stuff about how the Data Exchange works, how, just like with the announcement, she links with a few of them at a time to share the stuff she’s read. And of course she’s told me a lot about what it’s like to be inside one of them.

CRAIG

And how is that?

ROXANNE

Terrifying.

CRAIG

I’d imagine so. Let me think…do you have access to a secure typewriter or computer at home or at work?

ROXANNE

No sir. I’ve been handwriting my monthlies.

SOUND: Craig flips some pages.

CRAIG

So you have. Well, I have an appointment to keep. Ensign Brewster will let you use her laptop to type up a full report of this whole…phenomenon. Then we’ll figure out what to do next. Who all have you told about this?

ROXANNE

Just you and my…um boyfriend Dominic. He’s a primary.

CRAIG

Okay. Don’t tell anyone else until you hear back from us. And make sure Dominic doesn’t either. Those are orders.

ROXANNE

Yes, sir.

Beat.

CRAIG

Good. We’ll be in touch. Thank you for bringing this to us.

SOUND: Craig stands, as does Roxanne. They shake hands.

ROXANNE

Umm of course.

CRAIG

Wait here.

SOUND: Craig opens and closes the door.

SETTING – Hallway. Somewhat more echo-y.

CRAIG

Thee.

BREWSTER

Yes, sir.

CRAIG

Give her your loaner to make a report on, then come right back. I need to talk something over before you walk her home.

BREWSTER

Yes sir.

SOUND: Door opens.

SETTING: Classroom

BREWSTER

Here is a laptop. I have it in Guest mode. Just start up a text file, type, and save with your name. You can do that?

ROXANNE

Yes.

BREWSTER

I will be outside, conferring with the Major. Wait here until I return. Knock without opening the door if you need anything.

ROXANNE

Okay. You guys’ll be talking about what I said?

BREWSTER

Knock without opening the door. Please. And after we are finished, I will take you back.

ROXANNE

*sigh*

All right.

SOUND: Door closes.

SETTING: Hallway. Craig is pacing. He stops.

CRAIG

You’ve got her settled?

BREWSTER

I gave her the laptop. I think she can manage the rest on her own. A quite capable young woman, potentially.

CRAIG

If you say so. Watch what you say around her on the way back. And don’t let her talk you into anything.

BREWSTER

(surprised he’d even think she would)

Of course not.

CRAIG

And come right back to the bunker after that. Make sure you’re not followed. We’ve got a load of extra work now.

BREWSTER

(uncertain about this concern)

Yes, sir. Is everything all right, sir?

CRAIG

*sigh*

I hope so, Thee. Tell me, has Thursday’s package already been mailed?

BREWSTER

She should have left yesterday. There might be verification back at HQ.

CRAIG

What would be involved in turning it back?

BREWSTER

(thinking through possibilities she hadn’t previously considered)

Turning it back?! Oh. Well, leaving aside all the spoiled preparations, the Guides are not supposed to be sending or receiving signals or meeting up with anybody before they deliver to us. The only planned point before then is a dead post outside of town where we’re supposed to put a bust signal, caution signal, or all-clear signal. But they will not be there for two days.

CRAIG

And if they see the bust sign?

BREWSTER

They go to ground, and then decide for themselves which collateral plan to follow from there. We specifically do not know what those plans are because we are the ones who might be compromised if there is a bust.

CRAIG

Right. And there’s no way to reach them before then?

BREWSTER

We could phone code phrases to people between here and there, people who, by the way, aren’t even supposed to know about the delivery. It is possible they could find the Guides and warn them off, but it’s also possible they would attract attention. It could blow the whole operation. At minimum we would have to distribute new code phrases to everyone we contact, and you know how tricky that can be.

CRAIG

Yes I do.

Beat.

BREWSTER

But if we are going to do it, we should start right away.

CRAIG

Yes.

Beat.

BREWSTER

Sir, I do not want to pry, but what does Scholl have?

CRAIG

(weary)

She’s got nothing. Nothing that we can rely on for that kind of risk. But we need to re-check everything. Think of everything we can do without alerting anyone who doesn’t need to know.

BREWSTER

Should I alert Mr. Channing’s office? He has the most resources, and of course he was planning to be there himself.

CRAIG

*reluctant sigh*

No. If we mention the tip to Jordan then there’s no telling where things go. If we see anything that looks wrong, we abort. Otherwise, we go ahead. Jordan relies on us for a lot of things, and one of them is saving him from the wasted effort of second-guessing us. Okay, I’d better get back to base.

BREWSTER

One more thing, sir.

CRAIG
What is it?

BREWSTER

It’s Ms. Scholl. If she has given you bad information, should I treat her as a potential traitor? Do you think she’s working for the aliens?

CRAIG

*reluctant sigh*

No. She’s just doing what she feels she has to, on the basis of things her brain has created to keep her from going off the deep end. No one should have to go through the things all of us have gone through. She’s a casualty, walking wounded. Hopefully over time we can get her back up to active duty. But for now, we check everything, and if it checks out, we proceed. Right?

BREWSTER

Yes, sir.

CRAIG

But…hm, work out a schedule with Scholl. Have her be in places where we can consult with her if we need to between now and Friday.

BREWSTER

Yes, sir. Is this to make her think we’re taking her seriously?

CRAIG

No, it’s something I just thought of. Thursday’s package might want to talk to her. Afraid I can’t tell you why.

BREWSTER

No apologies necessary, sir. I am not the one who has to make the hard calls.

CRAIG

Your time will come, Thee. It always does.

SILENCE

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