4.3 – Reaction

IMMUNITIES EPISODE 4.3 – REACTION

SCENE – Justin’s room.

JUSTIN

(incredulous)

YOU are the AlphaBeta.

ROXANNE

Yep.

JUSTIN

You.

ROXANNE

That’s me!

JUSTIN

(overwhelmed by the implications)

I…uh…are you willing to answer questions about your experiences?

ROXANNE

I’d say our deal includes that.

JUSTIN

Then…how long have you known your status?

ROXANNE
Do you know who Professor Wanda Holbrook was?

JUSTIN

Yes, I know a great deal about her.

ROXANNE

Huh, were you there when they were searching for her?

JUSTIN

Yes.

ROXANNE

(a little chilled, but coping)

Okay. Well, we figured it out the day after that.

JUSTIN

Oh. Did Professor Holbrook come to test you?

ROXANNE

Uhhh…she was GOING to test me, but she was here for another reason.

JUSTIN

Which you are not going to tell me?

ROXANNE
I said I’d tell you about the AlphaBeta, and that’s me. Things that aren’t about me, I’m keeping to myself. I’ll add that she was looking all over for someone like me, but I’m the only one I know about.

JUSTIN

But the Resistance might not tell you if they find another one.

ROXANNE

Absolutely. They have this paranoid feeling that 99% of the world is out to get them.

JUSTIN

(almost laughing)

Hm. And before then, did you suspect your status?

ROXANNE

Not at all. I’d heard of the concept of AlphaBetas, but had no idea I was one.

JUSTIN

Why was Professor Holbrook going to test you, then?

ROXANNE

Maj-ummm…one of our leaders picked me out, because I was telling him things about the Lookers which I shouldn’t have known.

JUSTIN

And you had no idea how you knew those things?

ROXANNE
I had dreams where my sister was…unaltered. She told me things. So I thought SHE was the special one, just like your people did.

JUSTIN

They are not “my people”. They are part of my…kind, but we are not all like them.

ROXANNE
That’s good to hear.

JUSTIN

So…the things your sister tells you in dreams reflect the real world.

ROXANNE

That’s right. I have normal dreams too, but I can tell the AlphaBeta dreams from the others.

JUSTIN

And, if you’ve decided your sister isn’t the key factor, then you must have had dreams about others.

ROXANNE

*reluctant breath*

Yes.

JUSTIN

Your mother?

ROXANNE

Yes.

JUSTIN

Your father?

ROXANNE

No.

JUSTIN

Hm…anyone else?

ROXANNE

Liliah.

JUSTIN

(surprised by his own personal reaction)

Oh. For how long…has she been in your dreams?

ROXANNE

Just since yesterday, as far as I can remember.

JUSTIN

Did you dream about her deliberately?

ROXANNE

No. It was a surprise. I deliberately dreamed about Shelly sometimes, and both times with Mom. But Liliah was a surprise.

JUSTIN

Had you…met her before? In the real world?

ROXANNE

I’m surprised you call it that.

JUSTIN

Why?

ROXANNE

It seems like my dreams are connected to your Unity. And you think the Unity is real, right?

JUSTIN

I…yes. The Unity is real. But it is very abstract for me now, because I have been out of it for so long.

ROXANNE
Gotcha. Well, I talked to her in the real world yesterday, before I went to sleep. But I’d worked with her before, upstairs.

JUSTIN

(surprised)

In the Liaison office?

ROXANNE

Yeah. You didn’t know she works here?

JUSTIN

I suppose no one thought it was important to tell me. Or, someone thought it would be distracting.

ROXANNE

She does it to be close to you.

JUSTIN
*long, emotional breath*

How is she?

ROXANNE
As a Looker, she misses you.

JUSTIN

And, in your dreams?

ROXANNE

Same. Plus she’s resentful and terrified about the things she’s had to do as a Looker. That’s a common theme among the people I dream about.

*pause*

Anything else, for now? Or should we move on to how you’re going to help me?

JUSTIN

Just…you are the only one who has dreams like yours?

ROXANNE

To my knowledge, yes.

JUSTIN

Do you know of anyone else who has…unusually accurate insights, with no known source?

ROXANNE
(not pleased, but keeping cool)

Hm. No names, okay?

JUSTIN

Agreed.

ROXANNE

Yes. One person.

JUSTIN

Is that person a registered Beta immune?

ROXANNE
We said no names.

JUSTIN

Beta Immune is a label, and a condition, not a name. Obviously, I have a theory that some people labeled Beta Immune have access to special insights. I think it would be mutually beneficial for us to develop this theory, without identifying the specific individual.

ROXANNE

Okay, yes. But this is starting to sound like the kind of thing you’d only tell me if you didn’t think I’d ever talk to the Resistance again.

JUSTIN

I suppose I am acting on my own uncorroborated insight. That the world has changed so much that, by the time we’re finished, the old labels will have different meanings. For me and for you.

ROXANNE
And then? What’s your best case scenario?

JUSTIN

And then, I ask Liliah to take a message to our unknown patron. And I tell them that the current crisis should be an opportunity for greater liaison, not for vilification. And that, if an immune is taking a sincere interest in the well-being of Lookers, this is something we should value and encourage, not squander, and that as such, you and your family should be allowed to live together someplace in public view, where everyone can appreciate your example. And, meanwhile, we can make both sides appreciate that trying to end the Look or immunity through experiments is no more a solution than trying to destroy each other with nuclear weapons.

ROXANNE

Hm.

*considers it for a moment, then…*

I like your thinking. That works for me. But I’m not sure how popular liaison is with your people topside.

JUSTIN

Really? Explain.

ROXANNE

I heard an Altered congressman is speaking out against it. Not in the sky, either. Out loud, in real life.

JUSTIN

That is troubling. What do you know about this man?

ROXANNE
Not enough.

SCENE: Noone’s office in Washington.

NOONE

(assured, powerful)

mmmmMMMMMMMMMmmmmmm

MOLLY

(with a small but persistent nervous tremor)

mmmmmmMMMMMMMMMMmmmmmmmm

Telepathy effect begins.

NOONE

Hello, Molly.

MOLLY

(a little halting through most of the scene)

Hello, Congressman Noone.

NOONE

Welcome to Washington. Would you prefer to speak out loud? I understand that you have had some difficulty linking.

MOLLY

No. I have rejoined, and should operate as WE operate. I welcome the opportunity and the challenge.

NOONE

Excellent. Please have a seat.

MOLLY

I am more able to maintain contact while standing.

NOONE

As you wish. Now, I have some things to discuss with you, some of which are quite sensitive. You told my assistant that you were potentially interested, and therefore it was worth both our times to fly you here.

MOLLY

Oh yes. I have a great belief in the General Will. I welcome the things you have said about it, and hope I can do something to help you.

NOONE

Thank you. Then I will begin. I will be giving up my seat in Congress soon…

MOLLY

Already??? But you have only just begun your work!

NOONE

I shall be continuing that work. The President and Vice President have agreed to resign, on the principle that their positions are too important to be held by simple inertia. Thereupon, according to the rules of our Constitution, I as Speaker Of The House will become the new President.

MOLLY

Oh! Well, congratulations, sir! This is a propitious development.

NOONE

I hope so. But, as mentioned, it necessitates my resignation, and the elevation by special election of someone new. And the choice of candidate is particularly significant, because you area is becoming the focus of a great deal of national attention.

MOLLY

I see. Well, I am confident that whoever you choose will deserve the post.

NOONE

*almost laughs*

Hm. This special election will be expedited, under the new rules, but it will not be an appointment. Every voter must decide, based on the urgings of their heart.

MOLLY

Well. If the candidate demonstrates an adherence to your beliefs, they will certainly have my full support, and any aid I can give.

NOONE

I was thinking in terms of something more than aid, Molly. I was thinking that YOU might be my candidate.

MOLLY

(awestruck)

I??? Serve in Congress, in your seat?

NOONE

Yes, exactly.

MOLLY

I can not imagine having such responsibility. I have no idea what the duties entail.

NOONE
All that would be necessary, is that you stay true to your beliefs. There would be knowledgeable assistants to aid you in the details, and I and my own advisors would be available for any larger questions you had.

MOLLY

But, why me?

NOONE

Your demonstrated heroism, and the clarity with which you see the problem of the Unaltered. No one else could claim such qualifications.

MOLLY

Well, no one but Candace. And I suppose Lorna.

NOONE

They may have experience to match yours, but it is clear that you have superior vision, and a better perspective on your experience.

MOLLY

Candace has shown an astounding lack of discretion. I suppose something would have to be done about that.

NOONE

It is already happening.

MOLLY

(as if awakened from a dream)

Really, what?

NOONE

(caught unexpectedly)

Carrie Kray has spoken with her, advising her to channel her idealism into directions more helpful to the Unity. She seems amenable to this.

MOLLY
(speaking more smoothly for the rest of the scene)
But…is Mrs. Kray doing that on your behalf?

NOONE

We did discuss it, yes.

MOLLY

But, why? Did you…was Candace your first choice, to replace you?

NOONE

Not at all. To be honest, Lorna Gerrold was the first person I thought of. But after her, you were the second.

MOLLY

Why is Lorna not the one here, then?

NOONE

(grudging)

Miss Gerrold told me that, while she was saddened by Candace Majeed’s outburst, she was not willing to accept any position that might even possibly bring the two of them into conflict. I assured her, as I have you, of Ms. Majeed’s moderated attitude, but having made her decision, she has become immovable. I am afraid that the two of them may have developed a dangerous co-dependence.

MOLLY

Mr. Noone, I agree with you. I agree with you about the Seperates, I agree with you about us, I agree with you about the unhealthiness of Candace and Lorna’s relationship. But…I can not say “Yes” if they said “No”. I owe them everything. They saved me. I would have betrayed them to Derek, if Lorna had not stuffed a gag in my mouth. For me, to accept a post, where I would pass judgment on them? It simply would not be right. Oh! I am sorry, Congressman, but I have to break our link, and leave this room right now. It has been a great honor to have been in your trust, and I will keep everything we have said to myself; but while I wish you every success, I cannot take any further part in your movement. Please do not contact me again.

Mind-link sounds return to normal.

Molly rises, crosses room, opens the door.

NOONE

Ms. Ollinger!

MOLLY

(meek)

Yes?

NOONE

Please close the door as you leave.

MOLLY

Of course.

NOONE

Thank you.

Door closes. Noone picks up phone, dials.

NOONE
Hello. Yes, it is. I need you to talk to the newswoman, as soon as possible. I have something new for her to suggest to our friend. Yes. Yes, I think we can trust her that far.

SCENE – Justin’s basement

JUSTIN

So, do the figures in your dreams come from your brain, or the brains of the Lookers you contact?

ROXANNE
We never did figure that out. It seems like being around me has an effect on Lookers, and the information the figures give me seems to come from that person. Our working theory was that each figure is some kind of impression the human side of the Looker’s brain made on me, and then my brain puts the information they give me into the mouth of the person I got it from.

JUSTIN

That seems very incomplete, and speculative.

ROXANNE
Well, the experts who put that theory together got fired, and the new ones have been having trouble getting up to speed. Your mole did a real number on us. Plus we lost our best theorist when Professor Holbrook died. So, congratulations to you.

JUSTIN

None of that was our work. The mole was not recruited, they contacted us. And all evidence indicates that the Resistance executed the Professor.

ROXANNE
Yeah.

JUSTIN

As you say, the respect for life has its limits. My guess was that your side feared her capture.

ROXANNE
She was already infected. She locked eyes with someone in your search party.

JUSTIN

So tragic. She was given every opportunity-

ROXANNE
LISTEN! We’re not going to get anywhere by re-adjudicating who did what to who and when. You said our theory was incomplete. What do YOU think?

JUSTIN

Well, my speculation might intrude into personal matters-

ROXANNE

Please please, trample my feelings. You already took my planet away.

JUSTIN

I…I am afraid that I am not always able to detect sarca-

ROXANNE

Go ahead. Talk. Now.

JUSTIN

(abrupt)

Your mother took her own life shortly after you robbed Carrie Kray, a robbery which the figure of your mother helped you to carry out.

ROXANNE
Yeah. I’ve been waiting for someone to connect those dots in front of me. And I had to come here to find the man to do it.

JUSTIN

After some urging.

ROXANNE
Regardless. Yeah.

*sigh*

Yeah. I’ve wondered why exactly she did that, and how much of it was my fault, ever since it happened.

JUSTIN

There are too many explanations which fit the facts for us to favor any one. But most of the explanations involve her undergoing changes triggered by you. You didn’t command her to do anything?

ROXANNE

No. The opposite. I wanted her to behave exactly normally.

JUSTIN

And your sister never displayed any new behavior, didn’t act unusually compliant or helpful?

ROXANNE

No. When we were awake, she was a Looker version of her bratty jealous self. Shit. It’s like, in the dreams, we got to grow up, and grow out of all that petty bullshit, but in the real world we were stuck exactly where we were on Contact Night.

JUSTIN

And you didn’t bring anyone else into your dreams?

ROXANNE

Not until Liliah, and that wasn’t deliberate.

JUSTIN

Why did you not?

ROXANNE
As long as it kept working with Shelly, it seemed like too big a risk to try it with anyone else. Especially after Mom died.

JUSTIN

Hrrm.

ROXANNE
Why are we spending time on this?

JUSTIN
The better picture I have of how you function as an AlphaBeta, the more clearly I can make the case for negotiating with you. Both that you pose no threat if left alone, and a considerable one if provoked.

ROXANNE
And you’re not tempted to just wring my neck and eliminate the problem?

JUSTIN

Your mind seems to jump to violent solutions.

ROXANNE

As we’ve established, violence happens. And my question stands.

JUSTIN

Even assuming that I could subdue you, according to our calculations there are dozens of AlphaBetas in the world. The insights you provide, about others of your kind, are far too valuable for me to kill you.

ROXANNE

Good. That’s a reason I can believe and get behind. Okay. So…you were saying something about the Betas picking up signals like mine.

JUSTIN

Only some of them, and not exactly like yours. Before you told me who you were, I was wondering if these non-conforming Betas were in fact the AlphaBetas. Not totally immune to the Beta wave, therefore changed, but not totally susceptible to it, therefore not like us.

ROXANNE

How many of these….

JUSTIN

We call them Beta Primes.

ROXANNE
How many Beta Primes have you found?

JUSTIN

Enough to suggest that they form a small but significant portion of known Betas. Perhaps one in sixty. Which of course makes them a tiny portion of the human population, and even of the immune population, but they would still massively outnumber AlphaBetas.

ROXANNE

So the fact that I know one doesn’t necessarily mean anything.

JUSTIN

No, it makes sense, statistically, since you associate with other Immunes, and Betas are so readily identifiable.

*pause*

So, what sort of things does this Beta Prime know?

ROXANNE

We’re just talking about me, remember?

JUSTIN

All right. Does the Beta Prime know about you?

ROXANNE

Shit. Led you right to that one. I THINK so? She said some things about me being different, before anyone knew I was, but she…talks in a peculiar way. I don’t know if that’s caused by her immunity or not. Are the others like that?

JUSTIN
We are just talking about you and me and your family, remember?

ROXANNE

*frustrated noise*

Okay, fair. Maybe later. So, you and Liliah, you’re still married? The Look and your mission didn’t change that?

JUSTIN

I consider myself as bound by my vows as before. Why do you ask?

ROXANNE

I always value a guy who can piss me off. Gets my blood up.

JUSTIN

(uncomfortable)

I would suggest keeping our relationship strictly professional.

ROXANNE

(acting seductive because she knows he’s uncomfortable)

We might be down here a long time.

JUSTIN

Which means you will not be able to leave once you tire of me.

ROXANNE

Woah! Have you been reading my file?

JUSTIN

I did read it, back when you were a suspect in your mother’s death. I had forgotten many of the details, but they are coming back to me as I get to know you.

ROXANNE

So no social breaks. Okay, I guess that’s good. Your mad scientists could be cutting Shelly up by now.

JUSTIN

They could indeed.

ROXANNE

Ugh. Don’t sugar-coat it, Justin. Give it to me straight.

JUSTIN

Do you mean that sarcastically, rather than earnestly?

ROXANNE
I mean it both ways. That’s my style.

Justin’s computer makes a beep.

ROXANNE

What’s that?

JUSTIN

An incoming message to my computer. Please remain where you are.

Justin walks to his computer and begins using it.

ROXANNE

(raising her voice slightly, because of the greater distance)

Your computer is networked?

JUSTIN

Yes. To a single, highly secured computer in an office just above mine. That’s how information is normally transferred to and from here.

ROXANNE
But the usb stick…

JUSTIN

Whoever wanted me to have that, did not want anyone to know I was being given that information. That is apparently not the case with this.

ROXANNE

What have they sent?

JUSTIN

Umm…general information about various pursuits, and…I see.

ROXANNE

What?

JUSTIN

Calvin Noone is now the President of the United States of America.

ROXANE

WHAT?!? Has there been a coup or something?

JUSTIN

Apparently he is extremely persuasive.

ROXANNE
I can’t even imagine.

JUSTIN

You do not have to. He is making his inauguration speech on the White House lawn, right this moment. I will switch on the television.

ROXANNE

You get reception down here? Or do you have cable?

JUSTIN

A cable connection was considered too potentially compromising. There is simply a wire that leads to an antenna on the roof.

ROXANNE

(intrigued)

Oooohhh.

JUSTIN

I believe you are thinking about using that to send out a secret message.

ROXANNE
I’d have to have thought of it ahead of time. Didn’t know enough about your layout.

JUSTIN

You will find that many security precautions are like that. They are not insoluble, but are effective when potential intruders are deprived of the information, time, and resources necessary to defeat them. Are you interested in the speech?

ROXANNE

Sure, turn it on.

NOONE

…repeatedly met our offers of friendship with disgust, our attempts at cooperation with selfishness, and our promise of peace with violence. But now, a new day is dawning, when the great potential of this nation will finally be achieved. And while we will honor our commitment to permitting the Unaltered to live separately from us, we will not allow them to take advantage of our open-hearted nature. We, us, the average ordinary people of this country, have submitted to indignities for too long, and we will get what is ours and what we are owed. Under this administration, I can assure you: Unity Will Prevail.

Crowd noise of overlapping angry hums.

ROXANNE
Oh ugh. I’m sorry but that sound is horrendous.

JUSTIN

I do not disagree.

CARRIE KRAY (on TV)

You have been watching the inaugural address by the incoming President, Calvin Noone. Next we will discuss the speech with Candace Majeed, who President Noone has endorsed to take up his seat in Congress. Then we will have-

Justin switches off the tv.

ROXANNE

From your point of view, does President Of The United States matter? I thought you people thought globally.

JUSTIN

We try to. But, as the saying goes, we act locally. For the sake of efficiency, we maintain the organizational structures we inherited from the Unaltered, except where change seems to be needed.

ROXANNE

Okay, but…wait, who is that speech even for? Don’t you people do your mass communicating through the sky?

JUSTIN

Generally, yes.

ROXANNE

That guy is practically spitting out Alpha Waves, any non-immune or Beta who watches it would get sick. So he’s just talking to what…Alphas, Primaries, and Me?

JUSTIN

HmmMMMmm. I have an alternative hypothesis.

ROXANNE

What?

JUSTIN

The sky link is a highly intimate experience, even when performed en masse. Communicating through television would allow him to speak with other Lookers from a more detached perspective.

ROXANNE

So he could lie?

JUSTIN

Not…as far as I know. But he could more carefully control what truths he reveals. And his appearance itself might be a statement, that Lookers will take up their rightful space on the airwaves as well as on the ground.

ROXANNE

Do you agree with any of what he said?

JUSTIN

I must admit that dealing with the Unaltered has never been easy. Every action they take to challenge our new order puts our ideals of harmony, fairness, and freedom into opposition with one another. President Noone’s approach of hard-hearted self-interest simplifies this greatly. But the simplicity of his vision will merely obscure the complexities of the world, not solve them. The Unity is not simply a collection of people, it is a community based on ideals. He would have us jettison these ideals, in order to seek illusory solutions that will simply create more problems. No, I do not agree with him. But others do.

ROXANNE

So you disagree with the others about things. Do you think that’s because you’re down here?

JUSTIN

I would like to think I would have always disagreed with him. Perhaps it is because I have been down here, and I have missed the experiences which have changed currents in the Unity for the worse. Or even new strains of the Look.

ROXANNE

Wait, what? Professor Holbrook thought that there were different versions of the look, and that they’d bounce around and recombinate. But I haven’t read much about it.

JUSTIN

She was correct. No virus can infect seven billion subjects without mutating.

ROXANNE

Virus?

JUSTIN

Not technically a virus, of course. A beneficial new catalyst. Like mitochondria, or democratic ideals, or life itself.

ROXANNE

But, how are the strains different?

JUSTIN

In every measurable way. A leading new one has weaker Alpha & Beta waves, making it less likely to spread to the Unaltered, and seems to make those with it think of the Unity differently. Just as fervently in favor of it, but differently.

ROXANNE

Maybe those are Noone’s people. Maybe that’s why they want to watch him on TV, instead of the sky.

JUSTIN

Or perhaps they’re terrified that an AlphaBeta has infiltrated the Unity and used it against them, and so will follow anyone who promises to make it safe and clean again.

ROXANNE

Also possible. What does it all mean for us?

JUSTIN
It makes our position here more precarious. Whoever facilitated your entry, they took precautions to keep some information from the Unity in general, but we do not know whether they were keeping it secret from the leadership. If President Noone is told that you are here, and he is at all sincere in his declarations, then I believe that you would quickly rejoin your sister, but not in the way you wish.

ROXANNE
I’d be sent off to the labs.

JUSTIN

Yes.

ROXANNE
Pretty poetic for a zombie.

JUSTIN

If you prefer, I could be philosophical: Our position is like an existential vision of the human condition. Our fate may have already been sealed, but we will not know it until someone comes through those doors. It is like the Schroedinger’s Cat problem, where the cat within the box is both alive and dead until the box is opened. Except inverted: we, the observers, are inside the box, and the rest of the world is the cat.

ROXANNE

One thing I never got about that one: the cat himself can observe things, right? So he knows whether he’s alive or dead, right? Doesn’t that matter?

JUSTIN

The answer could involve a great deal of math, but my inclination is to point out, instead, that if we are the cat in the box, why don’t WE know our own fate?

ROXANNE
Ughhhh. Okay. Would a year of calculus be enough to understand that math?

JUSTIN

I believe so, with help.

ROXANNE

Then lay it on me.

JUSTIN

You want me to show you the formulas for a hypothetical application of quantum physics?

ROXANNE

Yeah.

JUSTIN
Are you sure that this is the best use of our time?

ROXANNE
I’m not sure of anything, except of what I don’t know. I don’t know how long we’ll be down here, I don’t know what’s relevant, and I don’t know what will happen next. I can’t affect anything outside, so all I can do is learn and improve myself. And when I learn, I want to see the raw work, not just hear someone’s explanation. If you value me as a partner in this, and a fellow human being, then teach me.

JUSTIN

*pause*

I will get some paper, and pens.

SILENCE

One thought on “4.3 – Reaction

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