By: J.R. Dawson
CASSIE: Female/Female-identifying. Twenties. Uncertain of who she is.
PETER: Male/Male-identifying. Twenties. Loves Cassie.
PEGASUS: An A.I. (played by the same actor as PETER).
A box floating through space on the edge of the Andromeda galaxy and the Milky Way.
The stage is a metal box. It has a cot. It has a computer screen. It has a keyboard. It has a chair. It is all as economical as possible.
CASSIE and PETER enter. They are married. CASSIE is holding a teddy bear. PETER is shouldering all the rest of her belongings. Nothing about CASSIE’s belongings are economical. They are like patchwork.
CASSIE: I… (Stares at the room.) What am I doing?
PETER: It’ll be okay. It’s only two years.
CASSIE: This was so stupid.
PETER: You’ll do great work here.
CASSIE: I’m pushing a button.
PETER: It’s an important button. It alerts the resistance if you see anything. Look, this is a hard job, but it’s an important job.
CASSIE: I want to go home.
PETER: I know.
CASSIE: What am I doing, giving up what we have? Oh God, Peter. I’m so sorry.
PETER: If the Imperial Army crosses into Andromeda, it’s going to cross into the Milky Way. Just like you said.
CASSIE: I’m watching three sectors out of a thousand. I’m giving everything up to sit here and watch three sectors out of a thousand.
PETER: Then you’ll come home. We’ll be together again. It’s not forever. Just two years.
CASSIE: How can you do that?
CASSIE: We got married. We made a vow, we signed a contract. I’m leaving you to sit here in the middle of space. If you’d done this to me…Peter, I could die.
PETER: You’re not going to die.
CASSIE: You can’t stay?
PEGASUS: (A computer voice.) No, he can’t. I only have enough support for one human.
PETER: Ah, I was wondering if this room would have one of those. That’s cool, isn’t it? You get your own fancy million-dollar A.I. butler!
PEGASUS: I am Pegasus. I will be your guide and communication during your time here. Cassie’s husband, you have ten minutes before the shuttle leaves. It’s the last shuttle for the next three months.
CASSIE: Listen, if I get arrested for being with the resistance, pretend you tried to stop me from coming. I have bail money ready in our joint account. Don’t come for me, I’ll find a way to get through the trial process.
PETER: Of course I’ll come for you.
CASSIE: Ten minutes? We have only ten minutes…how the hell…I’m going to get on that shuttle.
PEGASUS: Cassie, you signed a contract.
PETER: I made a playlist for you. I’ll send Pegasus the music.
CASSIE: Our puppy is a puppy and he’s going to be a dog by the time I get back.
PETER: I’ll take care of him.
CASSIE: This was a mistake.
PETER: This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, remember? You said you could tell people for the rest of your life where you were during the great Imperial Migration? Not everyone is as brave as you.
CASSIE: Stop pretending you wanted me to go.
PEGASUS: The oxygen for the day is rather inconvenienced by two sets of lungs in this room. Cassie’s husband, you have five minutes.
CASSIE: Five minutes.
PETER: Here. Sit down.
CASSIE: Only five minutes!
PETER: Yes. But it’s okay. We’ll make those five minutes count.
CASSIE: I’m sorry.
PETER: You keep saying that.
CASSIE: Why aren’t you crying? Why aren’t you yelling?
PETER: Because you are. (Pause.) I’m proud of you.
CASSIE: How are you proud of me?
PETER: You’re actually making a difference, instead of just checking in on social media or writing some dumb pamphlet. You’re here. You’re taking action.
CASSIE: And giving up what?
PETER: I love you. You’re going to have an adventure here. And when you come back, I’ll be there.
PEGASUS: Cassie’s husband, please leave.
CASSIE: I didn’t actually think they’d pick me, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have left, I’m sorry, Peter, please. (Kisses him one last time.) Please, please, know that I love you. (Kisses him one last time once again.) I wanted to be out on my own and I was scared and I’m sorry…
PETER: I know. I love you.
CASSIE: Wait. (She takes a hair tie off her wrist. She hands it to him. She takes his pen from his pocket.) We had these things on us when I came here. I’ll hold onto this for you, you hold onto this for me. Now when you pick me up, we’ll give them back to each other. And we’ll walk out, hand in hand. I know it’s stupid, but I need to know there’s an end to this. (PETER kisses her.)
CASSIE: It’s not your fault. That I’m here. You were enough. You were always enough.
PETER: That’s not true. (Silence between them.) It’s okay. You’re okay. It will be okay. (PETER exits. CASSIE is alone in the metal box room. CASSIE stares at her things. She looks to the computer screen. She stares at the door PETER left through.)
CASSIE: I’ve never been alone. There was always someone, even if it was just voices in another room. (Looks to computer console.) It takes a brave person to be alone.
PEGASUS: Your husband attached me to his playlists. Would you like to hear his music?
CASSIE: Yes. (Music plays. It is music that means something to CASSIE and PETER. It is music for two people with a shared memory. CASSIE unpacks to make this place seem like more than a metal box. She tapes pictures to the walls, of a happy couple with their adorable puppy. The cot has specific, comfortable sheets thrown over the cold bare mattress. These sheets are so mismatched and comfortable that they have obviously been collected throughout the years for their familiarity. One may have been from college.)
CASSIE: (Unpacking.) He always says a place feels more like home if you can fill it with music.
CASSIE: So, you’re a robot?
PEGASUS: A.I., yes.
CASSIE: We don’t have a Pegasus at home. They’re expensive. Don’t you come with some sort of projection, or am I going to be talking to the walls for the next two years?
PEGASUS: I have a projection, if you would like to use it.
CASSIE: Do I get to pick what you look like?
CASSIE: Then you know what I’ll pick. Do it.
PEGASUS: I advise against it.
PEGASUS: Because as you say, I’m an A.I. I have no motivation other than to assist you in your work. There is a valley of the uncanny –
CASSIE: Do the thing, Pegasus.
PEGASUS: All right then. (PEGASUS enters. But he looks just like PETER.)
PEGASUS: I warn you, I’m not him. It’s like wallpaper.
CASSIE: I know.
PEGASUS: A friend or parent may be better. Perhaps your puppy?
PEGASUS: I thought brave people lived alone. (A beat.)
CASSIE: Please start the oven. (Time passes. Music plays. CASSIE sits at the desk and scans the three sectors of space. CASSIE sleeps. CASSIE eats. The whole time, PEGASUS watches over her.)
CASSIE: So why can you not just do this job? Why am I here?
PEGASUS: Those are two unrelated questions you think are related. First, I can’t do this job because I am, as your husband said, a butler. I am no freedom fighter. I can alert the resistance that someone has come, but what if the resistance doesn’t arrive? I’m an alarm. You’re a soldier.
CASSIE: No one said anything about fighting.
PEGASUS: It’s a war zone. There is always the possibility of dying.
CASSIE: Fighting or dying? I said fighting…We’re pretty far out. If they got here, it would mean a lot worse things were happening.
CASSIE: They have real soldiers on the front lines. I’m from Boulder, Colorado. I write music and sometimes I substitute teach. I saw this call on the Internet. They needed people who could push buttons. We needed the money.
PEGASUS: Is that the answer to your second question? You asked why you are here. Did you come to pay off your student loans?
CASSIE: No, I mean, that’s a perk. Maybe.
PEGASUS: Then what was it?
CASSIE: Why does it matter to you?
PEGASUS: I’m also here to prepare you.
CASSIE: For what?
PEGASUS: You may have to defend your three sectors. You must know why you are here if you are to fight for it.
CASSIE: There you go again. I’m too far out, nothing is going to happen.
PEGASUS: If it does.
CASSIE: Then I’m here because you read about all of those horrible things that happened in history, you hear about all the times someone swooped in and colonized or murdered in a genocide, and everyone says, “If I was there, I’d have done the right thing.” But then something happens in their own time and they do nothing. They turn their eyes away, they pretend it’s not the same. And when you say, “It’s exactly the same,” they say, “You’re being dramatic. And why don’t you do something about it?”
PEGASUS: So, you did something about it.
PEGASUS: Is that the reason you came?
CASSIE: (A beat.) Yes. (Time passes again, to music. CASSIE sits in the chair more often, peering at the computer screen, searching. There is always nothing. PEGASUS brings food. CASSIE sleeps while PEGASUS keeps watch. CASSIE goes back to the screen to watch.)
CASSIE: Nothing ever happens. My job is two years of staring at white dots on a black screen.
CASSIE: Why aren’t there windows?
PEGASUS: There were windows in the first boxes. The resistance thought it would comfort the soldiers. But it just showed them how alone they were.
CASSIE: You’re a real treat to be with.
PEGASUS: We do have a window option on this screen if you’d like.
CASSIE: You wait this long to tell me?
PEGASUS: Would you like to see the outside?
PEGASUS: Okay. (The screen flashes to the outside. CASSIE is in space. It is beautiful.)
CASSIE: It’s beautiful. Look at it, it’s all around.
PEGASUS: It’s also white dots on a black screen.
CASSIE: But it’s alive. (She touches the screen.) Imagine each one of those stars has its own story.
PEGASUS: Do you know much about the stars?
CASSIE: No, I used to write music about them. I used to look at them. I don’t know anything scientific.
PEGASUS: I have textbooks in my database.
CASSIE: That’s okay. I don’t want to ruin them.
PEGASUS: Science doesn’t ruin things. It explains them.
CASSIE: Where’s the closest space station?
CASSIE: But that’s not even close. Where’s the closest sector scout?
PEGASUS: You can’t see her from here.
CASSIE: So, if anything happened to me, no one would be anywhere near.
PEGASUS: They’d eventually make it. I would send out a distress signal.
CASSIE: So, this room is literally everything for thousands of miles.
PEGASUS: No. Millions.
CASSIE: Shut the window. (PEGASUS obeys.) I want to send a letter to my husband.
CASSIE: Peter. I saw the stars today. There are so many of them. I know if you were here, you would want me to learn how stars were made, how they were set there, really understand the gasses and the matter that go into making a star. But I just wanted to watch, and I just wanted to believe they were magic.
I did the calculations for how long two years really is. Two years is from the moment we met to the third morning we woke up in our new apartment in Boulder. All of those memories of our time in Minneapolis, every single second of Minnesota, I have to live here. And that is a longer time than saying “only twenty-four months.” Months are a small time. Twenty-four isn’t an insurmountable number. But Minnesota. Minnesota was cold and we were poor and I’ve tried to add up all the time we spent wondering if this was going to work, all the time you tried to assure me you really did love me, and all that time we spent at Darryl’s Ice Cream talking about the lives we would live together. Together.
Then I have to count the immeasurable time, that night where you almost walked out. The day I almost walked out. The picnic in the park with the geese when we realized we would never walk out again. And then that trip, the whole length of that trip, to London. We sat on the side of the Thames and it smelled like fish. We looked at Big Ben and it stood like a beacon across from us, like it said, “Welcome to the world.” The world was so big. Time was so long as we waited those fifteen minutes to hear Big Ben chime. You held my cold hand. I held your head on my shoulder. “We could live here,” I said.
You remember those fifteen minutes. You’re not one of those husbands who their wives have to ask, “Do you remember what day you met me?” You remember what I was wearing. So, you remember what you said when we looked out to London on the other side of the planet. You said, “But I’d miss our home.”
I’m sorry I didn’t want to buy a house. I’m sorry I didn’t want a dog. I’m sorry. (PEGASUS sends the email. Music plays. CASSIE stops eating so much. CASSIE sits on her bed, staring at the screen. Time passes.)
CASSIE: Are there any emails from him?
CASSIE: It’s been a long time. I’ve slept and woken up a lot.
PEGASUS: The signal is poor out here. I’m sure he’s just now only receiving your last email.
CASSIE: He asked me to marry him ten times.
PEGASUS: That is a lot of rejection.
CASSIE: I said yes ten times. He just liked asking me to marry him and in different ways. Once, it was a quiet way, sitting on the couch right before going to get dinner. Another time, it was in the middle of a theme park on top of a castle under the fireworks. And another time, we were hiking through the woods and the sun was setting. We thought it was beautiful. (Pause.) The sun can only set if there’s a planet to stand on.
CASSIE: We had a wedding in the mountains, right north of Boulder. I was scared, because I loved him so much. Before him, I’d wanted to travel all over the world. My mother always said it took a brave person to be alone. But he found me before I could ever be alone. So, there I was, in Boulder, and I was a housewife who sometimes made music. My friends went off to explore the world alone. And I stayed where I was.
PEGASUS: The marriage was good.
CASSIE: Yes. It was. But it was marriage. I saw everyone else’s marriages end. If they didn’t end, they had babies. Pictures of babies everywhere. They were supposed to make me excited. They made me sick.
PEGASUS: That is why you came here.
CASSIE: It’s so warm in here. But we’re surrounded by nothing but cold. How is that possible?
PEGASUS: I make sure you are warm.
CASSIE: Our house was warm. We picked one out that he liked, because he’d never really had a home he liked before. He told me how cold his house had been growing up. How there was a draft, how he wanted to have kids so he could make sure there was a kid who didn’t know that feeling. There was loneliness in his face. Me growing up? I lived in a house that never wanted me to leave. When I went away to college, they told me how selfish I was. I swore I’d never get trapped again. But I met him. When we came together, there was warmth. It was like one of those pipe organs, where you push the keys and it just gets louder and louder until music fills every corner. I loved him. (Pause.) That’s it. I loved him. And I knew I would never leave. I’d given up the world for happiness. Sure, there would be adventures in raising whatever baby we’d have or whatever road trips we would take. But I would always feel this aching need to be warm, I would always let him buy houses and adopt dogs. Because I loved him. And I had to…
CASSIE: How long have I been here?
PEGASUS: Time is relative in space.
CASSIE: In Earth-time, how long have I been here?
PEGASUS: Two weeks.
CASSIE: That’s all!
CASSIE: How many more weeks do I have?
PEGASUS: One hundred and two. (CASSIE stares ahead.)
CASSIE: I’m going to be a different person when I go back. He’s going to be a different person when I see him again.
PEGASUS: Yes. Humans evolve with their experiences.
CASSIE: We were a team. He loved me. I loved him.
PEGASUS: Then why did you come here?
CASSIE: I was afraid. (Pause.) Every second I spend here, we’re speeding away from each other. I have to leave.
PEGASUS: You can’t leave. There is no way to leave.
CASSIE: Then find a way! I’m not a soldier! I had no business leaving home.
PEGASUS: You made it your business.
CASSIE: We had a house. We had a life. It was my life.
PEGASUS: This is your life.
CASSIE: And what difference am I making!
PEGASUS: You are responsible for three sectors out of—
CASSIE: I know! Space! It’s just empty cold space! I want to go home! (An alarm sounds once. CASSIE starts.)
PEGASUS: It’s only one alarm. That means someone is approaching. But they are still very far off. It could be anything, a tourist ship, a resistance fighter, a shuttle.
CASSIE: But none of those good things would be here in these sectors. So, it’s something bad.
PEGASUS: Yes, but far off. But the alarm may at some point sound two or three or even six times, and we need to make sure you know what to do. Your heart rate increases. I can feel it. You’re shocked. I told you this was a war zone.
CASSIE: What do I do if the alarm sounds more than once?
PEGASUS: Twice, start connection with a nearby resistance pod. Three times, alert the nearby pod and ready the external torpedoes. Four times, dismantle connection and barricade the door and aim the torpedoes. Five times, shoot the torpedoes.
CASSIE: Is there anything worse?
PEGASUS: Yes. Anything above five times, they’re going to dock. They have decided not to blow up your pod, and they will take you prisoner. You’ll need to get a weapon and your capsule. (The wall with the photographs pulls back to reveal an arsenal. It will stay open for the rest of her time there. The photographs are out of sight.) A weapon to fend them off. If that doesn’t work, you bite down on the capsule.
CASSIE: And I die.
PEGASUS: I told you that was a possibility. (Another alarm. This is two.)
PEGASUS: I’ve contacted the nearest pod. They’re on deck. I need to teach you how to use your weapons. It’s probably nothing, they’re still far away.
CASSIE: I never thought about whether or not I could kill anyone, even if it’s an Imperialist. What if I can’t kill them?
PEGASUS: If you want to see Peter again, you will need to. (Silence. The alarm doesn’t sound again.) I’ve received an email from Peter.
CASSIE: Not right now. (Quiet music plays. It wouldn’t mean anything to Peter. CASSIE sits on the floor. PEGASUS stands above her. Both face the screen.)
PEGASUS: No more alarms for many Earth-days. We’re safe for now.
CASSIE: There’s a story some guy wrote one time.
PEGASUS: That’s not descriptive.
CASSIE: He wrote about this man and woman sitting at a train station bar. They used to be happy. Now she’s pregnant and he wants her to get rid of it. He says everything will go back to normal if she just takes care of it. She knows that’s a lie. She’s been changed. He’s been changed. Once you’re changed, you can’t go back.
PEGASUS: You need to eat something. You need to stand up. You need to prepare. (She slowly does so.)
PEGASUS: Take your gun. Aim at the target. Set it to low. Don’t blow a hole through the wall. Pull back your trigger. See how it turns yellow? It’s ready. Both eyes open. Do not pull until you are certain. Then shoot. Shoot it! (The gun blasts. Echoes. Slow, low music plays. It’s terrifying. It’s not the sort of music CASSIE listened to on Earth. It’s new music she’s found. She cuts her hair. She trains every day to get stronger. She checks her arsenal. PEGASUS teaches her new commands on the computer screen. PEGASUS disappears from his corporeal form. He only speaks through the computer now. A lot of time has passed.)
CASSIE: When did the alarm last blare?
PEGASUS: You’ve slept sixty times since. There could have been naps I counted by accident.
CASSIE: It was three times last time.
CASSIE: The weapons have been boosted. We need to let them cool.
CASSIE: Five sleeps and then we’ll boost them up again.
CASSIE: Remind me.
PEGASUS: Oven is on.
PEGASUS: Top cabinet.
PEGASUS: Thirty unread emails. Six hundred and two headlines waiting to be read.
CASSIE: Not that news. News from the other pod.
PEGASUS: They’ve heard nothing.
CASSIE: Turn off.
PEGASUS: Another email has arrived.
CASSIE: Save for later.
PEGASUS: Would you like me to read your headlines and emails?
PEGASUS: They’ve piled up.
CASSIE: No. (An alarm. CASSIE stops. An alarm. They wait. An alarm.) Turn on torpedoes. (An alarm. An alarm.) Five alarms. (She grabs her gun. The capsule.) Five alarms.
PEGASUS: Shot torpedoes. One down. One approaching.
PEGASUS: Attaching to pod. A prayer?
CASSIE: No. (The door shakes. Something docks. CASSIE takes position. CASSIE takes a capsule out of her pocket and sets it in her mouth between her teeth. PEGASUS holds the door closed. The door shudders. CASSIE holds her ground.)
CASSIE: Dammit, gun’s jammed! (The door starts to open. CASSIE grabs PETER’s pen from her pocket. She slams it into the cocking mechanism. The gun whirs, turning its yellow color. Door opens. CASSIE aims. Screams. Shoots. Black. CASSIE breathes. When lights return, she is older. The bedding is ripped and used to fix the door. The bear has blast holes through it. CASSIE sits on the ground, focused on the screen.)
PEGASUS: Shuttle docked. You have five more minutes of service.
CASSIE: Five minutes. (Someone knocks on the door.)
CASSIE: They sent a Pegasus to escort me home.
CASSIE: It sounds just like you.
PEGASUS: I sound just like someone else.
PETER: Cassie, it’s me. Can you open the door? Are you okay? (CASSIE stands. She opens the jammed door. There’s PETER.)
PETER: You’re alive. They…they said you might not be alive. You…you were attacked and you never…but Pegasus still sent the signal to come get you. And so I…I came. You’re alive. (Silence.) Why didn’t you respond to my emails? (Silence.) Have you been responding to any emails?
PEGASUS: We respond to the resistance.
PETER: Are you okay?
CASSIE: You’re wearing a suit.
CASSIE: Peter doesn’t wear suits.
PETER: Well, I’m Peter. I’m wearing a suit. (Silence.) I forgot your hair tie. I’m sorry. I realized halfway here, I forgot it at home. I sold the house in Boulder. Now I live in—
CASSIE: My hair tie?
PETER: You said we would…I suppose it was silly.
PEGASUS: Shuttle leaving in two minutes. Please leave.
PETER: Are you packed? (CASSIE looks to an economical rucksack. Goes to the wall. Takes a capsule. Puts it in the rucksack. She is now packed.)
CASSIE (to PEGASUS): What am I doing?
PEGASUS: Goodbye. (CASSIE goes to the threshold. Stares. Looks back at the room. Terrified, steps out. PETER, bewildered, follows.)