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The Consequence of Lasers
The scene opens inside of a typical science-fiction spaceship. There is a large window open at the front with a distant view of Earth visible. Around the window, both above and below, are rows of buttons, a steering wheel, and small screens. Two aliens, JEFF and HENRIETTA, are seated in front of the spaceship’s controls, with JEFF sitting behind the steering wheel and a large red button.
HENRIETTA: How’s our altitude looking?
JEFF, intently staring at the dashboard in front of him: We’re in the green zone- the perfect distance for firing. And the laser?
HENRIETTA, tapping a screen in front of her: It’s aimed right at the core of planet Earth. Still recharging but currently at 88%... 94%... 99%... And 100% capacity! It’s all set and ready to fire.
The ship’s COMPUTER begins to speak.
COMPUTER: The Planet Destruction Laser is now fully charged. Captain of the spaceship, press the Laser Initiation Button to commence the firing of the laser.
HENRIETTA, grinning: Alright Jeff, that’s you! Are you ready? I’m so excited- I love watching planet explosions!
JEFF, with a straight face: I- I’m ready. Here we go.
JEFF raises his hand above the red button, his index finger only centimeters away from it. He pauses like this for several seconds. The smile fades from HENRIETTA’s face.
HENRIETTA: Jeff? Jeff, what’s going on? Why aren’t you pressing the button? I don’t understand.
JEFF stays silent, still staring at the button.
HENRIETTA: Jeff, you’ve done this so many times before. I’ve heard stories about the brilliant explosions that you’ve caused on our enemy planets, and the enormous amount of riches that your expert laser executions have brought to our people. What’s wrong?
JEFF puts his head in his hands, his eyes closed.
HENRIETTA: This is a destruction that we have been planning for months. Our spies have had to conduct research in perilous situations on this planet so that we could have the correct measurements for our laser. You are a major part of this mission. Our people depend on you.
JEFF, looking up then pausing before speaking: While I was working on the Earth Elimination project, I was also part of another planet destruction. Someone on the planet had stolen the blueprints for our laser, which they could use to figure out how to defend themselves against us. Our government knew we had to act quickly before the blueprints spread across the galaxy and before everyone could protect their planet from our laser. The only thing to do was to destroy the planet, but it had to be done secretly. I was specially chosen to join the project because of my ability to execute clean laser eliminations without leaving a trace of our presence behind. Everything was going well until just after we had fired the laser. It had malfunctioned, and the planet was engulfed in flames, slowly burning rather than immediately exploding and disintegrating. On our screens, we saw people’s skin covered with fire and their faces were melting. Children became disfigured before they fell to their deaths. It was the first time I had visibly seen the pain of death caused during one of my projects.
JEFF pauses, and HENRIETTA exhales a breath.
HENRIETTA: So that’s why the lasers have had so many upgrades and tests recently. But why have I never heard about this?
JEFF: They didn’t want anyone to know that we had messed up. We were told to keep quiet about it and keep working or we’d be permanently fired from our jobs. I forced myself to work past it and try to forget about it because this job is all I have. This explosion is the only one I’ve had to do since then, and… I can’t do it.
HENRIETTA: This one is different, Jeff. This laser is new and has been tested hundreds of times. There’s not going to be a malfunction. Everything’s going to go to plan and you have nothing to worry about. It’ll be quick deaths all around.
JEFF, angrily: You don’t know how it feels to see people dying before your eyes! All we think about from up here in our ship is the part that we see: the planet is there and then it isn’t. But I saw families collapse into darkness because of me. It all changes when you see their faces…
HENRIETTA: I get that that’s hard, but that’s the expectation for this job. I know what happens every time I have been part of a planet explosion. Maybe you didn’t, but I do. I joined the laser executors to keep our people in power, no matter what. I know that this violence is what is necessary for our people to survive. Someone has to die, and I do not want it to be me.
JEFF, frustratedly: You would rather let millions of people, all with families and lives, lose everything just so that we can make way for another intergalactic highway?
JEFF: I… I can’t do this. Call the command center and tell them we have to postpone this mission. I tried to carry on… But I just can’t. Everyone needs to hear about what I saw and I think something needs to change.
HENRIETTA reaches onto the dashboard and encloses something in her hand.
HENRIETTA: I’m sorry, Jeff, but I can’t do that. This mission is time sensitive. The Earth must burn, and it must burn now.
HENRIETTA: It was great working with you on this mission and I have admired you for so long. I’m sorry that you are not what I thought you were but I must to do what has to be done. For the greater cause.
JEFF: And it was great working with you as well, but –
HENRIETTA suddenly reaches over to Jeff and places the object in her hand on his shoulder, immediately electrocuting him to death. JEFF shivers for a few moments, falls off his seat, then lays unconscious on the ground with his eyes closed.
HENRIETTA, speaking into the dashboard: Mission control, there was an accident with the captain of the ship, Jeff, and he is no longer alive. As second-in-command, I will now assume the role of captain and commence the destruction of planet Earth.
HENRIETTA moves to the seat that JEFF was sitting in and presses the red button. In the large window, the Earth disintegrates into nothingness with a quiet explosion.
HENRIETTA, speaking into the dashboard: Mission complete. The Earth is gone. Now returning back home.
HENRIETTA glances at JEFF’s body, then stares straight ahead, grips the steering wheel, and starts steering the ship away.