Blue Marker Land

BLUE MARKER LAND

BLUE MARKER LAND

a short play

by

J. Nelson Leith

_

CHARACTERS

MOTHER: woman in her early 40s.

EVITA: girl, 13 years old.

GAL: robot servant

SCENE

(A living room, mid-day. A wall display cycles through a set of images: a photo of MOTHER and EVITA, a winter scene, a to-do list, a calender displaying FEBRUARY 2101. EVITA is sitting at what looks like a writing desk, reading the display on the angled surface. GAL stands beside her. MOTHER sits nearby, watching a display that is facing away from the audience.)

EVITA
(frustrated)

Mom…

MOTHER

What is it, Evie?

EVITA

I can’t do this homework. There are too many blocks. Gal can’t show me everything.

GAL
(to MOTHER)

I’m sorry. Evita is thirteen now, but her accesses have to be updated by you.

EVITA

The Information Officers don’t like me having information. Which is stupid.

MOTHER
(to GAL)

Accesses to what?

(to EVITA)

Honey, what are you studying?

EVITA

Just eco. Resource efficiencies. Landfill reclamation. Recycling. Boring junk. Why does anybody care?

(MOTHER and GAL pass a look between each other.)

MOTHER

So … what have you learned so far?

EVITA
(reading)

In the 1900s and the first half of the 21st century, people stored difficult to process recycling in earthen safe-sites called landfills, until scientists could develop technology to sort and recycle them…

(turns to MOTHER)

This is all junk we learned in robotic history. Why do I have to learn it again?

MOTHER
(to GAL)

Has she covered this in another class?

GAL

When she was 12, yes. But the same readings are higher-access for 13-year-olds.

(a beat)

Her accesses have to be updated by you.

MOTHER
(pensive)

Let’s … Just see what we can do for now, without the update. She’s still young.

(turning to EVITA)

What were you trying to research?

EVITA
(suddenly animated)

The landfill markers. Like how the green ones are for places where wood and yard waste were allowed, and the orange ones are where toxins might have been stored, which is cool, and the red ones are from way back and should be sorted first, but the sorting bots have mostly recycled all those by now.

MOTHER

Well. That seems like … enough to pass the exam.

EVITA

But, it doesn’t say what blue markers are for. Like the ones around the field on the road to aunt Lillian’s.

MOTHER
(glancing at GAL)

Well, hon. Maybe those are faded. They probably used to be green.

EVITA

Mom. They say “BLUE” right on them.

(turns to GAL)

Gal, there are blue markers, aren’t there?

MOTHER

Evita!

GAL

Evita, per your access, I can neither confirm nor deny—

EVITA

Which means there are blue markers.

MOTHER
(quickly)

Gal, can you take a nap for a bit?

GAL

Thank you.

(Gal sits, powers down. A beat follows.)

EVITA

Seriously, Mom? What are the blue markers for?

MOTHER

What did you learn last year in robotic history?

EVITA
(sighs)

Robots starting doing boring jobs in the 1900s, so humans could be free from boring stuff … except homework obviously.

(MOTHER gives her a warning look.)

So, blah blah, time goes on, and robots take on more and more boring jobs until humans are free to just

(fingerquotes)

“Learn, Play, and Create.” So, can I play now?

MOTHER

No, Evita. What did you learn about landfill reclamation?

EVITA

Just that stuff people stored in landfills for later, eventually scientists made robots that could sort it, and recycle it. But that was one of the last jobs taken over by robots.

(crinkles her nose)

So, people used to dig through landfills? That’s gross. With gloves?

MOTHER

No, hon. They just stored things there. For the future. And the robots are recycling it for us now. Anyway, it sounds like you already know enough. Don’t worry about the blue marker land. It’s just another type of landfill.

EVITA

But I have to know the types for the reclamation test.

MOTHER

Evita, don’t worry about the blue marker land. It’s not for reclamation, so it’s not going to be on your landfill reclamation exam.

(A beat. EVITA is clearly unsatisfied.)

We can have the talk about that later, okay?

EVITA

Whatever, why not just have Gal update my accesses?

MOTHER
(more sternly)

Because we can talk about that when you’re a little older. Okay?

(uncomfortable, she taps off her display and exits.)

EVITA
(to herself)

The talk. There’s always another talk.

(She turns to GAL.)

Gal, wake up.

GAL

What would you like to research now?

EVITA
(thinking first)

If people used to do all the boring robot jobs, why didn’t they sort through landfills too?

GAL

Humans simply did not do that. They filled the landfills until reclamation technology was developed.

EVITA

Well, that’s good, I guess. That would be gross.

Were people glad not to have to do those boring jobs any more?

GAL

It is not an accurate characterization to describe the jobs taken over by robots as boring. Many functions were roboticized because they were risky, like police and military functions. Robots are also far more effective and efficient at performing those functions.

EVITA

Fine! Were people glad not to have to do all of those jobs?

GAL
(hesitates)

Per your access, I can neither confirm nor deny that people were glad to have robots perform their former functions.

(EVITA is suddenly intrigued.)

There were a variety of emotional responses to the—

EVITA

Were most people glad to have robots do those jobs?

GAL

Per your access, I can neither—

EVITA

The Information Officers wouldn’t care if most people were happy back then, would they?

GAL
(after a beat)

Most likely not, Evita.

EVITA

So, people were not happy that robots did the boring jobs they used to do. But, why not? They were boring. Why would people want to do boring jobs?

GAL

There were a variety of reasons people—

EVITA

Gal. What was the main reason people did boring jobs?

GAL
(after a beat)

To gain resources in return.

EVITA

They had to do boring jobs to get things? Like, what kind of things?

GAL

Anything at all. Information, recreation, nutrition.

EVITA

Why? Why didn’t they just used their allowances?

GAL

This is next month’s eco lesson, Evita. Sustainable allowances were not pooled until the Global Learn, Play, and Create Act of 2082.

EVITA

Well, huh.

How did people get anything before allowances and after the robots starting doing all the jobs?

GAL

It is not an accurate characterization to describe the jobs taken over by robots as all. Executive and resource investment roles were retained by humans who controlled the—

EVITA

Okay, How did everybody else get anything before allowances and after the robots starting doing their jobs?

GAL
(a beat)

There were a variety of methods—

EVITA
(annoyed)

Name the top five.

GAL

During the mid-21st century, conditions were changing too rapidly to calculate a ranking of alternative means of acquiring resources among recently redundant human workers.

EVITA

Name three of the biggest ways.

GAL

Looting, robbery, and barter.

EVITA

What?

GAL

Looting is entering a structure, often as part of a group, to take resources that don’t belong to you.

EVITA

It’s stealing.

GAL

Yes, it is a form of stealing. Robbery is stealing by threat of violence.

Barter is like Show-and-Trade Day at your school.

EVITA

Did all those people go to jail? I mean, not the barter … barterers. Did the stealing ones all go to jail?

GAL

Per your accesses, Evita.

EVITA

So, no.

GAL

I can neither confirm nor deny.

(a beat)

EVITA
(blankly)

Robots were good at doing police and military functions.

GAL

Evita, was that a question?

EVITA

Gal, what was the population of the Earth in 2050?

GAL

Per your accesses, Evita, I cannot deliver that information. However, you may be interested to know that the current world population is eight hundred million human beings, plus eleven billion personalized robots not to include industrial machines and others not needing high-order intelligence.

EVITA

Eleven billion robots. Gal, how many people had their jobs roboticized?

GAL

Per your accesses, Evita.

EVITA

Gal, how many people whose jobs were roboticized are still alive today?

GAL

I am sorry, Evita. Per your accesses, in general I cannot deliver information about the humans whose jobs were roboticized.

EVITA

Fine…

(her eyes narrow)

How many police and military robots were there fifty years ago compared to today?

GAL
(a beat)

There were around the globe, a combined 56 million police and military robots in 2051.  In 2101, there are 1 million police robots and 300 thousand military robots.

EVITA

What happened to them all?

GAL

The remainder were decommissioned or exapted to other functions.

EVITA

Once they were no longer needed.

GAL

Is that a question, Evita?

(a long pause)

EVITA

The blue marker land is where all those people are now.

GAL

Evita, if that was meant to be a question: per your accesses, I can neither confirm nor deny.

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