Gateways: “Once Upon a Golden Rotation” by Leah Lopez



TRANSCRIPT: This story is written by Leah Lopez. Leah is a Chicago playwright, screenwriter, and script editor. She’s adapted books and stories for Chicago theater companies, namely EDGE Theatre, NFP where she is the playwright-in-residence, including The Odyssey, Robin Hood, and a series of Sherlock Holmes plays. Her plays have been performed at various Chicago area theater venues, including Raven Theatre, Pendulum Space, The Edge Theater on Broadway, and Devonshire Playhouse. Leah is also a poet, having appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, and co-hosts “Beacons”, a weekly podcast about writing with her long-time writing partner and friend, Kat Ogden. This is “Once Upon A Golden Rotation”

I didn’t mean to end up in the escape pod, but when the tiny white droid sped by me and Dinah at breakfast, it was only the only logical conclusion to follow it. Dinah thought the droid came with the new supplies shipment, but then why would the droid be going to the escape pods? And why, I asked curiously as I generously buttered a biscuit, would the droid be bleating about how late it was? Dinah couldn’t answer because she was suddenly too busy downloading her daily task list from System Administrator. ‘Mhmm,” I said, which Dinah would later translate as “how convenient you couldn’t respond to my observation.” She’d have time to formulate a witty comeback by then, but I’d made my point.

Now, I’d been in an escape pod before, naturally. All children had to be trained in how to enter and operate one, except the babies because that would be ridiculous, but I’d known how to operate an escape pod for years, you know. Mary Ann couldn’t figure it out until this year and I’m terribly glad I’m not nearly as dim as Mary Ann. But still, Dinah reminded me as she hovered over my shoulder that while we could operate an escape pod to land on the planet below in case of emergency, how would we get back? And what if we ended up on the moon, Dinah bobbed about, suddenly overtaken with protocols she felt the need to recite to me. 

“We’d think about that later,” I responded decidedly because I knew that I could maybe try to pilot the escape pod back to the docking bay. I knew it was possible and could figure it out when the time came. Administrators always said that we definitely needed be able to think on our feet while living on a space station and how glad they were that I could make decisions quickly. I reminded Dinah by looking at her and raising one eyebrow. It felt like the authoritative thing to do.

At this point, Dinah stopped reciting protocols and settled into silently flashing her red warning light. I shood her away to hover behind me and eased the escape pod out of the docking bay. I held my breath, worried it wouldn’t work, but of course it worked and I was able to pilot the escape pod to follow the one little white droid’s pod. And to Dinah’s horror, the little white droid was headed for the moon. At least the planet below would have adults to send us back, after strongly worded lectures I suppose, but the moon was merely an outpost and who knew what manner of people were stationed there. Mary Ann told me stories once about how her sister’s cousin went there and it was full of empty buildings and ghosts, but I knew that was just a story to scare Mary Ann and it apparently worked. I was much too grown up to fall for those kinds of scary stories, and I told Mary Ann she was being preternatural. It is trying to be friends with someone so gullible, but she shares her tarts with me and doesn’t tell anyone when I fall asleep during Morning Lessons. 

We landed on the rickety docking bay with a thunk and I reminded Dinah to have a message sent to the System Administrator about maintenance because that’s the kind of thing a grown up would do. I felt very responsible, but then very cross when I realized that the little white droid had flown away from its escape pod to a tiny Docking Office. Quickly, Dinah and I followed, but inside we found a tiny room with a tiny console and no little white droid. We moved around the room until Dinah found a little door at the floor. I had to lay down to peer through it, which I was not happy about as no one had dusted for quite some time. Maybe a message about that, too.

“Oh, Dinah! There’s an oxygen factory in there! With a tiny table for tea! Can you imagine? A tea party in an oxygen factory? How very curious,” I said and Dinah only replied with warnings. I stood up and looked around the operating board, but there was no instructions on how to get a person size body through a tiny droid size door. Just buttons of various sizes and suddenly I felt my face crumble and I started to cry even though that was not a very sensible thing to do when you needed to solve a problem even if it did make you feel better. The tiny tea party was the most lovely thing I’d ever seen in my life that I could enjoy all to myself and here I was stuck in this dusty room with Dinah flashing every light she could. I cried and I cried and Dinah said I was going to flood the entire room.

“Don’t be ridiculous, Dinah,” I sniffed at her. “That only happens in fairy tale stories.” I sighed heavily, feeling like it was an impossible thing to do to find a way through the door. I thought this must be what Mary Ann feels like all the time and I wondered suddenly why I was being to mean about Mary Ann who had the best singing voice I ever heard in my whole life and operating an escape pod wasn’t the mark of intelligence, after all, and then I felt very gracious because I do so like my friend Mary Ann. Buttons aren’t toys our Instructor would tell us, but they can open doors. And these buttons weren’t just buttons, I realized upon further inspection. I pressed one and the door grew and grew and then slide open, right into the oxygen factory.

“What do you mean what did I do,” I snapped at Dinah. “The glowing button read ‘Push me.’ How could I resist? Do you expect me to weigh all the variables before pressing? Ridiculous” I said, having made a very grown up decision and made my way through the door. It shut quickly and Dinah was trapped behind the door, sadly beeping.

“I’ll only be a moment,” I promised, turning back around and scanning the clearing for the tiny droid. There was no little white droid, but there was an old station datapad set up on the table, covered in moss and twigs. I pushed it, wondering if it would work at all, but it just sat there, silent. I looked around and sat myself at the head of the table and wondered if I could risk the tea. Obviously it was for the Docking Office Attendant as the tea and cakes were still hot.

“Do you often do that?” said a voice and I straightened my back and looked around.

“Do you often sit yourself down at the prized seat and make yourself comfortable without an invitation,” said the datapad as it started blinking.

“I didn’t realize I needed an invitation,” I shot back. “Dinah, she’s my protocol droid, probably could tell you that an invitation isn’t necessary for an empty table.” I tilted my head and huffed. The nerve of the datapad.  

“Protocol droid!” came a small scream and out of the teapot came mouse-droid, the kinds little kids use as pets.

“You stole a seat and scared the mouse. We never mention P-Ds here, you know, that’s just manners,” lectured the datapad. 

“Well,” I said, considering the scared mouse-droid, “I wouldn’t want to frighten anyone, so I am sorry about Dinah, my pr. . .protector and advisor.” I explained, calmly. “My name is Alice. Pleased to meet you. May I pour the tea?” 

“May you pour the tea,” mocked the datapad and the mouse-droid dissolved into giggles.  Well, as dissolved as two neglected bucket of bolts could get.

“Fine,” I huffed. “Have you seen a little white droid pass by then?”

“Twinkle, twinkle, little brat, how I wonder, would you splat? Sitting on the moon so high, plummet down so I can watch,” the mouse-droid sang and then sank back into the teapot.

“That didn’t even rhyme,” I declared, standing up and smoothing down my blue suit. “How do you do,” I said as I nodded my head regally as I plucked the little white droid from under the table where it was hovering. “I have what I came for and so I leave you to your mad tea party.”

Turning on my heel with droid in hand, I went back to the door, motioning for Dinah to push the button and let me through.

“Yes, Dinah, we are quite finished,” I said as calmly as I could. “I’ve done seven impossible things before rotation. Mary Ann will think twice before setting up this scavenge again. Curiouser indeed.”

Kate Akerboom is a multi-creative individual living in Chicago. When she’s not talking about animals at Shedd Aquarium or playing with her beagle, Willie, you can find her performing at the Bristol Renaissance Faire or hear her talking about crime history on her podcast Scofflaws: a History of Law and Disorder. Originally from Green Bay, Wisconsin, Kate is a proud graduate of University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, possessing degrees in Theatre Performance and History with an emphasis in museum studies. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Public History through Southern New Hampshire University.


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