copyright © 2004 Matt Perry

A Test

(The scene opens with two people onstage; one girl, frightened, sitting at a table, her hands clasped in front of her mouth, and one young man, standing against the wall, holding a gun, attempting to stand stoically, but occasionally sneaking a glance at the girl. These glances are not because of attraction, but concern. A middle aged man walks into the room and sits at the table across from the girl. He pulls out a folder and leafs through the few papers found within with great interest. He closes the folder and gazes at the girl. He never takes his eyes away from her.)

Girl: Who are you? What am I doing here? What’s happening out there?

Man: I am lieutenant commander Jacob Mandrake of the forty-fifth infantry division. And you, Miss. . . (He glances briefly at the name on the folder) Leila Reilly? You are one of the lucky ones.

Leila: Lucky? What do you mean? I remember a loud bang, then everything went black, and then I woke up here. What’s going on?

Jacob: I’m going to be honest with you, Leila. We’re at war. They’ve finally attacked our sector, decimated the entire stronghold. Very few survivors were found. Most of them were carrying a disease we suspect was contained in the bombs that were dropped on us. The rest of the survivors died in our medical facilities. You, however, are extremely lucky. You survived. You’re the survivor amongst the survivors.

Leila: Wait, what does this all mean? My family. . .? They’re all dead?

Jacob: Yes, I’m afraid. I know that this is tough on you. . .

Leila: And so I was spared? Why me? What’s so special about me?

Jacob: That’s what we’ve brought you here for, Leila. This is a test. You’ve survived one raid, and your body was found in the most heavily bombed section of the city. There must be something about you, something that we can use.

Leila: Wait, first you tell me that everyone I know is dead, and now you’re recruiting me?

Jacob: This is not a recruitment, I’m afraid. This is war against an enemy more vicious and savage than we’ve ever fought, and I’m afraid we have no choice but to adopt the mentality that if you’re not with us, then you’re against us, and must be terminated.

Leila: So if I say no to whatever you’re about to tell me, then I’m going to die?

Jacob: I’m sorry to have put you in such a position, it was not my intent.

Leila: Yes, well, I guess we’ve got no other options but for you to tell me what I need to do.

Jacob: You seem to be immune to the biological warfare the other side has cooked up. You can get closer to them than any of our men could. We’d need you on missions of espionage, sabotage, some might even label it terrorism. We need someone who can sneak into their gas factories and plant explosives, taking out the manufacturing sites of the most devastating chemical weapons ever known to mankind. There is one catch, however. The enemy has enough scientists to spread across the clock. At any given time, they’ve got a dozen of their smartest cooking up new ways to hurt us while the rest of them sleep in their homes, resting their damned brains. We’d need to take them out all at once, so the explosives, while set with an ample timer for your escape, would be quite large, encompassing entire cities.

Leila: Entire cities full of innocent civilians, you mean? Women, children, people who might never have wanted this war, either? You’d want me to sneak into a city and willingly kill hundreds, thousands, even millions of people who never did anything to me?

Jacob: But they would if given the opportunity. You have no idea how effective their propaganda campaigns are. Those who don’t openly support the war are killed, tortured, or they just disappear. These are ruthless savages we’re dealing with.

Leila: No, these are ruthless savages that you’d have me deal with, along with several times more innocent bystanders. You’re asking me to kill exponentially more non-combatants than murderers, just so you can get at the ringleaders? Doesn’t that strike you as, well, wrong?

Jacob: If you don’t do this, then innocent bystanders on our side die. We don’t know where they’re going to strike, when, or how strong. They can come at any time, invisible, lethal, a fatal blow to our way of life.

Leila: Who says there can only be one way of life! Over there, wherever the ‘enemy’ is, there are millions of peace-loving people with their own way of life that just want to live peacefully! I understand that you need to subdue the people who are trying to hurt us, but genocide isn’t the right way to go about it, especially not when you don’t even have the balls to do it your damned self!

Jacob: Very well then. I take it this is a no?

Leila: Yes.

Jacob: And you do remember that refusal means death?

Leila: I’m prepared to accept that.

Jacob: Very well then. Soldier!

(Jacob gestures roughly to the soldier standing guard over the girl. Silently, he puts his gun to her head and pulls the trigger. She slumps over, dead. The soldier doesn’t move a muscle; Jacob walks over to him and extends his hand.)

Jacob: Well done.

Man: Sir thank you, sir.

Jacob: Congratulations, Private Reilly. You’ve passed the test. You’re exactly what we’re looking for in a soldier. A man who would show no compassion on the battleground. A man willing to kill whoever would stand against his country. A man ruthless enough to shoot his own sister.


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