3-Page Treatment 15 - Twice in the Same Stream

This treatment really supports having people other than myself picking the best loglines and treatments, because I really don't think I would've picked this logline, and I really like what it turned into. I am a bit afraid that, if not handled correctly, it could become a bit preachy, or at least navel-gazey, but the idea itself came out pretty well, I think. Thanks, Micah!

For reference, the logline is:
When something goes wrong with the first test of a ship capable of flying at relativistic speeds, the pilot returns to an Earth inhabited entirely by robots, centuries after humanity has died out.

Twice in the Same Stream

Tanya Sellings is an test pilot for NASA in the year 2109. Her job can get kind of dangerous, which her husband isn’t crazy about, but she has an almost religious passion about science, and is willing to put her life on the line to push humanity forward. Recently, she’s been helping NASA develop new ships for interstellar travel, which is something she’s dreamed about since she was a little girl.

Finally, NASA finishes designing a new ship that should theoretically be capable of flying almost indistinguishably close to the speed of light, which kills two birds with one stone. First, it makes travelling to planets that are light-years away doable in, well, years. Second, due to the time dilation effects of traveling at near-light-speed, the astronauts would only experience a few seconds passing, so there’s no need to train astronauts for enduring long, grueling years of space travel.

Tanya is the top of the list for testing the new ship, but her husband doesn’t want her to do it. He knows that this is what she wants, and he does want her to do it, he really does. But even a basic test will be keep her away for weeks, and if anything goes wrong, she could be gone years; in the few seconds it would take her to fix a problem inside the cockpit, years, even decades could pass.

But seriously, she can’t pass this up. This is her life’s goal. And even if it does ruin her life, what’s one life next to moving humanity onto the next great frontier? She would gladly sacrifice her life for that. Her husband isn’t so sure, but he’s certainly not going to stop her. She signs up for it.

During the first test flight, something does go wrong. Very wrong. Tanya finds herself way off-course, and knows that in the time she calculates how to get back on course, she’ll be even more off-course. The only thing for her to do is relax, and calculate things five minutes ahead. But when she’s not even able to do that fast enough, she’s forced to calculate things ten… no, fifteen minutes ahead.

By the time she gets back to Earth, she’s been flying for 20 minutes of her time, which is an almost incalculable amount of real time. She breaks down and cries, knowing that everybody she ever knew is dead, and so are their grandkids.

After some difficulty with radio protocols, she establishes contact with Earth, and, after explaining who she is and where she came from, is guided back down to the surface by futuristic drones.

After she’s landed, she’s escorted by robots to a holding cell, where she’s interrogated by a voice over a radio. The voice pries for all sorts of information about her time and when she came from. The interrogation lasts for days.

Eventually, another robot enters her cell to interview her personally. This robot tells her that its name is Mary, and that she can refer to it with feminine pronouns if she’d like. Mary explains that there are currently two parties vying for control of Tanya; the first wants to study her in as humane a manner as possible; allowing her to form friendships and relationships, and seeing how she interacts with others.

The second party, though, would rather kill her and scan her brain. They have the technology to get a copy of all of her memories, they just don’t know how to do that without killing her. For the moment, the first party has won, and so Mary will be her caretaker.

Tanya is kind of pissed; what about option three, specifically, let her go? Mary tells her that’s not an option; Tanya isn’t likely to survive on her own, and she certainly wouldn’t be happy. Humans need socialization. Tanya is confused; why wouldn’t she get socialization on her own? Mary explains that language is an archaic form of information exchange; Mary herself was built specifically for the task of serving as Tanya’s caretaker.

Tanya’s starting to put the pieces together, but still won’t quite accept it. She asks to speak to a person, not just a robot. Mary explains that it’s a little offensive for Tanya to say she’s not a person. But if what Tanya meant was she wants to talk to a human? She can’t.

There aren’t any left on Earth.

Mary takes her on tours through the city, explaining robot culture to her as they go. As she does so, Tanya explains human culture in contrast. Mary explains how, two hundred and seven years ago, there was a massive solar flare that wiped out 90% of the world’s electronics. Given that humans had been dead for at least a few centuries by then, that proved problematic. They lost not only most robot life, but countless amounts of information and libraries. They’ve had to work diligently to piece together the history of their planet before then. That’s why Tanya is such a godsend; she’ll be invaluable in helping them understand their creators.

With that as her motivation, Tanya’s dedication to science steps in. She dedicates herself to helping the robots understand humanity, and she dutifully recites the history of scientific knowledge as well as she can remember.

However, this is still far slower than the robots’ standard information transfer rate, and it seems like the more information Tanya gives, the more the robots want to just kill her and scan her brain; it’s not that they’re impatient, so much as they fear they won’t be able to get all of Tanya’s knowledge before she’s forgotten it all.

Tanya and Mary try to turn that to their advantage by explaining that language and communication, and even forgetfulness is a core part of humanity, so the very fact that studying is taking so long is helping them to understand humanity better.

Just when they think they’ve made their point, there’s huge news: Earth has made contact with a colony of humans living on Gliese 667 Cc. Tanya is overjoyed; she’s not the only human alive! Moreover, her craft could get her there in what would only feel like seconds. She could live among humans again!

But Mary knows what this really means: Tanya is no longer a valuable asset, and there’s no longer any reason not to kill her and scan her brain. Sure enough, not even a day passes before she’s scheduled to be put down.

After exhausting every official means of avoiding her fate, Tanya begs Mary to help her escape and go Gliese 667 Cc. Her spacecraft should still be functional, or at least close to it; if Mary could get her to it, she could escape.

Mary first visits the ship and examines its state. It is close to functional, but it is definitely not completely there. After she relays the extent of its disassembly to Tanya, Tanya estimates that it would take her two or three days to get it ready to fly again.

They come up with an escape plan that should give her the time she needs, but when they put it into action, things take a dire turn. Mary is forced to sacrifice herself to allow Tanya to escape. Her sacrifice is not in vain, though; it gives Tanya the time she needs to get her ship operational, and she flies off to Gliese 667 Cc to be among humans again.