Thu Oct 19, 2023
The Thing From The Future is an award-winning imagination game that challenges players to collaboratively and competitively describe objects from a range of alternative futures.
Celia Choi, Carrey Corrow, Darren Lau
Humanity has continued to progress and prosper into the 31st century. The population has reached trillions with humans turning to space to accommodate their growth and pursuit of knowledge. At the center of progress are a few major organizations that have unified people to work towards space exploration and terraforming planets to build new civilizations. Every year, these organizations host space training programs to select a few chosen applicants to take part in their vital space missions. However, inequality still remains, and there are the workers who carry out the hard physical labor necessary to support the exponential population growth. Naaya is one of those workers. Her appearance is that of a young woman with short black hair and a messy appearance, and she was raised in an impoverished, mining community with her family of four.
Naaya walks hurriedly down a crowded street carrying her heavy work gear, covered head to toe in thick dust. A display of a smiling woman announces “Be a part of something greater than yourself, join Omni Industries humanitarian aid program.” Naaya enters her house, passing by her mother, gearing up to leave for her shift. Naaya and her mother talk briefly before she leaves. Soon after, Naaya's brother, Damon, arrives home, and they sit down for a meal together. Damon asks “Did you get your application in?” Naaya quickly nods and begins to speak, but her father who has just woken up interrupts “I don’t see what good it will do, you’re wasting your time.” Damon then gives Naaya a reassuring look and says “Well, we won’t have to wait long, they will make their announcements tomorrow at 18:00 hours.” The next day, Naaya paces around the common area of their house waiting for the announcements to begin. Damon sits next to her, equally anxious. “What if my name isn’t called?” Naaya asks, breathlessly. The announcement starts, and on a display several names for the new recruits begin to appear on the screen. A feeling of dread passes over Naaya until her name is called. Damon practically jumps up from his seat, congratulating Naaya, but her father, occupied with adjusting his tools, looks displeased. After a few days, Naaya decides to resign her application, thinking about her family’s situation. Damon approaches her after hearing about her decision.
“Naaya, don’t quit now.”
“I can’t go, it’s hard to earn enough as is.”
“Don’t you think like that, do you really want to end up like me?”
“What’s wrong with being like you?”
“Look at me, I lost my leg working in the mines and lost my chance to try for a better life long ago. But you, you still have a chance… To get out of here.”
Naaya mulls over the conversation with Damon all night long. The next morning, Damon wakes up to Naaya packing her things into a bag. He hugs her and sends her off.
Naaya boards the train, watching the city she lived in her whole life disappear into the distance, and arrives at the Omni Industries training station. When she arrives at the assembly hall, the program leader divides them into groups for their training. Naaya doesn’t get along with any of the trainees, feeling as if they come from entirely different worlds. Despite Naaya’s reluctance to open up, she becomes close to one other trainee, Caterine, who feels different from the other trainees. At the end of the year-long program, they are both chosen along with a handful of other trainees to be humanitarian aid workers on the planet of Venora. Caterine is overjoyed when she hears the news that they will be stationed on Venora because she has always loved the planet and its unique customs. The team travels on a hyper-drive rocket to Venora with the medical supplies and resources for their posting. On their journey to Venora the team immerse themselves with the colony and learn their customs, one of which involves a special communal festival that is held over three days every year by the people. Caterine shares her knowledge of the festival, “It’s a spiritual event, it comes from an ancient tradition brought to Verona from Earth by the first people who settled on Verona after it was terraformed. The current colony still practices the beliefs of their ancestors. They believe that certain vibrations and songs have healing properties. The festival plays a critical role in their beliefs, the festival is called Yosa Esam Soch which means “The Song of Relief” in the colonies’ language. They sing songs and dance during the festival to heal the sick and cure alignments ”. In addition to Caterine sharing what she knows about Venora and its beliefs, the team receives additional information on the colony’s customs and are trained on how to engage in their activities from Omi Industustries.
As they arrive, they are greeted by the leaders of the colony, who introduce themselves as members of Omni Industries overseeing the Venora colony. They give the team a tour of the facilities that center on mining the mineral, Hyperionite, crucial to space travel as a necessary fuel for their rocket propulsion system. Afterwards, the team goes to check on the workers and colony residents in the medical bay. The team observes that their injuries are more severe than what they had initially believed but do their best to help them recover with their medical training. Despite this, the colony members say they are not worried as they believe the upcoming festival’s healing rituals will relieve their symptoms. The team spends weeks attending to the sick, but see no progress in their recovery. Caterine and Naaya bond with the patients, and they in turn teach the two on how to perform the dances and songs for the festival. Caterine is receptive and interested to learn but Naaya is reluctant. The festival begins and all the colony members gather in the communal center, bringing in the sick to participate. Naaya and Caterine watch the first day of the festival called ,The Welcoming. A colony member explains the ceremony to them “ The Welcoming tells the story of Seilei, who saved our community through song, we tell her story through dance”. Despite the joy filling the environment, Naaya is worried and feels that there is something much more to what they understand about the health situation at hand and no one is addressing it. The next day, the colony members begin The Day of Song, where the community sings The Song of Relief to the sick members of the colony. After the ceremony some of the sick brighten up and appear as if they have forgotten the pain that they’re in, though their bodies still show the effects of pervasive ailment.
After updating the colony leaders of the conditions they’re seeing, the leaders downplay the situation and offer little information on where the sickness came from and what may be the cause. Naaya uses her communicator to call Damon and discuss her situation, confiding in him that she believes there is more to the situation than what they’ve been told but does not know if she should stick her nose in where it doesn’t belong as they are only here for a medical mission. Damon tells her to follow her intuition but be careful, though he knows she’s capable enough. Naaya decides to discuss her suspicions about the leaders to Caterine, "If no one is going to find out what is really going on here then I will." Caterine agrees with Naaya and helps gather information on the colony by talking to the residents, especially those who are sick. From the geographical readings of the colony, Naaya discovers that toxic radioactive chemicals are leaking into the atmosphere around the colony. Caterine confirms her suspicion, matching the symptoms of the sick patients to radiation sickness. The chemical leak appears to originate from the central facility where the minerals are primarily extracted due to the prolonged terraforming, and Naaya believes they must go and shut down the main reactor of the facility in order to prevent further spread of the radiation. Naaya concludes that this must be a big cover-up by the Omni leaders overseeing Venora, and potentially even goes higher to those back home. "The higher-ups in the colony have been mismanaging the waste from the reactor. These upper crust people think their actions have no consequences, it's a disgrace, look at what they did! They are killing all these people."
Caterine refutes her conclusion, stating “They wouldn’t do that, the leaders are responsible for the colony’s well-being, it doesn’t make any sense to let them all die like that. There must be another reason.”
Naaya, in disbelief, walks off to confront the colony leaders on her own.
As Naaya goes to confront the colony leaders, she discovers that the leaders of the colony are nowhere to be found, and realizes they have escaped during The Feast, (the last night of the festival) and stolen the team’s ship. The team starts to fight: some want to evacuate immediately, some are inclined to stay, suspicion and self-preservation begin to tear the team apart. Naaya tells the team about her findings and proposes a solution: "We need to seal the reactor to prevent the entire planet from becoming untenable." But no one listens to her, now concerned with their own safety and leaving as quickly as possible. Naaya’s trust in Caterine, her confidant, is further broken when she discovers Caterine is not who she thought she was: she is the daughter of the CEO of the corporation. When she confronts Caterine, she has a dark expression and can barely look at Naaya.
“Why did you lie to me?”
“I didn’t want to lie to you, but I have my own reasons.”
“So your father being the CEO of the Omni Industries has nothing to do with you not believing me about the leaders here in Venora? Were you sent here to help cover up their misdoings?”
“I’m sorry Naaya, but I swear I never knew about what was happening here, I promise it's not like that. Honestly I’m a disappointment to my family, this was the only position in the company my father would let me have since I messed up my last job”
“I don’t believe you, you are just like the leadership of Venora, you are the kind that always takes advantage of others.”
Naaya storms off with a bitter expression, feeling that she made a mistake opening up to her.
The team is almost at its breaking point when they find a spare rocket in a facility in the outer reaches of the colony. The team members agree that evacuation is their only chance at survival, believing that the colony is a lost cause. As the team is preparing for launch, Caterine exits her seat and decides to stay at the colony. Naaya goes after her. The rest of the team decide to take off without the two, leading to their demise as the escape ship has long been improperly managed and breaks apart once they reach the stratosphere. Naaya catches up with Caterine, who has entered the communal center where the colony members are engaging in a meditative activity, holding hands while sitting in a circle. Caterine goes to the sick members lying down and tells them that they will do their best to help them get better. The sick patient smiles back at her and says that they feel lucky to be surrounded by their community and be under the care of great health workers. Caterine calls out to the festival-attendees and lets them know the situation, asking that they remain calm and to return to their home for safety while she goes to turn off the facility. They ignore her at first, but the sick patients call out to the others that they believe in Caterine’s warnings as they have built trust and think there is something more to the sickness spreading. The festival ends prematurely, with the colony members returning home. Caterine goes to the team’s meeting room, where Naaya is waiting with her gear, expecting her to arrive. The two prepare to enter the central facility and attempt to shut down the machine’s core.
The two venture into the facility in silence, with the tension of their previous falling out looming over them. Naaya decides to break the silence and the two have a heated exchange.
“What are you trying to prove here?”
“I’m here because I care about what happens to the colony. Just like you.”
“Can’t you ask your dad to send some people in and fix it for you?” “I’m not that important in my family, no one expects much of me. This is the only thing that I know I can do, and I believe in using the gifts I’ve been given to help others.”
Naaya stops in her tracks and looks at her, with mixed feelings. Caterine turns around and hugs her.
“I’m not asking for you to forgive me right away. I know I don’t deserve it, but I hope to regain your trust someday, because I can’t imagine a future without you.” Naaya silently hugs her back.
When they reach the excavation room, Caterine locks herself in, preventing Naaya from venturing further in where the radiation risk is nearly lethal. “Naaya, you still have a family that depends on you. Please go and try to save the people you can.”
“You don’t get to decide this. Let me in.” Naaya pounds at the glass window.
Caterine goes up to the window and shares one last gaze, mouthing the words “I love you,” before turning around and walking to the core reactor, exposing herself to the chemicals. She eventually passes out, right before she is able to complete the shutdown process. Naaya breaks the door down. She exposes herself to the radiation, but manages to turn the reactor off, dragging Caterine away, and sending an SOS signal to HQ. Naaya is weak and barely able to move, but she kisses Caterine and hums the festival song of relief, in desperation that it will save her. Then her vision fades to black. The two wake up at the medical bay, and they are greeted by Omni members that have arrived to take them back to their planet and assess the situation. They are in disbelief how the two survived the strong chemical dosage that they received when they were in the reactor. When Naaya and Caterine return home, they are celebrated for their achievements and the CEO thanks Naaya for returning his daughter back to them safely. Naaya heads to the train platform to return to her family as the mission is complete while Caterine follows behind.
Naaya says, “So this is it, we were a great team.“
“Are you going to quit the team?”
“I don’t really have a reason to stay anymore, I made enough to pay off my debt and some more.”
Caterine goes up to her, before she steps onto the train. She kisses Naaya.
She replies, “I can give you a reason to stay.” Naaya is slightly taken aback but feels her heart racing. She gets on the train and looks back at Caterine.
“I’ll see you next week.”
One year later, Omni Industries has continued to send supplies and follow up teams to treat the residents of Venora, and dedicated their research team to prevent future issues with potential leaks in their fuel mining and processing system. After Naaya and Caterine survived the radiation from the reactor Omni Industries took a greater interest in the festival and the colony's beliefs, believing there may be some valid science behind their customs that allowed the duo and the sick patients to recover from radiation sickness without advanced medical treatment. They appointed Naaya and Caterine as the Omni Industries leaders for Venora. The pair are researching the festival and songs as potential treatment for other diseases and looking after the people of Venora.