Blindsight: Screenplay

by Alexander Howlett

BLINDSIGHT

Copyright 2006 by Peter Watts

http://www.rifters.com/real/Blindsight.htm

A Screenplay Adaptation

2013 Alex Howlett

For Lisa and Leah:

If we’re not in pain, we’re not alive.

The Calm Blue Sea – The Rivers That Run Beneath This City

MARQUE

PROLOUGE

Fade to:

EXT. STARFIELD – DEEP SPACE

A stream of TACTICAL DATA.

The AUDIO FEED resolves into a transmission from SIRI KEETON:

MARQUE

TRY TO TOUCH THE PAST. TRY TO DEAL WITH THE PAST. IT’S NOT REAL. IT’S JUST A DREAM.

— TED BUNDY

MARQUE

THE CONCEPTS “WAR” AND “PROGRESS” ARE NOW OBSOLETE

— Anonymous

KEETON (V. O.)

(Cont’d)

…Like a torsion flare from an L-class dwarf, my commander had said once, but we should see anything big enough to generate that effect and the sky’s dark on that bearing. IAU calls it a statistical artifact. As in fact it had been. An impact splash, perhaps, or the bright brief bellow of some great energy source rebooting after a million years of dormancy. Much like this one: a solar flare, with no sun beneath it. A magnetic cannon ten thousand times stronger than nature gave it any right to be. Both sides drew their weapons. I don’t know which fired first, or even if it mattered: how many tonnes of antimatter would it take to match something that could squeeze the power of a sun from a gas ball barely wider than Jupiter? Was Rorschach also resigned to defeat, had each side opted for a kamikaze strike on the other? I don’t know. Big Ben got in the way just minutes before the annihilation event…

Ext. BIG BEN – ACCRETION DISK

THE SUN IS A DISTANT GLIMMER OF LIGHT IN A VAST COLD STARFIELD. A MASSIVE SUPER-JOVIAN GAS GIANT FILLS THE FRAME

TENDRILS OF ENERGY FLICKER AWAY FROM THE MASSIVE PLANET

KEETON (V.O.)

(Cont’d)

…Blind maybe, but not luck. Foresight. Brilliant moves, and subtle. Not that most of us even knew the rules of the game, of course. We were just pawns, really. Sarasti and the Captain— whatever hybridized intelligence those two formed– they were the REAL players. Sarasti wouldn’t let me outside the system.

KEETON (V.O.)

(Cont’d)

I tried to be like one of Bates’s drones, a simple tool with no initiative and no influence on the group dynamic. In the field this proved impossible. It didn’t start out here. Not with the scramblers or RORSCHACH. Not with BIG BEN or THESEUS or the VAMPIRES. Most people would say it started with the FIREFLIES. They’re all wrong. IT ENDED WITH THOSE THINGS.

For me, it began with Robert Paglino.

FADE TO:

EXT. Public School playground – Day

Typical 20th century playground, plastic gymnastic platforms and gravel terrain.

ROBERT PAGLINO lays on the ground, surrounded by SIX LARGE BULLIES.

Eight year old SIRI KEETON walks onto the playground.

KEETON (V.O.)

We were fellow outcasts, bound by complementary misfortune. Mine was developmental. His was genetic: an uncontrolled genotype that left him predisposed to nearsightedness, acne, and a susceptibility to narcotics. Those few TwenCen relics who still believed in God also held that one shouldn’t try to improve upon His handiwork, his parents had never had him optimized. So although both of us COULD have been repaired, only one of us HAD been…

BULLY ONE

Ha! Stupid Mongrel

BULLY TWO

Let’s teach this Polly.

BULLY THREE

(Sees KEETON)

Hey look, it’s that HALF BRAIN FREAK

KEETON POV: Keeton watches as the BULLIES pulverize PAG.

KEETON (V. O.)

At first I just stood there.

That didn’t make sense. Even if he hadn’t been my best friend, I should at least have empathized. I’d suffered less than Pag in the way of overt violence; my seizures tended to keep the other kids at a distance. Still. I was no stranger to the taunts and insults, or the foot that appears from nowhere to trip you up en route from A to B. I know how that felt. Or I had, once.

KEETON (V. O.) (Cont’d)

So I picked up a rock…

KEETON Picks up a large nearby STONE.

KEETON (V. O.) (Cont’d)

Suddenly, I was in the game.

HE RUSHES FORWARD AND SMASHES THE STONE OVER THE HEADS OF BULLIES ONE & TWO.

BULLY THREE turns to face Keeton,

CU: KEETON

Young Keeton is steely nerved. He

RUNS FORWARD AND SMASHES IN BULLY THREE’s NOSE.

THE BULLIES, badly wounded, SCATTER slowly.

BULLY FOUR

(running away)

FUCKING ZOMBIE!

BULLY FIVE

(running away)

You’re dead, Keeton!

KEETON kicks BULLY TWO as he lies bleeding on the ground.

KEETON TURNS towards Paglino,

KEETON WALKS OVER TO ASSAULT HIM. HE RAISES HIS ARM and brandishes the stone.

KEETON

Paglino?

Oh Sorry

Paglino

(Bleeding, wounded)

Oh shit, Oh shit, oh shit…

Oh man are we in trouble

KEETON

They started it.

PAGLINO

Yeah but you, I mean, LOOK at them!

REVERSE ANGLE: BULLY ONE crawls away, moaning. BULY TWO is not moving.

PAGLIO (Cont’d)

You nearly killed them.

You’da never done that before… Before the operation…

KEETON

They started it.

KEETON raises the BLOODY ROCK and approaches Paglino.

PAGLINO

(Alarmed)

What are you doing? Put that down!

KEETON drops the rock.

KEETON

I was trying to help.

Adults begin to gather around. Paglino is taken away.

Int. KEETON FAMILY CONDOMUNIUM – LIVING ROOM

Mid 21st century decor.

TEN YEAROLDs ROBERT PAGLINO and SIRI KEETON play video games and CONVERSE TOGETHER.

PAGLINO

You’re not the same anymore. You haven’t been Siri Keeton for years.

KEETON

What are you talking about. Don’t be a fuckwad.

PAGLINO

Remeber, Keeton? They CUT OUT YOUR BRAIN!

KEETON

Half. For the epilepsy.

PAGLINO

I know for the epilepsy! You think I don’t know? But you were IN that half – or, like part of you was… I’m terrible with words man, you know. I just see the concept behind them.

KEETON’s MOTHER, HELEN enters the room, holding a martini glass and smoking a DIGITAL CIGERETTE.

HELEN

Siri’s radical hemospherectomy would have been less of a burden on the family if your FATHER weren’t always off on another continent!

Are you hungry, Siri? Paglino? Can I get you boys a sandwich?

PAGLIO

That would be great, Helen

HELEN

Thanks, Pag. Just think about how difficult it was to adjust, our son with a whole new personality…

I’ll bring down the sandwiches when they’re ready.

HELEN glances back, smiles, and leaves the room.

PAGLINO (Quietly)

It’s like your parents MURDERED you.

KEETON

My mom and dad, saved my life. I would have died.

PAGLINO

I think you did die. I think Siri died, they scooped him out and threw him away and you’re some whole other kid that just… just grew back… out of what was left. You’re not the same. Ever since… you’re not the same…

KEETON

Are you kidding me, Pag? Did your mother pull the plug on whatever game you’d been wired into for the past 18 hours?

You due for some fresh air? Outside time? Still looking to win in the gamespace, against the Pod People?…

INT. KEETON RESIDENCE – KEETON’S ROOM

KEETON confronts HELEN

KEETON

You went through my email again, Mom.

HELEN

I’m just taking an interest, Siri.

Like your window drapes– why are they always drawn all the time?

KEETON

It’s personal, Mom. I’d just rather not talk about it.

HELEN

You can ALWAYS talk to me, Siri. I’m your MOTHER.

KEETON runs to the bathroom and locks the door.

INT. KEETON RESIDENCE – KEETON BATHROOM

HELEN (O.S.)

Siri, what is it? Is it trouble online?

KEETON

MOM!

HELEN (O.S.)

Trouble at school? A girl? A boy?

Why don’t you trust me?

KEETON

MOM, just leave me alone!

HELEN (O.S.)

I’m taking the lock off the door. Family should NEVER lock eachother out.

EXT. GATES OF HEAVEN – NIGHT

Eighteen Yearold Keeton and his FATHER (JIM) pass through the security entrance to the neuro-interface establishment. GUARDS check their ID.

KEETON (V.O.)

My own mother, packed herself away like a larva in honeycomb, softened by machinery, robbed of incentive by her own contentment.

Packing yourself into the matrix was no different than any other era of technological stagnation: even into the twenty-first century, a few isolated tribes had barely developed stone tools.

KEETON (V.O.)

(Cont’d)

They settled down with agriculture. Others weren’t content until they had ended nature itself, still others until they’d built cities in space.

Int. HEAVEN – Interface room.

The HEAVEN assembly is surrounded by onlookers. Each viewing platform is labeled.

Keeton and JIM pass through CHAMBER ONE.

The HEAVEN assembly cycles as they enter the small viewing portico.

The VIEWING SHROUD lowers around KEETON and JIM

Int. HEAVEN VIEWING PORTICO

HELEN appears, asleep atop a large granite slab, attached by electroencephalogram cables to the HEAVEN MATRIX.

KEETON (V.O.) (Cont’d)

Dad might have known for sure – Dad knew more than most people, about the things most people weren’t supposed to know – but he never told tales out of turn. Whatever he knew, he’d obviously decided its disclosure wouldn’t have changed Helen’s mind. That would have been enough for him.

JIM walks up to HELEN and touches her exposed flesh. TWO VIEWING HOODS descend.

THE KEETON’s attach the instruments.

KEETON POV: INSIDE HELEN’s REALITY

Int. HEAVEN MATRIX – HELEN’s WORLD.

A sterile grey enclosure, five meters across, with no windows.

KEETON (V.O.) (Cont’d)

We were inside the spartan visiting room Mom imagined for these visits. She never showed us any of the Utopia she imagined for herself.

HELEN APPEARS. Thirty years old, a hyperreal simulacra.

JIM

(Smiling)

Helen.

HELEN

Jim.

JIM

Siri, maybe you could give us a moment?

FADE TO:

EXT. GATES of HEAVEN – DAWN

It is raining.

JIM and KEETON walk onto the street, surrounded by comers and goers.

JIM reaches into his coat and produces a VASOPRESSIN INHALER

KEETON

You don’t need that anymore

JIM

Probably not.

KEETON

It won’t work anyway, you can’t imprint on someone who isn’t there…

JIM

She’s my wife.

She’s gone.

KEETON

That doesn’t mean what it used to.

JIM

(Smiles)

It’s my life, and I’m comfortable with it.

KEETON

Dad—

JIM

I don’t blame her, and neither should you.

I’m leaving, Siri. You’ll understand when you’re older.

KEETON (V.O.)

Easy for him to say. This cheerful facade here at the end hardly made up for the endless bitter complaints my father endured. Not knowing…

KEETON and JIM walk into the crowd, becoming atomistic.

KEETON (V.O.)

(Cont’d)

The truth was… it was ME. Helen left because she couldn’t stand the THING that had replaced her son.

KEETON and JIM brush past a tall, strangely DIFFERENT human.

KEETON is staring at a VAMPIRE: Yellow eyes gazing directly at him.

POV: VAMPIRE

LOOKING AT KEETON – in INFRARED

FADE TO:

EXT. GEORGIAN HIGHLANDS – NIGHT

The camera resolves on the night sky, awash in shifting clouds and haze.

MARQUE (CONT’D)

THIS IS WHAT FASCINATES ME MOST IN EXISTENCE: THE PECULIAR NECESSITY OF IMAGINING WHAT IS, IN FACT, REAL. – PHILLIP GOUREVITCH

MARQUE (CONT’D)

YOU WILL DIE LIKE A DOG FOR NO GOOD REASON. – ERNEST HEMINGWAY

The planets swing overhead in timelapse.

The sun is rising.

EXT. GEORGIAN MOUNTAINS – DAY

Sequence:

45,000 years ago. UPPER PALEOLITHIC PERIOD.

The landscape is covered in towering foliage

EXT. MOUNTAINS – DAY

WIDE ESTABLISHING SHOT of MOUNTIAN VALLEY.

The mountains are shrouded in a low haze in the brilliant day. Grasslands and river valleys give way to near tropical forests.

In the distance, lightning strikes cause fires that burn up from the mountain slopes, covering the mountains and sky in ash.

EXT. MOUNTAINS – NIGHT

CLOUDS descend over the valley:

Rain floods and river outflows.

EXT. MOUNTAINS – DAY

SNOW FALLS:

Ice covers the lakes and reservoirs.

EXT. MOUNTAINS – NIGHT

The ice melts and floods the river valley.

TRANSITION TO:

EXT. GEORGIAN LOWLANDS – DAY

UNDER BURNING SUN:

Wide grasslands cover the landscape.

Wildlife crosses the landscape. Extinct predators and colossal prey.

EXT. FISHING GROUNDS – DAY

Nearby a flowing river in the grasslands, we see a small group of PASSIVE HOMONIDS, fishing, and collecting berries and fibres.

REVERSE ANGLE: predators watching the passive group from the tall grass.

Ext. Hunting Grounds – Day

A nearby group of AGRESSIVE HOMO SAPIENS ambushes wild animals,

Horses, other hominids. Domesticating them.

carving them up with advanced microlithic stone weapons and spears.

Ext. TRIBAL ENCAMPMENT – SUNRISE

Nearby a river, a group of HOMO SAPIENS have collected fish and hides, forming a temporary habitat.

ANGLE on the tribal encampment:

A large midden of empty shells and fish bones piles up.

FLASH

EXT. HOMOSAPIEN – Cave

Homosapien’s produce microlithic hand axes.

Ext. FOREST – RIVER VALLEY

Enter: ARES, a Homo Sapien male.

ARES walks from the forest to the flowing river.

Ext. The Forest – The River.

ARES spears fish at the river.

Ares consumes shellfish near the river.

More Homosapiens arrive and forage near the river.

CU: The water flows over smooth rocks.

The leaves change colour.

Ext. TRIBAL ENCAMPMENT, winter – SUNSET

ARES fights another human over a mate.

The fight gets out of hand, the other human is killed.

ENTER: Group ELDERS. They quickly resolve the conflict. ARES is exiled.

INT. ENCAMPMENT HABITAT – NIGHT

The habitat is a complex structure: semi-PERMANEMT dwellings built of hides, mud and thatch.

Dozens of families sleep along the walls

Int. Encampment living space – night

A pair of homo sapiens groom each other and copulate.

Ext. HOMO SAPIEN HABITAT – DAY

WIDE ANGLE ON THE SEMI-PERMANEMT Dwellings:

EXT. HABITAT – NIGHT


ENEMIES approach from outside the settlement.

A raiding party of ten warriors.

Ext. Mountains; Volcano eruption – Night

The sky is covered in ash and dust.

CUT to Ext. THE BATTLE – Day

More homo sapiens arrive:

Two groups, indistinguishable, fight and kill each other

Ext. HOMOSAPIEN HABITAT – NIGHT

Fires burn freely through the encampment.

The encampment is deserted.

Ext. GEORGIAN MOUNTAINS – NIGHT

W/A on the mountains., snow falling.

EXT. TRIBAL HABITAT – MORNING

Months after the destruction, a few homosapiens linger nearby. Others go farther afield.

ARES is there, still lingering around after his exile.

Ext. Shell Midden – Morning.

There is no more food. Ares looks up to the IMPOSING GEORGIAN MOUNTAINS.

Ext. CAVE ENTRANCE – SUNSET

Staggering through the snow, hungry and wounded…

Animals crawl and fly through the air.

INT. VAMPIRE CAVE Entrance – TWILIGHT

Ares stumbles into the refuge of the cave.

Into the utter darkness.

INT. VAMPIRE CAVE – NIGHT

ARES SEES THE VAMPIRES.

INT. VAMPIRE CAVE – NIGHT

The HOMO SAPIEN VAMPIRIS sleeps in their CHAMBER OF BONES.

BONES LITTER THE CAVE FLOOR. SMASHED HUMAN CRANIUM ARE EVERYWHERE.

CU: The remorseless face of the VAMPIRE: Canine teeth and extended mandible.

DARK EMPTY EYES. THE EYES OF COUNTLESS NIGHTMARES.

ARES knows he has been discovered.

He is stunned by the vision from his nightmares.

Sleep deprived, delirious with hunger, can this be real?

THE VAMPIRE circles ARES. Then, with sudden ferocity, lunges and grabs ARES by the jugular. THEY WRESTLE TO THE GROUND,

CU: THE VAMPIRE slays the human.

WIDE ANGLE:

The female vampires silently approach and together the three begin to dismember the remains of ARES.

INT. DEEP CAVE – INFRARED LIGHT

The walls are bathed in darkness, but the bodies of the vampires are still warm-blooded and ARES is only recently slain…

Int. DEEP CAVE – INFRAED LIGHT

They create coals with smouldering fires and consume the meat.

The Vampires feast on their solitary kill.

INT. DEEP CAVE – DAY

Only the faintest rays of daylight pierce the cave.

The vampires take the coal spigots from the dead fire and:

They make charcoal markings on the walls.

INT. VAMPIRE CAVE Winter – NIGHT

Surrounded by chewed bones,

The vampires sleep, waiting to be forgotten.

MARQUE

Why should man expect his prayer for mercy to be heard by What is above him when he shows no mercy to what is under him?

— Pierre Troubetzkoy

FADE TO:

INT. KEETON’s APARTMENT – NIGHT

Transition to TWENTY-EIGHT year old SIRI KEETON talking over his subderminal TRANSPHONE.

PAGLINO (O.S.)

…That’s not what this is. I just figured you two would click. CHELSEA is one of the few who might not be completely put off by your intimacy issues.

KEETON

Everyone’s got intimacy issues, in case you hadn’t noticed.

PAGLINO (O.S.)

I was being euphemistic. I meant your aversion to general Human contact.

KEETON

Making it euphemistic to call you Human?

PAGLINO (O.S.)

Different deal. We got history.

Ext. HAMILTON-TORONTO METROPOLIS AEROFLOT HIGHWAY OFFRAMP – NIGHT

CHELSEA, riding her LIGHTCYCLE speeds down the highway offramp towards the AIRPORT LOUNGE.

ECU: CHELSEA’s helmet, reflecting an inlay HUD.

Ext. HAMILTON-TORONTO METROPOLIS AEROFLOT LOUNGE PARKING – NIGHT

CHELSEA roars up to the parking garage.

CHELSEA drives the bike through a Semi-autonomous SECURE ZONE with her ID patch. The ZONE GUARD waves her through.

CHELSEA finds a parking spot amidst the rows of bikes and electric cars and locks the SUPERBIKE.

KEETON (V.O.)

Not my type. No thanks.

PAG (V.O.)

They discovered Oxygen on Eridani Majoris Beta, Brown dwarfs and rouge planets: and you’re going on a date. She’s already en route to the appointed place. She’s

probably there right now, dude.

KEETON (V.O.)

Ursae Majoris Eridani is forty-three light years away. The nearest rouge dwarf planet is thousands of billions of kilometres from us. Do you have a HEAVEN simulation of this already?

PAG (V.O.)

This planet is the bitchenist-place in the universe far as I know… I’ve got no reason to simulate. Now, you better shut up and suit up.

KEETON (V.O.)

You almost sound like some kind of realist. What bullshit…

Int. HAMILTON-TORONTO METROPOLIS AEROFLOT LOUNGE – Night

The massive airport lounge is divided into multilevel commercial outlets. There are shoppers everywhere.

CU: THE BETH AND BEAR

A lounge bar.

Int. THE BETH AND BEAR – Night

There are revellers everywhere. The bar distributes CHEMICAL NARCOTICS.

TWENTY EIGHT year-old KEETON enters the scene.

CHELSEA is sitting alone at a booth near the corner.

KEETON (V.O.) (Cont’d)

Appointment? You’re an asshole, Pag.

PAGLINO (V.O.)

The tightest, motherfucker.

KEETON walks up to the bar, too terrified to talk to CHELSEA.

KEETON watches CHELSEA from the bar.

KEETON (V.O.)

So I pretended for a moment, assessing the woman in the corner booth. She was beautiful: a half-dozen ethnicities coexisting peacefully with no single voice dominant. Some delicate flower: there was no question, she was the one.

CU: CHELSEA

CHELSEA already knows that the petrified man at the bar is obviously Keeton.

We see CHELSEA ‘s DIGITAL CHEEK TATTOO wandering across her skin.

Her brown hair bobs like a cloud around her head, as if suspended by a static generator.

REVERSE ANGLE on the Bar: KEETON finally gets up the nerve to approach CHELSEA, cat completely out of the bag.

KEETON (V.O.)

She was attractive. YOU WILL NOT FALL FOR THIS.

CHELSEA

Chelsea.

KEETON (V.O.)

Hah. Wasn’t going to fall for that one…

CHELSEA (Cont’d)

…Former neuroaestheticist, presently a parasite on the Body Economic thanks to genes and machines on the cutting edge.

KEETON

Siri. Freelance Synthesist, indentured servant to the genes and machines that turned you into a parasite.

CHELSEA

Have a seat.

KEETON takes a seat and they exchange pleasantries.

KEETON (V.O.)

The set of her shoulders told me she enjoyed landscapes, and was embarrassed to admit it. Monahan was her favourite artist. She thought herself natural, because she’d stayed on chemical libidinals all these years, even though a synaptic edit would have been simpler. She reviled in her own inconsistency: a woman whose professional machinery edited thought itself, yet mistrustful of the dehumanizing impact of TRANSPHONES. Innately affectionate, and innately afraid of unreturned affection, and indomitable: unwilling to let any of that stop her. She liked what she saw. She was afraid of that, too.

They consume relaxation drugs from canisters.

CHELSEA

Good dope here. Extra hydroxyl on the ring, or something. Terribly old fashioned, since derms would be so much more efficient. So you’re a synthesist, explaining the Incomprehensible to the Indifferent?

KEETON

More like bridging the gap between the people who make breakthroughs and the people who take credit for them. Your bioluminescent butterfly is lovely.

CHELSEA

You like it then?

All those optimized frontal lobes and refits- I mean, if they’re incomprehensible, how do you comprehend them?

KEETON

It helps to find pretty much everyone else incomprehensible too. Provides experience.

KEETON (V.O.)

She thought I was joking. She was lining up to push for more details, to ask questions about me, which would lead…

KEETON (Cont’d)

Tell me what it’s like; rewiring people’s heads for a living.

KEETON is reactive.

CHELSEA’s butterfly flutters.

CHELSEA

God, you make it sound like we turn them into zombies or something. They’re just tweaks, mainly. Changing taste in music of cuisine, you know, optimizing mate compatibility. It’s all reversible.

KEETON

There aren’t drugs for that?

CHELSEA

Nah. Ha! Well yes, but there’s too much developmental variation between brains; our targeting is really fine-scale. But it’s not all microsurgery and fried synapses, you know. You’d be surprised how much rewiring can be done noninvasively.

KEETON

I assume those are new techniques? You can start all sorts of cascades just by playing certain sounds in the right order, or showing images with the right balance of geometry and emotion?

CHELSEA

Not really. Rhythm and music hang their hats on the same basic principle. We just turned art into science.

CHELSEA (Cont’d)

Robert told me about your operation. Some kind of viral epilepsy, right? Back when you were just a tyke?

KEETON

Pag still thinks that happened to someone else. Yah. They…

CHELSEA

I don’t know your specifics, but from the sound of it, noninvasive techniques wouldn’t have helped. I’m sure they only did what they had to.

KEETON (V.O.)

I liked this woman. I felt something strange. An unfamiliar sensation that loosened my vertebrae.

KEETON

Let me tell you a story about Optimism …

Ext. KEETON’s APARTMENT BALCONY – DAWN

KEETON and Chelsea watch the sunrise from recliners set on KEETON’S BALCONY.

CHELSEA

… How can you possibly tell the rest of us what your bleeding edge is up to if you don’t understand it yourself?

KEETON

It’s not my job to understand the edge, though. If I could, the edge wouldn’t be very bleeding, would it? I’m just a, you know, a conduit.

CHELSEA

Yeah, but how can you translate something if you don’t understand it?

KEETON

You ever hear of the Chinese Room?

CHELSEA

Only vaguely. Sounds like something from a Milgram experiment. It’s a fallacy?

KEETON

Yes. It’s a hundred year old argument that supposedly puts the lie to Turing tests.

INT. CHINESE ROOM

CHELSEA stands in the middle of a nondescript room.

There are cabinets, a desk, and a single SLOT on one side of the room.

KEETON (O.S.)

You stick some guy in a closed room. Sheets with strange squiggles come in through a slot in the wall.

CU: A sheet of paper with strange squiggles appears through the SLOT.

KEETON (O.S.)(Cont’d)

He’s got access to this huge database of squiggles just like it, and a ruleset for combining them: Grammar, Syntax.

CU: CHELSEA sorting through the cabinet files, looking at RULE SETS.

KEETON (O.S.)(Cont’d)

But the man in the room doesn’t have any idea what the squiggles ARE or what information they might contain. He only knows that when he encounters squiggle DELTA, say, he’s supposed to extract the fifth and sixth squiggles from file THETA and put them together with another squiggle from GAMMA. So he builds a response string, puts it on the sheet, slides it back out the slot and takes a nap.

CU: CHELSEA assembles SQUIGGLES and pushes them into the SLOT.

CHELSEA (O. S.)

So he’s carrying on a conversation. In Chinese, I assume, or they would have called if the Spanish Inquisition. The argument suggests that you can use pattern-matching algorithms to participate in a conversation without having any idea what you’re saying…

KEETON (O. S.)

Depending on how good your rules are, you can pass a Turing test. You can be a wit in a language you don’t even speak.

CU: SUDDENLY A DOOR APPEARS in the room. CHELSEA walks out, SUCCESSFUL.

Ext. KEETON’s APARTMENT BALCONY – DAWN

CHELSEA

That’s synthesis?

KEETON

Only the part that involves downscaling semiotic protocols. And only in principle. And I’m actually getting my input in Cantonese and replying in German, because I’m more of a conduit than a conversant. You’ve got the feed.

KEETON (Cont’d)

What about you, Chelsea?

CHELSEA

Hmmm?

KEETON

What’s it like to optimise people?

CHELSEA

(thoughtful)

You traffic in the reading of human architecture, I change it.

KEETON

Yah?

CHELSEA

I find the critical nodes and I nudge them, just so. Dropping a pebble into some trickle at the headwaters of memory and watching the ripples build to a great rolling cascade deep in the psyche.

CHELSEA (Cont’d)

Here, I’ll demo it on you.

KEETON
Oh?

CHELSEA

Yah, I’ll give you a TAT, on the house

KEETON

TAT?

CHELSEA
Transient Attitudinal Tweak.

KEETON

I’m pretty tweaked already- you might turn me into another person alltogether.

CHELSEA

That’s ridiculous and you know it.

Here.

CHELSEA pulls a wire from her wearable computer. The wire unfolds into a hairnet like mesh.

CHELSEA

They used to need a machine the size of a bathroom just to house the magnets. With this portable setup we can find the hot spots and zap ’em, but TMS effects fade after a while. I could do a permanent job at the clinic.

KEETON attaches the mesh to his cranium.

KEETON

(Awkward)

So you’re fishing for what exactly?

Repressed memories.

CHELSEA
No such thing. There are only memories we choose to ignore, or kinda think AROUND if you know what I mean. People ignore all kinds of memories- say, something you enjoyed that you didn’t think you should have.

KEETON

So, you’re going for?

CHELSEA

Potluck. You can never tell till you get a bite.

Close your eyes.

Keeton does as he’s told.

CHELSEA (Cont’d)

Keep in mind, of course, memories aren’t archives. They’re improvisations. You’re brain builds all kinds of composite models and inserts details after the fact. More like impressionist paintings.

Okay

KEETON

What?

CHELSEA

There’s something. A functional cluster.

Let’s see what happens when–

INT. KEETON’s PARENTS HOME – KITCHEN

KEETON POV: JIM and HELEN are fighting in the KITCHEN

HELEN

I only want what is best for all of us

JIM

There are limits. You’re not going about this the right way

HELEN

You don’t know what it’s like. You hardly ever see him

JIM

You do not FORCE something like that onto someone, especially without their knowledge.

HELEN

That’s just garbade. Parents ALWAYS make decisions for their children, in their best interets, especially when it come sot medical iss—

JIM

— THIS IS NOT A MEDICAL ISSUE

It’s—

HELEN

NOT A MEDICAL ISSUE! That’s a new height of denial even for you! They cut out half his BRAIN in case you didn’t notice. Do you think he can recover from THAT without help? Is that more of your father’s TOUGH LOVE shining through? Why not just deny him FOOD while you’re at it!

JIM

If mu-ops were called for they’d have been prescribed.

HELEN

Jim, be reasonable, He’s so distant, he barely even talks to me.

KEETON POV: KEETON hides at the entrance. He can see something in the garbage pale.

JIM

They said it would take time.

HELEN

But two years! There’s nothing wrong with helping nature along a little, we’re not even talking about black market– it’s over-the-counter, for God’s sake!

JIM

That’s not the point.

HELEN

Maybe the point is your NERVE at passing judgement on my parents skills- Someone who’s barely home three months of the year. You can just fuck right OFF.

JIM

You will not put that shit in my son ever again.

KEETON gingerly approaches the garbage pale and takes hold of an EMPTY PILL JAR, his parents do not notice

KEETON POV: Holding the Jar. The Jar reads:

BONDFAST™ Formula IV

U-Opioid Receptor Promoters/Maternal Response Stimulant

Strengthening ties between Mother and Child since 2042”

HELEN

Yah, and how are you going to stop me you little geek?

You can’t even make the time find out what’s going on in your own family; you think you can control me all the way from ORBIT? You think–

JIM suddenly GRABS HELEN BY THE THROAT

JIM

I think, that I can stop you from doing anything to Siri ever again, if I have to. And I think you know that…

KEETON drops the pill jar.

HELEN and JIM react, turning to face KEETON.

JIM drops his hands, his face empty.

HELEN smiles in triumph.

Ext. KEETON’s APARTMENT BALCONY – DAWN

KEETON stands up on the balcony, clutching the TAT MESH in his hand.

CHELSEA reaches for KEETON’s hand.

CHELSEA

I’m sorry.

KEETON

You… saw that?

CHELSEA

No, I can’t read minds– but obviously that wasn’t a happy memory. It really stressed you out, your vitals were– are you OK?

KEETON

Yeah, of course. Not big deal.

I am curious about something though.

CHELSEA
Ask me

KEETON

Why would you do this to me?

CHELSEA

Because we can make it go away, Cygnus.

KEETON shakes his head

KEETON

I don’t think so.

CHELSEA

I’ve treated post-traumatic stress conditions that are much worse. In at least two cases the patients had undergone extensive skeletal and musculature reconstruction: it was like memories of trauma become their entire psyche.

CHELSEA (Cont’d)

At least you’ve got THIS reality to enable your mind to progress.

Why wouldn’t you want to be free from the nightmare of your subconscious fears becoming your reality?

KEETON

You know what they say about people who don’t remember the past.

Int. Keeton’s Apartment, Bedroom – Night

It’s raining outside. Keeton’s apartment is a mess.

Chelsea and Keeton make love.

CHELSEA

Real sex… what a contradiction!

Keeton

More like Hand-to-hand combat.

CHELSEA

Oh, Cygnus. It’s all animal appeal.

Keeton (V.O.)

Chelsea would argue about anything under the sun, wry and insightful and curious.

Sharp as a razor.

CHELSEA

Look at me. Look at my eyes. If you simulate, you lose, Keeton. They say it’s indistinguishable, but it’s not. It’s just shadows on the cave wall.

KEETON

How can it be cheating if it’s not real?

CHELSEA

That’s exactly why it is cheating! The shadows have three-D color and forcefeedback tactile interactivity: they might fool your brain… but you KNOW it’s not REAL. Know what I mean?

KEETON (V.O.)

I didn’t. Fool that I was, I took her sentiments for the ramblings of a Luddite.

INT. KEETON’s APARTMENT – NOOSPHERE HOLOGRAM

KEETON generates his CHELSEA simulation in the NOOSPHERE HOLOGRAM generator.

VIRTUAL CHELSEA appears, younger, trimmer, hyperreal.

KEETON (O.S.)

I always simulated YOU.

CHELSEA (O.S.)

But it isn’t me, Siri. It’s an IDEA of who I am.

YOU KNOW THIS.

EXT. TORONTO-HAMILTON METROPOLIS – A BAR – NIGHT

Establishing shot: the bar is called the QuBit.

INT. The QuBit – NIGHT

ROBERT PAGLINO sits at a booth.

KEETON enters and sits down beside him.

They order.

KEETON

What’s with the neurotrope cocktail on the rocks?

PAG

Still old school

KEETON

Still into foreplay?

PAG

That obvious, huh? Bloody Jargonaut…

KEETON

Jargonaut’s got nothing to do with it. You wouldn’t have fooled a border collie.

PAG

So. Spill.

KEETON

Nothing to spill. She just got to know the real me.

PAG

Oh, worse than I thought.

KEETON

What did she tell YOU?

PAG

Nothing.

KEETON glares

PAG (Cont’d)

She knows you’re cheating on her.

KEETON

I’m what? Oh… with the skin?

IT’s BASED ON HER.

PAG

But it isn’t her, man.

KEETON

No it isn’t. It doesn’t fart, or fight, or break into tears every time you don’t want to be dragged off to meet its family. Look, I love the woman dearly… but COME ON. When was the last time you tried FIRST PERSON fucking?

PAG

Seventy-four.

KEETON

You’re kidding?

PAG

Did some third-world medical missionary work between gigs. They still bump and grind in Texas. Actaully kind of enjoyed it.

KEETON

The novelty wears off

PAG

Evidently.

KEETON

And it’s not like I’m doing anything unusual here, Pag. She’s the one with the kink. And it’s not just the sex. She keeps asking about… she keeps wanting to know things.

PAG

Like what?

KEETON

Irrelevant stuff. My life as a kid. My family. Not her business.

PAG

She’s just taking an interest in you, buddy.

Not everyone considers those memories off-limit, you know?

KEETON

She doesn’t just want to TALK about family. She wants to MEET them. She keeps trying to drag me to HERS. I thought I was hooking up with CHELSEA… not…

PAG
Did you go?

KEETON
Once. It was great: if you enjoy being ritually pawed by a bunch of play-acting strangers who ca’t stand the sight of you and don’t have the guts to admit it.

PAG

Sounds like typical old-school Family. You’re the synthesis, man. You’ve dealt with wonkier dynamics than that.

KEETON

I deal with OTHER PEOPLE’s information. I don’t vomit my own life into the public sphere.

PAG

You always knew Chelsea was an old fashioned girl.

KEETON

When it suits her. But she’s cutting-edge when she’s got a splicer in her hand. Which isn’t to say that her strategies couldn’t use some work.

PAG

Strategies?

KEETON

She cries. She holds it up like its an IOU.

PAG

Doesn’t mean it’s an act.

KEETON

EVERYTHING is an act. EVERYTHING is a strategy. You know that. And SHE’s miffed that I base a skin on HER?

PAG
I think the real issue is that you didn’t tell her.

You know how she feels about honesty…

KEETON

Sure, she doesn’t want any.

PAG

(level eyed)

I can’t believe you’re so fucking dumb.

KEETON

Enlighten me.

PAG

OF COURSE she wants the romantic bullshit. Tell her you have EYES ONLY FOR HER, and why stop there? Get a tweek- maybe TEN! But that doesn’t mean she wants you to LIE you idiot. She wants all that stuff to be TRUE, and well… why can’t it?

KEETON

Because it isn’t.

PAG

Jesus, Siri. We’re not thinking machines. We’re feeling machines that happen to think.

You’re letting the SYSTEM talk for YOU.

You’re mistaking the MACHINE for YOU. Your CHINESE ROOM.

KEETON

I don’t remember him.

PAG

What, the other Siri? Pre-pod man siri?

KEETON

Nope.

I dream about being him, but I’m not him– haven’t been for decades.

PAG

Nothing at all?

KEETON
Well, he was wracked by convulsions all the time. In constant pain. I don’t remember any pain. So it’s a romantic fantasy, my dreams. I don’t remember them when I wake up.

PAG

If you can’t remember them how do you know you even have them?

KEETON

I wake up smiling.

INT. KEETON’s BEDROOM – NIGHT

KEETON and CHELSEA try to make love, but the magic is gone. The collapse is near at hand.

Keeton

I can’t believe you can still hypnotize me with…

CHELSEA

(Serious business)

What do you mean by that?

Keeton

Game theory. You pretend this is a partnership. We both know it’s a competition.

CHELSEA

A competition.

Keeton

You’re trying to manipulate me into playing by your rules.

CHELSEA

Rules?

I don’t blame you, Chelsea, not in the least. We’ve been trying to manipulate each other for as long as —

CHELSEA

You can do better Keeton. I don’t believe it.

You think this is a mammalian thing?

CHELSEA (cont’d)

This is more than your idea of a 20th century notion about the war of the sexes.

Keeton (V. O.)

It didn’t require an expert to see the downward spiral.

Keeton

Granted, your genetic tweaks are pretty radical. Get right in there and reprogram your mate.

CHELSEA

You think I’m trying to housebreak you?

Keeton

You’re just doing what comes naturally, the women in relationships are just as fierce…

CHELSEA

What relationship? According to you there’s no such thing. This is just … mutual rape, or something.

Keeton

That’s what relationships are.

Keeton (Cont’d)

It’s just wired so deeply, your mind tricks you into feeling like it is you. I know how people work. It’s my job. I know it doesn’t FEEL like it’s a strategy. But that’s what it is.

CHELSEA

Don’t pull that on me.

Int. Keeton’s Apartment, Bedroom – MORNING

Birds fly past the FLAT BALCONY.

Chelsea is asleep.

EXT. KEETON’s APARTMENT – MORNING

We can see CHELSEA and KEETON getting dressed for work.

CHELSEA (O.S.)

The thing is, this whole first person thing takes effort. You have to care enough to try, you know?

I’ve been working my ass off on this relationship, I’ve been working so hard, but you don’t seem to care…

WE PUSH INTO THE APARTMENT THROUGH THE FULL WALL PYREX WINDOW.

INT. KEETON’s APARTMENT – MORNING.

KEETON (V.O.)

She thought she was breaking the news. She thought I hadn’t seen it coming, because I hadn’t said anything. I’d probably seen it before she had. I hadn’t said anything because I’d been scared of giving her an opening.

The truth was that we’d been falling apart since the beginning.

I felt sick.

KEETON

I care about you.

CHELSEA

As much as you could care about anything.

But you… sometimes you’re fine, Cygnus, sometimes you’re wonderful to be around but whenever anything gets the least bit intense you just go away and leave this, this BATTLE COMPUTER running your body and I just can’t DEAL WITH IT any more…

CHELSEA (Cont’d)

You can be so- so BRUTAL sometimes. I know you don’t mean to be, but… I don’t know. Maybe I’m you’re pressure-release valve, or something. Maybe you have to submerge yourself so much on the job that everything just, just builds up and you need some kind of punching bag. Maybe that’s why you say the things you do.

KEETON (V.O.)

She was waiting for me to respond.

KEETON

I’ve been honest.

CHELSEA

Yeah. Pathologically. Have you ever had a negative thought that you haven’t said out loud?

I could tell you were… disconnected from the day we met. I guess on some level I always saw it coming.

KEETON

Why even try, then? If you knew we were just going to crash and burn like this?

CHELSEA

Oh, Cygnus. Aren’t you the one who says that everyone crashes and burns eventually? Aren’t you the one who says it never lasts?

CHELSEA

(Cont’d)

I guess, maybe I thought I could help, you know? Help fix whatever made you so… so angry all the time.

CHELSEA’s BUTTERFLY hand tattoo begins to fade.

CHELSEA

(Cont’d)

Do you understand what I’m saying?

KEETON

Sure. I’m a fixer-upper.

CHELSEA

Siri, you wouldn’t even get a tweak when I offered. You were so scared of being manipulated you wouldn’t even try a basic cascade. You’re the one guy I’ve met who might be truly, eternally unfixable. I dunno. Maybe that’s even something to be proud of.

KEETON SAYS NOTHING.

KEETON (V.O.)

Poor Chelsea. I should have felt sorry for her. If she could see the subtle changes in topology that were so obvious to me, she might have been able to understand where it was all going… where it would all end.

KEETON (V.O.)

(Cont’d)

But she couldn’t. Her time horizon ended with the relationship. And she’d be gone before she’d gather up enough experience to begin to understand. We were lovers, but we were strangers. I tried to help her see the futility of her own disappointment; and that just made me seem more inhuman. But then again, I was inhuman.

Chelsea

Nothing, Siri? Nothing at all?

There was a time when you knew exactly what to say.

Now I wonder if you ever meant any of it…

Keeton

That’s not fair.

Chelsea

(Surprised)

No. No it’s not. It’s not so much that you don’t mean any of it. It’s more like you don’t know what any of it means.

Chelsea’s butterfly has faded to a faint outline.

Chelsea

It’s too late, Siri. I’m used up.

Keeton

(honest to the gallows)

You’re looking for a reason to change your mind.

Chelsea leaves the room.

Keeton (V.O.)

She left. Believing that we’d both tried under the weight of my issues and lost together. Still friends. Chelsea set me on my way, even now I’m grateful for that. Chelsea exposed how good I was at what I did. And I was damned good. Without even meaning to be.

EXT. Hamilton-Toronto Metropolis Streets – Dusk

Keeton walks the streets, feeling nothing. Alone.

KEETON POV: A call from Robert Paglino is coming in.

Keeton connects to Robert Paglino.

Pag

Pod man… what time is it?

Keeton

It’s good to see you, too.

PAG

Is this about Chelsea? Still trying to hold both aspects of the NECKER CUBE in your head at the same time? Only vampires can do that.

KEETON

Gives them a serious edge.

PAG

It’s still not going to be enough.

KEETON
You’re talking about history?

PAG

Damn right I am. They can hold simultaneous multiple worldviews, Pod-man. They don’t have to reconstruct the history; they just SEE IT. Even mega-savants had to think about it. The best among them couldn’t tell you every prime number between one and a billion.

KEETON

They don’t use the past tense.

PAG

They don’t even experience the past tense. It’s real to them, remember? Vampires are the capital H, HOT spot for anyone with a ‘neuro’ in their CV. I’m doing a few historiography papers on their wetware: pattern-matching receptors, MEXICAN-HAT arrays, reward/irrelevance filters. Their eyes basically.

KEETON (V.O.)

I know about that.

PAG (cont’d)

Which is why I envy you, Pod-man. Synthesists are bleeding-edge. Front-line.

PAG (cont’d)

It’s too bad about CHELSEA…

KEETON

I’m sorry

PAG

I’M SORRY:

You fucked up.

KEETON

I know. There wasn’t time…

PAG

You idiot… you were still flying the Z: damning the torpedoes.

KEETON

Or raise the white flag, fellow mammal.

Look, you want to get together, man? In airspace? I haven’t been in QUBIT’s in a while.

KEETON (V.O.)

Pag saw it all coming, even before the FIREFLIES sent us BURNS-CAULFIED.

PAG

Love to, Pod. Unfortunately, I’m in Mankoya.

Look, I’m blaming you for how things turned out with Chelsea

KEETON

I’m blaming you for how things started with Chelsea

PAG

Man, come on. You know it’s your fault.

KEETON (V.O.)

I knew better.

THEN:

Ext. LOW EARTH ORBIT – DAWN

MARQUE

FEBRUARY 13, 2082

The earth FILLS THE SCREEN

A COMMUNICATION SATELLITE orbits

The SATELLITE EXPLODES

Ext. HIGH EARTH ORBIT – DAWN

A SECOND EXPLOSION appears in the distance near the horizon

THOUSANDS OF BURNING OBJECTS APPEAR IN THE SKY BELOW.

THE ENTIRE EARTH IS covered IN 65,536 alien objects AS THEY DISINTEGRATE IN THE ATMOSPHERE.

KEETON (V.O.)

That was the beginning of it, or the end of it as I said. You could stop right there, and you’d never know the difference. There I was, like an imbecile, alone and guilty, talking to Pag. But it didn’t matter anymore. Because after 65,536 FIREFLIES disintegrated in the atmosphere on FEBRUARY 13, 2082, everything changed. Imagine how much work you do at any given moment. How many man-hours of energy, how many computations per second. Quadruple it. You might now be nearer to a quantical AI or carbon-fibre lathe. But you’d need more- an entire global civilization backing you. The entire network. You’d need a lot more. You’d need Theseus.

Theseus.

Ext. HIGH EARTH ORBIT – Night

THESEUS is being assembled.

KEETON (V.O.)

(Cont’d)

Because Theseus hadn’t existed a year before we left. But we were going: Only a matter of time. I just didn’t know it yet.

Int. Kurzweil Institute – Lecture Hall

KEETON, THIRTY-FIVE, is delivering a guest lecture on Synesthesia, the lecture hall, built for thousands of students, contains only a few hundred.

Half the class is asleep, the other half is completely engrossed in the matrix-feed.

Keeton lectures, but no one is listening.

KEETON (V.O.)

(Cont’d)

In the meantime I was liaising for a team at the Kurzweil Institute.

KEETON

Modern Synesthesiasts are also known as Jargonauts or Poppies. A hundred years ago they might have been known as MOLES or CHAPERONES.

KEETON (V.O.)

(Cont’d)

CHRIST. If you were ISAAC Szpindel you’d be calling me COMMISSAR.

The students banter back and forth, messaging one another.

STUDENT POV:

CU: THE MATRIX NEWSFEED

Student One

Disgraceful breakdown of global security.

Student two:

No harm done.

Student Three:

COMSATS annihilated. Thousands are dead…

The Icarus Array destroyed!

Student Four:

RANDOM collisions. Accidental deaths.

Student One:

We should have seen them coming.

Int. KEETON’s APARTMENT – Night

KEETON sits at his COMPUTER .

Keeton pours a glass of old-fashioned whiskey.

ECU: The COMPUTER feed activates.

MARQUE

JIM MOORE VOICE ONLY

ENCRYPTED

ACCEPT?

KEETON accepts the feed.

JIM (O.S.)

Son?

KEETON

Dad?

JIM (O.S.)

Are you well?

KEETON

Like everyone else. I’m working as a lecturer at the Kurzweil Institute…

JIM (O.S.)

Yes, I know.

KEETON

They’re saying the Icarus Array went down, and–

JIM (O.S.)

You know I can’t– Oh. That’s ridiculous. The array is online.

KEETON

It is?

JIM (O.S.)

I doubt the fireflies even noticed it. There’s no particle stream so long as the solar glare buries the array feed.

KEETON

What’s wrong, Dad?

Did they send warships?

JIM (O.S.)

A precaution.

KEETON (V. O.)

There was a feedback delay. He was far away. Further than I knew.

KEETON

You’re on the Moon?

JIM (O.S.)

Close enough.

KEETON

Is this a security breach?

JIM (O.S.)

They’re going to contact you.

KEETON

Who? Why?

JIM (O.S.)

They’re assembling a team. The kind of… people… you know how to deal with.

JIM (O.S.) (Cont’d)

They need a Synthesist. You’re the most qualified.

KEETON

Nepotism?

JIM (O.S.)

You’re the most qualified.

JIM (O.S.)(Cont’d)

They’ve found something. FROM THE KUIPER BELT.

Encrypted.

KEETON

Who are they talking to?

JIM (O.S.)

Someone outside the OORT CLOUD.

It’s not the kind of situation we can safely ignore.

KEETON (V.O.)

They were coming HERE.

That settled it.

KEETON

What about probes?

JIM (O.S.)

Of course.

They’re already on their way.

But we can’t wait for them to report back.

BURNS-CAULFIED isn’t a comet.

KEETON

What?

JIM

It’s made of solid iron and emitting an Electro-magnetic field. Radio-waves.

KEETON

What’s the target?

JIM

It’s not in this system.

A Beat

KEETON

What if I refuse?

JIM (O.S.)

You won’t. We’ve terminated your Kurzweil contract.

That’s the least of what we did.

I love you son.

KEETON terminates the connection.

HE waits a moment then places another call.

His eyes roll back in his head as he enters the HEAVEN MATRIX

KEETON POV: HELEN’S VISITING ROOM. Grey. Bland.

KEETON

Hello, Helen.

HELEN (O.S.)

SIRI! What a wonderful surprise.

KEETON

How are you doing?

HELEN

Very well. Very Well! Of course it takes a little getting used to, knowing your mind isn’t quite yours anymore. You simply HAVE to move in here, Siri.

KEETON

Actually, it looks like I will be leaving.

Shipping out.

HELEN

Shipping out?

KEETON

The Kuiper belt. The fireflies.

HELEN

Oh, yes. I think I heard about that.

KEETON

So I’m just calling to say, goodbye.

HELEN

I’m glad you did. I’ve hoping to see you without your father for sometime.

KEETON

Dad’s in the field. Interplanetary crisis.

HELEN

I’ve heard about that. You know, I haven’t always been happy about your father’s extended assignments, but maybe it was really a blessing in disguise. The less he was around, the less he could do.

KEETON

Do?

HELEN

To you. I’ve never told you this before, but sometimes you’d come back– you were so very young– and your face would be so set and hard, and I’d wonder why are you angry?

HELEN (Cont’d)

It was your father: he was still around then, he wasn’t so important. He was just an accountant with a karate fetish going on about forensics and game theory and astronomy until he put everyone to sleep.

KEETON

That doesn’t sound like Dad.

HELEN

Well of course not. You were too young to remember. But he was just a little man, then. It wasn’t his fault. He’d had a very difficult childhood.

KEETON

I know.

HELEN

WE were abused. He abandoned us. If your father had only been as loyal to me as I’d been to him all these years… I don’t really expect you to understand.

KEETON

Did HEAVEN help? Has it changed anything for you?

HELEN

I can’t change you, Siri. Can’t repair all the damage that’s been done already.

KEETON

I have to go-

Goodbye, Helen.

HELEN

Do stop by again, Siri. You’re always welcome here.

KEETON terminates the connection.

EXT. DEEP SPACE – NAMPAC SATELLITE.

A Solitary NAMPAC ASTRONOMICAL satellite orbits.

KEETON (V.O.)

Imagine you are a machine

Yes, I know. Imagine you are a different kind of machine, designed by engineers and astrophysicists. Your purpose is to gather information.

KEETON (V.O.)(Cont’d)

I can imagine that easily.

I coast through the abyss on the colder side of Neptune’s orbit. Most of the time I exist only as an absence, to any observer on the visible spectrum: a moving, asymmetrical silhouette blocking the stars.

The Satellite’s manoeuvring thrusters begin to fire. Suddenly the machine is kicked into a new orbit.

ECU: Microscopic EARTH BACTERIA grow on the hull of the satellite.

KEETON (V.O.)(Cont’d)

There are three in the second wave.

We carry the ambassadors of a dieing planet with us. Corpses of Earth bacteria who thrive on the skins of space stations or lunar bases: now a breath away from absolute zero, they might shatter at a photon’s touch.

KEETON (V.O.)

(CONT’D)

I’m them. I’m unmanned. I’m disposable. I’m souped-up and stripped down, a telematter drive with a couple of cameras bolted to the front end, pushing g’s that would turn meat to jelly. You’d wish it were you until the first 0 to mach 10 in 5 seconds. Thermonuclear. I sprint joyously toward the darkness, my twin brother stereoscopic a hundred klicks to starboard, dual streams of ions boosting us to relativity before old THESEUS had even crawled past Mars. The Icarus Array.

I await further instructions. They arrive 839 minutes later, they tell me to stop studying near-Earth comets immediately. I am to commence a controlled precessive tumble that sweeps my antennae through consecutive five-degree arc increments along all three axes, with a period of ninety-four seconds. I am to fix upon the bearing of maximal signal strength and derive a series of parameter values.

The satellite is moving towards BURNS-CAULFIED:

A long period comet.

KEETON (V.O.)

(CONT’D)

But now, six billion kilometers to stern, Mission Control turns off the tap and leaves us coasting. I am well-equipped to describe what I encounter: a trans-Neptunian comet in the Kuiper Belt, approximately two hundred kilometers in diameter. It is sweeping a twenty-on-cm tightbeam radio wave across the heavens with a periodicity of 4.57 seconds. The comet swells in our sights, a frozen enigma sweeping its signal across the sky like a lighthouse beam. We bring rudimentary senses to bear and stare it down on a thousand wavelengths. I am to reach it in less than thirty-nine years. I am to watch nothing else in the meantime.

FADE TO BLACK

Ext. INTERPLANETRY SPACE – NEAR THE SUN

THE ICARUS ARRAY

KEETON (V.O.)

(Cont’d)

The Icarus Array had been constructed in a year and a half. We were spun up and ready for the flight out in 3 months. REM training and 21st century military-industrialism could still accomplish miracles.

Ext. HIGH EARTH ORBIT – Night

WARSHIPS are under construction.

KEETON (V.O.)

(Cont’d)

There were stories, before we left Earth, of a Fourth Wave: a fleet of dreadnoughts running silent in our wake, should the cannon fodder up front run into something nasty. Or, if the aliens were friendly, an ambassadorial frigate full of politicians and CEOs ready to elbow their way to the front of the line….

Ext. ORBITAL SHIPYARDS – SPACE CRUISER CONSTRUCTION

SPACE DREADNOUGHTS are under assembly.

Each SPACE DREADNOUGHT could easily conquer a basic early 21st century humanoid civilization (TYPE .8 civilization) or exterminate life on a planet occupied by such a civilization.

KEETON (V.O.)

(CONT’D)

…Never mind that Earth had no deep-space dreadnoughts or ambassadorial spaceships; Theseus hadn’t existed either, before Firefall. Nobody had told us of any such contingent, but you never show the BIG PICTURE to your front line. The less the pawns know, the less they can betray. Oh, but THIS WAS IT now. We we’re going in with the absolute bleeding edge…

Ext. EARTH – ORBITAL SHIPYARD

THESEUS under final construction.

SPACE ELEVATORS lift the components into orbit, where robots perform the assembly

Ext. NAMPAC ALLIANCE ORBITAL SHIPYARD

700 kilometres above the Earth.

KEETON (V.O.)

The Third Wave, they called us. All in the same boat, driving into the long dark courtesy of a bleeding-edge prototype crash-graduated from the simulators a full eighteen months ahead of schedule. In a less fearful economy, such violence to the timetable would have bankrupted four countries and fifteen multicorps.

KEETON (V.O.)

(CONT’D)

The first two waves came out of the gate in even more of a hurry. I didn’t find out what happened to them until thirty minutes before the briefing, when Sarasti released the telemetry into ConSensus.

MARQUE

ALL KINDS OF ANIMALS COMING HERE. OCCASIONAL DEMONS TOO – IAN ANDERSON, CATFISH RISING

INT. REM INDOC CHAMBER – INFRARED

LIKE THE EYES OF A VAMPIRE, we see eight indistinguishable human bodies seated on chairs, immobile.

KEETON (V. O.)

(Cont’d)

Some needed more training than others.

The process was to be continual, updates would be sent out as we were on the way out.

INT. VACUUM CHAMBER prep room – Visual Spectrum

CU: the faces of:

KEETON, AMANDA BATES, SUSAN JAMES, ISAAC SZPINDEL

They are surrounded by engineers preparing them.

KEETON (V.O.)

Siri Keeton: Political Commissar and Synthesist.

Isaac Szpindel: to study the aliens. Susan James; The Gang of Four: to talk to them. Amanda Bates, Major: here to fight. If you have to go up against an angry T-Rex with a four-digit IQ, it can’t hurt to have a trained combat specialist with a reinforced endoskeleton at your side. And then there was Jukka Sarasti: To Command. To move the chess pieces on the board that only vampires could see.

KEETON (V. O.)

(Cont’d)

We didn’t meet SARASTI until we were space-bound.

TECHNICIAN ONE:

KEETON, you’re in.

KEETON nods a sleep deprived nod and mechanically walks into the CLEAN ROOM

Ext. Low Earth Orbit – Sunrise

NAMPAC SHIPYARD

THESEUS, completed, is discreetly attached to a nearby airlock.

The CARAPACE has been attached.

Ext. Low Earth Orbit – Sunset.

SPACE TUGS come and go, delivering resources from captured asteroids.

Int. NAMPAC SHIPYARD – CREW HABITAT

SUSAN JAMES (O.S.)

We were probably fractured during most of our evolution. There’s a lot of room up here…

Int. Crew Habitat – Habitation Unit.

SUSAN JAMES and KEETON, dressed in THESEUS PROJECT CREW TRACKSUITS float next to each-other in a conjoined CREW HABITATION UNIT. They stay in place by grasping onto yellow traction mesh.

JAMES (Cont’d)

… A modern brain can run dozens of sentient cores without getting too crowded. And parallel multitasking has obvious survival advantages.

KEETON

Ten heads are better than one.

JAMES

Our integration may have actually occurred quite recently. Some think we can still revert to multiples under the right circumstances.

KEETON

You’re living proof.

JAMES

I’m not talking about physical partitioning. We’re the state of the art, certainly, but theoretically surgery isn’t even necessary. Simple stress could do something like it, if it was strong enough. If it happened early in childhood.

KEETON

No kidding.

JAMES

Well, in theory…

JAMES (as SASCHA)

(Cont’d)

BULLSHIT in theory. The cases have been documented for more than half a century.

KEETON

Really?

JAMES (as SASCHA)

(Cont’d)

Well, it’s not like anyone talks about it NOW. People were fucking barbarians about multicores back then– called it a disorder, treated it like some kind of disease. And their idea of a cure was to keep one of the cores and MURDER all the others. Not that they called it murder… That’s what people did back then: created other people to suck up all the abuse and torture, then got rid of them when they weren’t needed anymore

INT. PYSCHOPATHIC INSTITUTION – CELL ROOM COORIDOR, KEETON DREAM POV

KEETON (V.O.)

I knew all about Cotard’s Syndrome. I found Major Amanda Bates and others of her kind, their brains torqued into denial of the very self.

We walk down the corridors of the DREAM HALLWAY.

CU: The doors of the institutions are titled: SOMNAMBULISM. AGNOSIAS. HEMINEGLECT.

KEETON (V.O.)

(Cont’d)

The first victim almost died of thirst because she couldn’t recognize a water faucet.

INT. PYSCHOPATHIC INSTITUTION – CELL ROOM 1.

A young women restrained to an examination table is fed liquids intravenously by a battery of robots.

KEETON (V.O.)

(Cont’d)

A man, for whom the left side of the universe did not exist. The very concept of leftness, unthinkable.

INT. PYSCHOPATHIC INSTITUTION – CELL ROOM 2.

A man revolves endlessly in a clockwise direction, sucking nutrients from a feed supply attached to his torso.

He is held still and the food packs are exchanged by a group of specialized robots.

KEETON (V.O.)

(Cont’d)

Gauges in the mind, Szpindel called them.

Our conscious selves see only the simulation.

KEETON (V.O.)

(Cont’d)

It wasn’t magic. They called it inattentional blindness, and it had been well-known for a century or more: a tendency for the eye to simply NOT NOTICE things that evolutionary experience classes as unlikely.

INT. PYSCHOPATHIC INSTITUTION – CELL ROOM COORIDOR, KEETON DREAM POV:

The PYSCHOPATHIC INSTITUTION collapses around KEETON, replaced with a sprawling cityscape.

EXT. CITYSCAPE – NIGHT

Satellites and aerospace planes race overhead. The night is ablaze with light. The CENTRE OF THE GALAXY appears in the background, filling the cityscape with radiance.

FADE TO:

EXT. DEEP SPACE – THESEUS

THESEUS spins tranquilly, hurtling through space.

MARQUE

Leaders are visionaries with a poorly developed sense of fear and no concept of the odds against them. – Robert Jarvik.

Int. THESEUS – The Crypt

The Crypt is dark.

CU: each pod face.

CU: ZERO TAU PODS CONTAINING

MARQUE

THESEUS CREW, MAINCREW:

SIRI KEETON

AMANDA BATES

ISAAC SPINZDEL

SUSAN JAMES

Only four pods are active, the other four remain closed and opaque.

A NINTH and TENTH pods are attached to the rear of the crypt and ONE is already open…

THE ZERO TAU POD AT THE REAR OF THE CRYPT, titled

MISSION SUBCOMMANDER

IS ALREADY OPEN and is EMPTY

Lights flicker on inside the CRYPT.

CU: SIRI KEETON’s ZERO TAU POD

The shrivelled corpse suddenly stirs to life.

Siri Keeton is awaking from ZERO TAU stasis, looking partially mummified.

POV: SIRI KEETON

KEETON sees through the NOW TRANSPARENT PSIR/X coating of the ZERO-TAU Pod.

THE CRYPT IS DARK and COLD. ICE COVERS THE CONTROL PANELS.

THE CRYPT IS AT SUB-ZERO TEMPERATURE.

Freeze-frames of the pods. LIGHTS within the first FOUR pods begin to ACTIVATE in SEQUENCE

The CREW start to float freely in their ZERO-TAU pods; too weak to move.

POV: SIRI KEETON

Keeton’s CONSENSUS OVERLAY is established.

A TORRENT OF DATA moves across KEETON’s HEADS UP DISPLAY

COURSE TELEMETRY DATA scrolls across Keeton’s HUD.

CU: SIRI’s DEHYRDATED FACE.

As Keeton reads the telemetry data he appears confused and distraught.

KEETON (V.O.)

But something was wrong.

We’d overslept by almost five years.

THE POD LID SLIDES CLEAR.

AMANDA BATES is the first to FLOAT into the CRYPT.

AMANDA BATES uses a cybernetic body to house her consciousness.

KEETON (V.O.)

Bates used an enhanced flesh-carboplatinum mannequin for a body. Not a bad idea, if one’s profession is war, and useful out here under the microgravity and radiation belts…

Across from Keeton, ISAAC SZPINDEL is awake. He is covered in nano-feedback adaptations, specialized for electro-magnetic fields.

His eyes are blank, deep set.

We see him work his jaw.

KEETON

Wha– Happened–

SZPINDEL

Sssuckered.

KEETON (V. O.)

We hadn’t even met the aliens yet. And they were already running circles around us.

Int. Theseus – The Drum

The DRUM rotates slowly, generating 1/5th a G

The BIOMED DRUM, directly aft the maindrum, rotates on its own bearings.

The crew slowly migrates to their habitation compartments in the DRUM. Each crewman is allotted 4.4 meters squared of bulkhead space for personal kit.

The crew inflate REMWEB TENTS – small self-contained living quarters with secure hardpoints and mesh inlays designed for zero-gravity.

The tents are equipped with atmospheric controls for individual preference.

KEETON (V. O.)

So we dragged ourselves back from the dead. Just add water. I toyed with setting up at the base of the spine to avoid the upcoming DRUM centrifugal gravity, but thought better of it. Suck it up, soldier.

SZPINDEL

Morning, Commissar.

The two exchange pleasantries.

SZPINDEL is slipping larger, more robust exterior gloves over his nano-fabric covered hands.

KEETON

Feedback enhanced gloves?

SZPINDEL (Weakly)

You got it.

AMANDA BATES begins to perform isometric exercise.

KEETON switches his exterior electrolyic dermals for fresh pairs.

KEETON (V. O.)

He’d given us four hours. That is, mission critical element number one, JUKKA SARASTI, had told us to go faster. So we moved. After five years, I needed the exercise.

KEETON moves through the DRUM,

Int. THESEUS – BIOMEDICAL

and BIOMEDICAL, testing the gravity, until he reaches an AIRLOCK allowing access into the

Int. THESEUS – CARAPACE Docking Assembly.

CARAPACE (There are several around the DRUM and two in the CARAPACE DOCKING ASSEMBLY attached to the SPINE).

He is about to climb inside one of the airlocks to access the interior of the CARAPACE when suddenly

THE AIRLOCK SLIDES OPEN

From the other side, directly in front of Keeton is JUKKA SARASTI.

SARASTI SMILES A LONG THIN SMILE.

HIS EYES ARE COMPLETELY OBSCURED BY An AUGMENTATION VISOR.

Keeton retreats instinctively.

SARASTI climbs into view like a long white spider.

Int. Theseus – The Spine

KEETON floats alone up The Spine. The long corridor is covered in handholds and technical readouts.

Keeton reaches the entrance hatchway to the Drum. The hatchway is open.

Int. Theseus – The Drum

R/A on KEETON as he enters the Drum, floating quickly through the ZERO-G biomedical station.

Int. Theseus – The Drum

CU on KEETON as he floats through the DRUM, past false gravity created by the Drum’s spin.

AMANDA BATES dressed in tracksuit with hair freshly cut short runs past Keeton, like she’s on a treadmill.

CU:

Bates bounces her rubber ball.

Bates looks away for a second and misses the ball. It bounces off a bulkhead and down the Drum.

Bates

Shi- excuse me, Commissar.

Keeton

Stay loose.

Keeton continues through the Drum, moving towards the FORWARD ACCESS HATCH

Int. THESEUS – Near THE CRYPT

KEETON passes above the CRYPT; the cold-soaked environment below him is visible through transparent panels.

There are still several ZERO-TAU PODS locked and active. Occupied.

Keeton moves on, to the Bridge access hatch.

Keeton opens the hatch.

INT. THESEUS – COCKPIT.

The bridge is deserted.

Keeton moves forward, propelling himself carefully towards the observation blister.

We hear VOICES ahead.

Keeton stops short, moving behind a bulkhead to LISTEN IN.

Int. COCKPIT – OBSERVATION BLISTER

SZPINDEL and SUSAN JAMES occupy the observation blister which is wide open.

Szpindel

… of COURSE they’re beautiful. They’re stars.

JAMES

And I’m guessing I’m not your first choice to share the view?

Szpindel

You’re a close second, Susan. But I’ve got a date with Meesh.

JAMES

She never mentioned it.

Szpindel

She doesn’t tell you everything. Ask her.

JAMES

Hey, THIS bodies taking its anti-libs even if yours isn’t.

Szpindel

Mind out of the gutter, Suze. Eros is only one kind of love, eh? Ancient Greeks recognized four.

JAMES (As SASCHA)

Riiiiight… Figures you’d take your lead from a bunch of sodomites.

Szpindel

Fuck, Sascha. All I’m asking is a few minutes alone with Meesh before the whip starts cracking again.

JAMES (As SASCHA)

My body too, Ike. You wanna pull your eyes over MY wool?

Szpindel

I just want to talk, eh? Alone? That too much to ask?

JAMES (Michelle)

Sorry kid, you know The Gang.

Szpindel

Thank god! It’s like some kind of inspection whenever i come looking for face time.

JAMES (Michelle)

I guess you’re lucky they like you.

Szpindel

I still say you ought to stage a coup.

JAMES (Michelle)

You could always move in with us.

A beat.

Szpindel embraces Michelle.

Szpindel

How are you? You okay?

JAMES (Michelle)

I’m doing pretty well. I think I’m finally used to being alive again. You?

Szpindel

Hey, I’m a spaz no matter how long I’ve been dead.

JAMES (Michelle)

You get the job done.

Szpindel

Why thank you, I do try.

JAMES (Michelle)

My mom was right, Issac: They are beautiful.

Szpindel

What do you see, when you look at them?

A beat

Szpindel

I mean—

JAMES (Michelle)

They’re prickly. When I turn my head it’s like bands of very fine needles rolling across my skin in waves. But it doesn’t hurt at all. It just tingles. It’s almost electric. It’s nice.

Szpindel

Wish I could feel it that way.

JAMES (Michelle)

You’ve got the interface. Just patch a camera into your parietal, love, instead of your visual cortex.

Szpindel

That’d just tell me how a machine feels vision, eh? Still wouldn’t know how YOU do.

JAMES (Michelle)

Issac Szpindel! You’re a romantic.

Szpindel

Nah.

JAMES (Michelle)

You don’t want to know. You want to keep it a mystery.

Szpindel

Already got more than enough mystery to deal with out here, in case you hadn’t notice.

JAMES (Michelle)

Yeah, but we can’t do anything about that.

Szpindel

That’ll change. We’ll be working our asses off in no time. Count on it.

JAMES (Michelle)

Yeah, so far we’re just peeking from a distance…

Szpindel

Yup. I’m sure all kinds of interesting things will start to happen when we get in there and start poking.

JAMES (Michelle)

Interesting for you. There’s got to be a biological somewhere in the mix, with all those organics.

Szpindel

Damn right. And you’ll be talking to ’em while i’m giving them their physicals.

JAMES (Michelle)

Maybe not. I mean, Mom would never admit it in a million years but you had a point about language. When you get right down to it, it’s a workaround. Like trying to describe dreams with smoke signals. It’s noble, it’s maybe the most noble thing a body can do but you can’t turn a sunset into a string of grunts without losing something. Language is limitation.

Maybe whatever’s out here doesn’t even use it.

Szpindel

Bet you know they do, though.

JAMES (Michelle)

Since when? You’re the one who’s always pointing out how inefficient language is.

Szpindel

Only when I’m trying to get under your skin. Your pants— whole other story.

They laugh

Szpindel (cont’d)

seriously, what are they gonna use instead? Telepathy? I say you’ll be up to your elbows in hieroglyphics before you know it. And what’s more, you’ll decode ’em in record time!

JAMES (As Michelle)

Really? Then explain it to me, oh wise and powerful mutilator of frogs.

Szpindel

Simple. Bloodsucker’s a transient, not a resident.

JAMES (As Michelle)

What are— Oh, those are killer whales, right? Whistle dialects.

Szpindel

I said forget the language. Think about the lifestyle. Residents are fish-eaters, eh? They hand out in big groups, don’t move around much, talk all the time.

Szpindel (cont’d)

Transients, now – They eat MAMMALS. Seals, sea lions, smart prey. Smart enough to take cover when they hear a fluke slap or a click train. So transients are sneaky, eh?

JAMES (As Michelle)

And Jukka is a transient.

Szpindel

Man’s instincts tell him to keep quiet around prey. Every time he opens his mouth, every time he let’s us see him, he’s fighting his own brain stem. Maybe we shouldn’t be too harsh on the ol’ guy.

Int. THESEUS – The Drum

SUSAN JAMES & AMANDA BATES are together in the GALLEY. JAMES is eating.

JAMES (As SASCHA)

I swear, if the aliens end up eating the lot of us, we’ll have the Church of Game Theory to thank for it.

BATES

I know about strategy,

Linguists don’t use it?

JAMES (As SASCHA)

We don’t, and the others are hacks. You know- the thing about game theory is, it assumes rational self-interest among the players. And people just aren’t rational.

BATES

Come on, Sascha. It used to assume that. The social neurology had been factored in from the get go.

JAMES (As SASCHA)

Human social neurology. That’s the whole point, Rational players, or at least, Human ones.

BATES

There are clearly limitations. I guess you use the tools you can lay your hands on.

Ext. DEEP SPACE – BIG BEN ORBIT

BIG BEN an enormous SUPER JOVIAN SUBDWARF slides through the vacuum.

It’s surface is DARK. The atmosphere is completely consumed by ELECTROMAGNETIC RADIATION.

MARQUE

The glass ceiling is in you. The glass ceiling is conscience.

JACOB HOLTZBRINCK, THE KEYS TO THE PLANET

Keeton (V.O.)

We we’re fucked. We just didn’t know it yet.

Int. theseus – THE CRYPT

theseus is in deep flight mode.

Int. theseus – MAIN DRUM

Keeton is asleep in his REM web.

Int. theseus – THE CRYPT

The Zero-Tau pods in THE CRYPT are silent.

Even SARASTI’s pod is occupied and sealed.

Something dark hangs over KEETON’s POD.

Int. theseus – THE CRYPT

Something waits INSIDE THE CRYPT organic and motionless.

SUSAN JAMES is crying in a fetal position lying between the pods. She turns to face KEETON

JAMES (as MICHELLE)

Siri, you can’t see it… It’s not visible to you.

KEETON

(about to wake from a nightmare)

SUSAN JAMES (as MICHELLE)

(crying)

Run, Siri

Int. THESEUS COMMAND MODULE – COCKPIT

SZPINDEL, SARASTI, SUSAN JAMES, BATES and KEETON are packed into the COCKPIT. BATES is seated at one of the two command stations.

The OBSERVATION BLISTER is OPEN and directly in front of them.

The access to the rest of the COMMAND MODULE is behind KEETON and SZPINDEL.

SARASTI floats overhead, attached to a hardline electrooptical feed.

KEETON POV: SZPINDEL leans in to talk to KEETON,

KEETON

Why did Sarasti bring us all in for this? He could have done the briefing through CONSENSUS.

SPZINDEL

If you want people to pay attention, bring ’em together. Or maybe the bloodsucker gets off on seeing all this meat in close quarters?

SUSAN JAMES (As Sascha)

I’m sure they cut him a deal. Save the world, Jukka? The folks holding the chain will look the other way.

I couldn’t even begin to guess at the number of HIS victims…

SARASTI doesn’t seem to notice the small talk, or doesn’t care.

SARASTI MOVES, pointing to BATES’ command DISPLAY showing…

SARASTI

Oasa object. Infrared emitter, Methane class.

SZPINDEL (Excited)

What changed?

SARASTI (V.O.)

(USING MIND LINK WITH CAPTAIN)

The metabase gets crowded, after Firefall. Everyone SKITTISH, looking for clues. After BURNS-CAULFIELD explodes, it turned out the spike might arise from a subdwarf object, if the magnetosphere’s torqued enough.

SZPINDEL

Torqued by what?

SARASTI

Don’t know. Look.

SZPINDEL and KEETON react.

POV: SARASTI’S CONSENSUS FEED

A THOUSAND TELESCOPIC SNAPSHOTS STACKED TOGETHER

GRAPHS AND DATA SHOWING A PROABILITY WAVEFORM

THE WAVEFORM COLLAPSES

SZPINDEL

It’s as heavy as ten Jupiters!

SARASTI(V.O.)

(USING MIND LINK WITH CAPTAIN)

Astronomers are calling it BIG BEN on Earth.

BATES starts bouncing her RUBBER BALL around the COCKPIT

SZPINDEL

It’s moving through the Oort Cloud…

We really are at the front line. Talk about long shots…

BATES

So, we’re assuming the comet was a deliberate decoy, then.

SARASTI

That’s correct, Major.

BATES

They want to be left alone…

SARASTI turns away from the CONTROL INTERFACE and looks at BATES.

His eyes are obstructed by his augmented reality visor.

SARASTI

Your recommendation?

BATES

I’m just saying that BURNS-CAULFIED took a lot of resources and effort to set up. Whoever built it obviously values their anonymity and has the technology to protect it. Sir.

BATES catches the rubber ball and holds it.

Bates rises from her seat and moves to face the rest of the crew.

She is noticeably more reactive then the other HOMO SAPIEN SAPIEN crew members.

SZPINDEL

Maybe not much trouble for them, Amanda?

Maybe it was dead easy.

BATES

In which case they might or might not be as xenophobic, but they’re even more advanced. We don’t want to rush into this.

SARASTI turns back to the CONTROL INTERFACE

SARASTI

So?

BATES

The second mouse gets the cheese. We may have blown our top-of-the-line recon in the Kuiper, but we don’t have to go in blind. Send in our own drones along separate vectors. Hold off on a close approach until we at least know whether we’re dealing with friendlies or hostiles.

JAMES

If they were hostile, they could have packed the Fireflies with antimatter. Or sent one big object instead of sixty thousand little ones, let the impact take us out.

BATES

The Fireflies only imply an initial curiosity. Who knows if they liked what they saw?

JAMES (As SASCHA)

What if this whole diversion theory is just so much shit?

A beat

JAMES (As SASCHA)

(Cont’d)

You wanna stay hidden, you don’t light up the sky with fucking FIREWORKS. You don’t need a diversion if nobody’s looking for you, and nobody’s looking for you if you lie low. If they were so curious, they could’ve just snuck in a spycam–

SARASTI

Risks detection, Sascha.

JAMES (As SASCHA)

–Hate to break it, Jukka, but the FIREFLIES didn’t exactly slip under the rad–

Everyone goes quite.

SARASTI

They trade stealth for speed. By the time you react, they already have what they want.

JAMES

Sascha’s aware of the current paradigm, Jukka. She’s simply worried that it might be wrong.

SZPINDEL

Got any other ideas? More options? Longer warranty?

JAMES

I don’t know. I guess not. It’s just… odd that they’d want to actively mislead us. I’d hoped they were merely– Well. Probably no big deal. I’m sure they’ll still be willing to talk, if we handle the introductions right. We just need to be a little more cautious, perhaps.

SARASTI gets up from the INSTRUMENT PANNEL and faces the crew.

SARASTI

We go in. What we know weighs against further delay.

BATES throws her ball into the air.

BATES

Sir, all we actually know is that an Oasa emitter’s in our path. We don’t even know if there’s anyone there.

SARASTI

There is. They expect us.

SARASTI grabs BATES’ ball from the air without looking.

SARASTI

(Cont’d)

LADAR pings Theseus four hours forty-eight minutes ago. We respond with an identical signal. Nothing. Probe launches half hour before we wake up. We don’t go in blind, but we don’t wait. They see us already. Longer we wait, greater risk of countermeasures.

SZPINDEL

You knew that all along and you’re telling us now?

SARASTI grins.

SARASTI

There’s more. Look.

Sarasti brings up a CONSENSUS FEED showing BIG BEN under extreme magnification.

A PROBE’s engine trial is just visible.

SARASTI

Thirty second loop. Ben’s day lasts seven hours, twelve minutes. Atmosphere: methane, ammonia, lithium, water, carbon monoxide. Ammonia hydrogen sulfide… Notice the luminosity along the surface.

JAMES

Lightning?

SZPINDEL

Meteorites. Must be an accretion belt.

SARASTI

Correct. The belt extends 500,000 kilometers from the magnetic poles.

There is a bright FLASH on the feed.

BATES

Probes destroyed. Looks like it hit a Parker field.

Here’s the feed.

KEETON POV: CONSENSUS INSET:

PROBE POV: A series of images, closing with BIG BEN. The accretion disk is visible and becomes larger and larger.

There are thousands of meteorites.

They are skimming off the atmosphere and moving into deep space.

The probe gets to close to one and the feed terminates.

SARASTI

The objects are all 400 meters in diameter.

Beat

SARASTI (cont’d)

I’m closing the ramscoop. We are moving off the Icarus stream in the next twenty minutes. We’re moving closer to BIG BEN.

Int. THESEUS – THE DRUM

Szpindel is across from Keeton, making coffee in the galley. The two are separated by the 15 meters of the MAIN DRUM. Keeton is asleep, inside his TENT, suspended against his REMWEB.

Keeton wakes up, sweating.

Ext. theseus – TM REACTOR

theseus lights its TWIN BOEING FUSION THRUSTERS.

PLASMA is ejected away from the TORCH at 3,000,000 degree

Focused by electromagnets.

theseus lurches away from us.

Int. theseus – THE DRUM

Szpindel is burned when his coffee bulb crashes against a bulkhead.

Coffee globs fly across the drum.

Keeton is nearly flung from his REMWEB as he avoids the scalding black liquid and broken glass.

SZPINDEL

What the–

KEETON (V.O.)

This is it! we got too close! They’re hitting back!

Int. theseus – THE DRUM

KEETON POV: BATES’ feed appears in KEETONS HUD

BATES (O.S.)

Main drive just kicked in. We’re changing course.

SZPINDEL (burned)

To where? On whose orders?

Keeton looks at the BULKHEAD separating the DRUM from the CARAPACE DOCKING ASSEMBLY.

SARASTI emerges from behind the bulkhead, long arms grasping the hatch-frame as the ship accelerates.

SARASTI

Mine.

A beat.

Keeton hears THESEUS groan as the ship accelerates.

Keeton’s HUD indicates that the THESEUS FABRICATION BAY is being retooled.

INT. THESEUS – NANOFABRICATION BAY

The FABRICATION UNITS are aligning to produce RADIATION SHIELDING.

INT. THESEUS – THE DRUM

JAMES detaches herself from her REMWEB

JAMES (as SASCHA)

(Just woke up)

What the fuck?

SARASTI

Watch.

KEETON POV

KEETON SEES SARASTI’S CONSENSUS FEED

KEETON’s entire POV is a stream of graphics and figures, totally incomprehensible.

ONE SEQUENCE is isolated and stands out, filling the frame.

It is an video of BIG BEN’s EQUATOR, dark and stormy. A SKIMMER disintegrating.

The SEQUENCE REPLAYS frame by frame.

As the frames of the SKIMMER VAPORZISING approach, a SINGLE FRAME captures a STRAIGHT LINE OF BLACK. How much of the image was real?

SARASI (Cont’d)

It’s orbiting Ben every 40 hours.

JAMES (As SASCHA)

It’s thirty kilometres long and cloaked?

BATES (O.S.)

Not very well. Pretty obvious refractory artifact.

Why didn’t we catch that before?

SZPINDEL

No backlight?

BATES (O.S.)

It’s not just the contrail, look at the clouds.

Int. theseus – THE DRUM

BATES is at the TACTICAL COMMUNICATIONS station.

Bates moves from the TACCOM station and floats into the HABITAT with the rest of the crew.

BATES (Cont’d)

It slipped up.

Bates grabs a handrail and performs a summersault, orientating herself to face the crew.

SARASTI

This is the first probe to show an artifact. This probe approaches from a wider angle. Twenty-seven degrees

JAMES (as SASCHA)

Wider angle to what?

BATES

To the line between us and them.

KEETON (V.O.)

It was all there on tactical: Theseus fell inward along an obvious arc, but the probes we’d dispatched hadn’t screwed around with Hohmann transfers; they’d burned straight down, their courses barely bending, all withing a few degrees of the theoretical line connecting Ben to Theseus.

But this one had come in wide and seen the trickery.

Int. THESEUS – THE DRUM

KEETON POV: We see the track of four RECON DRONEs along a single trajectory towards BIG BEN

We see the PATH of A FIFTH DRONE approaching in an BALISTIC ARC rather than a STRAIGHT LINE.

SARASTI

The farther from our bearing, the more obvious the discontinuity. It’s clearly visible on any approach perpendicular to ours.

JAMES (as SASCHA)

So we’re in a blind spot? We see it if we change course?

BATES

Sascha, the blind spot’s moving…

JAMES (as Sascha)

It’s tracking us? Motherfucker.

SZPINDEL

So what is it? Our skimmer factory?

KEETON

No. It’s orbiting.

This must be the transient itself.

James

So it’s big?

SARASTI

(Smiles)

Yes.

Here’s the feed. See for yourselves.

Szpindel

(Receives the feed from SARASTI)

    1. x 10 to the 10 kilograms with a total volume of 2.3 x 10 to the 8 cubic meters. It’s magnetic field, judging by the radio squeals and its Plage effect, is thousands of times more powerful than the sun’s…

…Astonishingly, parts of this composite image were clear enough to discern fine spiral grooves around the superstructure: Fibonacci sequences. Hard to believe.

James

At least they’re not completely alien…

Szpindel

Whatever they are, they’re growing: Debris from the accretion belt become ionized and accumulate on the object’s surface. The acquired mass is apparently processed internally and shunted to growth zones; judging by the infinitesimal changes in the artifact’s allometry.

Bates (O.S.)

I didn’t think that was possible. Then again, we expect the unexpected.

Szpindel

Hey, chaotic trajectories are just as deterministic as any other kind.

Bates (O.S.)

That doesn’t mean you can predict them. You’d have to know the starting conditions of a million variables to ten decimal places… Vampires can’t do that. Quantical AI’s can’t do that.

Szpindel

I’ve got no answers for you, Amanda. At least we’re doing better than The Gang. The transient only has one conversation mode: You really wouldn’t like it here.

KEETON

It’s talking to us?

BATES

As soon as we changed course they painted us with a modulate laser. Actually, exactly when we blew their cover.

SZPINDEL

Scary timing. How’d it know?

SUSAN JAMES

I’ve already decoded their signal.

Check this out.

CU: James’ workstation.

SUSAN JAMES is busy at a terminal interface.

ECU, the terminal:

RORSCHACH TO VESSEL APPROACHING 116 DEGREES AZ – 23 DEGREES DEC REL. HELLO THESEUS. …

RORSCHACH TO VESSEL APPROACHING 116 DEGREES AZ – 23 DEGREES DEC REL. HELLO THESEUS. …

RORSCHACH TO VESSEL APPROACHING 116 DEGREES AZ – 23 DEGREES DEC REL. HELLO THESEUS. …

The rest of the crew waits while JAMES works

JAMES

Theseus to Rorschach. Hello Rorschach.

RORSCHACH’s responses are vocalized by an alternating voice protocol emitted by the Transient.

RORSCHACH

HELLO THESEUS. WELCOME TO THE NEIGHBORHOOD

JAMES

Request permission to approach

RORSCHACH

YOU SHOULD STAY AWAY. SERIOUSLY THIS PLACE IS DANGEROUS.

JAMES

Request information on danger

RORSCHACH

TOO CLOSE AND DANGEROUS TO YOU. LOW ORBIT COMPLICATIONS

JAMES

Request information on low orbit complications

RORSCHACH

LETHAL ENVIRONMENT. ROCKS AND RADS. YOU’RE WELCOME. I CAN TAKE IT BUT WE’RE LIKE THAT

JAMES

We are aware of the rocks in low orbit. We are equipped to deal with radiation. Request information on other hazards.

JAMES (As Sascha)(Cont’d)

They’re being evasive, to say the least.

RORSCHACH

ARE YOU HERE FOR THE CELEBRATION?

JAMES

We are here to explore. Request dialogue with agents who sent objects into near-solar space.

RORSCHACH

FIRST CONTACT. SOUNDS LIKE SOMETHING TO CELEBRATE.

JAMES

Request information about your celebration

RORSCHACH

You’re interested.

JAMES

Yes

RORSCHACH

You are?

JAMES

Yes

RORSCHACH

You are?

JAMES

This is THESEUS

RORSCHACH

I know that, baseline. Who are YOU?

JAMES

This is Susan. I am–

RORSCHACH

You wouldn’t be happy here, Susan. Fetishistic religious beliefs involved. There are dangerous observances.

James

Request clarification. Are we in danger from these observances?

RORSCHACH

You certainly could be

James

Request clarification. Is it the observances that are dangerous, or the low-orbit environment?

RORSCHACH

The environment OF the disturbances. You should pay attention, Susan. Inattention connotes indifference, or disrespect—

Beat

JAMES

Signals gone.

SARASTI

It’s moved behind BIG BEN.

SZPINDEL

Well that was bizarre.

SARASTI

Analyses.

JAMES

The ship-to-ship protocols are perfect. Its vocabulary is far greater than you could derive from standard nav chatter between a few ships, so they’ve been listening to our insystem traffic. Most likely for several years. They’re using phase-structure grammar, long-distance dependencies. FLN recursion, at least four levels deep and I see no reason it won’t go deeper with further contact.

SZPINDEL

They’re not parrots. And RORSCHACH?

JAMES

There’s a RORSCACH on the Martian Loop, it’s an I-CAN freighter. Whoever we’re talking to must regard their own platform as a ship.

SZPINDEL

So they’re smart. Wonderful.

BATES

I wonder if they could hurt us if they wanted to…

SZPINDEL

The skimmers…

BATES

We’d be able to manoeuvre past those. Look, am I the only one who finds this strange? An interstellar technology that redecorates superJovians and lines up meteoroids like elephants on parade, and they were hiding? From US?

SZPINDEL

And the cloak was directional: we saw right through it.

BATES

Exactly. So they go to plan B which so far amounts to nothing but bluster and vague warnings. I don’t think they expected us.

SZPINDEL

Of course. BURNS-CAULFIED was…

BATES

I don’t think they expected us, YET.

Why would they expect us to just GIVE UP after we learned that we’d been sniped?

SZPINDEL

Pretty huge miscalculation for something so intelligent. Especially after the FIREFLIES surveilled us down to the square meter.

BATES

And what did they see? I-CANs. Solar sails. Ships that would take years to reach the Kuiper. Telematter was just a prototype back then. They must have figured that BURNS-CAULFIED was more than enough of a decoy.

SZPINDEL

So they’re bluffing?

BATES

That’s my guess. Rorschach’s still under construction. We could be dealing with an automated system.

SZPINDEL

So how long do we have before it graduates from COVERT to INVULNERABLE?

JAMES

Not to downplay your concerns, Isaac, but we’ve hardly exhausted the diplomatic route. At least it’s willing to talk.

EXT. BIG BEN – RORSCHACH ORBIT

RORSCHACH IS A VAST DARK CROWN OF THORNS. IT ORBITS 1500 kilometres from the atmosphere of BIG BEN every forty hours.

JAMES (As Michelle)

(O.S.)

(To RORSCHACH)

Did you send the Fireflies?

RORSCHACH (O.S.)

WE SEND MANY THINGS MANY PLACES. WHAT DO THEIR SPECS SHOW?

INT. THESEUS – COCKPIT

The crew is gathered around SUSAN JAMES’ terminal for the next exchange.

Szpindel and Keeton exchange glances.

JAMES (As Michelle)

We do not know their specifications. The Fireflies burned up over Earth.

RORSCHACH

THEN SHOULDN’T YOU BE LOOKING THERE? WHEN OUR KIDS FLY, THEY’RE ON THEIR OWN.

JAMES (As Sascha)

Channel Muted.

We’re on a hotline with JESUS OF FUCKING NAZARETH here. That last exchange was the informational equivalent of Should we render taxes unto Caesar.

SZPINDEL

Thanks for casting us as the Pharisees…

JAMES (As Sascha)

Hey, if the Jew fits…

Anyway, we’re not getting anywhere. I’m going to try a sidedoor.

KEETON (V.O.)

It was then that I first noticed it: a tiny imperfection on Sascha’s topology, a flyspeck of doubt marring one of her facets…

JAMES (As Michelle)

(Cont’d)

Theseus to Rorschach. Open to requests for information.

RORSCHACH

CULTURAL EXCHANGE. THAT WORKS FOR ME.

BATES (O.S.)

Are you sure that’s wise?

JAMES (As Michelle)

… If it’s not inclined to give information, maybe it would rather get some. And we could learn a great deal from the kind of questions it asks.

BATES (O.S.)

But…

RORSCHACH

TELL US ABOUT HOME.

JAMES

(James switches rapidly between personas)

(As Sascha)

Relax, Major. Nobody said we had to give it the right answers.

(To Rorschach)

[Michelle describes a hypothetical town in careful detail but without mention of any object smaller than a meter across]

JAMES (As *CRUNCHER*)

We don’t all of us have parents or cousins. Some never did. Some come from vats.

RORSCHACH

I SEE. THAT’S SAD. VATS SOUNDS SO DEHUMANIZING. TELL ME MORE ABOUT YOUR COUSINS.

JAMES (As SASCHA)

Our cousins lie about the family tree, with nieces and nephews and neanderthals. We do not like annoying cousins.

RORSCHACH

WE’D LIKE TO KNOW ABOUT THIS TREE.

JAMES (As SASCHA)

Channel muted. It couldn’t have parsed that. There were three linguistic ambiguities in there. It just ignored them.

BATES (O.S.)

Well, it asked for clarification…

JAMES (As SASCHA)

It asked a follow-up question. Different thing entirely.

ENTER, Sarasti.

JAMES (As SASCHA)

(CONT’D)

It doesn’t know what I’m saying, it doesn’t know what it’s saying back. It’s highly intelligent, most likely, but it’s not really talking to us at all.

SZPINDEL

So. It’s a Chinese Room.

KEETON (V.O.)

About bloody time…

But SZPINDEL was wrong.

Int. theseus – FABRICATION BAY

BATES and KEETON are floating in the FAB BAY. The DUEL FAB EXTRUSION PORTS are open and BATES is inputting parameters.

A PAIR OF SECURITY DRONES emerge from the FAB EXTRUSION PORTS. The DRONES are shaped like BATES’ squashed RUBBER BALL, and are twice as large as a HUMAN TORSO. Each DRONE is studded with retractable COMMUNICATIONS, UTILITIES & WEAPONS ports.

BATES inspects each DRONE, then pushes the DRONE into the the HOLD AIRLOCK.

KEETON

…It sounded to ME like it knew what it was saying.

BATES

(focused intensity)

I guess that’s the whole point.

KEETON

…Would it be a problem? Running them without your interface?

BATES

They are completely autonomous. Response time is actually improved in autistic mode. I’m more of a safety precaution.

KEETON

So. Do you but it? Pattern-matching, empty threats? Nothing to worry about?

BATES pulls one of the drones aside and then secure it to the BULKHEAD beside her.

BATES

(inspecting drones)

Nobody’s fired on us yet.

KEETON

You think it’s bullshit. What’s your take on Susan’s argument? Different niches, no reason for conflict?

BATES

Makes sense, I guess.

KEETON

Their environment and culture cannot be anything like ours. Why would they attack us?

BATES

(Remembering training)

That depends. On if our difference is reason enough.

Ideology, philosophy, racism. Excuses. Ultimately, it all comes down to family and limited resources.

KEETON

Your nihilism? I think Isaac would say this is different.

BATES

(inspecting drones)

I guess, Keeton.

KEETON

(looking at the grunts produced so far: X?)

How many of these are you making anyway?

BATES

We’re breaking and entering, Siri. Not wise to leave Theseus unguarded.

KEETON

(looking to the Drone BATES had placed aside earlier.)

What’s wrong with that one?

BATES

That one is mine.

KEETON (V.O.)

(concerned)

I was inspecting her topography, as she inspected the drones’. Doubt and resentment simmered just beneath.

KEETON

You’re- WE’RE in a tough spot. We’re guessing about what’s down there…

BATES

We all are. I’m responsible for your defence, I’m not in charge, and Sarasti doesn’t make guesses-

BATES inspects a drone closely, testing the AUTONOMOUS MODE. The DRONE is instantly organized and stable, manoeuvring in the free fall effortlessly. She de-activates the DRONE and pushes the newly created pair through the AIR LOCK.

BATES (Cont’d)

The man’s in charge for a reason. Doesn’t make much sense to question his orders, given we’re all about a hundred IQ points short of understanding the answer anyway.

KEETON

And yet, he’s also got that predatory side nobody talks about. It must be difficult, all that intellect coexisting with so much instinctive aggression…

KEETON (V.O.)

(Cont’d)

I could see that she thought Sarasti was listening to us.

BATES

I thought you jargonauts weren’t supposed to have opinions.

KEETON

That’s wasn’t mine. You do know why I’m really here, right?

KEETON (V.O.)

Fuck- she knew. How couldn’t I see it?

BATES

(Inspecting Drones)

Yup. You translate for the executives and politicos on Earth, who otherwise would have no idea what the specialists are doing.

KEETON

That’s only part of it…

BATES

I don’t need a translator, Siri. I’m just a consultant, if everything goes well. I’m a glorified mall-cop if things go otherwise. I’m muscle. Shouldn’t you be simplifying Jukka or Isaac?

KEETON

Sarasti and Szpindel are extremely difficult targets. I enjoy the challenge.

BATES stares at Keeton.

BATES

Right, so you’re not bothering with the cannon fodder. Like me.

KEETON

That’s exactly what I am doing. I mean…

KEETON (Cont’d)

…Every component of the system affects every other. You INTERACT. Processing Sarasti without factoring YOU in would be like trying to calculate acceleration while ignoring mass.

BATES returns to inspecting Drones.

KEETON (V.O.)

(Cont’d)

She didn’t hate me. She was appalled at the implication of my presence. “They don’t trust us to speak for ourselves. No matter how qualified we are, no matter how far ahead of the pack. We’re contaminated, subjective. Siri Keeton knows what we really mean!” I didn’t blame her.

KEETON and BATES consider the nano-fabrication bay.

KEETON

My vantage point may be subjective, but I’m about as objective as you can get in this situation. I’m practically outside the system.

BATES

Bullshit, Keeton.

You’re interacting with me right now…

KEETON

As an observer. I don’t play a role in decision-making or research, I don’t interfere in any aspect of the mission that I’m assigned to study. But of course I ask questions. The more information I have, the better my analysis.

BATES

That’s interesting, Keeton. But we’re not your latest trolls on the matrix.

BATES

(Cont’d)

I thought you people didn’t have to ASK at all?

KEETON

It all goes into the mix.

BATES

Are you doing it right now?

KEETON

Yes.

BATES

And you require no specialized knowledge?

KEETON

I’m as much of a specialist as you. I specialize in processing information topologies.

BATES

Right, I read about your distaste for content

KEETON

Understanding the shapes is enough. Sure, software could take of the task, but then again there’s plenty that’s best left to human redundancy. Your visual inspection for example.

BATES

Right…

KEETON

So I’d encourage you to speak freely. You know I’m sworn to confidentiality.

BATES

Thanks.

KEETON (V.O.)

It was a hollow gesture. We both knew that there was no such thing as confidentiality aboard theseus.

SARASTI (O.S.)

Orbital insertion in fifteen minutes. Everyone to the Drum in five.

BATES terminates the FAB CYCLE.

The FABRICATION ROUTINE is now complete. BATES has manufactured half a dozen MARK I BATTLE GRUNTS

BATES

By the way, Siri, you missed an obvious reason.

The reason why something would attack us even if we didn’t have anything they wanted: Self defence. You asked about Sarasti? Smart man. Strong Leader. Maybe could spend a little more time with the troops.

KEETON

Maybe he’s being considerate?

BATES

I’m sure that’s it.

KEETON (V.O.)

It was almost heartening to think that maybe Sarasti felt the tug of other genes, some aversion to prolonged visibility shaped by generations of natural selection. Maybe he spent every moment in our company fighting voices that urged him to HIDE, hide, let them forget. Maybe he retreated when they got too loud, maybe we made him as uneasy as he made us. We could always hope.

SARASTI (O.S.)

PRIMARY CREW, to the bridge.

KEETON (V.O.)

Orders from on high.

MARQUE

Life’s too short for chess. – Lord Byron

MARQUE

The LORD will take control of you. You will dance and shout and become a different person. – 1 Samuel 10:6.

EXT. BIG BEN – ACCRETION BELT

THESEUS MANUEVERS around floating debris spilling from the ACCRETION BELT

SARASTI (O.S.)

We’re moving into an equatorial orbit, we’ll only be a few thousand kilometres above RORSCHACH.

SPINZDEL (O.S.)

The approach curves right through the accretion bel–

SARASTI (O.S.)

Fantastic. It’s vulnerable now. Now we go in.

JAMES (as SASCHA) (O.S.)

Like surviving traffic in a high speed lane. Try creeping across and you’re roadkill. Gotta speed up, go with the flow.

KEETON (O.S.)

We have been course correcting every five minutes…

SARASTI (O.S.)

That’s correct, Keeton. Rorschach isn’t talking. We’re staying turbulent.

Int. THESEUS – COCKPIT

SARASTI and the rest of the CREW are on the bridge.

SARASTI

Launch another probe.

BATES

Already done. It’s breaking now.

RORSCHACH

RORSCHACH TO THESEUS. HELLO AGAIN, THESEUS?

SARASTI

Don’t answer.

BATES

Burn complete.

RORSCHACH

RORSCHACH TO THESEUS. HELLO, THESEUS. YOU there?

RORSCHACH (Cont’d)

RORSCHACH TO THESEUS. I SEEEE YOU

BATES

Tactical: the CAPTAIN is doing guesswork here. You can see RORSCHACH’s magnetic field, more or less.

SZPINDEL

It’s generating an enormous amount of energy.

Hey, Amanda, is RORSCHACH talking back to the probe at all?

BATES

If it is, I’m not seeing it.

COURSE CORRECTION: unplotted rock

THESEUS GROANS AS IT MANUEVERS.

RORSCHACH

RORSCHACH TO THESEUS. I see you haven’t changed your vector. We really advise that you discontinue your approach. Seriously. For your own safety.

KEETON POV: The probe is now a few kilometers from RORSCHACH: the CONSENSUS FEED shows RORSCHACH in BRIGHT COLOUR

RORSCHACH

RORSCHACH TO THESEUS. If you are unable to respond, please – HOLY SHIT

KEETON POV: The feed is gone.

BATES

We just lost the feed from the probe.

They must have fired on it…

SARASTI

No.

RORSCHACH

Do you think we’re BLIND down here? I see what you’re up to NOW.

JAMES (as SASCHA)

We–

SARASTI

NO.

BATES

Wait, the probe is still there.

The laser feed was not acquired for a moment.

SZPINDEL
Did they block it?

BATES

Don’t know. Possibly.

RORSCHACH

YOU PULL THAT THING BACK RIGHT NOW.

RIGHT NOW.

SARASTI

Maintain approach.

RORSCHACH

You want to start a WAR, THESEUS? IS THAT WHAT YOU ARE UP TO? ARE YOU UP FOR IT?

BATES

The probe is through their MAGNETOSPHERE

It’s going to land in a few moments

RORSCHACH

Oh, I get it now. You don’t think there’s anyone here, do you? You’ve got some consultant telling you there’s nothing to worry about. That there’s no body here. That we’re a CHINESE ROOM.

KEETON (V.O.)

And that was that.

RORSCHACH (Cont’d)

Now it’s too late. Now you’re all going to die.

Are you there SUSAN? We’re taking YOU FIRST.

The crew looks at eachother.

SARASTI

Terminate the feed.

BATES

Done.

The Probe has finished it’s primary objective: land on target. Moving to secondary objective: dispatch payload.

SUSAN JAMES

I’m surprised they haven’t stopped us yet.

BATES

They can’t- I’m sticking to that.

The drone is deploying now.

The crew is hushed as they watch on the cockpit’s displays.

KEETON POV: Images begin to appear on CONSENSUS.

DARK SHADOWS OF A ROOM. VAGUE AND TEMPORARY.

BATES

Drone’s transmitting- there’s just a lot of interference. It’s not going to last very long.

KEETON

Anyway to increase the shielding?

BATES

It’s already shielded, Keeton. The only thing not shielded is the sensor heads.

SZPINDEL

These are optical links, commissar. We shield the links and we’re blind.

BATES

EM field just spiked.

KEETON POV: The Drone connection is gone.

BATES
It’s toast. EM fried it.

Well.

JAMES

We can go in ourselves.

SZPINDEL

Right.

JAMES

It’s the only way.

SZPINDEL

You mean, the only way to learn how many seconds it takes for your brain to turn into a synchrotron soup? RORSCHACH kills you if your meat or mechanical.

JAMES

My point, is that it kills meat differently. It takes longer.

SZPINDEL

Yah, maybe after fifty minutes.

JAMES

…And completely asymptomatic for three hours or more, and then it would take days to actually die.

We’d be back in Theseus long before then and the biomed scrubbers will clean you up.

SARASTI

I’m prepping Scylla. Amanda needs two untethered grunts with precautionary armament. Cam from one to a million Angstroms, shielded tympanics, no autonomous circuitry. Platelet boosters, dimenhydrinate and potassium iodide for everyone by thirteen fifty.

SZPINDEL

Wait, we’re actauly going in?

SARASTI

The biomedical pods will repair any transient damage to your biological systems.

BATES

Everyone?

SARASTI

Window opens four hours twenty-three.

KEETON

Not me.

SARASTI pauses.

KEETON (Cont’d)

I don’t participate in field ops.

SARASTI
You do now.

KEETON

But…

SARASTI

Do as you’re told. 

SARASTI (cont’d)

PRIMARY CREW, suit up.

BATES

Don’t worry, Siri. You’re an observer right? There’s going to be interesting things to observe down there- believe me.

KEETON (V.O.)

But that’s not why I was going. Sarasti knew the odds: three valuable agents in harm’s way. A decoy bought one-in-four odds that an enemy would aim somewhere else.

Int. THESEUS SHUTTLE-Bay

SUSAN JAMES, SIRI KEETON, AMANDA BATES and ISAAC SZPINDEL are pushing into the cargo bay of the shuttle SCYLLA.

SZPINDEL

… Of course they called SUSAN by name. That was the only name they had, remeber?

SUSAN JAMES (As Michelle)

Yes, but I’m not reassured.

SZPINDEL

Hey, it was you guys who said it was a Chinese Room. You saying you were wrong?

James (As Michelle)

We, no. Of course not.

It couldn’t have known what it was saying.

It was just following some kind of flow-chart for human speech interaction.

But it did attack the probe.

BATES

The probe got to close to one of the skimmers- it knocked the laser feed off for a second.

SZPINDEL

So do YOU think RORSCHACH is hostile?

BATES

Doesn’t matter. We’re going to find out once we go inside.

SZPINDEL

It says it wants to be left alone.

JAMES (As Michelle)

If they attack us, what do we do?

BATES

Learn what we can, while we can. Fight back. While we can.

SZPINDEL

IF we can. Look at that thing, Amanda. Tell me we’re not hopelessly outmatched?

BATES

Outmatched, for sure. Hopelessly? Never.

Int. THESEUS – SHUTTLE-BAY

The crew is equipped in their EXORADIATION SUITS

ALARMS FLARE SILENTLY

Everyone enters SCYLLA: one of the CLEOCOPTER class shuttles.

The BAY DOORS OPEN

Ext. THESEUS – SHUTTLE-BAY

SCYLLA drops away from THESEUS and its MICROFUSION engines fire

EXT. SCYLLA

The shuttle moves through the ACCRETION BELT and approaches RORSCHACH.

INT. SCYLLA – COCKPIT

The crew is strapped to their G RESTRAINTS

The shuttle is puling 3 G

KEETON is next to SUSAN JAMES,

KEETON

Excited?

SUSAN JAMES (As Sascha)

You’re fucking RIGHT. Field work, Keeton. First contact. I’d live a thousand lives for this.

KEETON

What if there’s nobody there?

SUSAN JAMES (As Sascha)

What if there is and they don’t like us?

EVEN BETTER. We get a crack at their signs and cereal boxes without traffic cops leaning over our shoulders.

SPZINDEL

We’re close. Rorschach’s magnetic field is killing us already. We’ll have maybe an hour?

KEETON

What kind of creatures could live in such a place?

(To SUSAN JAMES)

You really think we’ll get along?

SUSAN JAMES

Maybe not at first. We may have gotten off on the wrong foot, we might have to sort through all kinds of misunderstandings. But we’ll figure each other out eventually.

BATES

Thirty seconds

KEETON POV:

KEETON’s HUD shows SCYLLA’s velocity decreasing.

THE CREW looks chiseled from stone: hardwired into their radiation exoskeletons.

EXT. SCYLLA – NEAR RORSCHACH

SCYLLA’s microfusion reaction thrusters bring the shuttle to a halt next to the HARD-DOCK already established on RORSCHACH.

Int. SCYLLA – CARGO BAY

AMANDA BATES stands beside the airlock. The DRONES attached to the ceiling become active.

BATES, next to the airlock, clears the cycle for the drones to enter.

AMANDA BATES

Hard dock. Drones first.

KEETON POV:

The airlock door slides open, revealing an inner-chamber.

The DRONES move from the ceiling and enter the airlock.

INT. SCYLLA – AIRLOCK

2 DRONES, FLATTENED LIKE POLISHED STONES, fill the airlock.

INT. SCYLLA – CARGO BAY

BATES slams a fist against the AIRLOCK CYCLE icon.

INT. SCYLLA – AIRLOCK

THE AIRLOCK BLOWS OPEN, THE DRONES ARE HURLDED INTO THE DARKNESS BEYOND.

THE AIRLOCK CLOSES.

BATES (O.S.)

Okay, the drones are inside.

You guys are up.

INT. SCYLLA – CARGO BAY

BATES (Cont’d)

Everybody duck, low overheard through the airlock.

Here we go.

AMANDA BATES leads the CREW into the AIRLOCK.

SZPINDEL

The drones are showing RORSCHACH’s interior at 281 K.

JAMES

Above freezing.

SZPINDEL

Atmosphere is methane, ammonia, hydrogen, water vapour.

I should add that the layers we cut through couldn’t have originated with a biological process.

BATES

Why are you telling us this now?

SZPINDEL

Thought you’d want to know we’re not going into the mouth of the whale here- more like the Devil’s Baklava.

BATES

What about organics within the structure itself?

SZPINDEL

Doubtful. The baseline environment is an anoxic atmosphere: there’s not enough oxygen for high-energy metabolism.

BATES

So, it’s empty?

SZPINDEL

Didn’t say that. I know aliens are supposed to be all mysterious and everything, but I still don’t see why anyone would build a city-sized wildlife refuge for anaerobic microbes.

BATES

You’re assuming that the BASELINE ENVIRONMENT isn’t an active counterintrusion measure. Why else would a habitat be so uninhabitable?

SZPINDEL

You’re right- we really don’t have enough information here.

So, let’s get going.

KEETON POV:

KEETON’s HUD IS A THICK SWARM OF INFORMATION

THE CREW IS BREATHING HARD IN THEIR SUITS, waiting for the doors to open.

ICE CRYSTALS OF FROZEN NITROGEN fly float by

INT. SYCLLA – AIRLOCK

KEETON POV: Everyone is clumped together in their heavy FERROCERAMIC SUITS.

We see the FEED from the Drones. The chamber they are in is empty and filled with thick atmosphere. It is dozens of meters in diameter.

BATES closes the inner hatch manually.

THE AIRLOCK CYCLES.

THE HATCH OPPOSITE BLOWS OPEN

The Cargo Bay DEPRESSURIZES

INT. RORSCHACH – FIRST CHAMBER

The corridor is 3 meters wide and circular, completely obscured with thick yellow atmosphere. KEETON’s HUD is in INFRARED and is still obscured by the ejecting gas which is energized. Through the looking glass…

REVERSE ANGLE:

INT. RORSCHACH – SCYLLA ENTRANCE.

FROM INSIDE RORSCHACH we see the OPEN AIRLOCK.

Rorschach is flooded with a thick atmosphere .

SUSAN JAMES

Why is the feed taking so long?

BATES

Just wait a second…

KEETON POV:

THE FEED COMES ONLINE-

The Drones are seeing the interior of RORSCHACH in SONAR

KEETON’s HUD shows waves of noise flooding the chamber.

Each Grunt shows a unique feed; a spiralling series of tunnels receding into the darkness is the idea.

SZPINDEL

Nothing’s jumped out at as yet, but…
there’s an awful lot of radiation in there, Major.

BATES

Roger that. I’m going first.

INT. RORSCHACH – AIRLOCK

REVERSE ANGLE showing BATES’ in her suit clinging to the AIRLOCK entrance doors.

BATES (Cont’d)

Looks good.

Going in.

INT. SCYLLA – AIRLOCK

BATES OPENS THE AIRLOCK HATCH. The HARD-CONNECT with Rorschach is functioning.

There is a circular hatch leading down to the opening drilled into RORCSHACH.

AMANDA BATES moves first, entering the tunnel connecting SCYLLA to RORSCHACH.

KEETON

Major?

Int. SCYLLA – AIRLOCK

KEETON POV: Bates is visible in KEETON’s HUD. SHE OPENS THE AIRLOCK TO RORSCHACH.

DENSE GAS FLOODS THE AIRLOCK.

KEETON POV:

KEETON IS STARTLED as the SCYLLA AIRLOCK SLAMS CLOSED.

BATES floats INSET in KEETON’s HUD inside RORSCHACH’s dense atmosphere.

BATES (O.S.)

Oh… Okay. Come on… down…

SZPINDEL

Not so fast- what is going on in there, Amanda?

BATES (O.S.)

I feel, a bit odd.

SZPINDEL

Like how?
Radiation sickness starts with nausea, but we should have another hour and a half…

BATES (O.S.)

We’ll be dead by then.

SZPINDEL

That’s correct, Major.

An hour and a half.

What do you see?

BATES (O.S.)

…mild disorientation. It’s a bit spooky in here… must be Grey syndrome. Tolerable.

Int. SCYLLA – AIRLOCK

CU:

JAMES, KEETON and SZPINDEL.

BATES (O.S.)

Clock is ticking, people. It’s not getting any better. Get down here.

POV KEETON: SUSAN JAMES shows iron will and pushes out of the airlock into RORSCHACH

SUSAN JAMES (As Sascha)

Bring it!

NEXT IS SZPINDEL

KEETON IS ALONE IN THE AIRLOCK.

Now or never.

HE BREATHES HARD, pulls himself into the airlock.

WARNING LIGHTS COVER THE AIRLOCK. THE DOORS ARE WIDE OPEN.

KEETON’s suit lamp illuminates for no more than twenty meters. We see a thick soup of GREEN-YELLOW atmosphere, showing LETHAL LEVELS of high-energy radiation on KEETON’s HUD…

KEETON

Jesus Christ…

SZPINDEL (O.S.)

No shit.

Int. RORSCHACH – First Chamber.

KEETON POV: Keeton sees a composite feed from the drones ahead and the other crew.

Everything is distorted by RORSCHACH’s EM field.

KEETON (V.O.)

Rorschach creaked around us like an ancient wooden hull trapped in pack ice. The crackle of electricity like the hiss of rattlesnakes. You tell yourself it’s mostly in your head. You remind yourself it’s well-documented, an inevitable consequence of meat and magnetism…

SZPDINEL

(Cont’d)

…The high-energy fields release the ghosts from the temporal lobe. I’m sure it’s a paralytic effect designed to saturate the conscious mind…

A beat

SZPDINEL

(Cont’d)

Did you get that Major–

BATES

Copy. They’re messing with our motor nerves…

Another spike. Hang on.

KEETON POV: Tesla and Sieverts ratings surge on KEETON’s HUD. The feeds from the DRONES is disrupted.

FROM UP FRONT, emerging from the methane soup, A DEFLATED FARADAY BELL MOVES TOWARDS KEETON

BATES (O. S.)

Inflate that, Keeton.

KEETON grabs the DEFLATED FARADAY BELL and explodes it.

KEETON draws his SABOT gun and attaches the CONTROL LINES of the FARADAY BELL to the wall.

In KEETON’s HUD we see an intermittent feed from up front. The DRONES and the CREW spread out into the empty tunnel

JAMES (O.S.)

They’re here.

CU: KEETON watches the walls, not trusting his own vision

SUSAN JAMES’ feed comes in intermittent:

JAMES (O.S.)

(Cont’d)

They are… beautiful.

KEETON POV:

AMANDA BATES is DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF KEETON.

SHE turns from side to side, looking for anything.

BATES

What? Where? Susan–

INT. RORSCHACH – FIRST CHAMBER

KEETON POV: the fog clears slightly. BATES is moving in front of Keeton with a pair of Drones accompanying.

The Drones’ video feed shows each drone facing down different empty corridors. Almost nothing is visible in OPTICAL LIGHT, as the corridors are completely flooded with methane emissions, and electromagnetic energy.

SUDDENLY THE FEED FROM THE DRONES IS GONE

KEETON

What happened?

SZPINDEL

Identical drones: likely an identical fault in the optic receptors.

BATES

The entire design is likely faulty.

We’ll fix that for the next run.

BATES POV: The two DRONE video feed in BATES’ HUD goes blank.

KEETON POV:

We see the static from the failed drone feeds replaced by the live data-stream from the EXPEDITION SUITS.

KEETON sees BATES grab hold of the nearest drone, and manually check its operability. Hypothesis confirmed, Bates releases the drone.

BATES

These things are supposed to be rated for spasmodic thermonuclear warfare conditions.

Likely they’re faulting with respect to radiation shielding.

SZPINDEL

You’ll have to deconstruct them and re-fabricate new, harder designs?

BATES

Yes.

Without the drone input,

we’ll need your EM sensitive vision, Isaac.

SZPINDEL (O.S.)

What about the drones?

BATES

We’ll bring them back with us and recycle them.

What do you see?

SZPINDEL (O.S.)

(Baffled)

I can’t see shit.

JAMES (O.S.)

It’s the EM fields. That’s what they’re using to communicate. There is a linguistic structure here…

SZPINDEL (O.S.)

I can’t see ANYTHING, Susan. Are you certain you’re not hallucinating?

BATES

Shit. How can that–? The radiation—

KEETON POV: Bates is still there, floating soundlessly between the WARRIOR DRONES.

In KEETON’s HUD we can barely see the feeds from JAMES & SZPINDEL.

KEETON

I- I don’t think that’s it…

SZPINDEL (O.S.)

It’s reading nine tesla, Major. I smell asphalt and honeysuckle.

BATES (O.S.)

KEETON! You with us?

Keeton

Y- Yeah. Barely…

KEETON is still holding the FARRADAY BELL. He has his hand on the ripcord.

Keeton

(To himself, slowly)

I thought i’d pulled it…

BATES (O.S.)

What?

KEETON HASN’T ACTIVATED THE FARADAY BELL. SOMETHING IS TERRIBLY WRONG: WE SAW HIM PULL IT EARLIER. IT EITHER HAPPENED OR IT DIDN’T HAPPEN.

KEETON POV: Keeton turns around, looking for something behind him.

He sees dense fog rushing past him towards the hull-breach.

Keeton

(To himself, slowly)

Something… tapping on my shoulder…

SZPINDEL suddenly appears out of the fog. He GRABS KEETON and pulls him towards BATES.

INT. RORSCHACH – INNER CHAMBER

The atmosphere is clearer here. BATES is floating beside her WARRIOR DRONES.

SZPINDEL

Throw me something, major.

BATES throws a battery at SZPINDEL, who fumbles the catch.

SZPINDEL

Damn. The radiological effects are worse than–

BATES
Should we abort?

SZPINDEL

N- No. We’ll be fine. The EM field is so intense; I can tell when it’s spiking.

JAMES (O.S.)

I’m on my way…

KEETON POV: BATES and SZPINDEL float beside each-other. They are

Keeton sees JAMES’ feed in his HUD, she is moving rapidly towards the empty chamber.

BATES

Keeton, inflate that sucker.

KEETON inflates the Faraday bell. THIS TIME FOR REAL

It looks like an aluminum marshmallow, ten meters in diameter, completely transparent.

BATES

(Cont’d)

Everyone inside!

Keeton looks at Bates. BATES has her pistol drawn.

KEETON (V.O.)

…strange… didn’t notice that.

SZPINDEL

Major?

BATES

Wait for Susan.

KEETON LOOKS

CU: SZPINDEL AND BATES, encased in their exo-atmosphere radiation suits.

The suits are composed of Kapton and Chromel and polycarbonate.1 The framing surrounding the exoskeletons are encased in ice from the vacuum of space, instantly melting with contact with energetic atmosphere of Rorschach. The DRONES float nearby, inactive.

BATES

James! Are you–

JAMES (As CRUNCHER)

GET IT OFF ME!

EVERYONE snaps to attention.

JAMES (As CRUNCHER)

(Cont’d)

GET IT OFF!

INT. RORSCHACH – INNER CHAMBER

SUSAN JAMES suddenly appears- she is floating outside the FARADAY BELL.

She is gripping hold of her own right leg with both hands

JAMES floats into the chamber and bounces against the FARADAY BELL.

BATES

Grab her, Keeton!

Keeton and Bates secure James. Together they pull her through the entrance membrane and into the faraday bell.

KEETON grabs hold and pulls himself in. The entrance membrane shimmers as KEETON pushes it aside.

INT. RORSCHACH – FARADAY BELL.

The membrane closes behind KEETON. SZPINDEL and BATES are already floating inside.

THE bell is a bright translucent colour on the interior.

INSIDE THE BELL KEETON’s HUD FEEDS GO DEAD

THEY SHOW NOTHING BUT STATIC.

BATES

What’s the problem?

JAMES (As Cruncher)

That! You blind?

KEETON

He wasn’t just holding… he was trying to pull Susan’s leg off…

BATES

Take his arm.

SZPINDEL, BATES and KEETON secure hysterical JAMES

BATES (Cont’d)

Cruncher. Let go, Now.

JAMES (As Cruncher)

It’s not my leg! LOOK AT IT.

BATES

(Emotionless)

Listen to me: It’s your leg.

JAMES (As Cruncher)

It’s stuck to me! GET IT OFF.

JAMES (As SUSAN JAMES)

(Cont’d)

Amanda? What’s happening?

BATES

This is nonsense, Susan.

I’m going out there. We’re all dead anyway.

KEETON

Uhm…

BATES (Cont’d)

You guys leave me here. That’s an order.

INT. Rorschach, CU: Faraday Bell:

Through the transparent materials we see AMANDA BATES moves to the hatch at the far side of the FARADAY BELL and exit.

SZPINDEL (O.S.)

(Cont’d)

What the fuck?

Int. FARADAY BELL

INSIDE the faraday bell, SUSAN JAMES, SZPINDEL and KEETON float together.

CU: SZPINDEL

SZPINDEL is searching his redundant datafeeds. behind his translucent faceplate his eyes are active; searching.

KEETON

(Cont’d)

What happened to Bates? Her suit breach?

SZPINDEL

I don’t think so.

JAMES

She said she was dead. Dead NOW.

SZPINDEL

How do… That’s crazy, eh?

KEETON

Define crazy?

SZPINDEL

The drone shorted out because of improper radiation hardening. We’re already dead husks of degrading cells. Don’t you think we’re sort of outmatched?

Keeton, we have to survive the current EM spike. It’s possible we can’t. Two hours of surface time is looking more like 30 minutes of nausea followed by irreparable cell degradation and death.

KEETON

Don’t patronize me.

SZPINDEL

(Annoyed)

Yes sir, Commissar.

Bates?

KEETON

She wasn’t dead. She only said she was…

KEETON (Cont’d)

Is that an EM transducer?

SZPINDEL places his hand against the wall of the FARRADAY BELL:

SZPINDEL

Yes. Five tesla.

KEETON POV: KEETON’s HUD shows figures streaming in from SZPINDEL’s EM FEEDBACK. The inset feeds from JAMES, SZPINDEL are still showing static.

KEETON

Eight o’clock!

SZPINDEL

Amanda? Please respond.

Keeton

Can you see?

SZPINDEL

AMANDA? Can you hear me?

BATES (O.S.)

…no…

SZPINDEL

MAJOR! You’re still alive?

BATES (O.S.)

…no…

SUSAN JAMES

(as SASCHA)

Well; you’re talking to us so you sure aren’t dead!

BATES (O.S.)

…no…

SZPINDEL

You have to get in here, Major. Your carbon-fibre endoskeleton might not degrade for a million years, but the skin covering it is decaying at an accelerating rate…

…Can you come inside?

KEETON

Are you injured? Are you pinned by something?

BATES (O.S.)

No… No.

KEETON

It’s dangerous out there, Amanda, there’s too much radiation, even for you. Do you understand?

BATES (O.S.)

I’m not out here.

KEETON

Where are you?

KEETON LOOKS CLOSE AT SZPINDEL AND THEY EXCHANGE LOOKS. The scene is shot in a series of tight closeups of the three expedition crew inside the FARADAY BELL.

BATES (O.S.)

…nowhere.

SUSAN JAMES

And, what are you, Amanda?

Are you RORSCHACH?

BATES (O.S.)

No…

JAMES

Then what?

BATES (O.S.)

Nothing. I’m nothing.

SZPINDEL

You’re saying you don’t exist?

Long pause

BATES (O.S.)

Yes.

BATES (O.S.)

(Cont’d)

I see… God.

SZPINDEL

We’ve got to get her inside: the radiation poisoning must be causing neuro-pyschosis.

A beat

SZPINDEL (Cont’d)

I’m opening the hatch.

KEETON stops SZPINDEL with this arm.

SZPINDEL glares at KEETON

SZPINDEL (Cont’d)

The radiation’s already crested, commissar. We’re through the worst of it.

SZPINDEL is about to open the FARADAY BELL when…

… it opens from the outside.

AMANDA BATES looks back in.

KEETON POV: BATES FEED REAPPERS ON HIS HUD

BATES

I’m reading three point eight. That’s tolerable, right?

BATES (Cont’d)

Come on people, break’s over.

SZPINDEL

Amanda… Are you okay?

BATES

In here? Not likely.

But we’ve got a job to do.

How’s this field strength? Can we work in it?

SZPINDEL

Uh… maybe we should abort, Major.

That spike was intense…

BATES

My readings show the spike is over.

We’ve got less than two hours of useful time to finish setting up, run our ground truths, and get out of here. Can we do that without hallucinating?

SZPINDEL

I guess we’re okay until another spike hits.

BATES

Good.

SZPINDEL

Which could be any time…

BATES grabs SZPINDEL and pulls him out of the FARADAY BELL.

KEETON and SUSAN JAMES exit, then KEETON DEFLATES THE BELL.

THEY move around the chamber, setting up SCIENTIFIC EQUIPMENT payload.

EXT. RORSCHACH – AIRLOCK

THE CREW re-enters the airlock and it cycles.

They no longer carry their SCIENTIFIC EQUIPMENT PAYLOADS.

INSIDE THE AIRLOCK:

JAMES

(To Bates)

We weren’t hallucinating.

BATES

We can discuss it later. Now-

JAMES

There was a pattern there. In the EM fields, in MY HEAD. In Amanda. RORSCHACH was talking… to someone- something.

KEETON

I feel sick

JAMES (as Michelle)
Me too.

SZPINDEL

How is the rest of the gang?

SUSAN JAMES (As MICHELLE)

They’re excited about our discoveries, but I feel terrible.

INT. SCYLLA – AIRLOCK

THE CREW piles back into SCYLLA and prepares for the return trajectory to RORSCHACH.

EXT. SCYLLA – RORSCHACH AIRLOCK

SCYLLA fires its egress thrusters onto a rendezvous trajectory with RORSCHACH.

INT. THESEUS – BIOMED DRUM

THE EXPEDITION CREW TAKE TURNS IN the BIOMEDICAL PODS.

PRECISE PHASED GAMMA RAYS remove CANCER CELLS.

REPLACEMENT CELLS ARE CONSTRUCTED BY NANO-BOTS.

LAYERS of REPLACEMENT TISSUE from fresh DNA stock are applied.

THE CREWS’ DNA is on file and also held inside THESEUS’ PERMANANT DATA CONSTRUCT, or “Q Box” [Black Box]

CU:

Stronger, younger versions:

THE FACE OF KEETON, rebuilt.

THE FACE OF SUSAN JAMES, rebuilt.

THE FACE of SZPINDEL, rebuilt.

THE FACE of AMANDA BATES, looks the same. custom Cyborg reconstructive DNA.

INT. THESEUS – CRYPT

ECU: JUKKA SARASTI SMILES.

SARASTI floats through the crypt, watching the THE EXPEDITION CREW SLEEP IN THEIR ZERO TAU PODS.

EXT. THESEUS – NEAR BIG BEN ORBIT

THESEUS drifts in orbit above BIG BEN, below the accretion disk, but not yet within BIG BEN’s Exosphere.

The DRUM stops rotating.

INT. THESEUS – The crypt

CU: KEETON’s Crypt pod.

ECU: KEETON’s eyes open, awake.

KEETON POV: He looks around him. The rest of the crypt is empty.

He looks down.

THERE IS AN ELONGATED GREY TENTACLE MOTIONLESS DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF THE POD.

THE TENTACLE IS ATTACHED TO SOMETHING LARGER NEARBY…f

KEETON TAKES A DEEP BREATH.

THE ARM VANISHES, PULLED AWAY.

KEETON goes to scream, but WAKES UP.

INT. THESEUS – THE DRUM

THE DRUM has been stopped for repairs to the RAMSCOOP FIELD GENERATOR.

THE CREW enjoys zero gravity around the GALLEY.

SZPINDEL is talking to SUSAN JAMES.

R/A: KEETON enters from the CRYPT ACCESS HATCH.

SZPINDEL

Finally. You must be hungry after all that lying around.

KEETON

You need to check me out.

I’m either hallucinating or there’s something on board the ship.

SZPINDEL

You’re hallucinating.

KEETON

I’m serious

SZPINDEL

So am I. Take a number. Wait your turn.

JAMES

It WAS real. We all saw it.

SZPINDEL turns to a nearby TERMINAL and generates a shimmering pattern resembling FISH SCALES.

SZPINDEL

Look, try this fractal.

JAMES

Nope. The Orientation’s wrong…

THE SHAPES CHANGE RAPIDLY as JAMES inputs data.

After a moment, a SPIDERWEB OF FISHSCALES has appeared.

JAMES

That’s it!

Don’t tell us that’s random noise.

SZPINDEL

No, it’s a Kluver constant.

JAMES

A-

SZPINDEL

It’s a hallucination, Suze.

JAMES

Of course. But something PLANTED it…

SZPINDEL

It was in your head all along, since you were born.

An artifact of brain structure. You didn’t actually SEE it- the construct couldn’t exist under actual eye-ball optical conditions.

JAMES

Oh. Nevermind.

SZPINDEL

You’re up, commissar.

JAMES moves away, to her REMWEB tent.

KEETON

You know, I wasn’t talking about in RORSCHACH. I meant in HERE.

SZPINDEL

Yah, yah. I’m taking a blood sample.

SZPINDEL draws a dot of blood with his hand-interface and analyses it with the other hand.

SZPINDEL

Yum. Elevated cholinesterase inhibitors in the ret.

You spent a bit longer in there than the rest of us.

KEETON

That’s significant?

SZPINDEL

Your organs may have been more cooked than ours… Ah…

KEETON
What?

Szpindel

Tumors. Small ones, commissar. You’re meatbase will probably take care of them. Hmmm, some in your brain too.

KEETON

Could those be causing the —

Szpindel

Nope.

KEETON.

What I saw in the crypt: it was multijointed arms from a central mass. Large as a human.

Szpindel

Get used to it. TMS effects. You ever get a TAT.

KEETON

(bad memories)

Yah, once or twice.

Szpindel

Same principle. Give it a week outside RORSCHACH’s EM field and you’d be fine. Of course, I get the feeling Sarasti’s going to keep sending us BACK.

KEETON

Could something else be causing them?

Like something ON THE SHIP?

Szpindel

I don’t know, like leakage in THESEUS’ EM shielding? Maybe. We’ve all got prosthetics attached to the meatbase, they could be malfunctioning…

KEETON (V.O.)

And then I’d have to tell him that I saw the objects before. BEFORE RORSCHACH.

Then I’d have to tell him about my operational capacity for “noninvasive observation”.

KEETON

It’s probably nothing.

SZPINDEL

Multijointed arms with a central mass?

KEETON

Probably just Amanda’s rubber ball.

SZPINDEL

Probably.

KEETON

…When did your sight come back?

SZPINDEL

Soon as we came inside.

KEETON

Sooner? You saw the battery.

SZPINDEL

Fumbled it. being undead and blind…

KEETON

You almost caught it. That wasn’t blind chance.

SZPINDEL

Not blind chance. The more eyes Sarasti keeps in the field the greater the odds that anyone of them will be half-operational…

KEETON

Blindsight?

SZPINDEL

Nope: there was nothing wrong with the receptors; The brain processed the image but it couldn’t access it. The brain stem takes over. I could see the battery but I couldn’t understand what it was, what I was doing. But I saw something else as well.

SZPINDEL (cont’d)

I panicked.

But there I remember now… and I think Cruncher saw it as well: in the replays, there was

SOMETHING ELSE. SOMETHING ELSE THERE, INSIDE THE FARADAY BELL, Keeton.

You never saw it, did you?

SARASTI (O.S.)

We need samples. You don’t like radiation.

We repaired you.

Get used to it. You’re going back in.

Szpindel

We?

SARASTI (O.S.)

Consider the feeds.

KEETON POV:

Some of the first generation sensors are still operational, but not many.

KEETON’s HUD shows an increasingly deadly image of RORSCHACH’s interior.

SARASTI (O.S.)

(Cont’d)

RORSCHACH is growing from the tips of its thorns They are growing what appear to be discrete segments. In the past five orbits, Rorschach has grown by another 8% of total mass. Consider the cortical infarcts: the magnetic fields that must have fired when Cruncher tried to dismember himself.

KEETON

And the deep zones?

SZPINDEL

As you know, they’re far too lethal to investigate. Hardly a hundred meters down the passage and lethality starts increasing exponentially.

SARASTI (O.S.)

Isaac is correct. We can’t observe the actual apical zones. Anyway, we’ve learned plenty about their biosphere. And their culture.

You’re going back in thirty minutes. Go prep.

SZPINDEL

One sec, Keeton: can you send Bates down here.

I’d like to check bloodwork again for Cotard’s, Anton’s, Damascus… long list really.

KEETON

Yah, good idea.

KEETON (V.O.)

Imagine you are AMANDA BATES.

FADE TO:

INT. INTEROGATION CHAMBER – Low lighting

AMANDA BATES POV: A FEMALE prisoner is tied to a chair in the middle of the room. She sits at a desk.

BATES walks forwards, R/A on BATES. Younger. More Human. Two human GUARDS cover the single entrance door. BATES draws her MICROWAVE PISTOL and places it on the table.

BATES walks behind the PRISONER and unshackles her hands, then takes a seat.

BATES

Two of your friends are dead, NADIA. Irrecoverably so.

We’re trying to save the other one. No promises. Brain damage is probably too extensive.

BATES (Cont’d)

We need information.

NADIA
I’ve got nothing to tell you.

BATES
Then we need an arrangement. We need to come to…

Some kind of accommodation.

BATES

(Cont’d)
I’m not completely unsympathetic. My gut doesn’t much like the idea of swapping reality for simulation, and it doesn’t buy that what-is-truth spin of the Body Economic. But that’s not my problem, not my job. If we kill each other in the meantime, we don’t find out either way. It’s unproductive.

NADIA

We didn’t start it.

BATES

I don’t know and I don’t care. Like I said, it’s not my job.

Bates gestures behind her to the door with the GUARDS.

BATES (Cont’d)

In there, are the ones who killed your friends. They’ve been disarmed. When you go through that door the room cams will go offline for sixty seconds.

NADIA

What? That’s a trick.

Bullshit.

BATES

What do you have to lose? We can already do anything we want to you. It’s not like we need you to give us an excuse.

NADIA takes the PISTOL

NADIA

Why go in there?

I could kill YOU right here.

BATES

Waste of an opportunity.

NADIA

So I go in there, I come out a minute later… then what?

BATES

Then we talk.

NADIA

We just–

BATES

Think of it as a gesture of good faith. Restitution. I’m trying a NEW STRATEGY.

NADIA

What’s that?

BATES

(sighs)

Empathy. Somehow, I think it might get the results the four torturing rapists in the next room couldn’t get from YOUR compatriots.

BATES POV

NADIA stands up. She walks to the door.

BATES turns around

THE GUARDS HOLD OPEN the door for NADIA

There are FOUR MEN tied to the wall of the CHAMBER on the other side. More GUARDS inside as well.

THE DOOR CLOSES behind NADIA.

CU: BATES.

ECU: BATES EYES. HUMAN.

INT. OPTIMIZATION CLINIC – DAY

ECU: BATES’s EYES. CYBORG.

PULL BACK to show TRANSHUMAN AMANDA BATES sitting against a reclining platform with electrodes attached to her skull.

BATES

It seemed like a lifetime ago. It was a lifetime ago.

R/A on BATES’ COUNCILOR: CHELSEA, dressed in labcoat.

She is attended by TWO LAB AIDES.

CHELSEA

Soldiers suffering from PTS are common patients with us. We’ll begin to remove the memories selectively during the next hour.

BATES

It’s not the same as forgetting.

CHELSEA

No, it’s complete erasure. In your case, it will require significant precision: the memories are extremely dominate.

BATES
How long do the effects last?

CHELSEA

It depends on user preference. Months, years.

With continuous treatment the memories can de restored or destroyed. I’d say the memories have been isolated and grouped during the exoskeleton growth phase…

PULL BACK: There are ARMED GUARDS in the room. HUMAN AND DRONES. They have their WEAPONS TRAINED on BATES.

CU: One of the DRONES.

A VOICE IS EMMITED FROM ONE OF THE DRONES.

A TERRIBLE, FAMILAR VOICE:

SARASTI (O.S.)

Erase everything.

R/A:

CHELSEA

We’ve haven’t performed total erasures on a cybernetic interface before…

SARASTI (O.S.)

Publish your findings when you’re finished.

BATES POV:

BATES closes her eyes.

A star-field slowly appears.

THE CAMERA PULLS BACK TO REVEAL THAT WE ARE LOOKING THROUGH THESEUS’ observation blister.

KEETON (V.O.)

Of course, I’d seen the logs during THESEUS pre-screening.

BATES brought plenty to the table.

I might have had personal reasons for recommending her for the PRIME CREW. At the time, I imagined that SARASTI didn’t care. Now I know: he probably found my predilection for damaged goods of the six degree variety amusing. He could certainly have overruled my recommendations. How much Bates remembered after they finished reformatting her brain was anyone’s guess.

PULL BACK until we are in:

Int. THESEUS – THE DRUM, CLEAN ROOM.

The crew dresses in identical white skin-suites, then dons a complex of monitors and sub-dermal transmitters.

EXPEDITION TWO: PREFLIGHT

KEETON, JAMES, SZPINDEL and BATES are preparing for re-entry with RORSCHACH.

KEETON (V.O.)

(Cont’d)

We guarded against an opposition that had not shown its face. We waited five orbits.

One by one the crew moves through the HATCHway between the

The Inside of the clean room’s nano-fabrication module is a coffin sized booth: the human nano-fabrication interface utilizes synthetic components and nanobot assembly to rapidly apply new designs.

INT. BIOMEDICAL NANOFABRICATION.

Taking turns inside,

Each crew member is fitted with SECOND GENERATION EXO-SUITS by nano-assembly robots.

BATES

The third generation suits have already been designed. They will require a larger fabrication box. Type II is currently the maximum the infrastructure can support.

BATES (Cont’d)

In six hours, after the new drones are finished, Nano-fabrication will construct the new assembly box. Type III suits should theoretically be completely symmetric superconductors.

That gives us six hours to recon Rorschach for the man behind the curtain.

SARASTI (O.S.)

RORSCHACH has increased in size by 8%

SZPINDEL

Hard to know if that’s NORMAL growth for a structure that might include the SKIMMERS as mass.

JAMES (As SASCHA)

That’s your latest theory?

SZPINDEL
I’ve got a number of theories.

Int. RORSCHACH – SCYLLA AIRLOCK.

The SECOND EXPEDITION CREW prepares to enter RORSCHACH.

The CREW moves through the airlock. DRONES have already moving out.

INT. RORSCHACH – FIRST CHAMBER

THE CHAMBER IS DIFFERENT, CHANGING.

The CREW moves past one of their DISABLED DRONES.

BATES stops to examine it.

BATES
Amazingly, the wetware is still intact. We could repair it aboard the ship.

SZPINDEL

Any reason to leave it here?

BATES

Not really. I’ll have one of the grunts retrieve it later. In fact, there might be some very useful information aboard its—

JAMES

It’s talking to us.

SZPINDEL

What?

RORSCHACH’s not talking- you’re hallucinating.

JAMES

It’s different. The geometry is different- looks like a Phaistos Disk. It’s stronger down there…

JAMES moves down the corridor towards a CHAMBER NEXUS.

SZPINDEL

Susan… You should bring Michelle out. Maybe she can talk some sense into you.

JAMES draws a MICROWAVE PISTOL

JAMES
I’m covered- It’s definitely stronger down here…

There’s content, superimposed on–

SUDDENLY THE CHAMBER IS BISECTED. A WALL OF RORSCHACH FLESH HAS CUT OFF JAMES FROM THE REST OF THE CREW

BATES
Shit!

KEETON POV: THE GRUNTS REACT, IMMEDIATELY USING THEIR MASERS AND PLASMA CUTTERS TO REDUCE THE WALL PARTITION.

SZPINDEL MOVES TO THE SIDE, KEETON TRIES TO TAKE COVER.

A FLASH OF LIGHT.

BATES
Check Szpindel! KEETON

THE PARTITION HAS BEEN SHREDDED. THERE IS NO SIGN OF SUSAN ON THE OTHERSIDE.

THE GRUNTS CEASE FIRE AND ADVANCE FOR HAND-TO-HAND WITH SOMETHING ON THE OTHERSIDE OF THE DESTROYED PARTITION.

BATES

Christ, the wall was a fibrous reflector.

KEETON

Blocked the laser fire?

BATES

But not the plasma.

You’ve been hit, Siri.

CHECK SZPINDEL

THE DRONES SHRED THE REMAINS OF THE PARTITION IN HAND TO HAND TO MELEE.

KEETON POV:


KEETON checks SZPINDEL. The self-repairing suit is resealing.

KEETON LOOKS DOWN, his left leg has been burned from the nearby plasma attack.

CU: SZPINDEL: neat MASER hole through his forehead.

EYES WIDE OPEN IN SURPRISE.

BATES

Well?

KEETON

He’s gone.

BATES

JAMES?

KEETON POV: JAMES hid to the side of the CHAMBER WALL. She floats free, immobile.

One of the grunts grabs her and pulls her back to BATES and KEETON.

BATES
KEETON, grab Isaac.

BATES

(Cont’d)

Come back SUSAN… you’re safe. Susan?

SUSAN

N—no

BATES

Michelle?

SUSAN

THERE WAS A THING. IT GRABBED ME. IT GRABBED MY LEG.

BATES
We’re aborting. SARASTI. ABORT.

SUSAN (as Michelle)

You can’t see it. It’s invisible.

It’s invisible.

JAMES LOOKS DIRECTLY A KEETON

MARQUE

You have eyes, but you do not see

–JESUS THE NAZOREAN

INT. THESEUS – THE CRYPT

LIGHTS ACTIVATE over a SECONDARY ZERO-TAU POD

CU on the POD: ROBERT CUNNINGHAM

CU on CUNNINGHAM. He takes a breath.

CUNNINGHAM

(slowly)

Shit. Szpindel…

INT. THESEUS – DRUM

CUNNINGHAM is setting up his REMWEB.

SZPINDEL’s is gone.

JAMES, BATES and KEETON enter from the AIRLOCK, tired, beaten, dieing.

CUNNINGHAM looks up.

CUNNINGHAM

Susan– Michelle… I–

A beat

CUNNINGHAM (Cont’d)

Sarasti wants to talk to us.

BATES

Where is he?

We’re hot, Robert

CUNNINGHAM

Decontaminate later.

Said he’d come down here shortly.

Keeton, let’s check you out.

CUNNINGHAM moves KEETON to the BIOMED drum and inspects the PLASMA burning on his leg.

SARASTI enters from the SPINE ACCESS HATCH

He moves straight to JAMES and BATES

SARASTI

What happened.

JAMES

(deadpan)

I noticed a new pattern in the form-constants. Looked like a signal. It got stronger as I went down the tunnel, and I followed it. I blacked out. Michelle filled me in a few minutes ago.

That’s all I know.

SARASTI

Sascha?

JAMES (as SASCHA)

Yeah. I was riding Mom; then went deaf dumb and blind when she passed out. I tried to take over, but I think Meesh was blocking me.

SARASTI

Loss of consciousness?

JAMES (as SASCHA)

Don’t think so. Michelle pissed herself, and I noticed that.

SARASTI

Cruncher?

JAMES (As Cruncher)

Don’t know anything.

Mom sent me patterns and I was parsing them. I’m still parsing them. Is that all?

Can I go now?

SARASTI

Yes. Michelle next.

CUNNINGHAM draws a cigarette and lights it.

Smokes drifts across the DRUM.

He administers anabolizers to KEETON’s wound.

CUNNINGHAM

Isaac found tumours?

KEETON

Yeeah…

SARASTI

Call Michelle. Now.

SUSAN JAMES (As MICHELLE)

Here.

I’m here.

SARASTI
Debriefing.

SUSAN JAMES (As Michelle)

I– I felt… I was riding Mom, and then Susan was gone. It was just me, so I had to take over.

SARASTI

Did you see the chamber close?

JAMES (as Michelle)

Not really. I felt it going dark, but when I turned around we were trapped.

Something DARK was behind me. It grabbed me, and… and…

Isaac… He…

SARASTI

Yes. We’re sorry about that.

MICHELLE

Can I– I’d like to leave now.

SARASTI

Yes.

BATES is standing next to a DRUM TERMINAL reading data.

BATES
The grunts didn’t see anything.
By the time they’ed carved up the septum there was nothing there.

SARASTI

You’re wrong.

SARASTI moves over to BATES and replays a segment of JAMES’ POV FEED.

INSET: we see the first GRUNT breakthrough the SEPTUM and move towards JAMES

Six second Loop.

Bates

Nothing.

SARASTI

Wrong. Diffraction patterns aren’t consistent with a single light source in open space. Similar objects are moving together– right here.

One’s the Gang. The other is a transient.

CUNNINGHAM

Wait a second. If YOU can see it through all the noise, why didn’t Su– Why didn’t Michelle see anything?

KEETON

Synethesaic. She felt it.

BATES

Shit. There’s someone home.

And this septum intervention is not acceptable unaccounted for.

BATES (Cont’d)

How many are there? Could they intervene at any time?

Sir. We know RORSCHACH is inhabited. Do we risk further provocation? Do we risk KILLING them?

SARASTI

Sometimes I wonder how you people ever survive to adulthood.

SARASTI

(Cont’d)

Next phase could be interpreted as a hostile act.

We’ve been moving to apogee for the past thirty minutes. Nine minutes remaining.

SARASTI

(Cont’d)

I’m opening the airlock on RORSCHACH.

BATES

What…

KEETON POV: INSET, the PROBE’s FEED on the surface of RORSCHACH. THE AIRLOCK CYCLES OPEN.

ATMOSPHERE ESCAPES VIOLENTLY.

A beat

CUNNINGHAM

It’s starting to seal the opening- see the crystal build up along the damaged edge?

SARASTI

No septum.

CUNNINGHAM

Ah.

SARASTI

CUNNINGHAM, I want to see you alone for a moment.

CUNNINGHAM

K.

INT. THESEUS – THE DRUM

CUNNINGHAM’s quarters.

A pair of LONG HANDS move towards CUNNINGHAM’s REMWEB.

They grasp hold

The camera shows the shadow of JUKKA SARASTI.

INSIDE: CUNNINGHAM and SARASTI in close proximity.

SARASTI

Cunningham. You’re on bridge duty.

CUNNINGHAM.

Yah. I get it.

SARASTI

What?

CUNNINGHAM.

I didn’t come with a backup. Sir.

SARASTI

Meet me back here in five minutes.

SARASTI backs away and vanishes.

CUNNINGHAM lights another cigarette.

CUNNINGHAM (Cont’d)

(To himself)

No redundancy…”

Good thing I smuggled this onboard.

CUNNINGHAM draws a cigar from his flightsuit: saves it for later.

Int. THESEUS – BIOMED DRUM

SUSAN JAMES recline on an OPERATIONS UNIT. CUNNINGHAM administers an injection.

JAMES

Sarasti, shutting down myself and the others is counterproductive.

SARASTI

You’ll be re-interfaced after the EVA.

JAMES
You’ll need all of us if there is another opportunity to communicate.

SARASTI

There won’t be.

MARQUE

If you can see it, chances are it doesn’t exist.

–KATE KEOGH, GROUNDS FOR SUICIDE.

Int. SCYLLA – DOCKING BAY

The crew climbs aboard the VACUUM RIG carrying the COMMUNICATIONS HUB and redundant equipment

Ext. SCYLLA – DOCKING BAY

The VACUUM RIG hurdles towards RORSCHACH

KEETON (V.O.)

Our first two approaches had been all caution and safety margins. This time we came in like a strike force.

Int. RORSCHACH – SECOND BREACH

Angle: FROM INSIDE HULL

ATMOSPHERE ESCAPES FROM THE HULL BREACH.

The CREW accompanied by 6 SECURITY GRUNTs and a reinforced COMMUNICATIONS HUB descend through the hole in RORSCHACH’s outer carapace.

SARASTI (V.O.)

Record everything you see… and as much as possible of what you can’t.

Int. RORSCHACH – KEETON POV, INFRARED

KEETON passes through a pressurized blast of escaping gas, suddenly ejecting in a plume from the punctured surface. BATES is already inside.

BATES

Switch to Sonar.

KEETON receives tactical data and changes HUD interface to SONAR. He now sees rows of wavering tendrils 10 cm in length and densely packed together sporadicly covering the room.

SZPINDEL

You guys have seen these before. They’re showing stronger in the near-infrared.

JAMES (as Sascha)

… the breaks were not as pronounced and the ridges weren’t illuminating…

The SECURITY GRUNTS begin to cover the corridor with SONAR. Through the SONAR FEED, Keeton can see the corridor opening into a chamber 17 meters in front of the group.

JAMES (as Sascha), CONT’D

Rorschach’s architecture becomes significantly more complex not more than twenty meters ahead.

BATES

Let’s go. Everyone pair off with a drone and spread out.

The GRUNTS manoeuvre into position. From Keeton’s POV we see that a LASER LINK between Keeton’s suit and the nearest GRUNT has been formed.

Keeton ducks under the SHIELDED FIBREOPTIC CABLE trailing back from the grunts to the COMMUNICATIONS HUB floating behind the group.

Int. RORSCHACH – FROM TUNNEL NEXUS

The CREW moves down the tunnel towards the TUNNEL NEXUS. Inside the labyrinthine chamber the SONAR scans show a series of raised protrusions along the spiralling walls.

Int. RORSCHACH – KEETON POV, SONAR

Keeton is staying close to BATES and JAMES and their DRONES. He studies the shapes protruding from the chamber walls.

KEETON

Control panels?

BATES

No idea. The drones will check the openings…

The GRUNTS manoeuvre in unison, each arranging itself to face the different tunnel openings. SONAR CLICKS flood the NEXUS.

Keeton’s HUD generates a 3D overlay of the NEXUS. The tunnels spiral away from the NEXUS twenty to thirty meters at chaotic angles.

BATES

Designating objectives. Keeton and Sascha, you’re up.

Recon for 25 minutes.

Int. RORSCHACH – FROM TUNNEL FACING KEETON

KEETON

Okay.

Keeton begins to move down the tunnel, the CAMERA PULLS BACK as Keeton moves nearer, cautiously. Atmosphere shrouds Keeton in fog. The tunnel spirals like a fractal, fibonacci sequence, eventually blocking the view of the NEXUS.

KEETON

Only ninety meters of tether…

Int. RORSCHACH – KEETON TUNNEL

REVERSE ANGLE

KEETON vanishes into the dense atmosphere, accompanied by a Sonar emitting Drone.

Int. RORSCHACH – KEETON TUNNEL

KEETON POV, SONAR

Keeton’s HUD shows 50 meters of fibre optic cable remaining.

KEETON

…If the grunt doesn’t see it, it’s not real…

… the scariest monsters always disappear just before you turn on the lights…

JAMES (as Sascha)

Keeton, turn off your VOX if you’re going to spook out.

KEETON

…Stay focused, got it.

Keeton’s HUD shows 35 meters of fibre optic cable remaining.

Suddenly Keeton’s eyesight goes blurry- he cannot focus on the HUD.

KEETON

What…?

The GRUNT SONAR display is showing a wide object to Keeton’s right, between him and the Grunt. But there is nothing there.

The feed from JAMES and BATES shows nothing down their tunnels, either.

Keeton turns to his right, but the GRUNT is still there.

Keeton peers into the gloom in the distance. His vision is blurred, but can still see with his own eyes that the tunnel continues to spiral off into the haze.

KEETON

New symptom, guys: stable, nonperipheral hallucinations…

Keeton does a double take to his right: the GRUNT has its WEAPONS PORT OPEN and TRAINED ON HIM.

Suddenly, BATES’ feed does a 180º about face.

BATES (O.S.)

KEET—!

All the feeds in Keeton’s HUD including that with his SECURITY GRUNT are gone in a second, replaced by flashing LINK DOWN icons.

KEETON

Shit…

The DRONE refocuses: Keeton is not the target.

Int. RORSCHACH – KEETON TUNNEL

Waves of atmosphere flood the tunnel, swallowing up Keeton.

Camera CLOSES ON KEETON as he translates in position.

BATES (O.S.)

–cking MOVE! He doesn’t–!

Int. RORSCHACH – KEETON POV

The GRUNT has given up on its failed LASER LINK and has switched to its multiple redundant RADIO.

KEETON

…Bates? Bates?

BATES (O.S.)

To your… It’s directly in front of you–!

JAMES (as Sascha)

(O.S.)

He can’t–!

KEETON

See what? Sascha! Someone tell me- see what?

BATES (O.S.)

–read? Keeton, do you read?

KEETON

Copy–

BATES (O.S.)

Keep absolutely still, do you understand? Absolutely still. Acknowledge.

KEETON

Acknowledged.

BATES (O.S.)

There’s something in front of you, between you and the grunt. You can’t see it?

KEETON

N-no. I can’t see anything. My HUD’s down-

JAMES (as Sascha)

(O.S.)

How can he not see it? It’s right the–

BATES (giving tactical data)

Keeton: It’s man-sized, radially symmetrical, eight, nine arms. Looks like tentacles, but– segmented into spikes.

KEETON

I don’t see anything… what’s it doing?

BATES (O.S.)

Just – floating there. Kind of waving…

Oh, shi– KEET—

INT. RORSCHACH TUNNEL – KEETON POV

The Grunt suddenly jerks sideways. The LASER LINK is suddenly reestablished. Keeton’s jaw drops. In the GRUNT’s FEED, only a few meters in front of Keeton there is A SCRAMBLER.

JAMES’ FEED shows that she is rapidly closing on Keeton’s position. As James moves close to Keeton, the SCRAMBLER begins to appear in Keeton’s POV. KEETON can only see the edges.

INT. RORSCHACH TUNNEL – GRUNT’s POV

We clearly see the SCRAMBLER in SONAR floating in front of Keeton: the Scrambler is a central ball surrounded by dozens of chitinous arms. It is larger than a human being. JAMES moves into the field of view, followed by BATES.

KEETON

I can see it!

INT. RORSCHACH TUNNEL

High angle on the scene: KEETON, JAMES, BATES, and their three GRUNTs move close to the SCRAMBLER. The SCRAMBLER moves its arms towards the nearest wall, grabbing hold. With incredible speed it moves up the corridor…

ZZAAP

One of the Grunts has barbecued the Scrambler with optical lasers. Bates immediately deactivates the Grunt.

JAMES (As SASCHA)

Amanda, what the–

BATES (shocked)

That shouldn’t have happened.

The SCRAMBLER is still twitching.

SARASTI

Target acquire. Return to base.

BATES

Copy.

INT. SCYLLA

THE CREW pack into SCYLLA. One of the grunts is deactivated. The other carries the charred remains of the SCRAMBLER.

KEETON (V.O.)

(Cont’d)

I had found the opposite of Szpindel’s BLINDSIGHT: a malady not in which the sighted believe they are blind, but one in which THE BLIND INSIST THEY CAN SEE. Impossible? Nothing wrong with MY eyes.

THE ENGINES CYCLE, SCYLLA BEGINS ITS JOURNEY BACK TO THESEUS

JAMES (As Sascha)

You…

BATES
NO.

JAMES (As Sascha)

They’re autonomous, right?

BATES
Not when they’re slaved.

JAMES (As Sascha)

Spike? Fault?

BATES

Actually…

CUNNINGHAM (O.S.)

I’ve assembled a new BIOMED subblister for the autopsy. I’m reading your current feeds.

CUNNINGHAM (O.S.)

(Cont’d)

Did you have to blast it with MICROWAVES?
All the cells exploded from the inside out.

BATES

There…

CUNNINGHAM (O.S.)

…Was a malfunction. Bullshit…

BATES

Give it a rest, Robert. I don’t need your shit right now. You’ll get your sample.

INT. THESEUS – BIOMED DRUM

CUNNINGHAM is surrounded by an array of TERMINAL SCREENS. He remote controls an AUTOPSY TELEOP where we can SEE the SCRAMBLBER being dissembled.

reconstructed yet again, THE CREW GATHERS AROUND.

CUNNINGHAM pauses briefly to administer an injection to SUSAN JAMES.

JAMES (As CRUNCHER)

Stop repressing us.

CUNNINGHAM

Sorry, buddy. Captain’s orders.

All there SUSAN?

SUSAN JAMES
Yes. Sascha is gong to sleep, she’s exhausted.

I’m assuming that was part of the plan…

KEETON

These reconstruction procedures are getting worse.

CUNNINGHAM

RORSCHACH’s no rejuvenation spa.

SARASTI (O.S.)

Your findings.

CUNNINGHAM

Right.

CU: Cunningham defocuses.

KEETON POV:

CUNNINGHAM creates a series of feeds on CONSENSUS

THE FEEDS display basic SCRAMBLER anatomy, information on EXOBIOLOGY.

CUNNINGHAM (Cont’d)

Not many membranes left. In terms of gross morphology, the specimen’s dorsoventrally compressed and radially symmetrical, as you can see. Calcerous exoskeleton, kerantinized plastic cuticle. Nothing special.

BATES

Plastic skin is nothing special?

CUNNINGHAM

Considering the environment, I was expecting a Sanduloviciu plasma.

Plastic’s simply refined petroleum. Organocarbon. This thing is carbon-based. It’s even protein-based, although it’s proteins are a great deal tougher than ours. Numerous sulphur cross-bonds for bracing…

CUNNINGHAM (Cont’d)

… It’s tissue is saturated with magnetite. On earth you find that material in dolphin brains, migratory birds, even some bacteria… it’s essential for navigation utilizing magnetic fields. Moving up to macrostructures we’ve got a pneumatic internal skeleton, which as far as I can tell doubles as musculature. Contractile tissue squeezes gas through a system of bladders that stiffen or relax each segment in the arms.

CUNNINGHAM lights a cigarette and takes a drag.

CUNNINGHAM (Cont’d)

Note the invaginations around the base of each arm: Cloacae, you could call them. Everything opens into them: they eat, breathe, and defecate through the same little compartment. Efficient.

BATES

What does it eat?

CUNNINGHAM

Couldn’t say. It may have gizzard-like contractiles around the cloacae, which implies chewing… Otherwise…

CUNNINGHAM refocuses on the crew suddenly.

CUNNINGHAM (Cont’d)

Oh, by the way, if you inflate those conctractiles enough, you’d create an airtight seal. And that would allow the organism to survive in hard vacuum. Briefly anyway.

BATES

We already know it must be resilient to the ambient radiation…

CUNNINGHAM

Whatever it uses for genes must be a great deal tougher than ours.

SARASTI (O.S.)

Central nervous system.

CUNNINGHAM

There’s nothing central about it. No cephalization, not even clustered sense organs. The body’s covered with something like eyespots, or chromatophores, or both. There are setae everywhere, probably under independent control. Although it’s almost impossible to tell post-MALFUNCTION.

BATES

Seriously?

CUNNINGHAM

Yes. I’m going to imagine that the entire body acts as a diffuse retina: a compilation of hundred’s of thousands of eyes.

BATES
Distributed telescopic array?

CUNNINGHAM

Looks like there’s a chromatophore under each eye- The pigment’s somekind of cryptochrome os it’s probably involved in vision… that implies dynamic pigment patterns, like a squid or a chameleon.

BATES

That’s why Siri couldn’t see it.

KEETON POV: NEW WINDOW INSET. LOOP FEED FROM A DRONE SHOWING KEETON AND THE SCRAMBLER SIDE BY SIDE

KEETON TOTALY OBLIVIOUS. The scrambler rapidly changes colour.

CUNNINGHAM

I’d say that…

JAMES

Scrambler?

CUNNINGHAM

… Scrambler… looks ominously solid to the cameras. As you can clearly see, the background doesn’t match the pattern. It’s not even close.

SARASTI (O.S.)

Can you explain Siri’s blindness to it?

CUNNINGHAM

No, I can’t. It’s not ordinary crypsis.

KEETON

Another hallucination?

CUNNINGHAM

There are many ways to fool the human visual system. It IS interesting that the illusion failed once there were multiple witnesses present.

JAMES
But, we are talking about a creature that’s… sophisticated at least. Something extremely complex.

CUNNINGHAM

There’s a great deal of processing power. I’d estimate nervous tissue accounts for about thirty percent of body mass.

JAMES

So it’s intelligent?

CUNNINGHAM
Not remotely. It must use up its processing capacity just operating the cloacae. Like an octopus… Don’t get me wrong, mollusks are highly intelligent, but they don’t have eyes covering their entire body.

CUNNINGHAM

(Cont’d)

No, I think this organism is more like a white blood cell: some kind of engineered maintenance bot. Perhaps teleoperated, or driven entirely by instinct?

SARASTI

This anaerobe has a complex multicellular anatomy and moves extremely fast. Would require a great deal of ATP…

BATES

maybe they don’t use ATP?

CUNNINGHAM

It was crammed with ATP– Jukka’s question is sound: how can it synthesize the stuff fast enough to keep with demand? Purely anaerobic pathways wouldn’t suffice.

CUNNINGHAM (Cont’d)

Anyway. So endeth the lesson. If you want more details- not to mention answers- get me a live one.

SARASTI (O.S.)

EVA team, assemble in twenty minutes.

Ext. RORSCHACH – BREACH

ATMOSPHERE AND DEBRIS ARE EJECTED FROM THE BREACH.

EXT. SCYLLA – RORSCHACH orbit

THE SHUTTLE APPROACHES RORSCHACH.

EXT. RORSCHACH – BASE CAMP

THE BASECAMP has been destroyed, the airlock gone.

Atmosphere vents through the breach, freezing into a crystal ejecta stream.

BATES is tethered to a group of COMBAT DRONES.

KEETON, JAMES are also present

KEETON POV: BATES, SUSAN JAMES and the COMBAT DRONES move through the breach.

KEETON (V.O.)

They’d even given me my own gun, pure precaution of course, more for comfort than protection. It jugged my forearm and fired plastic slugs impervious to induction fields.

Int. RORSCHACH – TUNNEL

KEETON, SUSAN JAMES, BATES and several COMBAT DRONES enter RORSCHACH.

They calmly move down the tunnel walls, towards the first CHAMBER.

Int. RORSCHACH – FIRST CHAMBER

BATES follows KEETON inside, JAMES is still moving up when SUDDENLY:

A SCRAMBLER WRITHES inside the chamber.

BATES (Comms)

SECURE

ONE OF THE DRONES SHOOTS THE SCRAMBLER WITH A SEDATION DART

THE SCRAMBER FREEZES AND FLOATS FREELY

BATES (Cont’d)

RETRIEVE

The GRUNTS, dragging BATES along with their tether, followed by KEETON also attached, move to manually secure the DRUGGED SCRAMBLER.

KEETON (Comms)

The EM just spiked–

EM RADIATION BLINDS THE CREW’S SENSORS. THEY SWITCH TO SONAR.

KEETON, dragged by BATES and her DRONES, move down the tunnel.

BATES (Comms)

SET IT UP, SASCHA!

KEETON POV: the discarded SEDATION DART and a trail of monofilament bounces off KEETON’s HELMET.

KEETON’s HUD displays a SONAR view of the tunnel as he descends.

Int. RORSCHACH – TUNNEL CHAMBER

THE DRUGGED SCRAMLBER is mobile, moving along the CHAMBER WALL.

KEETON POV: THE DRONES AND BATES REVERSE DIRECTION PASSING KEETON ONE BY ONE.

KEETON CONTINUES FORWARD TOWARDS THE WALL

KEETON (V.O.)

For a second or two, I was on the front line. For a second or two I WAS the front line.

The WALLS WRITHE with a PERISTALIC MOTION.

They are thousands of SCRAMBLER ARMS.

The tether snaps back, PULLING KEETON AWAY.

THE ARMS ALONG THE CHAMBER WALL, THOUSANDS OF SCRAMBLERS PACKED TOGETHER, GRAB THE DRUGGED SCRAMBLER AND TEAR IT TO PIECES

KEETON IS SPUN AROUND. HE IS SECURED TO ONE OF THE COMBAT GRUNTS

THE GRUNT FIRES SILICON MASS REACTIVE ROUNDS AT THE SCRAMBLERS.

Int. RORSCHACH – TUNNEL CHAMBER

KEETON POV:

KEETON LOOKS ACROSS AT BATES, who is also secured to a GRUNT.

Int. RORSCHACH – TUNNEL CHAMBER

GRUNT POV:

The Crew RETREATs BACK TO THE ENTRANCE.

KEETON IS STRUCK BY SCRAMBLER ARMS REACHING FROM THE SIDE OF THE WALLS.

HIS FACEPLATE IS FRACTURED

THE THIGH FABRIC OF THE SUIT IS TORN.

AN ALARM SOUNDS INSIDE THE SUIT

THE HELMET AND LEG FLOOD WITH METHANE.

KEETON IS CHOKING

THE SELF-SEALING HELEMT RESEALS and the atmosphere clears.

THE REINFORCED NANOFABRIC SUIT RESEALS along the thigh.

KEETON POV: THE SCRAMBLERS ARE MOVING CLOSER, pieces of Scramblers blown apart by the Grunt’s autocannon float past.

BATES

SASCHA! GET OUT OF THE FUCKING WAY

SUSAN JAMES retreats up through the entrance.

KEETON AND BATES FOLLOW

BATES
PERIMETER.

The DRONES stop and reverse, firing MASERS, PLASMA, SILICON CANNON ROUNDS at the SCRAMBLERS.

KEETON and BATES disappear out the entrance.

The GRUNTS retreat amidst the mad carnage.

EXT. RORSCHACH HULL – BREACH

JAMES, followed by BATES and KEETON exit the breech., Grunts in tow.

JAMES (as SASCHA)

Trap is SET

BATES

TRIGGERING

BATES slaps her hand against a nearby boxy apparatus.

AN OLDSCHOOL NET LAUNCHER FIRES, TRAPPING SEVERAL OF THE SCRAMBERS.

SCRAMBLERS CONTINUE TO FLOOD FROM THE BREACH.

KEETON

Oh shit.

One of the SCRAMBLERS grabs KEETON and begins to squeeze his leg.

BATES swoops in, a tether of FREAKWIRE between her hands. IN a single move she DISECTS the SCRAMBLER.

BATES

SASCHA!

The scramblers retreat into RORSCHACH.

The SCRAMBER-NET quickly congeels around the SCRAMBLERS, creating a self-contained atmosphere.

The GRUNTS, SCRAMLBER-NET, KEETON, BATES, and SUSAN JAMES float free, heading towards SCYLLA.

EXT. RORSCHACH – FREE SPACE

SCYLLA in the distance moving to retrieve the crew.

Keeton (V.O.)

This is a thought experiment. This is a game. And the game is never over. But this is not a game you win. Like thermonuclear war, this game is zero sum. You can only lose, and sooner rather than later.

INT. THESEUS – BIOMED DRUM

The room is lit white.

KEETON partially clothed rests against a gravity restraint.

CUNNINGHAM is beside him.

SUSAN JAMES is sitting in the DRUM GALLEY.

CUNNINGHAM

THESEUS has been rebuilding you for the last 72 hours.

Death is no excuse for falling behind the curve.

I’m going back to work.

CUNNINGHAM walks across to his workstation.

KEETON POV: updates scroll across KEETON’s CONSENSUS.

CUNNINGHAM

(from across the DRUM)

We’re 300,000 clicks from RORSCHACH, Commissar.

Your mission was a complete success- see…

CUNNINGHAM sends KEETON a new feed.

KEETON POV: a pair of new video transmissions appear in KEETON’s CONSENSUS: SCRAMBLER CAGES

We see a PAIR of SCRAMBLERS, isolated in two cages, floating.

KEETON

I see you’ve dispensed with the clutter?

CUNNINGHAM

The Scramblers are conducting some interesting activities. I jettisoned the corpse of our first victim. We’ve learned more than they’d have gotten from your vacuumed frozen husk if they’d captured you on Rorschach- or whatever they were going to do with you, Keeton.

CUNNINGHAM (Cont’d)

Head over to the Galley and have something to eat.

Look at the Scrambler feeds: I’ll be running experiments for the next couple of hours.

INT. THE DRUM – GALLEY

SUSAN JAMES eats at the galley. KEETON floats into the room.

CUNNINGHAM (Cont’d)

(From across the Drum)

The Scramblers are being towed in isolation cages midway between the spine and the carapace. Sarasti’s orders.

The Galley NUTRITION DISPENSER feeds KEETON a blood-sugar squeezebulb. KEETON drinks the electrolytic substance.

CUNNINGHAM (Cont’d)

(through CONSENSUS)

I’ve been watching them since they arrived.

They’re perfectly aware of where they are.

SUSAN JAMES is in deep concentration, discussing internally with the MICHELE, SASCHA, CRUNCHER and … SOMEONE ELSE.

KEETON POV: KEETON EXPANDS his CONSENSUS to include the entire SCRAMBLER PENS.

INT. SCRAMBLER PENS

We see both pens from a multitude of angles and filters.

One SCRAMBLER is contracted and pressed against a corner, like a ball.

The OTHER SCRAMBLER floats in the middle of the cage, arms extended, like a see anemone.

JAMES
Robert says RORSCHACH grows them.

KEETON

Grows?

JAMES

In stacks.

CUNNINGHAM

In some kind of column formation.

They bud off and become free living when they read a certain size.

KEETON

So that one SCRAMBLER, slightly flatter…

CUNNINGHAM

Juvenile. Fresh off the stack.

KEETON

The ship grows it’s own crew.

JAMES

If it’s a ship. If they’re a crew.

KEETON

Their movement seems…

JAMES

… Systematic?

CUNNINGHAM

Like honeybees. No intelligence.

KEETON

But bees still communicate?

Could we communicate with THEM?

JAMES

Maybe. You’d think. We haven’t gotten anywhere. We played their pigmentation patterns back to them. Generated some noises based on the cloacae-mouths. Nothing.

CUNNINGHAM.

They gave the pen a once-over then basically shut down.

JAMES

We made the wall between them transparent. But they didn’t seem to respond.

KEETON

Have you tried… motivating them?

JAMES

With what, Siri? They don’t seem to care about their own company. We can’t bribe them with food unless we know what they eat. Which we don’t.

CUNNINGHAM

Give me some more time. James just got out of the crypt yesterday.

KEETON

What about negative reinforcement?

JAMES

Hurt them, you mean?

KEETON

Not necessarily anything extreme. And if they’re not sentient anyway…

JAMES (as SASCHA)

Why, Keeton. You just made a SUGGESTION.

KEETON

Just making a list of what’s been tried.

JAMES (as SASCHA).

Good. Hate to think you were SLIPPING.

We’re going to downtime now. Go talk to Cunningham.

KEETON kicks off and moves over to CUNNINGHAM’s TERMINAL.

CUNNINGHAM

Keeton.

KEETON

I was hoping you could bring me up to speed on your findings?

CUNNINGHAM

I’ve documented everything. It’s all on CONSENSUS.

KEETON

What YOU think is important can be just as vital as the data themselves.

CUNNINGHAM

What’s important is what’s missing.

I’ve got good samples now and I still can’t find the genes. Protein synthesis is almost prionic. Reconformation instead of the usual transcription pathways. But I can’t figure out how those bricks get slotted into the wall once they’re made.

KEETON
Progress on the energy front? ATP?

CUNNINGHAM
That I solved. They’re sprinting.

KEETON

How do you mean?

CUNNINGHAM

Biochemistry is a trade-off. The faster you synthesize ATP, the more expensive each molecule becomes. Scramblers are hugely energy efficient in terms of ATP production. They just produce it very slowly. Which makes sense. RORSCHACH– Whatever RORSCHACH started out as – could have drifted for millennia before it washed up here. That’s a lot of time to build up an energy reserve for bouts of high activity. Scramblers sprint their entire lives, preloaded with ATP they burn throughout their lifespans.

KEETON

How long do they live?

CUNNINGHAM

Good question. Don’t know yet.

KEETON

One of the scramblers…

CUNNINGHAM

Got torn to shreds by the crowd? Saw that on the record.

KEETON

Any ideas?

CUNNINGHAM

Bates thought it could be a scrambler war- like ants. I don’t know, they’re ALIENS.

What do you want from me?

KEETON

What’s your problem with me?

CUNNINGHAM

Tisk tisk– very direct for a Synthesist.

Processing without comprehension.

KEETON

I’m just doing my job.

CUNNINGHAM
I know. But I don’t like being played, KEETON. And that’s what your JOB IS.

JAMES (as SASCHA)

Come on, Robert.

As if it doesn’t bug you, too.

CUNNINGHAM

Excuse me, what?

JAMES (as SASCHA)

Thinking that your mind is nothing but a parasite.

CUNNINGHAM

Forget about minds. You’re dealing with machines localized for specific input patterns. You’re all dealing with a series of design flaws.

JAMES (as SASCHA)

But YOU’RE the biologist. You know MOM was right: Brain’s a big glucose hog, it has to be good for SOMETHING.

CUNNINGHAM

True enough.

Did you know that Chimpanzees are smarter than orangutans? Higher encephalization quotient. Yet they can’t always recognize themselves in mirrors- why’s that?

A beat

CUNNNINGHAM

(cont’d)

Because WE stepped in. Because WE stopped evolution in its tracks: a smart automaton would BLEND IN to survive. Act like everyone else. KEEP IT UP LONG ENOUGH AND CONSCIOUNESS DISAPEARS.

JAMES (AS SASCHA)

I think you’re right, Robert.

CUNNNINGHAM

You get it now? Eventually there’s nothing left: just robots pretending to care…

JAMES stops eating.

SUSAN JAMES

DID YOU HEAR THAT?

CUNNINGHAM and KEETON snap to attention.

JAMES

Check your feeds.

KEETON POV: One scrambler afloat: the other jammed into a corner.

JAMES

Turn up the sound!

A beat.

JAMES (Cont’d)

Okay, they’re not doing it now. Check the record.

KEETON BACKS the feed. One of the SCRAMBLERs extends an arm and touches the wall adjoining the pen.

A buzzing of an insect.

JAMES

Replay it. Slower.

KEETON slows the feed.

JAMES

No, let me. Way slower.

At enormous magnification, at an infinitesimal speed, WE SEE the Scrambler TAPPING against the partition.

CUNNINGHAM

… We’ve got to check the rest of the archive…

JAMES

THESEUS just finished doing that: Three similar exchanges over two days, ranging in duration from a tenth of a second to two.

CUNNINGHAM
An so what? With those exchanges they couldn’t exactly be doing calculus.

JAMES

They’re deliberately hiding what they’re saying. They’re flexible. Intelligent.

CUNNINGHAM

Forget, for a moment, the inconvenient fact that these things don’t even have brains. I don’t think you’ve thought this through.

JAMES

Of course I have.

SARASTI (O.S.)

No, you haven’t.

CU: THE SCRAMBLER CAGES.

INT. THESEUS – THE DRUM

SUSAN JAMES sits at a terminal showing feeds from the two SCRAMBLER CAGES. The terminal displays have been labeled STRETCH and CLENCH.

CUNNINGHAM floats in the BIOMED DRUM.

KEETON stands behind SUSAN JAMES

A series of ICONS have been placed in each enclosure.

In the STRETCH tank a YELLOW SQUARE is lit.

SUSAN JAMES
Baseline exposure. Five seconds. Two hundred fifty watts.

MICROWAVES flood the enclosure.

STRETCH SEETHS, sweeping around the chamber flailing its arms like a skeletal eel.

STRETCH displays fluid patterns and cryptic mosaics.

SUSAN JAMES

Repeat.

CUNNINGHAM

They sured learned helplessness fast enough.

KEETON

Are you going to do this all yourself?

JAMES

Who else is going to do this, Siri? Jukka? YOU?

KEETON

The rest of the Gang, Sascha, could…

JAMES

SASCHA? Siri, I created them. Do you think I’m going to HIDE behind them?

JAMES

(Cont’d)
Repeat.

CUNNINGHAM

There!

CU: SCRAMBLER CHAMBER, CLENCH presses the YELLOW SQUARE with an arm.

JAMES
New ICON display: Circles.

Repeat.

STRETCH SQUIRMS, a BRIGHT YELLOW CIRCLE LIT IN ITS CHAMBER

CLENCH presses the YELLOW CIRCLE ICON.

JAMES

NEW DISPLAY: Factorials.

CUNNINGHAM
Do a Fibonacci sequence next.

CU: SCRAMLBER TANKS.

INT. THESEUS – BIOMED DRUM

CUNNINGHAM replays terminal footage of Stretch and Clench solving complex mathematical problems.

JAMES is across the drum at her TERMINAL with KEETON.


They continue to subject the SCRAMBLERs to ever increasing complicated problems.

CUNNINGHAM

Could be splinter skills.

JAMES

Splinter skills.

It took them six minutes thirty seconds to go from yellow squares to four-dimensional polyhedrons.

CUNNINGHAM

Savantism. Hyper performance at one kind of calculation doesn’t necessarily connote high intelligence.

JAMES

I know what savantism is, Robert. I just think you’re wrong.

CUNNINGHAM

Prove it.

JAMES
When I gave them the original sequence and they finished it.

Check your replays.

JAMES (Cont’d)

They aren’t drones.

CUNNINGHAM

That’s all just crunching. Computer modules do that without being A WAKE.

JAMES

They’re intelligent, Robert. They’re smarter than us. Smarter than JUKKA. Why can’t you just ADMIT IT.

CUNNINGHAM

Because they don’t have the circuitry.

How could they–

JAMES

I DONT KNOW! That’s YOUR JOB.

CUNNINGHAM

But you’re here to figure out the LANGAUGE.

JAMES

And I’ve got nothing.

CUNNINGHAM

You’ve been at this for hours and …

JAMES

EXACTLY. I know they’re talking through pigment mosaics. There might be something in the way they move their bristles… But I can’t find the pattern. I can’t even figure out how they’re COUNTING…

CUNNINGHAM

Well. Since there seems to be plenty of BAD NEWS let me give you some more. They’re dying.

JAMES

(sighs)

CUNNINGHAM

Not from your interrogation. As far as I can determine, some of their metabolic pathways are just MISSING.

BATES (O.S.)

Obviously you haven’t found them yet.

CUNNINGHAM

NO. Obviously those parts just aren’t available to the organism. They’re falling apart. Imagine all the mitotic spindles in our cells just vanished out of the cytoplasm, for example.

CUNNINGHAM (Cont’d)

As far as I can tell… they started deteriorating as soon as we took them off RORSCHACH.

BATES (O.S.)

Are you saying they left part of their biochemistry behind?

Some essential nutrient?

CUNNINGHAM

Yes and No.

I think the reason I haven’t been able to locate any genes is because… they don’t have any.

BATES (O.S.)

So what do they have?

CUNNINGHAM

Turing morphogens.

Like a sunflower. Purely mechanical interactions. Like a honeycomb.

Bees are hardwired to lay them down, but how does an insect know enough geometry to lay down a precise hexagon?

It doesn’t.

BATES (O.S.)

But the bees are programmed. Genetically.

CUNNINGHAM

You misunderstand. Scramblers are the HONEYCOMB.

JAMES

Rorschach is the bees.

CUNNINGHAM

RORSCHACH is the bees. And I don’t think the EM fields are counterintrusion mechanisms either. I think they’re the life-support mechanism.

Stretch and Clench are holding their breath. And they can’t hold it forever.

JAMES

We’ve got to release them. I–

SARASTI (O.S.)

We’re not going to release them.

A Beat

BATES (O.S.)

Nanofabrication just started to retool.

It’s scheduled to produce WEAPONS.

Substrate stockpiles are down.

KEETON

I’m coming up there.

KEETON pushes off and floats through the DRUM ACCESSHATCH

INT. THESEUS – COCKPIT

BATES and SARASTI are wired into THESEUS.

KEETON comes up through the BRIDGE hatch.

BATES

Sarasti just designed some serious fire and brimstone implements… He’s loading the CARAPACE SHEIDLING PROTOCOL

SARASTO

Precaution.

KEETON POV: BATES sends KEETON the specs on their new weapon systems and shielding.

BATES

We’re tapping out though. Might need to grab a local asteroid.

SARASTI

I’m taking us back to the icarus stream.

KEETON

Is that wise?

SARASTI is silent.

KEETON (Cont’d)

It matters to Earth, so it matters to me.

What about the CAPTAIN?

BATES

You’re usually a little bit more subtle.

KEETON

It’s just… you know SUSAN was the one that caught Stretch and Clench tapping back and forth, right?

BATES

So?

KEETON

Isn’t it strange that THESEUS didn’t see it first?

SARASTI

Took that quantum modules offline. The onboard’s running in classical mode.

KEETON
WHY?

SARASTI

We’re moving closer to RORSCHACH. A few kilometres. Should keep the SCRAMBLERS alive.

Noisy environment. Great risk of decoherence. Quantum computers are finicky things.

SARASTI (Cont’d)

Orbital maneuvers starting in five. Inlays and wireless prosthetic offline in ninety.

SARASTI (Cont’d)

Go back to the DRUM, Keeton.

I’ll contact you if you’re need.

Ext. RORSCHACH ORBIT

THESEUS closes with RORSCHACH slowly, creeping closer to the ELECTROMAGNETIC STORM.

CU:

DRONES crawl along THESEUS’ hull, attaching ARMOUR, SHIELDING, and ASSEMBLING WEAPONS SYSTEMS

Int. THESEUS – The DRUM

CUNNINGHAM and

SUSAN JAMES continue their work on the SCRAMBLERS

ENTER KEETON. He floats over to JAMES

KEETON

Any progress?

JAMES

I’ve given up trying to understand their language.

I’ve settled for pidgin.

The TERMINAL FEED shows the SCRAMBLERS. James pulls up a new FEED showing a hieroglyphic flowchart, rapidly changing.

JAMES (Cont’d)

Iconic base. Subject verb phrases render as animated versions of noun icons. They’re radially symmetrical, so I array modifiers in a circular pattern around the central subject. Maybe that comes naturally to them.

STRETCH reaches out and touches its touchpad.

THE PAD FLASHES RED.

STRETCH WRITHES

IT PUNCHES THE PAD REPEADETLY.

JAMES

Wrong answer. Negative reinforcement is 500 watts.

Try again.

The red flashing stops. Stretch goes immobile.

KEETON

What was the point of that attempt?

JAMES

Just a warm up exercise. I asked it to name the objects in the window. Missed one of them- actually the SCRAMBLER iconogram.

Got it the second time.

KEETON

Even scramblers slip-up when they’re dieing.

JAMES

No… it’s more like… the SCRAMBLERs already know the answers– they just don’t KNOW they know them.

KEETON

How…?

CUNNINGHAM

Blindsight. Blindhearing. Blindtouch.

Not much going on if you’re a scrambler.

There’s no YOU to it, I suspect.

CUNNINGHAM

(Cont’d)

The scramblers are doing fine, by the way. At this distance, the magnetite flecks lined up. Soon as we got past the EM wavefront, more or less. They’re repairing themselves. Not going to last forever though….

CUNNINGHAM

(Cont’d)

OH SHIT…

CU: CUNNINGHAM is not moving. He stares at time-lapse and realtime images of STRETCH and CLENCH.

STRETCH and CLENCH appear as poly-armed starfish, arms undulating.

They CHANGE COLOUR and display CRYPTIC PATTERNS.

We see X-RAY and GAMMA RAY replications of the two SCRAMBLERS

They are dense bundles of neurofibre, encased in a skin of cuticles.

CUNNINGHAM is quickly speaking…

CUNNINGHAM

fuck fuck fuck fuck …

KEETON moves from the galley and walks around the drum until he is standing next to CUNNINGHAM.

CUNNINGHAM

fuck fuck fuck fuck …

CU: KEETON leans in next to CUNNINGHAM.

CUNNINGHAM

You’re blind, did you know that?

KEETON

I didn’t. Wait. I did.

CUNNINGHAM

Yah.

You. Me. Theseus. Everyone, everything.

Vision’s mostly a lie anyway. We don’t really see anything except a few hi-res degrees where the eye focuses. Everything else is just peripheral blur, just… light and motion. Motion draws that focus. And your eyes jiggle all the time, did you know that, Keeton? Saccades, they’re called. Blurs the image, the movement’s way too fast for the brain to integrate so your eye just… shuts down between pauses. It only grabs these isolated freeze-frames, but your brain edits out the blanks and stitches an… an illusion of continuity into your head.

CUNNINGHAM looks directly at KEETON

CUNNINGHAM (Cont’d)

And you know what’s really amazing? If something only moves during the gaps, your brain just… ignores it. It’s invisible.

A beat

CUNNINGHAM (Cont’d)

It’s invisible, Commissar

Are you listening? Do you know what I’m saying?

KEETON

You’ve figured out why I couldn’t– you’re saying these things can somehow tell when our eyes are offline…?

CUNNINGHAM

I’m saying the SCRAMBLERS can see your nerves firing from across the room, and integrate that into a crypsis strategy, and then send motor commands to act on that strategy.

KEETON

(examining the screens)

They’re mostly composed of neurofibre…

CUNNINGHAM

Correct. They’re fast, Keeton. Way faster than we could have guessed even from that high-speed whisper line they were using. They’re bloody superconductors.

KEETON

How is that possible?

CUNNINGHAM

Every nerve impulse generates an electromagnetic field. That makes it detectable.

KEETON

I don’t follow- Rorschach’s EM field is too chaotic? How could you take measurements of a single optic nerve with all the interference–

CUNNINGHAM

You’re not listening, Siri. The “interference” is part of the structure, part of THEM, remember? That’s probably how they do it. The “trap” you guys set would never have “captured” a Scrambler, unless it WANTED to be caught. We didn’t grab specimens at all. We grabbed spies.

CUNNINGHAM

(Cont’d)

When those scramblers ripped eachother apart on RORSCHACH that was TIME-SHARING. A Data-dump. I think each scrambler acts as a node in a distributed network.

SARASTI (O.S.)

The Scramblers use RORSCACH’s EM for metabolic processes. Some pathways achieve proton transfer via heavy-atom tunnelling. Perhaps the ambient radiation acts as a catalyst.

JAMES

Tunnelling… as in quantum?

CUNNINGHAM

Yes, which also explains why your shielding isn’t completely effective.

JAMES
But is that even POSSIBLE? I mean, don’t those effects require cryonic…

CUNNINGHAM
FORGET THIS. We can debate the biochemistry later, if we’re still alive.

SARASTI (O.S.)

And what do we debate instead, Robert?

CUNNINGHAM

For starters, these things can look at you and determine which parts of your visual cortex are lighting up… and if there’s a difference between that and mind reading, it’s not much to me.

KEETON

So long as we stay out of RORSCHACH…

CUNNINGHAM

That ship has SAILED. You people went in there. Repeatedly. RORSCHACH was TESTING YOU. For all we know, they already have THESEUS’s technical specs and the details of the ICARUS ARRAY.

SARASTI (O.S.)

SO WHAT?

CUNNINGHAM

We have to get out of here.

JAMES

It’s still growing. It’s not finished.

CUNNINGHAM

That’s supposed to reassure me?

JAMES

I’m just saying we could have years yet…

SARASTI (O.S.)

We have fifteen days.

INT. THESEUS – THE CRYPT

SUSAN JAMES and KEETON are alone in the crypt.

JAMES floats in front of one of the RESERVE CREW pods.

KEETON walks past the pods, examining the names.

The RESERVE CREW PODS are opaque.

FIRST, the OPEN POD of:

RESERVE CREW – EXOBIOLOGIST

THEN PAST

RESERVE CREW – LINGUIST

Where SUSAN JAMES is standing, PAST

RESERVE CREW – MILITARY ADVISOR

RESERVE CREW – SYNTHESIST

To the final pod labeled:

RESERVE CREW – MISSION SUBCOMMANDER

KEETON POV: KEETON looks across at the MAINCREW POD labeled

MAINCREW – EXOBIOLOGIST.

KEETON turns to SUSAN JAMES

SUSAN JAMES

RYU TAKAMATSU, the other multicore.
I never met her.

I met everyone else, trained with them. But I never met my own replacement.

KEETON

They discouraged it. What would have been the point?

JAMES

Hmmm, are you saying you’re not curious about YOUR counterpart? Your replacement?

KEETON

I have some information on all of the alternates.

Excepts Jukka’s. No doubt with good cause.

KEETON (Cont’d)

If you want to…

JAMES

No.

KEETON

Or any of the others– I can only imagine what Michelle —

KEETON

I guess we’re going in for “live samples”?

JAMES

Siri, do you think you could leave us alone for a while?

JAMES (Cont’d)
Michelle doesn’t really want to talk to you right now, Siri. We’d actually like to be alone for now.

KEETON

Ah.

Well if any of you change your…

JAMES (as CRUNCHER)

No. None of us. EVER.

YOU LIE, KEETON. WE ALL SEE IT.

KEETON

Lie? No, I–

JAMES (as CRUNCHER)

You don’t talk. You listen.

You don’t care about Michelle

All you want is the information we’re processing.

KEETON

That’s not entirely true, Cruncher.

JAMES (As CRUNCHER)

You’ve never lost anyone.

GO AWAY.

KEETON surprised, turns and leaves.

KEETON (V.O.)

But Cruncher was wrong.

INT. KEETON APARTMENT – DAWN

KEETON sits at his COMPUTER TERMINAL, working up SYNTHESIA lectures

KEETON (V.O.)

At least Szpindel had died knowing Michelle cared.

CHELSEA died thinking I just didn’t give a shit.

KEETON POV: A MESSAGE FROM CHELSEA APPEARS ON THE SCREEN.

CHELSEA (O.S.)

Cygnus. Please call NOW. It’s important.

KEETON (V.O.)

There was no video. First time ever. I knew it was bad. I could tell it was lethal.

KEETON (V.O.)

(Cont’d)

She’d been caught in the cross-fire.

It had been the REALISTS. Outside the BOSTON METROPOLIS catacombs: a retrovirus that rewrote a gene controlling ossification on Chromosome 4. A rigged metabolic bypass at three loci on 17. Straight biological warfare.

KEETON ignores the message.

KEETON (V.O.)

(Cont’d)

I didn’t call her back. I didn’t know what to do.

So I scoured the noosphere, looking for precedents. Philosophical treatise on death, last words, last vows…

Another message arrives.

Keeton checks the NEWS FEEDS

KEETON (V.O.)

(Cont’d)

By the time she called again, the news was out: acute GOLEM outbreak in BOSTON. Containment had worked- HEAVEN was secure. But there were fatalities- and more expected. Fifteen hours after exposure, the victims were GROWING NEW SKELETONS.

CHELSEA calls again.

No video.

KEETON ANSWERS

CHELSEA (O.S.)

Know you’re there. Probably researching death procedures.

CHELSEA (O.S.)

(Cont’d)

Wanted to say… don’t feel bad. It’s not your fault. You’d answer if you could.

Please… just talk to me, Cyg. Siri…

CHELSEA disconnects.

KEETON is silent.

KEETON (V.O.)

I really wanted to talk to her. I just couldn’t find an algorithm that fit.

Int. THE DRUM – KEETON TENT

KEETON FLOATS ATTACHED TO THE REMWEB

Ext. BIG BEN ACCRETION BELT – THESEUS

THESEUS fires reaction manoeuvring thrusters and begins to roll.

THESEUS FIRES AN AMPSAT PROBE TOWARDS THE SUN (a bright source of EM radiation, but overwhelmed by RORSCHACH’s EM FIELD)

Int. THE DRUM – KEETON REMWEB

KEETON FLOATS ATTACHED TO THE REMWEB

KEETON NOTICES THE ICREASE OF centripetal FORCE

KEETON POV: Keeton pulls up NAVTAC display on ConSensus and watches the probe accelerate to 15G

IN ANOTHER FEED, KEETON can see DRONES attaching more ARMOUR, SHIELDING and WEAPON TURRETS to THESEUS’ Carapace.

SARASTI (O.S.)

It’s an ampsat relay, set to bisect the Icarus stream.

SARASTI (O.S.)

(Cont’d)

Siri. My quarters, please.

CU: KEETON

KEETON IS STARTLED.

KEETON

Coming.

INT. THE CARAPACE – SARASTI’s QUARTERS

R/A LOOKING OUT TO THE CARAPACE.

KEETON floats before the AIRLOCK access way to SARASTI’s quarters.

SARASTI (O.S.)

Come.

The access-hatch is open.

KEETON ENTERS.

REVERSE ANGLE.

SARASTI sits in a DARK ROOM, waiting.

He is lit from ABOVE by a solitary source.

SARASTI holds his ANTIEUCYLDIAN injector to his neck and shoots up.

SARASTI

You’re here as an official observer.

But… LATELY… you’ve become interventionist.

THE HATCH CLOSES BEHIND SARASTI.

KEETON POV: KEETON sees nothing in the room except for a DISCONNECTED fiberop umbilicus, and a pair of jumpsuits. A few terminals.

SARASTI WATCHES KEETON.

SARASTI

As you can see, I’m not connected to the Captain.

SARASTI (Cont’d)

As you’ve no doubt ascertained, we’re no longer running. We’re stockpiling.

KEETON sees the terminals SPRING TO LIFE.

They show STRETCH AND CLENCH.

SARASTI (Cont’d)

Closed circuit. The arms move continuously. Robert says it assists in circulation. Isn’t that interesting?

REVERSE ANGLE ON KEETON

KEETON NODS.

SARASTI (Cont’d)

Creatures that move between stars can’t even perform basic metabolic functions without constant flailing.

SARASTI (Cont’d)

(sighs)

Primitive. Inefficient. Obscene.

Time to euthanize.

SARASTI turns and taps the terminal.

KEETON POV: INSET: the SCRAMBLERS WRITHE.

SARASTI (Cont’d)

I’ve just started the ROESETTA protocol. The tanks are flooding with microwaves. Watch.

The scramblers move to their panels. They vainly punch icons.

SARASTI (Cont’d)

They seems to have acclimated to microwaves.

Alternative.

SARASTI presses the terminal again.

AN ALARM IN THE SCRAMBLER CAGES SOUNDS.

IT shows the presence of oxygen.

KEETON

They’re anaeropbes. You’re poisoning them.

SARASTI

Watch. No change.

KEETON

Is this an execution? Mercy killing?

SARASTI

No.

KEETON

What then?

OVERHEAD ANGLE ON SARASTI AND KEETON.

CU: SARASTI.

SARASTI DRAWS A BLADE: MICROKNIFE.

ECU: SARASTI SMILING.

HE STABS KEETON THROUGH THE RIGHT HAND.

KEETON SCREAMS.

HE PULLS HIS HAND BACK. THE MICROKNIFE CUTS THROUGH KEETON’S HAND.

BLOOD SPRAYS INTO THE CHAMBER.

KEETON POV: KEETON STARES AT HIS RIGHT HAND: SPLIT COMPLETELY IN TWO.

REVERSE ANGLE: THE HATCH BEHIND KEETON OPENS INTO THE CARAPACE DOCKING ASSEMBLY.

SARASTI PUSHES KEETON OUT INTO THE ASSEMBLY.

SARASTI

Do you see a problem?

KEETON grabs a LADDER, trying to move down towards the SPINE.

SARASTI (cont’d)

Conscious of pain. You’re distracted by pain. You’re fixated on it. Obsessed by ONE THREAT. You miss the other.

SARASTI (cont’d)

So much more aware. So much less perceptive.

KEETON

You’re insane!

SARASTI

THEY could do better.

ARE YOU IN THERE KEETON?
ARE YOU LISTENING? CAN YOU SEE?

SARASTI (Cont’d)

TIME TO LEAVE THE CHINESE ROOM, KEETON.

The necker cube is TRAINING WHEELS. You’re Stone Age nomads. Oh but you can’t defocus. There’s SOMETHING IN THE WAY. SOMETHING FIGHTING BACK.

SARASTI (Cont’d)

TIME TO FIGHT BACK, KEETON.

INT. THESEUS – BIOMED DRUM

KEETON is being treated by CUNNINGHAM

SUSAN JAMES is nearby.

KEETON

(in shock)

It’s not even personal is it. You don’t even hate me. You were just sick of wasting time.

CUNNINGHAM

KEETON, will you shut the fuck up?

JAMES

So you think it’s just a phase?

CUNNINGHAM

We’ve been OVER this.

JAMES

If it were so pernicious, natural selection would have weeded it out.

CUNNINGHAM

You’ve got such a naive understanding of natural selection: stop thinking of “selection of the fittest” start thinking of “survival of the least ill fit”.

BATES (O.S.)

It was completely unwarranted. You can damn well believe that’s going in my report.

BATES (O.S.)

(Cont’d)

He assaulted a crew-member.

MARQUE

Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves

— Henry David Thoreau.

INT. THESEUS – KEETON REMWEB

KEETON awakens.

INT. THESEUS – THE DRUM

KEETON emerges from his REMWEB TENT.

CUNNINGHAM is still in the BIOMED DRUM.

CUNNINGHAM

Ah. It lives. How are you doing?

Hand all better?

KEETON LOOKS AT HIS HAND: fully repaired.

KEETON

Yah.

CUNNINGHAM

Whoa– you, unarmed versus a knife-wielding vampire.

Keeton. I’m impressed.

KEETON

Give me a break. I’m a synthesist. I NEVER manipulate the variables.

CUNNINGHAM
Well, you see, that’s the problem. It’s not just variables you’re dealing with. Personally, I try to stay dispassionate.

CUNNINGHAM (Cont’d)
Do the scramblers look familiar to you?

KEETON
What?

CUNNINGHAM

Do they look the way you imagined?

KEETON

You’ve been into Isaacs archives.

CUNNINGHAM

Multijointed arms from a central mass.”

Why didn’t you report it?

KEETON

I did. Szpindel said it was TMS, from RORSCHACH.

CUNNINGHAM

Don’t insult my intelligence. You saw something: before RORSCHACH. Something that scared you into BLOWING YOUR COVER. Something that told everyone you were spying on Isaac and Michelle.

ENTER SUSAN JAMES

CUNNINGHAM

(Cont’d)

I was just leaving.

CUNNINGHAM turns away to his TERMINAL.

SUSAN JAMES

I don’t mind talking. I’m surprised you’re still doing your reports at all, Keeton.

KEETON

This isn’t for Earth.

KEETON (Cont’d)

You set me up.

JAMES

What do you mean?

KEETON

You were talking around me all along, weren’t you?

All of you? And then JUKKA attacks me…

JAMES

We didn’t know about that. Not until the alarms in the SCRAMBLER cages went off.

KEETON

It was some kind of tutorial…

JAMES (as SASCHA)

Jukka told us not to discuss it with you.

KEETON

What difference does it make?

JAMES (as SASCHA)

You don’t get it. Still dont.

KEETON

What?

JAMES (as SASCHA)
DONT YOU UNDERSTAND NOW?
We attacked them.

KEETON

I know that

JAMES (as SASCHA)

No, I mean, we ATTACKED THEM BEFORE FIREFALL.

Imagine… Imagine you are a SCRAMBLER.

KEETON (V.O.)

Imagine you are a SCRAMBLER.

Ext. RORSCHACH – PLASMA ARRAY

RORSCHACH fires a BOLT OF PLASMA at THESEUS,

Theseus is hit at the base of the spine, blasting off a large portion of the carapace.

EM RADIATION FLOODS THE FABRICATION LAB, TELEMATTER ASSEMBLY and RAMSCOOP HOUSING.

EXT. THESEUS – TURRETS

THESEUS RETURNS FIRE.

CANNONS FIRE, SHREDDING PORTIONS OF RORSCHACH’s HULL. SCRAMBLERS SEETH OUT OF THE GAPS.

EXT. THESEUS – SCRAMLBER PEN

THE PEN HAS BEEN SEVERED FROM THE HULL, it FLOATS FREE.

INT. THESEUS – THE DRUM

CUNNINGHAM LOOKS UPWARDS, hearing the CANNON FIRE.

CUNNINGHAM

HOLY SHIT.

We’re leaving NOW, right, AMANDA?

SARASTI (O.S.)

No.

SARASTI (O.S.)

(Cont’d)

Robert. Susan. EVA. Now.

CUNNINGHAM

Jukka, it’s too late for this…

JAMES (as Sascha)

What?

SARASTI (O.S.)

Lab module is floating free about 30 meters from the hull.

CUNNINGHAM

Damn it.

SARASTI (O.S.)

SALVAGE THE SAMPLES NOW.

JAMES (as Michelle)

Don’t do it, Robert!

CUNNINGHAM

No choice. If they deconstruct those samples we won’t need an exobiologist anyway.

KEETON

I’ll go with you.

SARASTI (O.S.)

Keeton, swap with Sascha.

JAMES (as Michelle)

It’s dark out there, Siri…

BATES (O.S.)

I should go. You could wake up my backup if…

SARASTI (O.S.)

No time.

INT. THESEUS – CARAPACE DOCKING ASSEMBLY

KEETON AND CUNNINGHAM throw on EVA suits.

SARASTI (O.S.)(Cont’d)

Take weapons.

Cunningham

Kind of primitive, isn’t it, Jukka?

SARASTI (O.S.)

Objections?

Cunningham (to himself)

It’s my fault…

KEETON

You…?

CUNNINGHAM

I should have noticed their communication earlier.

We can still stop them.

WEAPONS BANKS emerge from the CDA hull.

KEETON and CUNNINGHAM pickup MASER RIFLES.

CUNNINGHAM

Can’t let them salvage Stretch and Clench.

KEETON

I know!

CUNNINGHAM

Siri. I never thought you had it in you.

KEETON

I just realized… It has to be me.

CUNNINGHAM

Ha! Tell that to the scramblers. I wonder if RORSCHACH remembers you…

SARASTI (O.S.)

Opening the airlock.

INT. THESEUS – CDA AIRLOCK

THE AIRLOCK OPENS. KEETON and CUNNINGHAM float outside.

CUNNINGHAM

Amanda, can you cover us with your assembly drones…

BATES (O.S.)

I’m already commanding them.

EXT. THESEUS – CARAPACE

KEETON AND CUNNINGHAM move along THESEUS’s hull. A PAIR OF ASSEMBLY GRUNTS move to meet them.

CUNNINGHAM

BATES, meet us at the SCRAMLBER PEN.

BATES (O.S.)

The drones are heading there now.

CUNNINGHAM

Keeton.

Together, KEETON and CUNNINGHAM jet towards the floating SCRAMBLER PEN.

THEY MOVE through the devastated remains of the CARAPACE.

EXT. THESEUS – CARAPACE

SCRAMBLERS cross the void between RORSCHACH and THESEUS. THEY DESCEND ON THE CARAPCE.

CUNNINGHAM

Scramblers.

KEETON

Hundreds of them…

CUNNINGHAM

I see the LAB MODULE!

BATES (O.S.)

Roger. I’m sending drones in now.

Be advised, there are SCRAMBLERS in your vicinity…

Ext. THESEUS – CARAPACE

A pair of ASSEMBLY DRONES crawl over THESEUS and move to support KEETON and CUNNINGHAM.

BATES (O.S.)

(Cont’d)

Robert?

CUNNINGHAM

Three point- shit. What, TWO DRONES, Amanda?

BATES (O.S.)

The combat drones are right behind you.

CUNNINGHAM

Right.

Let’s move it, man. Before they DATA-DUMP those SCRAMBLERS.

KEETON

Amanda, should we wait?

BATES (O.S.)

The combat drones are closing at maximum speed. Go now.

CUNNINGHAM is slightly ahead of KEETON, bounding over the CARAPACE remains.

CUNNINGHAM

Right— I’m almost…

KEETON SEES a PAIR OF SCRAMBLERS emerge from the CARAPACE wreckage. A DRONE follow CUNNINGHAM.

Another takes position behind KEETON.

CUNNINGHAM

TWO!

BATES (O.S.)

WEAPONS FREE

MASERS EVISORATE THE SCRAMBLERS.

KEETON selects  MICROWAVES and fires at the scramblers.

KEETON POV:

MADNESS. SCRAMBLER REMAINS float around CUNNINGHAM.

BATES (O.S.)

MORE INCOMMING. KEETON, CUNNINGHAM—

CUNNINGHAM

I’m almost at the pens…

CUNNINGHAM is about to reach the STRETCH and CLENCH pens.

SUDDENLY, the PENS BURST OPEN.

STRETCH and CLECNH float free.

CUNNINGHAM (Cont’d)

Oh christ.

STRETCH moves DIRECTLY FOR CUNNINGHAM

CLENCH heads towards RORSCHACH.

KEETON goes to take up a firing position.

SCRAMLBERS appear from the CARAPACE WRECKAGE.

KEETON

Robert, get clear!

KEETON POV: SCRAMBLERS ARE EVERYWHERE.

KEETON (Cont’d)

Cunningham!

CU: Too late: STRETCH IS DISMEMBERING ROBERT CUNNINGHAM

BATES (O.S.)
WEAPONS FREE– KEETON!

The DRONE next to CUNNINGHAM moves in and SLAUGHTERS SCRAMBLER STRETCH in HAND TO HAND COMBAT.

KEETON FIRES at a CLENCH, misses.

The DRONE next to KEETON fires at CLENCH as it moves towards RORSCHACH–

COOKED ALIVE, CLENCH is swallowed by RORSCHACH.

BATES (O.S.)
KEETON? DO YOU READ? GET BACK HERE.

KEETON

Copy… Robert’s gone…

KEETON POV:

CUNNINGHAM torn to shreds by STRETCH, being consumed by RORSCHACH as RAW DATA.

RORSCHACH above KEETON. PLASMA ARRAY BRIGHTENING.

KEETON (Cont’d)

Robert’s gone.

They’re firing…

A BOLT OF PLASMA HITS THESEUS BEHIND KEETON, VAPROUSING CARAPACE SHIELDING.

SCRAMBLERS move towards Keeton.

KEETON heads for the AIRLOCK.

COMBAT DRONES move in over THESEUS and attack the scramblers. Flashes of Masers

Int. THESEUS – COCKPIT

BATES and SARASTI are seated forward; SUSAN JAMES (SASCHA) are at back.

INT. THESEUS – CDA

KEETON enters the airlock, stunned.

BATES (O.S.)

They’ve destroyed the carapace. We won’t be able to deorbit.

SARASTI (O.S.)

They already have what they’ve come for.

Shut down the drum.

BATES (O.S.)

Sir-

Int. COMMAND MODULE – COCKPIT

BATES POV:

RORSCHACH begins to move. The entire assembly is de-orbiting, when…

RORSCHACH VANISHES FROM THE cockpit VIEWSCREENS.

LADAR SHOWS NOTHING. OPTICAL shows NOTHING. RORSCHACH IS GONE.

BATES

Oh, fuck.

ECU on SARASTI:

SARASTI SMILES

SARASTI

Finally.

 

Int. THESEUS – THE DRUM

CU: Footage of Rorschach vanishing replayed on endless loop.

RORSCHACH in GAMMA RADIATION descending into BIG BEN’s ATMOSPHERE. HIDDEN IN THE DENSE CLOUDS.

PULL BACK TO: SUSAN JAMES and BATES crowded around a viewing port.

JAMES (As SUSAN JAMES)

What can we do?

BATES (surprised)

Nothing.

This is the end-game. You saw that firefight. Keeton and Cunningham–

BATES (Cont’d)

Rorschach is controlling the Skimmers. They’re realigning.

JAMES (as Sascha)

It’s this place, this nightmare. What are our thoughts other than pulses of radiation inside a flesh, meat-space mask? Nature may have convinced us that it’s not relevant in the 21st century… But that’s mere deception.

INT. THESEUS – OBSERVATION BLISTER

THE BLISTER IS EMPTY. This is an establishing shot.

The space between THESEUS and BIGBEN, is filled with ELECTROMAGNETIC RADIATION. The Observation Blister is flooded with a pale yellow light.

BATES (O.S.)

Beautiful, isn’t it.

Spectrum is longwave, quadrochromatic palette.

Like a cat, or what Sarasti sees whenever he looks outside. If he looked outside. If he were really alive. That wouldn’t be much of a win, would it? What’s the difference between being dead, and just not knowing you’re alive?

KEETON (V.O.)

Something Bates said triggered my memory. Something she said changed everything.

KEETON (V. O.)

(Cont’d)

I finally saw it. Szpindel had had it all wrong. Amanda Bates wasn’t a sop to politics, her role didn’t deny the obsolescence of Human oversight at all. Her role depended on it. She was the real cannon fodder: with Bates gone the Grunts were off the leash. I’d felt it when CUNNINGHAM and I had gone in SOLO against the Scramblers…

KEETON (O. S.)

Bullshit, Amanda. The Scramblers know what it means to be alive- they sure as hell knew what it meant to be torn to shreds by mechanistic processes. They’re smarter than all of us. How are we any different?

A beat

KEETON (Cont’d)

(O.S.)

I’m sorry.

BATES (O.S.)

It’s not over yet. Just the end of round one. Rorschach wouldn’t have tried so hard to scare us off if we couldn’t damage it. There’s still a chance, Siri. Still a chance.

Int. Theseus – Command module

KEETON (V.O.)

The demon arranged his pieces for the end game. There weren’t many left:

BATES is seated in the cockpit.

KEETON (V.O.)

(Cont’d)

The soldier on the bridge.

Int. Theseus – THE DRUM

KEETON (V.O.)

(Cont’d)

He summoned me to his quarters. I was reluctant to go.

Keeton ascends through the DRUM access hatch to the CARAPACE DOCKING ASSEMBLY

and enters the hollow structural CARAPACE.

Int. The DRUM – Carapace Assembly Entrance

ANGLE on KEETON: There is a small room, prefabricated, directly inside the CARAPACE and in front of KEETON.

The room has a single automatic hatchway.

The hatch opens.

Keeton enters.

Int. THESEUS CARAPACE – SARASTI’S QUARTERS

SARASTI is seated around holograms of screaming human faces. There is no sound. SARASTI wears no VISOR.

The disembodied holograms float on silent tiers around the bubble, each contorted into a different expression of pain.

They were being tortured: half a dozen real ethnicities and twice as many hypothetical ones (orcs, elves, klingons, etc). We see HOMO ERECTUS, Neanderthals and Sapien Vampryis clearly.

SARASTI has called the entire hominid tree into existence around him. A sea of tortured faced.

KEETON (shocked)

My God, what is this?

SARASTI (bored)

Statistics.

SARASTI glares at the screaming face of a flayed Asian child.

SARASTI (Cont’d)

We’re at fifty thousand kilometres now.

Rorschach’s growth allometry over a two-week period. Logarithmic structure showing power-output by Eigenvalue matrixes.

KEETON

…Faces?

CU: SARASTI glares at a woman with no eyes.

ECU: THE REMORSLESS EYES OF THE PREHISTORIC VAMPIRE: 50,000 years of evolution melted away.

SARASTI

Skull diameter scales to total mass. Mandible length scales to EM transparency at one angstrom. One hundred thirteen facial dimension, each presenting a different variable. Principle-component combinations present as multifeature aspect ratios.

SARASTI glares at Keeton.

SARASTI (Cont’d)

You’d be surprised how much gray matter is dedicated to the analysis of facial imagery. Shame to waste it on anything as counterintuitive as residual plots or contingency tables. The EM differential field is so much more interesting, don’t you think? All that matter pressing against reality- it must make you weak.

KEETON

Why are they screaming?

SARASTI (Cont’d)

Software customizes output for user.

I am wired for hunting.

KEETON

Yah. I know that.

SARASTI (Cont’d)

(Bored)

You asked.

KEETON

(WTF moment)

Why am I here, Jukka?

SARASTI

To discuss our next move. You should be proud— You’ve made it this far. You’ve EARNED a place: Pawn to Queen player.

KEETON

What move? We can’t even run away with the damage to the carapace. Cunningham’s dead. Luckily, your little room of horrors wasn’t toasted…

SARASTI

No. Unlucky.

KEETON

What?

Why did we wait so long? We can’t even see it now and It’ll annihilate us. If not the plasma array, it’s going to pulverize us with one of those skimmers…

SARASTI

It doesn’t want to.

KEETON

How do you know?

SARASTI

They need to learn things, too. They want us intact. We have better odds.

KEETON (V.O.)

Suddenly my sullen defiance had evaporated. I sounded like a child, frightened and pleading.

KEETON (Cont’d)

Why did we wait so long? Why didn’t we fight earlier? Fight back? The scramblers have been running rings around us since before we got here!

SARASTI (Smiling)

We need to learn things. For next time.

Every dandelion is a clone. Their seeds are legion. You’d have never considered this, Commissar, but maybe…

Maybe it takes more than one try for the placental mammals to conquer Australia.

KEETON

You’re saying we can’t win.

SARASTI

You did good, Keeton. But no,

No. We can’t win.

CU: KEETON.

KEETON has just figured it out.

KEETON

So we just sit here. We just wait to die for the next- the next sixty-eight minutes?

SARASTI

No. You have other things to worry about.

KEETON (V.O.)

But I already knew what was going to happen. We’d just topped up our antimatter reserves. We had weapons, sure, but at this phase, with RORSCHACH transitioning from COVERT to INVULERNABLE we only had one ace in the hole.

And we were, in fact, going to sit here for the next sixty-eight minutes, waiting to die.

But, when we did, we were going to take them with us.

JUKKA SARASTI STARES AT KEETON VACANTLY.

KEETON (V.O.)

I wondered what he saw, looking at me. I wondered if there actually was a Jukka Sarasti behind those eyes to see, if his insights – always ten steps ahead of our own- hailed not so much from superior analytical facilities as from timeworn truth that it takes one to know one.

SARASTI turns back to the tortured faces.

SARASTI

Is Susan afraid of you?

KEETON

Sus- Why should she be?

SARASTI

She has four conscious entities in her head. She’s four times more sentient than you. Doesn’t that make you a threat?

KEETON

No. Of course not, you bloodsuc—

SARASTI

Then why should you feel threatened by me?

KEETON (Loses it)

Why? Maybe because you’re my natural enemy, you fucker. Maybe because I know you. You decided to take us all to hell over this First Contact BULLSHIT; and you can’t even look at one of us without flexing your claws. Maybe because you nearly ripped my fucking hand off and raped me for no good reason–

SARASTI

I can imagine what it’s like. Please don’t make me do it again.

A beat

SARASTI (cont’d)

You can’t see the bigger picture from the vantage point of your BLEEDING-EDGE. You’re just following the instructions fed into your BATTLE-COMPUTER.

KEETON flinches.

SARASTI (cont’d)

You and your race and mine were never on the best of terms. But I do only what you force me to. You rationalize Keeton. You defend. You reject unpalatable truths, and if you can’t reject them outright you trivialize them. Incremental evidence is never enough for you. You hear rumours of holocaust; you dismiss them. You see evidence of genocide; you insist it can’t be so bad. Temperatures rise, glaciers melt- SPECIES EXTINCT – and you blame sunspots and volcanoes. Everyone is like this, but you most of all. You and your Chinese Room, your own private TURING MACHINE. You turn incomprehension into mathematics, you reject the truth without even hearing it first.

KEETON

(Stunned)

Are you saying–

SARASTI

I can’t afford to let the truth trickle through. There’s no time. I can’t give you the chance to shore up your rationales and your defenses. They must fall completely. You must be inundated. Shattered. Genocide is impossible to deny when you’re buried up to your neck in dismembered bodies. You don’t see it coming, but before you know it, the bodies will start accumulating…

KEETON

You played me. All this time. I’d have seen right through it, if you hadn’t made me so involved.

SARASTI

(disappointed)

You might even read it off me directly.

KEETON

That’s why you– I thought that was because we were meat?

SARASTI

That, too. Now, listen. I’m going to tell you a vampire folktale. This is probably the most important anecdote you’ve ever heard.

YOU, SIRI KEETON, who battled SCRAMBLERS.

SARASTI (cont’d)

Listen:

A laser is assigned to find the darkness. Since it lives in a room without doors, or windows, or any other source of light, it thinks this will be easy. But everywhere it turns it sees brightness. Every wall, every piece of furniture it points at is brightly lit. Eventually it concludes there is no darkness. That light is everywhere.

SARASTI (Cont’d)

Your species is like the Dodo before it’s extinction.

KEETON

You seem to forget who re-assembled you for this mission.

SARASTI

(Cont’d)

HA! You’re wrong. But,

By the way,

Amanda is not planning a mutiny.

KEETON

You know about–

SARASTI

I know about everything.

She doesn’t even want to. Ask her if you like.

KEETON

No-I-

SARASTI

You value objectivity. Synthesists can’t have opinions of their own. So when you feel one, it must be someone else’s. Amanda wants me relieved of command. Half of us is you. I think the word is project. Although, lately you improve. Come.

KEETON

Where?

SARASTI (Cont’d)

We’re going to the shuttle bay. Time to do your job.

You’ve earned it.

KEETON

What–? My job?

SARASTI

Survival. The scramblers will be back soon enough. They need samples. RORSCHACH isn’t going to forget YOU.

KEETON

A drone–

SARASTI

You are the drone. Why do you think they picked you?

KEETON

It all comes down to me. I’m a fucking stenographer, and it’s all on me.

SARASTI

Yes. Forgive me for that.

CU:

SARASTI SMILES.

SARASTI (Cont’d)

(truthful)

I don’t know what I’m doing.

KEETON (V.O.)

This is what my father could not unmake. This is what I am: the bridge between the bleeding edge and the dead centre. I stand between the Wizard of Oz and the man behind the curtain. I AM THE CURTAIN.

INT. THESEUS – SARASTI QUARTERS

The FACES have been replaced with statistics.

Conditional sensors display team positions and biometrics.

KEETON POV: CONSENSUS displays that 13… 16… 28… etc SKIMMERS have not reappeared as scheduled.

The screens rapidly display information.

SARASTI CLICKS HIS TONGUE.

SARASTI

(MIND LINK WITH CAPTAIN)

These projections are only probable for twenty-five hours.

Nevertheless they clearly indicate belligerence. Time for the final move.

BATES (O.S.)

We’re naked here. The EM threads wrap BEN like a filamentous cocoon.

KEETON

After Rorschach’s dive, I’d been starting to think the laws of physics didn’t apply…

BATES (O.S.)

(Cont’d)

The trajectories are close enough, though. At least three skimmers will pass within a hundred kilometers on their next orbits…

SARASTI

(To Bates)

Yah. And now you’re going to execute your orders, Amanda. Did you think it would end this way? Did you, or Susan, have any idea?

SARASTI (Cont’d)

Alright, Keeton. TIME TO GO.

SARASTI raises his ANTIEUCYLDIEAN INJECTOR, as though wielding an Aiechulean hand axe.

KEETON stares blankly.

SARASTI

We refit Charybdis while you were sulking.

SARASTI shoots his ANTIEUCYLDIANS

SARASTI (Cont’d)

(Impatient)

We moved the reserve crew down there and set up your Zero-Tau pod.

Time to go. NOW, Siri.

SARASTI PUSHES KEETON out of the CARAPACE and into the CDA.

KEETON grabs onto a BULKHEAD and stops himself.

KEETON (V.O.)

He had it entirely rationalized. And he was right. I had no idea until after… just how right he was.

INT. THESEUS – CARAPACE DOCKING ASSEMBLY.

The lights are low. There are GRUNTS everywhere, patrolling at each bulkhead.

KEETON & SARASTI move aft, towards the SPINE.

INT. THESEUS – THE SPINE

KEETON and SARASTI enter the SPINE from the CARAPACE DOCKING ASSEMBLY and continue aft.

There are six grunts in the spine.

More join them.

KEETON POV: KEETON grabs a support as THESEUS SHUDDERS.

THE SPINE IS EXTENDING in front of Keeton & Sarasti.

SARASTI

We’re increasing the the size of the battlefield.

Come.

BATES (O.S.)

Break-

SARASTI turns to a nearby TERMINAL

SARASTI clicks his tongue.

BATES (O.S.)

(Cont’d)

ETA?

SARASTI

Optical only. Ignore Keeton’s feed. He doesn’t have time… anyway in half an hour he’ll be hundreds of thousands of kilometres away from this insanity. Sanity?

SARASTI (Cont’d)

INSANITY. No Time. Time.

SARASTI grabs KEETON by the leg and literally drags him aft.

A HOVERING DISPLAY follows them, showing SKIMMERS moving away from their standard orbit.

THESEUS SHUDDERS.

Int. THESEUS – THE SPINE

The GRUNTS instantly cling to the walls.

KEETON and SARASTI fall downward, towards the FABRICATION BAY.

THESEUS SHUDDERS AS THE TWIN FUSION THRUSTERS BURN

THE PASSIVE YELLOW LIGHTING SWITCHES TO ALARMING RED

KLAXONS BLARE

SARASTI AND KEETON fall against the wall of the spine, clinging to BULKHEADS as THESEUS ACCELERATES.

SARASTI grabs hold of Keeton, easily holding him with one hand despite the Gs of acceleration: Keeton weighs at least 200 kilograms as a result.

SARASTI

BATES? JAMES? DO YOU COP—

SARASTI loses his grip on KEETON. SOMETHING IS WRONG.

KEETON grabs hold of the wall.

KEETON POV: SARASTI is having a seizure. SARASTI FOAMS AT THE MOUTH AND MAKES NONSENSICAL SOUNDS.

His eyes are WIDE OPEN.

KEETON POV: SARASTI is above KEETON, screeching uncontrollably.

SUDDENLY AN UNFAMILIAR VOICE CUTS IN COVERING ALL CHANNELS

CAPTAIN (Everywhere)

Susan James has barricaded herself in the bridge and shut down autonomic overrides. She has initiated an unauthorized burn. I have begun a controlled reactor shutdown; be advised that the main drive will be offline for at least twenty-seven minutes.

Sarasti lets go of the wall rungs.

He is falling towards the FABRICATION BAY BULKHEAD

THE SHIP changes direction, the occupants becoming WIEGHTLESS

SARASTI bounces gently off the bulkhead at the base of the spine.

CAPTAIN (Everywhere)

REACTOR OFFLINE

KEETON lets go and pushes towards SARASTI.

 

KEETON (V.O.)

Bates should have been linked into the grunts, they should have leapt forward at the first sign of trouble.

The drones should have been dragging Sarasti to the infirmary…

KEETON

(Faces the nearest GRUNT)

Are you autonomous? Do you take verbal orders?

The grunt ignores Keeton.

The alarm, FLASHING RED but SILENT

BECOMES A BLAZING KLAXON.

KEETON

(Deafened)

What the FUCK?

KEETON grabs SARASTI and tries to move him.

SARASTI struggled against KEETON and flies off up the spine.

KEETON POV: KEETON’s CONSENSUS DISPLAYS shows BIG BEN inset.

RORSCHACH APPEARS, moving into space.

KEETON

(Deafened)

Oh fuck.

THESEUS LURCHES.

THE LIGHTS FLICKER.

KEETON is HIT FROM BEHIND as the he falls against a BULKHEAD.

THE KLAXONS GO SILENT.

CAPTAIN

(Everywhere)

Backups engaged.

KEETON

Captain?! Sarasti’s down! Bates isn’t— What do I do?

KEETON pushes off and moves up the spine towards SARASTI.

CAPTAIN

(Everywhere)

Nav offline. Starboard afferents offline.

THE LIGHTS GO DARK

CU: KEETON BREATHING

THE LIGHTS COME BACK

KEETON

(Whispers)

Captain…

KEETON moves to SARASTI

KEETON PUSHES SARASTI towards the BIOMED DRUM.

The ship shudders.

EXT. Theseus

ATTITUDE JETS FIRING.

RORSCHACH in the background, FIRING PLASMA

INT. THESEUS – THE SPINE

KEETON pushes Sarasti up the Spine.

BATES (O.S.)

Strap in, people! We are getting OUT of here!

SUSAN JAMES (O.S.)

SOMEBODY start the goddamned reactor! we’ve only got attitude jets up here!

KEETON

Susan? Sascha? Who is in command?

KEETON moves to open the BIOMED DRUM access hatch.

A DRONE TURNS TO FACE KEETON.

IT MOVES QUICKLY TOWARDS SARASTI

KEETON MANUALLY OPENS THE BIOMED DRUM HATCH, STRAINING.

Int. BIOMED DRUM – HATCH

REVERSE ANGLE:

DEBRIS FLY EVERYWHERE. MISSION ELEMENTS, MEDICAL INSTRUMENTS, CULINARY IMPLEMENTS etc

THE LIGHTS ARE FLASHING YELLOW AND RED

KEETON CLINGS TO THE HATCHWAY.

KEETON POV: SARASTI floats beside Keeton.

There is no feed from CONSENSUS

THE INCOMMING DRONE STOPS NEXT TO SARASTI.

CU: IT STABS SARASTI IN THE SKULL WITH AN INSTRUMENT RESEMBLING AN ICEPICK

Ext. BIG BEN – THE BATTLE

RORSCHACH rises from BIG BEN’s troposphere.

The SKIMMERS orbiting BIG BEN appear around RORSCHACH,

HURLED BY ELECTROMAGNETIC WHIPS THE SKIMMERS FLY AT THESEUS

INT. THESEUS – THE SPINE

HELL BREAKS LOSE.

THESEUS MANUEVERS TO AVOID THE SKIMMERS

KEETON clings to the wall of the spine.

THE CORPSE OF SARASTI floats nearby.

Grunts line the corridor, armed to the teeth

The Drone responsible for Sarasti’s death has withdrawn and is now inactive.

BATES (O.S.)

Keeton! Are you alive?

KEETON

You killed him?

Bates emerges from the Drum accessway.

She wields a MICROWAVE PISTOL and is wearing a powerful headlamp.

The light floods the room.

BATES

No. Who do you think shut the drone down, Keeton?

I’d say he went rouge, but at this point— Stay clear of the hatch, unless you’re going through. I’ve got the drones on optical line of sight.

The drones manoeuvre into tactical positions around the spine.

SARASTI floats nearby.

BATES (Cont’d)

Better. They should stay in line now, assuming we don’t get hit with anything too much stronger.

KEETON

What is hitting us?

BATES

Lightning, EMP. Plasma. RORSCHACH’s scared. You copy that, warrior? TERRIFIED.

BATES

(Cont’d)

Rorschach’s putting out one hell of a charge and every time one of those skimmers pass between us they arc…

KEETON

What, at this range?

BATES

We’re on an uncontrolled burn. We’re inbound. We’re getting out of the game alright. I mean… Keeton. I want you to remember this moment.

THIN SMILE from BATES.

KEETON

Captain said she was trying to escape…

BATES

She fucked up. Or someone else took control. I don’t know, but it sure as shit wasn’t the Scramblers.

KEETON

The Captain couldn’t have fucked up-

Not by that much. She couldn’t have.

BATES

(Distant)

… I think there’s someone new in there now. Bunch of submodules wired together and woke up somehow, I don’t know. But whatever’s in charge, I think it’s just panicking.

A beat

KEETON

I saw something before CONSENSUS failed… was that…?

BATES

Yeah. Rorscach is sending the cavalry.

Ext. BIG BEN – THE BATTLE

RORSCHACH spews forth hundreds, thousands, of SCRAMBLERS towards THESEUS.

CU: THE SCRAMBLERS WIELD AN ASORTMENT OF WEAPONARY

KEETON (V.O.)

I’d seen scramblers. Hundreds of them, sailing naked through the void, their arms spread wide.

BATES

They’re already on the hull. We’re engaging.

First wave headed for the front end. Blister and forward airlock. Second wave’s aft. I would have done it the other way around.

INT. THESEUS – THE SPINE

KEETON clings to the wall of the spine.

KEETON

What do I do?

SILENCE

A HAND GRABS KEETON FROM BEHIND.

KEETON POV: KEETON, with no CONSENSUS, turns around to see-

SARASTI

UNDEAD, pulling him closer.

KEETON

Christ–

BATES

Go with him, Siri.

SARASTI CLICKS AND GRUNTS: BLOOD DRIPPING FROM THE WOUND TO HIS CRANIUM

BATES (Cont’d)

NOW, that’s an order. We’ll cover you.

Good luck, Soldier. Siri Keeton: warrior. Who could imagine— You’ll get the Medal of HONOUR for this.

KEETON

Please, come with me.

BATES (distant)

No.

KEETON

You tried to stop this, Amanda. I know you tried. There’s still time to get out-

You and Susan, please. Amanda… They can fight better without you, you said that yourself.

BATES

Can’t leave yourself a back door. Defeats the whole purpose. You’ll understand eventually, Siri.

BATES (Cont’d)

They’ve breached. Go.

Bates dives back through the hatchway

INT. THESEUS – THE SPINE

THE ALARM SYSTEM RETURNS TO VOLUME

THE ENTIRE SPINE IS BATHED IN OSCILATING LIGHT and NOISE.

KEETON POV: The DRUM ACCESS HATCH CLOSES behind Bates, locking shut.

SARASTI reaches out and grabs keeton.

SARASTI, SURROUNDED WITH BATTLE DRONES, PULLS KEETON DOWN THE SPINE.

SARASTI grabs a HANDPAD digital instrument off the bulkhead.

KEETON (V.O.)

But it wasn’t Sarasti at all. It was the Captain – Whatever was left of the Captain. Just commandeering another peripheral interface. The nanoattack from the Drone maxillipeds had dissolved Sarasti’s hard-connect…

SARSTI TYPES ONE-HANDED on the HANDPAD.

THE SHIP SHUDDERS AS THE TRANSLATION THRUSTERS FIRE

INT. THESEUS – THE SPINE

KEETON & SARASTI float side by side as BATTLE DRONES move through THE SPINE.

KEETON

Why did you kill him?

CU: SARASTI DRAWS ON THE HANDPAD:

SEIZNG. CLDNT CNTRL.

SRRY ABOUT SZPINDEL AND CUNNINGHAM.

REALLY.

U GO,

Keeton and Sarasti stop at the entrance to the Shuttle docking bay. Sarasti leaves his Battle Drones behind and pushes Keeton into Shuttle bay.

INT. THESEUS – SHUTTLE DOCKS

THERE ARE TWO COLEOPTER class shuttles docked.

UNDEAD SARASTI enters the shuttle bay, following Keeton.

JAMES (As Sascha) (O.S.)

It’s glorious, Siri. Tell them, if there’s anyone left, tell them about this—!

KEETON

Sascha… Amanda…

JAMES (As ISAAC SPZINDEL) (O.S.)

Get out of here, Keeton! We’re taking them with us!

KEETON

Michelle… Issac…

SUSAN JAMES (SUSAN JAMES) (O.S.)

We’ve got this Keeton. Theseus manoeuvres better once we jettison the shuttles. Our Scrambler friends with their cryptograms and Plasma array bullshit are about to get a lesson in physics. You better be inside one of those shuttles in thirty seconds or Earth will be seeing tiny pieces of you through telescopes around Tau Ceti.

KEETON POV: THE SHUTTLE LOCK CLEARS, THE HATCH OPENS

Int. THESEUS SHUTTLE BAY – CHARYBDIS

The shuttle interior has been re-fitted, containing the ZERO TAU Pods of the reserve crew.

And one open pod for KEETON.

From inside the shuttle CHARYBDIS; we see Keeton and SARASTI.

UNDEAD SARASTI PUSHES KEETON INTO THE SHUTTLE.

KEETON

Was it ever him? Tell me. Did he ever speak for himself? Did he decide anything on his own?

CU: SARASTI WRITES ON HIS HANDPAD:

GO.

KEETON

Were we ever following his orders, or was it just you all along?

CU: SARASTI WRITES ON HIS HANDPAD:

U DISLIKE ORDERS FRM MCHNES. HAPPIER THS WAY.

SARASTI drops the handpad and pushes KEETON into HIS ZERO TAU pod.

HE RELEASES KEETON.

UNDEAD SARASTI FLOATS BACK INTO THESEUS and is gone.

The hatch closes and locks.

CU: KEETON IS STRAPPED INTO HIS ZERO TAU POD.

Drugs are administered.

INT. THESEUS – SHUTTLE BAY

THE SHUTTLE BAY IS EMPTY

SARASTI’s BLOOD FLOATS FROZEN IN THE AIR.

ALARM LIGHTS BLAZE INSANLEY.

BATTLE DRONES FLY PAST SILENTLY.

CU: THE CLOSED ACCESS HATCH TO CHARYBDIS.

Int. CHARYBDIS – COCKPIT

KEETON POV: CONSENSUS INLAYS STABALIZE

KEETON CAN SEE EVERYTHING, THE FEEDS FROM SUSAN JAMES, AMANDA BATES, JUKKA SARASTI…

EXT. BIG BEN – THE BATTLE

RORSCHACH DRAWING THESEUS IN.

INT. CHARYBDIS – COCKPIT

CHARYBDIS is moving.

Ext. THESEUS – SHUTTLE-BAY

THE SHUTTLE ESCAPE SYSTEM CYCLES: BOTH SHUTTLES EGRESS

SCYLIA & CHARYBDIS DROP AWAY FROM THESEUS AND FIRE THEIR LOCKHEED MICROFUSION THRUSTERS

Int. THESEUS SHUTTLE – Bay

The Shuttle bay is empty

EXT. BIG BEN – CHARYBDIS

THE SHUTTLE ACCELERATES AWAY FROM THESEUS

AND TOWARDS SOL & EARTH; a single distant point of light.

EXT. BIG BEN – THE BATTLE

THESEUS accelerates TOWARDS RORSCHACH,

DRONES ATTACHED TO THE HULL AND THE REMAINS OF THE CARAPACE

THE DRONES FIRE MASERS INTERCEPTING RORCHACH’s DEBRIS ATTACKS

THESEUS MANEUVERS PAST A PLASMA ATTACK

EXT. BIG BEN – RORSCHACH.

BIG BEN’S ELECTROMAGNETIC FIELD Shrouds EVERYTHING.

THESEUS IS A DART SHOT STRAIGHT TOWARDS RORSCHACH.

KEETON (V.O.)

I had more in common with Sarasti than I did with any other human. Even Helen, even Szpindel- living as a surrogate in the mind of Susan James. For them those final moments must have lasted forever.

But Sarasti was still a predator, and we were prey. I don’t pity the Vampire. I can’t miss Jukka Sarasti, who died doing his duty. We were Allies. IN THE END ALL THAT MATTERED WAS THE ALLIANCE. He saved my life, he showed me my own humanity: out here with the Scramblers and freaks.

I’m human again.

Int. Theseus – Final moments:

SEQUENCE of INT. SHOTS:

THE CAPTAIN’s Drones battling with Scramblers, in a NEVER ENDING MELEE as

Undead Sarasti

DRAWS HIS FREAKWIRE AND battles Scramblers alongside a phalanx of drones in hand-to-hand combat, others firing MASERS, PLASMA, MOVING INTO HAND TO HAND MELEE.

Susan James and Amanda Bates controlling Theseus, PILOTS THE SHIP DIRECTLY INTO Rorschach

SUSAN JAMES,

Torch is on exhaustion burn, the fusion reactor is generating over 3 million degrees. Accelerating at 2g… 3g… Fifteen seconds to impact.

SUSAN JAMES (as SASCHA),

(Cont’d)

Telemetry went with CONSENSUS;

The Carapace has been totally destroyed.

SUSAN JAMES (As MICHELLE)

(Sorrowful)

Ten, nine, eight…

THE CAPTAIN

They attack again.

The shuttle-bay has been destroyed.

BATES

(Strained)

There’s scramblers crawling along the walls.

We’re venting atmosphere–

SUSAN JAMES

(Dieing)

We’re on a terminal trajectory closing with Rorschach at Mach 37… accelerating at 4G… 6G…

Can’t take this acceleration, Amanda, if you’re going—

AMANDA BATES (Cont’d)

(Strained)

Do it.

Release the antimatter containment–

DO IT.

….

(beat)

INT. CHARYBDIS – COCKPIT

KEETON POV, looking through Charybdis’ viewscreen: THESEUS VANISHES BEHIND BIG BEN AND IS GONE.

KEETON (V.O.)

(Cont’d)

That’s why I’m still alive. Theseus sent everything it could until the last microsecond. Every recorded moment of hand-to-hand combat, all the moves and all the vectors. I have that telemetry. I can break it down into any number of shapes, continuous or discrete. I can transform the topology rotate it and compress it and serve it up in dialects that any ally might be able to use. We’re going to need our Allies now, more than ever. Sarasti was right- The game is just beginning: perhaps some of it was vital. We had more in common than I thought. And now MY game is over, and a single pawn stands on the scorched board and its face is human after all.

Maybe the last human.

I can’t tell you, one way or the other…

You’ll just have to imagine you’re Siri Keeton.

KEETON drops his head, as his Zero-Tau pod goes opaque.

Expand from KEETON’s POV, showing the three additional ZERO-TAU pods.

CU: SURVIVORS:

RESERVE CREW – LINGUIST

RESERVE CREW – MILITARY ADVISOR

To the final pod labeled:

RESERVE CREW – MISSION SUBCOMMANDER

PUSH past the OPAQUE POD WINDOW.

INSIDE IS JUKKA SARASTI, smiling back.

FADE TO BLACK.

IN THE BACKGROUND WE HEAR THE TACTICAL DATA STREAM FROM THE LAST MOMENTS.

SUSAN JAMES (As SZPINDEL)

(V.O.)

We’re history.

We fall along an endless parabola, all gravity and inertia…

SARASTI (V.O.)

There is no end. It’s a bottomless spiral

THE END

Credits roll

Human After All / Together / One More Time (Reprise) / Music Sounds Better With You (Stardust)

1 Peter Watts, Blindsight, Tom Doherty Associates, LLC. New York: 2006 p 162