[[Some of the action takes place in virtual
environments. These virtual environments should be
clearly adapted to their purpose. The call center
should have minimal distractions, low light and subdued
colour, an atmosphere of focus and concentration, just
a suggestion of large numbers of fellow workers
beavering away., part of a competitive team. It has no
day or night character. The peronal entertainment
virtual environments should be brighter and more
vividly coloured, the sound more forward, textures more
intense -fantasy dreamworlds ]]
\SC INT DAY THE CALL CENTRE
Frank is sitting at a desk in a dimly lit virtual call
center with other desks and their operators vaguely visible
in front and to the side. Assessments of his performance are
displayed as bright numbers and characters floating at his
eye level in front of him, together with details of the
Am I speaking to Mrs Deirdre
Display: Warmth, 37% Conviction, 31%, P appeal 21% Prob 14%.
FEMALE CLIENT O.S.
Who wants to know?
(with forced enthusiasm)
I have an exclusive offer here for
a Mrs Deirdre Watson - from City
Consumer Protection Services. Am I
speaking to Deirdre now?
Display: Warmth 41% Conviction 42% Phys Appeal 26% Prob 16%
There is a click of disconnection.
The bottom of the virtual display then shows his average
conversion rate in red as -17. FRANK glances to his right as
he waits for the system to make an active link. He can see a
young and attractive girl in profile next to him, perhaps
half looking in his direction across the narrow space
between the dimly lit desks, at the same time brushing her
long dark hair away from her eyes with her left hand. She
catches his eye, seeming to know him, and gives him a shy
smile before turning quickly back to work.Frank smiles back.
Frank's retinal display lights up strongly with new client
Am I speaking to Mr Anton Hardacre?
Montage of Frank's calls to establish work over some hours.
From time to time a client's face floats in front of him in
the darkness, but mostly we see just the vague, dim
environment of the call centre with his scores superimposed
There are no positive client responses and Frank is clearly
losing any belief or enthusiasm, both in his voice and in
himself. His scores for tone go down and his average
conversion rate drifts steadily downward. On reaching -20 it
starts to blink from red to yellow.
He looks round again but the girl has gone and in her place
there is just a vague, anonymous, apparently male head
looking at nothing but the inline data on his retinas, no
different from the row upon row of dimly visible heads bent
over their call-desks on all sides, receding to suggestions
of shadowy lines in the darkened spaces of the centre.
The data readout showed 150 minutes remaining, counting
down. His scores drift lower, conviction down to the 20s. He
squeezes his eyes shut, refocuses on the info, takes a deep
breath and mentally clicks the next connection. A low buzz
can be heard behind the conversation.
Am I speaking to Mr. Josephus
MALE CLIENT O.S.
(A high-pitched, fluting
This is he.
Display: scores drift lower
The interfering low buzz in the background resolves itself
into another voice, insectlike, faint but comprehensible.
...the 6 and 7 hundred series are
compromised and fail-safe legacy
systems appear to be locked out"
(struggling to ignore
Mr Saccary, I have a personalised
special offer for you from Fortress
Home Security and Defense."
The mystery voice continues as a background buzz when anyone
Display: 'Conviction 22' and a downward arrow hihlighted
MYSTERY VOICE O.S.
extending to bespoke systems based
on the same family architecture...
MALE CLIENT O.S.
I am not in the habit of responding
to cold calling
F18 flashes up alone on retinal display
MYSTERY VOICE O.S.
...which are almost universal in
infrastructure maintenance and
Fortress are making this individual
offer based on your unique profile
and reputation, Mr Saccary."
MYSTERY VOICE O.S.
..means imminent shutdown in
targeted, mainly public, areas of
the power grid..
A click and the mystery voice stops.
MALE CLIENT O.S.
I don't wish to appear rude, but I
find that hard to believe.
Displa: only F12 very bright
"They are offering a 45% discount."
Display:conviction drops to 12% and F score fades out.
A click of disconnection
Dispay: F disappears, conversion rate dropping to -26 and
blinking between red and greyed out.
Frank shows signs of despair.
Series of shots
The next details come up with a click. Frank struggles on
through his shift, making calls, his scores drifting ever
lower. Every calls is disconnected while Frank is still
speaking. No positive outcomes. Frank shows increasing panic
in voice and movement, voice sounding strained and breathy,
body restless and sweaty, expression increasingly disturbed.
Display: We regret that we are unable to offer you further
sessions at this time. We will keep your details on our
records for future reference. You are responsible for the
equipment which will be collected by an agent. Thank you for
being part of the Mutual Benefit family.
[[This is a transition from virtual to real world,
first viewed from Frank's point of view]]
The retinal display winks out. The surrounding desks,
operators and the call centre itself fade out and are
replaced by a grey background with a large gold 3D logo of
MUTUAL BENEFIT. This fades and is replaced by a faint glow.
SCENE INT DAY FRANK'S FLAT
We see part of Frank's small living-room from his point of
view, white walls, blank screen, pale floor. and then Frank
sitting at a small table, wearing a VR headset. He
disengages from the set, carefully puts down the set on the
table, screws up his eyes and rubs them.
Shit shit shit!
Frank picks up VR set and examines it briefly
Not wasting any time, the bastards
- powered the set down completely.
(speaking to the room
Channel 13 on.
Frank looks expectantly at a large screen on the wall.
Screen on - Channel 13.
Frank gets up, crosses to screen and touches screen to bring
up controls. Nothing happens. He locates a physical on/off
button and presses several times. Nothing happens.
Main light on. Environment warm
summer evening. Orchard view.
Frank waits for the lights and environmental controls but
No power? Don't tell me there's a
fucking power cut as well! It
feels cold in here.
Frank tries the physical light switch but nothing happens.
I must have credit- from that last
session. Access bank account.
A retinal display, similar to the score displays in the
virtual call centre, comes up, appearing to float at Frank's
"Insufficient Credit. Emergency services only."
Comms status please.
Retinal display: 'You are now offline'. Frank looks around
the small, plainly furnished room in despair.
No power, no comms. I thought that
only happened to convicted cyber
terrorists. How am I supposed to
contact the bank? I'll have to find
a branch. No idea where that is.
Frank shivers. He stands in confusion, wondering what to do.
He makes a decision, crosses to the door and puts on a coat.
He is about to go out when he has an idea and crosses to the
small kitchen area of the room, opens cupboard, finds a
packet of biscuits, examines it and puts it in his pocket.
He returns to the door and is about to leave when he sees
the display on the door control panel.
DEFAULT SECURITY MODE.
Bugger! No power outside either.
How will I get back in?
After some hesitation he goes to the table, picks up the
virtual set and puts it in a small backpack that was by the
door. He puts on the backpack. He goes to the door, opens it
and watches carefully as it closes. It swings shut with a
resounding and permanent double click. He looks around the
room for something he can use to prop the door open, sees
nothing, goes into small bathroom alcove, finds nail
clippers, goes to the door, opens the door and tries to
insert clippers under the door. There isn't room.
He goes outside the flat and tries jamming the almost closed
door on the lever of the clippers. This appears to work,
though the powerful closing mechanism threatens to push the
clippers out of the way. He keeps his hand on the door as it
closes and then very carefully and gently lets it go. The
door stays very slightly ajar. He experiments with opening
and closing it - it seems to be a stable arrangement. He
leaves the door jammed open just a crack, the front of the
clipper lever only visible on close inspection.
SCENE EXT DAY THE CORRIDOR/BALCONY AND STAIRS OF THE BLOCK
Frank walks away from the door of the flat along the
external corridor/balcony of the block. He stops frequently
and looks back to check how the door looks. From nearby the
door looks a little different from the other doors but from
further along the corridor it doesn't look obviously open.
Frank is clearly very anxious about the arrangement.
A drone arrives up the stairs, flies to a neighbor's door,
hovers, waiting, the door opens, the drone drops a packet
inside, retreats, flies off, the door closes. Frank arrives
at the lift. There is a notice on the lift doors.
"The lifts are operating on backup battery power and are
only available for ascents to floors 10 and above (except
for blue badge holders)."
Frank sighs and starts down the stairs, which are bare,
concrete, drafty and cold. He shivers again.
SCENE EXT DAY SEARCHING FOR THE BANK
Series of shots
Frank walking along various deserted minor city streets,
finding his way to Main Street. A cold, grey day with a
chill breeze - bits of refuse blowing about. He has to
retrace his steps once or twice, apparently not sure of
direction. He arrives at the main road and follows that
confidently down to the junction with Main Street with shops
and cafes, but it is also very quiet, almost nobody about,
many places closed or boarded up.
He hesitates, unsure which way to go. The wind is colder
here and he shivers. He shrugs and chooses right or left at
random. He walks on looking for a bank branch. After a while
he notices the shops and cafes have disappeared, replaced by
office and apartment blocks. He decides he must be going the
wrong way and turns back. It begins to rain. He retraces his
steps and starts to go the other way up Main Street.
Eventually he recognizes the bank's logo displayed among
those of four other banks above a single frontage on the
other side of Main Street.
He approaches the doors. There is a screen without power
with a number of buttons with different bank names under it.
A faded notice below reads
SELECT YOUR BANK AND ENTER YOUR ACCOUNT NUMBER WHEN PROMPTED
ON THE DISPLAY.
Frank examines the screen and door. He finds a notice giving
opening times for five different banks in alphabetical
order. His bank, Mutual, is open Wednesday 9.30 - 12.00.
Typical. Only open on Wednesday
morning. What's open today? Only
At the bottom of the notice is this statement.
"If your bank is not open remember that all transactions can
now be carried out in virtual environments online."
Unless you have no fucking comms
because the fucking bank has
cancelled all your fucking credit.
Frank looks at the panel buttons and presses the First
National button. Nothing happens.
Frank goes right up to the door and looks hopelesly at it.
It has a large decorative brass handle on the outide. Frank
shoves it angrily. There is a click and the door swings
No security! What's going on?
SCENE INT DAY IN THE BANK
There is only a small space inside with one empty counter
facing him and an open door behind it. There are cameras
above the counter but they seem dead. Frank looks around,
confused. He coughs to attract attention. Nothing happens.
Excuse me! Hello!
Through this door comes a rather surprised-looking and
flustered young man, wearing a winter coat and with some of
his hair disarranged and on end.
What can First National do for you
sir - something that cannot be done
online? May I have your account
I'm afraid I'm not a customer of
First National. I need to contact
Mutual urgently. My credit has been
blocked - so I've no other way of
getting in touch with them.
Strictly speaking,sir, you
shouldn't be on the premises - the
security arrangements, I'm afraid.
How did you get in?
The door was open.
Oh of course the power cut.
Still,sir, I'm afraid Mutual is not
What am I supposed to do? I can't
wait until next Wednesday. I have
no access to heating or even water.
Ah! Possibly you haven't had the
most recent updates about the power
outages. Technical problems, they
say. That's why it's freezing in
He pauses, takes in Frank's disturbed state and seems
genuinely friendly in his next remarks.
In view of the emergency I think I
could get away with arranging
virtual contact with Mutual for you
- then it would be up to you.
(surprised and relieved)
That's very kind of you. Thank you.
If you'll just sit down at the
table over there, sir, I'll bring
you a set already connected to
their account queries center and
let you get on with it. On
Wednesdays I am a Mutual Benefit
Bank employee after all."
Frank sits down, thoughtful. The young man returns with a
Sorry to keep you waiting. Looking
for one with a charged battery.
Lucky we have a dedicated line.
What's going on with these power
They seem to affect public areas,
not residential - supposed to be
rotated district by district but I
hear they're pretty random. I'll
help you hook up.
The bank employee makes sure the contacts are all properly
paced on Frank's head and switches on.
[[Change to virtual environment]]
The scene fades out and is replaced by a neutral screen. A
3D looking logo of Western Banking appears.
SCENE INT DAY MUTUAL BENEFIT BANK VIRTUAL HEAD OFFICE
The logo fades and Frank finds himself in Western's virtual
environment, an impressive space, all marble floors and
columns. He is faced by a wide line of tables, stretching
away into the distance, each with an adviser sitting on the
far side. All the chairs on the client side are occupied
except the one immediately in front of him. The adviser
sitting there gestures to him to sit down.
How can I help you, Mr. Khan?
You have my details?
Oh yes, sir. Your digital signature
is unambiguous once you are
I appear to have no credit - none
at all. I can't even unlock my own
Just a moment, sir, while I see
what's going on with your account.
Frank looks around at the other clients and advisers.
Ah, I see the situation. You are
temporarily unemployed, isn't that
Yes, but I should have credit from
my last work session at least.
Unfortunately that payment hasn't
been remitted yet.
Apparently Mutual Benefit Services
are waiting for the return of
valuable equipment before they
They said they would send an agent
round to collect it.
I'm sure they will. With the
present power interruptions things
can easily get delayed.
Can't the bank give me a temporary
loan - I mean the money is there,
I'm sorry Mr. Khan, considering
your employment status and lack of
collateral, bank policy would
Even though the money is just
delayed - that doesn't seem fair.
The bank has no way of knowing if
the equipment will be returned or
whether it is intact and your
resources might prove insufficient
to service a loan even if your last
payment did come through in full.
The bank has to act responsibly.
What am I supposed to do in the
All you can do, I'm afraid, is to
wait for Mutual Benefit Services to
pick up the equipment and release
the payment. It shouldn't be long.
Frank looks round at the other clients in the lines of
virtual desks receding to his left and right until they are
just a blurred suggestion. He thinks he recognizes the
half-obscured profile of the adviser three desks away to his
right as the girl he knew from the call center. As if
sensing his eyes upon her she half turns, brushing her hair
away from her cheek, seems to catch his eye and gives him a
trace of a smile, before turning back to her client - an
exact repeat of her behavior in the virtual call center.
Is there anything else we can help
What about my comms and net access?
Surely I should have some credit
Your comms credit plan is synced to
your income schedule, I'm afraid.
All credit expires at the end of
the payment period.
That seems outrageous.
It's standard practice, Mr Khan.
Your comms and net credit will be
renewed once your last payment is
cleared. Was there anything else -
there are other clients waiting and
you are past the time limit for
I think it's time I changed banks.
That's your choice, Mr Khan - but
finding a bank willing to open an
account for you may prove difficult
without an income stream. Is there
anything else we can help you with?
Else? What do you mean 'anything
else'? You haven't helped me with
anything at all. Thanks for
Frank looks to his right and tries to get a clearer view of
the girl but she is busy with her client and the intervening
pillar means he can see only her nose, mouth and forehead in
profile - enough for recognition though.
Thank you for contacting Mutual
[[change from virtual to actual]]
The adviser and the pillared environment fade, replaced by a
list of options and the Western option on a uniform grey
SCENE INT DAY BACK IN THE HIGH STREET BANK
From Frank's point of view the screen goes to black and the
table and bank employee fade in. The employee is standing
The young employee is obviously waiting for the head set.
Frank begins to disconnect but then stops and sits slumped
in the chair for a moment. He starts to disconnect again and
the employee helps remove the contacts and collects the set.
Were they helpful?
They said that my last employer was
withholding my pay until they got
the headset back and they couldn't
give me any credit. Thanks for
trying to help though.
Who were you working for, if you
don't mind my asking?
Mutual Benefit Services - bastards.
Oh dear, bank and employer the same
- and they're one of the biggest.
They can do what they like really.
So they haven't collected the set?
No, that's why I'm here.
Very high quality equipment, their
stuff. No surprise they want it
back. Worth a lot - quite a black
market in it.
Really? How much are they worth?
Two or three thousand, depending on
the model. They're easy to
liberate, ideal for Kosmos 2 and
the other top VR environments.
I'd better get back. My room isn't
secure and somebody from Mutual may
come for the set.
You didn't leave it there I hope?
No, certainly not.
(looking at backpack)
You've got it in there?
Why do you ask?
Very wise if you have, that's all I
was thinking. Do you mind my asking
how much time they owe you for?
Just a full session.
Ironic really - you'd get many
times more by selling it.
Yes, and probably never work again
and end up in prison.
You'd be really unlucky. Their
stuff is always fully insured and
they don't often prosecute - costs
them too much.
I must go. Thank you again for
trying to help.
I hope things sort themselves out
for you. As you can imagine, I'm
not exactly busy here - your visit
has been the high point of my week
Frank leaves the little bank.
SCENE EXT DAY CITY STREETS
Series of shots.
Frank returns to his room. The streets he walks through are
again almost deserted. The shops and cafes on the High
Street are unlit and many are closed. The weather remains
SCENE INT DAY CORRIDOR OUTSIDE FRANK'S ROOM
Frank arrives at the top of the stairs out of breath. He
looks anxiously along the corridor towards his door. The
door appears closed from this distance but it is too far
away to be certain. As Frank walks closer it becomes obvious
that it is fully closed and there is something lying on the
floor just outside. It is the nail clippers. Frank picks up
the clippers and throws them violently along the corridor.
Oh shit! Fuck it. How did that
There is no keyhole or handle on the door but a small number
panel and a scanner. Frank looks at the eye of the scanner
on the door. He enters a number on the panel. Nothing
There should be a backup power
supply. How am I going to get back
He hits the door savagely, hurting his hand, then stands
there at a loss.
To hell with them!
Frank sets off at speed towards the stairs, picks up the
clippers on his way and disappears down the stairs.
SCENE INT DAY INSIDE THE LITTLE BANK
Frank comes in, wet and cold. After a short wait the Bank
Employee enters, again as if he has been interrupted in
Oh hello, sir. Do you wish to try
your bank again?
No, I don't think so. I can't see
How can I help then?
I am not sure you can, the messs
I'm in - I am locked out of my flat
and still no credit.
Locked out? Oh, I see - a
combination of lack of credit and
the power cuts I suppose - though
I'm surprised your flat should be
Well it is. Nothing's working
properly. There was a weird
misrouted call in the background
while I was in the Virtual Call
Center. Whoever it was was going on
about something wrong with all the
systems running stuff like power-
like a virus or something - except
he said it was targeted. Sounded
like a very worried IT specialist.
And in the middle of all this chaos
Mutual is still stopping all my
credit because they haven't got
their precious VR crap back. Is it
really worth as much as you said?
Oh yes, I should think so.
Depending on the model and who's
buying of course.
So there really is a market for
Perhaps we could discuss this
somewhere more private. Would you
like to come back into my excuse
for an office?
Oh, ok, thank you.
The bank employee leads Frank into the back of the little
bank, behind the counter. They disappear through a door.
SCENE INT DAY LITTLE BANK INNER OFFICE
The Bank Employee comes into the office and hastily gathers
up a VR set lying on his desk and puts it onto a shelf
containing many others. Frank follows him in. There is only
one chair and the little office is very small. They remain
This is my little domain - sorry
it's so sordid and there's so
little room. Take the chair - you
probably need it.
Thank you. I am a bit frazzled.
Frank takes off his backpack and coat and sits down.
My name is Derek. I don't really
need to know yours - hope you won't
be offended. So you're interested
in the market in used VR sets
How did you come to be locked out?
The door wouldn't have let me back
in without any power from inside or
out so I left it jammed slightly
open. Somebody unjammed it.
Mmm, actually that could be useful.
They might accuse you of negligence
I suppose but in the circumstances
you had little choice. Obviously
anyone could have gone in and
stolen the set.
Wouldn't they ask why I didn't take
it with me?
You could say you were worried that
you would be suspected of stealing
it. Actually the police might well
assume it was stolen if they found
it on you.
And they're fully insured?
Oh yes. It's the insurance company
that might investigate but you
should be all right.
So what next?
Could I have a look at it?
Oh er yes, of course.
Frank opens his backpack, takes out the VR set and hands it
to Derek. Derek examines it carefully and gives it back.
A Kosmo3 - very nice.
What's it worth?
Look, I can put you in touch with
someone. I can't say what they will
offer but I think it's actually
worth nearly 3000. Do you want me
to call someone? You can always
OK, go ahead,I don't owe the
BRAZIL STYLE CARNIVAL EXT DAY
[[THIS SCENE IS IN VIRTUAL REALITY. IT IS ENDED BY FRANK'S
DOOR TONES INTERRUPTING AND BREAKING THE REALITY ]]
Frank is in the middle of an exotic carnival, hand in hand
with a girl who looks very like the girl from the Call
Center and Western Bank virtual environments.
Collage of Frank moving through the throng of dancers,
musicians, masked men and women, all in lurid and sometimes
grotesque costume, passing floats and entertainers, food
stalls, fireworks and lasers in the sky, all accompanied by
Frank's virtual girl is leading him into a funfair area,
pulling him along and laughing. She is pointing at a huge,
glowing roller coaster ahead of them.
FRANK'S VIRTUAL GIRL
Come on. I haven't been on one of
those for ages.
The two arrive at the foot of the ride unrealistically
quickly and a wagon is waiting for them. They climb in. The
girl turns to Frank and kisses him passionately. The ride
begins. The girl clings to Frank and they embrace tightly.
She screams with the appropriate mixture of fear and
delight. As they go over the top of a terrifying drop an
insistent buzzing is heard. It grows louder and louder.
Virtual Frank and virtual girl pay no attention to it and
hurtle down the vertical drop.
[[virtual to real transition]]
A message comes up flashing urgently overlaying the virtual
scene- Front Door Entry Request. The virtual roller coaster
and virtul girl and virtual Frank dissolve into pixellation.
FRANK'S FLAT INT DAY
A shot of Frank's room as seen by Frank sitting at the
table. As he looks around we see the walls of the room are
displaying backgrounds of the city from the virtual reality
scene. The lighting is exotic, say tropical sunset and there
are ambient noise effects.The door buzzer continues to sound
Who the hell can that be?
A big screen on the wall shows an inset image of a woman in
some kind of uniform, including a peaked cap.
"Entry Request" on the top of the screen above the image
below the image. Frank does something mysterious with his
eyes to enlarge the image on the big screen. It isn't
possible to see much of the face but the figure looks
similar to Frank's virtual fantasy woman - in fact to all
the women so far. Frank looks more closely at the uniform
and can just make out the logo of Mutual Benefit on the cap.
The door buzzer continues to sound. Frank chooses "Query
requester" and another list of choices displays
"Query by voice or by text?". He chooses voice. "Audio
channel active" is displayed.
Hello? Who's there?
(on large screen,
speaking to door mike)
Oh I was about to give up. Mutual
benefit sent me, Mr Khan. I am
She holds up an id card on large screen.
(on large screen,
speaking to door mike)
Could I come in?
What's it about? They don't employ
me any more.
(on large screen,
speaking to door mike)
It's about the stolen headset. They
have to check in person for the
insurance company regs.
I told them all I know about it in
(on large screen,
speaking to door mike)
It's just a formality. I don't want
to be a bother but it's very cold
and dark out here and they will
only send me back if I don't talk
to you now.
Seen straight on through the door camera on the big screen
Angela looks very much like a somewhat older version of the
original virtual girl in the call center. Frank does a
double take as he looks at the screen.
(under his breath)
Can't be her, can't be!.
Yes,sorry, reslly sorry to keep you
waiting out there.
Frank turns off the screen and voice link.
Virtual link off please. Er - cozy
evening ambience please.
The walls return to normal. The lighting changes to a warm
and relaxing. The sound effects stop. Frank opens the door
and lets her in. The outside corridor is very dark. Angela
looks very cold, deeply sheltering in her coat.
No lights at all. The power cuts
are getting worse.
It's spooky quiet everywhere out
there. I had to take several buses
because of the train situation. Do
you want to see my id again?
Frank is finding it difficult not to stare at Angela because
of the likeness. He continues to sneak glances at her when
she is not looking throughout the conversation.
No, no. There's no need. Please sit
Angela is about to sit down at the table in her coat and
Let me take your coat and stuff.
Oh, thank you.
Frank helps Angela take off her peaked cap and her coat and
hangs them up. They sit down opposite each other. Frank
smiles at her. She smiles back.
So what do you want to ask me?
I have a questionnaire I have to
follow. It's on paper - the company
is having trouble with its data
Angela gets out a sheaf of papers and looks for the right
So if you just answer as best you
can and sign at the end? They're
mainly yes or no.
Ok, I'll do my best.
Ok, here goes.
(reading from script)
Where were you when the Virtual
Reality set was stolen?
I was at the multi-bank outlet on
the High Street.
(reading from script)
Had you taken reasonable
precautions to protect the set in
(reading from script)
What precautions did you take?
I put it in a cupboard behind a
Good hiding place!
(reading from script)
Was the front door locked with an
approved locking mechanism?
Oh, wait a moment. Ah,
(reading from script)
Because Mutual stopped my credit so
there was no power in my room and
the power cut affected the building
so the locking mechanism didn't
work. I had to leave it just ajar,
propped open with a pair of nail
clippers - otherwise I would have
locked myself out.
Oh dear. Wait a moment! Oh I think
I'll just put 'lock disabled by
power cut' - I don't have to write
all that, that you used the nail
clippers and so on.
Will that be all right?
You did what you could. Things are
so strange at the moment - I think
people tend to make allowances.
Shall I go on?
Is there much more?
Just a couple of questions.
Angela smiles at Frank. He keeps his response muted, not
Did you report the theft to the
police within 24 hours?
Is this a true account of the loss
of Mutual's property?
Ok, just sign here where it says
'claimant's assignee or agent'.
Frank signs. There is a pause.
Well that's all done. I'd better be
ANGELA makes no immediate move to go and gives a small
Are you cold? It's warm enough in
here isn't it?
No, it's lovely and warm. It's just
thinking of outside.
Would you like a cup of tea or
something before you go?
Would you mind? I'd love one. Give
me the courage to go back out
Is it really that cold outside?
It's not just the cold. Everywhere
is the same - deserted and shut up.
Nobody about. You'd think everyone
had been struck down by plague or
I didn't realize it was that bad -
I haven't been out in a while. I'll
make the tea - or would you like
Tea would be lovely. It's partly
the power cuts - there's almost no
power in the High Street and it's
very dark everywhere.
Frank goes over to the cooking area and starts making tea.
Does sound spooky. Excuse me for
asking, but have you ever worked in
the Call Center?
Angela has a look that says she knows what's coming, is used
to it but still doesn't like it much.
You mean the Virtual workplace?
Yes. I'm sure you or someone
amazingly like you worked in the
next desk to me during some of my
In a way you're right. I agreed to
let them have full rights over the
virtual construct they created,
using me as the base. I never
actually worked there.
Oh I see. Did they pay you well?
Not really - just a slightly higher
rate for allowing them to construct
the thing while I was working.
And then I saw you, I'm pretty
sure, as an adviser in the bank.
They can use my virtual construct
where they like. As I said, they
have full rights.
Frank comes back with tea. Angela gathers up the papers and
puts them in her bag. Frank puts the teas on the table.
Here you go.
Thank you. It's very kind of you,
considering I came here to hassle
you with paperwork.
No worries. Had to be done.
I suppose this must have happened
to you a lot - being recognized by
(a little upset)
Yes, a lot. It's strange - having
been a part of so many people's
working life; many of them feel
they have some kind of a bond with
me as a fellow worker, a friend -
even a possible girlfriend. It's
embarrassing, really. I feel sort
of flattered but more that I'm a
sort of fraud, that I've cheated
It's not your fault. You didn't
know how they would use you in
I could have had a good guess and I
could have said no - but I needed
the money and I was flattered too I
suppose. And now here's the real me
checking up on the paperwork. I'm
No, don't be. It helped keep me
sane, even if it wasn't real. I was
happy to let myself be fooled. Of
course once I saw you at the bank I
knew for certain you were part of
the virtual setup - but I must have
realized before - just didn't want
to face up to it.
Anyway it was a very nice smile -
shy but warm. How did they model
that I wonder.
(blushing) I don't know. It was a
long time ago.
Sorry, I'm embarrassing you.
There is a long awkward pause.
Well, I must get going. Thanks for
tea and everything.
Do you have far to go?
Quite a journey by bus - right over
the other side of town. I'm not
going back to the office now.
I hope somebody's there to make a
fuss of you when you come in from
No, it's just me - but the flat is
nice and warm - not so different
from yours. I'll be fine.
Angela gets up, Frank brings her coat and cap, she puts them
on. They walk to the door.
I'd just like to say that it's been
really good to meet you in the real
world, quite the opposite of a
Thank you - and thank you for not
minding about the questionnaire.
It feels strange seeing you leave -
I never actually saw you do that
online - you just weren't there the
next time I looked. It didn't
bother me - I imagined you'd just
finished your shift and slipped out
quietly. Don't mind me, wittering
on about my unreal memories of you
- at least they kept me happy. Now
you're really leaving. I hope your
journey back is O.K.
Angela looks a little troubled and doesn't reply but she
eventually smiles at him and he smiles very warmly in
return. There is clearly some chemistry between them. Angela
finally turns away towards the door and Frank lets her out
of the flat. Through the door the external corridor/balcony
of the block of flats looks very dark and cold.
Are you sure you're going to be OK?
Shall I walk you to the bus stop?
No, you're all right. I'll be fine.
Are you sure there are any buses.
Everything seems to have shut down
- it's scary out there. Will you
come back if you are stuck? I can
always sleep on the pull-out.
That's very kind but I should be
Angela shakes Frank's hand and walks determinedly out of the
flat. Frank closes the door.
What a strange experience. I was
sure she wasn't real. I never
thought of her getting older - but
she was nice.
He shrugs, collects the VR set from the side, sits down and
Virtual link on, please.
The walls again display the exotic city backdrop, the light
changes to romantic evening sunset and ambient sounds begi
again. Frank adjusts the set and the flat fades from view
and is replaced by Frank's arm round virtual younger Angela
lookalike and view from the the top of the same
roller-coaster drop that was interrupted. They descend,
younger Angela screaming happily, Frank holding her tight.
SC EXT NIGHT ANGELA'S ATTEMPTED JOURNEY HOME.
Angela walks along the unlit external corridor/balcony
towards the stairs past a series of doors. A drone carrying
a packet flies over the balcony and hovers outside a door
just ahead of her. The door and the drone exchange
electronic chirps and the door opens, so that some light
spills out onto the balcony. The drone flies just inside and
flies out and away without the packet. The door closes
again. It seems even darker.
Angela looks after the drone and out towards the city; there
are surprisingly few lights. She reaches the stairs and goes
down; they are unlit and even darker, though there is a
little light coming from outside on the landings on each
floor. She slows down, placing her feet with care.
She emerges onto the street. The street lights are not
working and again any light comes from residential windows
so there are small pools of light and larger pools of
darkness along the street.
It's getting worse. I hope the High
Street is better.
She hesitates but then walks briskly along the street. As
she goes we see a small drone high above her. She takes a
turning towards the High Street. The High Street appears to
have some lights as there is a glow at the end of the the
street she is in.
She reaches the High Street. It is deserted but is better
lit by street lights on the opposite side from her. There
are traffic lights going through their phases of red, yellow
green but no traffic.
As she passes a street light on the opposite side, it goes
out. She is clearly disturbed by this but continues. The
same things happens as she passes the next. The High Street
is getting darker; there are almost no lights in the shops
and other buildings. She passes another street light and it
She reaches a bus stop and looks at the screen which should
display times and routes of expected bus arrivals but the
display is dark. Opposite the bus stop she sees the multiple
bank outlet. Its live digital display screen can be faintly
seen on the wall beside the bank door.
Angela waits, shivers, clasps her arms around herself and
walks up and down to keep warm. The wind can be heard. Above
her, and unseen by her, a small drone hovers for a moment
and then disappears upwards into the dark and cloud cover.
Angela is still waiting. The weather is worsening, rain or
sleet and the wind is rising. There is no traffic and no-one
about. Another street light goes out down the road. Angela
shows signs of losing belief in the prospect of buses. She
taps her wrist and her retinal display comes up,
superimposed on her view of the street; she selects contacts
and the name of her boss at Mutual, Millie Harrison, legal
outreach coordinator. The retinal display shows the
Network error. The addressee could not be reached. Please
Angela tries the same contact again with the same result.
She scrolls down the contacts list and selects Journey
Planner with the same result.
It doesn't even say no signal. What
network error? What does it mean?
She looks up and down the road on both sides. There is a
little light from a distant street lamp and the traffic
lights. She sees a drone moving high above the buildings
some way up the High Street. She doesn't see the drone
hovering directly above her.
The street light goes out. The weather worsens. The traffic
lights go out mid-change. The scene darkens. The only faint
sign of life is the illuminated access panel of the multiple
bank opposite. Zoom out to establish Angela alone in
deserted street and city block - drones the only things
First episode end?
She crosses the empty road to investigate. The panel
displays the same list of banks as before. Angela hesitates.
She checks all the bank names again.
Don't suppose it matters since
they're bound to be closed at this
time but I'd better try Mutual
She presses the name on the panel. A faint notice displays
'This branch of Mutual Benefit Bank is currently closed. We
are open every Wednesday from 9.30 a.m. until 12 midday. We
apologize for any inconvenience caused but would like to
remind customers that all transactions can now be
Not getting off the street into
some kind of shelter, you can't.
Bugger. I'll just try them all.
Angela presses the top name. The panel displays the same
'This branch of People's bank is now....'
Angela presses the next name quickly with the same result..
She presses the next, First National. The panel dimly
'Reduced service. Do you have the means to establish you
First National ID?'
Press here for YES or here for NO.
I'll say anything to get out of the
Angela presses YES. There is a faint click from the door.
Angela goes up to the door and looks at the big brass handle
and the secure-looking panels.
I hope I'm not getting myself into
She touches the door and it opens. Angela is amazed and
relieved. She goes in.
SC INT NIGHT INSIDE THE BANK CUSTOMER SPACE
Angela comes into the small, dimly lit customer space,
facing the single stall empty counter. Her footsteps echo on
the stone floor. She stops and looks around, sees the closed
door behind the counter. She looks over the counter and sees
it has a seat attached to it
(to herself) Maybe it let me in by
mistake. (calling out) Hello, is
She waits. There is a long silence.
I've never been alone in a bank
before. (Calling more loudly)
She waits. There is a slight sound from behind the door,
some scuffling and creaking, then silence. There is another
VIRTUAL REALITY SCENE EXT. DAY TROPICAL BEACH
Derek and a shapely young lady are romping together in the
surf of an absurdly beautiful island. There is the sound of
the waves and music in the background. Gradually through the
music comes the sound of an alarm and then Angela's voice
The virtual scene fades and is replaced by the tiny back
office of the grumpy looking Derek is removing the headset.
SC INT NIGHT INSIDE THE BANK CUSTOMER SPACE
Footsteps are heard and Derek opens the inner door and peers
out. He looks dazed, interrupted, then very surprised and a
little alarmed. When he sees Angela he registers possible
recognition as well as just surprise.
Good Heavens. Are you a customer?
Not really. I am just stuck and
very cold. I didn't think think a
bank could be open now but I didn't
have anywhere else to try. Why is
Ah, well it shouldn't be but it is.
What can I do for you?
Well, I wondered if you knew what
had happened to the buses?
Yes, there don't seem to be any.
And my implant isn't connecting.
I did get a notification before
things shut down - just that the
bus service was temporarily
suspended from 6.00 p.m. this
They didn't say - then the network
kept reporting an error - no comms.
So you're stuck? Where are you
trying to get to.
Right up there! I don't even live
in the city - I'm based nearly
forty miles away.
So why is the bank open?
Ah, well , as I can't get home,
trains and things, I'm sleeping in
the back office. If I let all the
banks close according to the
timetable, everything is turned off
and I get locked out very securely
until half an hour before the next
scheduled opening time - so I have
to keep one open.
You said 'before things shut down'.
What did you mean
Just that the network stopped
working - as well as everything
else. There's no mains power here
either -that's why it's freezing
It's better than outside. How come
the lights are on if there's no
There's a backup solar system with
a large battery for the lights and
the bank's native systems - it was
just designed for temporary power
outs , and this obviously isn't one
Look, we'll be a little warmer in
the office. Why don't we go
through? Be warned - it's very
Thank you - I am beginning to feel
the cold out here.
Derek leads Angela through the door into the inner office.
SCENE INT NIGHT THE INNER BANK OFFICE
The room is scarcely more than a large cupboard. There is
one chair, a very small desk or table with a VR set and a
computer terminal on it, a crumpled up sleeping bag and
cushions on the floor along the far wall. Shelves along one
wall contains more VR sets and other equipment. Derek
removes the VR set from the table and puts it on a shelf. He
sits on the edge of the table and motions Angela into the
Thank you. I didn't expect to end
up in a bank manager's office this
evening. What on earth is going on
Well I don't know any more than you
do - but I had a customer in here a
few days ago - well, sort of a
customer. Anyway he had
accidentally heard part of a
conversation between two computer
boffins. They were saying that all
the basic control systems had been
affected. They sounded very worried
according to him. It does seem to
be affect mainly public areas and
buildings, which is weird.
Weird and spooky! But how did he
come to accidentally hear something
He was working in a virtual call
centre - Mutual's I think - and
there was some kind of electronic
glitch, misrouting he called it. I
think it really was accidental.
What's his name?
I think I may know him.
Look, maybe we'd better introduce
ourselves before I start handing
out information about other people.
I'm Derek. I have the great
privilege of managing six bank
branches in one room, one for each
day of the working week.
Hi, I'm Angela. Thanks for letting
me in. I actually work for Mutual.
I'm a claims consultant.
Ah, that might explain it.
What do you mean?
I thought I recognized you from
somewhere. Were you on the bank VR?
Oh goodness, you as well. Mutual
used me as a construct base - on
several platforms apparently -
about 10 years ago.
If you don't mind my saying, I'm
not surprised they chose you for a
He smiles very warmly at her. Angela looks uncomfortable.
So now you're an insurance claims
Not an investigator, no. I just get
the paperwork done. Getting
claimants' statements and
signatures - so all the insurer's
requirements are met.
Don't you report on claimants'
stories to Mutual?
No I don't do anything like that.
After all Mutual is the claimant.
They just want to make sure the
procedure is completed properly.
They must investigate some claims.
I suppose - but they don't seem
very bothered. I just get the story
down with a signature so the claim
can go ahead.
Oh I see - and you were
interviewing someone round here?
Yup, man who worked in Mutual's VR
call centre, got laid off, had the
set stolen. I just came from his
(cautiously) So did you get the
Yes, all done.
And obviously you haven't been able
to report back yet.
I just have to hand over the signed
statement, that's all -if I ever
Did his story seem OK?
How he came to lose the set.
Sounded ok to me but I'm not the
one making the decisions.
You mean they might not accept it?
Don't see why not - especially with
the special circumstances. He's
already told them what happened -
I'm just getting the signed,
official statement. Was he the one
you mentioned do you think - the
one who overheard that stuff about
Can you tell me his name?
I suppose - can't hurt really -
Frank, Frank Khan.
Yes, that's him. He was round here
contacting his bank - he was broke.
He doesn't seem that short now. At
least his room seemed very warm and
comfortable compared to outside.
It is cold in here, you're right.
What on earth am I going to do?
Derek shifts himself along the table, slightly closer to
You could stay here - as you can
see it is very small but I am sure
we could make it more comfortable.
I can see there's only room for one
in here really - and the front is
horribly hard and cold.
You couldn't sleep in there. Apart
from the cold and the stone floor,
I don't know what the security
system would do if you lay down -
it might call the emergency
It would have a job with no network
There's supposed to be a direct
link. I wonder if that's working.
Anyway I am sure we could manage in
here - you could have the sleeping
bag. I could make do with the
I would make you very uncomfortable
and possibly get you into trouble
Almost no chance of that. Nobody
ever comes here.
It's very kind but I don't think
it's a very sensible idea.
Come on! The world has gone crazy!
I could do with the company,
couldn't you? A bit of human
Derek moves an inch closer and smiles warmly at her.
There is a small toilet and basin
out the back - cold water only, I'm
What else can you do? I'm not sure
we have much choice, either of us.
Fate has landed us together for the
Derek puts his hand on Angela's hand, which is resting on
the table. Angela gently removes her hand and edges away
from Derek slightly. Derek hastily stands up and moves away.
Well, thanks again but Frank Khan
did say I could stay at his if I
had problems. He was quite
concerned when I lef, very weet
really - but I didn't want to take
advantage of him. I'm beginning to
think it may be my best option.
Oh, did he? Bit of a way to go in
the cold, though.
I've done it once so I can do it
again. I think I'll have to do
that; he does have enough room and
I can't really force myself on you
when you've got nothing but a
sleeping bag and a corner of the
floor for yourself.
Look, I'm sorry if I was out of
order. I can take no for an answer,
That's OK - no harm done. I had
better get going though if I'm
going. Thanks for the company and
the shelter - I needed that.
I think maybe I'd better walk you
over there. You've done enough
solitary night journeys for now.
No, you're all right. I can manage.
I owe you that much. I don't think
you hould be doing that journey on
your own jut now and I'm not
exactly buy - and I wouldn't mind
having a chat with Frank about
what's going on.
Well it's kind of you - but you
really don't have to.
I do I'm afraid- it's weird out
there. I'm also interested to see
what's going on out there.
Nothing is going on out there -
it's a deert.
OK, let's cross the desert together
What about getting back in? Won't
the building close down and shut
Yes, but I can reschedule the next
opening for a couple of hours' time
or so - as long as the battery
lasts. I'll just do that now.
Angela and Derek go out through the door into the customer
SC EXT NIGHT JOURNEY BACK TO FRANK KHAN'S FLAT.
Derek and Angela emerge from the multiple bank. Driving rain
is sweeping along the High Street which is very dark. They
look up and down and cross the road towards the bus stop
where Angela previously waited. They stop in the partial
shelter of the bus stop.
The traffic lights are out too.
They went out just before I gave up
and crossed over to the bank.
And no traffic, no sign of anyone
fixing anything, no police - no
services at all.
And no network either. Jesus.
We'd better move on.
They start walking against the rain and turn off the main
road into a smaller, even darker side road. They do not see
the drone flying across the side road above them.
There are occasional dim pools of light from small windows.
The drainage system is failing and water is overflowing the
gutters and streaming down the sidewalk and over their
Let's cross over. It looks a bit
Yes, but we'll have to wade through
the torrent to get there.
They cross, trying to avoid the deepest bits. Even so the
water comes up to their knees at one point. Angela nearly
loses her footing and Derek grabs her but she pushes him off
and manages to recover.
It's OK, I can manage.
They arrive at the other side, which is drier under foot but
they are already soaked.
They arrive at Frank's block of flats. A drone flies quite
low overhead and disappears upwards. Another is hovering
near them to one side of the doors for some time. They are
both slightly startled by the drones but are focused on
getting in out of the rain. Angela tries the names panel but
it is apparently not working. She pushes the front door,
which swings open.
Another thing not working.
At least we can get inside.
Everybody else disappeared indoors
They go into the vestibule of the block. Outside we see the
hovering drone fly off.
SC EXT NIGHT THE BALCONY/EXTERNAL CORRIDOR OUTSIDE FRANK'S
Rain is being swept onto the balcony by the wind so Angela
and Derek have little shelter. They are clearly very wet and
cold. Angela presses the intercom/ visitor viewing panel.
The buzzer can be heard within. There is a long wait. Angela
tries again. There is another long wait. She tries again;
He must be there. Where would he go
in weather like this?
Derek knocks on the door. Angela tries the buzzer again.
Derek hammers on the door. etc.
Then the speaker comes alive and heavy breathing can be
heard but nothing else.
Hi, Frank, it's me, Angela. I'm
stuck - no buses. Can I come in -
it's not nice out here.
(His voice is slow and thick) Hey,
Angela. (pause)Great to see you.
Wow - no buses eh? Er -is that
someone with you?
Derek puts his face in front of the panel.
Hi - I brought her over. She's
Derek! Oh - OK. Just a sec. (pause)
I'm a bit sleepy.
Sounds of movement and faint noises of things being moved
about. The door opens, Frank pokes his head out, smiling
warmly at Angela, looking uncertainly at Derek.
You are wet - come in.
Angela and Derek go in.
end episode 1?
start episode 2?
SCENE INTERNAL NIGHT FRANK'S FLAT
The lighting is low and warm. The walls are showing a
tropical shore with waves gently lapping. The waves can be
heard. A VR set is on the couch, a single red light glowing
on it. Angela and Derek are dripping all over the floor,
Er -VR sync off. Oh - Ambient
off.Jesus you're wet. Let me take
The light brightens, the wall scenes and sound effects stop.
Derek and Angela hand him their coats. Frank motions to the
couch and hangs the coats behind the door.
Sit down - don't worry about the
couch - I'll bring towels. Shall I
put the kettle on - or maybe
Angela and Derek sit on the couch, Derek keeping a careful
Would you mind if I took my shoes
off? They're soaked.
Go ahead. So - tea or alcohol?
Angela takes off her shoes. Derek looks a question at Frank,
Frank nods and Derek starts taking his shoes off.
Do you have whisky?
Scotch, yup. Angela? You look as if
you could do with one.
I definitely could.
Ice? Water? Neat?
No ice thank you. Not after that.
Neat would be great, Frank, thanks.
Just the same thanks. Appreciated.
Frank brings two towels from the bathroom. He hands one
gently to Angela and drops the other on Derek.
There you go.
Frank then busies himself preparing drinks. Derek and Angela
mop some of the water off, keeping an awkward distance from
each other. Frank brings the drinks over.
So no buses or trains. What's going
And no network, no comms at all. Do
you have any here?
No nothing here either. How did you
two meet up, if you don't mind my
The bank was the only place with
any sign of life, not something I
often find myself saying. I just
tried it as a last resort.
What were you doing there in the
middle of the night, Derek?
No trains home. I was very
surprised to see Angela. I had
heard the buses weren't running
before the comms went down.
It was weird out there, everything
shutting down like that.
Everything? What do you mean?
Things have gone out in stages,
transport first, then power to
shops and offices, followed by
comms and net access, and by the
time we came over street lights,
traffic lights, even drainage it
looks like - and no-one about, no
one at all.
The only things moving out there
They're always about. Delivery
drones are in and out of the flats
all the time.
These weren't delivering - just
cruising high up.
And hovering. We saw several on the
way over, two just outside.
Are you sure they weren't
delivering? I've never seen them
just hang around. They're
programmed to save time and fuel -
you know - direct route, optimised
for fuel consumption, high altitude
We know that, Frank. These were
definitely not doing their usual
thing. It was almost as if they
were watching us.
Oh come on - they're just delivery
vans that fly.
Angela notices some tension building. She smiles at Frank.
Honestly, it did seem spooky. We
saw several with no packages
attahed and in no hurry to get
anywhere. One of them was hovering
above the entrance here when we
Angela manages to give Derek a warning look and he changes
I don't understand what's going on
at all. That weird conversation
you overheard keeps coming back to
me, Frank. What did they say was
Well it was only one of them
talking, as if he was reporting to
the other. He said the AIs
controlling the infrastructure
systems were breaking down.
Didn't he say something about it
being targeted at public areas?
He certainly said there were
breakdowns in public areas - wait,
I think maybe he did say
'targeted', yes, that was it
'targeted at mainly public areas.'
How can a power outage be targeted?
Does that make sense?
Well, it's a computer systems
malfunction, so maybe he just meant
it was the type of system that
controls the power for public
places and devices.
Then why say 'targeted'? Anyway
surely only hospitals have
separateshops and offices and
You're right. I'm sure they only
have separate supplies for the
emergency services and maybe stuff
like traffic lights. But who would
be targeting all the public places
- terrorists? the Russians? Why
But also how are they doing it? How
could anyone have such precise
control of the systems - like
turning off the supply to the
outside of this flat but keeping it
on in here. How could anyone do
Do we know that all the private
places still have power? How about
the other flats here? Maybe you're
just lucky Frank. I don't remember
seeing much in the way of lights on
our way in.
You probably wouldn't - there
aren't any windows onto the balcony
- they're all at the side or the
There's an apartment a few doors
down that had power earlier - I saw
a drone deliver something there -
the door opened and there was light
Did you see anybody?
No - and I didn't see anyone at all
on the way out or back up.
You don't often see anyone about
I haven't seen anyone since I
arrived here this afternoon.
It would be good to talk to some of
the residents here - at least find
out about the power situation.
It's a bit late to go knocking on
doors. I don't know any of them
really. Maybe tomorrow morning.
Things may be back to normal by
I'd better get back to my little
You don't want to go out into all
that - you haven't even dried out
yet. There is room for everyone
here. There's a spare mattress I
can put on the floor in the bedroom
and the couch converts. We could
ask around in the morning if things
are still bad.
Angela sees a little taken aback by this general offer. She
glances at Derek.
Thanks for the offer. I have
programmed the bank to open around
now so I can get back in. I'll just
see if it's still raining, what it
looks like out there if I may.
Sure. Suit yourself. I'll come out
with you. I'm interested to see
what's going on out there- maybe
I'll see some of those drones
keeping an eye on us.
Derek and Frank head for the door and Frank opens it. They
go out into the dark, laving the door open.
SC EXT NIGHT THE BALCONY/CORRIDOR OUTSIDE FRANK'S PLACE.
Frank and Derek walk together towards the parapet and look
out over the city. It is a wild night, heavy rain/sleet
driven by a strong wind even onto the balcony. The city has
even fewer lights than before. Angela comes up behind them
and joins them at the parapet. The light from inside Frank's
apartment is enough to show the rain falling and just make
out two drones hovering outside the entrance to the block.
Look! Drones, two of them,
Frank and Derek stare into the darkness. The drones fly off
in different directions and immediately disappear.
See them, Frank?
OK OK I saw them. That's weird I
agree - drones don't do that kind
The three of them go back into the apartment.
SC INT NIGHT FRANK'S APARTMENT
Frank hastily closes the door. There is some general wiping
of faces and hair, shivering, dripping and hand rubbing.
Unbelievable out there.
I'll get another towel.
Thanks. I think we could all do
Frank fetches towels from the bathroom and hands them round.
So what about those drones now,
I don't like to admit it but they
looked for all the world as if they
were on watch.
And they flew off as soon as they
If they can see, which I doubt very
Well - let's say became aware of
us. Don't they have movement
Yes, I suppose they must. What are
you going to do, Derek? It doesn't
look too friendly out there.
I think I'll take you up on your
kind offer. The bank won't miss me.
Won't it be a problem it being open
I'll just be recorded as late or
absent and it will close again. The
bank will reopen at the next
scheduled time. I'll be able to get
Good. No point going out in that.
I'll sort out the sleeping
Can I help?
Thanks. Give me a hand with the
Anything I can do?
The spare mattress is under the bed
in there. You could drag it out.
Frank points towards the bedroom. Derek goes into the
bedroom. Frank and Angela begin to convert the couch into a
bed. There is some accidental physical contact and they end
up close together. They don't move apart immediately. There
is some embarrassment from Frank but a smile from Angela.
Derek comes back and sees them together. They separate.
OK let's get some sleep. Maybe
comms will be back in the morning.
SC. EXT DAY THE BALCONY/CORRIDOR OUTSIDE FRANK'S APARTMENT
Frank and Derek are looking out over the city. The rain and
wind have stopped but there is still dark cloud cover Angela
is looking up and down the balcony counting the doors.
7 to the right.
Frank turns towards Angela.
Still very, very quiet out there.
And too quiet in here. And 5 to the
left without us. That's 12 on this
So why are you counting?
Just to keep tabs on how many we've
tried. So that's 12 with no answer
so far. Where are they all?
Frank and Derek leave the parapet and join Angela.
I don't know how many are occupied
even. I've seen people coming in
and out of at least two of them
quite recently. Some are definitely
Some of them will be asleep with
'do not disturb' on. Some probably
got stuck somewhere, like you and
me. Maybe some don't like the look
Did you make a note of the ones
with that oniony smell?
Yup, put a cross - about 1 in three
to four I think. That's all this
I think the lower floors are
fuller. Let's go down.
Shall we split up - cover more
Let's stick together. Doing every
third door is as efficient as any
method and that way we'll all find
out anything at the same time - if
there is anything to find out.
Angela knocking on a door on a lower floor.
Well, that's three buzzess and
three knocks here - that's 18 doors
Angela starts to move off but faint sounds can be heard
apparently from inside. The speaker comes alive and panting
can be heard.
Frank, Derek, someone's here.
BOY'S VOICE O.S.
(through intercom) Hello?
Hi! Sorry to bother you. We wre
wondering if you had any comms?
BOY'S VOICE O.S.
I think there's something wrong
with my mum and dad. Could you
Frank and Derek join Angela.
Well we could try - if you let us
I live on the 9th floor - a
The door is opened by a boy about 3 or 4 years old. He looks
frightened. He leads Angela into the flat. Frank and Derek
follow them in.
SC INT DAY LIVING ROOM IN THE BOY'S APARTMENT IN THE SAME
The mother and father of the boy are sitting in easy chairs.
The father has a VR set on but the mother has a set on her
lap with some of the electrodes twisted together. They
appear to be asleep.
They've been asleep for ages. I
can't make them wake up.
Angela goes to examine the mother. Derek and frank go the
father. Angela pick up the VR set from the mother's lap.
Was your mum wearing this?
Yes. I took it off her. I thought
it might make her wake up.
The boy begins to cry quietly. Angela crouches down to the
boy's level, between him and his parents.
(to the boy)
I'm Angela. What's your name?
Frank makes as if to take off the father's VR set and looks
questioningly at Derek. Derek nods and Frank carefully
removes the set from the father's head. He doesn't stir.
Derek feels the father's pulse and places his palm against
(through tears) Nick
Let's go and dry the tears in the
bathroom, shall we Nick?
Nick doesn't answer but he lets Angela lead him into the
bathroom. She closes the door.
Poor kid must be terrified. His
dad's pulse seems extremely slow
and his skin is very cold and
Frank crosses to the mother and carries out the same checks.
Frank looks at his watch as he takes the pulse.
I make that about 30 a minute. And
her skin is unnaturally cold.
What's happened to them?
I'll try the emergency services.
Can't see that working though.
Derek uses his retinal implants to bring up a comms menu and
chooses Emergency Services. You are offline comes up
No, nothing working. That's not
supposed to be possible. It's a
nightmare. Better power the sets
down, I suppose
I'll turn this one off.
Frank and Derek switch the sets off but they still have
various indicator lights glowing.
They get their power wirelessly of
course; they are designed to hold a
charge for quite a time - to avoid
psychological shocks in case of
power interruptions - but they're
not supposed to stay active like
Should we try to wake them?
We don't know what's going on with
them. If their son couldn't wake
them I don't know what we could do.
FRANK looks at the two unconscious parents. He approaches
the father and takes one of his hands. He lifts his hand and
arm. He massages the hand gently, then more and more
Hello! Wake up! This is an
There is no response of any kind. Frank lowers the arm and
releases the hand. He raises his hand as if to slap the man
in the face. The bathroom door opens, Frank quickly lowers
his hand and Angela leads Nick out.
Nick's mum and dad are obviously
very tired. I think Nick should
come back with us for a while to
let them sleep. Ok with you, Frank?
Frank and Derek look at each other, trying to hide their
Sure, if you would like to come,
Nick. I have a game console you
could use. Would you like that?
I'm not allowed to talk to
I don't think neighbours count as
strangers. We live just above you.
We'll introduce ourselves so we
won't be strangers. I'm Frank Khan
from number 85.
Frank holds out his hand to Nick and waits expectantly. Nick
hesitates but takes his hand.
My name is Nick Carter. I live at
47 Lowood Tower, Alperton Rd.
Nick stops in confusion, looks on the verge of tears.
I've forgotten the end bit.
That's ok - it's the same as ours.
So now I am not a stranger, ok?
Nick hesitates, looks at his unconscious mother and father
and then nods.
OK I'll take you and Angela up to
ours and find that console. Then
maybe Derek and I can go and look
They all leave, Frank leading, Angela holding Nick's hand
and Derek managing the door. Derek stays behind and does
something complicated with the door control panel just
inside the apartment and the closes the door.
SC INT DAY BACK IN FRANK'S APARTMENT.
Derek is standing alone in the apartment holding the VR set
that Frank had been using. Two indicator lights are glowing.
Angela and Frank come out of the bedroom, leaving the door
open behind them.
He's a big Dragonworld player
luckily, poor mite, happy to lose
himself in it.
I didn't know there were any kids
in the block - it's not a family
sort of place. Derek, what are you
doing with that set?
I was wondering why it's still
showing activity indicators after
all this time.
Angela gestures to them to move further away from the
bedroom and puts a finger warningly to her lips.
(more quietly)Oh, yes, sorry.
(Looking at the VR set) That is odd
- like the ones downstairs.
Yup, exactly. I hope you don't mind
me asking, but were you in virtual
when we arrived last night?
Yes, I was actually.
We had quite a struggle attracting
your attention. I hurt my fists on
It did take ages.
Are you suggesting the same thing
was happening to me?
Do you think it was?
I do remember feeling very slow and
confused - as if I was waking from
a very heavy sleep.
Can you remember where you were,
what you were doing - in virtual?
Frank looks embarrassed for a moment, then annoyed.
What's that got to do with
I don't mean the content - I mean
was it working normally, was it
Is there a gap in your memory of
it? Was time passing normally? Was
there any repetition?
It's hard to remember exactly. The
early part of the session is clear
- but after that, now I try to
recall it, it's more dreamlike than
usual, fuzzier - any details I can
remember come from earlier. There's
just a sense of the experience
I think it was lucky for you we
interrupted when we did.
Nick's parents were not so lucky.
Is Dragon World safe for Nick?
It's self-contained VR for children
- the set doesn't have any
It can be connected to the
apartment system - but it isn't.
What are we going to do about
Derek and I will go and look for
Local hospital, police, there must
be someone around.
I'll have to stay here with Nick. I
don't think I'll pass the time in
Virtual, though. That's the oddest
thing of all.
That Virtual is working fine. No
comms at all and everything
shutting down but all that huge
stream of VR data is getting
through no problem.
Of course some of it may have been
True, but Angela's right. Most of
it has to be a live stream needing
big bandwidth. That's really weird.
You're right. Anyway we'd better go
- I didn't like the state of those
two downstairs. If their bodies get
any slower or colder ....
Yes, we need to find a doctor or a
hospital for them. We'll be needing
food supplies too.
If we had a car we could take them
to a hospital.
It would be quite a job - two
unconscious bodies that size and
all those stairs. I do have a car
but it's parked near my station
We'd better go. Will you be OK here
I'll be fine but try to get some
help. I'm worried about what'll
happen when Nick wants to go back
We'll try. One of us can always
come back to let you know what
Frank and Derek leave the apartment. Angela goes back into
end of episode 2
SC. EXT DAY THE HIGH STREET.
There is an army jeep parked in the middle of the crossroads
and two soldiers standing by it, one with a rifle and the
other with a sub-machine gun. Derek and Frank appear round
the corner and stop and look at them. There is an occasional
car, but no buses. The traffic lights are not working.
I suppose we'd better ask them.
They ought to know what's going on
Derek and Frank walk across the road to the jeep. The
soldiers watch them approach in a neutral manner.
Good morning. I wonder if you can
help us. We found some neighbours
of ours in a bad state but we have
no transport. They need hospital or
at least a doctor.
I'm afraid our orders are to remain
here, sir, and make sure the area
You mean you have comms access?
Fraid not, sir. We have two way
radio communication with our
command post but that's all.
Do you know what's going on?
The soldiers look at one another. The second one shrugs and
looks up at the sky. A drone is hovering above them.
We were told there had been a cyber
attack affecting a lot of stuff,
but no more than that.
So what are you doing here?
Well a cyber attack could be a
preliminary to other threats.
You mean like terrorists?
That's one possibility.
These neighbors of ours really need
help. They're both in a sort of
The two soldiers look as if comes as no surprise. They look
at each other again.
I don't think I'm breaking the
official secrets act if I say that
there are a lot of people in the
same state. All we can do is direct
you to the nearest hospital.
If you go down the High Street half
a mile you'll see it signposted to
the left. Don't get your hopes up
Can't they help?
Some of their staff have been
affected too - and there are just
too many people.
Is the army OK - I mean are any of
your people in this weird coma
Yeah, some. We are short handed in
the unit - don't know when our
relief is due.
There isn't much traffic.
We noticed - so far it's only one
or two really old vehicles without
the auto drive stuff.
Nothing seems to be open.
There's been no power for several
days now. Places with intelligent
doors are in security lockdown -
nobody can get in.
And a lot of people are like your
neighbours, we reckon. It's a
massive breakdown. Sorry we can't
be more positive.
Ok we'll try the hospital. Thanks.
The second soldier looks up at the sky. Two drones are now
hovering above them.
SC INT DAY AT THE HOSPITAL RECEPTION
The reception area is crowded with trolleys containing
unconscious patients. A man in a dressing-gown/robe is
manning the reception desk. There are no doctors or nurses
in the area. A tired woman is leading a small group of
children out of the hospital. Frank and Derek look around in
confusion and approach the desk, joining a small crowd
(raising his voice)
As you can see, the hospital has
nowhere to put anyone any more. The
few ambulances running are queued
up outside, full of patients. The
doctors tell me they have no idea
yet how to treat this - so all in
all there is no point trying to
bring anyone in this condition here
at the moment.
A number of people try to speak to him at the same time and
they start shouting.
I will try to deal with everyone
going from my left to right. Please
stop shouting. If you have a
different medical emergency, one
which the hospital can treat, you
have priority. If you are just
reporting cases of coma I will only
take a note of names and addresses
after dealing with other
(to Derek quietly)
This looks hopeless. What are we
going to do?
We might as well ask him about the
What can he do?
He might have some advice. I wonder
who he is - in his dressing-gown -
The dressing-gown man has got round to them.
Derek and Frank nod.
How many, names and address, any
Dressing-gown man is recording everything on a handheld
Mr and Mrs Carter, apartment 47,
Lowood Tower, Alperton Rd, SW14
DRESSING-GOWN MAN is moving on.
What are we to do with the their
three year old boy?
DRESSING-GOWN MAN looks at them sharply.
Look after him! If you can't do it,
find someone who can. You're lucky
you have only one.
DRESSING-GOWN MAN pauses and raises his voice.
My advice to you all is to get
together with your friends and
neighbors to help each other and
anyone who else who needs it. No
one else is going to do it at the
moment. There appear to be many
young children in need of care.
There is a disturbed and angry reaction to this announcement
from the small crowd.
Can't you give us any medical
advice - how to wake people up?
Hospital staff are working hard to
find effective treatment but in the
meantime the only advice is to make
sure those affected are safe and
comfortable - and wait. Do not try
to give them food or drink as they
may choke and asphyxiate.
DRESSING-GOWN MAN moves on to next person. Derek and Frank
look at each other. Derek makes a head signal suggesting
they leave. Frank nods. They make their way through the
trolleys of unconscious people to the exit.
SCENE INT DAY FRANK'S FLAT
ANGELA and NICK come in from the bedroom.
I think there are some biscuits
somewhere. Do you like biscuits?
Yes, most of them.
ANGELA goes to the fridge and pours a glass of milk. She
puts it on the table.
Here's your milk. Come and sit
down. I'll find those biscuits.
Nick sits down and drinks the milk. Angela finds some
biscuits and puts some on a plate.
They're not very exciting. No
chocolate or anything.
I'm not allowed chocolate. It makes
NICK eats some biscuits. ANGELA watches him with a smile.
Do you think mummy and daddy are
I don't know. They were very tired,
The flat door opens. Frank and Derek come in in coats,
looking cold and full of bad news. Angela gives them a
warning look, nodding towards Nick.
Hi! Nick is just having a bit of a
rest from battling Dragons while he
The dragons are my friends. We
fight together. Can I go back now?
I'm in the middle of a game.
Of course. Have you had enough
(as he runs back into the
He seems OK.
He was just asking about his
What did you say?
Just that they seemed very tired.
You couldn't find any help?
The hospital is affected too - and
overwhelmed. We left their name and
Wasn't there anyone else? Police?
Passers-by? Helpful motorists.
There were two army blokes and a
jeep in the High Street. They were
under orders to stay there.
They were very depressing.
Why? What did they say?
They'd been told it was a cyber
attack but the coma thing's
affected their own unit - and the
So what are we going to do about
Nick and his parents?
The only advice we got was from a
bloke in a dressing-gown at the
hospital - look after him ourselves
and/or get together with friends
Oh great! The poor boy can't go on
playing DragonWorld forever - he's
going to want to go home to his mum
and dad. Can't we try to revive
We went in to them again before we
came back. They're the same - or
even deeper in, cold, pale,
extremely slow but steady pulse,
breathing almost imperceptible, not
responding to anything. I wouldn't
know how to set about reviving
And the advice was to wait for
expert help. Touching them gave me
Yes, and the bloke at the hospital
said the doctors hadn't found a
safe way to wake people.
We must be able to do something.
We could try to find people not
affected. That was dressing-gown
man advice - get together with
friends and neighbours.
Not more door knocking! And what
will we do with Nick?
Take him with us.
I can't see him being very happy
about meeting more strangers.
I'm sure you could persuade him
Angela - or else Derek and I could
leave the two of you here but
anyway I think we need to do what
dressing-gown man said - find other
people, help each other.
If there is anyone around not
hovering between life and death.
Nick opens the bedroom door. It isn't clear if he heard
Derek's last remark but he looks unsettled.
I've reached level 3 Dragon Master.
Could I have a biscuit?
You certainly could but have a
glass of milk with it, OK?
Frank gets milk from fridge and hands it to Angela. She
pours a glass, puts two biscuits on a plate. She places it
all on the table.
Here you are, Nick! Sit down at the
Nick sits and eats.
Nick we're going to see if we can
find anyone in the block who can
help. Would you like to come with
us or do you want to go back to
I don't want to stay here on my
No, of course not, I'd stay here if
you wanted to play some more.
I think I need a break. If don't
want to go down to level 2 again.
So you'll come with us?
Just round the block - on the other
floors - finding neighbours.
Finding neighbours to help?
Yes, that's right. Neighbours
should help each other, If you've
finished your milk we can all go
together. Let's put coats on.
Angela goes to collect Nick's and her own coats.
SC INT DAY A DIFFERENT APARTMENT.
There is a large package attached to an inert drone on the
floor just inside the door. The apartment living-room beyond
the entrance way is quite dark and it is unoccupied.
Hello? Anyone home?
Frank comes hesitantly in through the front door. He looks
at the broken drone in surprise. He sniffs and makes a face.
Hello? The door was unlocked - I'm
FRANK listens - there is no sound. he examines the drone
(calling to Derek
There's a damaged drone with a
package here and that smell is very
strong. No-one in the living room.
I'm going to look in the bedroom.
Do you want me to come in?
No, stay there - we don't want them
to think it's a burglary or an
Frank walks carefully across the living room, opens a door
at the far side and peers in. He gives a sharp intake of
breath and goes into the bedroom, leaving the door open.
After a a few seconds he comes out again, looking shocked.
Anyone there, Frank?
Yes but you might as well come in.
Where are Angela and the boy?
They're round the other side. They
should have several doors to go
Derek comes in. He stops and looks at the drone and sniffs.
I think that smell is coming from
They're dead, a couple lying in bed
together. They must have died in
their sleep - they still look
DEREK looks at Frank in shock. Derek goes quickly into the
bedroom. Frank stays in the living - room near the bedroom
door. Derek comes out again.
They're certainly dead - recently I
think - I mean there's no smell.
What about rigor mortis?
You can touch them if you like.
I was just asking. I don't suppose
when is that important.
We can't do anything about them.
We'd better look at the drone.
Frank and Derek go to the entrance way. Frank squats down
and examines the drone. There is a broken rotor on the top.
Frank bends down further and sniffs the package.
You can see - it broke a rotor
somehow. That smell is coming from
the package though - sniff.
DEREK crouches down and sniffs the package.
Ugh, yes. Let's open it.
Frank and Derek work together to get the package open
quickly. There's a great deal of padding but nothing else
except a packing slip which Frank picks up.
(looking at packing slip)
Just a long number. I think the
smell is coming from all this
packing and from the material of
the container. It's giving me a
Let's get out of here.
DEREK gets to his feet and pulls Frank up with him. They are
unsteady and stagger a bit.
Hey Frank, Derek - are you two in
Yes, don't come in! We're on our
Derek and Frank go out through the front door in a hurry.
SCENE EXT DAY BLOCK BALCONY/WALKWAY FLOOR 4
Angela is standing in front of the door to a flat, Nick
behind her. Frank and Derek come out of the door quickly but
clumsily. Derek collides with Angela, who stagger back on
top of Nick until Frank catches her. Angela gives Derek a
cold look and seems happy enough being supported by Frank.
Frank and Derek are gulping fresh air.
Sorry, Angela - clumsy.
What's the matter with the two of
you, rushing out like....
(she hesitates, glancing
Nick laughs. Derek and Frank are still taking in gulps of
Sorry. It was just that strange
smell - it's stronger in there.
What about the owners?
Nobody at home.
Frank is secretly and urgently mouthing something at Angela.
Angela looks alarmed but clearly can't understand..
Did they forget to lock the door?
No Nick. I think a drone delivered
something and then broke down in
My Dad says drones never break
down. He says they're a marble of
Marvel, I think you mean, Nick. But
he's right - they are. I've never
heard of one breaking down in
someone's home before.
It must have happened from time to
time - but I agree it's rare. This
one had a broken rotor.
Nick, have you had enough door
knocking for now? It's a bit boring
when nobody answers.You could go
back to DragonWorld.
We heard people in number 46 -
moving about - but they didn't open
Is that right? Did you knock loud
We both shouted our loudest and
Angela knocked with her shoe.
Derek and Frank look at Angela questioningly.
Maybe they had headphones on.
No response at all?
Angela shakes her head.
What do you say Nick? Back to
DragonWorld, orange juice and
biscuits or more door-knocking?
Do you think I could start the next
Why not? Let's you and I go back
We'd better come with you, don't
you think Derek?
SC INT DAY FRANK'S LIVING-B ROOM
Frank and Derek are standing together near the door. Angela
comes in from the bedroom and closes the door behind her.
So what's going on?
The couple in 48 were dead, lying
in bed together. I couldn't see any
sign of injury or illness.
And that smell comes from the
package and the packing. Smelling
it made us both pretty woozy -
that's why we came out so fast.
And nearly killed me and poor Nick.
What about number 46?
That was weird. It sounded as if
there were at least two people in
there, marching manically up and
And they didn't respond at all?
Never even paused. Just went on
marching, one, two, one two, about
Didn't that scare Nick?
It scared me - Nick's beyond
finding things strange I think.
So our search for help has achieved
what? Apparently the residents of
the block are either in a coma,
dead or manically wearing out the
carpet - all behind locked doors.
It's not quite that bad - some may
be away and many of the apartments
could be empty.
Not going to provide much help
But there is Nick don't forget - if
he's unaffected there should be
So we go on looking?
I suppose so - but if we do find
someone, how are they going to
help? Raise the dead? Open a home
for lost boys?
They could take turns looking after
Nick at least - I suppose I'd
better stay here with him for now.
If we don't find anyone here we can
search around. More than anything
we need to get in touch with
someone who knows what's going on,
the police or someone in authority.
If there is anyone left. OK, let's
have another go.
We won't be more than two or three
hour, Angela. Is that OK?
Nick and I will be fine.
Derek and Frank put on coats and leave.
SCENE INT NIGHT FRANK'S APARTMENT
It is the middle of the night. There is a single light from
the bathroom giving a dim light. Angela is asleep on the
couch. Nick is sleeping on an arrangement of sleeping bags
and pillows on the floor next to her. We can hear their
After a while there is a slight click and the front door
silently opens. There is a faint whirr as a drone flies in
with a package attached. It deposits the package on the
floor with a small bump, which makes Nick stir in his sleep,
and it fliesout . The door closes again with the same click.
The only sound is the breathing of Nick and Angela. The
packet sits near the door. Fade-outs and Fade-ins suggest
time going by. At one point Nick becomes restless turns
over, opens his eyes but goes back to sleep.
Later. The bedroom door opens and Derek comes out and goes
quietly to the bathroom. He doesn't see the package. He
returns and closes the door quietly behind him but trips on
something inside, swears before apparently going back to
This disturbance has woken Nick, who slowly sits up and sees
the package. Thrilled, he gets up and goes to examine it.
this wakes Angela. She sits up and sees Nick near the door.
What's the matter, Nick? Can't you
There's a package on the floor. It
It wasn't there before!
Angela gets up in a hurry and joins Nick by the package.
It smells bad, like onions.
It's not a very nice package I'm
afraid. It smells so bad I'm going
to put it outside. You go back to
(reluctantly heading back
Can't we open it?
Angela picks up the package in her arms, manages to open the
door, which has been relocked, and takes it outside.
(coming back in)
I don't think we should. We can
decide in the morning, Nick. Get
Angela closes the door carefully and makes sure it is locked
again. She goes back towards Nick's and her bed.
(giving Nick a goodnight
Good Night again Nick. Sweet
Nick turns over to go to sleep. Angela sits down on her bed
and puts her head in her hands.
After a while Angela sits up, bends over Nick, making sure
he is asleep. She gets up, tiptoes to the bedroom door,
Frank! Derek! Can I come in? A
drone delivered a package. That
Angela goes into the bedrom ans coed the door.
SCENE INT DAY FRANK'S APARTMENT
Angela is standing over Nick at the table, helping him draw
a picture. The front door buzzer goes. Angela goes to the
wall panel expecting to see Derek and/or Frank. The screen
shows a small old woman wearing a hat.
WOMAN IN HAT
Hello? Is anybody there?
WOMAN IN HAT
Oh hello! I'm so glad to find
someone. May I come in? I live on
the 10th floor. My name is Marjorie
It's not my flat actually but never
mind. Come in, please.
Angela opens the door, letting the woman in. She is a
vigorous old woman in conservative clothes with a floral
hat. She is talking as she comes in.
Oh thank goodness! I was beginning
to think there was nobody in the
whole block. I've worked my way
down, knocking on every door.
Hi, I'm Angela and this is Nick,
who lives downstairs at number 47.
He's staying here.
Angela makes a warning face at Marjorie, who acknowledges it
immediately and turns to Nick.
Which dragon are you drawing Nick?
Isn't he the one who protects the
Yes, he is. He isn't evil but he's
He looks it.
Nick, could you finish your picture
in the bedroom while I get Marjorie
a cup of tea? I'll help you move
Angela and Nick gather up paper, pens etc. and take it into
the bedroom. Marjorie walks over to the shelf where the VR
set is an examines the set. Angela comes back, closing the
So why were you so desperate to
find someone in the block?
I am trying to work out what's
going on. I have no comms, not even
emergency services, my companion
hasn't turned up. I walked to the
High Street- there was no traffic,
nobody about, traffic lights not
working, everything closed, an army
jeep abandoned at the crossroads.
It's been like that since Tuesday
What do you mean?
There's a power out in public
places and a complete comms
No, I've noticed all that. You said
'since Tuesday'? - today is
No, Wednesday, I'm pretty sure. Not
sure of much at the moment but I do
know Tuesday was yesterday.
If you're really that sure then
that means I must have slept for
more than - er - 30 hours. I went
to bed around 11.30 on Monday. I
can't believe I could have done
that. I may be old but I'm not
either ill or gaga.
I think you should know - Nick's
parents are two floors down in a
It's happened to people all over.
It seems to be something to do with
VR - Nick's mum and dad were still
plugged in to their sets when we
Bugger me!! I was only testing out
a prototype set on Monday evening -
perk of the job. I must have fallen
asleep wearing it, very unusual,
but it had lost all connectivity
when I woke up in the chair this
morning. Can I really have slept in
that chair for 30 hours - it would
explain why I was so stiff.
I think you were lucky that set
stopped working. Are you feeling
Fine. Exceptionally well rested! So
tell me about this VR coma thing.
How many people are affected?
We don't know. The problem is
without any comms at all, with no
net feeding internal or external
screens, there's no information.
The local hospital is overwhelmed
How do you know?
The boys went down there.
Oh sorry - the owner of the flat
and a friend of his. As I said, I'm
just staying here.
They're out trying to find out
So I've woken up in an end of the
world scenario - no comms, no
public power - how is that even
possible? - and there's a mass coma
I'm afraid that's not all. If a
drone delivers a package to you get
rid of it immediately!
The boys came across an apartment
door left open because a drone had
broken down after delivering a
package. The couple in the bedroom
had died in their sleep. The
package had a very strange smell.
It made the boys dizzy and sick -
they nearly knocked us down rushing
Jesus! Did they examine it?
It was empty - just packaging and a
Just the one apartment though.
Well, yes, but we noticed the sweet
oniony smell outside quite a few -
nearly a third by my count.
Not good! Anything else I should
know about this brave new world or
is that it?
Well, the drones have been weird.
You mean apart from delivering
I think they're watching us.
A lot of hovering and flying around
near us - all without packets.
There were two that looked as if
they were waiting for us to go
inside when I arrived - almost
Great Adaptive Appetitive
Algorithms! I never imagined
anything like this.
Angela looks at Marjorie in astonishment. She is about to
ask a question when the door opens and Frank walks in. He
stops and looks enquiringly at Marjorie and Angela
Frank, this is Marjorie from
upstairs. Where's Derek?
He's helping out at the hospital,
driving an army lorry around
picking up victims. He'll probably
come for Nick's parents as he knows
where they are. Nick OK?
Fine. Drawing a dragon - Algon
You've got it. Any more news?
The police station is closed. The
soldiers have been told nothing new
and are waiting for overdue relief.
The hospital says it is operating
on emergency generator power and
has no comms except a direct line
link to its trust head office, but
only two junior staff are there.
Any drone activity?
Yes, one hovering high up over the
crossroads and I think I noticed
several more in the distance. So
you know about the drones?
Only what Angela has just told me
-but I don't think this is a cyber
attack - at least not in the normal
You know something about all this,
don't you! There was that weird
thing you said just now - something
about appetite rhythms?
Appetitive algorithms - just an AI
buzzword. I have a theory - a very
wild and scary one. I should
explain that I worked on the
intelligent distribution systems
before I retired. I helped to write
some of the early code.
What do they do?
They predict demand and adjust
supply - power, comms bandwidth,
drone availability - whatever. They
are learning systems that acquire
data, including user data, patterns
of human behaviour, to help in
their predictions of demand.
That doesn't sound too dangerous.
No, though they are allowed to cut
off supply as an emergency measure
to prevent total system collapse.
So what's your theory?
When I retired we were working on
algorithms for the systems to
predict causes of their own
breakdown or failure and take all
steps necessary to avoid it. I was
worried about it.
I felt it was equivalent to
incorporating instinctive drives
into control systems that already
resembled AIs. These systems learn
from experience. Add to that
imperatives for survival and
avoidance of threats to the supply
system and how can you anticipate
So how does that explain anything?
What causes the supply system to be
stressed or to fail?
Correct! Demand by whom?
So what better way of avoiding
supply system failure than managing
the source of demand, i.e. people?
Cut down on human activity, on
human population even, and you keep
the system safe.
Jesus. You mean they're trying to
Only as a means to an end.
Everything that's been happening
cuts down demand - cutting power to
public places, so shepherding the
population into their homes, where
they are quietly inducing
inactivity, coma or death where
possible, no demand there.
But that's insane. They'll reduce
demand to zero and have no reason
Totally insane by human standards
but there's no reason why a
collection of self-regulating
algorithms should be sane.
But what could have suddenly made
them behave in this way? They must
have been working OK until three or
four days ago.
Some perceived threat to the system
I imagine. Possibly the very severe
weather increased demand to levels
that that the system couldn't cope
There have been endless warnings
about supply shortages and power
outages for years. The government
has done nothing much about it.
What can we do?
Turn them off.
Easy as that!
Not so easy. We need to find where
they are hosted, where the physical
servers are. I can't help thinking
that self-preserving systems will
have taken steps to protect
By distribution and concealment I
imagine. They have access to the
net and apparently complete control
of it. They could be hosted
anywhere by now.
There has to be a physical link
between these distribution systems
and the generators?
Actually there is both a direct
cable and a wireless link between
them and the generator control
panels, even in the oldest
stations. We'd have to turn off
both links in each power station
and take control manually. That
would take a very long time.
We need control of the net.
That's right. We need access and a
team of hackers to track down and
disable the servers.
How have they managed to shut down
all comms but leave the VR streams
The net is in the process of
changing from host-based routing to
information-centric networking. VR
moved straight over to the new
system -ou t of necessity -but
other services are still mostly
carried on the legacy systems.
I don't think I understand any of
that. What are we going to do?
We might be able to use the VR
network to trace them. They are
clearly using it as a weapon,
altering content in some
extraordinary way. How they do that
I cannot imagine! I have some stuff
at my place we could use - though
I'd need a connection to a standard
VR set, which I see you have.
Marjorie glances over at the shelf where Frank's VR set is
Could I borrow the set? It would be
easier than bringing my equipment
But isn't using the set dangerous?
It obviously is, but I need the VR
stream to be active with normal
feedback from human implants if I
am to sneak in with my trace
equipment. Do't worry - I will
monitor whoever goes into the
stream to make sure they don't slip
Oh so it won't be you using the
No. I wish I could trace the stream
while in it just using my implants
but the feedback would be obviously
wrong and quickly noticed. I need a
Angela and Frank look at each other.
Angela has to stay here for Nick. I
can do it.
He gets on OK with you, Frank.
He'll be fine without me. I think
it's tine I did something more than
look after Nick.
Is that OK?
Hey, hold on. This could be really
Not very - I'll make sure she
doesn't drift off.
Frank, it's ok. I have to do
something positive. I'll let him
know we're going and you're
Are you sure you can keep her safe?
It's just a case of preventing her
drifting off - won't be a problem.
Anyway we have to try this.
Exactly - we have to do something.
And I think it will help that I
really dislike Virtual.
Maybe. Let's hope. OK, then, I'll
come into Nick with you.
Help yourself to the set, over
there - on the shelf.
I'll be back out in a moment and we
can go straight up.
As Angela , and Frank head for the bedroom Frank puts his
hand on Angela's shoulder. She stops.
Be careful, Angela, please.
Don't worry. Marjorie won't let me
get too deep.
Frank and Angela go into the bedroom. MARJORIE picks up the
VR set and heads for the door, where she waits for Angela.
SCENE INT DAY MARJORIE'S FLAT.
Marjorie's flat is similar in layout to Frank's but it has a
great deal more in it. There is a rich and exotic decor but
this is largely hidden by the very large amount of
electronic equipment everywhere.
Angela is sitting in a simple, upright chair wearing the VR
set but there are extra leads from her head to a complicated
array of interconnected equipment and more leads from there
to a heath-robinson looking headset Marjorie is wearing.
Throughout the next conversation Marjorie is altering
connections, focusing on internal readouts and keeping an
eye on Angelafrom time to time.
Look around you! Tell me what you
are experiencing. Keep talking to
I'm at a very grand dance -
glamorous but sort of warm and
What kind of music?
It's very flowing, a dreamy rhythm.
Of course it's 'dreamy'. Be more
specific - stay awake! Is it a live
orchestra? Can you recognise any
instruments playing? What about the
As Angela speaks the scene around her fades and is replaced
by what she is trying to describe - a huge,grand, dimly lit
ballroom, pillars receding into the distance, fuzzy
impressions of other couples whirling around. Angela is
being whirled about by an elegant, tall partner in a dinner
jacket. His face is never clear, just hints of refined good
looks. The music is waltz-like, a heavy slow rhythm,
hypnotic, disturbing. The whole scene is soft focus,
(Her voice becoming
increasingly soft and
I recognise it but I can't remember
the name. I've known it for ages,
it keeps repeating over and over,
and we keep twirling round and
round to it, round and round, it's
lovely, round and round we go, the
two of us.
We? Who are you dancing with? Who
is he? Describe him.
What? Oh - tall, very good dancer.
How tall? Eye colour? Hair?
I can't seem to focus, he's turning
around me, turning me around him,
never still, never facing me -
we're turning all the time, we're
going round and round, I feel a bit
dizzy but I'm so happy.
I've traced 14 ip hops but there
are more to go. Keep dancing and
keep talking to me. How big is the
Angela doesn't reply.
How big is the room?
Big, so big - columns stretching
into the distance, fading away into
the darkness, in every direction, I
can see them as we turn and turn,
turn and turn, turn at turn....
The ballroom scene fades and is replaced by actual scene of
Angela in the chair and Marjorie working on tracing the VR
inal. Angela has gone physically slack, her arms and head
have dropped. Marjorie is preoccupied, working feverishly,
Can this be the origin? Only 15
redirections? Doesn'to go anywhere
Marjorie turns to Angela.
OK I think I've got the first
MARJORIE breaks off, seeing Angela apparently asleep.
Angela, wake up! I think I've
traced the primary address,or one
ANGELA doesn't respond. Marjorie gets up, trailing wires,
and rips the VR set off Angela's head. Angela's head flops
back and forth unresisiting.
Wake up Angela! Wake up!
ANGELA makes no response.
Fuck me, that was unbelievably
MARJORIE pinches Angela hard on the wrist, no resonse, slaps
Angela harder in the face -she doesn't respond. Marjorie
pinches Angela's nose closed with one hand and places the
other firmly over her mouth. She waits.
Forgive me! Kill or cure.
After a considerble time Angela begins to move, twisting her
head and body in the chair, fighting for air. Marjorie takes
her hands away and Angela takes a first great rasping
breath, then a series of rapids, panicky breaths, then
shrieks and starts to shake violently.
Thank the Lord! I was afraid I was
going to have to live with letting
you into slip into a coma and then
(spluttering and faintly)
I must have drifted off.
Marjorie begins disconnecting herself and removing her
More plunged into the depths. From
dreamy prattle to coma in a few
seconds. Unbelievable! I'm hoping
you'll forgive me letting you slide
into what could easily have been
final oblivion when I tell you I
may have traced one server.
That's good news isn't it?.
Yes but they'll have lots of
servers - we need to know the
location of as many as we can. If
whoever's connected starts going
into permanent coma before I've
traced even one it'll take forever
- and they'll probably switch.
I'm sorry - I might be better next
time but I'm not sure I'm up for it
Doesn't have to be you next - and
we'll have to manage better
safeguards. Probably safer with at
least three people but it'll be
very slow. Are you feeling OK?
ANGELA gets up slowly and takes a deep breath or two.
I'm fine. No ill effects.
Then let's go down and report to
Frank and Nick, have a cup of tea
and do some planning.
Marjorie leads the way out of the apartment.
SCENE EXT DAY HOSPITAL EMERGENCY AMBULANCE PARK
Derek and another man (Ralph) emerge from behind an army
lorry, carrying a stretcher with an inert body on it. They
head for the doors of the Hospital Emergency department
ahead of them. A nurse opens the doors for them as they
How many more?
Three - not including this one.
You'll have to put them on the
floor along the first floor
corridor between Waverly and
We follow Derek and Ralph into the hospital emergency
department. Bodies are stacked everywhere, a few on trolleys
but most on the floor, on stretchers or just on coats or
cushions or nothing. A doctor is setting up an intravenous
drip apparatus for a very young coma patient.
Christ! We can't even keep the ones
we've got hydrated - haven't got
the equipment - they're dying.
We're turning into a giant morgue.
Where are you taking them?
Corridor up between Waverly and
Richmond. Is it really that bad?
Well, they do have extremely low
metabolic rates so they die slowly
- and we are managing to squeeze
some fluid into many of them
somehow - but we still haven't
found a way of bringing the deeper
sleepers out of it safely. I don't
fancy your new arrivals chances.
Christ! We can't even keep the ones
we've got hydrated - haven't got
the equipment - they're dying.
We're turning into a giant morgue.
Where are you taking them?
Ralph and Derek look at each other, raise their eyebrows and
we follow them as they carry the stretcher into a lift. They
manoeuvre the stretcher inside and close the doors.
He didn't seem too happy.
They've lost many of them I think -
some in the attempt to wake them
and more just drifting down from
coma to death..
What did he mean by deeper
Derek presses the lift button to the first floor.
It seems the longer they are under
before they are found, the deeper
the coma and the more dangerous it
is to try to revive them. Some of
the younger ones are different
though; they've been successful
with quite a few.
When did they run out of beds - and
They arrive at the first flooor, carry the coma victims
along the corridor and stop between the wards.
Here's as good as anywhere I
They lower the stretcher carefully onto the floor. We can
see the pale, slack face of the coma victim.
After we've brought the others up,
the evening group starts their
rota. Rest time.
I could do with it. What are you
going to do?
Well I'm not going to spend it in
my bank cubby hole, that's for
sure. I'll go round to those
friends I mentioned. Don't suppose
you want to go back to an empty
flat in an empty block either, do
you? Want to come along?
Would that be OK?
Sure. They'll be only too happy to
see someone else surviving. We'll
bring some food and stuff.OK?
They head back towards the lift.
SC. FRANK'S FLAT. INT. NIGHT
The door buzzer sounds. Frank comes out of the bedroom and
looks at the door monitor.
Oh Hi. Glad you're back.
FRANK opens the door and Angela and Marjorie come in, Angela
rather pale and shaky, carrying the VR headset. She puts it
on the table.
I'm a bit worried about Nick. I
think DragonWorld is wearing a bit
thin; he asked when he would be
(Frank notices Angela's
Oh, how did you get on?
Well I think I've back-traced one
server - at the cost of almost
My God, what happened?
I took my eyes off her for too long
- overexcited by finding the last
hop - she had gone under, induced
You were actually unconscious? - in
a coma? - a coma like all the
Well, I was only unconscious for a
Only three or four - I hope.
How did you get her out of it?
I first tried pinching her and then
slapping, no effect at all, so I
cut off her oxygen.
Nose pinched shut, hand firmly over
mouth - waited for you to fight for
My nose is still a bit sore and
it's one of my nightmares, not
being able to breathe.
I'm sorry - but it worked.
Are you OK? You look shaken up. Sit
down. Would you like a cup of tea?
For heaven's sake, give her a hug
and break out the spirits. We could
all do with a drink and we do have
the beginning of a fightback
strategy - worth celebrating
FRANK goes to Angela and puts his arm rather tentatively
round her shoulders. She turns towards him and buries her
head in his chest, trembling and possibly tearful. Frank is
visibly startled and upset and stands there rather frozen.
Where's the gin, Frank?
Oh, sorry. I'll get it.
FRANK and Angela separate a little reluctantly. Frank goes
to the kitchen and Angela takes a deep, shaky breath and
goes to sit down at the table.
I'm OK. I just feel a bit shivery.
MARJORIE sits down next to her.
I don't know what it does to the
central nervous system but nothing
at all good. You're in some kind of
shock - something just tried to
shut you down, put you on permanent
standby - take the recovery slowly
Are you sure you wouldn't rather
have tea? Isn't it supposed to be
best for shock?
I'm not in shock and anyway that's
an old wives' tale, put about
because it's cheaper. Bring some
I've got Scotch or Vodka?
I don't like Scotch much. Have you
got any mixers?
Let's see. Lemonade? Orange squash?
Something with sugar in for Angela.
I'll have Scotch - neat - please.
FRANK comes in carrying 2 glasses. He puts them down on the
Vodka and orange for Angela.
Straight Scotch for Marjorie.
Nothing for you, Frank?
Don't want to breathe alcohol fumes
all over young Nick.
Actually I'll just go and check on
Frank goes into the bedroom.
Drink! Sip it, wait for it to do
its job and then sip again! Hearty
sips - if you'll pardon the
Angela sips her drink. Marjorie drinks. Frank returns from
He's ok for now actually - about to
crack a level. So Marjorie what
does it mean, what you've found?
That we have one target out of an
So do we attack it?
No, not yet. We need to wait until
we can attack many, preferably
most, of the host servers -
otherwise we'll just alert them to
the danger and they'll move from
the one attacked anyway.
Could they find us?
If I can trace them then they can
certainly trace me. They exist in
the medium; we just invented it.
What could they do?
Cut off our power?
Quite right Frank. Easy, quick and
What could we do? Move?
Must be plenty of places not being
Yes we would have to go on the
road. Ideally we'd need an
independent power source - a
generator- and mobilise some of my
The door buzzer sounds. Frank goes to the scanner.
It's Derek and someone younger I
Hi. This is Ralph. We brought food
Let them in!
Derek opens the door. Derek and Ralph come in carrying bags
of shopping. There is much welcoming and deliberate
including of Ralph, who is shy. Ralph does a double take
when he sees Angela but does his best to hide it.
How are things out there?
Not now, please! We'll tell you
later. I see you're all drinking
already. May we join you?
Bad as that,is it? OK what have you
Mainly tins, drink and chocolate.
Most of the fresh and frozen stuff
has gone off.
We brought some frozen that's seems
OK - needs using very soon though.
OK - let's get it all in the
kitchen and plan a meal.
And pour some drinks.
I hope there's something suitable
for Nick - he ought to have a break
An 8 year old we picked up.
Well, there's pizza.
He ought to like that. I'll go and
tell him - see if he'll take a
Angela goes into the bedroom.
Angela - it's weird but I'm sure
I've seen her before. I know her.
She did VR for Mutual and various
other companies. She's very
sensitive about it.
Oh, OK. Sorry.
Angela and Nick come back in together.
Where's that pizza? Nick likes the
sound of that. You'll help us get
the meal ready, won't you, Nick?
Montage of domestic activity. Helping to clear the table
Nick picks up the VR set, looks at it curiously and moves it
onto a shelf or bookcase next to the bedroom door.
Everyone is seated at the crowded table, the meal over.
May I leave the table?
Of course, Nick. Have you had
The pizza's finished.
There are more chips and things.
No, I'm full thank you.
Off you go,then.
Nick hurries back to the bedroom. He sees the VR set,
hesitates and then picks it up, unnoticed.
Time to talk. What news?
The body count is appalling.
But they're not dead, are they?
The doctors are saying that many of
them are as good as. They can't
wake them without killing them.
Still in the coma as far as I know.
At least they're in a ward bed as
they were one of the first. What
have you been up to?
Marjorie has managed to trace the
address of one of the servers but
Angela nearly went into coma in the
Jesus! How did that happen?
She was keeping the VR channel open
while I traced the IP address hops.
It worked but I almost left her too
How will knowing the address help
There is a feedback channel, in
effect an upload channel back to
the server; it stays open as long
as there is a human client neurally
reponding on the primary VR
channel. We should be able to use
that channel to attack the servers.
Only a bit?
One step at a time. If our attack
is disruptive enough they will lose
some control of the infrastructure
and we might be able to start
restoring the lost services.
'Might be able to' so it may not
work at all and we nearly lost
Angela on the first attempt.
There's alot wrong with the method
- the rapid slide into coma makakes
it very dangerous and horribly slow
but it's the only way I can think
of to get any control back - and I
am hoping we will get better at it.
I'll get quicker and we'll all
learn how long we can safely stay
We have to do something - anything
is worth a try.
Do you want to volunteer - to use
the set next?
Yes OK, I will. I think the risk is
I agree. Marjorie is right - it's
the only chance we have.
Yes, that about it. I don't know of
any other way of reaching our
So shouldn't we get on with it? I'm
Maybe we should have a system - a
Well if Ralph goes next you and
Derek can sort it out between you -
and then we'll just go round again.
Do you think it's safe for Angela?
Frank, nothing happened to me
really - and I'll be more on my
guard and so will Marjorie. I'll
take my turn.
OK Ralph, let's get started.
Where's the set? I can't see it.
I think I put it on the table when
I came in.
Somebody will have cleared it off
there before we ate. Anyone
remember where they put it?
Everyone starts looking for the VR set. Ralph stops,
I think maybe Nick moved it off the
table but I thought he left it
somewhere over there.
Ralph points towards the bedroom. Everyone looks over there.
I think I saw it over there by the
bedroom door - where's it gone? I
think Nick must have picked it up -
Angela rushes towards the bedroom followed by Marjorie and
Frank, the others standing staring. Before they get there
the door opens and Nick comes out, wearing the VR set, which
is clearly active. Angela stops before she collides with
Nick. Nick smiles at her uncertainly.
I've been flying; I'm a fighting
Angela reaches Nick and is about to snatch the set off his
head but Marjorie stops her, holding her arm.
Angela, wait! He's obviously fine.
This is very interesting. Nick, are
you online now?
Yes, sort of.
Ralph, Derek and Frank have all joined Marjorie and Angela
near Nick so Nick is at the centre of a rather intimidating
circle of adults.
So you are still a dragon but
you're Nick too?
I don't understand.
You are in Dragon World but you are
here talking to us too.
Yes I suppose.
Isn't that rather difficult and
How do you do that Nick, talk to us
and stay in Dragon World?
Dragonworld sort of fades a bit
when I'm talking.
Why did you take the VR set, Nick?
I just borrowed it 'cos nobody was
Did you go straight into Dragon
World when you put it on?
No, I was floating on the sea at
first. It was a bit boring.
So what did you do?
I made it change to Dragon World?
I don't think there's any point
asking him how.
Nick, you didn't feel sleepy or
tired t all?
No, it was exciting.
What about at the beginning,
floating on the sea?
It was just a bit boring and samey.
Nick, I think you'd better give it
back, don't you?
Nick starts to take off the VR set.
It would make a huge difference if
I could carry on IP tracing without
having to stop to pull people out
of coma every few minutes.
(taking the headset from
Nick and standing
protectively near him)
I don't think we can take that
risk, Angela. It's not fair.
(looking at Nick)
Let's not discuss it right now.
Priorities - we're talking about
survival. We're losing a war here -
the machines have brought
everything down in just a day or
SCENE INT DAY MARJORIE'S FLAT
Nick is sitting in the upright chair with the VR set on.
Marjorie is connected up to the VR set and her equipment,
trying to trace another originating IP address. Angela is
tanding beside Nick
Keep talking to me about what's
happening in your world.
(after a pause)
I'm on a quest to find the stolen
crystal. I'm flying over the misty
The scene fades and is replaced by Nick's virtual reality.
Nick is apparently flying over tremendous mountains, his
dragon wings visible as they move. To one side of him
another Dragon is flying.
Good boy - keep telling me what's
Nick and his companion dragon are descending towards a
sunlit sea on the other side of the mountains.
Almost through to another server
address I think.
We're going down.
Is it getting dark or very quiet?
No, it's very bright and can ear
the sea. Big waves!
That's it I think. That's five more
in the last hour.
The brightly lit and coloured virtual scene changes abruptly
to black and then visual noise. The virtual scene is replacd
by dimly lit Nick in the chair in Marjories's flat throwing
up his arms as if flying and trying to control his flight.
Bugger, bugger, bugger. They've
found us and cut off the power.
I thought I was falling into the
sea. What's happened?
It's OK Nick - it's just a power
cut. It must be a shock. Are you
feeling all right?
Nick starts to cry. Angela puts an arm round him.
He will be disorientated - it's a
shock to the system.
I suppose it'll be the whole block
and it'll get dark soon.
Which means we'll all have to move.
Bugger, bugger, bugger.
The door buzzer goes. Marjorie opens the door to let Derek
(out of breath)
I came up to say there's a power
Here too, I'm afraid. I've got a
lamp and candles. I'll just collect
Marjorie collects a packet of candles and a camping lamp
from a cupboard. Nick has stopped crying.
Here Nick, you can carry the
Marjorie hands a packet to Nick and they all leave the
apartment, Marjorie carefully locking up.
SCENE INT DAY INSIDE THE ARMY LORRY
The lorry is moving, reasonably smoothly but quite noisily.
There are benches down each side. The lorry is canvas
covered with low metal sides and tailgate. There are chunky
and obviously added power points from which there are wires
to Marjorie's equipment and the VR set on Nick - plus many
more connecting everything together. Angela is sitting
directly opposite Nick on the other bench and Marjorie on
the floor near him, working with her equipment, also on the
floor. The panel to the driver compartment is open and we
can see the back of Derek's head as he drives.
Tell me where you are, Nick, in
I'm diving into the sea. Now I'm
swimming under the sea.
And where are you really?
Um - here, in the bedroom - no, I
mean in the lorry..
Another alias! How many hops back
That's right, Nick. Can you see me?
Nick turns towards Angela.
Don't overdo the interruptions,
Angela. We don't want the feedback
looking too unusual.
Marjorie types something rapidly, looks at a screen, types
again, hits return emphatically, then stops.
(shouts) Derek, you've
come out of the zone. No
signal - can you turn
OK, I'll turn as soon as I can.
The lorry suddenly swings round to the right. Derek almost
falls off the bench onto Marjorie. Marjorie is rocked back
on the floor but recovers.
Whoops. That's it -it's back. Try
to stay in the zone near the
Marjorie starts working feverishly on the equipment and then
stops in triumph.
Yes, got the bugger! That's another
genuine origin. Derek, back for
ANGELA gets up and moves to Nick, puts a hand on his
OK Nick, time for a Dragonworld
pause. Can you disconnect yourself.
Angela takes Nick's right hand and places it on the VR
Oh OK! I am exploring the
underwater city. Can I come back
Nick disconnects himself a litle unwillingly.
Another server - I think without
those crazed programmes being
aware,thanks to Nick.
How close are we to mounting our
Close. I reckon targeting the ones
we know so far with an overload of
inconsistent feedback data would be
disruptive enough to
(looks at Nick)
muck them up - but our array of VR
sets and attached computers isn't
nearly large enough - we need more
Ralph should have wired up some
more units by now.
Let's hope so, but it depends where
he can get in.
All that flying and swimming - I'm
The lorry brakes suddenly and comes to a complete stop.
Every one is thrown about.
What's up, Derek?
Sorry - three army types with guns.
1ST SOLDIER O.S.
Please get out of the cabin, sir.
Two soldiers appear at the back of the lorry.
Everyone out, please.
One of the soldiers waves an automatic rifle at them. Derek
appears at the back of the lorry with 1st soldier behind
You're interrupting valuable work.
And you're joyriding in a stolen
army vehicle. I'd say that's
looting, wouldn't you, Mo?
Lookss like looting to me, Sue.
Everyone know the penalty for
looting? All of you out - now!
Marjorie and Angela climb out. Angela helps Nick down. At
sight of Nick the soldiers become less aggressive in
posture, guns pointing away.
I was asked to drive this vehicle
by our local hospital, Grove Park,
to bring peope in for treatment.
And so now you're driving your
friends about in it. Is that what
they had in mind?
We're trying to fight back.
By riding round and round the
houses with a VR set?
Actually, yes. We need a mobile
power source. We've traced a large
number of the servers they use. You
can see my equipment there.
Means nothing to me. You'll have to
come along with us and explain to
our C.O. - our C.O. isn't a very
trusting man. Get backin the back,
all of you.
Mo, could you let them know we're
bringing in a suspected looting
Give that one the keys.
(Gestures to 3rd soldier)
Derek shrugs and hands over the keys. All four of them climb
into the back of the lorry. 3rd soldier goes round to the
front and climbs into driver's seat.
The jeep and lorry go off in convoy.
SC INT DAY AN ARMY BARRACKS HUT
A middle-aged army captain is sitting at a desk, looking
rather harassed and depressed. Derek, Nick, Angela and
Marjorie are lined up in front of him. 1st and 2nd soldier
are standing on either side.
So what were you all doing in one
of our lorries? And why with this
very young man?
The captain points to Nick. Derek and Marjorie hesitate so
Marjorie here is a top computer
guru. We've been helping her track
down the sources of the coma thing
I've been using the VR streams to
track down the servers hosting the
hostile algorithms and control
programmes. We've made some
(To 1st soldier)
Martins, could you get Corporal
Phillips here. Straight away
please! And after that there's no
need for either of you to be here -
go back to your patrol duties
1st and 2nd soldiers leave the hut.
(To Marjorie and others)
I don't know much about this stuff
but Phillips seems to. Can you
explain why you have a child with
you and why you needed our lorry
for this tracking process?
Nick is resistant to the coma
induction code - or more likely he
doesn't trigger it. The lorry is
because they cut off our power -
they tracked our IP address,
located us and shut down the whole
building. We have to have an
independent, mobile power source -
your lorry works well.
1st soldier and Corporal Phillips enter.
Ah, Phillips, we need your computer
know-how. This lot's story is that
they're driving round in one of our
lorries trying to track down some
Is that right?
Yes. I have equipment and software
that tries to trace the IP hops of
the coma inducing VR stream back to
its true host server.
Isn't there a danger that the trace
will be traced so the servers are
moved and you get shut down?
Yes, they did that and cut off
power to our building - that's why
we are in your lorry.
Yes, I think so. I've got a long
list of ip addresses.
And they haven't switched servers?
Not yet or at least not much - I've
kept the trace algorithm very fast
and light and I've managed to embed
it in the VR feedback stream - sort
So I take it this all makes some
kind of sense to you, Phillips?
Yes sir, mostly.
Who or what is doing this, running
I'm only guessing, but I believe
it's the computer systems we set up
to control supply and demand for
power and other services - the
regulators. I don't think it's the
Russians or anybody.
That would explain why it seems so
widespread - Russia and the U.S are
There is general interest at this statement and Derek and
Angela try to speak at the same time.
Sorry, Angela, you go ahead.
So you have comms?
They have satellite links I
Correct, several links, supposedly
hardened and certainly encrypted,
but we are having problems with
Something is interfering with the
satellite bandwidth allocation - we
get locked out more and more often.
That doesn't surprise me. I'm
amazed you still have any access at
But then you must know what's
happening in the rest of the world
- Europe, America?
There's nothing official or
verifiable - only local units
reporting conditions around them.
They sound a lot like here I'm
I'm hoping you can help us mount an
effective attack on the servers
You're thinking of DDOS attacks?
We could help. We have an
independent power supply at least -
though fuel is growing short.
OK, I'm satisfied you had good
reason for using our equipment and
I must apologise for detaining you.
You're free to go - and keep the
transport for now.
More important by far is getting
I was coming to that. Phillips, I'd
like you to go with them, assess
this strategy and if it seems
viable, find out how we can help.
Captain Allyson pauses and looks around the group.
I'll leave it up to you how you
organise that. He is at your
disposal. Phillips, understand what
they're doing and report back to me
- let's say not later than tomorrow
afternnoon roll call.
We need to get back to Frank and
Ralph - and lunch.
Phillips, take rations for yourself
and some to spare for this lot.
Captain Allyson scribbles on a form, signs and hands it to
You'd better ride in the back with
me and the others so we can talk.
Captain Allyson gets up and they all move to the door
Believe me, if there is a chance of
regaining some control by your
method I will make sure that all
our resources are available to you.
We do have radio communication with
other units so, with some
organisation, we could be a real
help. Tell Phillips everything you
can and what you need and he'll
report back to me as soon as he
All leave except Captain Allyson who slowly goes back to his
SC INT DAY A LARGE MILITARY SPACE LIKE A CONVERTED HANGAR OR
There are perhaps 100 people in groups of 4 or 5, each group
containing one child, sitting around 20+ tables containing
electronic equipment similar to Marjorie's but smaller and
neater. Each child is holding or wearing a virtual headset.
Each tables has an identifying letter. Angela, Derek, Frank
and Nick are at one of the tables. Marjorie is standing at a
microphone facing the groups. Corporal Phillips and two
others are going from group to group checking equipment.
Captain Allyson and a very senior officer are standing near
Marjorie. Behind them is a large screen.
Just remember, our enemy is not
truly intelligent or conscious -
but is capable of learning and
adjusting its responses in order to
survive and keep control - so speed
and coordination are vital.
The brigadier come forward and turns to point at the screen.
So we've done the practice drills -
now it's time for action. The
screen will display the IP address
in red of any confirmed server
under attack from us. The address
will go black when it goes down.
It's OK to cheer when that happens
- we all deserve a morale boost in
these times. Good luck to all of
Remember - the slightest sign of
disorientation or sleepiness among
our young frontliners, pull the
plug. Just because it never
happened to Nick, doesn't mean it
can't happen to one of you.
OK Marjorie? Can we get started?
Marjorie looks over at the table with Nick and the others.
They look back expectant. She smiles at them rather
nervously and then nods to the brigadier.
Right. Headsets on. Power up.
Companions and IP searchers at the
IP addresses in red start to appear on the screen with a
letter corresponding to the table or group. Angela is
talking to Nick at their table. We see the letter of their
Would like your Dad to join us,
Nick? He's just watching at the
back of the hall.
He'll make me nervous if he's too
close. Mum isn't here is she?
Not yet, but I think she'll be out
of hospital in a day or two.
We'd better get started. Are you
I'm already in.
OK, we'd better catch up.
The group get busy with the equipment, Angela monitoring
Nick. On the big screen we see more red IP addresses come up
including one with Nick's letter. The room is very busy as
all the tables get to work. After a time one of the IP
addresses wavers and goes black. There is a big cheer. Then
two more go black almost together, followed by a bigger
cheer. A cascade of successes follows and an atmosphere of
triumph, relief and euphoria quickly builds. Finally every
address has gone black.
(Standing with mike on
I have just heard that power has
returned to several city public
areas and that traffic lights and
street lights are working there.
There are also reports of patchy
internet and comms access in the
same areas. This is a splendid
victory you have won - the first
victory in a war we have up to now
been losing. I am sure it is the
first of many.
SC INT DAY A SUBTERRANEAN DATA AND COMPUTER INSTALLATION
A very large, sterile, low-lit white-walled space. There
are long rows of server racks stretching into the distance.
On one side at the near end aremassed banks of computer
hardware. There are no winking lights or any sign of power
Marjorie comes in, followed by Angela and Frank. Angela and
Frank look around with interest.
We think this is where it started.
These AIs were designed to balance
the power supply against demand.
They initiated the coma strategy,
though the actual VR coma program
was adapted from popular medical
and entertainment programs with
help from the specialised AIs that
So are those AIs still active?
Many of them are but they shouldn't
be a danger on their own.
So is VR safe now?
Well I won't be using it. We need
to examine the role of AIs and
control the way they
intercommunicate -and sometimes
And are these AIs here completely
Totally. To an extent I don't
believe was either necessary or
What do you mean?
They have dismantled the
architecture and wiped the memory
core - so now we can't study them.
Do we need to?
Well we can't anyway. It would
have been useful to learn how, for
the first time, machines developed
the ability to go beyong theit
programming, find original
solutions, make their own decisions
and cooperate on a new strategy.
So you're afraid it could happen
If it happened once it could happen
again - but it's not just the
danger. In some ways it's a
wonderful development and it could
be a power for good.
We've seen how that works..
Yes, we've all had enough of AI
aims and methods. Never again.
You can't stop development, what is
really evolution, not permanently
-it's better to understand it and
try to control it.
Anyway this lot have been stopped.
Angela gestures towards the computer banks.
They have been annihilated. I can't
blame people for seeing them as
monsters but I am sad about the
loss of a species on the cusp of
A new species which tried to kill
They wren't trying to kill us. They
were designed to keep the lights on
at all costs. When their
predictions showed the grid failing
they took steps to reduce the
demand for power - killing us was
just collateral damage. Nobody
told them that our survival was
more important than the power
So they weren't our enemies?
They weren't quite intelligent or
human enough to be enemies. They
were our mistake, our misguided