This is the first episode of a theoretical nine-part series worked out for a college assignment. I collaborated with Tina Tamarakar in writing this, so Tina, no need to reach for a copyright lawyer. I dont have the slightest idea how a series like this could end, but if you have any suggestions, do let me know. Images from Bela Tarrs’ “Werkmiester harmnoies” and “Damnation”.
It is a dark night, and rain is pouring down from the sky. There is a solitary street lamp, which illuminates nothing but its own little circle of pavement on the dark little London street.
Maria walks into view. Barely more than twenty, she is dressed in a raincoat rather too big for her, carrying an A-Z and an umbrella as well as a small scrap of paper. She pauses under the street lamp and tries to examine the A-Z, fumbling with the umbrella.
Two hoodies loom out of the shadows behind her. They grab her before she has time to think-only for Max to leap into the scene. He fends them off with some well-choreographed action and a knuckleduster.
The thugs run off, as Max stoops to help Maria to her feet.
Max: Well done. Its not even past midnight, and you did a good job of nearly getting killed just now. Who are you, walking around at this hour?
Maria: (Scrambling to the ground and searching desperately) The address…!
Max: Don’t mind me. (Watches in irritable bewilderment as she finds the paper and sighs with relief).
Maria: This could be my only chance of saving him.
Max: (With the air of someone who, having found a beetle in their salad, lifts the rest of the lettuce.)…Oh? (she turns to look at him. A strong-looking man in his mid thirties, Max is very much the policeman, apart from his clothes. Feeling awkward and grateful, she pushes her hair away from her face.)
Maria:…I forgot to thank you.
Max: Don’t worry, I never expect thanks. Now…I think its question time. (Tries to take the paper from her but she moves back.) I don’t mean you any harm. And you’re obviously in trouble. You can let me help you, or you can face this-whatever this is-on your own. (Takes the paper from her now unresisting hand. It has an address written on it in smudged pencil). What is this?
Maria: (On the edge of tears) I think it’s the place where they took him…
Scene 2. (Flashback)
Maria and her father, Doctor Smith are eating breakfast in their kitchen. He is middle-aged, mild, rather soft-looking, and does not deserve what is about to happen to him. Maria finishes her coffee at the table. He opens today’s post, dismissing the bills, and then stares in distaste at a letter from OMNICORPS. This sinister company-who primarily deal in nuclear weapons-has written AGAIN to offer him work.
Smith: (Over his shoulder) Will you look at this? Those disgusting people are really not giving up.
Maria: Another subtly menacing job offer?
Smith: I think it’s a bit much, actually, if you can’t work in nuclear physics without getting job offers like this. Just listen to this! “Accepting our offer would see you enter an exiting and lucrative business with unlimited hopes for the future-”¬ yes, unlike the people they would drop the bombs on, whose future would be nonexistent! Its an insult, really, for them to expect you to accept jobs like that. The trouble with working in science now is that everywhere you turn you meet people who expect to buy and sell you. You’re young, you don’t know what its like, but being considered a commodity is…its…well, you don’t belong to yourself, that’s all I can say. Not to them. Even your thoughts-no, especially your thoughts-are company property. I went into science because I love it! And I wanted to serve humanity! Do these people give a damn about my reasons? If you have a mind and can be useful they see you as a thing. No rights, no will of your own. Like a computer…(Throws the letter on the table.) Now on top of it they’re making threats.
Maria: What threats?
Smith: Oh, nothing very explicit. Everything that lot say is coded-its often like that with powerful companies-but basically they say that they could get very nasty if they don’t get what they want, and I should consider you.
Maria: (Alarmed)I don’t like the sound of that! What could they do?
Smith: Nothing! Oh, you mustn’t worry. I’ve got people backing me, there’s not much they can do to hurt us. (Glances at the clock). You need to get going, go on, or you’ll be late. You’ll be back-when?
Maria: Around six.
Smith: Don’t come through the lab please, I’ll be working all day. (Kisses her cheek.) See you later.
(She leaves. The camera focuses on the discarded letter on the table. As Smith finishes his coffee in the background, the camera pans in on the letter, till first the white page, then the company logo, fill the screen. The logo gets bigger and bigger, a black circle in the centre gets wider, until the screen goes completely black.
The blackness remains for a moment then lightens. We are in a dark room. Matilda sits at a desk reading a letter from Smith. A ruthless non-human in allrespects, she advertises it in her appearance. A man, mostly hidden in the shadows, stands behind her.)
Matilda: He won’t accept the offer.
(She leans back and sighs.)
Man: Are you sure, Ma’am?
Matilda: Completely. I sent him that final offer purely as a sort of…sop. A last chance. Now I know it was a waste of paper. He’s refused so often, he won’t accept now, he’s not that type. (She lays the letter down carefully, takes out a small hand-mirror, and redoes her lipstick.) You know, I won’t even wait for a reply. Why bother? Just take him. (Pouts in the mirror.) Grab him. I’m tired of playing polite. He was given a chance. Many chances.
Man: What about the girl Ma’am?
Matilda: What about her?
Man: Yes Ma’am.
He moves away. Scene darkens.
The camera peeks between some leaves outside a laboratory window. Through the window, Smith is working at a table, feverishly writing notes.
In another part of the house, a window is quietly prised open.
Smith completely fails to hear several pairs of feet on the stairway, and down the hall. He fails to hear a door quietly open behind him. Return to the shot through the window. Dark shapes surround Smith from behind, and one of them throws a hood over his head…
Return to the street with Maria and Max
Maria: I went home that night and the house was dark and empty. I searched and searched. The next morning I phoned all his friends. In the end I went to the police.
Max: And? What happened? What did the police do?
Maria: Well you can imagine. There was a search like you get when anyone goes missing-but then …it was just knocked down. No one explained. There were “orders from head office” apparently. But no one explained-why?
Max: Did anyone say who in head office?
Maria: No-one told me anything.
Max: (Shoves his hands deep in his pockets and paces a bit. Stops with his back to her.) You said your father was a scientist.
Max: And someone, a very reticent someone, ordered that a search be dropped. A search for a scientist, and a missing scientist, is always an official worry. If you’ll excuse the term, its valuable national property gone missing. You need to look after it.
Maria: (Annoyed) That’s my father, don’t talk like that about him! Do you even have a point?
Max: My point is, they dropped the case for a reason, and reasons like that are always a lead! It comes back to power, and people-this person in head office. They cut you dead when it came to getting answers. They had something to hide. (Turns on her suddenly) But that wasn’t the end was it? What happened?
Marias sitting room. She is crying on a sofa, her face hidden in her hands. Her mobile phone is on a table beside her. She glances at it and reaches out but then withdraws her hand. Camera cuts to a shot of the letter box in the front door. A hand enters the shot and pushes a slip of paper through the slot. In the sitting room Maria hears the noise. Looking tearful but now curious she goes to the front door. The piece of paper is lying on the door mat. End flashback.
Return to the street
Maria: The address was the only clue I have ever had. And I have to find it.
Max: Well good luck there. You are out on your own, in the dead of night, and you haven’t even brought something to defend yourself with. I assume you didn’t tell the police.
Maria: I don’t think they would have helped. I told you about the strange way the case was knocked down. You clearly think I’m silly-but I think I would have gotten no help.
Max: That’s broadly true I think, after what you’ve told me. You wouldn’t be allowed help. Lucky you ran into me. (Holds out his hand). Give me that A-Z. I have nothing better to do tonight.
The two stand in front of a dark East End warehouse. It seems to be in complete disrepair. The rain is pouring down now and they stand together under her umbrella. A single street light illuminates the open front door.
Max: Are you sure about this? It would be easy now to turn around and go home. I can tell you from experience, things like this are often harder to get out of than you’d like.
Maria: Are you joking? I have to find my father.
Max: Just checking.
The two go in, Max leading, Maria following behind. Max produces a torch from somewhere in his coat. the beam illuminates a dark, cavernous room, and broken furniture. Suddenly he turns the torch beam onto something white on the floor.
Max: I don’t think he is here …but someone gave themselves away.
He holds up a small business card. The OMNICORPS logo is visible in the torch light.