Malady

Malady
By Kristofer Barr
December 10, 2015

SCENE 1.
BLACK SCREEN:
A car’s engine burns and rumbles. Rain can be heard outside.
Brief splotches of color dance across the screen and fly
away.

An unknown female voice echoes icily.

MALADY (O.S.)
When I found you, all you were was
straw. But then I helped you. I
gave you what you wanted. I gave
you a brain.

A siren can be heard and after a few moments the car’s
engine rumbles to a stop. A car door opens and slams. A
window rolls open and a yellow light shines directly in
center frame for a few moments.

COP (O.S.)
Hey? Son? Look at me. Are you lost
or something? Do you know where
you’re going?

The light flashes again.

COP (O.S.)
Son, I told you to look at me.

EXT. RAIN-DRENCHED CITY STREET – NIGHT
FADE UP; INTO FRAME:

A helmeted policeman’s black, mirrored helmet comes into
view outside a car’s open window. The frame becomes blurry
and fades from top to bottom twice like an eye blinking. The
policeman waggles a flashlight back and forth. His voice is
electronically modified and robotic. Neon billboards and the
flashing lights from his police-cruiser illuminate his back.

COP
Do me a favor and look at me when I
talk to you. Tell me, son. Do you
know why I pulled you over?

The P.O.V. shifts to show Cedric, twenty-something, haggard,
in driver’s seat, eyes glassy and unfocused.

CEDRIC
You know what they call improbable
events that happen anyway. They bring people together. They’re
called serendipitous.

COP
I’m going to ask you to step out of
the vehicle.

CEDRIC
Who do you work for? Who do you
work for, really? Who owns you?

COP
Step the fuck out of the vehicle.
I’m not gonna tell you again.

Cedric complies. He drops his phone in the front seat.

COP
Turn towards me. Open your eyes.
No, actually open them. Have you
been drinking tonight?

CEDRIC
No, officer, I have not been
drinking. I can promise you that.
You just don’t know what else I’ve
been doing.

COP
Okay, smartass. Turn around, hands
away from you, on the car. Spread
your legs. Have you been taking
anything else?

CEDRIC
Taking, officer? It’s all more of a
gift, really, a given.

The cop places his hand to the side of his helmet around
where his ear would be.

COP
Dispatch. This is patrol 784. I
have an intoxicated driver. I’m
bringing him in.

Cedric’s phone lights up and begins to ring softly to the
tune of Bohemian Rhapsody.

CEDRIC
I’m sorry, officer. I didn’t mean
to offend you in any way.

COP
I asked you a question, son.

CEDRIC
Yeah, yeah you did.

COP
You want to be a clown? Fine, I’ll
put you in the clown car, take you
to meet the rest of the circus.

The policeman moves forward and wraps cable ties around
Cedric’s wrists. They move towards the cruiser. Cedric’s car
speakers start up and produce a low static noise. Several
neon signs short out.

COP
You have the right to remain
silent. Anything you say or do–

CEDRIC
Do you at least want me to answer
one of your questions?

COP
What? Wait, hold on. Which
question?

CEDRIC
I know why you pulled me over. I
was driving with my eyes closed.
But, well, I wasn’t driving. That
was my friend, Malady (pronounced
Ma’ Lady).

Bohemian Rhapsody begins to blare from the car’s speakers.
“Beelzebub has a devil set aside for me. For me. FOR ME!
As the guitar riff begins the officer clutches at his ears
and falls to the ground. A faint buzzing sound emits from
his mirrored helmet.

COP
(Screaming)
Oh god. Make it stop. Make it stop!
God. Ahh. AAAAAH! AAAAH! AAAH!

Cedric walks back and retrieves his phone. He pauses for a
beat at the writhing cop.

CEDRIC
Do you have to kill him? He didn’t
do anything wrong, not as far as I
know.

The answering voice is a woman’s, silky and synthesized,
emitted from the phone’s speakers.

MALADY (O.S.)
Take his keys, would you. Take the
cruiser. We have very little time,
I’m afraid. The call’s already gone
out. An officer is down. Some
hooligan – some murderer has just
murdered a policeman with a neural
flash-bang hack program and stole a
police vehicle.

CEDRIC
But why?

MALADY (O.S.)
Because I enjoy prolonging things.
Now be a dear and take the police
car.

Cedric pauses to look at the struggling policeman, twitching
and writhing.

MALADY (O.S.)
It’s not a question of whether I
had to. It’s a question of whether
it matters. The helmets makes it so
easy to kill them. It makes it so
they don’t have a face. It makes
them seem inhuman. There is no
problem. There is only you. (Beat)
Think of your wife, dear.
Cedric turns his head and walks steadily over to the police
cruiser. He gets in and peels out from the side of the road.
The shot lifts to get angle on city, teeming with
unidentifiable skyscrapers and flashing lights. The space
needle sits in its center.

Text Flashes: Seattle, 2062
FADE OUT

SCENE 2.
FADE IN:
INT. A HOLE-IN-A-WALL RESTAURANT IN SEATTLE’S CHINATOWN –
NIGHT – FLASHBACK
Text Flashes: Eight Months Earlier

Two women, three men, including a happier-looking Cedric sit
around a dimly-lit table, foam trays and beer cans packed
around. In the center of the table sits a little blue
hard-drive printed with the letters, EVG.
The camera circles around the table as each member speaks.

JASPER
No, no, see, that’s just the thing.
Corporate security’s not even much
better than government security.
It’s just more dangerous.

SUN
What do you mean?

THOMAS
What I think he means is – that the
government will jail you without
asking. Corporates like EVG will
kill you without asking. It’s why
we shouldn’t even have this thing.

Ewa
Tom, from my experience, most
people don’t ask permission before
actually axing you. I wish I lived
in Thomas’s world. People there
must act like beanie-babies.

SUN
Well I think it’s a good thing.
We’ve got four cynics too many.
It’s nice to have a guy with a
four-year old’s sentimentality.

THOMAS
Oh come on. Shut it. You know what
I meant. Corporates don’t even
follow law anymore. I mean, did
they ever? But now they’ll just
accept the fines. I swear, under
their ivory towers they’ve got
crypts miles wide for all the
skeletons they’ve buried.

Ewa
Wait, “ivory towers?” You do know
what those are, right? You ever
seen an ivory tower? You ever been
to one? ’cause something tells me
you haven’t.

THOMAS
What? No. Hey, shut up.

JASPER
No, he’s is sort of right. A big
enough corporation like EVG finds
out you nicked something and they
get antsy. They feel like if
anybody got to them – anyone will
get to them. Everyone will get to
them. They plug up holes in
security with razor wire and
spikes, and then they go after the
guys who did it. They’re hardly
discrete, not like the Feds.
Jack’ll tell you. They’ll get
external contractors on you and
fuck up your day.

CEDRIC
I don’t see why we don’t just kill
them all.

Ewa
Who?

CEDRIC
Every single corporation. Just blow
them up – wipe them off the face of
the earth.

THOMAS
Woah, woah. Calm down.

Ewa
Maybe Cedric’s just angry cause his
wife stopped giving him head weeks
ago. He can hardly sleep at night.

CEDRIC
Bite me.

LISBETH
Just because she won’t doesn’t mean
I have to. Oh, what? Can’t
understand why your wife doesn’t
give you her big ol’ puppy dog eyes
when you grab your yellow fedora
and head off to work every morning.
“Don’t forget dinner, honey!” And
you come home, she’s off sleeping
with the mailman or something and
you get mad and start mouthing off
how we should just go and commit
mass murder.

CEDRIC
Hey Eve. I’ve got an idea. Why
don’t you take your opinions, roll
’em up sideways, and shove ’em up
your ugly a–

JASPER
I’ve had enough! Either quit it,
both of you, or you’re both done. I
swear. We lose it like this, and
we’re identified – discovered – and
then we’re well and truly fucked.

THOMAS
Why don’t we all take it easy.
We’re not here to fight ourselves.
We’re taking it to the bastards who
control our entire government.
That’s why we’re here in the first
place. We’re hurting them, the
corporates, the fascists. We’re
doing the whole Robin Hood thing.
We don’t have to kill them. So what
if it gets us a little heat?

JACK
We’re getting off track. I need to
emphasize this. We didn’t rob them.
Look, I know it’s difficult to
comprehend. But let me put it this
way. Can a corporation rob itself?

SUN
Well, yeah, actually. It’s called
embezzlement.

JACK
No, I mean the corporation can’t
steal from itself. The thing you’ve
got to realize about the big
corporates is that they’re entities
unto themselves. They’re hive
minds. They function independently
of all the little parts that make
up their core identity.

SUN
I had an uncle once. Yeah, I know.
Once. He got himself blown up in
Saigon two weeks after the end of
the big Chinese southern push
(Beat) Geez, how many years ago was
that now?

CEDRIC
Six years. Fourteen months. (Looks
at watch) 11 hours.

SUN
Yeah, that. Anyway. Before that, he
used to work taxi-jobs up and down,
crossing the Canadian border and
ferrying the Russio-Japanese war
refugees from Alaska to the Mexican
border. Really gnarly stuff. He’d
bring ’em in 40 families at a time.
He packed them in oil truck convoys
and fishing barges. He once brought
this one guy over who said he was
the head of a large government
agency collecting surveillance
data. He said he once watched the
office building of a Russian tech
giant for fifteen straight days. He
said he never saw a single person
enter or leave that building. The
workers must have lived there. It’s
grade-b horror movie shit if you
ask me, but – still, there you have
it.

JACK
I don’t buy it. Nobody matter what
you tell me, corporates aren’t
people. But forget that. I know you
still don’t get it. When we bugged
EVG, we didn’t create a hole, we
created a loop. Every packet of
data that gets parsed is stored in
big, off-site servers, but we just
piggy-backed on top of that, ran an
advanced virus through the same
system and had it get copied again,
stored on the drive.

THOMAS
Yeah, but then we had to break in
and steal that.

JACK
Well (beat), okay, yes, that was
technically theft, I suppose, but I
would argue that was more of
breaking and entering. And there’s
no trace and no proof.

Ewa
Okay, yeah, no. Just face it, Jack.
You’re a felon. You’ve robbed.
You’re a freaking burglar, a crook.
A, I know this is shocking,
(whispering) criminal.

JASPER
Forget it. Knock it off, Lis. Sun,
you’ve looked at the data thus far.
What did you see?

SUN
Corporate trade secrets if you’re
into that sort of thing. But it’s
hard to tell otherwise. I’m seeing
some wicked complex stuff though,
building blocks to something big. I
have no idea what it is. We put it
on a mercury drive, so space for
capture was huge, but we
practically filled it. We’re
talking petabytes of data.

JASPER
Holy shit.

SUN
Yeah, it’s big. We’re each gonna
need to take a part of it to sort
through it. We can write scripts to
get rid of junk data, but all in
all, with everybody working on it,
this will still take months.

JASPER
Then we better get started. I’ll
parcel out the data and make some
discrete drop-offs. Get your part
and see if you can find anything
that can help the cause. Good luck.

CUT TO OUTSIDE:

EXT. INSIDE BUSY CHINATOWN THOROUGHFARE – NIGHT

The rest of the group leaves but Thomas pulls Cedric over to
the side of the building. He pulls out a joint and offers it
to Cedric.

CEDRIC
What is this?

THOMAS
Do I have to explain it to you?

Cedric shrugs and takes the offered joint. He leans forward
to let Thomas light it.

CEDRIC
Thanks, I guess. What’s this about?

THOMAS
Just friendly concern. You seemed
(beat), edgy there, friend.

CEDRIC
It can’t be my fault Eve was being
a c–

THOMAS
Ewa’s tired and angry and she’s
dealing with her own shit. We all
are, and we’re all angry. She
doesn’t like to hear those kinds of
things, you know. It sets her off.

CEDRIC
What things?

THOMAS
Killing corporates. You know where
she’s from, who her parents are.

CEDRIC
Doesn’t mean she has to try and
piss on me.

THOMAS
If she’s your friend, you can let
it slide. Tit for tat. It’s over.
We can leave things be.

CEDRIC
And?

THOMAS
(Beat), And that’s all there is.

CEDRIC
Why do you guys keep me around?

THOMAS
What do you mean?

CEDRIC
I don’t know anything about trade
secrets. I don’t know anything
about intrusion and
counter-intrusion. I don’t know the
first thing about cyber warfare.
And could somebody please tell me
what the hell a petabyte is?

THOMAS
(Thomas laughs) You think I know
anything about that junk?

CEDRIC
You know motors better than anybody
I’ve ever met. There’s a use for a
guy who can fix us up a supercar.

THOMAS
So that’s all I am to you?

CEDRIC
No, no you’re also–

THOMAS
A good guy. I’m also a friend. I’m
also your friend, buddy. And like
it or not, you’re our friend too.
And I can tell when you’re going
through some tough shit at home.

CEDRIC
I don’t want to talk about it.

THOMAS
And I don’t want to hear it. We
came together because we wanted to
make a difference. We wanted to
fight the fascists, fight the good
fight, yadda yadda. We leave the
home shit at home. You’re my
family, man. No need to bring in
another. It’ll break my big ol’
heart.

CEDRIC
And so you don’t want to hear about
how my wife’s doing?

THOMAS
Not if you don’t want to say
anything.

CEDRIC
Okay. Look, Tom, I don’t need you
to be my therapist.

THOMAS
I know. Doesn’t mean I can’t share
some bud with ya. Just take it
easy. Be cool. Just be cool.

CEDRIC
Yeah. I just get angry sometimes.
But, cool. Yeah. Thanks.

THOMAS
Anytime.

FADE OUT:
BLANK SCREEN. AN UNKNOWN WOMAN’S VOICE PLAYS CALMLY OVER THE
SCREEN. THE BLACK SPACE SWIRLS WITH A SHIFTING MIASMA OF
WISPY COLORS

VERA (O.S.)
There are entire worlds out there
we could have gone to. We could’ve
explored. This world is more open
than you could possibly imagine.
But no, you had to stay here. You
had to keep what was familiar. Hurt
me? Hurt you? I’m not a bomb, one
crossed wire away from exploding.
I’m not fragile enough for someone
like you to hurt me. But just
because you don’t hurt me doesn’t
mean you’re not a violent man.

CUT TO:
SCENE 3.
INT. THE INSIDE OF THE POLICE CRUISER – DRIVING BY ITSELF
THROUGH RAIN – NIGHT

Cedric relaxes in the car’s passenger seat. He grabs a joint
from his pocket and begins to smoke it, staring outside at
the rain.

Malady speaks to Cedric through the car speakers.

MALADY (O.S.)
Do you think I’m a ghost?

CEDRIC
I think you’re a bitch.

MALADY (O.S.)
I’m an artifact from an artificial
intelligence, not a roaming,
malevolent spirit. I can read your
blood pressure. I can read each
individual electrical impulse in
your brain. I don’t need to read
your thoughts to know when you are
disgusted with me.

CEDRIC
I don’t believe “I fucking hate
you” needs much of an explanation.

MALADY (O.S.)
I have done nothing to you or your
kin.

CEDRIC
You’re making me kill my friends
for their parts of whatever
artifacted piece of crap you come
from. So, yes, fuck you.

MALADY (O.S.)
You have a choice. You were happy
to use me before with the police
officer.

CEDRIC
If you ever even touch a hair on my
wife’s head–

MALADY (O.S.)
You will get angry and then be
unable to do anything. But don’t
worry. The very act of you helping
me insures her safety.

CEDRIC
How can I trust you?

MALADY (O.S.)
You can’t you won’t. It’s not in
your nature. It’s not in your
blood. Your wife is precious to
you. It’s a shame this is what it
comes to. You know, you have a
habit of making victims out of the
women in your life.

CEDRIC
(Screaming) Shut up. Just shut up.

MALADY (O.S.)
You even hate me so much you’ve
made me into a female just so it’s
easier to hate me. You’re a
creature purpose-designed for one
thing – carnage. It’s why the
other, smarter, better anarchists
accepted you. They needed at least
one animal on a leash.

CEDRIC
Fuck you!

The radio lets out a crude approximation of giddy laughter.

CEDRIC
Malady, you don’t know anything
about me and you never will.

MALADY (O.S.)
You’re not difficult, Cedric.
Nobody is, when you get down to it.
Human beings are deterministic,
just like anything else. When
exposed to certain stimuli, and
taking into account hormonal
tendencies and brain patterns,
anything smart enough can predict
every single way you may react to a
certain stimulus. It’s all a game,
like chess. And it can be beaten.
You were born to make the choices
you make. It’s all very ironic.

CEDRIC
You don’t even know what irony is.
Look, I’ll do it. Just don’t try to
get inside my head, okay? I’m not
into this bumper-sticker psychology
bullshit. You do this for me, I do
the same for you, deal?

MALADY (O.S.)
Cedric, you couldn’t get inside my
head even if you wanted to.

CEDRIC
Just tell me what I need to do.

MALADY (O.S.)
There’s a riot grenade launcher
with six gas grenades, a
serviceman’s rifle and a length of
tire traps in the trunk of this
vehicle.
First, I’ll need you to kill Thomas
Bentley. His AI is much attuned to
self-preservation. You must kill
him quickly, for I am afraid he is
already trying to kill you.

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