as Will tries to beat them away, the white shapes keep on
coming. He cannot see them but he can feel them digging
into his back, rolling over his thighs. His legs are moving,
but he is making almost no progress through the thick black
swampy liquid which is rising around him. Then the shapes
come alive. The black rectangle pressing into his face suddenly
opens into a wide gaping mouth. As he is swallowed up he
remembers Grace's words. "Just concentrate. Concentrate
on Pure Virtual Essence. Let it come, let it flow, let it
take you over..."
the digichron on the wall bleeps 1100 Central Dome Time,
Agent Crane lights up a denicocig and begins to pace up
and down. The black plastic of his shoes scrapes against
the white tiles. "Cut that out, Crane. Drives me crazy."
Technician Blake leans over the dormant body on the couch
below him and checks his millisecond wristchron against
a series of rapidly changing black digits on the side of
the silver headset. He glances up at a blank vidscreen,
which is connected to the headset by three black wires.
A flat neon light above him illuminates the sweat on his
bald head. "I gotta concentrate."
admires his profile in the unframed mirror that is the only
decoration in the otherwise uniformly white-tiled room.
He smooths a finger down his fine cheekbone. "You work
too hard, Blake. You know that? You should come down to
the Pleasureunit with me at twelve. I gotta batch of confiscated
Virtualporn and a few thousand mikes of 'Z' from G Squad
in exchange for a couple of favours."
we've only got a one hour Workslot with this guy. Now either
come and help me or shut the fuck up."
grinds the denicocig under his heel. "Blake, you know
as well as I do, we're too good for chickenshit like this...
what's his name ?"
leans forward and checks the nametag on the top pocket of
the man's grey overalls. He is thin, like most thirds, the
skin stretched over skeletal bones in his face. "Kane....
Will Kane. He's a mute. From Sector B. Caught trying to
breach the Main Gate with a stolen Entrydisc. Showed no
adjusts his plain blue studded tie. "Face it, Blake,
our talents are being squandered. There must be a million
Thirds camped outside the Dome Walls. Official CDC line
is that they've been 'pacified'. What the fuck do they knowÿabout
it? None of them been Outside for twenty years. Guys like
us, with our... qualifications... should be out there dealing
with them." He licks his lips, his wide, bulbous nostrils
flaring. "Remember how we dealt with N'komo and Mahmoud...
to see those creeps crawling to us, drooling like dogs..."
shakes his head. "You're so dumb, Crane. You think
they're gonna let us near any of the big guys after that
incident at North Beach-"
turns away from the mirror. "They were only fucking
Thirds, man. Just because I Wasted a few thousand Thirds
they declared me 'Potentially Unsound'-"
were well out of control." Blake's head is bowed. "Now
get your Filevid out. Something's coming through on the
underground cavern is lit by white slow burning ceremonial
candles which give off the smell of musk and bergamot. Will
sits at the front of the congregation, legs crossed, head
raised with the others in adulation. Above him Grace sits
in full lotus in her white robe under the sharpened pointing
fingers of two long transparent stalactites.
"Behold, Beloveds, I have seen beyond the hidden archives.
I have walked in the very shadows of Sacred Monochrome...
but even I have had weak moments..."
The words seem to hang in the air momentarily, before they
float down onto the devotees' heads like falling petals.
Behind the abundant, shining grey hair her bright lucid
blue eyes glow with compassion, with love, with power.
"Beloveds, to be weak is to be human. But there comes
a time when we must be prepared to put aside weakness, as
each of us has done in order to reach this place... And
we must choose one of our number to be strong, as strong
as Bogart in The Big Sleep, as Wayne in Red River, as strong
as the great Kong himself..."
A gasp rises from the crowd. "PRAISE BE TO MIGHTY KONG!"
shouts a Beloved.
"PRAISE BE!" echo the others.
Grace raises a hand. Immediately, silence falls. "Beloveds,
I have formulated a great plan. A plan that will destroy
the heresy and sacrilege of the Domes forever. In order
for the plan to work, one of our number must enter MegaDome
One, where he will be captured, tortured, mindwiped and
finally Wasted. The sacrifice will be great, but the Chosen
One will live forever in our hearts, not only as the great
hero of our revolution, but as our saviour, Beloveds, our
The entire crowd raises arms in supplication and chants
as one: "CHOOSE ME!"
But Grace has clearly made her selection. Will looks up
and watches her long, beautiful finger descend. As she touches
him on his shoulder his entire body tingles with what feels
like an electric charge. He begins to burn inside.
just snow, Blake. Electrical discharges. Just fucking white
shapes, man. We should Waste him now. If I set the AUTOWASTE
to SLOW we could make it last a few minutes. Make him scream,
just a little..."
turns the FOCUS dial through 180 degrees. "You'll get
your fun later, Crane. I tell you that's not just interference.
long corridor. Dark monochrome shadows. A fast camera pan
down along a widening staircase. A slow zoom onto a woman's
hand in close-up. The hand is held behind the woman's back,
and clasped inside it is a key.
shrugs. "Just a scene from some virtualflick he's seen.
You probably gave him too much 'Q'."
only gave him 4,000 mikes. I tell you, Crane, he's Projecting..."
The guy is a Third. A numbskull drongo Third. To Project,
he would have had to be PVE-programmed."
What the fuck you mean, 'interesting'? You fucking technicians..."
want to see what happens next."
crazy. We gotta Waste him, right now, man. If the CDC Council
finds out we've been messing with shit like this we'll be
mindwiped, or thrown to The Thirds."
you're out of line. I tell you, we're on to something mega
here. Look at what's happening now..."
floats in bliss, in Pure Virtual Essence. As he mouths the
Sacred Names of Monroe, Russell, Welles, Bergman, Gable,
Harlow, the Sacred Faces flash before his eyes. Each one
he reaches out to touch. His hands meet solid flesh.
bony hands are twitching under their straps. His face is
ashen, his eyes blank and unseeing. A series of shudders
convulses his emaciated frame.
shrugs. "He's just got the 'Q' shakes. Remember that
Rebel Third Leader last year who shit himself-"
you dumb fuck, just watch the vidscreen..."
images are still fuzzy. The face of Greta Garbo blends into
that of Ingrid Bergman, like ice slowly melting. But there
is no mistaking Will's face next to them. One moment he's
Claude Rains, then Cary Grant, then Will again.
still don't believe it," Crane leans over the vidscreen.
"Where the hell has he picked up PVE training?"
no time to lose. We only have forty minutes. We gotta see
some more of this," Blake wipes off sweat from his
brow with his sleeve. "This could be our lucky break.
Don't you realise, somebody has trained this guy. Somebody
who is, or used to be, one of us."
shakes his head. "This is dangerous shit, Blake. You
know as well as I do, if we allow any Subject to Project
unpredictable responses into our Setup we run the risk of
letting viruses loose into the entire Network. " He
picks up the AUTOWASTE gun. "This has gone far enough.
I'm gonna waste him right now."
swings round, grabs Crane by his tie and pulls him down
to his level. "Listen, shit for brains, this is our
one big chance. If we follow this through we'll find out
which CDC agent has gone over to their side. You realise
what kind of kudos we'll get from that?"
blotches have appeared on Crane's pale, Q-ravaged features.
He detaches himself and straightens his tie. "I still
say this is a waste of time."
it's imperative that we try. You know what'll happen if
we reach thirty five and the CDC Council decides we've underachieved."
the screen, the images are now clear and focused. A hand
rips down a shower curtain. There is the face of a naked
woman, screaming. The action builds in a series of faster
and faster cuts, from the woman to the knife and back to
the woman. Then the blood is washed away with the shower
water, which gurgles away down the drain.
and Will are alone in the dark cinechamber. They are connected
by headset wires. Grace does not need to speak. He feels
her thoughts. Her presence inabits every part of his being.
"I have chosen the sacred text for you to focus on,"
she is telling him, though her lips are not moving. "Now
all you have to do is have faith in me and Focus. Focus
entirely on that movie. Just allow yourself to be at one
with it. Have faith in me, and you will Project. You have
been given four thousand micrograms of 'Q', the standard
hallucinogenic truth drug all the Agents use. Allow your
Projections to come, to float out of the darkness in the
centre of your soul. Remember, at all times, I am with you."
Will stares into her blue translucent eyes, and in that
moment they are finally joined, eternally linked. One heart,
one mind, one soul.
screen, the image of the shower is replaced by that of a
train track, stretching into the distance. We see three
riders coming into town. Their faces are unshaven, their
eyes dark and moody. They arrive a small railway station.
A sign says HADLEYVILLE.
Cut to an interior. A beautiful young woman in a long white
dress is staring up with adoration at the face of the man
who stands next to her. A voice offscreen is saying "Do
you, Will Kane, take this woman..."
hits the FREEZE control. "No doubt about it now."
The face is the same as the one under the headset.
begins to punch numbers into his Filevid. "I'll let
you know which movie it is. Then we can get to work."
of us..." Blake snorts "...have done our research.
If you spent a little less of your leisure allocation shooting
up 'Q' or 'Z' and getting into virtualporn you might know
that this is a movie called High Noon. Made midway through
the last century-"
prominent example..." Crane reads from the Filevid
screen "...of what was known as the 'Western' genre;
a largely romanticised version of the history of the Western
part of United States Of America some century and a half
before the Ecocollapse-"
yeah..." Blake is still staring intently at the screen,
where Will Kane is turning in his Marshall's tin star. "And
I've also done some research into new religious cults among
the Thirds. Since the policy of the CDC Council changed
from Third Cleansing to Third Control, the Thirds, or some
of them, have had access to thousands of old virtualmovies,
from the pre-collapse days. The believers each have a particular
old movie which they identify with. So much so, they usually
change their name to that of the main character in that
movie. They believe, supposedly, that they are reincarnations,
embodiments of the original characters and that their destiny
is to re-enact the original action of the first version
of the movie."
sighs. "Blake, you know as well as I do that all the
original versions of that stuff were virtualised years ago.
There's no way some dreckhead like him's gonna have knowledge
like that in his head."
be so sure. Remember, he's had PVE training. It could be
that whoever taught him knows what happens at the end of
the original movie. That means it has to be somebody pretty
high up. Don't you see, Crane, the guy's been programmed.
He's been set up to enter the movie and find its original
'sacred' ending. We need to find out why he's been sent
and, most importantly, by whom. To do that we need to enter
the movie ourselves to counteract whatever Kane does. In
High Noon Kane has to confront four armed and dangerous
gunslingers, who are all out to kill him. But we've got
it easy. We use the FREEZE to set ourselves up and we can't
fail." He checked his wristchron. "We've got exactly
sixteen minutes. All we need is one Technician and one Agent
who knows how to Project. Now, as I'm the fully qualified
Technician around here..."
no... you must think I'm really dumb."
in the other chair, Crane. I'll prepare a good shot of 'Q'."
fucking way, man."
want me to tell CDC about that party of tame Thirds you
and your friends Wasted last year on your 'vacation'?"
fuck, Blake. You wouldn't..."
looks down. He sees that Blake is holding the AUTOWASTE
gun in his hand.
Will Kane is getting no support. The whole town knows that
Frank Miller is arriving on the noon train. We rapidly cut
through a series of locations in Hadleyville. The Judge
who convicted Frank Miller is packing up and leaving his
house. At the Jailhouse, we see that Will isÿalone
now that his deputies have run out on him. Tearfully, his
new wife informs him that if he doesn't renounce his gun
she will be on the noon train.
"Don't panic"... Grace had told Will. "It's
meant to happen..."
listen carefully to me" Blake shoots of a tiny drop
of excess liquid to ready the hypo. "Your name is Frank
Miller. You are arriving on the noon train. You have come
to kill the man who put you in jail. That man is Will Kane."
Blake approaches with the hypo Crane begins to salivate
from the left hand corner of his mouth. As the needle slides
into his upper arm Crane lets out a long, satisfied sigh.
Blake checks the digichron. Nearly twelve minutes left.
He straps Crane's arms down and applies the headset.
they allow you to continue past this point," Grace
whispers, "you'll know they've decided to go for the
bait. From here on, all you have to do is to BE Will Kane..."
Across the darkened room, Grace's face glows. He is consumed
by her presence. He nods.
"Remember, Will, you will be giving your life for the
greater good of all.."
Kane bursts through the saloon doors. He appeals for volunteers
to raise a posse against Miller and the boys. He is met
with scorn and ridicule as the men of the town turn their
backs on him and swill whisky, laughing mockingly. In the
back of the barber shop, the coffins are already being made.
and Grace touch hands. In that moment it is as if their
flesh is dissolving.
"Now...." Grace whispers. "We are one...."
interrupts a service at the local church. The children are
sent away. Again he appeals for help. There is some debate,
but the townspeople are too scared of the Millers. They
tell him that the best thing would be for him to get out
of town for his own good.
Cut to the town clock. Noon is approaching.
Cut to Will, alone on the street with his lengthening shadow.
is with him, inside him, at every moment. So he is strong.
He has replayed through every action with her and he knows
exactly what to do.
noon. The train arrives. Frank Miller steps off onto the
platform. He has Crane's face. He meets with Pearce, Colby
and Ben Miller. They make for town.
Cut to Will's face, taut and resolved, peering from behind
the saloon's wooden supports. The four men are in sight.
Immediately, the shooting begins. Will dodges the bullets.
He manages to pick out Pearce, who has left himself exposed
in front of the saloon. Pearce crumples to the ground. Cut
to an angry, vengeful Ben Miller, chasing Will up a ladder
into a hayloft. We see Will through the sights of Ben's
rifle. We hear an exchange of shots. It is Ben Miller who
falls, a bullet in his chest. Colby and Frank Miller are
closing in on Will. In desperation, Will sets fire to the
barn. Using the smoke as cover, he escapes. But Colby is
in pursuit. As Will reaches the main square of Hadleyville
Colby raises his gun.
have chosen well..." Will can hear Grace's voice inside
him. "Have faith in me. Your destiny is to enact the
original scenario. You cannot fail."
in luck, Crane..." Blake whispers over the virtualphone.
"...looks like we ain't gonna need you."
then Colby falls dead. Will whirls around and sees his wife,
Amy, at the jailhouse window, smoking gun in hand.
Blake presses FREEZE. He applies BLOWUP and studies the
face of Amy carefully. "Crane...we've struck gold!"
He is excited. "You see whose face that is? We're gonna
get Unlimited Credit for this. We might even be nominated
for the CDC Council. You remember, couple of years ago,
one of the Controllers disappeared. Vanished from 'A' dome
overnight. Official story was she'd been killed by this
Third who she'd got in as a slave. It didn't bother me much,
but soon afterwards I was in the 'A' bar and I overheard
a couple of our guys saying she'd been plotting the overthrow
of the Council and that she'd been Wasted by the Chief Controller's
Agents. Y'know how weak Spencer is now. He musta spread
the rumour to keep James and Mink in check. It's obvious
now that she must have escaped from the Dome."
remember the bitch well," said Crane. "Grey haired
old hag with blue-eye imprints. It was her who got me busted
for wasting those Thirds."
it was Councillor Gracewell who convinced the CDC Council
to change their policy on the Thirds. She argued that they
were needed as a slave race to support the economy of the
Domes. A lot of people on the Council thought doling out
Virtual Units to the Thirds was dangerous, but she persuaded
them to allow her the necessary Mindcontrol Technology.
You can bet that by now she's used her PVE training to get
a whole army of mindwashed Thirds worshipping her, ready
to do anything she tells them, willing to die for her. Like
Blake, you're a fucking genius. Now they're both frozen.
Let me Waste them both and get me out of here. "
still got five minutes. We need to know exactly what their
next move is."
fuck with me, Blake. You've got all the information you
need. This guy Kane is shit hot. He's gonna Waste me."
I've got a plan. First thing you do is grab the woman. It's
the only way to draw Kane out."
Miller runs to the jailhouse, and twists Amy's arm behind
her back. She struggles as he drags her out into the street
Kane steps out of the shadows.
"Now, drop that gun, Kane..." Miller calls out.
Blake presses FREEZE. "Now, play it cool, Crane. As
soon as he's in your sights, Waste him. Then Waste the woman.
It'll be beautiful. When Spencer sees this..." He depresses
We cut to a close up of Miller's face. The eyes fill with
loathing and his lip curls in triumph. He raises his gun.
Suddenly the woman struggles, pushes him in the face, and
steps away. Kane fires.
Blake shouts. "You lost control. CRANE!"
see Frank Miller's dead body lying on the ground. The screen
quickly cuts to Kane and Amy leaving town in a horse and
carriage. The closing credits roll.
Will is transported in bliss. With Grace beside him, forever,
he rides out of town and surrenders to the thousands of
images that rush in to overwhelm him. First the sacred faces-
Harlow, Welles, Gable, Bergman, Grant and the others. Faster
and faster they crowd in on him. A rapidly accelerating
number of scenes flashes before him, until it is impossible
to tell one from another. But he is calm. This is exactly
the way Grace told him it would be.
"Just close your eyes and Accept..." she had told
him. "Never fear. I am with you."
As he steps into oblivion, he knows that she speaks the
truth and that their souls are joined forever.
two bodies in the Virtualchairs are frozen into stiff, rigid
postures. The vidscreen is silent. In the corner of the
room the digichron bleeps 1200. Official Compulsory Rest
Hour. Frantically, Blake punches code numbers on his Filevid.
It is even worse than he'd thought. The readout indicates
that an Extreme Burnout virus has taken hold of the entire
Control System. He swallows hard. It will take less than
a minute for CDC Security to trace the source of the virus.
is coming through on the vidscreen. Blake's data indicates
that the transmission has interrupted Good Friends, the
Feelgood Virtualsoap which nearly the entire population
of the Domes is plugged into. The grey hair and deep, soft
blue eyes of the speaker are unmistakeable.
"People of the Domes..." The voice is calm and
reassuring. Soft tinkling music plays in the background.
"Your communications systems are approaching total
collapse. Soon the force fields around the whole network
of Domes will cease to function. My armies are poised outside,
just waiting for one word of command from me. I appeal to
you to surrender now, before it is too late. Those who do
not resist me will be spared, and will undergo only painless
and healing mindwiping. In just a short time, as my followers
have already done, you will all learn to love me..."
image fades, but the last phrase keeps on repeating itself:
"Learn to love me.... love me..."
can already hear the footsteps coming down the corridor.
picks up the AUTOWASTE gun and sets it to a minimum pain
threshold. Then he opens his mouth.
me... love me... love me..."