The Apsinthion Protocol

The Apsinthion Protocol

by

Dr. Faustus of EroticMadScience.com

Since an entire screenplay makes for a lot of reading at one sitting, I have included a set of bookmarks at key points in the plot to help the readers, as well as occasional comments, which will be in green text like this. Enjoy your visit to Gnosis College!

A PDF version of The Apsinthion Protocol is available here.


Prologue
Learning in the Laboratory
Encountering a Species
Making Art
Annals of Law Enforcement
Fateful Decisions
Epilogue
Back to Index

fade in:

INT. CORWIN’S OFFICE – NIGHT

PROFESSOR JOSEPH CORWIN sits at his desk, brightly lit by a reading lamp. He is wearing reading glasses, and grading student papers. Little of the rest of the office is visible in the dark.

Sound of KNOCKING at the door.

CORWIN

Come in.

Corwin’s assistant ANWEI LI enters. Anwei is a comely Chinese woman,a little older than an undergraduate. She is carrying several books.

Anwei puts the books on the corner of Corwin’s desk.

ANWEI

Here’s your latest pile.

CORWIN

Thank you.

Corwin writes swiftly and copiously on one of the papers he is grading. Anwei looks on, curiously.

ANWEI

An exceptional essay, Professor Corwin?

CORWIN

I try to earn my humble salary by giving the good students of Gnosis College their parents’ money’s worth. My comments are always copious, since they pay so much for the feedback.

(pauses, writing some more)

And for some, especially deserving through dint of hard work and intellect, not just feedback, but a trail of breadcrumbs, should they want to follow them.

Corwin finishes writing, then closes the essay.

INSERT – THE TITLE PAGE OF THE ESSAY, WHICH READS:

“The Impossibility of Functionalist Accounts of Mind by Nanetta Rector”

BACK TO SCENE

Anwei smiles.

EXT. GNOSIS COLLEGE CAMPUS – DAY

View of a red-brick and wrought-iron gate with the words GNOSIS COLLEGE written on top.

MONTAGE – GNOSIS COLLEGE IN SESSION

— A bronze statue of a man in academic dress. On the pedestal appear the words “DOCTOR ZEALOUS CYDERS — FOUNDER” and below that the legend “May higher knowledge never vanish from the minds of men.”

— A male and a female student walking on a path, talking with each other.

— Students in shorts and t-shirts playing frisbee on a lawn

— Students studying in a library

INT. LECTURE HALL – DAY

An old-fashioned lecture hall with wooden seats. At the front a desk and a lectern. Corwin stands behind the lectern. To Corwin’s right sits Anwei behind a table.

On a blackboard behind Corwin are written the words “Consciousness,” “Substrate Dependence Thesis,” “Mind Uploading?” and others.

Corwin is lecturing to assembled students in the hall. Anwei watches the students.

CORWIN

So we can see that the argument associated with a functionalist theory of mind is true, so very unsettling implications would seem to follow.

CLOSE UP – THREE GNOSIS COEDS

CORWIN (o.s.)

Not only is there the possibility of extracorporeal survival in some sort of posthuman substrate, and not only might there be very exotic possibilities for qualia not linked to our ordinary bodily experience, but a very unsettling ontological possibility is also raised by the Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom…

NANETTA RECTOR, a girl with reddish-brown hair which she is currently wearing in pig-tails, dressed in a t-shirt and a skirt is looking at Corwin with a frown of concentration.

MOIRA WEIR, a girl with black wavy hair and a creamy complexion, busily takes notes and then looks up.

ASHLEY MADDER, a voluptuous strawberry blonde in a low-cut blouse, parts her lips slightly and puts a pen to them.

(Note:  It is optional to add a shot of ALOYSIUS KIM, who is sitting across the hall, and gazing at Moira.)

BACK TO SCENE

CORWIN

…which is that we are not here at all, but in fact living in some sort of simulation. It is this possibility…

Anwei glances up and makes eye contact with Corwin. She points at a watch on her wrist.

SOUND of students beginning to stir, put away books, and stand.

CORWIN

(raising his voice slightly to be heard over the noise)

Oh, I see I’ve run over again. Okay that’s all for this week, ladies and gentlemen. Be sure to read Blackmore chapter eight and Dennett chapter thirteen for next time and keep in mind that your second papers are due at the end of next week.

INT. LECTURE HALL – CORWIN’S DESK – DAY

Corwin gathers his notes and says something inaudible to Anwei, who stands at one side. Anwei nods.

Nanetta approaches, carrying her books.

NANETTA

Professor Corwin, I was wondering if I could talk to you about my last paper?

CORWIN

(putting his notes into a briefcase)

Miss Rector, I’m sure you know I don’t give out any grade higher than an A.

NANETTA

This isn’t about my grade, but about the comments, which I thought…a little dismissive.

CORWIN

If you wish to talk about it, we can do so. In my office. During regular office hours. Which start at two. Miss Li here will arrange to reserve the time for you if you wish. But I must really be going.

Corwin leaves. Nanetta and Anwei look at each other. Anwei smiles slightly and shrugs.

INT. OUTSIDE CORWIN’S OFFICE – DAY

A door in a hallway, with a nameplate on it, reading “PROFESSOR JOSEPH CORWIN – PSYCHOLOGY”

Sound of DISCUSSION between Nanetta and Corwin, not intelligible through the door. Nanetta’s voice is raised a bit in volume over her normal conversational voice.

INT. PROFESSOR CORWIN’S OFFICE – DAY

Corwin sits behind a rather large antique teak desk in a high-backed leather chair. There are expensive-looking chochkes on the desk. The only modern items are a notebook computer and a phone. The wall behind him is lined with books.

Nanetta sits opposite him in a similar chair.

SOUND of a distant tower-clock striking four.

NANETTA

In the end I just don’t see how you can maintain a position that there could be extracorporal experiences. How would we know? Isn’t it a something known from evolutionary psychology that most of our comprehension is hard-wired to embodiment?

CORWIN

I must say you defend your point of view with considerable vigor. But the fact is it is entirely possible to gather experimental evidence for such modes of consciousness, and you were wrong to try to dispose of the possibility of such by an a priori argument, however ingenious, in your paper.

NANETTA

(somewhat angrily)

But it’s hardly better to appeal to experiments that are purely hypothetical!

CORWIN

(raises an eyebrow)

Purely hypothetical?

(leans forward across the desk)

All right then. Even though I know you’re wrong, I shall tell you this, MissRector. Our discussion has left me very impressed by how much you know and how much you care about this, so I am going to let you in on something that I would not normally do. You know I run a laboratory.

NANETTA

Sure, here in Hume Hall.

CORWIN

I did not mean that laboratory, an off-campus facility of my own. I’ve been lucky enough to have a family fortune that enables me to conduct my blue sky research.

NANETTA

Blue sky?

CORWIN

That is to say, research on topics too speculative to be funded through normal academic, corporate, or government channels. If you stop by, I can show you that the sort of experimental evidence I suggest is anything but hypothetical.

NANETTA

I don’t want to suggest that you’re up to anything inappropriate here but…

CORWIN

No, no. Of course not. Anwei will accompany you, and be there throughout. And I believe she’s a good friend of yours, yes? Interested?

NANETTA

(pauses for a moment, considering)

Alright. I’m game.

CORWIN

(smiles)

Excellent.

Corwin picks up the phone and dials four digits. After a pause he speaks.

CORWIN

(into phone)

Anwei? Corwin here. Listen, although it’s a little unusual I would like to arrange a demonstration of the apsinthion Protocol for Miss Rector. Could we this up for this evening? Good. Could I have her stop by your carrel at around six and have you walk her over to the site? Excellent. Yes, see you there.

Corwin hangs up the phone.

CORWIN

So, stop by Anwei’s carrel, J-30 around six, and she’ll help take it from there.

NANETTA

I hope this turns out to really be something.

CORWIN

I do think you will find it so. I only ask that, since it is blue sky research, that you keep it confidential until I have a more complete set of results.

NANETTA

Agreed.

Back to Index

INT. PROFESSOR CORWIN’S LABORATORY – DAY

A large room In the middle toward one wall a desk with a computer and several wires running down from it. The desk faces a yard-wide circular platform on the other side of the room.

On one side of the room is an open pool. A catwalk, terminating in a door, crosses the pool. On the other side are a set of laboratory benches covered with chemical and electric apparatus.

A transparent pipe leads from high up on the wall across the pool and down to the base of the platform. Another such pipe leads away from the platform to the laboratory benches.

Corwin is sitting at the desk, concentrating on the computer screen.

Anwei and Nanetta enter through a door behind him. Corwin rises and bows to them slightly.

CORWIN

Ladies. I am so pleased that you could come by.

NANETTA

(looking around)

So this is Professor Corwin’s mysterious off-site laboratory. I’m surprised that you could have such a place.

CORWIN

Made possible by my good judgment in choosing commercially brilliant people for ancestors.

NANETTA

Well I’m impressed by the set-up at least.

CORWIN

I believe that very shortly you are going to be even more than impressed. Perhaps we should get right down to it. Anwei, could you change into appropriate attire for this demonstration?

ANWEI

Most certainly.

Anwei picks up a bag beside the desk, steps behind a curtain at the far end of the room, and draws it. Faint SOUNDS of clothing rustling, zippers being unzipped, etc.

NANETTA

(continues looking around)

So all this stuff you have here, all this equipment, is something you can use for a demonstration that my thesis was incorrect?

CORWIN

I can’t fault your skepticism. Some things must be seen to be thought anything other than mad, and must be experienced to be believed.

Corwin sits at the desk turns to the computer and types something.

CLOSE-UP – CORWIN’S COMPUTER SCREEN

The words “Security Code Accepted” appear on the screen, followed by “Apsinthion Protocol Loaded – Li Anwei.”

BACK TO SCENE

Anwei draws back the curtain and steps out She is wearing a modest one-piece bathing suit.

Anwei steps up on the platform and faces Corwin and Nanetta.

CORWIN

Nice quick change there, Anwei. Let’s continue.

Corwin types on his computer.

FEMALE VOICE (O.s.)

Apsinthion Protocol commencing.

Sound of electric motors WHIRRING.

A transparent tube descends from the ceiling immediately over the platform. The tube descends until it meets the platform, enclosing Anwei in a cylinder.

Corwin picks up a microphone headset connected to his computer and speaks into it.

CORWIN

Now are you sure you want to go through with the demonstration Anwei? As you know, once we engage the rest of the protocol there is no turning back.

Anwei smiles and gives a thumbs-up sign.

CORWIN

Okay. Let’s show Miss Rector here something really remarkable.

Corwin types some more. Sound of a brief HISS.

FEMALE VOICE (O.s.)

Environmental seal established. Operations phase commencing. Warning! Extinction of subject can result from any attempt to interrupt the protocol at this point.

NANETTA

Extinction of subject? Wait a minute. What’s going on here? I didn’t ask to see anything dangerous.

CORWIN

Relax, my dear young lady. Nothing dangerous is going on. Look!

Anwei stands easy. She is bathed in golden light.

(Note: A low THROBBING SOUND begins at this point.)

Clear liquid appears at Anwei’s feet and begins to rise in the tube.

NANETTA

But Professor, how can that be safe?

The liquid rises to Anwei’s knees.

CORWIN

It does not look to me like Anwei thinks she is in any danger.

CLOSE-UP – ANWEI’S HEAD AND SHOULDERS

Anwei’s tilts her head back and closes her eyes. Her lips part slightly. Her breathing quickens.

RETURN TO SCENE

NANETTA

Well I…

(gasps)

Oh my God, what has happened to Anwei’s feet?

CLOSE-UP – ANWEI’S LOWER BODY

The clear fluid is at Anwei’s mid-thigh and is continuing to rise. Meanwhile, Anwei’s feet seem to have disappeared, and her legs now appear to be vanishing from where here feet were upward.

RETURN TO SCENE

Anwei’s breathing quickens still further. That of her skin which is not submerged appears covered with a sheen of sweat. The skin on Anwei’s neck is visibly flushed.

The rise of the fluid continues to the point where it has reached Anwei’s abdomen. She has disappeared up to her mid thigh.

NANETTA

What is going on here? What is happening to Anwei?

CORWIN

(mildly)

What is going on here is perfectly safe.

The fluid has reached up to Anwei’s breasts, and Anwei has vanished up to her crotch.

Sound of a loud CRY from Anwei, muffled by the tube.

NANETTA

She is in pain!

CORWIN

Cries like that might indicate…something rather the opposite of pain.

NANETTA

This is insane! Stop this! Stop this right now?

CORWIN

But My dear Miss Rector, didn’t you hear? To stop this now would risk death to Anwei.

Nanetta rushes up to the tube and pounds on its sides with her fists.

NANETTA

Anwei! Anwei!

What is left of Anwei pays no attention to Nanetta.

Anwei has now vanished up to her breasts.

Sound of a final MUFFLED CRY from Anwei, at first very loud, but then suddenly dying away.

As Anwei’s shoulders disappear, her swimsuit sinks to the bottom of the tube.

Anwei’s head slips beneath the rising fluid and she vanishes entirely.

Nanetta looks at the column of fluid with an expression of horror.

(Note: the low THROBBING SOUND now ceases.)

FEMALE VOICE (O.s.)

Liquifaction portion of protocol complete. Distillation phase to commence immediately.

NANETTA

Liquifaction? You mean you’ve really…no! Not possible! What do you mean distill…

Nanetta is drowned out by a much louder noise. The head of a giant piston descends into the tube and begins to squeeze out the fluid, which escapes through a tube that runs over to the benches with chemical apparatus.

Most of the fluid descends down the pipe, which then disappears beneath the floor. But a small fraction is pipetted off into the laboratory apparatus.

NANETTA

(beginning to shake slightly)

Oh God, what have you done with Anwei?

There is a whirring noise, and the tube-and-piston assembly lifts off the platform and into the ceiling.

Corwin speaks as he steps up to the platform.

CORWIN

Do show some faith. Anwei is entirely with us.

Corwin picks up Anwei’s now-empty swimsuit, which lies on the platform, and holds it up.

CORWIN

Just not here that’s all.  It might be best if she did not wear that — threatens the mechanism with clogging.

Corwin tosses the swimsuit away and walks over to one of the laboratory benches.

CORWIN

Right now I cannot worry about inessentials, for I must busy myself with purifying…

Corwin fiddles with some laboratory apparatus.

CORWIN

..and distilling…

He picks up a beaker of fluid and places it on a blue flame. The liquid quickly boils and disappears.

CORWIN

…and decanting…

Corwin turns a stopcock at one end of the bench and drains a stream of liquid into a small phial.

CORWIN

Until we have the precious possible liquor.

Corwin holds the phial up. Its contents are pale green and appears to glow slightly.

CORWIN

And there we have her.

NANETTA

(looking fearful and disbelieving)

Her?

CORWIN

Anwei!

NANETTA

Anwei?

CORWIN

Yes, Anwei. The beautiful young Anwei, as liquid essence. Liquid girl! Feel..

Corwin tries to press the phial into Nanetta’s hand.

corwin

…she is still warm.

Nanetta’s hand falls away and her jaw drops. Then she covers her face her hands and sobs a few times softly.

NANETTA

Oh Anwei no. No no no. What has he done to you, Anwei? I…

Nanetta takes her face out of her hands, then points angrily at Corwin.

NANETTA

Either you’re a monster who must be locked up for murder, or a trickster who should be booted out of his job!

CORWIN

I assure you that I am neither, and I shall prove to you that I am at least not the former.  Watch.

Corwin walks across the laboratory floor to the pool, carrying the phial. He steps onto the middle of the catwalk. He unstoppers the phial and pours the contents into the pool.

For a second or two nothing happens, but the waters of the pool begin to ripple, then churn and bubble and steam as if the pool were boiling. A red mass appears briefly in the center of the pool

The waters then calm. Anwei, now naked, stands up and climbs out of the pool via a ladder on its side.

CLOSE-UP – NANETTA’S ASTONISHED FACE

CLOSE-UP – ANWEI’S BODY, WET WITH STEAM RISING FROM IT

BACK TO SCENE

NANETTA

Anwei! You’re…whole and solid.

corwin

Reborn like Venus rising from the sea at Paphos.

ANWEI

I feel fresh as a baby from the bath. But perhaps underdressed for the occasion. May I have my robe please, Professor?

CORWIN

Most certainly.

Corwin reaches into a desk drawer and removes a white terry-cloth robe, He hands it to Anwei.

NANETTA

So that’s real, and it doesn’t hurt?

ANWEI

It sure is real. The part where you melt really does…

(blushes slightly)

…feel as good as it must look and sound…Of course it’s the part that comes after you’ve disappeared that’s really wild.

NANETTA

(to herself)

Some things must be seen to be thought anything other than mad, and must be experienced to be believed.

CORWIN

Ah, yes. And this is actually what I had hoped to focus on from this demonstration.

(looking at Nanetta)

If you don’t mind I’d like to generate some notes with Anwei while her experiences are still fresh in her memory.

CLOSE-UP – CORWIN AND ANWEI AT THE DESK

Corwin types as he speaks.

CORWIN

So now, in terms of the phenomenological characteristics of your recent extracorporeal experience, could you provide any kind of linguistic description?

ANWEI

It was positively oceanic, like swimming naked through a great dark warm sea, but not quite so, because you are not just in the sea, but part of the sea.

CORWIN

I see. And was the experience positively hedonic?

ANWEI

Pleasure is not strong enough a word.

CORWIN

Ah so you see, Miss Rector? Far from being harmed by this demonstration, Anwei…

Corwin stops typing, looks up from his computer at where Nanetta hadbeen standing.

CORWIN

Miss Rector?

RETURN TO SCENE

Nanetta is standing naked on the platform, in a Venus pudica pose — her hands over her breasts and pubic area. Her clothing lies scattered on the floor between the desk and the platform.

NANETTA

Make me a liquid girl!

CORWIN

(smiling slightly)

Well, now…

INT.  MOIRA AND NANETTA’S DORMITORY suite – NIGHT

A dormitory suite with slightly spartan furnishings. Many books are visible, as is a poster for Gustav Machaty’s film Ecstasy.

Moira is studying at a desk lit by a goose-neck lamp. A knock.

Moira gets up and answers door. It is Nanetta. Nanetta enters.

(Note: Nanetta has lost her pig-tails and is now wearing her hair loose. It stays loose for the remainder of the script.)

NANETTA

(giggles)

Sorry. Seem to have lost my key somehow.

MOIRA

You’re back late. How did the meeting with Professor Corwin go?

NANETTA

(smiling blissfully)

Oh, just swimmingly.

Moira watches curiously as Nanetta undresses.

Nanetta climbs into her bed and pulls the covers over herself.

MOIRA

So you got what you wanted out of that meeting?

NANETTA

Oh yes. I feel like my understanding of consciousness advanced a great deal.

MOIRA

Nanetta?

NANETTA

Mmm?

MOIRA

What happened to your pigtails?

NANETTA

(murmuring, falling asleep)

I guess it was time to lose them.

Nanetta falls asleep.

Back to Index

INT. COLLEGE DINING HALL – DAY

Sounds of MUTED CONVERSATION, dishes CLINKING together, etc.

Moira sits alone, eating breakfast. Ashley enters, carrying a tray with three cups of coffee and a single piece of toast on it. Ashley sits next to Moira.

MOIRA

Morning, Ashley.

ASHLEY

Must…drink…coffee.

MOIRA

Did Madam perhaps have a late evening?

ASHLEY

Don’t even get me started.

MOIRA

Do you know who else had a late evening? Nanetta. Came in this morning around one.

ASHLEY

So the library is open that late now? I hadn’t noticed.

MOIRA

Well that’s the strange thing. I saw her stalk off yesterday afternoon determined to give Professor Corwin a piece of her mind about her last paper.

ASHLEY

The one she got an A on.

MOIRA

Yes, that one.

ASHLEY

The one I got a C on.

MOIRA

You know how Nanetta can be sensitive about ideas sometimes.

ASHLEY

Your roommate might get more out of life if she were sensitive about things other than ideas So anyway, go on.

MOIRA

She floats in well after midnight, looking as happy as a girl can and bright as a new penny and tells me that her meeting with Professor Corwin went wonderfully.

ASHLEY

(takes a sip of coffee)

Wonderfully? I wonder what the wonder of that meeting was.

MOIRA

(pauses)

Ashley! You don’t really think that…

ASHLEY

It seems to me more like you’re the one saying it.

Ashley nibbles on the corner of her piece of toast.

Moira’s jaw drops slightly while she looks intently at Ashley.

MONTAGE – MOIRA CHECKS UP ON CORWIN

— Moira at a computer terminal in the college library

— Close up of a Wikipedia page on Professor Joseph Corwin

— Moira looking at a yellowed back issue of the college newspaper, the Gnosis Illuminator.

— Moira looking at a bound volume of a scientific journal, Archives of Hedonic Psychology.

— Close-up of an opening page in a journal article, entitled “Hedonic Contacts with Polydactylic Thalassoforms: Myth or Reality?” Joseph Corwin, Gnosis College is listed as the author.

— Moira pages through the article

— Close up of a page of the article. The words “extraordinary sympathetic response established through tactile contact” are clearly visible

— Moira pages through some more pages

— Close-up of another page in the article. A reference to “As shown in Katsushika Hokusai’s famous illustration The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife” is seen on the page

— Moira slams the volume shut

INT. A SECTION OF THE GNOSIS COLLEGE LIBRARY STACKS – DAY

Moira walks through the stacks. Dim light comes from a few naked bulbs on the ceiling.

The books on the shelves are all very old. Moira puts her finger on one and begins tracking along the shelf, then tracks backwards. Moira squints at the titles.

Moira pulls several book off the shelf, and reaches behind the books to pull out a small volume. She blows on the cover. A cloud of dust comes off it.

Moira opens the books, and leafs gently through the pages.

Moira closes the book and starts to put it in her purse. Then she tucks it into the top of the back of her skirt, and pulls her blouse over the book to conceal it.

INT. CORWIN’S OFFICE – DAY

Moira sweeps in and looks straight at Corwin.

MOIRA

You should know I came here prepared for some sort of confrontation.

CORWIN

I admire assertiveness in young women, and lately it seems that I have had a lot to admire. What’s on your mind, Miss Weir?

MOIRA

There seems to be something going on between you and Nanetta.

CORWIN

Oh?

MOIRA

At first I thought it might be the something that is the thing that ought not to be going on between professors and students. But then I decided that was wrong.

CORWIN

I’m certainly relieved to hear that.

MOIRA

It begins with the fact that Nanetta and I have been close ever since our first year here together — she’s the closest thing I have to a sister, really — and I’m sure she’s not the kind of girl who would do that sort of thing. But there is something.

CORWIN

Something wrong? Do you think I have caused Miss Rector some sort of distress?

MOIRA

On the contrary. She seems very much un-distressed. The day she went to the meeting she came back as happy as I have ever seen her. And since then she seems like a different person. As if she had always had a spring inside that was too tightly wound and now it’s unwound.

CORWIN

Well, that’s good to hear certainly, but why would you think that has anything to do with me?

MOIRA

Aside from the fact that she seems a little different after her meeting with you?

Corwin nods.

MOIRA

I put in some library time on the subject of Joseph Corwin.

(pauses)

It seems that you have published some rather….unusual…theories?

CORWIN

You must know well from my lectures that I don’t confine myself to conventional areas of inquiry.

MOIRA

True. But I thought speculating about whether there might be any factual basis to old stories from the Malay Archipelago about people swimming out to commune with sea creatures seemed to go beyond just unusual.

CORWIN

Yes, I suppose it does. But it is the duty of the scientist to follow his research wherever it might lead. Think how outlandish special relativity, or evolution by natural selection seemed advanced minds in their respective times. Only by not fearing to encounter the strange can we advance knowledge.

MOIRA

An attitude that seems to have a long pedigree in your family.

CORWIN

What do you mean by that, Miss Weir?

Moira removes the books she took from the Gnosis College library from her handbag and hands it to Corwin. Corwin opens it.

INSERT – THE TITLE PAGE OF THE BOOK, WHICH READS:

STRANGE PRACTICES OF SOUTH SEA NATIVES: A Fantastical but True Account By Cap’n Joseph Corwin Boston 1809

BACK TO SCENE

CORWIN

Where did you get this?

MOIRA

From the college library, where else?

CORWIN

This was supposed to be in locked stacks.

MOIRA

Smile prettily at the right person and some locks will open.

(smiles prettily, then continues)

It took a little digging but it seems that this Captain Corwin was an ancestor with whom you share not just a name but certain interests. It wasn’t immediately obvious, because someone tore several pages out of the college’s copy of that book, but points of contact between it and your Archives article seem to me unmistakable.

CORWIN

Old sailors tell all sorts of strange stories, Miss Weir.

MOIRA

And so I would have thought, too, except that old Captain Corwin’s narratives take place in what he calls the East Indies. And by a strange coincidence, I found a number of stories in the Illuminator that say that Professor Corwin was spending sabbatical years in Indonesia. Don’t you think Indonesia is a strange place for a laboratory psychologist to take a year off to go to?

CORWIN

I commend you on your bulldog-like approach to research, Miss Weir.

(pause)

What are you driving at here?

Moira leans back slightly, and softens her tone.

MOIRA

Professor Corwin, please try to understand. I haven’t come here to tell you that I’m denouncing you to the campus grievance committee or that I’m publishing your ancestor’s memoir on the Internet. I’m here because as I tried to figure out what was going on, as I added up all the facts I could gather, I became convinced that you have discovered something, maybe something that you shared with or showed to Nanetta, maybe something that explains what seems to have happened to her, I’m not sure. But why I’m here is that I can’t quench my curiosity. And even if I have no right to ask, I really, really want to know.

Corwin leans back in his chair and steeples his hands. After a moment he speaks.

CORWIN

Perseverance must have its reward. So let me begin with this. There is good evidence that what was in my ancestor’s account was true.

Moira nods.

CORWIN

And I can show you this evidence, bring it right to your senses. It might be a little disorienting, perhaps a little frightening, however. And if I do so, I want your word that you will hold what you see in strictest confidence. Do you agree to that?

MOIRA

I have come this far, and I am not afraid.

CORWIN

Furthermore, then, for your own safety, you must be willing to follow instructions given to you by me or my assistant Anwei very carefully.

MOIRA

Of course I am.

CORWIN

Alright. Like I always said, I admire assertion. I’ll call Anwei, and she will meet with you privately and tell you where to go and what to bring.

INT. AQUARIUM ROOM – NIGHT

Most of the room is occupied by a large aquarium-like tank. Half of the tank has an open surface, transparent walls, and is brightly lit. The other half is enclosed, save for a portal to the open half. The portal is dark.

A ladder leads up into the open part of the tank and down into the water in the tank’s interior. At the base of the far end of the ladder sits a submerged stool.

Corwin stands before a panel of instruments on the side of the tank. He is wearing a white lab coat and is taking notes on a clipboard.

Anwei and Moira enter. Anwei is also wearing a white lab coat. Moira is carrying a small duffel bag.

CORWIN

Good evening, Anwei. And good evening especially to you, Miss Weir. I take it Anwei has briefed you thoroughly on our procedures here?

MOIRA

I find it all exceedingly strange to hear. You say you have a polydactyl thalassoform right here?

CORWIN

An orphaned specimen raised from a hatchling, and a member of a most elusive species. I call him “Howard.” This old brewery structure makes an ideal habitat, because of all the tankage that exits below ground.  I take it that after all the trouble you went through you are eager to meet Howard?

Moira touches the glass lightly with her fingertips.

MOIRA

Yes.

CORWIN

Then it would be best if you were to change first.

MOIRA

Okay. Where?

Anwei pulls back the curtain to a changing area.

ANWEI

Will over here do, Moira?

Moira nods, steps into the area and pulls the curtain closed. Sounds of ZIPs, SNAPS, and so forth. Then Moira opens the curtain and steps out. Moira is dressed in a rather low-cut one-piece swimsuit.

Anwei glances at Corwin.

CORWIN

Well, shall we see if we can coax Howard out and have him make a new friend?

Anwei nods, steps up to the instrument panel.

CLOSE-UP – ANWEI’S HAND ON INSTRUMENT PANEL

Anwei presses a button labeled “mic.”

BACK TO SCENE

Anwei leans toward the panel and begins to sing something like a lullaby, very softly, while tapping in rhythm on the glass.

A single tentacle slowly emerges from the dark area of the tank. At the end of the tentacle is an eye. The eye looks at Anwei first, then move toward Moira and gazes at her.

Moira watches, wide-eyed.

MOIRA

Well hi there, little guy.

Moira steps toward the glass. The tentacle swiftly retreats half its extended length. Moira stops in mid-step. The tentacle slowly advances again.

Moira and the eye-tentacle pause, looking at each other separated by a few inches and the glass of the tank.

CORWIN

Would you like to attempt tactile engagement, Moira?

MOIRA

I…I’m not sure.

CORWIN

It is as always entirely up to you.

MOIRA

(pauses a moment, then says decisively)

Yes.

CORWIN

Then in Anwei has briefed you correctly you know what to do.

Moira nods. She climbs up the ladder into the tank and eases herself feet-first into the water, and sits on the stool. When seated, all of Moira except her head and neck are submerged.

As Moira enters the tank, the tentacle retreats entirely back into the dark.

MOIRA

This water is so warm! And it has a kind of strange tingly feel.

CORWIN

Howard in close confines naturally generates a sort of mineral-rich, oxygen-saturated aquatic environment. So much so, in fact, that a human being can respire through her skin and not have to emerge for a breath for quite a while.

ANWEI

I myself have been under for as much as ten minutes. So relax and enjoy.

The eye-tentacle snakes slowly through the water toward Moira, rises above the surface and looks at her, then leans toward one side, as if cocking its head.

MOIRA

Well, hello again.

Two more tentacles, very slender ones, also move through the water.

ANWEI

Try extending your hands slowly, as we discussed.

Moira does so. The slender tentacles move forward and gently brush against her fingertips.

Moira gingerly extends one hand further. A tentacle slowly wraps around the tip of one one of her fingers.

MOIRA

Strange feel. Not slimy or scaly, but sort of…sleek-feeling if that means anything.

The tentacles move forward and begin entwining themselves around the fingers of both of Moira’s hands.

Two more tentacles emerge from the dark and move through the water toward Moira’s feet

CLOSE-UP – MOIRA’S FEET

A tentacle begins to brush gently against the insole of Moira’s left foot.

BACK TO SCENE

MOIRa

(giggles)

Hey, that tickles!

CLOSE-UP – MOIRA’S FEET

A tentacle opens up at one end, revealing a “mouth.” This mouth envelopes one of Moira’s little toes momentarily, then pulls away.

BACK TO SCENE

MOIRA

(looks surprised)

I could swear that something just…kissed my toe.

Anwei and Corwin glance at each other.

More tentacles move through the water. Moira’s fingers and toes are thoroughly entwined by this point. One very slender tentacle ventures forward and begins to brush against the base of Moira’s neck.

MOIRA

Say ins’t that a little fresh?

CORWIN

Please try to remember that Howard is a member of a species that relies heavily on tactile interaction, so this is his way of communicating.

MOIRA

Of course, I realize that the progress of science requires that we be open to new experiences, but…

(composing her face in a mock-stern expression)

No funny business, you hear, Howard?

The eyestalks droop slightly

CLOSE-UP – MOIRA’S NECK AND CHEST

The tentacle brushing against Moira’s neck continues. Two other tentacles enter the shot, moving toward the shoulder straps of Moira’s swimsuit.

The tentacle that is brushing against Moira’s neck begins moving down toward Moira’s cleavage.

One tentacle hooks under one of Moira’s shoulder straps.

BACK TO SCENE

MOIRA

Hey! What are you trying?

The tentacles retreat slightly.

ANWEI

Moira, remember that if Howard does anything that you think is inappropriate you should let us know and Professor Corwin and I will make sure he stops. Remember that he is another species and even if capable of a high degree of sympathy, he doesn’t always know our rules.

MOIRA

No, sorry. I didn’t mean to snap at anyone. It was just surprising, and…well that feels sort of nice.

CLOSE-UP – MOIRA’S NECK AND CHEST

The tentacle stroking Moira’s cleaveage is now well between her breasts.

The tentacles move back underneath the shoulder straps of Moira’s swimsuit and pause.

RETURN TO SCENE

MOIRA

I mean, I really done mind. This is a rare opportunity for contact with a unique species, right?

The tentacles can be seen pulling slightly at the straps.

MOIRA

And fearlessness in contact with the unknown is how sciences advances, right Professor?

CORWIN

I see your enterprise as an investigator does not stop in the library. Follow your best instincts, Miss Weir, and remember that we are here.

MOIRA

Instincts. Yes. I shall. So here little guy.

CLOSE-UP – MOIRA’S NECK AND CHEST

Moira shrugs her shoulders together. The tentacles under the straps pull Moira’s swimsuit down, exposing her breasts.

Moira disengages one hand from the tentacles and pulls it through the strap and then entwines it back with the tentacle, then does the same with the other hand, so she is naked from her upper abdomen up.

RETURN TO SCENE

ANWEI

Moira…

MOIRA

You want interaction, right?

Two fatter tentacles move through the water.

CLOSE-UP – MOIRA’S NECK AND CHEST

Each tentacle in turn opens a “mouth” at its end. The mouths move toward Moira’s nipples.

RETURN TO SCENE

Each tentacle mouth near Moira’ nipples envelopes one, and begins to move with a sucking motion. Moira gasps.

MOIRA

Oh my… This is certainly not something that—oh…this can’t really be…

ANWEI

Do you want us to stop this?

MOIRA

No! I mean, really, it’s just a form of contact…it’s okay…oh

CLOSE-UP — MOIRA’S LOWER HALF UNDERWATER

Moira is still sitting on the stool, her lower legs beginning to kick back and forth. The tentacles continue to pull her swimsuit down.

Tentacles being to caress Moira’s inner thighs.

BACK TO SCENE

Corwin begins to step toward the control panel. Anwei takes hold of his sleeve and shakes her head. Corwin pauses, then picks up his clipboard and begins writing furiously.

MOIRA

I mean, it’s wrong, but it’s science so it’s not really wrong, right…I mean, you have to follow the logic of the situation…

The pulling on Moira’s swimsuit becomes more insistent.

MOIRA

I mean, even so I really can’t.

(pauses)

I mean, yes I can.

Helped by her buoyancy in water and one of her feet for leverage Moira lifts her buttocks briefly off the stool.

CLOSE-UP – MOIRA’S FEET

Moira’s swimsuit is pulled off entirely and dropped on the floor of the tank.

RETURN TO SCENE

MOIRA

Oh…ah…did I really need that thing to begin with?

A tongue-like tentacle moves forward and begins lapping between Moira’s legs.

MOIRA

After all…oh…it makes sense…ah..to go…oh my…where the most nerve endings are.

ANWEI

Moira, this is leading…

MOIRA

Yes, yes, yes. I know. And it’s wrong, and it can’t be and I won’t…

Moira opens her legs on the stool. A larger phallic tentacle moves between them.

MOIRA

And I mean I will…I mean…

(moans deeply)

…oh…inside me…

The tentacle thrusts back and forth

CLOSE-UP – MOIRA’S FACE

Moira’s face contorts, her eyes close.

Moira pants and moans.

BACK TO SCENE

ANWEI

Moira!

MOIRA

(continuing to pant and moan)

…amazing…wrong…horribly wrong…horribly right…this is all for science, right? Oh God…inside me…

CLOSE-UP – MOIRA’S LOWER BACK

A phallic tentacle wraps around Moira’s body a few times, then runs down the cleavage of her buttocks.

BACK TO SCENE

MOIRa

…double inside me! Oh sweet heaven!

CLOSE-UP – MOIRA’S FACE

Moira emits a piercing ecstatic CRY.</p> <p class=”>At the end of the cry, Moira’s head slips under water.

BACK TO SCENE

Moira is pulled off the stool and under the water. She ends up on the floor of the tank, surrounded by tentacles.

A phallic tentacle snakes up to her lips. Moira’s lips part, and the sucks the tentacle in.

Amidst the tentacles Moira continues shuddering and thrashing throughout the remainder of the scene. SOUNDS of bubbles rising to the surface, muffled orgasmic noises, etc.

Anwei and Corwin watch intently for a while. Occasionally Corwin takes notes.

ANWEI

Are you sure this is safe? I mean, even with hyper-oxygenation and skin respiration, she’s been under for rather a long time.

CORWIN

I am sure that Howard will know best and not allow her to come to harm. I’ve never seen him take to any human interlocutor quite so rapidly. Not even with you, Anwei.

ANWEI

(mock-sighs)

Always a bridesmaid but never a bride.

DISSOLVE TO:

INT. PROFESSOR CORWIN’S LABORATORY – later – NIGHT

Anwei and Moira stand watching a monitor. Anwei is still in her white lab coat, Moira is in a white terry-cloth bathrobe. Moira’s hair is wet.

CLOSE-UP – SCREEN OF COMPUTER ON LABORATORY DESK

Grainy video footage reprising Moira’s encounter with Howard.

BACK TO SCENE

Anwei stops the playback of the video.

MOIRA

So it wasn’t a dream after all. It was all real.

ANWEI

Yes. It was. I saw it all. I was pretty surprised at how readily you took to the encounter. We certainly have a lot of data. But I would really like to know how you feel. I mean, you went through something pretty radical back there.

MOIRA

And I’m supposed to be feeling confused, disoriented, ambivalent or worse, right? I mean, isn’t that how a girl is supposed to feel about her first time?

ANWEI

First time?

MOIRA

First time with…a non-human species.

ANWEI

Ah.

MOIRA

The fact is,…there’s no problem at all. I feel instead a real sense of wellness — and also, a vague sense when I was in there touching Howard, as if I were somehow in contact with, somebody, Indeed many somebodies. I’m not sure I know how to explain it.

ANWEI

With time perhaps you will. I’m still struck at how readily you went forward. Are you really that adventurous?

MOIRA

Well, actually I’m not…usually. But there’s something I need to add.

ANWEI

Which is?

MOIRA

Do you remember how I told you that I found a memoir written by one of Professor Corwin’s ancestors in locked stacks in the library? The one that told of encounters between humans and sea creatures in the south seas and all the weird things they got up to?

ANWEI

Yes, of course.

MOIRA

And you recall that I told both you and Professor Corwin that it was hard to read because certain pages had been cut out by some unknown hand?

ANWEI

Some horrified Victorian-era librarian, no doubt.

MOIRA

Well, not exactly.

ANWEI

Not exactly?

MOIRA

It was actually me that found them and cut them out.

Anwei looks surprised, then a look of understanding shows on her face.

INT. COLLEGE DINING HALL – DAY

Nanetta sits at a table alone, eating a large breakfast. Moira enters and sits next to her.

NANETTA

Good morning, roommate. Seems like you were the one having a late night last night.

MOIRA

(yawns, smiles)

I had some important research to do.

NANETTA

Seems like you’ve been having a lot of important research to do. Looks like it turned out well.

MOIRA

Oh, quite.

NANETTA

Are you sure it isn’t that bookish Moira hasn’t finally met that special someone?

Moira’s fork freezes in mid-air.

NANETTA

Did I say something wrong?

Moira looks straight into Nanetta’s eyes.

NANETTa

There’s something you can’t talk about?

Moira makes a facial expression as if she’s going to speak, but doesn’t.

NANETTA

(leans close to Moira, whispers)

There’s something I can’t talk about either.

MOIRA

(whispering)

…the old Weidegold Brewery…

NANETTA

(whispering)

..the old Weidegold Brewery…

Ashley enters with a tray of breakfast.

ASHLEY

Hey girlfriends! Mind if I join you for a quick bite before Corwin’s lecture today? And what’s the big conspiracy?

NANETTA

(slightly startled, looking up)

Oh no, not at all Ashley. Just having a little girl-to-girl talk here, that’s all.

ASHLEY

Aw, how sweet! Say you will not believe what went down at the Omega House party last night.

MOIRA

Oh do tell all…

INT. LECTURE HALL – DAY

Corwin stands at the podium, lecturing.

CORWIN

…and thus we come to the following paradoxical conclusion.

CLOSE-UP – THE THREE WOMEN

Moira, sitting on the right, makes a brief note on her notebook and points to it. Nanetta looks at it and nods.

Ashley, in a low-cut blouse, strokes her collarbone. As Corwin speaks, her hand descends slightly toward her cleavage.

CORWIN (O.s.)

The research program urged upon us by Dr. Pearce in his Abolitionist Project may seem counterintuitive beyond all belief to you. That we might not just ameliorate but abolish human suffering, that we might in the future, through drugs and nanotechnology, enjoy raptures in some form that would make the most transcendent human experiences seem stale and flat. You might ask yourselves, how can we afford to take such wild ideas seriously.

BACK TO SCENE

CORWIN

My question for you is, how can we not afford to take such ideas seriously?

Sound of student APPLAUSE, then SHUFFLING as they get up to leave.

INT. LECTURE HALL – CORWIN’S DESK – DAY

Moira and Nanetta approach Corwin’s lectern as his gathering up his notes.

CORWIN

Ladies. What can I do for you?

MOIRA

Professor Corwin, Nanetta and I were wondering if the both of us could meet with you and Anwei all together sometime soon. It’s important, obviously.

CORWIN

Yes, obviously. My office in forty-five minutes?

He glances at Anwei, who nods.

MOIRA

Yes, thank you, Professor.

NANETTA

Yes, thanks.

Moira and Nanetta leave. Ashley approaches the lectern.

ASHLEY

Professor Corwin, I was wondering if I could talk to you for a while about my paper.

CORWIN

You’ll have to come and see me during office hours. Or you can set up an appointment with my assistant Miss Li here.

Ashley bends over the desk so that her cleavage is clearly visible to Corwin.

ASHELY

Gee I was really hoping that we could set up something sooner.

CORWIN

You’ll have to talk to Miss Li. Now if you’ll excuse me Miss Madder, I have an important meeting to prepare for. Good day.

Corwin leaves.

ASHLEY

(looking hurt)

Well, I never!

Ashley looks at Anwei.

Anwei crosses her arms and stares back at Ashley.

INT. OUTSIDE CORWIN’S OFFICE – DAY

Ashley approaches the door. She reaches into her purse and pulls out a stationary envelope. Ashley looks both ways, then kneels down and is about to slide it under the door.

Sound of MUFFLED VOICES from within the office, Corwin’s, Moira’s, Nanetta’s, and Anwei’s. The words are unintelligble, but the intonations suggest Moira and Nanetta asking questions, and Corwin and Anwei answering.

Ashely puts the envelope back in her purse. She leans to put her ear against the door, then draws away.

CHIP walks by.

CHIP

Hey, Ashley.

ASHLEY

(smiles embarrassedly)

Hi Chip.

Chip walks on.

Ashley pauses for a moment. Then she knocks on the door.

After a moment, the door is answered by Anwei, who opens the door only slightly.

ANWEI

Can I help you, Miss Madder?

ASHLEY

Hi! I was walking by and I know that I’m not supposed to come by until my appointment on Thursday but I just remembered that I have to make an appearance at one of Daddy’s functions on that day and I’m so sorry I forgot but I was really wondering if I could step in for a minute.

ANWEI

I’m really sorry, Miss Madder, but Professor Corwin is in a very important meeting at the minute. You can always call and reschedule tomorrow.

ASHLEY

But I’m…

ANWEI

I’m sorry but you really must excuse me.

Anwei closes the door.

Sound of muffled LAUGHTER from within the office.

Ashley looks outraged.

MONTAGE – ASHLEY STALKS MOIRA AND NANETTA

— Moira, Nanetta, and Anwei leave an academic building, walk through a parking lot, get into a battered compact car and drive off.

— Ashley, sitting in an expensive sports-car, watches then drive off, then starts her car and backs out to follow them.

— View of the rear of Anwei’s car as it drives into an industrial-looking area.

— View of Anwei’s car pulling up and parking on a narrow side-street. Both sides of the street are lined with red-brick factory/warehouse style buildings.

— View of Anwei, Moira, and Ashley getting out of Anwei’s car. They walk up to a nondescript door on the side of the building. A faded sign on the door reads “WEIDEGOLD” Anwei flips up a control box cover, punches in a code. The door opens showing light inside. The women enter.

— View of Ashley’s car driving crossing the side street, then backing up and turning into the side street.

— Ashley outside her car, examining the exterior of the factory building. Eventually she sees the control box and stares at the number panel, then looks up.

INT. PROFESSOR CORWIN’S LABORATORY – DAY

Corwin, Anwei, Nanetta, and Moira face the computer screen. All four are wearing white lab coats.

CORWIN

So now that we all understand how this modified version of the protocol is supposed to work, why don’t we get started. Who goes first?

ANWEI

I defer to youth and enthusiasm.

NANETTA

(jumps up and down and claps her hands together, like a child promised a favorite treat)

Oh goody goody. I’ll be ready in a trice.

Nanetta leaves.

CORWIN

While you, Moira, get to stay and help out on the distillation side of the project. An opportunity to learn some rather intriguing xenochemistry.

MOIRA

I can only hope that it is as rewarding as my studies in xenobiology.

ANWEI

Oh, you are so shameless!  Though I think the revised protocol would work even better if you were joining us, Moira.

MOIRA

I guees I’m not that reconciled to the idea of not having a body, even if only temporarily.

CORWIN

Let me say as we get underway that a scientist could not ask for assistants who combine such sterling qualities of intellect, dedication, curiosity, enthusiasm, and…

NANETTA

Yoo hoo!

NANETTA’S P.O.V. – ON THE LIQUIFACTION PLATFORM

Moira, Corwin, and Anwei look on.

CORWIN

Nanetta, ready so quickly?

NANETTA (O.s.)

(in a mock-Southern accent)

I’m ready for my screen test, Mr. DeMille.

CORWIN

No jokes, please. This is science in action. Anwei, initiate the protocol.

Anwei types on the computer.

FEMALE VOICE (O.s.)

Apsinthion Protocol commencing.

Sound of electric motors WHIRRING.

The transparent tube descends over Nanetta, distorting her field of vision somewhat.

ANWEI

(slightly distorted, as if over a speaker)

We’re at the commit point. Sure you want to go?

Nanetta’s right hand, making a thumbs-up sign, is seen.

Sound of a brief HISS.

FEMALE VOICE (O.s.)

(muffled)

Environmental seal established. Operations phase commencing. Warning! Extinction of subject can result from any attempt to interrupt the protocol at this point.

Golden light dances in Nanetta’s field of vision.

SOUND of running water. Nanetta looks down at her breasts, belly, and feet. Fluid is rising above her ankles. Her feet are beginning to vanish.

NANETTA (V.O.)

Oh. I’m starting to go.

Nanetta watches as the fluid rises toward her crotch and her legs begin to disappear.

NANETTA (V.O.)

Should be so scary, just vanishing away.

Nanetta puts her hands on her belly as the fluid begins to rise.

NANETTA (V.O.)

And now I vanish up to my cunt…where…where…

Nanetta’s point of view goes dark for a moment. She gives a clearly audible CRY.

NANETTA (V.O.)

I come for the first time.

Nanetta’s point of view looks out at Corwin, Anwei, and Moira, who are clearly looking back intently.

Nanetta’s point of view looks down again. The SOUND of Nanetta’s heavy breathing and gasps is audible. She looks down and sees the fluid up to her neck, and that she has vanished up to her breasts.

NANETTA (V.O.)

Up to my breasts. Bye bye boobs. And up to my nipples, and…oh God, here I come again.

The P.O.V. Goes dark.

Beginnings of a CRY that dies out from Nanetta.

NANETTA (V.O.)

No more lungs to shout the joy I feel.  Feel it on theback of my head. This is it. My brain comes..Ooo…

(pause)

…and then I’m gone.

Swirl of hallucinatory colors, erotic images, swimming underwater, traveling through a spiral, water boiling.

NANETTA (V.O.)

So hot. And yet I do not burn. I only get warmer and warmer.

DISSOLVE TO:

INT. PROFESSOR CORWIN’S LABORATORY – WORKBENCH

Corwin and Moira work among the laboratory apparatus, adjusting bunsen flames, stopcocks, and so forth. They speak as they work.

MOIRA

So what you mean to tell me is that the functioning of the liquifaction process isn’t pure synthetic technology, that glandular secretions from members of Howard’s species make it possible?

CORWIN

Quite correct. It’s a most remarkable chemical matrix, designed to read in living matter and encode it as information, while ignoring other matter. While doing the read it forms a temporary chrystaline matrix around the matter it is “reading,” which is why we didn’t see our friends collapse in the tube while they were turning to liquid. The exact mechanism is uncertain, but I think some sort of self-replicating nanotechnology may be involved. The matrix also contains various opioid-like chemicals which make the disintegration process intensely pleasurable, rather than painful. Careful with that burner flame there Moira. We wish to distill Anwei, not vaporize her.

MOIRA

Sorry. And so this distillation process, it relies on the fact that information about the subject is stored holographically.

CORWIN

Correct. Just a visual hologram stores an entire image, even when broken into fragments, there appears to be some sort of holographic information storage in this chemical matrix, so if we lose a small part of it in the distillation process, there is no harm to the subject. Look. We might be ready to bottle Anwei now.

CLOSE-UP OF THE WORKBENCH

Two phials on the workbench. One is filled with pale-green liquid and labeled “Essence of Nanetta.” The other, empty, is labeled “Essence of Anwei.”

BACK TO SCENE

Corwin picks up the empty phial and places it under a stopcock, which he opens.

MOIRA

A very precious liquor indeed. But what about the other distillates?

CORWIN

Well, thanks to the miracle of holographic information storage, removing them won’t harm either Nanetta or Anwei. And they have remarkable chemical properties of their own. Take this phial and draw off the distillates of that stopcock.

Moira looks at the label first. She reads it aloud.

MOIRA

“Ousia epithumias.” Essence of desire? Why use Greek? And what is this anyway?

CORWIN

Yes. Part of the distillate which can interact with the consciousness of an individual consuming it, either orally or topically.

MOIRA

If it’s an unguent-like substance, meant to be applied topically, wouldn’t “muron” be a better descriptive term than “ousia?”

CORWIN

Well if you wish to be pedantic, yes. But since we are playing with the essence of personal identity, why not use a metaphysical term like “ousia?”

MOIRA

Point taken, but what’s the point of the distillate?

CORWIN

To produce spontaneous somatic change, based on the libido of the consumer.

MOIRA

A magical philtre of beauty, Professor Corwin?

CORWIN

Well, if what you want to be is beautiful, perhaps. But hitherto it hasn’t been stable. My hope is that with distillates from multiple subjects, I might be able to produce a more stable compound with more desirable results.

Corwin carefully fills one phial with the essence, then a few other like it, then places them on a nearby shelf.

CORWIN

Of course, I imagine also it would be important, if you’re to use something like this essence, that your desires not be corrupt.

MOIRA

Do you suppose that the experiences that subjects report when they’re liquified are contemporaneous with the physical process or are they just backward projections in the memory of reconstituted individuals.

CORWIN

Both are possibilities. If consciousness is simply a mater of computation, then I would suspect the latter, but if certain more exotic possibilities obtain — such as consciousness being in some way linked to quantum gravity as Sir Roger Penrose has argued, then anything might be the case. There is some independent evidence of some kind of continuity of consciousness even contemporaneous with the liquid state, because magnetic resonance imaginning of the distillates has shown complex patterns of electrical activity therein appear clearly non-random — a necessary condition of persisting mind, so think on that. Look, Anwei’s distillation is now almost complete. Close the stopcock and stopper the bottle.

MOIRA

Bet a lot of guys have wanted a girl in a bottle. Say, I have a thought.

CORWIN

Which is?

MOIRA

If information is actually stored holographically, wouldn’t it be possible to do multiple reconstitutions of a single individual, say, put a few drops of Anwei into a dozen different reconstitution pools and end up with a dozen Anweis?

CORWIN

Please, Miss Weir. I try to practice only ethical science.

MOIRA

On the other hand, it might be highly useful to have more assistants around here. Have you perhaps considered mixing essences and seeing who comes out? That would certainly be an interesting approach to studying things like what Derek Parfit calls “the bundle theory of the self.”

CORWIN

Ever imaginative, you are. Well, are we ready to bring our lovely liquid Venuses back to the realm of the solid?

Back to Index

INT. ASHLEY’S DORMITORY ROOM – NIGHT

A single college dormitory room with expensive-looking furnishings. A framed portrait of a younger Ashley in a gymnast’s outfit accepting some sort of trophy, and a poster of the “Irma Vep” theatre placard from episode three of Les Vampires can be seen.

Ashely enters and turns on the light. She throws her keys on the desk. She plays the messages on her answering machine. There is a message from EDMUND IRONS.

EDMUND (O.s.)

(voice on answering machine)

Hey Ashely it’s Edmund Irons. Listen I managed to get some studio time next Tuesday at four so you’re still interested, give me a call okay? Thanks, bye.

An envelope addressed to “Professor Corwin” sits on the desk. Ashley sits down, picks up the envelope and is about to tear it up, but pauses.

Ashley looks at the poster of Irma Vep, and then smiles.

Ashley picks up the phone and begins to dial.

INT. A FRATERNITY LIVING ROOM – DAY

Chip, BIFF, Edmund and a other guys including GUY #1, are sitting around drinking beer from cans. A television is playing, showing SENATOR MADDER delivering a speech to an enthusiastic crowd.

MADDER

(on television)

So I say to you, my friends, that we will never fix this country’s problems with any new law or government program, but only if we as God-fearing people return to faith of those who founded this country and made it great. And only then will we have the strength to stand up to the pornographers and their filth, to the homosexuals and their agenda, to godless hedonists of every sort in their perversions, and restore those values in faith, and flag, and country, and make this country the great one nation under God that it was meant to be…

BIFF

(interrupting)

Turn that cocksucker off!

Biff throws an empty can of beer at the screen. Chip picks up a remote and switches to a football game.

CHIP

That’s Ashley’s father, you know.

BIFF

He’s a cocksucker all the same, even if he a really hot daughter.

CHIP

Hot as any ice queen can be hot. Do you know any guy on this campus who’s gotten anywhere?

BIFF

Nah, it’s like she’s too good for everyone.

CHIP

I’ve heard she’s got a thing for professors, though. Just the other day I saw her hanging around outside Professor Corwin’s door. She looked like a lost kitten.

EDMUND

So not the ice queen, exactly?

BIFF

Dude, no professor here is dumb enough to try to get his wick wet with any student, all that stuff about sexual harassment being what it is these days. And no professor without a death wish is going to try anything with Senator God-Almighty-Worships-Me Madder’s precious little girl.

CHIP

A real career-ender that, if he’s lucky.

BIFF

Not of course that there haven’t been some incidents…

CHIP

Ooh, is Uncle Biff going to tell us our favorite Gnosis College story again?

GUY #1

Story?

BIFF

Gather ye round, while old Uncle Biff tells you young’uns a fantastic story of Miss Ashley Madder’s freshman year. See they way I heard it…

DISSOLVE TO:

INT. A WOMEN’S LOCKER ROOM – DAY

Sounds of female CONVERSATION, LOCKERS CLOSING, SHOWRES, etc.

Ashley and various girls and in various states of undress. JANE and LAURA have just put on a swimsuits. Moira and Nanetta are wrapped in towels. Ashley has just come from the shower and is wrapped in a towel.

Ashely opens her locker and unwraps the towel. She hangs up the towel, pulls a bikini top and bottom from her locker, holds them for a minute, then tosses the bikini back into the locker.

Ashley then unwraps her towel, hangs it in the locker, and closes it.

Ashely, naked, strides toward a double door marked “To Pool.”

Jane runs after Ashley and grabs hold of her arm.

JANE

Ashley! What are you doing?

ASHELY

Isn’t it obvious? I’m going swimming.

JANE

But…but…

ASHLEY

But what?

JANE

You’re…you’re…

ASHLEY

I believe the word you’re looking for is “naked.” “Nude” would also work, although personally I like “naked” because it sounds naughtier.

JANE

You can’t go out there like that! There are boys who will see you.

By now a group including Moira and Nanetta and about five coeds have gathered around and are watching the conversation curiously.

(Note: to the extent that production permits this group should include BRIDGET, CLEO, JILL and IRIS from Tales of Gnosis College: Study Abroad.)

ASHLEY

Maybe I want them to see me. Did that thought occur to you?

JANE

Want them to?

ASHLEY

Want them to. Why shouldn’t I want them to. I want them to look at me and see how beautiful I am. I want them to look at me, to stare, to desire me but know that they cannot touch me. I want to float, to be free, to walk out there and be unashamed.

JANE

That’s crazy! How can you talk like that? A good Christian girl like you?

EXTREME CLOSE-UP – JANE’S CHEST

A small gold cross hangs on a chain on the outside of Jane’s swimsuit.

RETURN TO SCENE

ASHLEY

A good Christian girl? Meaning I believe in God the creator of heaven and earth? The creator of men and women? Well didn’t God create this?

Ashley runs her hands down from her belly to her upper thighs and back to her buttocks.

ASHLEY

Or this?

Ashley strokes her mons veneris.

ASHLEY

Or these?

Ashley cups her hands under her breasts and lifts them up.

ASHLEY

Dare we mock the efforts of our Lord and Creator by failing to admire His handiwork?

JANE

Ashley!

LAURA

I want them to look, too.

Laura removes her swimsuit and stands naked next to Ashley.

ASHLEY

There’s the spirit! So who else is with us?

The coeds look at each other. Nanetta and Moira drop their towels. The rest of the coeds then begin removing their bathing suits, until all are naked except Jane.

ASHLEY

Your choice, Jane.

Ashley and the other turn and begin to leave.

JANE (O.S.)

Ashley, wait.

Ashley and the others turn. Jane is standing naked, except for the cross between her breasts.

ASHLEY

Atta girl! Come on ladies, let’s get out there and have a blast.’

They open the double doors and start walking out through them.

DISSOLVE TO:

INT. A FRATERNITY LIVING ROOM – DAY

BIFF

The ancient scriptures say that a lot of girls got taken to the dean’s office for a spanking, but Senator Madder, together with a crack squad of lawyers and goons, together with some judicious spreading of money in the alumni fund, managed to get the whole thing hushed up, as an official matter. And so you see boys, underneath Daddy’s little ice queen is a weird chick who likes to get naked.

EDMUND

And that, gentlemen, is where I get in and work my sensitive-artist mojo?

CHIP

Say what?

EDMUND

Well, I won last year’s Clarke Prize for student art, right?

CHIP

True.

EDMUND

And I publish a weekly cartoon in the Illuminator, do I not?

CHIP

Do you do.

SNICKERS from some of the guys.

EDMUND

And if I should just happen to be asked all innocent-like by one Ashley Madder during mid-session break where do you artist types find your models and we should just happen to fall into conversation on the subject and…

BIFF

Dude! No fucking way!

EDMUND

Dude yes fucking way. I am pleased to report that I have obtained the use of a college art studio, wherein I shall be spending the best part of two hours flattering her madly on every curve and angle of her lovely body…

CHIP

…her lovely ex-cheerleading champion body…

EDMUND

And thus working my magic.

BIFF

Whoa! Our sensitive-artist brother is going to Jedi mind-trick Daddy’s little ice princess and go where no Gnosis man has gone before. Dude!

The guys holler and high-five each other.

EXT. OUTSIDE CORWIN’S LABORATORY – STREET – NIGHT

(Note: The following is shot as a silent movie, with only musical scoring and in black and white. Following Feuillade’s practice in Les Vampires, scenes in the dark are blue-tinted.)

Ashley’s sports car pulls up to the side of the street and parks.

Ashley emerges. She is wearing a tight black leather catsuit resembling the maillot de soie worn by Irma Vep in Les Vampires and carrying a small backpack.

Using a gutter pipe for help, Ashley climbs the side of the building, until she reaches the roof.

Ashley walks across the roof toward a small mechanical penthouse. Ashley tries the door, which is locked. Then she notices a small transom window above the door. She lifts herself up and wriggles through it.

INT. MECHANICAL PENTHOUSE ABOVE CORWIN’S LABORATORY – NIGHT

Ashley enters large room. In the center of the room there is a large machine, and beneath it a hole.

Ashley looks through the hole with a flashlight. Below she sees the circular liquifaction platform.

INT. CORWIN’S LABORATORY – NIGHT

Ashley wriggles through the hole, the drops to the platform below. She surveys the room with her flashlight.

Ashley spends some time looking over the lab benches. She sees a row of bottles of Essence of Desire.

Ashley unstoppers one and smells it.

INSERT INTERTITLE

ASHLEY: Perfume? Amazing…like nothing I have ever smelled. Drawing me in…can’t resist!

BACK TO SCENE

(Note: The silent movie abruptly ends, returning to conventional shooting here.)

Sound of FOOTSTEPS approaching.

Ashley ducks behind a lab bench and hides

Anwei enters, turning on the lights. She picks up a notebook from the desk and walks to the other room.

Ashley tucks the phial of Essence of Desire into her little pack and moves as quickly and quietly as she can, slipping out the door Anwei entered by without Anwei seeing her.

INT. AQUARIUM ROOM – DAY

Moira, naked, dives into the tank and swims underwater along its bottom until she reaches the portal to the dark space.

Moira sits cross-legged in front of the portal for a moment.

A pair of tentacles emerge. Moira grasps them as the intertwine with her fingers.

Moira smiles and allows herself to be pulled into the dark space.

INT. CORWIN’S LABORATORY – DAY

Corwin putters around the laboratory benches. Anwei and Nanetta are dressed in white lab coats, Moira in a white bathrobe. The women are working on notes.

CORWIN

Remind this hapless middle-aged academic. Did we draw five or six phials of “Essence of Desire” off the last distillation?

MOIRA

I may have been distracted by the philosophical discussion, but I think five.

CORWIN

We should try to take closer notes in the future. In any event, I must be off. Meeting at Euphoric State with an old colleague. Will you ladies be so good as to lock up?

MOIRA

Good as done, professor.

CORWIN

All right, then. I’ll leave it in your good hands. Good afternoon ladies.

Corwin leaves. After he has departed, Anwei walks over to a cabinet on the laboratory benches and pulls out a bottle of Champagne and three flutes. Anwei pops the cork and fills the flutes.

Anwei passes around the flutes.

ANWEI

Here’s to us, ladies.

MOIRA AND NANETTA

(in unison)

Here’s to us.

The women toast, then drink.

ANWEI

Breakthroughs on both the Howard and apsinthion fronts, and victory in sight.

NANETTA

It’s amazing. After just a few cycles it’s as if my imagination can roam free.

ANWEI

Just how free?

NANETTA

I used to have dreams. I used to have fantasies. But now I can have waking lucid dreams almost at will…

Nanetta closes her eyes.

DISSOLVE TO:

EXT. NANETTA FANTASY SEQUENCE – DAY

Nanetta is dressed in a fairy-tale princess outfit and is tied, standing-up, to a stake in the ground.

A DRAGON enters and glowers menacingly at Nanetta.

Sound of HOOFBEATS. A mounted KNIGHT in shining armor enters. The dragon draws back.

KNIGHT

Back, ye vile abomination!

The knight rides in front of Nanetta and raises his shield. The shield is divided between a left field of white and right of yellow.

KNIGHT

I shall protect thee, fair maiden!

The knight draws his sword.

KNIGHT

Begone evil worm, lest ye taste my righteous steel!

The dragon stares at the knight for a moment while the knight brandishes his sword.

The dragon then blows a single blast of flame at the knight who, together with his horse, promptly crumples into a pile of ashes and metallic slag.

The dragon advances back to Nanetta. Extending one talon, he snips away the ropes holding Nanetta to the stake. With two claws he seizes her by her arms and lifts off into the air with her.

The dragon and Nanetta fly through the air. With a back talon, the dragon hooks into Nanetta’s princess gown.

Sound of fabric being RIPPED.

Nanetta’s shredded gown flutters to the ground far below.

Nanetta is naked except for a chastity belt. The dragon crushes this between two of his talons.

Nanetta is held by the dragon. Her hair streams in the wind.

The dragon settles to an a cleft in a high mountaintop and gently puts Nanetta down and looks at her.

Nanetta trembles and spreads her legs slightly

The dragon extends his long serpentine tongue and performs cunnilingus on Nanetta.

The dragon stands and displays an erect — but clearly non-human — cock between his rear legs.

Nanetta smiles, lies back and spreads her legs wider.

MOIRA (V.o.)

Hey there!

Sound of a KISS.

DISSOLVE TO:

INT. CORWIN’S LABORATORY – DAY

NANETTA

(eyes fluttering open)

What was that?

MOIRA

They say that Sleeping Beauty was woken with a kiss.

NANETTA

That’s one I would have had go on a little longer.

ANWEI

I’m sure there will be plenty of time to dream later. Moira, why not tell Nanetta what you told Professor Corwin?

MOIRA

About contact with Howard?

ANWEI

Yes.

MOIRA

It seems that Howard is more than just a single entity. The more time I spend in contact with him, the more I get all sorts of images that feel like memories, someone else’s memories. Some of them seem to be other people — for the longest time I had the acute feeling of being a Malay princess. All so vivid — the land, the sky, the sea, and speaking in a language.

ANWEI

Which when you spoke it back to us we were able to record, and which is clearly a dialect of Malay. Ever studied Malay, Moira?

Anwei refills the women’s glasses as Moira speaks.

MOIRA

No. That’s the strange thing. And there are much stranger things. I’ve had the sense of being in very different bodies — crablike things with many limbs, for example. And concurrent with that, a sense of doing…mathematics. It’s as if Howard or his kind have been in contact with many other people, perhaps many other species, making contact, absorbing memories, perhaps absorbing perhaps even consciousnesses. As if what some of those science fiction speculators have to say about uploading minds into other media is true, except that instead of minds being read and uploaded into a computer, they’re being uploaded into Howard’s species. That’s why they’re so eager for contact with…uh…all those sensitive nerve endings that I’ve got.

NANETTA

And here we are thinking that he’s just a naughty boy. But if Howard has been in that tank since he was a hatchling, as Professor Corwin said, how can he have contact with other minds?

ANWEI

Our working hypothesis is that the organism we see in the tank isn’t all of Howard, any more than a single terminal or computer is all of the Internet. We think he has some means of communication with other members of his species, and that these form a kind of network, distributing and backing up what they know. Howard may not be the whole thing, any more than your little toe is all of you.

NANETTA

Jeepers.

ANWEI

There is so much left to learn.

NANETTA

And I’m sure that here is all eager for more study.

ANWEI

But you can see why it’s all very radical, because if true it really subverts everything we think we know about consciousness and life and its purpose, which is why its all so hush-hush.

MOIRA

We could be on the brink of a revolution.

NANETTA

We could be at the gates to paradise.

ANWEI

And we shall forge the keys. Here’s to our posthuman future

The women toast again.

INT. AN ART STUDIO – DAY

Ashley is stylishly dressed and carrying a small handbag.

Edmund sits at an easel.

EDMUND

Well, er, shall we start?

ASHLEY

I’m eager to.

EDMUND

We can start like that or you can…

(indicating a screen)

…change behind that if you like.

ASHLEY

I’d like to change.

Ashley steps behind the screen and undresses. Edmund fiddles with his pencils.

CLOSE-UP – ASHLEY BEHIND THE SCREEN

Ashley is undressed. She reaches into her handbag and pulls out the phial of Essence of Desire. She unstoppers it, smells it, then dabs a little of it on herself as if it were perfume, then puts the phial away.

BACK TO SCENE

Ashley steps out naked. Edmund breathes in sharply.

EDMUND

Wow. You really don’t fool around.

ASHLEY

Thanks.

EDMUND

You seem so comfortable with yourself and not worried about my looking at you.

ASHLEY

It’s easy to feel comfortable. And I like being looked at.

EDMUND

Because you’re so beautiful, no doubt.

ASHLEY

Yes. Do you know, sometimes I wish that everyone could look at me. I wish I could stand up on a great stage as naked as I am now and have everyone look at me.

EDMUND

And perhaps hear them talk about…

ASHLEY

How perfect I was, how much they wanted to reach out and feel my skin, my flesh, my hair. I want to feel their eyes on me.

EDMUND

Wow! You really are suited for this.

ASHLeY

Feel their eyes upon me. I can feel their eyes upon me. I feel all the eyes on me that have ever been on me. The eyes are caressing me. They are moving all over me.

EDMUND

Uh, Ashley…

ASHLEY

I feel the eyes on me and I’m beginning to…

Ashley begins to tremble. A fine sheen of sweat appears. She begins to pant.

EDMUND

Ashely, are you feeling alright?

ASHLEY

No, no, stay back. Draw. I want to see you draw, and I want to feel the moment.

Edmund tries to draw. Ashley’s breathing quickens.

(Note: Through the following speech Ashley’s excitement continues to mount toward orgasm.)

ASHLEY

I want you to draw because I want you to put down how beautiful I am so that that can last forever, so that there can be more eyes, eyes throughout history. Eyes looking with longing and saying what pretty boobs, what wonderful nipples, what a lovely belly, what gorgeous legs, what a sweet cunt. Me. I want them to say that about me, not be a good girl. So many people, deprived of beauty to look at…I wasn to give it to them…I want them to have it… I want their eyes on me…I want my beauty to last forever…

EDMUND

Ashley!

ASHLEY

…forever…

EDMUND

(standing up, alarmed)

Ashley!

ASHLEY

…forever…beautiful forever…and…

(crying out orgasmicly)

…my…wish…is…coming…true!

SFX: Ashley’s flesh and hair turn to pinkish stone. Her hands freeze with her palms turned outward, her face is turned upwards, eyes close, lips parted, an expression of ecstasy.

Ashley’s last cry dies away as her transformation is complete.

Edmund walks up to the statue Ashley has transformed into. He runs his hands over it, lingering especially on her lips, breasts and buttocks.

EDMUND

(to self)

Warm…still warm…just like her…so beautiful. What am I doing? What am I saying. Oh God!

Edmund runs out of the studio looking horrified.

Back to Index

INT. CAMPUS SECURITY OFFICE – DAY

OFFICER JACK CLEARYY sits at a metal desk, reading a report. OFFICER MAY EULA sits across from him. The phone on Cleary’s desk rings.

Cleary answers it. DICK JOHNSON is on the other end of the line.

Cleary

Gnosis College Security, Cleary speaking.

JOHNSON (O.s.)

Officer Cleary, this is Dick Johnson, chief of staff in Senator Madder’s office.

Cleary

(sitting up straighter)

Yes, good afternoon Mr. Johnson. What can I do for you?

JOHNSON (O.s.)

Officer, as you know the Senator’s daughter Ashley is a senior there at Gnosis. She supposed to appear at a prayer breakfast with her father this morning but didn’t show, and she’s not answering her landline or her cell. We’d like you to check in and make sure she’s okay.

Cleary

Well, I’m not sure that someone’s being overdue by a few hours really counts as a police matter, Mr. Johnson.

JOHNSON (O.s.)

Frankly, pal, we’re not interested in what you do or don’t think. This is the senator’s daughter we’re talking about here so I suggest you get your ass in gear and look around, I’m sure you don’t want any unpleasantness like there was the last time.

Cleary

No, sir. Of course not. We’ll get right on it.

Sound of phone being SLAMMED DOWN on the other end of the line.

Cleary hangs up, picks his hat up off the desk, and prepares to leave.

MAY

What on earth was that all about?

Cleary

Aw, that senator’s ditsy daughter failed to show up for something and now I have to wear out shoe leather looking her up. Probably she’s just sleeping one off. You hold down the fort, May, while I go prove that I earn my paycheck.

MAY

Law enforcement never sleeps at Gnosis, does it, Jim?

Cleary leaves.

INT. OUTSIDE/INSIDE ASHLEY’S ROOM – DAY – CONTINUOUS

Cleary and a JANITOR approach the door to Ashley’s room. Cleary knocks gently on the door.

CLeary

Miss Madder? Are you in there?

Cleary pauses, then knocks again, a little more insistently.

Cleary

Miss Madder? Campus security.

Cleary nods at the Janitor, who shrugs and unlocks the door.

Cleary enters the room and looks around. He looks down at the desk and his eyes pause for a moment on the letter addressed to Professor Corwin.

Cleary looks at Ashley’s answering machine.

Cleary

Normally I wouldn’t, but it’s my ass if I don’t.

Plays messages.

JOHNSON (O.s.)

(on answering machine)

Miss Madder this is Jack Johnson. We didn’t see you this morning so…

Cleary

Yeah, whatever, cocksucker.

Cleary rewinds the messages, and plays another:

EDMUND (O.s.)

(on answering machine)

Hey Ashely it’s Edmund Irons. Listen I managed to get some studio time next Tuesday at four so you’re still interested, give me a call okay? Thanks, bye.

Cleary stops and ponders.

INT. PROFESSOR CORWIN’S OFFICE – DAY

Corwin and Cleary sit across from each other at the desk. They are in the middle of an interview. Cleary takes notes on a tablet.

CORWIN

So the last time I saw her in person would have been after the last lecture in my consciousness course. And then curiously she came by my office right after, interrupting a rather important meeting, I might add. I had my assistant Miss Li send her away.

Cleary

Do you have any idea why Miss Madder might have thought it was urgent to see you?

CORWIN

I’m afraid I have no idea, Officer Cleary. Though if you’ll forgive my saying so, I always did think that Miss Madder was a bit on the, shall we say, entitled side?

Cleary smirks, then closes his notebook.

Cleary

Okay, Professor Corwin. Thanks for your help.

CORWIN

You don’t think Miss Madder might be in some kind of trouble, do you?

Cleary

Probably just a routine misunderstanding and a parent who is also a bit on the entitled side. But please call us if you should happen to see Miss Madder.

CORWIN

Of course.

Cleary stands up and puts on his hat. The two men shake hands across the desk. Cleary leaves.

INT. AN ART STUDIO – DAY

Cleary enters, and sees the Ashely statue.

Cleary

What the…?

Cleary walks around the statue, inspecting it. Then he steps behind the screen.

Cleary takes a pen out of his pocket, and lifts up Ashley’s clothes, which are sitting on the chair. Under the clothes he finds a small holster with an automatic pistol.

cleary

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.

Cleary opens her bag, looks inside, finding a pocketbook.

The pocketbook contains many credit cards, Ashley’s driver’s license, and so forth.

Cleary carefully puts everything back, then pulls out a walkie-talkie.

Cleary

(into walkie-talkie)

May, this is James. Come back, over.

MAY (O.s.)

(on walkie-talkie)

May here. What’s up Jim? Over

Cleary

(into walkie-talkie)

May, I need you to call the Senator’s office and tell them that we might have a situation here and we need any help they can send. In the meantime, get Buildings and Grounds to lock the student art studios up tight.

INT. AN ART STUDIO – NIGHT

CAMERA FLASHES as photographs are taken of the studio by crime technicians. Other criminalists dust for prints. SPECIAL-AGENT-IN-CHARGE MACNEIL and SPECIAL AGENT SMITH supervise. SPECIAL AGENT JONES is inspecting the Ashley sculpture.

CLOSE-UP – ASHLEY’S BAG

A gloved hand removes the phial of “Essence of Desire” from Ashley’s bag and places it in a clear bag labeled “EVIDENCE,” which is then sealed.

BACK TO SCENE

MacNeil’s cellphone rings. He answers it.

MACNEIL

(into phone)

MacNeil here. Yes, Deputy Director. We’re going over the scene now. We’ll have stuff for the lab in a few hours. Yes. Yes we have the warrant on the Irons kid, we’re going to try to move in as soon as tactical is assembled. What? When? Sir I don’t think…

(an ANGRY VOICE is heard over the phone)

Yes, sir. I’ll set it up.

MacNeil hangs up his phone and addresses Smith.

MACNEIl

(to himself)

Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck.

SMITH

Problem, chief?

MACNEIL

The Senator’s here.

SMITH

Excuse me?

MACNEIL

The Senator’s here. At Gnosis College. And he wants to be there when tactical goes in after the Irons kid.

SMITH

That’s crazy! He’ll jeopardize the integrity of the operation and the scene. What can’t that cocksucker leave things to the professionals.

MACNEIL

(commandingly)

Special Agent Smith!

SMITH

Sir?

MACNEIL

Allow me to remind you of who that cocksucker is. That cocksucker is the senior United States Senator from this great state. Now allow me further to remind you of who you are. You are a Federal civil servant. So what that cocksucker wants from us, that cocksucker gets from us. Did I make that clear enough for you, Special Agent Smith.

SMITH

Perfectly clear, chief.

MACNEIL

(more gently)

Smith, look. I know this is your first politically-sensitive case, and sometimes they run tough. My guess is this is just some prank. We caught a break with that campus beadle, Chauncey, whatever his name was figured out so quickly that the Irons kid reserved this studio. Probably it’s just some runaway prank put on by Daddy’s spoiled little girl. We put on an impressive show for the Senator, by nabbing the Irons kid with an excessively noisy gun-waving raid, which is the sort of thing the Senator really likes and which will also use as a useful distraction from this…

(MacNeill gestures, indicating the scene in the studio)

…and then we get to go home and swagger around. Not bad for a day’s work.

SMITH

Got it, Chief.

Jones, who has been inspecting the statue, calls to MacNeil and Smith.

JONES

Special Agent MacNeil, Special Agent Smith, you might want to have a look at this.

MacNeil and Smith come over.

JONES

This sculpture, what do you think it’s made of?

MACNEIL

Looks like some sort of polished stone I would say. Something like marble.

JONES

Yes, but she’s not heavy.

Jones grunts, lifts the Ashley statue off its feet.

JONES

Can’t be more than about one hundred and twenty pounds. She does sound sort-of hollow.

Jones raps his knuckles a few times against Ashley’s belly to demonstrate.

NACNEIL

Better bump it in priority at the lab. Special Agent Jones, call Harraway when you get to Quantico, wake her up and get her into the lab to look at this.

JONES

Yes, chief.

NACNEIL

Smith and I gotta see about tactical.

NacNeil and Jones walk away.

MACNEIL

(to himself)

Still think it’s a dumb college prank, though.

INT. A FRATERNITY LIVING ROOM – NIGHT

The same fraternity living room we saw before, except that its windows have been covered with blackout shades.

The center of the room now contains an empty (but large) children’s plastic wading pool (hereafter the “ring”). Most of the edge of the ring is surrounded with chairs. Two adjacent chairs are occupied by Chip and Biff. The other chairs are occupied by various fraternity brothers.

CHIP

Dude, I cannot believe that you managed to talk your own girlfriend into doing this. I mean, we’ve always had to hire a professional from River City in the past.

BIFF

Oh the Biffman can be very persuasive. Where do you think said girlfriend gets all that sweet, sweet love.

CHIP

Sweet, sweet love, eh. I don’t think anyone is that good.

BIFF

Possibly true, my good brother, possibly true. But there’s also the issue of a special little need that Laura has picked up during her years here at Gnosis…

(makes a gesture as if snorting something)

…which the Biffman, with his vast connections and considerable family wealth is in a unique position to meet.

CHIP

(shaking head)

Unreal. But don’t you like worry that, well, you know, something might happen?

BIFF

Not to worry, my brother. She’s a greased pig who happened to take lots of self-defense classes. The only way anything happens is if she lets it happen.

CHIP

Well, I sure wouldn’t miss it. Speaking of not missing it, where’s Edmund?

BIFF

I think Edmund is out getting even luckier than we are.

Sound of muffled DRUMS. The FRATERNITY PRESIDENT, dressed in a black, hooded robe enters the room, leading a figure shrouded from head to toe in a white winding sheet.

The shrouded figure steps into the middle of the ring and stands. The Fraternity President raises his arms like a priest doing an invocation.

FRATERNITY PRESIDENT

Brothers! For thousands of years, this sacred brotherhood has held together against all who would prevail against us.

ALL TOGETHER

(chanting)

Prevail! Prevail! Prevail!

FRATERNITY PRESIDENT

For we stand together in strength!

ALL TOGETHER

(chanting)

Strength! Strength! Strength!

FRATERNITY PRESIDENT

And courage!

ALL TOGETHER

(chanting)

Courage! Courage! Courage!

FRATERNITY PRESIDENT

And manliness!

ALL TOGETHER

(chanting)

Man-li-ness! Man-li-ness! Man-li-ness!

FRATERNITY PRESIDENT

We live by the supreme rule!

ALL TOGETHER

(chanting)

No pooftahs! No pooftahs! No pooftahs!

FRATERNITY PRESIDENT

And now, my brothers, other young men would come and join us in the sacred bonds of brotherhood. But they must prove themselves worthy!

ALL TOGETHER

(chanting)

Worthy! Worthy! Worthy!

FRATERNITY PRESIDENT

Let the candidates enter!

SOUND of muffled drums. A line of young men enter, PLEDGE #1, PLEDGE #2, PLEDGE #3, PLEDGE #4, PLEDGE #5, and PEDRO. The are wearing only towels around the waists.

FRATERNITY PRESIDENT

Younglings! If you are to join with us in the sacred bonds of brotherhood, you must show that you are able to confront both that which you desire and that which you fear. And so you are challenged to combat.

The Fraternity President grabs hold of one end of the winding sheet and pulls. The shrouded figure turns on her feet, allowing the sheet to play out.

The sheet unwinds, revealing a naked Laura underneath.

The fraternity bothers yell and whistle and applaud. Laura smiles and does a pirouette, then bows.

The pledges look at each other nervously, except Pedro, who stares straight at Laura.

FRATERNITY PRESIDENT

Sergeant-at-arms, kindly explain our rules of engagement.

CHIP

Our fair maiden combatant shall be thoroughly oiled. The candidate shall enter the ring and attempt to pin the oil maiden. Candidates are limited to only legal wrestling holds, but the oil maiden may fight to retain her virtue with any means at her disposal. Combat shall continue until one participant shall speak the sacred safeword.

ALL TOGETHER

(chanting)

Uncle! Uncle! Uncle!

FRATERNITY PRESIDENT

Oil maiden, kindly raise you right hand.

Laura raises her right hand

FRATERNITY PRESIDENt

Do you solemnly swear that you are about to enter combat of your own free will so help you God?

LAURA

I do.

FRATERNITY PRESIDENT

Then let us bring forth the sacred oil.

Biff steps into the ring with a bottle of baby oil, which he pours on Laura. He then grins and spanks Ashley on the behind.

Laura oils herself sensually, occasioning more whistles and cheers from the fraternity brothers.

FRATERNITY PRESIDENT

First combatant.

(Note: all of the pledges, except Pedro when his turn comes shall be detumescent.)

Pledge #1 drops his towel, and steps into the ring. He attempts to grab her around the chest, but she squirts away, the pokes him in the eye.

PLEDGE #1

Ow! Uncle!

Cheers from the fraternity boys. Laura smiles and bows.

FRATERNITY PRESIDENT

Next combatant!

Pledge #2 drops his towel and steps into the ring. He lunges forward and grabs Laura’s breasts, which promptly squirt out of his hands. Laura kicks him swiftly in the crotch.

Sound of sympathetic GROANS from the fraternity brothers.

PLEDGE #2

(squeaking)

Uncle!

FRATERNITY PRESIDENT

Next combatant!

Pledge #3 drops his towel and steps confidently into the ring and promptly slips on an oily patch, ending up on his back. Laura jumps into the air and lands on his stomach, winding him.

PLEDGE #3

(winded)

Uncle!

FRATERNITY PRESIDENT

Next combatant!

Pledge #4 drops his towel steps into the ring. He and Laura circle for a moment, then he grabs her arm and attempts to pull her into a hammerlock.

Laura slips out of the hold easily and spins around to bring the heel of her hand sharply to Pledge #4’s upper lip.

PLEDGE #4

(bleeding)

Ow! Uncle!

FRATERNITY PRESIDENT

Next combatant!

Pledge #5 drops his towel steps into the ring. Laura gives him a steely stare. Pledge #5 hastily jumps back out of the ring reaching for his towel.

PLEDGE #5

Uncle! Uncle!

LAUGHTER from the fraternity brothers.

BIFF

(to Chip)

Told you there was nothing for me to worry about, my brother.

CHIP

I don’t know, Dude. That Pedro looks like a full figure of a man. They say his grandmother was a full-blooded Apache.

LAURA

More oil!

FRATERNITY PRESIDENT

Let us honor the oil maiden’s request. Sergeant-at-arms!

Chip hands her anther bottle. Laura oils herself, this time without showing off.

Pedro drops his towel. He is fully erect. WHISTLES and MUTTERED REMARKS from the fraternity brothers. Then the crowd quiets.

Pedro steps into the ring. Laura looks down briefly at Pedros’s erection, then Laura and Pedro lock eyes.

Laura and Pedro circle each other for a few moments. Laura HISSES like a cat at Pedro, and makes claw-like gestures with her hands.

Pedro lunges at Laura. Pedro and Laura lock like wrestlers. The go to ground. They begin to wrestle furiously for some time, Pedro being unable to complete a hold on the oiled Laura, Laura unable to escape from Pedro.

EXCITED MURMURING from the fraternity brothers.

CHIP

(aside, to Biff)

Dude, very exciting.

BIFF

Shut the fuck up.

Pedro finally pins Laura face-down with a full-Nelson hold.

PEDRO

Now you say the word!

LAURA

I refuse to say the word!

Pedro twines the fingers of one hand in Laura’s hair, while releasing his other hand.

Pedro slides his free hand under Laura’s abdomen and makes a fist, forcing her buttocks up and her legs apart.

Loud GASP from Laura as Pedro penetrates her from behind.

The fraternity brothers fall into shocked silence.

PEDRO

Now will you say the word?

LAURA

I refuse to say the word!

BIFF

(rising from his seat)

Jesus fuck! I’m going to…

Chip and others restrain him.

CHIP

She has to say the word. She has to say the word, those are the rules, dude. When she says the word, we’ll go in there with you and kick his ass. Wait for the word.

Pedro ignores them. He makes a few penetrating strokes.

PEDRO

The word?

LAURA

I refuse!

Pedro and Laura begin to copulate. After a few more strokes Laura begins moving with Pedro.

The rate of Pedro and Laura’s copulation picks up, swiftly reaching a furious pace. As they copulate

— Biff struggles with other fraternity brothers, occasionally screaming obscenities and

— The other fraternity brothers begin to mutter approvingly, then whistle, cheer, applaud, etc.

Pedro and Laura climax together. Pedro withdraws from Laura, stands up, and punches the air with his fist.

PEDRO

Uncle!

The fraternity brothers cheer wildly. Pedro steps out of the ring and picks up his towel.

FRATERNITY PRESIDENT

Here is a day that will ring down through the history of our sacred brotherhood, that of the greatest initiation ever!

Laura lies languidly for a moment, then rises and faces Biff, who is still struggling.

BIFF

What! Nothing was supposed to happen!

LAURA

(smiles)

Just like you said, nothing could happen

(pauses for effect)

…that I didn’t let happen.

BIFF

Why you little…

Loud POUNDING from varipous directions..

Several AGENTS in tactical gear storm into the room, followed by MacNeil and Smith, wearing tactical vests and carrying handguns at low-ready positions.

AGENTS

(screaming)

F-B-I! Everyone down. Hands on your heads!

Everyone complies.

Sound of agents RUNNING through the house, KICKING IN doors, YELLING etc.

A TACTICAL OFFICER approaches MacNeil and reports.

TACTICAL OFFICER

We’ve searched the whole premises, sir. No sign of the target.

MACNEIL

Shit. Search the premises thoroughly, see if there’s anything that we can somehow bootstrap into making this raid into a non-fiasco. In the meanwhile, take all these kids into custody and see if any of them have anything to say.

TACTICAL OFFICER

Yes, sir.

(to fraternity brothers and Laura)

Alright you people! Up against the wall. Hands up on the wall far apart. Legs apart.

Everyone complies.

MACNEIL

Conduct a search incidental to arrest, see what falls out.

MacNeil pulls out a walkie-talkie, speaks into it.

MACNEIL

MacNeil here. Tell the V-I-P that the scene is now clear for his entry.

CHIP

What the fuck man? We’re just having a harmless initiation.

MACNEIL

(to Chip)

Son, if you know what’s good for you, you’re start being real quiet right about now.

Agents begin to frisk the fraternity brothers. The Pledges and Pedro have their towels pulled away. Smith approaches Laura, and moves as if about to frisk her.

LAURA

(disdainfully)

Looking for something concealed?

Smith shrugs and moves on.

Senator Madder enters, wearing a three-piece suit with an American flag pin prominent on one lapel, a cross on the other He is followed by GOON #1 and GOON #2. He looks around.

MADDER

What den of filth is this place? What place of depravity?

(at the brothers)

How can any of you be there and not die of shame?

(fixing his gaze on Laura)

If you were the sorts who had any shame.

(tearing his gaze away from Laura, to MacNeil)

Did you the find the boy?

MACNEIL

No, Senator. Apparently he’s not here.

MADDER

Well did you find anything?

TACTICAL OFFICER

Some substances that might be narcotics, a couple of porn stashes nothing all that unusual.

MACNEIL

We’re making every effort, Senator.

MADDER

See that you do. I’m holding you responsible for this, Special Agent MacNeil.

MACNEIL

(giving an order)

Alright, start clearing out the suspects.

Agents begin handcuffing the fraternity bothers and pledges, then leading them away.

BIFF

(while being led away)

Best initiation ever, huh?

MADDER

Not the young lady.

MACNEIL

Excuse me, senator?

MADDER

Not the young lady.

NACNEIL

Senator, with all due respect this is our…

MADDER

Good God, Special Agent MacNeil, have you no decency at all? Leading a young lady in a state of undress out of here? Especially after she has no doubt been…vilely exploited by these perverted young hooligans. At the very least find something for her to wear.

MACNEIL

Yes, Senator. I’ll see to it personally.

Madder approaches Laura. Goon #1 and Goon #2 take up positions between Laura and Madder and everyone else, blocking everyone else’s view.

LAURA

(beginning to move away from the wall)

Gee thank you, Mr., er Senator…

MADDER

(interrupting sharply)

No one said you were to go anywhere.

Laura resumes her previous position.

MADDER

(closing in, in a low voice)

I recognize you. You’re one of those little tarts who led my daughter astray in that…incident all those years back.

LAURA

Senator, I…

MADDER

Shut up! It now seems that you’ve managed to find yourself in even worse trouble. Drugs. Perversion. Orgiastic rites. Oh yes, things could go very badly for you from now on.

CLOSE-UP – LAURA’S LOWER BACK

Madder places a hand on Laura’s lower back, then moves his hand down her buttocks, the middle finger in the cleavage.

RETURN TO SHOT

MADDER

But forgiveness is always available, my dear, and soon someone from my operations will be in touch to explain what you need to do to get it. It isn’t something that should be hard for anyone to do.

Madder thrusts a finger into Laura’s vagina. Laura GASPS and grimaces in shock. Madder then withdraws.

MADDER

Especially for a little whore like you

Madder walks away. His goons follow him.

MADDER

(to Laura, over his shoulder)

Be sure to be in touch with my people. I’m sure something can be worked out.

NacNeil enters with a large men’s shirt and covers Laura.

Agents lead Laura away.

Madder removes a handkerchief from an inner pocket and casually cleans his hand as he speaks to MacNeil

MADDER

I expect you to find that boy, MacNeil, and figure out where my daughter is.

MACNEIL

Any further suggestions, Senator?

MADDER

I would think that most likely he is some sort of homosexual. Or other kind of sex pervert. He is an artist, after all, yes? Why don’t you try hitting the bars?

INT. A BAR – NIGHT

MacNeil sits at a bar, his tie loosened. A half-finished drink sits in front of him. An neon sign, spelling out “Weidegold” can be seen in the background behind him.

Smith enters and sits next to MacNeil.

MACNEIL

Please tell me there’s some good news here.

SMITH

(signals for the bartender, orders)

Black coffee.

(to MacNeil)

Looks like the Irons lead is going nowhere.

MACNEIL

Why do you say that?

SMITH

State Police found him and his car about two hours ago. At the bottom of a ravine, dead at the scene. Forensics is still going over the wreck but so far no signs of the Madder girl or anything that clearly leads to her.

MACNEIL

Shit. Tough break for the kid, who might not have had anything to do with it anyway.

(takes a gulp from his drink)

So what’s left? Forensics from the studio, right?

(finishes his drink)

You good to drive?

The bartender brings a cup of coffee and puts it in front of Smith.

SMITH

Yeah, I’m good.

MACNEIL

(putting money on the bar)

Then drive. I sleep it off in the back seat and get ready to face Harraway bright and early.

MacNeil leaves.

SMITH

Thank god we have the mighty F-B-I to protect society from its worst threat — the wayward college girl.

Smith takes a large swig of coffee, and burns himself because it’s too hot.

SMITH

Ow! Fuck!

(to bartender)

Oh. Sorry. Gotta run.

Smith takes a bill out of his wallet, slaps on the bar, and leaves quickly.

INT. A FBI CRIME LABORATORY – DAY

HARRAWAY, a haggard-looking, dumpy, middle-aged woman in a white laboratory coat, sits at a laboratory bench, reading through a report.

Ashley’s identification, clothing, the letter, etc. are in evidence bags arranged on a table. The Ashley statue is under bright lights in the background.

MacNeil enters.

MACNEIL

Agent Harraway.

HARRAWAY

Special Agent-in-Charge MacNeil. How nice to see you here so bright and early.

MACNEIL

Agent Harraway…

HARRAWAY

And how thoughtful of you to provide me with an early wake-up call too.

Harraway reaches into a pocket of her lab coat, and pulls out a cigarette and a book of matches.

MACNEIL

Agent Harraway, you are aware of course that Bureau policy strictly forbids smoking in any Bureau facility?

Harraway shrugs and lights her cigarette.

(Note: Harraway continues smoking through all of the following scene.)

MACNEIL

Please tell me you have something for me.

HARRAWAY

The routine stuff doesn’t show much. Clothing is expensive and in good condition — no damage indicating any kind of a struggle, no stains or secretions indicating any kind of sexual activity. Furthermore, we recovered this…

(indicating the handgun)

which is registered to Ashely, and for which she had a concealed carry permit. Show what having the right dad will get you, I guess. It all just looks taken off and put there. The ID is all genuine. The contents of Miss Madder’s handbag were pretty usual for a young woman of her age and social class, with one exception which I’ll get to in a minute. Miss Madder was fingerprinted as a child as part of a school program, so we were able to identify most of the prints we were able to lift. They’re mostly hers, plus a few from a campus security officer who left them when he first picked up some of the materials at the scene. Now this letter…

Harraway holds up the letter that was on Ashley’s desk.

HARRAWAY

Is a schoolgirl mash-note addressed to one Professor Joseph Corwin. Contents unremarkable, I think, but we’ll send over a facsimile copy to your office.

MACNEIL

I’d like to have more to go on.

HARRAWAY

Good things to those who wait, Special-Agent-in-Charge. There is this.

Harraway holds up the phial of “Essence of Desire,” now in a plastic evidence bag and hands it to MacNeil, who inspects it.

HARRAWAY

The label is probably handwritten, and the words, according to Linguistics Section, are ancient Greek. They mean “Essence of Desire.” The contents are a mostly a puzzle. The parts of it we can analyze seem to be a mix of endorphin- and seratonin-like molecules.

MACNEIL

Meaning?

HARRAWAY

A regular psychopharcological witches’ brew. Probably gets you higher than a kite if you’re not careful. There a lot more stuff in there, though, including some really bizarre-looking macromolecules that we can’t type. We’re talking really big, in some cases as big as small biological cells. But the icing on this particular weird cake turned out not to be so weird. We went over this little bottle pretty carefully for prints, and we found two partials that didn’t match Miss Madder. And we got lucky.

NACNEIL

Fortune’s Wheel turns, I see.

HARRAWAY

You see a couple of years back it turns out that one Professor Joseph Corwin got into a little bit of trouble with U.S. Customs on his return from a trip from various places in Southeast Asia. Something about transporting a biological sample without proper clearance. The guy must have had pretty good legal representation because he managed to get himself clear fast. But not before he was obliged to leave a set of fingerprints with United States law enforcement.

MACNEIL

And now he’s left prints at what we think was the scene of the Madder girl’s disappearance.

HARRAWAY

I’m glad the Bureau continues it tradition of hiring the best and brightest. Now, as for this statue.

Harraway and MacNeil walk over to the statue.

HARRAWAY

Only prints we found belong to the Irons boy — we know this because we got postmortem prints from the Gnosis County M.E.’s office. But the statue itself presents some real puzzles. For one thing the material it’s made of isn’t like anything we know. Quite light, amazingly hard. The exterior appears to be some sort of diamondoid carbon, which is the sort of thing that’s easy to find — if you live in a science fiction story. But the most striking thing is the fineness of detail with which this sculpture is made.

NACNEIL

It looks as if whoever made this went to incredible trouble. As if they sculpted individual hairs, and little bumps and blemishes.

HARRAWAY

That is far from the most peculiar thing about it. Look at this. It is a photomicrograph of the surface of the sculpture. We took it in an attempt to identify the material.

Harraway hands a picture to MacNeil.

INSERT – PICTURE

A picture of what looks like a pattern of irregular tiles.

BACK TO SCENE

HARRAWAY

Please tell me, Special Agent-in-Charge MacNeil, what kind of sculptor is so obsessed with his model that he bothers to sculpt every one of her individual cells?

INT. MACNEIL’S OFFICE – DAY

MacNeil and Smith sit across MacNeil’s desk.

MACNEIL

This Corwin character is creepy, and he’s at the center of this somehow, but I can’t seem to figure out how we’re going to squeeze him. It won’t be that easy. As far as can tell he lives modestly enough, but there’s lot of Corwin money and he could afford to make things difficult for us if we step wrong. Even we in the mighty F-B-I cannot just go and grab anyone.

SMITH

Why not come up with a narcotics rap, see if he rolls?

MACNEIL

The stuff they found among the Madder girl’s possessions wasn’t narcotics. It was chemicals that everyone has in their brains plus some junk that no one understands.

SMITH

Anything wrong with his money?

MACNEIL

Used a Patriot Act request to peek at his financials. A lot of money comes out of accounts that he controls and goes to various companies but that could be legit and anyway we don’t have time to track it. We need to get this guy and put the squeeze on him now, otherwise it we’re going to be seeing “Senator’s Daughter Kidnapped” headlines and no one needs that shitstorm.

SMITH

Pretty white girl in trouble. Pure headline gold.

MACNEIL

Right you are, and double for a senator’s daughter. So I’m going to try something a little bolder.

SMITH

Which is?

MACNEIL

The last refuge of scoundrels, of course.

MacNeil picks up the phone and dials a number.

MACNEIL

(into phone)

Officer Cleary? Yes good afternoon Special Agent-in-Charge MacNeil here. Yes I read from your report that you had interviewed a Professor Corwin about the Ashley Madder matter, which is excellent work by the way…yeah, we hate dealing with that asshole too…No officer we haven’t yet…listen you must have seen the inside of Professor Corwin’s office…did you happen to see anything unusual there…uh huh…uh huh…what about books…uh huh…uh huh…large old one with brass fitting did you say…didn’t get the name but there was an author’s name on the spine…which was…

(hastily scribbles something on a notepad)

Very good. Thank you officer…not at all.

MacNeil hangs up the phone.

MACNEIL

Special Agent Smith, what does the name Abdul Al-Hazred sound like to you?

SMITH

I’m not sure. Arab, perhaps?

MACNEIL

Um hm. And this, and a pattern of withdrawal of money that’s hard to trace and trips to Southeast Asia that result in obscure problems with customs means…

(types into his computer as he speaks)

…possible al-Qaeda connection.

MacNeil hits the return key on his computer as he speaks.

MACNEIL

And now, Special Agent Smith, we can just grab anyone we please. I hope you’re still good to drive.

Back to Index

INT. DORMITORY LIVING ROOM – DAY

A handful of students are watching a television news program being read by anchorwoman MELISSA HARTREY. Nanetta and Moira enter.

INT. A TELEVISION NEWS PROGRAM – DAY

HARTREY

…and in still more shocking news out of Gnosis College today, Federal authorities announced they had taken into custody Professor Joseph Corwin and his assistant Andrea Lee late last night.

Still photographs of Corwin and Anwei appear on the screen.

HARTREY

Authorities have declined at this time to indicate why they have taken Professor Corwin and his assistant into custody or what possible charges they might be facing.

The television switches to footage of MacNeil being interviewed.

MACNEIL

All I can say at the moment is that Professor Corwin and Miss Li are classified as persons of interest in an ongoing investigation. No further questions.

Sound of SHOUTED REPORTERS’ QUESTIONS, abruptly cut off. The television program then switches back to the camera.

HARTREY

(on television)

Professor Corwin, a longtime member of the faculty at Gnosis, is reported to be a popular figure on campus, but not an uncontroversial one. Although Federal law enforcement authorities had no comment, we were able to reach Presidential Morality Advisor Lev Kasselbaum, who is known as a prominent critic of the work of Professor Corwin. Dr. Kasselbaum, thank you for being on the program with us this morning.

Switch to DR. LEV KESSLEBAUM

KESSLBAUM

Thank you for having me on, Miss Hartrey.

HARTREY

Dr. Kesselbaum, does this possible arrest of a prominent academic surprise you at all?

KESSELBAUM

Well, frankly no, Miss Hartrey. As I have been observing for years, Professor Corwin has arrogantly been pouring intellectual poison in the form of ethical hedonism and Promethean aspirations for technology into the students of Gnosis, and it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if he were to have gone and committed some act of hubris that has brought the attention of the lawful authorities down on his head, and long overdue that attention is. You see Miss Hartrey, the wisdom that young people need to be taught is that the pursuit of fine and honorable ends is itself what we are here for. What human life is not about is having a good time, but about leading a virtuous life To think otherwise leads to appalling excesses, like that horrible fraternity incident you’ve just reported on — something that in my opinion is the direct product of the doctrines that seducers like Professor Corwin teach. He has sown the wind, and is perhaps now reaping the whirlwind.

HARTREY

(unctuously)

That’s so interesting, Dr. Kesselbaum.

(perkily)

And now over to Lennie with sports!

INT. DORMITORY LIVING ROOM – DAY

Nanetta and Moira look at each other, then both run out of the room.

INT. AN INTERROGATION CELL – DAY

MacNeil and Smith face Corwin. Before them is a large case file. Corwin is in an orange jumpsuit and has one hand handcuffed to a table.

CORWIN

I insist on speaking to legal counsel.

SMITH

I regret to inform you, Professor, that your legal counsel may be very slow in arriving. Possibly months slow.

MACNEIL

Yes, thanks to certain improvements in the law made to deal with the current terrorist emergency, we might be able to detain you incommunicado for rather a long time, given the politically sensitive nature of what you’ve managed to mix yourself up in.

(places a document in front of Corwin)

A national security warrant. Habeas corpus is a long way from where you’re sitting.

CORWIN

Politically sensitive? National security? What on earth do you mean?

SMITH

Ashley Madder is the daughter of a United States Senator. And she has been missing for the past three days. Tell us what you know now and you may have some sort of life after this.

CORWIN

The last time I saw Miss Madder was when she interrupted a meeting at my office.

SMITH

And how would you characterize the rest of your relationship with Miss Madder?

CORWIN

Purely professional. That between a professor and a student. And not that good a student, either.

SMITH

You lying motherfucker.

CORWIN

How dare you imply otherwise?

MacNeil produces the phial of “Essence of Desire” and places it on the table.

MACNEIL

We found this among Miss Madder’s possessions.

CORWIN

I did not give that to her.

MACNEIL

Your fingerprints are on it.

CORWIN

I don’t know why she would have had it.

MACNEIL

A mystery, yes? There are so many mysteries.

(turns a page in the file)

Among other mysteries is that while we can’t find Miss Madder, but we certainly found a very finely made statue of her So finely detailed that we could map individual cells on its surface. Does that sound like something a sculptor could do, Professor Corwin?

Corwin sits silently. MacNeil turns another page in the file.

MACNEIL

Or take this for example. It appears that you control a large amount of space in the former Weidegold Brewery five miles from Gnosis. And further that a large amount of interior and electrical work was done on that space. Oh, not by you directly, of course. It was all done through offshore limited liability companies held by nominees. But, a little trace work we were able to figure tout that the ultimate behind those companies was inevitably one Joseph Corwin.

(sets more papers before Corwin)

Now why does a humble academic like yourself need all that industrial space and power, Professor Corwin?

CORWIN

I have nothing more to say to you.

MacNeil looks at Smith. Smith pulls out a section of the file.

SMITH

You have an assistant, it would seem, a Miss Anwei Li. It might interest you to know that we have he in custody as well.

Corwin continues to sit silently.

SMITH

Miss Li is a Chinese national. And it would appear that during her student days, before her coming to the United States, she was involved in some…political activities not at all pleasing to the Chinese government. Tell me, Joe, what do you think would happen to little Anwei if she were to be deported back to her home country? A welcome with open arms?

CORWIN

Miss Li is a U.S. permanent resident. You can’t just kick her out.

SMITH

Unless, of course, there were some sort of technical problem in her original application for asylum. And given the tortuous complexity of our immigration laws, it is very easy to make a mistake for the diligent searcher to find later.

MACNEIL

And in a pinch, that which cannot be found might be made.

CORWIN

You…and the government you represent…are monsters.

MACNEIL

You cooperate with us, she stays. Of course, if we find that either she or you had anything to do with harming Miss Madder, well…let’s just say you’d be beyond anyone’s help then.

CORWIN

What do you want?

MACNEIL

You’re going to take us to that space of yours, and you’re going to show us what’s going on in there.

INT. A POLICE STATION – DAY

MacNeil and Smith speak to the Tactical Officer.

MACNEIL

Prepare a prisoner transport for Corwin and his assistant. We broke the guy and he’s going to cooperate. Get tactical together and prepare to raid the laboratory site.

TACTICAL OFFICER

Yes, sir.

MACNEIL

(to Smith)

And let’s hope that this time we can finally clean up this mess.

MacNeil’s cellphone rings. He answers it.

MACNEIL

(into phone)

MacNeil here. Yes? Again? But how did he hear? No sir, I…yes.

SMITH

What was that?

MACNEIL

That fucking Senator heard about us again and wants along. And as before, we have no choice.

SMITH

Doesn’t that macho asshole have anything better to do with himself?

MACNEIL

Sibling rivalry.  The Senator’s brother was a real war hero.  He’s just a politician.  Which might explain his desire to play around with guns and tactical units.

INT. CORWIN’S LABORATORY – DAY

Moira and Nanetta pace nervously while they talk.

NANETTA

They took them away. How could they take them away?

MOIRA

Okay, let’s try to be calm and think this through.

NANETTA

But don’t you see? This is about what’s going on right here in this lab! Didn’t you hear what the Morality Nazi had to say on television? They’re going to come for here, tear everything apart, and then shut it down.

MOIRA

Or try to figure out some way to turn it into a weapon.

NANETTA

And they’re going to come for us, Moira. They’ll get the laboratory records and figure out what we know and then they will try to silence us. Moira, what have we gotten ourselves into?

Nanetta begins to cry softly.

MOIRA

Just the most wonderful experiences of our lives.

NANETTA

And what do you think they’ll do to Howard?

MOIRA

Haul him off to some secret lab of their own…torture him. His species might turn against us. The hopes that we had for all humanity might just be gone.

NANETTA

We need to get through to him, explain the danger. But how?

MOIRA

Howard is a a member of some kind of networked species…remember how we discussed that what lives in the aquarium is like a single terminal or node, not the whole network? Howard survives even if that physical form in there fails.

NANETTA

Which leaves only us, and what we know.

MOIRA

If one of us could somehow get on that network, preserve what we know, send the message to Howard’s species that humanity isn’t all evil. I could try making contact.

NANETTA

There might not be time, and if they catch you in there with him…

MOIRA

Tactile communication is so slow…if only there were a faster way.

Nanetta and Moira pause for a moment in thought.

NANETTA

The Apsinthion Protocol.

MOIRA

How would that help?

NANETTA

It’s about chemistry designed to preserve information and communicate it, yes?

MOIRA

And based on Howard’s internal chemistry. But how could we…in theory we could…

Moira types something into the computer on the desk.

MOIRA

…automate the protocol and reverse the valve flow like this.

Moira and Nanetta stare at the computer screen for a few moments.

NANETTA

It seems crazy.

MOIRA

It would be a one-way trip for whoever did it.

NANETTA

It would mean giving up everything in this world.

MOIRA

And possibly entering a far more wonderful one.

NANETTA

Or it might mean a few moments of ecstasy, and then annihilation.

MOIRA

And there is likely very little time to decide.

CUT TO:

EXT. A STREET OUTSIDE OF CORWIN’S LABORATORY – DAY

A caravan of government vehicles with screaming sirens and flashing lights approaches Corwin’s laboratory.

INT. CORWIN’S LABORATORY – DAY

Sound of DISTANT SIRENS, getting closer.

NANETTA

Yes, very little time.

Nanetta and Moira look at each other very briefly. Then Moira starts typing furiously.  Nanetta watches her.

MOIRA

(directing Nanetta’ attention to the screen)

I’ve programmed a reversal of the valves.  This number here indicates a number of seconds to delay before auto-engage.  Then you just click here and the protocol will start.

NANETTA

You really want to go through with this?

MOIRA

I have to try to reach Howard and the rest of his species.  It might be the end, but I am willing to take the risk.

Nanetta nods.

Moira undresses completely.  She folds her clothes and puts them on the desk.  She and Nanetta embrace.  Then Moira walks to the platform of the Apsinthion device, stands on it and faces Nanetta.

NANETTA

Are you frightened?

close-up:  moira on the platform

Moira is visibly trembling.

return to scene

MOIRA

Yes.  But please do not stop.

Nanetta looks down at the screen and bites her lower lip.  She types something, then stabs a key on the keyboard with her index finger.

FEMALE VOICE (O.S.)

Apsinthion Protocol timer commenced.  Protocol to engage in 15…14…13…

(Note:  The countdown by the Female Voice continues through the proceeding action and dialog.)

Nanetta dashes out from behind the desk, practically tearing off her clothes.   She joins Moira on the platform of the Apsinthion device, by which time she, too, is naked.

MOIRA

Nanetta, why?

NANETTA

Whereever you’re going, I can’t let you go there alone.

Nanetta and Moira put their arms around each other.

The protocol proceeds as before. The tube descends and fills with liquid. Both Nanetta and Moira begin to vanish from the feet up, disappearing. They tremble and moan together.

When only heads are upper torsos of both Nanetta and Moira are left, they fall into a deep kiss, then vanish completely.

The plunger descends. The fluid flows backwards through the tube toward the aquarium room.

Sound of DOOR BEING BATTERED in. Agents in tactical gear storm in and secure the scene.

TACTICAL OFFICER

(into walkie-talkie)

Scene secured. Tell our guests they can come in.

Corwin and Anwei are led in by tactical officers. They are restrained with handcuffs and leg irons.

Madder and his two security goons enter. The goons are in full tactical gear, including respirators that cover their faces.

MACNEIL

Alright Corwin. Time to start explaining.

Corwin looks down at the computer screen, then up at the Apsinthos apparatus, the plunger of which is stuck in the down position. Corwin looks at clothing — Nanetta’s scattered on the floor, Moira’s neatly piled on a chair.

CORWIN

Great Cthulhu.

MACNEIL

What’s that Corwin?

Madder picks up Nanetta’s discarded underpants from the floor. He strokes them for a minute, sniffs them, then stuffs them into a pocket.

MADDER

What disgusting perversion is going on in here?

CORWIN

Perversion? What went on here is more audacious than I would ever have attempted.

MADDER

Don’t give me your double talk! You loathsome piece of…where is my daughter?

CORWIN

Not here, I am sure.

Madder spits in Corwin’s face. The shackled Corwin is powerless to clean himself off, but maintains his composure.

MACNEIL

Explain what went on here, Corwin.

CORWIN

What went on here is beyond the power of any of you to understand.

MADDER

You shitbag!

Madder draws a handgun and points it directly at Anwei’s head. The armed agents move arms to ready position against the Senator. The goons step between the Senator and the agents.

MADDER

You tell me what I want to know right now or I will finish your little chink whore right here and now.

Madder cocks his weapon.

A huge tentacle erupts through the far wall of the laboratory. It darts across the room, and wraps its tip around Madder’s neck. With a swift tug the tentacle decapitates Madder.

Anwei is drenched in blood. She SCREAMS.

The agents stand stunned for a moment.

The goons begin leveling their weapons at Corwin and Anwei.

More tentacles erupt from the wall. Corwin, Anwei and the two goons are each entwined with tentacles. The goons arms are pinned, forcing them to drop their weapons.

The tentacles lift Corwin, Anwei, and the two goons are lifted up and swept across the room, then put down behind the two lab benches.

MACNEIL

Jesus Fuck! Fire on that thing! Fire! Bravo Team, secure those suspects! Move! Move! Move!

Some agents open fire on the tentacles erupting through the wall. Some puncture and spew multi-colored fluids on the floor.

Other agents try to comply but tentacles block their path to Corwin and Anwei.

The tentacles pinning the two goons secrete a visible fluid. The goons scream as their bodies dissolve, but their tactical suits remain intact.

Other tentacles snap the wrist and leg restraints on Corwin and Anwei.

MacNeil and Smith cower behind the desk as gunfire roars around them. MacNeil screams into his walkie-talkie.

MACNEIL

Get everyone down here! State, federal local! P-D and fire! We’ve go a real situation here!

A tentacle reaches up and cuts through the ceiling, then pulls it down, creating a partially collapsed space within the laboratory

INT. PARTIALLY COLLAPSED LABORATORY SPACE – DAY

Sounds of GUNFIRE, GLASS SHATTERING, SCREAMS of men outside the collapsed space.

Anwei huddles with her knees to her chest. Corwin looks at the empty tactical of the disintegrated goons. Then he picks up one helmet and tries it on.

Corwin points emphatically at the tactical suits. Anwei nods.

INT. CORWIN’S LABORATORY – DAY

The laboratory is a mess. Agent are firing on tentacles, which are punctured and bleed. The floor is flooded.

The mechanical penthouse collapses, raining equipment on an agent, who is crushed.

An EXPLOSION from behind the wall. Rubble flies everywhere. Then flames start to spread through the ruins of the laboratory.

MACNEIL

Fire! All personnel evacuate, now!

The agents begin withdrawing.

Sounds of secondary EXPLOSIONS.

EXT. OUTSIDE CORWIN’S LABORATORY – DAY

The street is choked with emergency vehicles of various kinds. Sounds of many different kinds of SIRENS. Smoke rises from the laboratory.

A FIREMAN, carrying an axe, approaches two figures in sodden, ill-fitting tactical suits. Their faces are covered with goggles and respirators.

FIREMAN

You seen the Senator?

The larger of the two figures shakes his head and points back to the burning building.

The Fireman rushes off.

The two figures walk away.

INT. MACNEIL’S OFFICE – DAY

MacNeil and Smith sit across from each other on a desk. All sorts of documents cover the desk.

MACNEIL

What a clusterfuck, eh Special Agent Smith?

SMITH

Indeed, Chief.

MACNEIL

One United States Senator, dead. And we never found his head, which senior management here finds very embarrassing. Two members of the Senator’s security staff, missing and presumed dead. One member of the tactical team, dead. Five others wounded. One Senator’s daughter, still missing. Two suspects in the kidnapping of the late Senator’s daughter, missing and probably at large. There’s a mysterious automobile accident somehow connected to the larger clusterfuck that has left a college student dead too. Various brutality complaints and threatened civil rights lawsuits out of a botched and frankly unnecessary raid. Did I miss anything?

SMITH

What about that…thing…inside the laboratory?

MACNEIL

Teams have crawled all over those ruins and not found any trace of it, just lots of weird chemicals. The official view is that the thing was some sort of trick or hallucination worked out by Corwin.

SMITH

There are reports that two other female Gnosis College students have gone missing.

MACNEIL

Well, let’s hope that’s not connected.

SMITH

Did take a look at a prelim report on those, chief.  Neither of these last two have living parents or siblings, so we might be able to paper that one over if we have to.

MACNEIL

If we have to.  Moving right along Special Agent Smith, do you know where my career would ordinarily expect to be right now?

SMITH

Where would that be, Chief?

MACNEIL

Hanging by a length of piano wire on a lamppost outside the J. Edgar Hoover building. Mysteriously this has not yet happened. Do you know why?

SMITH

I had been wondering.

MACNEIL

Because officially that god-awful mess up there at Gnosis was not an encounter with some alien horror out of H.P. Lovecraft. Officially what happened up there was a terrorist incident. It suits official purposes to have it be that way. Senator Madder gets to die a hero, instead of the meddling asshole fuckup he was in real life. Authorities higher than me get to have a terrorist incident, something they like to have from time to time because fearful people are easier to govern. The various civil rights complaints get deep-sixed because it’s a national security matter. And the various authorities get cover while the case gets moved over X Division, whose merry task it will be to try to pick up all the ghastly pieces and figure out what really happened up there.

SMITH

X Division. The Weirdo Squad.

MACNEIL

Better their problem than mine. In the meanwhile international warrants go out on Corwin and his assistant, and they become Interpol’s problem. They might not be that easy to find. Corwin had a lot of resources which we might not have tracked down. And a lot of friends in obscure places, too. But as I said, he’s not my problem.

The two agents fall into silence for a moment.

SMITH

There might be one thing that’s your problem, I mean, morally if not bureaucratically. If that statue we found up at Gnosis is really what you think it might be, what happens when it gets turned over to X Division? Won’t they tear it…her?… apart trying to figure out how it was made, or came to be, or whatever.

MACNEIL

They would indeed, which is why it’s not going over to X Division.

SMITH

How can you arrange that?

MACNEIL

Harraway and I have made a little agreement on the side. Each of us is going to overlook the other’s…nonstandard disposition of certain evidence in a case of interest. Certain details deemed to be irrelevant will be left out of Harraway’s report before it goes over to X Division. Harraway keeps a sample of something special for…shall we say…her own files, and we are going to arrange to hide that statue.

SMITH

Hide it? How are you going to hide anything from X Division?

MACNEIL

Have you ever read Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Purloined Letter?”

SMITH

I might have back when I was in high school. What’s the point?

MACNEIL

I’ll explain on the way. Let’s take a trip down to the laboratory.

MacNeil and Smith get up to leave.

MACNEIL

By the way, you might be a little surprised when you next see Harraway.

SMITH

Why’s that?

MACNEIL

(as both are leaving the office)

You’ll swear she’s twenty pounds lighter and twenty years younger than when you saw her last.

INT. A SCULPTURE COURTYARD IN A MAJOR MUSEUM – DAY

MacNeil and Smith look up at the Ashley statue. It has been mounted on a pedestal. Various museum patrons mill about. On the pedestal appear the words “The Ecstasy of Faith.”

MACNEIL

Good title you picked out there, Special Agent Smith.

SMITH

I can’t help but thinking Senator Madder would have been so proud, had he only lived to see this moment.

MACNEIL

Poor girl always was just something of a prop to him, anyway.  Now, of course, being some good spooks we need to plant a few choice rumors about Miss Madder’s putative whereabouts.

SMITH

Something like, continuing her education at a Swiss finishing school, Chief?

MacNeil smirks, pats Smith on the shoulder, and leaves.

Back to Index

EXT. A BEACH SOMEWHERE IN SOUTHEAST ASIA – DAY

Corwin and Anwei stand on the beach, which is otherwise deserted.

CORWIN

This is very risky of you to attempt, Anwei.

ANWEI

However risky, if there’s even a small chance that Nanetta and Moira succeeded in doing what you think it was they were trying to do, then this has to be done.

CORWIN

Try to re-establish contact with Howard’s species. Get their trust back. See what of Nanetta and Moira might have made through. But do you really think you can succeed?

anwei

I have been through many iterations of the Apsinthion Protocol since we first improvised it for that…emergency.  My body has absorbed a lot of apsinthion chemistry in that time, and I feel I am beginning to undergo certain…changes that might make it possible for me to survive out there.

Anwei holds up her right hand.

EXTREME CLOSE UP:  anwei’s right hand

Larger-than-normal webbing has is to be seen between her fingers.

back to scene

CORWIN

It still seems somehow very uncertain.

ANWEI

I can’t not do this, Joseph.

CORWIN

I agree.

Anwei disrobes completely, folds her clothing, and hands it to Corwin.

ANWEI

I am ready.

CORWIN

Go then.

Corwin kisses Anwei gently on the forehead.

Anwei wades out into the surf, then dives in and disappears.

FADE OUT.

Back to Index Back to EroticMadScience Main Page Creative Commons License The Apisinthion Protocol by Dr. Faustus at EroticMadScience.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

3 thoughts on “The Apsinthion Protocol

  1. I can’t wait to see this finished! I’d have loved to see Anwei’s aquatic mutation hinted at more throughout, though.

    • Thanks! The comic will post out over the next few months. Your point on Anwei is well taken — the comic script as drawn will contain at least a few hints of her pending transformation, though they will be subtle.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.