Friday, April 29, 2011

Cyberdrome Deleted Scenes, Part 2 of 7

Cyberdrome Deleted Scenes
Part #2 - Modified Prologue from 2005

Background

In my mind's eye, Cyberdrome was (and still is) a movie. The following Prologue is a more "theatrical" version of the original Prologue I came up with in 2005. Ca you see the opening credits being displayed while the aircraft flies over the snow-capped mountains of Utah? Maybe if a Cyberdrome film is actually made some day, they will want to use this. I can dream, can't I? ;)

Deleted Prologue

The snow-capped mountains of Northern Utah passed beneath the sleek, unmanned aircraft as it flew just beneath the heavy cloud cover towards its destination; the dead city once known as Salt Lake. As it crossed over a final ridge, the darkened area of the city came into view. When the onboard computer confirmed its location and trajectory with the satellite navigation system, it released its cargo---a small pyramid-shaped container---then banked right and climbed quickly back into the cloud deck. 

The box, having no parachute or other means of slowing it down, fell quickly and silently through the rain-filled night sky. As the box shot past the level of the tallest buildings, a series of thick-skinned balloons covering its shell quickly inflated. 

A second later, it hit the pavement hard, creating a wide but shallow crater, and then was instantly airborne again. Tall buildings raced past on either side as the box reached the apex of its bounce and began to fall again. It hit the street below once more, this time with slightly less force. Before it climbed much further, it smashed into the side of a building directly in its flight path, rupturing several of its protective balloons. In a shower of broken glass, it fell straight down to the sidewalk---taking out an awning and a light pole on the way---and landed in a heap next to an abandoned car. 

After echoes of the crash landing died away, the box began to open, deflating what was left of the landing balloons. A moment later, a two-meter long beetle-shaped machine lifted out of the box on a cushion of air. It was a Scarab; a military grade reconnaissance probe especially outfitted for its current duty---that of surveying the streets of the city and broadcasting the data and imagery it collected live around the world. 

A suite of sensors rose out of the top of the Scarab, and began a detailed survey of the landing zone. Simultaneously, a series of numbers appeared across its visual imager's field of view showing the status of its metal body. Main batteries were at 95 percent, hull integrity was positive, and both primary and secondary systems all showed green. 

As the Scarab floated towards the middle of the street to begin its survey of the downtown area, it logged the effects of the acid rain that was falling in sheets from the overcast night sky. As expected, the rain had melted the plastic signs that once welcomed visitors to city center, and turned the long-abandoned plastic-skinned commuter-cars nearby into skeletons. It had also dissolved the outer casing of the city's underground wiring, shorting out all electrical systems, leaving the city in total darkness. 

The synthetic rain was the Government's latest attempt to stop the spread of a growing colony of microscopic, nanotech-engineered robotic machines. Approximately the size of human red blood cells, these Nano-cells, or N-cells, had been designed to augment the human immune system; providing a defense against everything from the common cold to bio-terrorism. Some believed that they would one day provide a defense against the effects of aging and even prolong life. 

While being tested in a research lab in central Utah, an error in replication caused one batch of the N-cells to begin mimicking a virulent strain of the influenza-A virus. With surface proteins changing spontaneously every 42 hours, the human immune system was unable to build antibodies fast enough to resist the virus. Infection and mortality rates were essentially 100%, which meant that everyone exposed to the manufactured virus became infected, and everyone infected, died within a few days. 

What made this plague even more deadly was that the microscopic N-cells were being transported by a growing colony of larger, macroscopic, carrier machines. One-half the size of a flea's head, the carriers were designed to be simple and efficient delivery systems. By housing the delicate N-cells inside their machine stomachs, the carriers were able to protect and nurture the cells until their release inside a human host. In addition, since the carriers came in four distinct body styles, they could adapt to any environment and spread the virus more efficiently than other, more natural methods. 

Since every attempt to kill the N-cell virus during the past year had failed, the current strategy was to destroy or cripple the carriers that spread it. The 'acid rain' was actually a chemical solvent, specifically formulated to dissolve the monolayer film surrounding the metallic atoms that made up the body of the carriers. Without the plastic layers to separate them, the individual atoms of the carriers would fuse together and become inoperable; thus ending the spread of the plague. At least, that was the plan. 

To the onboard intelligence routines of the Scarab, this plan was a total failure. During the first hour of its survey, its high-resolution scanners found that the carrier population had, in fact, adapted to the acid rain. By recoded their regeneration routines, they insured that the bodies of their offspring would include an additional outer layer of fused metal, protecting the inner joints from the solvent. Like all life forms on Earth, the carriers had evolved into something stronger, something better. Unlike their biological cousins, this species-wide evolutionary adaptation had occurred in less than 24 hours. 

The Scarab began to detect a number of failures in its sub-processors, most likely a result of the acid rain. It should have been concerned, but like all modern robots, it was not much smarter than the average well-trained dog. Ever since the infamous robotic butler incident three years earlier, only programs confined to simulated worlds were considered safe enough have anything approaching human-like intelligence. This trip to Utah was a one-way mission, but the Scarab was not smart enough to care. 

Sensors detected movement in the distance and the Scarab focused its cameras and sensors on the location. Something faintly human-sized stood in the middle of the street, but the rain and the darkness made it difficult to see. A subset of the image display then zoomed in on the object and changed green as infrared spectrum filters kicked in. 

The Scarab passed the image through its pattern recognition software. The creature was human-shaped, but just barely, and its body temperature was ten degrees lower than expected. Perhaps it was human, the software concluded, but wearing some sort of bulky covering. Logically, nothing human could still be alive after a full year of exposure to the plague, but there it was. 

The creature lunged sideways and disappeared from the camera's field of view. The Scarab switched its camera back to the visible spectrum and returned to normal magnification. In the distance, the creature was running directly towards the Scarab, splashing through the water-filled street. 

The rapid approach of the creature suggested a greater than 50% chance of aggressive behavior, and triggered the Scarab's self-preservation routines. It began a slow retreat, moving backwards up the street; its speed cut in half by the degradation of its thrusters by the chemical rain. Navigational sensors quickly scanned the street behind it, trying to find a place to hide, but could find no solution. The creature was just too fast. 

Turning its sensors back towards the creature, the Scarab's camera caught a large misshapen hand reaching out for the lens. Then suddenly, the image froze, and a message appeared at the bottom of the broadcast display. "Transmission from Scarab terminated at source. End of live broadcast."

###

Alek Grey opened his eyes, but the latent image of the strangely deformed hand continued to reach out for him. He blinked three times quickly, switching his contact lens displays back to transparent mode. 

He took a drink from his somewhat diluted triple-shot iced mocha, and surveyed the interior of the "All Day" coffee shop. It had become one of his favorite early morning hangouts since moving to Washington, DC from Seattle the previous year. The mochas were always perfect, that is, with extra chocolate, and Cheryl, the server, always saved the back corner table for him. 

Of course, it didn't hurt that the coffee shop was one of those rare "null spots" in the world where the InfoSphere satellite network was unable to get a triangulation on users during a few select hours each morning. Software plumbers from all over the world would literally kill for a few minutes at his table, that is, if they knew about it. It was a secret he would keep for as long as he was able...