ScriptFrenzy 2011: "Dead and Breakfast", pages 103-107

by Diane Duane

Dead and Breakfast poster


(Back to pp 96-102)


As the four ENTER. Doris, seeing Harry and Joy, hurries to them. Elizabeth moves out into the situation as if she runs it. She looks at the pentagram and nods in recognition.

‘Tis much as my court magician drew it. But when it had served its purpose, he destroyed it, for fear what merely frightened away the dead might then be used to bind them.
(to the dead around)
Swiftly! Use what you have brought!

The dead THROW the pieces of steel they’ve brought onto the pentagram, one piece after another.

But every piece FALLS onto the pentacle WITHOUT EFFECT. The attack team, living and dead, STARE in horror.

There must not be enough! More —

More of the dead THROW what they have. No effect!

Then SECURITY GUARDS APPEAR and GRAB Joy, Harry and Doris.

A wall of RAINBOW LIGHT springs up around the outer walls, floor to ceiling. A separate light-wall, the FORCE FIELD seen earlier, APPEARS around the pentagram. Some of the Dead run for the outer wall, but the outer force field BLAZES with power and they’re FROZEN in place. The living Erickson staff BREAK FREE.

Throw everything you’ve got. It won’t work.

Erickson walks out among the Dead, accompanied by a group of armed SECURITY GUARDS.

(to the Dead)
By holding the metal long enough to make it solid-permeable, you’ve also made it non-conductive. It takes a minute and forty seconds. After that, you might as well throw tomatoes.
(to one of his people)
Clean that hardware up before the effect wears off.
(to the Senior Technician, by the main power console)
Contract the outer barrier when they’re clear.[/scrippet]

The guards pick up the flatware, dumping it on the floor outside the pentagram. The outer force field CONTRACTS inward, SWEEPING the Dead with it until they’re all on the pentagram. (It has no effect on the living people it passes over.) Once the boundary stabilizes again, the Dead THROW THEMSELVES at the forcefield, trying to escape, but they’re trapped.

It’s an interesting anomaly. I ran into it with the first residual I caught. Tired old boy named Dee.
(To the guards)
Search the other three.

Joy shakes free of the Guard holding her and PULLS OUT her piece of flatware, looking for a way to dodge past the guards.

Look out! I have a knife!

It’s a butterknife.

It wasn’t very lucky for the butter. How lucky do you feel, punk?

Erickson gestures to two Guards, who DRAW GUNS and cover Joy, Harry and Doris. A Guard takes the knife from Joy. Others grab Doris and Harry. They’re all roughly SEARCHED.

You sons of bitches, get your hands off my wife!

Two Guards PINION Harry as others SEARCH Joy. Harry watches intently to see exactly what they remove from her. The three have everything metallic confiscated, and these and the steel utensils on the floor are REMOVED. But when the search is finished, Harry shoots a satisfied GLANCE at Joy. She doesn’t understand it, and no one else sees.

They’re clean.

Good. Harris, freeze the residuals. Put these three in with them.

The Senior Technician does something at the console. The Dead momentarily FREEZE again. The pentagram forcefield’s color briefly CHANGES as as Joy, Harry and Doris are pushed through, then returns to normal.

You can’t do this!

She is right, necromancer! We dead may not be your downfall, but soon enough my living servants will!

We’ve had spies from Microsoft and Apple in here and they couldn’t work out what was going on. You think the government will? Dream on.
(to Harry)
You’ve ruined your chances of promotion, though. Pity. You did a ton of units the other day.

That’s because I thought I was selling artificial intelligence, not human souls!

Erickson strolls up to the barrier with that charming glib smile.

Why spend billions developing artificial intelligence when the real thing is free? It’s been all around us for years, just waiting for someone smart enough to take it. I figured out how.
And it’s in such a good cause. What matters is life and the living. Our children, and their children. If we can make the world a better place for them —

Joy comes toward him. Her anger has gone cold: she actually looks dangerous. Erickson steps back as she approaches.

By stealing dead people’s souls and making them into slaves forever, or until the plastic breaks down, whichever comes first? That’s better? That’s your idea of a good future?
(shaking, furious)
This is just plain evil!

Such a judgmental term.

What would you rather I called you, mister correct? “Ethically challenged?”

Erickson paces away, then back, trying to regain his cool.

On the contrary, there are ethics I’m very partial to. Particularly the work ethic.
The dead simply aren’t cost-effective. They don’t contribute anything to the economy. They’re not productive! And there’s no room for dead wood in this market.

Now I’ve heard everything.

I have heard these ideas before in a different form. They were no better for the living than they will be for the dead.

But now we’re making the dead productive. Think of it! You die, and suddenly you’ve lost all the physical difficulties that go with bodies. No more illness. You don’t need to eat. You don’t need to sleep. You don’t even have to take up space. The perfect work force! No sick leave, no absenteeism, no maternity leave, no retirement….

No rights. No independence. No freedom.

Joy looks at Elizabeth and Gunter, then moves toward Erickson again. He walks away from Joy; she pursues him around the barrier. The others follow.

And what about heaven?

Pointless place, if it exists. A waste of valuable human resources. Sitting around forever in a state of total joy experiencing the oneness of the universe or whatever…
(makes a face)
So bourgeois. Like spending eternity at a football match. While here we have a vast pool of previously wasted energy, the post-living, finally finding a useful role! Harnessed to state of the art electronics, spending a useful and fulfilling eternity in the service of humanity.

You are a very bad person!

But a very good businessman. I’ll settle. Meanwhile, time is money, and we need to get the line rolling.
(to one of the guards)
Clear out the floor staff.
(as they go, sotto to his Senior Tech nearby)
Leave these three on the pentagram when it powers up and use their residues right away. They can make up some of what we lost last night.

What? We’re still alive!

A condition best described as “temporary” once the pentagram gets going at full gain. Dead or alive, the machinery knows what a soul is, and it’ll take it quite happily.
(to the remaining techs)
Get moving. I’ve got a press conference in an hour.

All potential witnesses to Joy’s, Harry’s and Doris’s impending murder are now gone. The Senior Tech returns to the control console; the pentagram starts “heating up” again.

(to pp 108-114)

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