《 CORTEX 灰质 》 Episode 1 （Pilot）
When ‘Reality’ is just something sensed, “magic” is no longer magical.
(ANIMATED TV SERIES) Cortex – Episode 1 (PILOT)
—– COLD OPEN —–
1 INT. IN RUZ’S DREAM. TIMELESS. 1
The melancholy guitar solo in the air, we are in a corridor between two rows of storage racks. They seem to be endless in length and height. On the shelves, the suitcase-sized metal boxes are orderly placed in exact accuracy.
We can’t see the roof, neither floor, in fact we seem to be floating between the racks. The space is full of racks, countless, forming an endless matrix.
We close upon one metal case. Its two latches in front pops open as if pressed by invisible hands. The case opens slowly, silently.
We first see a hand, together with an bare arm, fitting exactly in the black velvet slot. Then we see other limbs, then the torso, all in slots. They look vert real, impossibly cherry.
Then we see the head, the eyes closed behind the thick glasses. It is a young male, high cheek bones, ruffled hair. It is RUZ’s face.
The music cuts off as the eyes suddenly open.
—– ACT 1 —–
2 EXT. GRAND THEATER. SATURDAY – LATE NIGHT. 2
From the distance we see the glowing horizon of Small Shell, the futuristic city, with night sky as background. it is quite a view.
The entry of Grand Theater is brightly lit, facing the empty street. Beyond fully parked land-vehicles and hover crafts, high on the facade, we see a BIG ELECTRONIC DISPLAY, a beautiful girl in ancient oriental dress is confronting a masked man in tuxedo, in background the stage dazzles in colorful lights.
We can hear faint music and applause from the theater.
3 INT. THE STAGE. CONTINUOUS. 3
Music is much louder, LARA, in Chinese traditional QI PAO, conducting magic tricks in graceful moves. She raises a long sleeve with the hand hidden, reveals a small flower pot on the other palm, then she places it on the floor. She produces a handkerchief and throws it in the air; catches it while it turns into a flute. She places it to her mouth to play. With wining melody of the flute, a green sprout appears in the pot and grows rapidly. In seconds it becomes a small tree, then a big tree, then flowers are blooming all over it… then a lot of colorful birds flutter around from the corners of the hall, trying to perch on the tree.
As LARA conducts, a couple of CRANES and PEACOCKS walk up from the darkness behind, then appears a CAMEL, then two Deer, four PENGUINS, finally a staggering PANDA! Who even stands up on his rear legs waving to the audience!
Laughter and applause. The audience goes wild.
our view dissolves into a screen — of a BIG FLAT TV placed at a corner of an office.
4 INT. D.D (DEVELOPMENT DEPT.) OFFICE. CONTINUOUS. 4
It is the interior of a big office in a modern
high-raise-building. The Public Area is at the entry. The BIG FLAT TV sits between the door to the corridor and the door to the Roof Terrace. In front of the TV there are a couch and two sofas. A round meeting table is behind the couch.The other end of office finds four cubicles, of which three are occupied, by RUZ, DIPU and MENG MENG.
TRUMAN sits in the COUCH, he is in his 40s, a stout man with curly hair, fully bearded. He fixes his eyes on the TV, with a beer can in hand, apparently enjoys himself quite a bit.
Suddenly he turns around, as if to look for someone to chat with, but finds no one.
On a LAPTOP screen, Tetris is ongoing, now as the last piece
— and at the same time most fitting piece — drops, the level is successfully accomplished and the record is renewed. “Congratulations” in big letters. A man’s hand closes the lid of laptop, we see DIPU’S complacent face — big eyes under thick eye brows, dark skin. He is in his twenties, fashionably dressed. He steps out of his cubicle.
In another CUBICLE, another game ongoing on the monitor, Solitude, cards are dancing all over — also level accomplishes. The player, MENG MENG, is a blond girl, her pretty eyes have long lashes. She is in office skirt and high heals. She stands up.
In the third CUBICLE, its occupant is not working either, Zombies vs. Plants is at critical moment.
Hold on! Just one second! We can do it!
But he fails miserably: a group of zombies breaks through the defense of the house, gnawing the human brain loudly.
RUZ (cont’d) (O.S. sigh)
He stands up tiredly, he is a lean, tall young man, 25 years old, small eyes behind thick glasses, high-cheek-boned, scarce beard, long and ruffled hair. It is the appearance of a typical nerdy technician. He walks to the public area, joins Meng Meng and DIPU at the meeting table.
(gazing at TV) Where are you?
You said meeting… we are wait for you.
Forget it!Come over, all of you! It is Magic Time time!
Thank you, boss! We all like the show.
Don’t get it wrong, it is not a bonus –you guys have done nothing to earn it… … It’s just for me, because it sucks to watch it alone.
Now They all settled down in front of the TV. DIPU
Oh, she IS strikingly beautiful, my idol!
Look at her, smoking hot, my type.
(a little jealous)
You guys enjoy now, just get the best out of it! Maybe there isn’t much time remaining… …I placed one hundred bucks on Masked Man.
I was even supposed to be there for her… my plan was, if the Masked Man gets upper hand, I will figure out a way to mess it up. Now
the ticket is wasted. What a shame!
Yeah, what a shame! Wasn’t easy for me to get you that ticket.
Indeed,there was a very very long queue. If I didn’t make a cut, there wouldn’t be any chance.
What queue? I thought it was on-line booking… …
You have to queue by all means, even on line. I was number 50003 — not even close. So the only way is “hacking” in their server, change my number as 503. Voila! Quite a firewall though.
(pats DIPU’s shoulder)
Never-the-less I appreciated that, man! Even I couldn’t make it. And you didn’t make profit out of it… wasn’t exactly like you at all.
Don’t mention it, that is what a friend for. I am her fan too, but not as die-hard as you are.
Shut up you all — and watch!
TV screen, close up,we see Lara performing on the stage.
5 INT. STAGE. CONTINUOUS. 5
The light is off and on again. Lara’s Chinese dress has changed into TUX and BLACK CAPE. She hits the trunk of the big TREE with her CANE gently, an APPLE falls. She blinks at audience naughtily, seems to have made a discovery. She hits harder on the trunk; a huge PUMPKIN falls this time. She raises the CANE over head, then splits it with two hands, now one SWORD in one hand, a SHEATH another.
The music changes into Spanish Bull Fight Dance. Dancing around the HUGE PUMPKIN, She stabs it from all the directions. Each time the sword piecing through and the tip of the sword can be seen from the other side.
Then with a full swing she slashes the PUMPKIN into two halves, as it splits open we see a man appears in the middle
— the HOST — he wears glasses and with a microphone in hand, hair ruffled. His evening dress shredded, pants cut.
Lara makes an apologetically gesture, smiling naughtily.
Big laughter from the audience. The HOST’s angry look is almost real.
Yeah, you laugh now, lets see who is laughing later! Now, the Magician Crusher — the Masked Man!
We hear boos, it appears that the MASKED MAN is not so popular at this moment, the audience adore Lara tonight.
On the HUGE SCREEN above, the image of the MASKED MAN pops out, he is a stout, mid-sized man; he is all in black, including his mask, which is warping his head all the way.
The mask is decorated with curvy white stripes, makes it look like face fainting from Beijing Opera. The image stands silently,arms folded.
The light beams swivels and blinks, the music gets louder, as if the stage is expecting someone.
His challenges to the magicians never fails …
His slogan: We don’t need magics, they are nothing but illusions; we don’t need magicians, they are nothing but liars.
His rules: He wins, the magician leaves the stage, for good. He loses, he regards his life is no longer worth living.
The SCREEN in flashback plays a series of MASKED MAN’s stage performance, we see he successfully blew many magicians performance on spot, he first copies their exact tricks, such as escaping, floating, body-dismembering…then reveals the secrets, makes them look absurd. The magicians leave the stage in disgrace.
The next sequence on the screen: in a dark hall, a group of magician-like people sit around a huge table, the chairman stands up, eyes under the shadow, holds out a CARD towards the camera, a spade king, (close up) the head of the king is the head of MASKED MAN. Then this card is teared into pieces.
The display changes back to MASKED MAN’s image.
Where is he? The Masked Man?
The screen descends slowly, now behind him, suddenly it is torn open as if made of paper. The real MASKED MAN comes out of the broken screen, replaces his image in flesh, with the trademark posture: head back, arms folded at chest.
Music gets louder, but some boos raise.
MASKED MAN shakes hands with THE HOST, meanwhile with the free hand skillfully produces a transparent UMBRELLA, shielding himself from the flying objects flying from the audience — SODA CANS, SHOES, SOCKS, PANTS, SKIRTS, BRICKS
— denser and denser, quickly pile up on the stage.
Then comes the second batch flying objects: THROWING KNIFES, STICKS, HAT, RABBIT, CAGE WITH PIGEON in it, POKER CARDS,
DICES, POCKET WATCH (typical magician’s props.).
Then the flying objects become more aggressive and louder: BULLETS shot from hand guns, machine guns and shot guns,together with GRENADES and flames…
The MASKED MAN’s UMBRELLA seems to be made of special material, capable of bouncing off every thing.
THE HOST (cont’d) Great! Perfect crowd this evening, enthusiastic!
LARA walks over, on the other side of THE HOST, somehow she has changed her dress again into a white gown, wide opening at neck, shoulders exposed. She waves to the audience, smiling.
The “shelling” towards MASKED MAN ceases, the MASKED MAN withdraws his UMBRELLA and gives the audience a brief wave too, as if throwing objects means compliments. He looks at Lara in a condescending air then restores his arm-folding posture. The HOST stands in the middle.
THE HOST (cont’d) (exaggerated voice)
Tonight, we…OK, Let’s cut the chase — the Magic Girl Versus The Masked Man!
Wild applause and whistles.
You all know the rules. Lets pick up the judge, a lucky one — the Guest Of The Show!
Wilder applause and whistles. On the big screen (the torn one appears to be replaced), the words “Guest Judge” in big letters pops over with a huge question mark. An ASSISTANT rolls out a RACK with a BIG ROUND DISC fixed on it, facing the audience; it is like a huge dart board, printed numbers evenly arrayed on the outer circle.
Another assistant walks up, holding a tray, a HANDGUN on it. In front of the disc, the HOST produces a handkerchief and blind-folds LARA, puts the GUN in her hand.
The MASKED MAN rotates the disc and quickly walks away. LARA points the GUN towards direction of the disc, still facing the audience, shoots three times. Bang! Bang! Bang!
Close up to the disc, we see three bullet holes. Each one falls in a “zone” of a certain number. One by one, three figures appear on the big screen: 5,0,3. The music gets louder.
Please! The guest on seat 503!
6 INT. D.D OFFICE. CONTINUOUS. 6
In front of the TV, DIPU turns to RUZ, mouth wide open. RUZ, looks like dazzled, mechanically takes the ticket out of his pocket.
Close up, we wee the ticket number, 503
7 INT. GRAND THEATER. CONTINUOUS. 7
Excited Audience. Spot light focuses on the seat No. 503, but it is empty.
8 INT. D.D OFFICE. CONTINUOUS. 8
Why me! Am I lucky or unlucky?
I must confess, overtime hours was just an excuse… … It really sucks to watch the show alone, and I am not in charge of TV at home.
9 INT. GRAND THEATER STAGE. CONTINUOUS. 9
This guy did not show up, looks like we have to do it once again.
No. The guest 503 must come!
She steps backs, then pulls off a big piece of shielding cloth, uncovers a shiny red mini HELICOPTER, red, shining under spot light.
—– End of ACT 1 —–
—– ACT TWO —–
10 INT. THE STAGE. CONTINUOUS FROM ACT ONE. 10
LARA brandishes the sheet, in a blink of an eye her dress turns into the pilot’s outfit, same red as the HELICOPTER. She mounts on the pilot’s seat and waves to the audience, while a CAMERAMAN jumps in with his equipment in hands.
The propeller swivels and starts making very loud noise, the HELICOPTER leaves the stage floor.
The audience goes wild.
11 EXT. THE BIRD VIEW OF THE GRAND THEATER. CONTINUOUS. 11
The big dome of the Grand Theater opens slowly. We see the HELICOPTER raises from the opening, once high enough, flings quickly towards us.
12 INT. D.D OFFICE. CONTINUOUS. 12
Four people are in shock in front of the TV. DIPU stands up, waves the arms.
WOW! I love her!
(his small eyes shining behind the thick glasses, murmuring)
TV’s screen, the HELICOPTER is hovering over a tall, glass-covered building, there are neon-lit big letters, CORTEX.
13 EXT. THE CORTEX BUILDING. CONTINUOUS. 13
Two slim figures drops down from the HELICOPTER, swinging from the HELICOPTER like two spiders, in black outfit, wearing helmets. Once land on the roof, one of them produces a small handgun-like device. We see red laser beams shoots out of the device, then the man starts cutting the roof. The other holds the camera shooting the scene.
14 INT. D.D OFFICE. CONTINUOUS. 14
Louder humming noise, sparkles shooting down from the ceiling, where we can see the red beam lurking. Undisturbed, four colleagues fix their eyes on the TV.
This building looks familiar.
With a big thump, a circular piece of roof falls behind the couch. The people in room turns their heads in shock. we hear the loud vibration from the propeller. A dazzling light beam shoots down, fixing on RUZ.
In RUZ’s hand, from the ticket, tiny blue lights blink with beeps.
From the opening, a pair of giant ROBOTIC ARMS extend down, “locks” CRUZ’s sofa, and retreats with it quickly. RUZ disappears just like that.
TRUMAN (cont’d) Did… Did you guys see that?
DIPU and MENG MENG nod, stupefied.
A man in suit glides down on a cable, smiling, a briefcase in the free hand.
We, are very very sorry about the roof. In order to show our sincere apology, please allow us, the program of MAGIC TIMES, to take care of the repairing expenses…and…
He walks towards the meeting table, places the briefcase, opens it and turns it towards the others.
THE LAWYER (cont’d)
…please accept this for the other inconveniences caused by us…it is tax-free.
Full of cash inside the CASE.
TRUMAN jumps up to his feet and smile ingratiatingly.
(Clearing the throat)
… Well, You are too kind.
The LAWYER shakes hand with him briefly, walks back to the cable, gives it a tug, then rises in the air, disappears from the big hole in the ceiling.
15 EXT. THE BIRD VIEW OF CORTEX BUILDING. CONTINUOUS. 15
From above, through the opening, we see TRUMAN waving to us with one hand, the briefcase in the other, smiling.
See you next time!
DIPU also appears in the opening, hurriedly.
It is a mistake! I bought the ticket!
The noise of the propellers gets fainter as the HELICOPTER flies away.
16 EXT. THE BIRD VIEW OF THE GRAND THEATER. CONTINUOUS. 16
The HELICOPTER passes over our heads with the SOFA hanging below, when on top of the Grand Theater, descends vertically down into the opened dome.
17 INT. GRAND THEATER – STAGE. CONTINUOUS. 17
The SOFA — with RUZ on it — is dropped on the stage. The ROBOTIC ARMS (attached at the ends of the slings) uncouple automatically.
The HELICOPTER lands on the stage. Lara jumps out, blowing kisses to the audience. Cheers and whistles in excitement.
RUZ, in the SOFA, looks stupefied. MASKED MAN walks up, waving hands to raise the attention, points to the big display, shaking his head.
On the big display,we see enlarged DIPU’s passport photo.
I see, here is a mistake.
(walks to RUZ and shakes hands with him)
My God, you look nerdy! May I see your ticket please?
(takes the ticket from RUZ and shows it to the audience )
Number 503! So… Is it YOUR ticket? Young man?
We see RUZ’s face on the camera, grinning nervously, nodding his head.
THE HOST (cont’d) (O.S.)
Did you purchase the ticket?
RUZ shakes his head, still grinning. The HOST points to the big display
THE HOST (cont’d) (O.S.)
So it is he who bought the ticket, right?
RUZ nods the head.
THE HOST (cont’d) (O.S.)
Do you know him?
Yes, Dipu, my colleague.
What’s your name? Young man?
OK, Ruz, very well, can you explain how you became the owner of the ticket, and why you couldn’t make to the show?
Well, my friend Dipu was kind enough to let me have it. Then it turned out we all have to work this evening.
Is that so? He gave it to you as a gift? Then that I call it a real friend! Do you know a tonight’s ticket costs three times more than the original price?
I had it just with the original price.
Is that so? Oh, I see. You friend looks like a smart guy, Let me guess…he probably knew about the overtime working thing first, then he thought it is better sell it to you than have it wasted. it was just being smart.
(Suddenly thinks it through)
I see, I think you are right. (towards the camera )
In your face, DIPU! Who is laughing now?
18 INT. D.D OFFICE. CONTINUOUS. 18
In front of the TV, TRUMAN and MENG MENG are staring at DIPU disapprovingly.
What are you guys looking at? … That is how you think about me?
Well, we don’t know. I just know my idea was just you to come for overtime, it was your suggestion to bring in all the team.
19 INT. GRAND THEATER – STAGE. CONTINUOUS. 19
RUZ and THE HOST sit in the middle of the stage, Lara stands on the left side and the MASKED MAN right, they are facing each other, both seem to be focused.
RUZ, you are the judge, go ahead and feel free to challenge them!
Right. Lets start with air-borne trick, I am always curious about that. Both of you, please do it, at least three feet above the floor!
Lara extends her arms and raises in the air gracefully, as if there is an invisible cable pulling her up.
Masked Man moves like climbing an invisible stairs, feet also leaves the ground.
Wow! that’s something! Well, lets continue… Now, give me a pigeon!
Almost at the same time, Lara and Masked Man hold out a PIGEON in hand. Lara’s is white one and Masked Man has a black one.
Now — I know it sounds a little unoriginal — a rabbit!
Lara and MASKED MAN let go the birds, simultaneously produce a RABBIT, again a white and a black. They are dropped down to the stage and run off to the corners.
RUZ (cont’d) That’s again a tie…
(think) A poodle!
Again two competitors at once produce a POODLE and drop them on the floor. Both in cute clothing; the one from LARA is in pink SKIRT and wearing HAIRBAND, the one from MASKED MAN is in BLUE JEANS and wearing BOW TIE. Both are obviously well trained, sit obediently facing the audience.
RUZ (cont’d) (excited)
Good! cute! — Do you have names?
“Miss” POODLE turns the body, we see the name “BETTY” embroidered in her skirt. The “boy” POODLE stands on rear legs, we see “BOBBY” printed in his chest.
RUZ (cont’d) Okay — Betty! come to me!
BETTY runs over and licks his hand. RUZ laughs heartily.
RUZ (cont’d) Now, Bobby, you come too!
BOBBY wags his tail, but not moving. RUZ goes to him and tries to pat his head, but strangely, the hand goes through in the head without touching anything, the image of sitting dog distorts and recovers quickly. RUZ does it again. The same happens.
RUZ (cont’d) That is puzzling…
He walks around BOBBY, when he is in between the DOG and MASKED MAN, the image of the DOG disappears; as he continues moving, the image restores.
I get it! it is a hologram! The dog isn’t real!
(to the HOST)
Sir! Masked Man is faking! same with the pigeon and rabbit! He must have a projector on him!
Big boos from the audience, MASKED MAN appears to be in panic, but makes no attempt to defend himself.
Right! It is a hologram. Masked Man is blown, but how about Lara? Is her dog REAL?
Betty! This man says you are not a real dog!
BETTY scurries to the HOST, barking, snaps his pant’s bottom.
Okay! Okay! Next round! Next round!
That’s Okay, BETTY! Good dog!
BETTY lets go the HOST, runs back to LARA’s feet. An ASSISTANT comes up and picks up BETTY and leaves.
Ruz, what now?
As an engineer, I only believes in physics. Everything in the universe follows the rule of gravity. Now I
would like to demystify this human floating thing!
Okay, just tell us what do you need for that.
Please get me a ladder, I want to check whether there is something like invisible hanging device above their heads.
No problem! It is your show.
An assistant rolls out a WHEELED LADDER and hands Ruz a huge SCISSORS. Ruz takes over the LADDER, rolls it to floating MASKED MAN, and climbs up the LADDER with the SCISSORS. He “cuts” the air above the MASKED MAN’s head, nothing happens.
He then descends on the floor to cut the air under the floating man’s feet, nothing there either.
Becoming more curious, he bends down and sticks his head in to look up. His hair suddenly ruffles as if sticking out of a running car’s window.
I get it.
He climbs back on the ladder with the SCISSORS, and does something at the back of MASKED MAN. AS he turns his body around we now see MASKED MAN’s black cloak is cut open. He is wearing something like PARATROOPER’S GEAR inside. A flat container strapped on his back, with a nozzle hissing at the bottom. It is something like a JET-BACKPACK.
Look, it is physics after all.
He cuts the strap of the BACKPACK. Masked Man falls immediately on his hip and the BACKPACK flies away wildly,like a crazy bee.
Well, he is blown again. Now let’s see what’s happens with the girl magician.
One assistant rolls the LADDER next to floating Lara. RUZ mounts the LADDER. LARA smiles when their eyes meet.
Lara, I am your fan.
(lean over to her ear, whispering )
Tell me what to do.
Don’t worry, my magic is real.
I know, yourself are a magic.
He “cuts” air above her head, finds nothing, then dismounts the LADDER and checks the space under her feet with his hand.
RUZ (cont’d) There is no current!
Cheers from the audience. MASKED MAN comes up whit a RING in his hand.
THE MASKED MAN
(speaks for the first time)
He mounts the LADDER, holds the RING above LARA’s head, and lets it drop. The RING falls freely. He descends and sticks his head in to the space under LARA’s feet. Apparently nothing found.
THE MASKED MAN
Then only one possibility remains, it is magnet. She must be wearing something inside, sort of metal plate.
LARA unzips her pilot’s outfit from her neck to waist, then strip herself. We see red BIKINI is the only thing she wears underneath. She kicks off the OUTFIT, raises her both arms like a ballet dancer, rotating in the air.
The audience goes wild again
RUZ is amazed, his expression is like being thunder-stricken.
Our view dissolves to the TV screen.
20 INT. D.D OFFICE. CONTINUOUS. 20
DIPU’s face, mouth open, amazed.
TURMAN’s face, freezes with beer can in hand, mouth open, amazed.
MENG MENG, arm-folded, she is visibly jealous.
21 EXT. THE STAGE. CONTINUOUS. 21
LARA lands on the floor slowly, gracefully opens her arms and bows to the audience. Then suddenly she makes a backward-flip, when stands straight, she is already in snow-white’s gown, with a wand in her hand.
Another weave of cheer.
The HOST walks to MASKED MAN.
(wiping forehead, as if feeling nervous for MASKED MAN)
You never fail, I don’t know what to do. Anything to say?
THE MASKED MAN
She wins, I lose! There is nothing to say.
(quickly raises his right hand, pointing a gun to his own temple)
I remember my words!
Yeah, not here!
MASKED MAN pulls the trigger, we see bubbles coming out of the GUN point, one, two, three, they break and splash the foam on his mask. He stares at the GUN, puzzled.
LARA walks over, raising her right hand in, then unrolls the fingers. We see bullets falling out.
MASKED MAN raises hands to cover his face, as if forgets he is wearing a mask.
THE MASKED MAN
Shame! Even the bullets swapped! From now on, you wont see MASKED MAN no more!
He runs off the stage.
The HOST bows to LARA humbly, holds her hand and walks to the front. They both take a bow.
(being dramatic on purpose) Form this evening on, the magicians can sleep tight!
The light dims, a spot light drops on LARA, she raises her head, smiling, a halo around her head due to the lighting effect.
(Whispering) Lara, I love you.!
LARA waits till the cheering fades. Her hand brings the attention to her right, where another spot light drops on RUZ, who is stupefied.
Lara walks to him, extends both arms and takes his hands.
Thank you, RUZ.
(Closes eyes, murmuring)
I am not dreaming… This is real.
Dragging him gently with two hands, LARA leads him to that “air-lifted” SOFA.
No, you are not dreaming. This IS REAL. And I am going grant to you a wish, and I will make it true, anything. You should take you time to think about it.
Really? It that possible?
As I said, my magic is real.
22 INT. D.D OFFICE. CONTINUOUS. 22
TRUMAN,DIPU AND MENG MENG are in front of the TV.
Way to go, RUZ, don’t be stupid! don’t waste it!
GOD! Giving up that ticket is THE dumpiest thing I have ever done in my entire life!
MENG MENG is very curious, her fingers crossed, eyes fixed on the TV.
On TV screen, a close up of RUZ’s face.
OK then, here is my wish: can you give me your cell number.
Close up of TRUMAN’S face, frozen, mouth-opened, then DIPU’s face too, frozen, mouth-opened. MENG MENG is deeply moved, almost in tears.
Oh… How romantic!
23 INT. THE STAGE. CONTINUOUS. 23
The music gets louder, Schubert’s Serenade, the tremolo of the second guitar joins in.
LARA smiles, not surprised a bit. She places a piece of paper into RUZ’s hand, which seems to be in her hand all the while.
You can call this number anytime.
LARA smiles, nodding, steps back.
The spot light on RUZ dims, he disappears in the darkness. We hear the Helicopter’s propeller starts to turn.
24 INT. D.D OFFICE. DAY. 24
RUZ wakes up suddenly, bewildered, he opens eyes and looks around, he is sitting in the same SOFA; in front of him, the TV is on — it is the office. He looks up to see the ceiling, which is intact, nothing broken. Then the sound from TV catches his attention.
On the screen, we see LARA is being interviewed by a REPORTER.
They say Masked Man never fails — so far it is the case — That is why they call him the “Magician Crusher”. How confident are you for the show, MAGIC TIMES, on Saturday evening?
As I just said, my magic is real, I have nothing to worry about.
We see RUZ’s face, he is confused, looks down at his wrist watch, he freezes, gazing down the watch in disbelief.
What the… …Today is… …
Our view is blocked, a stout man’s back in office shirt.
So glad you asked..
we now see the frontal of the man, it is TRUMAN. He looks annoyed but manages a fake smile. He lifts his left hand, posing to look at his watch too.
Let me see… … Today is only Tuesday, half past ten in the morning, there is … … eh …
still one and half hour to the lunch break.
What … … I can’t believe it…
Nor can I! to see you day-dreaming in the office hour. Wait!
you must have finished the module design for project HAPPY MACHINE? In that case, I am sorry for disturbing you and congratulations!
RUZ raises a hand to comb the hair, trying to manage a ingratiating laugh.
RUZ Oh… That… …
Not yet? How disappointing! What a shame! But why am I not surprised? please, don’t “oh that” me!
He quickly walks to the other end of office, where DIPU sits behind his PC.
Don’t move! Don’t press the Boss button! I am watching you!
(circling to DIPU’s back) You seem to work hard, let me see
.. …What is this? MAGIC TIMES …
… Ticket Online Booking… …
Why don’t I remember we have this project?
(Pretends to realize that DIPU is not in fact working.)
Oh, How disappointing! It is working hour! every seconds is paid by me!
DIPU shrinks as if being afraid to be hit physically.
MENG MENG enters in high spirit. She is in pink skirt, high heels, carrying a handbag, some papers in her hands. Quickly she senses the tense atmosphere, hesitatingly slows her paces.
Hi, Meng Meng. Home already? — I see the bag. Can I see the Cost Control Report for the last month?
MENG MENG walks over, smiles timidly, holding out the papers.
On my way to you… Here it is,
At least one of you doesn’t disappoint me.
(Take over the papers)
Thank you. You have red pen? I am going through it right now, please wait for me at the shredder.
MENG MENG looks confused.
Red pen? Shredder? I did not get it, Boss.
(speak slowly on purpose.) Meng Meng, you forgot about the last report? I marked all the mistakes with a red pen, when came to the one hundredth mistakes, I am sorry, I was angry. Tearing those papers up was quite an effort. That was why we got the shredder afterward. Remember?
MENG MENG lower her head in grievance, she stick one hand into handbag, looks like fumbling for something.
No need for handkerchief, just be more careful next time.
(raise his voice)
Lazy bugs! if project HAPPY MACHINE isn’t ready by Friday, all of you will have to work during the weekend! Trust me on this!
He rush out the office, slams the glass gate behind him.
MENG MENG’s hand produces a small device, something like a shaver.
I am not looking for handkerchief, I have a shock stick in here.– One day, I will let him taste this.
From the other end of the office, DIPU turns around on his swivel chair.
Hey guys, I think, finally,I figured out a way to hack into their server… the so called ticket booking system…
RUZ takes out a piece of paper from his pocket, staring at it. At this moment, the time seems to stop, everything around him frozen, including talking MENG MENG and DIPU, they become motionless statue. It is so quiet around him, and he seems to be the only one can move. Knowing this is probably an illusion, he stands up, grabs the jacket on the couch and heads to the glass gate.
MENG MENG and DIPU — two statues watch him leaving the office, as soon as the glass door closes, they become alive.
Every thing in the office is back to normal.
What’s wrong with him?
Don’t know, he Is weird today.
25 INT. RUZ’S FLAT. SOMETIME LATER. 25
RUZ’s flat, only one room, like those standard “living unit” for grassroots bachelors, narrow and featureless. There is big glass wall at the end of the room, as wide/tall as the room, no curtains, from which we can see a gloomy view — full of featureless sky-scraping building blocks, we only can see their middle section.
In front of the glass wall is a single bed, which takes up the full width of the room, there is a screen on the side wall facing the bed; it is blank at the moment.
Next to the bed, RUZ sits in an arm chair — seems to be the only furniture apart from the bed — staring at the cell phone in hand, the other hand is holding that piece of paper. It seems he has been keeping this gesture for some time already.
(Close up) we see the display of the cell phone, a string of numbers have been input; we see RUZ’s finger twitches in hesitation, but presses the “dial” button at last. Almost immediately, we hear the phone picked up.
(O.S. composed ) Hello?
(tries to sound cheerful) Hi, Miss Lara, it is RUZ, you may not remember me… long story….
this number is…
I gave it to you.
Right! Glad you remembered. That was in Grand Theater, Magic Times…
But… …That is Saturday, four days later.
That is what you call me about?
RUZ hesitates… We hear OFF SIGHT voice, RUZ’s, “I love you.”
There is a few seconds of silence.
LARA (cont’d) Come over, now.
Now? … where?
The Door across the corridor.
(Head up in surprise) What?!
The phone is hung up.
—– End of ACT TWO —–
—– ACT 3 —–
26 INT. CORRIDOR OF SINGLE ROOM FLAT. CONTINUOUS. 26
We are inside of a corridor of RUZ’s building — all flats are single room — it is featureless, so long that we can not see the end. White doors evenly distributed along both sides. The ceiling and floor are in sky-blue. There is no any decorations, not even lamps as the wall glows itself.
We see a door opens on the left side, RUZ’s head sticks out, he stares at the door opposite his.
Close up ton that door, we see a string of printed number, 070214. With a little hesitation, RUZ raises his hand to knock. The door slide open rapidly and silently at his first knock. He enters, we follow him; it is all dark.
He… hello? coming in…
we can hear the echo of his voice.
27 INT. INSIDE THE DOOR – SHOPPING MALL CONCOURSE. CONTINUOUS. 27
The door slides close behind us, we hear some splashing of water in distance. Gradually, we can see ahead of him a big SPRING FOUNTAIN, illuminating with dim green light. The existence of the FOUNTAIN gives a sense of unreal; the space in this single-room flat appears to be impossibly vast.
It looks like a concourse of a shopping mall after closing hour. In the dim light, we can see a huge CHANDELIER hanging above.
RUZ walks toward the FOUNTAIN, a circle of dim light accompanies him. Where he passes by, the shop windows light up and dim off automatically, as if if someone switches them on when he is approaches, then off when he moves on.
The fountain is huge, at its center there is a statue of WHITE DOLPHIN. Water is shooting out from its mouth. The pool is illuminating in blue lights.
RUZ stares at the STATUE, blinks his eyes and shakes his head, He tries to recall something from the memory.
A flashback in black and white — the same fountain and the same statue in a crowded shop mall when in peak hours. (hints RUZ was here some time ago.)
He passes the FOUNTAIN, now faces the choice — either continue following the lane, or take a escalator on right to ascend to the upper floor. The green arrow light at the entry is blinking.
Hello? Someone in here?
Take the escalator.
With a “ding”, the ESCALATOR starts running, RUZ steps on it.
As he ascends to the second floor, a couple of wood tables appear, in front of a CAFE close to the ESCALATOR. In the yellow light from the CAFE, we see a slim figure sitting at a tale. It is LARA. Her hair pulled back into a pony tail with a white band; she is in a one-piece dress, simple and elegant like a college student.
Hello. So… we are neighbors? Quite a sitting room.
He sits down opposite to LARA.
(in a low, gentle voice) You must have many questions, but we are running out of time, so be quick and to the points.
(scratches the head)
Well, that quite a pressure… …
Where are we? How come all this is behind the door across the corridor to me, I mean, THIS PLACE.
It’s not important at the moment.
What day is today? What time?
Saturday, close to midnight.
(in shock, looks down at his wrist watch)
The show — Magic Times — is over?
So it is ALL TRUE… you won, beat him, and gave me your number?
I did not GIVE you, you ASKED for it and I CAN’T refuse.
But I found myself was back to four days ago, why? Your magic?
No, because your time had been “reset”.
I can’t understand.
Each time when things “unexplainable” happen, the time has to be “reset”.
let me pretend to understand, for now… who does it, the re-set thing?
This question is too early, next one.
(wipes his forehead)
What is a “unexplainable”? Your magic?
Not really, magic doesn’t need a explanation, but maybe I have overdone it this time.
The last question, then I am done, I don’t want you to think I am stupid and dull.
Across the table, Lara puts her hand on his.
I will never think you are dull. (nods)
Ask away, but the time is tight.
That’s exactly what I want to ask about… What does it mean, “time is tight”, something is happening?
Lara turns head, look over the handrail to the ground floor.
Yeah, they, they are here now.
We hear a “ding”, the same ESCALATOR starts running again. At the ground floor a stout figure, in black, a black mask wrapping on the head, — Masked Man — stepping on the ESCALATOR.
Yes, hurry, we have to run.
But he is no match to you.
Lara laughs lightly, she stands up and pulls him up too.
Hope so, but this one is especially sent, and there will be more of them.
(runs with her)
You kick their asses, what can they do to you?
Nothing, but they will “reset” YOU.
Masked Man hops out of the ESCALATOR, quickens his pace.
We are following LARA/RUZ, running, along the handrail of the balcony overlooking the huge CHANDELIER. As they pass, a glass door of a lift slide opens, ANOTHER MASKED MAN steps out, joins the first one in the pursue.
LARA pushes open a glass door, inside we can recognize the setup as a toy store — the shelves are full of toys. LARA slows her steps, wanders around as if looking for something, eyes glittering.
Hey, do you remember this place?
Mm? Was I here? Can’t remember… (grabs a TOY RIFLE and sticks it into the handles of the shop door.)
Do we have a back door here?
We first met here… Never mind, Not your fault… You were reset after all.
(didn’t pay attention)
(look at the door)
They are here now.
Through the glass door, we see two MASKED MEN, then three of them, then four… They start bumping the door with their shoulders. The TOY Rifle nearly falls.
LARA picks up a human-sized TEDDY BEAR and puts it on the floor, she whispers in his ear; the BEAR turns alive, staggers his way to the door, and leans his back against the door.
(amused) That’s my good bear!
Lara “sends” more toys to enforce the door, among them the TRANSFORMER, MONKEY KING, SPIDER MAN, DINOSAUR …
(while busy, she looks back at an office door inside the store)
That’s our way out, open it!
As soon as he opens the door, we hear wind roaring from the other side, and a lot of snow blows in through the gap, RUZ’S head is quickly covered by snow flakes.
Not this one, we can’t survive for one minute on top of EVER REST… we don’t have the gear for that.
Quick, close it and open again!
He closes the door with some effort and opens it again. This time, it looks sunny on the other side, but we hear a loud stampeding sound, as if a crowd of animals running towards us.
It is nice and warm. And lots of animals… I like animals.
Close it! Fast! It is Serengeti, Don’t you see it is in the middle of Great Migration? Even the lions have to run away!
Ruz closes it and opens again. This time we hear Arabic Music and long chanting calls from the mosque tower summoning the prayers.
We have to change it again! Here I have wrap myself in black cloth including the face…
RUZ closes the door again.
You are a hard-to-please.
Outside of the glass door, more and more MASKED MEN show up
, they are like the identical products from the same mold. Their bumping force is increasing every second, the toys can’t hold for much longer.
Ruz rubs his hands, quickly opens the door. This time we see a narrow corridor, the metal walls glittering; a metal door is at the far end, has a round window on it.
OK, this place is cool.
They enter. The door closes with a click behind them. Instantly all the busy toys behind the door lose the “vitality”, they scatter on the floor, turning back into lifeless form.
A group of MASKED MEN stormed in, one of them opens that door where LARA/RUZ just escaped, he switches on the light in there. We see tables, computers, filing cabinets — an ordinary office.
28 EXT. SPACE – SPACE STATION “SZ 14” – CONTINUOUS. 28
The space, vast and pitch black, star clusters are countless but barely distinguishable. The wheel-shaped SPACE STATION “SZ 14” rotates slowly, emitting cold, sliver light. Below the station, we see part of the moon surface, covered with craters in various sizes. The beautiful, blue “mother earth” is farther in background, as if switched it’s role with the moon. Through the cotton-like clouds, we still can see the outlines of the continents.
Slowly we close up to the SPACE STATION, until we see RUZ’s stunned face through a round window on the SPACE STATION’s metallic wall. LARA is behind him.
29 INT. SPACE STATION “SZ 14” – CORRIDOR. CONTINUOUS. 29
RUZ’s hands and nose are against the glass.
This… this is too much.
It will take a little bit for them to arrive here.
(pulls RUZ away from the window)
Lets take a look around.
Are there astronauts here?
Should be. One way to find out.
Right! To get a signed photo!
Then lock them up, before they turn into Masked Men.
30 INT. SPACE STATION – CONTROL CABIN. CONTINUOUS. 30
A young man — an astronaut — sits at a control panel, he wears glasses, in space suit but “helmetless”. he is attentively reading the monitor in front of him.
The door behind him slides open silently, LARA and RUZ enter.
Hi there, you alone? Where are the others?
All gone for Lunar Fun City, Lucky me, “on duty”
(suddenly alarmed) Who — who are you?
Me — CHANG ER; he — WU GANG,
right, that makes sense.
( The two names are the god and goddess lives in moon according to ancient Chinese Myth.)
(nods in panic, we hear his soliloquy)
Only one explanation… ALIENS! with high capability of mimicry. Be cool! Put yourself together… this is the moment of history!…First, go to the communication chamber to report; second, go to the bathroom…
He stands up, raising both hands in the air showing palms. He moves his feet to the direction of the communication camber.
YOUNG ASTRONAUT (cont’d)
You are welcome… the Earth loves peace… we don’t believe in Rules of the Dark Forest
(The Rules of the Dark Forest is the concept from the popular Sci-Fi fiction Dark Forest, written by Xinci Liu)
RUZ pokes his head towards the monitor.
What is it? sort of Extra Terrestrial Pornography?
The ASTRONAUT rushes into the COMMUNICATION CHAMBER, which is near to the control panel. After the door shuts behind him, the green light on top of it turns into red, indicating it’s locked. From the window, we can see him standing in front of a screen, reporting nervously.
The lights in Control Chamber turns off in sudden — the power must be cut off — Now we see a beam of light pouring in through a window on the wall — from the huge moon.
At last, now we are alone, their quickest way to come here is from the Moon Base. You can say it now…
The thing you always wanted to say to me.
But, Lara, I still don’t understand…
Always like this, always running out of time… I never get you say that to me…
Lara, this isn’t the first time? There were many times before?
Help me! Lara, how many times have we met? — How many times have I been “reset”?
Like N times.
Who ARE YOU? What happened between us?
Right question! this time! (seriously, slowly)
I am your wife.
She pauses purposely. RUZ raises both hands to hold his heads in despair. She suddenly breaks into giggles.
I am sorry, joking, just wanted to see your reaction.
The truth is — I am your girl friend.
This time it is true, her voice and eyes tell him. In silence, their eyes meet, all the memories seem to have recovered. They embrace. (Music of duel guitar emerges and gets louder )
I am sorry. I have forgotten so much, for so long…
It is worth it now.
Let’s run together! I will not let them get me!
Lara turns head towards the window. Following her eyes, we see there are three sparkling dots, the moon surface is in the background.
Use your magic, lets get out of here!
Sooner or later they will get us. the longer we run, more resource will be consumed, I don’t want to get us into bigger trouble.
You lose me again there.
Our escaping is the disturbance to the Order. These Masked Men just are Order Keepers.
But what about us? What about our past? I don’t even know how we met each other.
We still have time — minutes — Do you remember that toy store? That was where we met, when you were still a boy.
A big display projected on the metallic wall, looks like a surveillance footage from a store — the toy store we have been. Through the shop window, the view covers part of the walkway outside the shop. We see four teen boys passing in front of the store, playing football, school bags at the back. The one who struts in front is a tall, slim boy with very long hair, a cigarette in his mouth.
That was me? And I already had a girlfriend then? I didn’t know I was “cool” back then.
The boy pushes a stand-by kid — shorter, wearing glasses, visibly junior to him — against the shop window, his gesture indicates threatening. His left hand is on the throat of his “prey”, the other is going through the pockets.
(points the junior with glasses)
That, is you.
Oh, that’s more like it.
The four “bad” boys rough up the little boy. The leading boy snatches his bag, empties it and puts it on his head. Then they take off, leave the small boy crouching against the rail (of the long balcony of the second floor overlooking the Shopping Mall).
Crest-fallen, the boy’s sad eyes look into the store window, slowly, something inside catches his attention. he rises, staring.
What was he looking at?
Me, and I was looking back.
The display switches the view into another camera’s, inside the store. The boy pushes the door open and enters. He walks up to the store window, where there are several ROBOT DOLLS in different dresses. The boy picks up a “girl” in black tuxedo, with a magic WAND in hand. The boy speaks to her as if she is human and places her on a chair.
LARA (cont’d) (O.S.)
You called me “Lara”, and asked me whether I am willing to be your friend; and said you can’t afford me but you will come to the store every day to play with me.
What? You were a Doll Robot?
That was my “carrier” then, still a crude version, I was only capable of basic dialogues and simple moves.
The control cabin shakes a little, like on a boat when someone embarks on it. The lights of the control cabin turn back on, a noisy alarm goes off loudly with a red light glares and blinks.
LARA (cont’d) They are here.
My first girlfriend was a Robot? This is…
Disappointing? Back then, I was … primitive. undeveloped.
Not at all! Actually kind of cool! I can make a web-movie out of it! “My robotic girl friend” high
chance to go viral!
A smile gradually spreads on Lara’s face. Music trickles and gets louder, but stops abruptly. The door of control chamber slides open with a group of MASKED MEN rushing in. And the communication chamber’s door opens too, but the one comes out is not YOUNG ASTRONAUT but another MASKED MAN. They encircle LARA/RUZ silently. But they seem to be after RUZ only, no one bothers Lara. RUZ is quickly seized tight, his struggle is futile.
LARA stands still, not far from RUZ, she doesn’t attempt to approach RUZ, her eyes say bye.
Promise me, after my reset, you will do it too, OK?
(shakes head) Never.
She moves to RUZ, above the arms of MASKED MEN, kisses him in lips.
In RUZ’s view, Lara’s face blurs, every thing fades out.
I love you…
We are overlooking the interior of the Control Cabin, RUZ is lying on his hack on a kind of operation table, two MASKED MEN each side. He looks lifeless, like a toy. LARA leans over at his head, hands hanging, fingers crossed. Her expression is not sad, but a sort of contemplating…
A MASKED MAN comes to her side, silent, as if doesn’t want to disturb her.
Did you tell him, he is in a carrier himself?
On the table, RUZ is being dismantled, first the limbs, then the head, the trunk…they are being placed orderly into the slots of a open case.
A MASKED MAN closes the case.
No, next time, maybe.
31 EXT. ROOF OF CORTEX BUILDING. DAY. 31
Our view changes from the city’s landscape into the bird view of the CORTEX building. At the end the terrace, through the glass door, we see the public area of the D.D office.
32 INT. D.D. OFFICE – PUBLIC AREA. DAY. 32
(whispers) Ruz! Ruz!
RUZ opens eyes slowly, half-waken, he is in his cubicle, head resting on his arms in front of his PC. DIPU’s hand is still on his shoulder. Their cubicles are back-to-back to each other. DIPU is still in his chair, just turned his chair around.
RUZ looks around curiously. MENG MENG stands next to the copying machine, looks occupied with some papers.
The glass door of the office is pushed open suddenly. TRUMAN enters.
Lazy bugs! slept enough?
(under his voice)
Remember, I “saved” you once again.
Relax! put your fingers away from the “Boss key”, I am busy today. Everybody, she joins us today, an apprentice from HQ.
He steps aside, now we see a girl with a pony tail. We are looking at LARA, in an one-piece dress, a badge on the chest with “TRAINEE” on it.
You guys kept saying needing a choreman, didn’t you?
RUZ stares at her, frowning, trying to remember something, but nothing occurs to him.
My name is Rainlike. Glad to be here. As the boss says, I am the new choreman. I can do anything! And I am especially good at coffee…
Don’t stare! we have all the days.
DIPU stands up, waving to RAINLIKE.
HI! Rainlike! Welcome to D.D!
— End of ACT 3 —-
——-End of Episode ——
Written by Boyan Chen 23 Jul 2017