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30/11/00: Welcome to the Fold (Part six)
by The Gline

(Ladies and Gentlemen: The management wish to express their sincerest apologies for an unfortunate cock-up in the editorial department, to whit; the unfortunate and inaccurate identification of last month's installment of the Gline's script as the final episode. Needless to say, the Gline's epic saga of two-fisted authors, wrestling motorcycle nuns, and orphan space-children from Beyond the Moon... yes?

Excuse me, Ladies and Gentlemen. *sound of paper being unfolded*

Ahem.

The management wish to further express their sincerest apologies for the unfortunate and entirely inaccurate description of Gline's script to date as including motorcycle nuns and space people. These radical and unexpected plot elements will not be introduced until much later in the script. They will, of course, be hall-marked by the sudden arrival of John Levene, the beloved Sgt. Benton from television's 'Doctor Who,' in the role of the autocratic King of Toyland. To speak more of such surprises will, of course, ruin the thrill anticipation for you, our loyal readers.

However, the management wish to make amends for these unfortunate and ongoing mixups. As such, we are pleased to offer, free to IMC users, a decorative hand-drawn photographic replica of an official Canadian three dollar bank-note. Simply proceed to the IMC Cafeterium and ask for your Commemorative Apologetic Banknote. We now return to the Gline's script, which is already in progress.)
__________

HARUNA
Stands next to them, her sword gripped tight in white-knuckled fingers.  She has just used it to sever the bodyguard's hand.

THE BODYGUARD
His mouth open in a scream, but we hear nothing.
He sinks to his knees.

ELIAS
Backed up against the couch once again, staring.

WIDER

As Haruna raises her sword once more and slashes at the bodyguard's HEAD.

ANOTHER ANGLE

As Haruna rises INTO FRAME, spattered with blood. Breathing hard.
Elias is still in a daze.
We see only hints of the corpse at their feet.

ELIAS
Okay.  Okay...

Elias tries to stand up, and stumbles.
Haruna roughly helps him to his feet.

HARUNA
We've got to go.  Now.

ELIAS
You just... oh, God...

HARUNA
We can't use your car.  Get some cash.

Elias reaches for his wallet, opens it with numb fingers.
The money spills out onto the floor.  A corner of it is dyed RED from the pool of blood.

HARUNA
God damn it!

She snatches up the cash and drag-propels Elias out the door.

INT. HALLWAY TO ELEVATOR

Haruna continues to hustle Elias along.

HARUNA
We got about two minutes to get out of here.  If Slazenger has the cops in his fist then we're in real trouble.

ELIAS
Slazenger...?  Mister Death Threats?

His brain is slowly starting to work again.

HARUNA
He's trying to make good on his promise, from the look of it.

ELIAS
Wait, where the hell are we going?

HARUNA
My place.

ELIAS
For Christ's sake, there's a dead cop in my apartment; we can't go running --

Haruna slaps him in the face.  He stops right there.

HARUNA
We now have one minute to get the fuck out of this building.

She pulls him into an elevator.

EXT. ELIAS'S APARTMENT BUILDING

Haruna sticks her head out and looks both ways.
The street's empty in both directions.

HARUNA
They're not here yet.

ELIAS
Yeah, "they".  Real specific.

Haruna and Elias cross the street.

HARUNA
The rest of Slazenger's people.  The cleanup crew.  Probably disguised as cops, knowing him.  When they find the body of one of their own men up in there, they will be appropriately pissed.

She sticks her arm out for a cab.

HARUNA
That "we give you sixty days" bullshit was just that: bullshit.  You had maybe ten days to live at most.

ELIAS
He's done this before?

HARUNA
You mean, lied through his teeth?  Oh, yes.

A cab stops for them.  Haruna wrenches open the door and throws them both in.

INT. CAB – MOVING

Elias squirms.

ELIAS
Dammit.  I need to get to a phone..

HARUNA
Why?

ELIAS
Got to call my publisher.  I had a meeting with her tomorrow.  I guess I'm cancelling.

HARUNA
It's not going to matter.

ELIAS
What the hell's that supposed to mean?

HARUNA
She's part of the same machine as Slazenger.  I have the feeling she wants you dead, too.

ELIAS
Give me a fucking br--

Haruna puts her hand over his mouth.

HARUNA
Sasha is not just some enterprising publisher.  And Slazenger isn't just some subterranean lunatic.  They're all part of something a lot bigger and more complicated.  And that includes you.

She removes her hand.

HARUNA
I'm going to take you to some people who will make everything clear to you.  We've been fighting both of them, and fighting the machine they both made.

ELIAS
The "machine?"

HARUNA
The system, the establishment – that's what "I" always called it, remember?

There's a sardonic edge to her voice that jabs at him.

ELIAS
Sorry.  My recall isn't the greatest right now.  And you know I didn't even write the damn thing.

He looks out the window and shakes himself.

INT. "WHITE ROOM"

Slazenger, in front of his "video wall", picks up the phone and punches keys.

SLAZENGER
Jacquays.  Where are you?

EXT. ALLEYWAY

Jacquays and Foster in the f.g., with a fake POLICE CAR behind them. Hanging limply out of the backseat is the horribly battered form of the editor of "Scorpionic".

JACQUAYS (INTO PHONE)
Finishing up here.  Just got to torch-and-scorch and we'll be done.

SLAZENGER (FILTERED)
Move fast.  You're needed.

Jacquays cans the radio.
They sling a FIREBOMB at the car.  It's enveloped in FLAMES.

INT. WHITE ROOM

Slazenger presses another button.

SLAZENGER
Ying Quan, come back?

EXT. OUTSIDE ELIAS'S APARTMENT

Police and ambulances are on the scene.  Ying Quan speaks into her portable phone from thie shadow of a mailbox.

YING QUAN
We have problems.

SLAZENGER (FILTERED)
What.

YING QUAN
Police just went up into the unit.  Elias and the girl aren't there, but they pulled our man out.  Cut to pieces.  I think they got away.

INT. WHITE ROOM

Slazenger does his best not to explode.

SLAZENGER
Leak what you can to the cops and then get back here with the rest.  Now.

He cuts the circuit and throws himself back in his seat, fuming.
Calls over his shoulder:

SLAZENGER
Looks like we're going to need some more of those toys of yours.

The VOICE of the MAN WITH GOGGLES comes back from the Black Room:

MAN WITH GOGGLES
How many?

SLAZENGER
Just get started –- and don't stop.

CLOSEUP -- A POLICE MONITOR
Displaying Elias And Haruna's pictures, along with identifying information... and the phrase "SUSPECTS SHOULD BE CONSIDERED ARMED AND EXTREMELY DANGEROUS."   Police CHATTER summarizes what we see.

EXT. THREE HUNDRED CONDUIT DRIVE, PLAZA ZERO – AFTERNOON

This is the place Haruna mentioned the first time she spoke with Elias.  It doesn't appear to be anything except an ultramodern high-rise office block.  Afternoon after-work crowds mill about.
Elias and Haruna, faces hidden, clothes different, get out of the cab and hustle up the stairs.

ELIAS
"Your place?"

HARUNA
Exactly.

At the door she stands in front of a RETINAL SCANNER and lets her eye be photographed.  The door BUZZES.  She leads him in...

INT. BUILDING LOBBY
The lobby looks like something out of a palace from another century.  Gilt-edged rococo curves; dark wood; polished floors.

A FOOTMAN at a desk stands and approaches them.

FOOTMAN
Good evening, Miss Haruna!  You've brought a guest with you?

HARUNA
Jacob, this is Elias Marlowe.

The Footman bows to Elias.

FOOTMAN
A pleasure to meet you at last.  Now, if you'll step this way, I can sign you in.

Elias follows the Footman's lead and steps up to another retina-printing system where his eyes are photographed.

ELIAS
You do this for everyone who comes here?

HARUNA
For our sake and theirs.

A BUZZ.

FOOTMAN
You're done, sir.  Welcome to the Citadel.

ELIAS
Thanks, I think.

HARUNA
And now this way...

She leads Elias into a wide-mouthed cage elevator, shuts the door, and throws the lever.  The elevator rises....

ELIAS
Upstairs?

HARUNA
To meet the Prince.  He's my right-hand man and gets trusted with a lot of the day-to-day operations.

ELIAS
Your right-hand – wait, YOU run this whole thing?

HARUNA
I always have.

INT. MEZZANINE

The elevator comes to a stop; they step out...

WIDER

And now we see what the Citadel is really about.  It's like a cross between a mall and a walled city.  Here, reproduced in microcosm, is the way of life we saw in the Haruna fantasy sequences – people milling about, shopping, talking, entering and leaving each other's homes.  The ceiling is at least four stories overhead.  It's all obviously artificial, but it's so skillfully done that it's endearing.  (We saw a TINY bit of this earlier, with Haruna.  Now we see it in FULL detail.)

HARUNA
And above this level are six more like it.

Elias has trouble getting his jaw to work.
Haruna leads him slowly through the "streets".
Here and there people wave to her, smile, bow, say hello.
She's cordial in return as well.

ELIAS
This is the Costume Society?  For real?

HARUNA
This is what we use the public faηade of the Costume Society to support.  Many of us also work other jobs and donate towards the upkeep.  There are enough of us who're full-timers to keep things rolling – and we recently bought the building outright thanks to a grant from an industrialist.  We've got a lot of influential people to call our own.

Elias peers into the window of a clockmaker's.

ELIAS
So what do you guys do here besides play dress-up and buy and sell stuff to each other?

HARUNA
We live.  You just described what most people spend their whole lives with anyway.  We just have more fun doing it.  We do it our way.

Haruna takes him by the elbow gently and continues leading him.

ELIAS
Okay.  Why?  Why this way?

ANOTHER VOICE
Because no one else will let us.

The source of the voice is THE PRINCE – yes, it's an exact replica, detail for detail, of the beau we saw courting Haruna in the fantasies.  He bows slightly to Elias.

THE PRINCE
It's good to meet you again.

ELIAS
Right – the, uh, Costume Society ball.

He shakes the Prince's hand, still amazed.

THE PRINCE
I hope Slazenger and his people didn't cause any permanent damage.

ELIAS
I'm still taped up – and sorry if I sound hard, but it's gonna be tough for me to get any better if I keep getting dragged around like this.

THE PRINCE
My apologies, Mr. Marlowe.  Come with us and I'll make sure you're set up with the best accomodations we can provide you with.  Based on the limited information I have, it seems you may need to stay here for a while.

Elias freezes up.

HARUNA
Elias, remember what I said.

ELIAS
How long are we talking about?

THE PRINCE
As long as it takes for us to remove Slazenger from the "machine", and for the machine itself to collapse.

A HORSE-DRAWN CARRIAGE – actually, it's a pony-drawn carriage – stops next to them.  Haruna helps Elias into it; the Prince climbs on board.

THE PRINCE
My place.

A crack of the whip and they're off.

INT. THE PRINCE'S APARTMENTS

A luxurious set of rooms overlooking the third "floor" of the Citadel.  Elias, drink in hand, peers out through the window. Haruna and the Prince are seated.

ELIAS
Well, I'll give you credit for ambition.

THE PRINCE
It's been thirty-five years in the making, Elias, in one form or another.

ELIAS
Thing is ... how you folks plan to "change" anything by holing up in a hollowed-out office building and playing dress-up is beyond me.

HARUNA
This is about more than outfits and appearances, Elias.  You know that from having talked to me.

THE PRINCE
This is a voluntary construct.  Everyone who comes here to fulfill a role in the Society – a role you've provided in the richness of your work – they do so of their own free will.

ELIAS
I know, I know.  – Oh, yeah.  Haruna, he doesn't know, does he?

Haruna looks at him, then shakes her head slowly.

ELIAS
This is either going to be the smartest or stupidest thing I ever did.

He digs around in his jacket and pulls out volume one of the original Haruna books, and slides it across the table at the Prince.

ELIAS
That was written about thirty years ago, best I can guess.  I'm gonna go out the room for about half an hour, and when I come back in we'll talk about it.  Maybe you can understand why I don't really want to hang around for this part.

He steps outside and closes the door.

Beat.

Haruna and the Prince exchange glances.

THE PRINCE
The fact that he was able at all to find another copy of the original amazes me.

HARUNA
He found it through a friend, or so he claims.  A book-dealer.  Perhaps he simply got lucky.

The Prince opens the book and thumbs through it idly.

THE PRINCE
It's better-preserved than the ones we have.  Well – I've said it before... he may be a plagarist but he's certainly got good taste.

HARUNA
He's got tastes that coincide with our work.  That's what's important.  And if we can protect him long enough, we may even be able to get him writing again.

The Prince looks at her.

HARUNA
He's blocked.

THE PRINCE
He stole all this because he had writer's block?

HARUNA
He admitted it to me in so many words.  He quit writing the VALIS books for the same reason, apparently.

The Prince sighs heavily and lets the book close in his hand.

THE PRINCE
What a hell of a job.

HARUNA
But we have to make this happen.  As far as everyone else is concerned, he is the author of HARUNA.  Because if he doesn't rise to the occasion and find a new ending for the story – something that won't send all our work back onto the scrap heap – then our trouble's only started.

THE PRINCE
Our trouble began the minute we agreed on this particular course of action.  But I couldn't agree more.

HARUNA
I'll see what I can do to motivate him..

The Prince just watches her, then nods.

INT. "WHITE ROOM" – LATER

All present.  Slazenger is quietly livid.

SLAZENGER
Ladies and gentlemen, we are hitting what could be politely called a "choke point."  In plainer English, we're fucked.

Everyone else looks uncomfortable.

SLAZENGER
Where's Elias?  Where's the girl?  Want to tell me what happened to your man, Quan?

Ying Quan says nothing at first.

YING QUAN
Evidently she was armed.

The Man With Goggles emerges from the Black Room.

MAN WITH GOGGLES
Evidently she was armed with a functioning replica.  I can tell you right now I never made any such thing.

SLAZENGER
It's not very hard to make a functioning replica of a sword.  It's a fucking three-foot kitchen knife!

MAN WITH GOGGLES
The gun's not part of the --

Slazenger raises his voice to a shout.
SLAZENGER
THIS IS SUCH BULLSHIT.  WHY ARE YOU STANDING THERE LOOKING AT ME?  GET OUT AND START DOING SOME WORK!

He grabs a travel bag and starts throwing bits of equipment into it.  Everyone else leaves.

INT. GUEST ROOM IN CITADEL – LATER
Elias sits on the edge of the bed.  Face blank.
The Prince enters.

THE PRINCE
Haruna filled in many of the details for me.

ELIAS
I guess you're about ready to punch me..

THE PRINCE
No, actually.  Not at all.  But I need to make you... aware of certain things.  The responsibility you've undertaken, for one.

ELIAS
What, keeping up the fakery so I don't get lynched by the Taffeta Mob out there?

THE PRINCE
No – continuing the work you started, but in a different vein.  May I show you something?
He stands and leads Elias out.

INT. PRINCE'S STUDY IN CITADEL
Rich oak, big bookshelves, a giant desk.  Maps on the wall.

The Prince leads Elias over to a platbook.  Opens it.
It's more maps – of cities around the world and finally the world itself.  Here and there on the maps are bright GREEN DOTS.

The Prince talks as he turns pages.

THE PRINCE
As Haruna and I have shown you, the community you see here is the real reason for the existence of the Costume Society and its associated circles.  We've been consolidating our presence worldwide for a little over two decades now.

ELIAS
To build this place.

THE PRINCE
Half right, actually.

Elias frowns at him.  The Prince opens to a map of their own city, which FILLS THE SCREEN.  The dot representing their building is dead center.

THE PRINCE (V.O.)
Three Hundred Conduit Drive is the prototype for many other environments we are in the process of setting up, both in this city and elsewhere.

We go WIDER and WIDER on the map, slowly, as more and more GREEN DOTS populate the map.

THE PRINCE (V.O.)
We asked ourselves – why do something of this magnitude, of this importance, if we weren't going to carry our work "all the way home"?  We'd wanted to change the world; this was the way to do it – without violence, or loss of decency.

There is now more green on the map than anything else.

THE PRINCE (V.O.)
Eventually, there would be more of us in the game, playing out our elected roles, than there would be outside of it.

The whole map is finally green.
We PULL WIDE FAST and show the WORLD MAP is going green.

THE PRINCE (V.O.)
That's the goal –- to get everyone in on the game.  And then...

BACK TO SCENE
The Prince is smiling.  Elias is stunned.

THE PRINCE
...we all win.  And then we all just keep playing.  We make life into an adventure, rather than a chore with borders.
Elias gropes for a chair behind him.  Sits down.

THE PRINCE
Haruna and I have been spearheading most of the work, but once you get things past a certain point, it tends to be self-perpetuating --

ELIAS
Could I – ask – a really, really dumb question?  Just this one question?  What if I don't want to play?  What if I think this whole game arrangement is the dumbest fucking thing I've ever seen in my life?
The Prince's expression remains carefully neutral.

ELIAS
Because if you ask me, it's just trading one set of flags for another.  This is no less arbitrary or contrived or stupid than what you're trying to replace!

THE PRINCE
But more fun.  And more humane.

ELIAS
Suppose I don't see it that way?

THE PRINCE
That would be a shame.  Because you're urgently needed.

ELIAS
That's right.  You need someone to keep writing your new non-sectarian Haruna Bible.
Elias's bitterness is undisguised.

THE PRINCE
We need someone to continue the story of our lives without an ending that invalidates everything we've done.

ELIAS
A ghostwritten happy ending.  Fine.  Go find Miss Ravanna Francoeur.

FLASH SHOT of "Ravanna Francoeur" being deleted.

THE PRINCE
She's been dead for decades.  And even if we did – you're the author.  As much of the author as there ever will be now.

ELIAS
You're going to have to get someone else.  And I'll give you three good reasons.
He ticks them off.

ELIAS
One.  The whole reason I stole HARUNA in the first place was because I couldn't think of anything.  VALIS was the one book I had in me; I stretched it to seven.
Two.  You may not like the story as it ends right now, but you know something?  It's the only ending that makes sense.  There are no heroes, and you're not going to make them real by dressing up and playing House!  And three --
 (beat)
-- you're all out of your fucking minds!
He wrenches open the door and almost collides with Haruna.
She's got the sullenly wounded expression of someone who overheard all the wrong things.
Elias stares at her, then pushes past her.
She follows him.

ELIAS
Leave me the hell alone.

SNIK.  The sound of the sword being drawn.
Elias freezes as he feels the point of it in his back.
 
 

You know, the script makes a heck of a lot more sense now, dunnit?