The Martian Doctor’s Daughter

25 Feb


So this is my entry into the final round of NYC Midnight’s Short Screenplay Competition. I get to find out on March 12th if the judges actually thought it was any good. Here are entries one, two and three.

For this one, the criteria was:

  • Genre: Open
  • Object: Birthday Cake
  • Location: Morgue

That first bit was intimidating, but exciting. On one hand, one less choice to make when building an outline is acutally pretty comforting, but this time the choice was all mine. On the other, I didn’t really get the opportunity to do either of my favourite genres yet–namely “science fiction” and “hardboiled”–so this was basically a chance to grab my action figures and smush them together for five pages.

So, uh, yeah. Here’s what that looks like.

As the sun crests the horizon of the red planet, its light catches the network of colonies that spread out across its surface. Earth is nothing but a tiny, twinkling blue jewel in the distance. We are a long way from home.

BAKER (30s) looks out a window at the cramped colony skyline, cracking an egg into a bowl of flour. His boyish grin is undermined by his vest, tie and the GUN on his hip.

MORGAN (30s) cracks a corpse’s chest like an egg with the help of YAMA, a creaky robotic arm that’s had the last two letters of its “Yamaha” logo worn off. Morgan shows the same amount emotion as the robot.

But maybe not always: A locket dangles out from under her scrubs. The picture is old, weathered, loved: A LITTLE GIRL.

An inscription reads: “Lacy Morgan. 2299-2305.”

Funny thing — the corpse’s rib cage seems to be made of metal, plastic, and circuit boards. She sets it aside and PLUNGES her hands into the chest cavity.

Baker PLUNGES his hands into the bowl, kneading the dough. He absently watches a holographic ad for “MONSANTO’S ZERO

Morgan stands over the corpse. It now has an array of CYBERNETIC PARTS arranged around it. She touches each unconsciously, cataloging them… Lung, ribcage, eyes…

She touches the elbow and, suddenly, the entire forearm detaches itself with a METALLIC HISS.

You were really borged up, eh
Doctor Sanjuro?

She looks at the ONI TATOOS that cover both arms.

But I guess humanity is a liability
in the Sumiyoshi-kai…

She shakes it off. Nods at Yama. It whirrs to attention.

I’ll tag his legal parts for
recycle on Earth and call Heinlein
about the others — they might be
worth some jack to him. You start
prepping our next lucky winner.

Yama zips over to another body, already laid out for dissection. It’s BAKER. Aside from being dead, there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with him.

Great. Mister John Doe… No holes
where they shouldn’t be…

HISS. The door opens. Morgan jumps. It’s a UPS GUY. He’s holding a big CAKE with “HAPPY BIRTHDAY DOCTOR MORGAN” written on it in icing. Baker’s cake. The UPS guy smiles.

It’s not my birthday.

The cake says different.

Yama fires its laser saw. It presses it into Baker’s skull, searing the flesh and… SPLAT! Something that looks like a flashlight with pincers FLIES out of the CAKE, sailing across the room and attaches itself to Baker’s chest. AN ELECTRIC FLASH. He sits up with a GASP. He slaps Yama and shakes a stern finger at it.

Yeah, so, uh… Happy birthday.

He turns and runs. Morgan is about to do the same when…

Wait! Doctor Morgan, wait!

How do you know my name?

I’m a… A Pinkerton. I’m
gumshoeing the Martian Yakuza. When
you recycled that guy’s augs…
(he points to Sanjuro)
The Sumiyoshi-kai have it set up so
you’d be smuggling some very, very
dirty tech to Earth for them… I
have a file… With your face…
This was the only place I knew he
wouldn’t be protected so I…
Made a series of fairly rash
decisions and… Hey, is it hard to
breathe in here or —

He collapses.

Baker wakes up on a dissection table fully clothed. He taps at his hip — no gun, though. Morgan stands over him with it. Her arms are crossed. Yama gestures defensively.

I see you found my, ah, little
package in the cake. Thanks for,
uh… Y’know…

Using it to cover your other little
package? You need to start talking.

I really don’t, girlie. Just give
me a sec’ and I’ll dangle…

He hoists himself off the bed and walks over to the dissected body of Doctor Sanjuro. He flips open a fleshy panel behind his ear, revealing a CYBERNETIC INTERFACE.

Let me rephrase that.

Morgan flicks the safety on the gun and the GREEN DISPLAY SQUEALS to life: Full clip. Baker recognizes the sound and tenses up. Then he nods, hits a button on Sanjuro’s interface and a small CHIP pops out of his head. Baker holds it up.

You know anything about black tech?
Artificial intelligence?

I know having one is very illegal.

Well, on Earth it is. Out here it’s
more… seriously frowned upon.

He pops the chip into an interface similar to Sanjuro’s on his own head. His eyes GLOW for a second, revealing the tiny apertures he has instead of irises. He SHIVERS. And so does SANJURO. Both Baker and Morgan notice.

I was afraid of that.

Sanjuro’s arm reattaches itself. Then it grabs his LUNG and crams it back into the body’s open chest cavity.

What did you do?

I may have just accidentally
rebooted his backup organs… a
little. Drill him. Now. Please.

Morgan takes aim. Suddenly, a SHURIKEN springs from a compartment on Sanjuro’s robotic forearm. He throws it, and it SLICES the gun in half.

Uh… New plan!

Baker and Morgan shove a DESK in front of the door. Sanjuro PUNCHES through the wall with his robotic arm. Morgan gasps when she sees him: all the parts are back in, but his chest is still yawning open. He SCREAMS CURSES in Japanese.

Is he… I’m pretty sure he’s
screaming about his “daughter.”

Look, I don’t speak Cyborg-Gangster-
Samurai. But he did design the AI,
so… He’s probably weird about it
like that, yeah.

Baker finds her computer. He grabs a CORD from behind it and flips open the INTERFACE on his head. He plugs it in. His eyes GLOW again.

Through the hole in the wall, Morgan watches Sanjuro’s arm rearrange itself into a KATANA. He chops chunks off the wall.

Can you hack his… I dunno’… His
heart or something!?

If I was that smart I wouldn’t do
this nonsense for a living. But if
I can access your local network…

His hands dance in the air, manipulating some unseen interface. WHAM! Sanjuro kicks the door to splinters and charges in, sword held high. He SWINGS at Morgan. Slices her face. She screams and falls…

Sanjuro aims a killing blow. Baker shoves his hands forward, willing something to move and…

SKLETCH! Yama impales Sanjuro from behind. He goes limp. Suddenly, Baker tenses up, eyes totally white, and he turns to see Sanjuro. He screams. A high, girlish scream. Not his.


I thought you didn’t speak

He shakes it off. Pulls the plug from his head. His eyes lose some of their light.

I don’t. I…

His eyes flare white again. His expression is imploring.

Please help me. This man is
deceiving you. My father was trying
to flee the Yakuza with me because
he feared they would use me for
evil. This man is working for them.
Please… I can overload his neural
interface to incapacitate him.
After that, it is your choice…

He stiffens up. His eyes roll into his head. Collapses. Morgan watches him, absently thumbing her locket…

Baker wakes up naked again. This time he’s tied to the dissection table. He rolls his eyes. One table over, Morgan is putting the finishing touches on Sanjuro. Now he’s completely reassembled. And wearing Baker’s clothes.

She plugs the AI CHIP into the interface in his head, and he wakes up. His eyes are glowing white. He hugs Morgan tightly.

Thank you.

Happy birthday.


2 Responses to “The Martian Doctor’s Daughter”

  1. Kelly Johnson March 11, 2014 at 9:16 am #

    Good luck Kyle. Keepign my fingers crossed for you.

  2. Elizabeth November 24, 2014 at 10:30 pm #

    This prompted me to peruse about half of The Drowning Pool – 133 pages or so – to see how many similes I could count. (I’m using the Vintage Crime Black Lizard edition from May 1996). I counted thirty four and no doubt missed a few. I haven’t done the legwork, but I think some of the later books might have a slightly higher ratio. That’s a lot, but in any case I would argue that many of Macdonald’s similes are so strong that they infinitely enrich the work. Not only that – they are so strong that they put many “serious” writers of fiction to shame.

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