Realms (1996)

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Martin Hash
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Realms (1996)

Post by Martin Hash » Wed Oct 02, 2013 8:34 am

By Martin Hash


Scene One:
(Computer Generated Imagery)
Avatars battle dramatically as a VO describes a tournament marking the opening of a new Realm. The three day competition has three levels to conquer. The cash prize is one million dollars, and the qualification round will be held tonight.
*add updates through story-sports announcer/news.

LA (Live Action)
The Avatars continue battling on a TV monitor set in a cluttered comic book ship. Two kids watching the commercial discuss who will be the winner. They take bets while wagering realms cards.

The shop owner, Carson, begins closing shop. The kids complain and make fun of Carson’s stuttering problem. Carson kicks them out.

Scene Two:
Carson closes up shop and walks past a vintage store located across the street. The store is run by a woman in her late fifties, Mrs. Withers, and her attractive young daughter, Nancy. Nancy comments to her mother how cute she thinks Carson is. Her mother does not agree. She thinks he’s too weird and that Nancy should stay away from him. In Carson’s defense, Nancy replies that he’s only shy.

Scene Three:

Carson drives to a pet store in his ’62 VW bug to buy food for his preying mantises. Then he goes home.

Scene Four:
Carson lives in a loft over an old warehouse. He listens for messages on his recorder – there aren’t any. He then greets and feed his preying mantises. For entertainment he keeps track of train numbers at the station [train watching]. Late night he watches infomercials on dog obedience.

Carson turns on the lights to the rest of the building, then he unveils his Avatar station: hi-tech computer gear rigged with a bungee cord harness.

Scene Five:
Carson chooses a “spider” avatar from a stable of pre-built figures.

“I’d like to think I’m as normal as the next guy,” Carson talks in VO; “but the fact is my life is better defined by the orchestrated emission of electrons than more traditional forms, like say, waiting for a crosswalk light in traffic.”

Carson enters the qualification round for the tournament game advertised on TV. He logs on as a “voyeur” to study the other competitors. Each competitor has a separate PO screen displayed. After he’s found out enough, Carson then chooses to be a “player” for the next round. Carson’s spider avatar is immediately engaged, and he easily defeats the attacker.

Carson fights a strong opponent. He is forced to abandon the spider persona and reveal his famous persona, thus letting other players know he’s in the game, and where. Carson defeats his opponent and qualifies for the tournament. He then must deal with messages from his fans.

An enthusiastic fan approaches Carson. He calls himself “Sting” and prides himself on being the best “riddlist” in the realms. Sting is the comic relief character. He wants to be on Carson’s team. Carson is apprehensive, “I’ll think about it.”

Carson’s VO: “A riddlist has no other rating than intelligence (IQ), and must solve puzzles rapid fire, as many as two dozen at a time. The riddles have more to do with memory than being unique, but they are clever (like crossword puzzles). Riddles can also take the form of answering trivia questions, a la ‘Trivial Pursuit.’ Basically, it’s an exercise in recall. These kind of one purpose avatars must be protected because they have sacrificed their own ability to survive for the high ‘chance’ rating in their chosen attribute.”

Carson then meets his former cyberspace wife, Melody, “Carson! It’s been a long time.”

When Melody first left Carson, he was devastated and hasn’t played the game for a long time. This is his first time back in a real head-to-head competition. He’s been out for over a year.

Carson responds, “Yes, it has.”
“it’s good to see you. I feel like old times. My skin is tingling. I should be asking where you’ve been?”
“Around,” says Carson. “Why are you here?” he asks.
“To play the game, of course.”
Melody tells Carson that she failed to qualify and wants to know if Carson could see his way to letting her go in with him.
“I don’t think that would be a good idea,” says Carson as he walks away.

Scene Six:
Carson enters Mohammed’s shop to stock up on supplies for the tournament.

Carson VO:
“Mohammed is a collector and a hoarder. In real life he probably collects stamps or coins, or possibly baseball caps from auto parts stores. In cyberspace he collects magic items and artifacts. Cyberspace is much too large for anyone to know everybody, but I know as many personas as anyone, and as far as I knew, Mohammed probably has the largest and most complete collection. I often go shopping at his mercantile to see what new powers are available. Mohammed doesn’t play to win, he’s entranced by the opportunity to find new stuff to collect since newly opened lands usually provide a lot of rare or unknown items. Those treasures he can’t carry he will hide and create a map for retrieval later.

“Mohammed is an enigma because magic treasure equates to manna, and he has a lot of it, but he does not exploit the advantage. Because Mohammed has such a large reservoir of manna to draw from, I suspect he could probably drain any other attacker. But that would cost manna, lots of manna, and many of Mohammed’s precious magic items would have to be converted to manna and thereby lost. Merchants are like that. That’s why the big winning players rarely form an alliance to defeat one of them: it’s too difficult, and then another source of manna and magic items is gone. It’s been done though, to a dishonest or cheating merchant: serves as a kind of checks and balances – we “players” leave the “merchants” alone, and in return, they remain honest and do not compete with us too much in the games. Mohammed has high “player” ability, he just doesn’t have the motivation or inclination to win.”

Carson approaches Mohammed to join his team. Mohammed declines. Carson gets impatient and accuses Mohammed of, “sitting on his treasures like a giant spider protecting its prey.”

Mohammed laughs, “I’ll tell you a secret my old friend: it is not good business practice for others to think one owns too much, for then greed overcomes fear. On the other hand, one should not be disdained for owning too little, because then overconfidence displaces courtesy. I want potential robbers to suspect they might lose their right arm to obtain the meager furnishings my humble abode might provide.”

A thug avatar enters Mohammed’s shop and approaches Carson. He hands a scroll that warns Carson not to participate in the tournament. As the thug exits the shop, he casts a puzzle spell that locks Mohammed and Carson in the shop.

After struggling unsuccessfully to escape, the lock is suddenly opened. In the doorway stands Sting, “I thought you could use a little help,” he smiles, “so am I on the team?”

Carson laughs, “You’re in.” Mohammed then turns to Carson, “Count me in too.”

Scene Seven:

The next day, Carson works around the comic shop as the TV announcers in the background talk about the tournament (updates/news from qualifying round). Carson decides to close early and go home to practice.

Scene Eight:

In his loft, Carson gets a visit from two thugs who want him to allow their guy to win for gambling reasons. They are there to re-emphasize the message delivered at Mohammed’s store. Carson asks accusingly, “How’d you know where to find me?”

The first thug responds, “Our kind of money has eyes, Pilgrim.”

The second thug interjects, “Calm down, after we’ve talked, I think you’ll be inclined to appreciate this meeting. We represent a certain party that has a vested interest in winning this tournament, and we expect your full cooperation.”

The second thug finishes, “Don’t be in the winner’s circle.” Then he whacks Carson on the head with a blackjack.

The camera goes black.

Carson wakes up to the beeping of his alarm. He feels his sore head, gets up and runs to his Avatar station. Everything is there. Carson suits up and gets ready for “Day One” of competition.

Scene Nine:

All competitors are welcomed and told that the goal for level one is to pass through a designated portal. Carson, Mohammed and Sting proceed to enter the realm and battle other competitors successfully. The three spot the portal in the distance. It is guarded by a large ogre who is currently in the process of crushing the skull of another competitor.
Carson’s VO: “An ogre, a persona that has only strength. Some players use all of their rating on Strength. An ogre is an example of raw power, with barely enough dexterity and intelligence to exist, but the perfect solution to guarding an unmoving portal.”

Carson and the ogre, Jakarta, are familiar with each other. Carson says, “You must allow me and my cohorts to pass Jakarta.”
“I fear I cannot,” replies the ogre, “My master’s onus is upon me.”
“Who is your master?” asks Mohammed.
“That too is within my stricture.”
“You know there can be but one outcome of this confrontation,” warns Carson.
“Though I know that may be true, I cannot contradict my Master’s bidding. The worst you could do to me in this realm is nothing compared to what they would do with me in real space.” Jakarta places himself firmly in the portal’s access. Carson approaches slowly, his body gradually metamorphosing. His forehead expands. His brows thicken. He grows and inch, six inches, a foot, over a meter. His shoulders bulge. His arms and legs thicken and distort. His back hunches and extends. Carson’s changed form is horrific as the ogre.
“Jakarta. You know you must yield,” Carson pleads in a deep, gravelly voice, “This is your last chance.” In response, Jakarta jumps to grapple with the still smaller Carson, but Jakarta’s great strength is of no avail. They grapple for a moment, Carson’s convoluted body seems immobile. Jakarta is slowly bent over and crushed. The popping of straining muscles signals the ogre’s demise. Jakarta screams insanely as he shrivels up in a cloud of smoke and evaporates out of existence.

In an extremely monstrous, low growl, Carson says, “I knew him from the old days. It is such a pity he comes to this.” Carson, Mohammed and Sting step through the portal and a graphic appears congratulating them on completing “Day One” of the tournament.

Scene Ten:

Carson enters the vintage clothing store. Shyly he glances over to Nancy, who returns a warm smile. His stuttering speech hinders swift conversation. Carson pretends to shop, while building up the courage to approach Nancy. Nancy’s mother steps in front of him. “If you’re not going to buy anything then I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”

Carson stutters as he attempts a reply. Feeling flustered he leaves the store. Nancy calls after him and tries to follow but her mother grabs her arm, tells her to, “Finish up!”

Scene Eleven:

Carson enters the “Curator’s Café.” While scanning the room, Caron’s VO describes the Café (its purpose and why people go there.) He notices a voluptuous Avatar, Destiny. He approaches here; they start up an intimate conversation.

In a VO, Carson talks about how easy it is for him to talk in the Realms, and also how rare it is to get such personal information. He goes out of the ordinary, asks to meet her in “real life.” Surprisingly, she gives him her phone number and disappears.

Scene Twelve:

Carson meets Destiny in person. They have an awkward journey to a motel.

From the bedroom we see Carson entering without his pants, and rapidly undressing. With his underwear still on, he jumps into bed and pulls up the covers. He has been waiting quite a long time for Destiny’s reappearance. “Destiny?” he calls quietly.

There is only silence. Carson slides to the edge of the bed and wraps a blanket around himself. Tentatively, he peeks through the doorway. “Destiny?” he calls a little louder. He walks into the small living room. Everything appears the same as they’d let it. He tries the front door – it opens. Shaking his head he looks around the room for any hint as to her disappearance. An apprehensive look pervades his face as he spies his pants laying on the couch.

“Don’t let it be so crass,” he whispers to himself. Quickly, he grabs up his pants and finds his wallet. Opening the billfold he counts his money and says, “It’s all here, at least she’s not a thief…” Then comprehension dawns on him. “It can’t be…” He fiddles with the wallet, looking for his social security card, driver’s license, library cars, but anything with personal I.D. numbers is gone.

Carson’s VO: “Every persona has a password to individually identify themselves, otherwise unscrupulous players might “log on” as you and steal points, or worse yet, kill off your persona. Most people I know are rather cavalier when choosing their password; men are especially prone to something easily remembered, like their middle name or social security number. I’m not that bad but I’m afraid I could probably have been more creative. I use my middle name spelled backwards followed by the first three digits of my social security number. I don’t think it’s that obvious, but why else would Destiny rifle through my stuff.

Scene Thirteen:

Carson leaves through the front door of the hotel and hurries down the street. The rain is starting to fall when he gets on the bus. While inside the bus he hears lightning then rain starts to pound heavily on the window.

From inside Carson’s loft we hear a key in the lock, then the door burst open and a totally soaked Carson rushes in. With no preliminaries, Carson flips on the lights, goes to the computer’s hiding place and proceeds to “log on.”

When he tries to access his persona, his worst fears are confirmed. The message is, “AVATAR NO ACTIVE.” He tries again and again. There is a note from the thugs telling him it’s over. All of his other personas result in the same message. “Damn! Damn! Damn! Damn. Damn,” is his only response as he lays his head on the keyboard in total dejection and frustration. Carson is “dead” in the Realms.

Slowly Carson gets mad and wants revenge.

He builds anew avatar.

Scene Fourteen:

“Day Two” of the tournament. Mohammed and Sting wait impatiently for Carson. The announcer describes the goal of level two. Carson shows up in his new persona, a wicked looking Mantise avatar, and tells Mohammed what happened. Consoling Carson, Mohammed supplies him with the necessary manna to compete.

Carson amasses manna by ruthlessly slaughtering the competing Avatars. Sting and Mohammed are awed by his skill. H completes “Day Two” of tournament and repays Mohammed handsomely.

Scene Fifteen:

Carson is still “jacked in” and fully concentrated. A creaking floorboard outside his door causes him to cock his head.

The door of his loft is kicked open and the two gun-wielding thugs storm in. They run into Carson’s computer area, everything is still turned on, but it is vacant. They run over to an open window that leads to a fire escape. Looking outside they can see no sign of Carson.

Scene Sixteen:

Carson carries a portable computer into a train station. He has a cyberglove which substitutes for the bungee harness. In a VO, Carson tells us he can’t stay too long at one “trunk” or his “web connection” will be traced.

He finds a phone booth and looks up a number. Nervously he dials the number, “Hello?”

Scene Seventeen:

Carson knocks on a door. Nancy answers. She lets him in. Carson makes a lame excuse as to why he is there. Nancy simply assumes he likes her – she invites him in.

While Nancy is freshening up, Carson surreptitiously sets up his portable avatar rig and jacks in.

Scene Eighteen:

Melody shows up and comments on Carson’s newly exhibited viciousness in the last round. Melody once again petitions Carson to join the team for the final round. Carson is ambivalent towards Melody accompanying him but he feels the extra help might be necessary.

It was Melody’s idea to separate with Carson. She suggests they get back together. They never have met personally.

Carson is distracted by Melody and stays on-line longer than he should.

Scene Nineteen:

Carson’s concentration is broken by a window shattering above him. Looking outside, he sees the gun-toting thugs running from their car toward the house. In the back seat of the car, Carson notices Destiny glaring at him viciously. Nancy runs into the living room, “What’s happening?” she exclaims innocently.

“We’ve gotta get out of here!” yells Carson. The two escape out the back door and flee in Nancy’s car as the sun rises.

Scene Twenty:

Carson and Nancy lose the thugs and Destiny in a car chase. Carson uses Nancy’s car phone to jack back into the game. He tries to haphazardly explain what’s happening. Nancy’s incredulity evolves into anger.

Scene Twenty-One:

Final day of tournament. The ultimate goal for level three is announced to the surviving competitors. Carson re-groups with his team in cyberspace, including Melody. Mohammed strongly disapproves of Melody’s presence – they have never gotten along.

Mohammed says, “She’s a distraction. This game’s going to end right here for us if you can’t at least apply your full attention.”

Carson defends Melody and warns Mohammed not to second guess him.

Melody seems sincere and encouraging during game play, applauding Carson’s skills and sympathizing with his weaknesses.

Scene Twenty-Two:

The thugs catch up to Carson and Nancy. A car chase ensues through downtown Portland while Carson continues to play. Nancy is humorous in her surprise and excitement.

Scene Twenty-Three:

During competition, Carson is forced to split up from the group while engaging other competitors. Sting’s avatar is killed while attempting to solve the final puzzle. This is due to someone’s suspected betrayal, Melody’s or Mohammed’s.

Mohammed figures out that Melody and Destiny are the same persona.

Mohammed and Melody battle.

The audience knows who is the spy: Melody

Carson returns to find his teammates battling and Sting’s corpse on the floor.

Scene Twenty-Four:

Carson is forced to simultaneously play the game and help Nancy escape the thugs. We see through Carson’s VR glasses a double exposure of the hazardous car chase and the cyberspace battle.

Scene Twenty-Five:

Carson apparently kills Mohammed’s avatar because he thinks Mohammed is the spy who defeated Sting.

Unknown to the audience, Carson and Mohammed have really exchanged avatars so that Melody/Destiny expends her overwhelming power on who she thinks is Carson.

Carson knew that Mohammed was not the spy because he would never have voluntarily expended the points required to defeat Melody/Destiny unless forced to by her attacking him.

Melody/Destiny says, “Normally, you’re the innocuous little snake, invisible until you sink your fangs in at the end.”

Carson then defeats Melody/Destiny and uses his “purge” spell that removes her persona from the game forever.

Mohammed reappears after the battle and says, “I’ve expended a great deal of my precious collection of manna but I’ll more than make up for it with the haul this realm provides. It will take me dozens of trips just to gather all of the spoils I’ve hidden away. When I restock my shelves, my customers will climb over each other to get these new spells and powers I’ve discovered.”

Carson and Mohammed cross the threshold to victory.

Scene Twenty-Six:

Carson, flush from his victory, is still in danger from the thugs and Destiny. A black sedan pulls in front of Nancy’s car. She slams on her brakes, almost hitting the car. The thugs’ car rear-ends Nancy’s car.

Three dark-suited men wearing sun-glasses jump out of the sedan. Initially Carson thinks they are after him until they apprehend the thugs. They then approach Carson and Nancy. One of they says, “You two can come with us.” He displays his Secret Service badge and explains that he’s here to protect Carson and that his assailants are in custody.

The two thugs and Destiny are handcuffed and ushered into an unmarked government car. Destiny swears revenge and curses Carson. Another car drives up. Out steps a large man in a suit. “Carson!” exclaims the man.
“Who are you!?” asks Carson.
“I’d like to consider us friends. I’m special agent Rafsanjani.”
“Mohammed?!” responds Carson.
“If you had told someone these goons were harassing you, we cold have helped you out earlier. I monitor the Realms for just such scumbags. I suspected something from the first night in my shop but could prove nothing. Unfortunately for them, these bozos threatened me on-line while I was wearing your avatar, thinking I was you. Bad mistake: you won’t be bothered again. We’re closing down Destiny’s operation and everyone connected to it.”
Carson looks chagrined.
“Don’t worry about it kid,” responds Mohammed, “You’re not the first person she’s conned but you will be the last.”

Scene Twenty-Seven:

Carson throws the winning CD into a box with lots of other winning CDs. He locks up his loft and walks outside where he meets with a smiling Nancy. As Carson and Nancy walk away he’s not stuttering. The pass by a refuse bin and Carson tosses his laptop into it but the audience knows he’ll be back.