Contents | May 2001
In This Issue (Contributors)
More on science and technology from The Atlantic Monthly.
From Atlantic Unbound:
Sage, Ink: "Unconventional Warfare" (February 16, 2000)
A cartoon by Sage Stossel.
The Atlantic Monthly | May 2001
pening shot of the Mall in Washington, D.C., seen from above through an office window. Then the focus becomes blurry.
Now showing continuously at a theater near you
by Ian Frazier
Sound of clicking keys on a computer keyboard.
KEYS: Click-click-click-click-click. Click-click-click. Click-click-click-click-click-click-click-click-click-click-click.
KEYS: Click-click-click-click. Click. Click.
The shot moves from the blurry window across a desk to show fingers poised above the computer keyboard. Just the ends of the fingers, not the whole hand. The fingers hover, slightly trembling, indecisive.
Close-up of an almost full cup of coffee next to the computer.
KEYS: Click-click-click. Click ... click ...
Shot of the fingers moving over the keyboard. Extreme close-up of right index finger moving slowly, slowly, to the Enter key. It pauses above the Enter key for several seconds. Then it hits the key.
Burst of loud, suspenseful music. Sudden close-up shot of computer screen. Flashing, in greenish computer type on the screen, the words ILLEGAL OPERATION ILLEGAL OPERATION ILLEGAL OPERATION
An alarm sounds:Wee-ooo wee-ooo wee-ooo wee-ooo ...
Close-up of holes in the computer speaker the alarm is coming out of. Shot of fingers moving quickly on keyboard.
KEYS: Click-click! Click-click-click! Click-click-click-click!
Close-up of a satellite in outer space with Earth in the background. The satellite has radio dishes sticking out on both sides, antennae, robotic arms, etc.
Close-up of satellite's control panel. A red light on it is blinking. The red light stops blinking. After a few seconds a green light goes on.
Shot of same computer as before. Close-up of coffee cup. Now it is about half full.
Close-up of computer screen. It is blank. Then moving geometric patterns appear on it, get smaller, and disappear. Again the screen is blank.
KEYS (confidently): Click-click-click-click-click-click.
More geometric patterns, but different ones this time. They move faster and vibrate excitedly and disappear. Then, with a tinkling three-note bell of welcome, the words ACCESSING DEFCON CODE FILES pop onto the screen. Close-up on these words until they're huge.
WHISPERED VOICE: Bingo!
Shot of microchip magnified 10,000 times. Sudden close-up of its circuitry. Burst of scary whang-ang-ang-ang-ang sound.
Shot of space station. It goes by the satellite of Scene 2. Close-up of satellite. Now many lights are flashing strangely on its control panel. One of its robotic arms begins to move.
Shot from an office window showing minarets, onion domes, and other foreign-looking tops of buildings.
Sound of clicking keys. These keys sound different—sharper, more sinister.
Shot of keyboard, with fingers moving on it. They are long and slender, with manicured red fingernails.
Close-up of computer screen. Jingling tambourine-rattle of welcome as the words file access defcon coding appear. Close-up on these words until they're huge.
WHISPERED VOICE: Bh'hatvan!
Shot of big room full of computers with nobody at them. Subtitle says THE PENTAGON. Shot goes unhurriedly along row after row of computer screens, all dark. After many rows it passes a screen on which the words UNAUTHORIZED ENTRY are blinking over and over. It goes back for a close-up on that screen. Somewhere, softly and forebodingly, a military band begins to play.
Shot continues down rest of rows of blank computer screens.
Split-screen shot of keyboards. On left, keyboard from opening scene; on right, keyboard from Scene 12. Ordinary fingers and red-fingernail fingers typing.
KEYS (on left): Click-click-click-click-click!
KEYS (on right): Cleck-cleck-cleck-cleck-cleck!
Typing goes on getting faster, accompanied by tense music. Scene lasts about half an hour.
Additional plot: shots of computer screens, fingers typing, frantic mouse-clicks, tidal wave, explosions, ringing phones, papers pouring from fax machine, beepers going off, etc.
Sudden terrifying shot of computer screen seen from below as if about to fall on you. Symbols flash rapidly across it as sound of typing and mouse-clicks becomes deafeningly loud. Nervous music rising.
Jarring full-screen shot of digital clock with glowing red numbers complete to the thousandth of a second. The numbers are moving, going backward to zero. The clock has about fifty-eight seconds on it.
Shot of fingers typing really fast.
Alternating shots of clock running down and fingers typing. Music reaches crescendo.
Suddenly clock stops. There are eleven thousandths of a second left.
Shot of Harrison Ford and Julia Roberts embracing.
Shot of satellite. All its robotic arms are retracted. It is orbiting peacefully and looks fine.
Shot of fingers turning off computer. This takes several minutes because of the steps involved. Finally screen goes blank.
Extreme close-up of right index finger moving to turn off little yellow-green light in right-hand corner below computer screen. Tired but relieved, the finger pushes the button. Gradually, the light dims.
Triumphant music as the credits roll.
Illustration by Istvan Banyai.
Copyright © 2001 by The Atlantic Monthly Group. All rights reserved.
The Atlantic Monthly; May 2001; Technothriller - 01.05; Volume 287, No. 5; page 94-95.