Friday, 3 March 2017

Last Dog Standing ~ Episode 12

(previous episode)
In the near future, Daisy takes part in an isolation experiment for five years only to find a very different world waiting for her when the doors open... 

(comedy/horror/sci-fi/distopian. All rights reserved) Part twelve of many.

Resetting Expectations...

You've overridden the computer programme? Daisy asks, almost in awe of the small, slightly battered robot. 'Yes, Fermat programmed me to be able to access all systems on board. For when we are... were going to be living in it. Is he dying?'

Outside, Fermat is screaming and screaming until one of the baying pack moves up gingerly approaching the lead dog and clamps its jaws around Fermat's neck. There is a strangled gurgling noise as the jaws meet in the middle and the screaming stops.

'I should imagine so.' Douglas shudders slightly at the thought of what might be happening outside. Having no windows and soundproofing on the ICL now seems like a brilliant bit of design engineering. 'Can you get the ICL moving?'
'Yes but you are very low on water, power and food. The bio-digesters in the system were only engineered for a five year tenure. We should go to the garage before we travel anywhere.' T-Ladi runs a diagnostic on the ICL's service history. 'The ICL could do with a deep clean, as well. Many, many of its cleaning schedules were not complied with. This is a breach of rules and you have triggered penalty payment clause 4579, Daisy.'
'I'm guessing the prize never happened.' Daisy replies, waving to the door. 'So the penalty doesn't really matter.'

'Wait a minute T-Ladi, did you just say we needed to go to a garage?' Douglas asks. 'You do know that civilisation as we know it has ended?'
'Yes. I do not mean a petrol station. The garage is a purpose built ICL utility workshop, very near here. Fermat sealed it after Downfall Day. We can restock and clean the ICL. Make any repairs, I registered there is some strange metal framework wedged under the chassis as you threw me in through the door.'
Guiltily remembering Douglas' bike, Daisy moves the conversation on. 'What about the computer programme?'
'It will be fine, I will simply reboot the system and it will start running as though from the start of the experiment again, wiping all memory of the last five years.'
'Wait!' Daisy can't explain why it matters but losing the only thing she has shared the last five years with, even if it is only a piece of particularly belligerent computer code, seems the same as erasing part of her herself . 'Do you have to wipe its memory?'
'Well,' T-Ladi pauses for a moment and tries to analyse Daisy's facial expression but fails. Human faces are still too tricky and Fermat would not let her practise on him. 'I could reset the clock instead, it might override the safe mode.'
'Well, this sounds like a plan, we travel to the ICL workshop restock the caravan with enough supplies for us all to make it to New Cumbria...'
'Why would you travel to New Cumbria?' T-Ladi asks, surprise registering in her synthetic voice.
'Because they are building a new country there...' Before Douglas can continue, T-Ladi starts to laugh.
'What's so funny!' Douglas folds his arms and slumps into the nearby sofa.
'New Cumbria is a piece of Government propaganda to try and make humans feel more comfortable about the fall of civilisation. Something to cling to. The hope was people would survive in small pockets across the country and try to rebuild with the thought of a power base in the mountains. There isn't anything there. Maybe a few sheep.'
'How do you know all this?' Douglas asks annoyed, first it was Daisy and now a robot is laughing at his plan.
'Fermat hacked into the public broadcast software. He found the source files and the outline of emergency planning. There was no plan.'
'No New Cumbria?'
'No. No new nothing. That is why Fermat went to great lengths to get the ICL back. He had a plan.'
'Which was?'
'Live in the ICL.'
'And....' Douglas asks a small flame of hope flickering in his mind at the thought of a new plan.
'No, that was it.'
'Just live in the ICL? ... Forever?' Daisy can feel her blood pressure rise, five years was bad enough but forever?
'No, just until his death. We ought to get this vehicle to the garage, I shall drive us there now.' With that, T-Ladi unplugs herself from the docking port and makes her way through to the cockpit.

Daisy sits next to Douglas on the moulded sofa and tries to make sense of the last day. But there is no sense to it. Nothing makes sense any more.
'I was going to be rich and famous. Write a book, live on a island paradise. Give regular interviews, maybe even a tour or two. And now, now I have to spend the rest of my life in this... this... egg powder and Sun-U-Like and there isn't even any cake....' Daisy stops making any sense and starts softly and inconsolably crying.
Douglas sighs, for a moment he wishes he was still on his bike, free, alone and with a clear plan to get to New Cumbria and start a new life. But it is much a dream as Daisy's imagined future is. The only thing that is real is this, here and now, the ICL and the slim chance they might survive for longer than most in the hi-tech cocoon of protection the capsule provides.

T-Ladi slowly manoeuvres the ICL back onto the road and keys in the location of the garage into the auto satnav. Then sets about overwriting the digital clock, resetting it to five years without overwriting the memory banks of the computer programme. It takes a few minutes but she is successful and the digital projection above the sealed doors in the living area suddenly flashes back into life, rolling back 1827 days in blur of light and starts counting down again.

05.12.366.24.60.60.... 05.12.366.24.60.59...

Monday, 20 February 2017

Last Dog Standing ~ Episode Eleven

(previous episode)
In the near future, Daisy takes part in an isolation experiment for five years only to find a very different world waiting for her when the doors open... 
(comedy/horror/sci-fi/distopian. All rights reserved) Part eleven of many.

T-Ladi opens the door to the express lift and stares at the corpses within. Just what Fermat thinks she is going to do with them, she has no idea. There is far too much bio-material to go into the paper waste incinerator or the food composting unit. Health and safety regulations mean they could not be stored in the walk-in food refrigerator without sealable, leak-proof body bags so where could she put them? T-Ladi runs through a list of the rooms in the underground ICLRF (Isolation Capsule Laboratory Resource Facility) but each one seems inappropriate to the task in hand. As she reasons through her options the lift doors slowly shut behind her and suddenly it seems obvious what she can do with them. She presses the button for ground level and the lift streaks upwards reaching the surface level in seconds. The door chimes softly and slides open onto the interior of a small, shadowy, long disused stone church. 
T-Ladi steps out and surveys the interior. It is cold and her footsteps echo across the old tiles. Running up the length of the small nave are two sets of wooden pews, some fallen against each other, here and there dappled light falls through dirty stained glass leaving streaks of mauve, red and green on the peeling walls. Where once was the altar, now is a stainless steel box full of wiring and computer circuitry, connecting the weather station, solar panels and small satellite dish to the ICLRF below.
T-Ladi drags the first corpse from the lift, through the church and out into the small graveyard, little more than a higgledy-piggledy line of ancient tombstones, the interred long forgotten and turned to dust. One by one, she lays mummified bodies over the graves, trying to straighten them as best she can so they lie neatly in a row. With the last body she pauses for a moment, wipes her hands on her overalls and sighs. She would cover them over later, for now it would have to do, at least they were finally laid to rest in an appropriate place.

Fermat stares at T-Ladi as she exits the lift. 'All the bodies out of the lift?'
'Yes, Fermat, all the bodies are out of the lift.'
'And the lift is clean?'
'Good. Now you need to plug yourself in and download all my research files, I need a portable back up.'
'Are we going somewhere?'
'Yes, finally we a getting out of this bloody hole.'

Seventeen Minutes Later...

Daisy grinds her teeth as she sticks her fingers in her ears to to try an mask the sound of Douglas peeing into the vase of synthetic flowers.
'I'm sorry but needs must...'
'Do you have to make so much noise, I can hear it with my fingers in my ears and you don't sound very sorry!'
'Well, I'm more relieved than anything...' Douglas wonders what to do with the vase and finds an empty built-in cupboard to stash it in. 'Finished.'
'Listen?' Daisy removes her fingers from her ears and notices the sudden quiet. 'We've stopped moving. Where are we?'
'And here we are!' The computer programme announces over the intercom.
'Where?' Both Douglas and Daisy ask simultaneously.
'At the new headquarters of SpaceLife Science. You two can now exit the ICL and have a nice life. Goodbye Daisy.' And with that the computer programme opens all the locks and seals on the doors and switches into safe mode. As the lights power down, the outer hatch door seals hiss and click open, Daisy and Douglas are free to step out into the warmth of a sunny morning. As the fresh air floods in through the open door, Daisy sighs, if she is going to die of plague, at least it will be outside and not sealed up in the ICL.
Douglas watches her leave, wondering what to do. He hesitates for a moment then follows, a thought occurring to him. 'Just where is the new SpaceLife headquarters?' But the computer programme does not answer and Daisy cannot hear him.

Daisy stands in the small graveyard staring at the mummified corpses laid neatly on top of the graves. Had they run out of room? Was this how it would end for her? A noise behind her makes her turn round as a synthetic humanoid walks over from the entrance of the church, wearing a flowery overall with a name badge. 'Hello, my name is T-Ladi. I am here to welcome you, Daisy Darruthers, to the SpaceLife Team's new headquarters.
Daisy stares at T-Ladi, then inspects the scratched and worn name badge. She can just about make out the words 'Tea Lady' on it. They had sent the tea lady to greet her?
'Why are these bodies here?' It occurs to Daisy the corpses are dressed in SpaceLife uniforms.
'Fermat asked me to remove them from the express lift so you would not realise that was how they were killed and then he would override the airlock protocol and squeeze the air out of you as you travel down thirty levels to the Isolation Capsule Laboratory Resource Facility to collect your prize. Then we can leave the laboratory and live forever in the ICL.'
Daisy listens in horror to the humanoid's explanation. 'And Fermat is?'
'Is waiting for you in the new headquarters. Welcome Daisy. Please follow me to the express lift.'
'Um. Maybe not.' Daisy turns to find Douglas at her side staring up at the church tower.
'Did you just hear that?'
''Yes and I think I know how this Fermat got us here. There's a satellite dish up there. Probably sent out a signal to the computer programme on board the ICL. These people have been dead for a while. Poor souls.' Douglas turns his attention to T-Ladi. 'They didn't die of the plague?'
'Oh no, we are not in the plague zone here and Fermat was very careful to route the ICL around the danger zone. He does not like germs, or flies, or other people much... I don't think he likes me, except when he is tired...'
'And he is in the church?'
'The facility is under the church.'
'And there's a lift to get down to it?'
'Yes, I will escort Daisy to it. This way...'
'I am NOT going to get in any lift..' Daisy walks away towards the ICL parked on the cricket field.
'Wait!' Dougal thinks rapidly. 'Could you override the automatic computer programme in the ICL?'
'I could yes. Fermat upgraded my systems to run the Resource Facility for him so he could concentrate on taking over the planet.'
'So you could drive it away from here?'
'Yes, Fermat and I will take turns with driving.'
'Or... Daisy, You and I could take turns.'
'Not Fermat?'
'No, he could stay here and take over the planet. It's very important work.'
'Yes, it is. Just us, no Fermat?'
'No, just us three and the automatic computer programme once we are free of the signal range.' Dougal points to the satellite dish.
'I can override the signal.'
'Good!' Dougal can see Daisy jumping up and down and pointing to something behind her from the corner of his eye and he turns, just in time to see a blur of matted fur and fangs launch itself into the air towards him.

For a moment Fermat cannot believe his eyes, he had followed T-Ladi up in the lift to see what was taking her so long to fetch Daisy from the ICL, only to find her chatting to some random man. He glances round the graveyard to find a weapon to deal with the stranger when he notices the bodies, neatly laid out on the graves. Fury pumps through his veins as he realises what T-Ladi has done and without waiting for reason to kick in, he snatches up a nearby rusted shovel and launches himself towards the stupid robot. As he moves he spies someone waving in the distance on the cricket pitch, near where the ICL is parked. It must be Daisy Durruthers but why is she waving?

During the day a pack of wild dogs sleep under the cricket pavilion, crawling in through a gap in the metal fretwork and hunkering down in the deep gloom under the wooden floorboards, only waking again at dusk for the night's hunt. But today is different and one or two of the hounds, woken by the whirr of the lift mechanism and the scrape of the church doors, idly watch as a machine shaped like a human drags body after body into the graveyard. From the smell, it is old meat, left to dry and now leather-blown, not worth risking a daylight attack. But then a vehicle pulls up nearby in the long grass and a couple of humans, fleshy and fresh, step out. One of the dogs whimpers, hackles rising and the rest of the pack wake, sensing urgency in the cries.
The lead dog flattens himself in the grass and crawls on his belly to the outer perimeter of the graveyard, hidden from the view of his prey. Now there is another human, equally as fleshy and fresh, emerging from the old church. The dog knows the rest of the pack will hang back till it attacks first. Then, they will pick them off, one by one. Three good kills will keep them fed for weeks.

The dog sinks his fangs into the outstretched arm of Fermat, just as Fermat is about to land a blow with the shovel on T-Ladi. Fermat screeches in pain and rage as the rusty spade clatters uselessly against a headstone and he falls, rolling over and over with the dog firmly attached to his arm.
Dougal is suddenly aware of blood-curdling howls from somewhere off in the long grass of the cricket pitch and he turns as the hair on the nape of his neck rises in horror and fear. He grabs T-Ladi around the waist and hoists her over his shoulders and starts running towards the ICL. In front of him, almost at the vehicle is Daisy and behind him is the sound of Fermat's screams and the baying dog pack.
He sprints faster, the baying pack gaining on him with every step. Ahead of him Daisy is hanging out of the door of the ICL, her hand reaching for him. He throws T-Ladi into the caravan, as Daisy grabs his outstretched arm and hauls him in, slamming the door button with her palm, screaming at the automatic programme to close the doors. Behind him the pack of dogs are almost upon the open door as T-Ladi slides over to a nearby docking port and connects up with the ICL. 'Override Protocol. Octopus. Pythagoras. Tortilla. Close exit hatch.'

The door slides shut with a pneumatic hiss as the first dog slams into the side of the ICL, baying and slathering, claws skittering over the metallic surface. Inside, Daisy, Douglas and T-Ladi huddle on the floor, trying not to think about what is happening to Fermat.
(next episode)

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Seventeen years later...

As the temperatures warm up and daffodils begin to emerge, Spring seems to be just around the corner and my thoughts turn again to the garden but this time, not with a year full of plans or planting schemes but in packing away the gardening tools and moving house. After seventeen years it will be strange to start afresh but we will take a lot of family memories with us from the garden.
It was never an elegant garden, not so much designed as emerging from an irregular, uncooperative patch of brambles, rubble and topsoil scraped over a patch of chalk and flint hill. Its saving grace was the closeness to woodland, inviting a never ending supply of wildlife to it and through it. From bats, newts, foxes, hedgehogs, frogs and spiders to voles, mice, slugs, snails, butterflies and ants; there was always something to look at. And the birds. Lots of birds. From owls to woodpeckers, bullfinches to long-tailed tits via buzzards, pheasants and fierce little wrens.
'Ripplestone Garden' will find a new home, a new space for family and friends and a new view in the South West, until then here's a very brief garden round up of the last seventeen years...

What we learn from
What we nurture and grow
What stand we take

These three things define us
And shape our world

Saturday, 31 December 2016

December 2016 ~ DVD round up

Black Sails Season Three (15)

A return to more thoughtful form for this series, as the British install a new Governor in Nassau and the pirates wonder what to do with the treasure (of Treasure Island fame), all culminating in a sea battle, a death and a promise of a grand finale in 2017. One of the best series to hit the small screen in recent years, this carries on being both brilliant and bonkers. Cast as long as a yard arm includes Toby Stephens, Luke Arnold, Zach McGowan, Hannah New, Jessica Parker Kennedy, Toby Schmitz and Clara Paget.

Five out of five shiny silver pieces. 

The Revenant (15)

Man gets mauled by grizzly, left for dead by colleagues, wastes rest of miserable life getting revenge. Miserable. And cold. Based on a book of a true story, Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Tom Glass.

Two out of five stars. 

Superman V Batman - Dawn of Justice (12)

I was so bored, I left the room....

No review, no stars...

Suicide Squad (15)

This comic caper follows on from Superman V Batman but, luckily, is a riot of action. A set of oddball criminals are used to create an elite force to take down a particularly tricky witch US intelligence officer Amanda Waller has lost control of... Visually gorgeous, funny and fast paced this plot weaves the characters back stories into it along the way. Starring Jared Leto as The Joker, Margot Robbie as his protégé, Harley Quinn, Will Smith, Viola Davis, Jai Courtney, Jay Hernandez, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Cara Delevingne, Joel Kinnaman and Karen Fukuhara all star.

Four out of five stars 

Spectral (12)

A special ops team steps in to deal with ghostly apparitions  terrorising a war zone in Moldova along with a DARPA specialist, tasked with working out what is going on.... military science fiction with a nice twist. This engages from the start and does not disappoint. James Badge Gale and Emily Mortimer star.

Four out of five stars 

Jason Bourne (12A)

Jason Bourne returns to tie up the loose ends of his past when former operative Nicky Parson contacts him after hacking into the CIA. Action packed spy thriller. Matt Damon, Tommy Lee Jones, Vincent Cassel, Julia Stiles and Alicia Vikander all star.

Three out of four stars


A Brazilian sci-fi dystopian series only on Netflix in UK but well worth looking out for. A set of young adults have to navigate a series of tests to become the 3% allowed to live in luxury on an island far from the grinding poverty of the Inland city. Watch in original with subtitles as the English dubbed version loses the atmosphere. A second series is planned. Bianca Comparato plays Michele, attempting to become one of the 3% and Joao Miguel plays Ezequiel, the charismatic leader in charge of the Process.

Five out of five stars equals 100% worth watching