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The Spam of Belial

(was: => GET PAID TO WATCH TV <=)

Inside a small, cheap apartment. A man sits at his computer. He types away busily, happily surfing the net, enjoying its benefits. Then his eyes widen in astonishment, and his jaw drops at what he sees on the screen. He groans in misery.

MAN: No . . . no . . . help . . . Oh, God! . . .

He tries to log off, but his fingers fumble the keys. He paws at the computer's power switch, but his hands go limp. Defeated, he slumps in his chair and gapes at the screen. As we watch his chin and forehead recede; from the way he howls and shrieks we know it must be a painful experience. Pimples and clumps of rank hair sprout on his face while his eyes become beady and somehow move closer together, creating a look of utter imbecility. He develops buck teeth, and as he rises from the chair he crouches over. His arms lengthen so that his knuckles scrape the floor as he schlepps around his apartment. He passes a potted flower, and something--either the stench of his body odor, or his fetid breath--causes the blossoms to wilt. He drools as he speaks:

MAN: Spam . . . me got make--spam!

He returns to his computer and commits deeds too horrid to describe.

Familiar music as the sun rises, then sets over Toronto.

Voiceover:
"He was brought across in 1228.
Preyed on humans for their blood.
Now he wants to be mortal again.
To repay society for his sins.
To emerge from his world of darkness.
From his endless forever night."

 

ACT 1: The apartment from the opening scene. It's a mess. Cops and forensic technicians are hard at work as detectives Nick Knight and Tracy Vetter come in. They look around and spot Natalie Lambert, who is busy scraping something off the computer keyboard. Nick and Tracy go to her.

Nick: What have you found, Nat?

Natalie: I'm not sure yet, Nick. It looks like some sort of reptilian skin, but I'll need to runs some tests.

Tracy: Ick. It sure doesn't look like human skin.

Natalie: No, I'm thinking that it's from the clothing that someone--either the victim or his attacker--wore.

Nick: Are we sure we have a murder here? There's no body.

Tracy: You heard the report, Nick. Horrible sounds, screams, noises like a fight, then--nothing. And the man who lived here has vanished--

Nick: And the place has been trashed.

Natalie: Either that, or the world's worst slob lived here.

Tracy wanders off to look for a clyew. Nick speaks quietly to Natalie.

Nick: Or--maybe not a slob.

Natalie: Are you on to something, Nick?

Nick: Just a hunch. Nothing human could make a mess this bad. Has the keyboard been dusted for fingerprints yet?

Natalie: Yes, and checked for tissue samples. Why?

Silently, Nick sits at the computer and switches it on. As he works Tracy walks up behind him and looks over his shoulder. Then she looks horrified, as does Natalie.

Natalie: Oh my God!

Nick: I was afraid of this. It isn't murder, it's spam.

Tracy: And look at what it says--

Nick: Don't read it!

Quickly, he shuts off the computer. Before the screen goes dead we manage to read what's on it:

From: "==>GET PAID" burgess@mail.idt.net
Subject: ==>GET PAID TO WATCH TV<==
Get paid to watch TV, our guide shows you how, it only costs you $19999999.95, and you know we're real honest spammers so we'll refund your money if you ask.

Tracy: Hey! I was reading that!

Natalie: You shouldn't read spam, detective. It'll stunt your growth, make your teeth fall out, grow hair on the palms of your hands, even make you support reviving the CDA.

Tracy moves away, and Nick looks conserned. Natalie bends closer to Nick to whisper to him.

Natalie: I know that look. This is more than just spam, isn't it?

Nick: I've seen this once before. And that name--

 

Flashback! July, 1945. Los Alamos, New Mexico. The Manhattan Project. Inside a hastily-thrown-up wooden shed, a team of nuclear scientists labor over a huge electronic machine. Nick is among them.

Richard Feynmann: This electronic computer gizmo isn't doing what you say it will, Oppie.

J. Robert Oppenheimer: It's the heat from all those vacuum tubes that's messing it up. Isn't that right, Dr. Chevalier?

Nick: The heat is overloading the relays. We need more cooling.

Edward Teller: What we need is to complete these calculations now. If we don't get the information soon, the A-bomb will not work. So if we need more cooling--

Shmuckley Burgess: What we need is more computing power!

Nick: We can't get it.

Feynmann: We already have all the electronic machines we can handle here.

Burgess: Then we need to link this machine to others! Telephone lines! All over the country! We could make a network!

The other scientists are impressed by this idea, but Nick is dubious. He takes Burgess aside.

Nick: Doctor, creating a bomb that can annihilate entire cities is one thing, but this network is something else.

Burgess: It's something better!

Nick: Are you sure the world is ready for it?

Burgess: *I* am ready for it! *I* will create it!

Nick: Why are you so insistent on--

He stops as he looks into Burgess's eyes, and sees an eerie red light glow there. Nick backs off, and returns to the present.

 

Natalie: Nick?

Nick: Just thinking. Tracy and I should get back to the shop and check some things. Tracy? Tracy?

He looks around and sees that she's standing behind him again. She's staring at the blank computer screen as though fascinated by it. Then she shakes herself out of her reverie.

Tracy: Huh? Oh, right. Let's go.

 

ACT 2: The 96th Precinct. Nick and Tracy are working at their desks.

Nick: Not much to go on. Our missing person is a loser named Hernon Feep. Used to make wheels for miscarriages and keys for fetlocks. Now handles programming for a TV syndicate. Brainless, unimaginative, would commit suicide if someone told him it was a good idea--are you feeling okay, Trace?

Tracy: Yeah . . . it's just . . . I have this weird feeling. Like something awful is going to happen to us this September.

Nick: Maybe you should take the rest of the night off.

Tracy: No, I'll pull through all right.

The phone rings; Nick answers it.

Nick: Knight . . . yeah, Nat? You're sure? I'll be right over.

He hangs up.

Tracy: What is it?

Nick: Natalie just ID'ed that tissue sample from the crime scene. It isn't human.

Tracy: Then--you mean--

Nick: It's part of a spammer's scaly hide.

Tracy: Ick! So this is a lot worse than just a homicide. You'd better fly, partner.

Nick: If you insist.

Nick gets up and leaves. Tracy does some more paperwork, then stops. She gives this strange shudder. In a seeming daze, she turns to her computer terminal, gets on-line, and hits a few keys. Then she stops.

Tracy: What am I *doing?*

She turns off her terminal, and goes back to her paperwork.

 

Nick drives through the Toronto night, and listens to LaCroix's Night Crawler broadcast on his car radio.

LaCroix: It is the urge to find something for nothing that makes fools of us. All things come at a cost, often a hidden cost. What of the man who tells us that we may grow wealthy by indulging our pleasures? What does he have to gain, and what are the costs of his offer?

One cost is to expose those who accept as fools. But we who are wise in the ways of spammers will not be deceived by claims that are too good to be true. Yet even so, do we not pay a price for the gullibility of those who fall victim to spammers and their frauds?

And what other costs might there be? Spammers do not spam merely for the sick joy they find in annoying the upright and robbing the witless. They seek to do other injuries to us, acts too foul to name. Acts that demand we destroy them, ruthlessly, pitilessly, efficiently.

 

The morgue. Nick and Natalie talk as she adjusts a microscope.

Natalie: You were there when they created the Internet?

Nick: No, the Internet came much later. Burgess talked about creating something like it, but fortunately the technology of 1945 wasn't up to it.

Natalie: Fortunately? It looks like Burgess had a good idea.

Nick: That's what General Groves thought at first . . .

 

Flashback, 1945. The Pentagon. Leslie Groves, the head of the A-bomb project, is in his office. He chomps on a cigar as he shows Nick some files.

Groves: I don't know why I'm showing you these files, Chevalier. But look. Oppenheimer's a Red, Feynmann is a practical joker, Teller--well, who knows what *he* is? But Burgess is as harmless as you are.

Nick: There's something strange about him, General. Instead of  working on the Bomb, he's linking together these electronic adding machines into some kind of network. He's recquisitioned thousands of miles of telephone cable, dozens of these new electronic computers, and almost unlimited manpower.

Groves: Yeah? You should be a detective, Chevalier. Look, something like this network could be a real boost to our project. Unless you've got proof he's working for the Axis, don't waste my time. Get back to work on the Bomb.

 

We hear Natalie's voice as Nick returns to the present.

Natalie: So what was Burgess up to? Trying to derail the Bomb?

Nick: No. I don't think even he knew why he did what he was doing--

Natalie's computer beeps. Nick stops, goes to it and checks it. He looks aghast.

Nick: Natalie--don't look. You're being spammed.

Natalie: Nick, it won't hurt if I look--

Nick: No! The spammer is after you!

He shuts off the computer, then finds that she stares at the screen as though hypnotized. At once Nick grabs her and picks her up. We hear a whoosh as he takes off with her.

 

Back at the 96th Precinct, Tracy sits at her computer. She types away, then giggles nastily.

 

ACT 3: The Raven. The joint is really jumping: drinkers drinking, dancers dancing, vampires necking. LaCroix stands at the bar with a goblet of his favorite vintage. He looks up and smiles as Nick enters, carrying Natalie in his arms.

LaCroix: Now, Nicolas, you know I never permit my guests to bring their own drinks.

Nick: This is an emergency, LaCroix. Natalie's been spammed.

LaCroix: I see. Put her in the back room until she recovers.

Nick: She may not recover, LaCroix. This spammer--it's Burgess.

LaCroix: The very first spammer? I recall his atrocious birth all too well.

Nick does, too . . .

 

1945. A lab at Los Alamos. The room is filled with huge heaps of electronic gear. A primitive teletype keyboard is wired into it, and Burgess sits at it, while Nick and Albert Einstein watch through a dingy window.

Burgess: Okay! We're connected to UC Berkeley--Chicago--Oak Ridge--Hanford--and . . . it's working . . . but . . . what should I do now?

Outside, Nick and Einstein watch and whisper as a strange transformation overtakes Burgess. Only scientific curiosity and strong stomachs let them watch.

Einstein: It could be the radiation. These new cyclotrons and reactors have created bizarre new particles and rays. Perhaps mutations and cancer are not radiation's worst effects. Who can say?

Nick: No. We can't blame this on something as innocent as atomic radiation. It has to be some deeper evil.

Einstein: Look! He's still alive! And he's sending his first message over the network! This could be a historic moment!

Burgess hammers away at the keyboard.

Burgess: Message . . . need tell people . . . something stupid! Yeah! Waste their time, mess 'em up! Be lotsa fun! Not like net should be use for smart stuff!

Einstein: This is horrible! How could he pervert this magnificent creation to such evil ends?

Nick: I don't know. It's as if evil needs to find news ways to  express itself.

Einstein: Or is he some sort of degraded freak of evolution? What is that hellspawned fiend doing now?

Burgess: This be good thing! Now--me teach other people do like me do! Hyuk-hyuk-hyuk! That be more fun than make sex with hand!

Einstein: Is there no limit to his depravity? We must stop him before he spreads this foulness to others! We--

He stops and looks at Nick, who has vamped out. He's shocked, but his genius lets him accept the situation.

Einstein: You are undead?

Nick: Yes. I will stop this monster.

Einstein: Do not be a fool. This is a new evil for a new age. We must find a new way to destroy it.

Nick: How?

Einstein: Let me think.

 

Back at the Raven, Nick looks to LaCroix as they carry Natalie into the rear room.

Nick: I remember how the first spammer was created. I don't know how he returned from death, but I remember how I defeated him.

LaCroix: You can hardly do *that* again. The question now is, how can you keep him from infecting others with his evil?

Nick: I'll hit him with everything I've got.

LaCroix: Will that be enough? This spammer is the very devil, Nicolas. Somehow he can possess several people at the same time.

Nick: No, he can only control them. Burgess' spirit may have poisoned others, but it seems to reside in the body of Hernon Feep. That's my target.

He lays Natalie down on a couch.

Nick: Watch her, LaCroix. Keep her away from computers. I don't know how Burgess infected her, but she's strong. She can save herself, if she has the time to fight off his influence.

LaCroix: Of course I shall watch her. The world cannot abide the presence of yet another spammer.

Nick leaves the room and goes to a different part of the Raven. He enters LaCroix's office, where he sits down at the computer and gets on-line.

Nick: I'll find you, Burgess . . . Yes. Your e-mail address is: burgess@mail.idt.net Forward your sick spam to postmaster@idt.net and to my own postmaster, too. You can slither, but you can't hide!

Nick finishes reporting the spammer. He's about to take a break when he notices more spam. He investigates it, and looks shocked.

 

At the 96th Precinct, Tracy hunches over her keyboard--and spams.

 

ACT 4: The back room at the Raven. Natalie sits up with a start, as though waking from a nightmare.

Natalie: Nick? Nick!

LaCroix enters.

LaCroix: Calm yourself. He is hunting the spammer and its minions.

Natalie: I've had nightmares--

LaCroix: Daymares, to be precise. It is to be expected. Would you care to use my computer?

Natalie: Not on your life! After the nightmares I've had about being turned into a spammer, I don't even want to think about computers!

LaCroix: Excellent. You have recovered from your problem.

Natalie: And now I have to help Nick. Where is he?

LaCroix: He needs no help. He has beaten this particular monster before. Perhaps he is too modest to have told you . . .

 

1945 again. Nick breaks through the shed window and grabs Burgess as he spams. Burgess struggles to get loose.

Burgess: No! Let me be stay on network! Let me be make--do--me no have word what say me be do on network! But it be what me be want do! What other want do!

Nick ignores his contemptible maunderings, and flies into the night sky with the execrable two-legged maggot. Nick takes this putrescent wretch to a top secret Army Air Force base near White Sands, where MPs guard hangars, B-29s, and one special building. Nick hypnotizes guards left and right as he enters the building, where the world's first three atomic bombs sit waiting for use. Nick finds ropes, straps and chains, and tightly binds Burgess to one of the looming shapes. As Burgess chatters compulsively, Nick picks up the A-bomb and takes to the air as he prepares to deliver the first atomic strike in history. The bomb is heavy, and he gains altitude slowly as he circles above New Mexico. Then, as Nick at last reaches an enormous altitude, he drops the Big One, and Burgess with it.

Nick: Say bye-bye!

Nick flies away at enormous speed while the Bomb plunges down into the night, with Burgess screaming for help. Back at Los Alamos, Albert Einstein has picked up an ax and is smashing Burgess' computer, effectively destroying the heart of the world's first computer network. As he completes his task General Groves and Oppenheimer burst into the building.

Groves: What's the meaning of this?

Einstein: Dr. Chevalier and I have taken steps to protect the world from something even more hideously destructive than the atomic bomb.

Oppenheimer: By destroying the network?

Einstein: It can be created again, when the human race is more mature. Perhaps then we will have the wisdom to control the impulses that seized Burgess. If not--if not, then we will face a  destructive force that makes atomic energy seem no more than a child's cap pistol.

Groves: Enough of this! Where's Chevalier? And Burgess?

A flash of brilliant light floods the building. Out the window, a glowing mushroom cloud mounts into the night sky.

Einstein: I believe that is them now.

Groves: You mean you two just wasted an A-bomb?

Einstein: Not wasted, General. It was put to good use.

Groves: But now we have only two left! We'll only be able to destroy two Japanese cities instead of three!

Einstein: Somehow that does not seem so terrible as you make it sound.

Groves: How am I going to explain this?

Oppenheimer: Well, General, we can always say we had to test a bomb to make sure our theories worked right. We can print up enough papers to make it look like we planned this all along.

Groves: Yeah! I'll get on it right away.

He leaves. Oppenheimer is about to follow him, but Einstein clutches him by an arm, stopping him.

Einstein: Not so fast. Dr. Chevalier and I have stopped Burgess, but the fiend may have survived.

Oppenheimer: Chevalier? He's a fiend?

Einstein: No, merely a vampire. Nothing when compared to Burgess. My calculations suggest that some fragment or residue of Burgess may have survived even the atomic blast. We must find and contain this residue. Come along.

 

LaCroix finishes telling his story to Natalie.

Natalie: You're saying that spammers can survive even a nuclear blast?

LaCroix: Impressive, aren't they? It seems there is no permanent cure for stupidity, no true way to totally remove it from the world. It can be pushed back, cornered, beaten down, repressed, but not eliminated. Even so, Nicolas will do all that he can to defeat this enemy.

Natalie: He'll need my help.

LaCroix: Leave him be. He must do this alone.

 

ACT 5: The 96th Precinct. It's deserted, a shambles; outside, police officers form a heavily armed cordon around it. Nick drives up in his Caddy, gets out, and hurries to Joe Reese.

Nick: Captain--

Reese: Nick, your partner has flipped out. She's in there, spamming away. She's holding all of Toronto hostage.

Nick: I can stop her. Let me go in and talk to her.

Reese: It's too dangerous!

Nick turns on the old hypnotic charm.

Nick: You know I have to do this. You understand.

Reese waves him on. Nick enters the building, and finds Tracy spamming away. Nick once again summons his hypnotic skills. Spamming has deranged Tracy's usual resister status.

Nick: It is too easy to spam just anyone.

Tracy: It be too much easy spam anyone . . .

Nick: You want to spam someone who really understands spam.

Tracy: Me spam one who know spam . . .

Nick: He is burgess@mail.idt.net. I know all about him. He--

Tracy lets out an anguished howl. Something seems to erupt from her body, an evil force being exorcised by exposure. Tracy collapses to the floor, then looks around as Nick helps her get up.

Tracy: Thanks, I needed that.

Nick: Feel like smashing Burgess? Repaying him for his crimes?

Tracy: No repayment is enough. I'll settle for simple justice.

Nick: Okay. Let's send him a message.

 

Deep inside a cesspool, the body of Hernon Feep hunches over a computer, while the decadent spirit of Shmuckley Burgess infests the world through Feep's grotesque body. Burgess chuckles.

Burgess: Me be make spam again! Me be free from where mean old vampire and nasty big-brain-types put me! Spam! Spam! Spam!

The beast pauses and reads its computer display.

Burgess: Message for me! It say . . . SPAMMERS! WIN A FREE TRIP! E-MAIL US NOW AND WE'LL SEND YOU A FREE, FREE, FREE TWO-WAY AIRPLANE TICKET! HAVE AN EXCITING TIME AT A GREAT VACATION SPOT! TRY A BRAND-NEW SPORT! HURRY, ONLY THE FIRST 5,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 SPAMMERS TO ANSWER WILL WIN A FREE TICKET!

Burgess chuckles, laughs, slobbers, drools--and answers.

 

Nick's apartment. The TV is playing a special news bulletin, while Nick and Natalie sit on the couch and watch.

Announcer: Vulcanologists are at a loss to explain today's eruption of Mount Vesuvius. To quote one scientist, Vesuvius has done some strange things, but this is the first time it's ever thrown up. We can't imagine what caused it.

Natalie: But we can.

Nick: I didn't know Burgess would have that effect on a volcano, but it's a small price to pay.

Natalie: So all's well. Tracy and I have recovered, Feep is dead, and Burgess is out of action.

Nick: Not forever. But he is contained.

Natalie: I'm surprised he fell for that spam.

Nick: Well, we sent him a two-way ticket to Mount Vesuvius. Being an idiot, he figured a two-way ticket was proof that he would come back.

Natalie: Even when you sent him bungee-jumping into the volcano?

Nick: Spammers aren't too bright.

Natalie: No. Nick, you still haven't told me one thing. Why do they call it spam?

Nick: I don't know. That's what Einstein called it, but he never told me why.

Natalie: Well, it isn't important.

 

TAG: 1945. White Sands desert. Einstein and Oppenheimer wander around with canteens and a picnic basket. Then Einstein whispers to Oppenheimer.

Einstein: I need to use the little genius's room.

Oppenheimer: Third bush on the right.

Einstein: On the ground? I was not raised in a barn!

Oppenheimer rolls his eyes, but then digs into the picnic basket and hands something to Einstein.

Oppenheimer: Here, use this empty Spam can.

Einstein hastens behind a bush. Then Oppenheimer sees something small and disgusting scuttle across the ground. He chases it, grabs it with a pair of tongs, and carries it to Einstein, who has just emerged from behind a bush with a full can.

Einstein: Those beady eyes! The empty head! It's the residue of Burgess! Quickly, don't let him get away!

Oppenheimer plops the loathsome creature into the Spam can. Amid sticky sloshing noises, Einstein claps the can's lid shut. The two great scientists seal the can with tape, glue, string and wire, while Burgess seeks to escape his prison. They bury the can beneath a huge rock.

Oppenheimer: Some day he'll get loose.

Einstein: We have done all we can. When Burgess gets loose again, others will have to do all they can as well.

 

LaCroix's voiceover: Flown with arrogance and stupidity, at terminals and with laptops, wander forth the spam of Belial, to plague us until we crush the vermin. Paradise Lost? No. Milton never said that--but he should have.

Fade to end theme and credits.



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Last modified: April 10, 2006