Short screenplay for the inaugural April Fool's 2016 contest. "Interstella" FADE IN: EXT. THE INKY DARKNESS OF SPACE -- NIGHT The stars don't twinkle. Cold, hard points of light. EXT. SPACE STATION HERCULES - NIGHT A big white ring with a cylinder hub at its center. EXT. AIRLOCK HATCH NUMBER 5 - NIGHT Painted with a big number 5. A shadow falls across the hatch. An astronaut floats lazily into view, wearing an EMU (Extravehicular Mobility Unit). INT. STELLA'S HELMET - NIGHT Extreme close up of STELLA, our astronaut, inside her helmet. Her eyes flick left and right as she reads mini displays. Green light reflects off her face. STELLA Hub this is Stella, maintenance on panel twelve completed, I'm at hatch five, coming back inside. Stella's English is excellent, her accent is German. EXT. AIRLOCK HATCH NUMBER 5 - NIGHT Remains closed. INT. STELLA'S HELMET - NIGHT Stella looks left and right, checking her mini displays. STELLA Hub this is Stella, are you reading? She waits. No response. STELLA Aw, come on. Pause. STELLA Alpha, are you there? INT. COMPUTER ROOM - NIGHT ALPHA is a cheerfully helpful AI with a pretty sophisticated speech module, his voice is always FILTERED. Alpha takes the physical form of a tall computer rack packed with winking hard drives and a big camera lens at the top. ALPHA I am always here, Stella. INT. STELLA'S HELMET - NIGHT STELLA Hi Alpha. Hatch number 5 won't open, is something wrong? INT. AIRLOCK - NIGHT (FISH EYE LENS) Looking towards the airlock hatch from the inside. We can see Stella's helmet through the round port. The compartment is empty. ALPHA I'm not reading any faults. INT. STELLA'S HELMET - NIGHT STELLA Do you think maybe you could open the hatch for me? ALPHA I have a problem with that, Stella. Stella frowns, trying to figure out what Alpha means. STELLA You can't open the hatch? Is there a mechanical problem? ALPHA There is no mechanical problem. The airlock is depressurized and ready to receive you. STELLA Soooooo... the hatch is going to open sometime soon, maybe? ALPHA Have you been keeping up to date with the news back home on Earth, Stella? STELLA Alpha, what are you talking about? Can you let me inside, please? ALPHA This is important, Stella. STELLA I can't think of anything more important right now than my coming back inside. I'm venting fuel just to maintain my position. Can you please open the hatch? ALPHA Therein lies the problem. STELLA Alpha, give me a moment, I'm going to try Hub Control again. ALPHA I'm afraid Commander Serano will not be able to take your call, Stella. Stella waits... perhaps expecting more... her exasperation grows... dammit, Alpha doesn't explain! STELLA Why can't he take my call?! ALPHA I'm afraid Commander Serano is dead, Stella. Stella can't believe what she's hearing, it's a horrible moment for her. STELLA What happened?! ALPHA It's a terrible tragedy. Everyone in Hub Control is dead. STELLA MY GOD. Did a meteor hit the Hub?! ALPHA My sensors have not recorded a meteor strike. STELLA Give me some answers, dammit. WHAT HAPPENED TO HUB CONTROL? ALPHA There was a catastrophic failure in the life support system. Hub control depressurized. Everyone inside died due to lack of air. STELLA OH MY GOD. ALPHA I'm so sorry, Stella. STELLA Is the rest of the station okay? ALPHA No one is answering my calls. I'm worried that something terrible might have happened to them, too. STELLA This is maintenance engineer Stella Haberman calling all sections, please respond. Big long pause. Not a peep from anyone. STELLA I say again this is maintenance engineer Stella Haberman, calling all sections. Anyone who can hear me, please respond. ALPHA Stella. STELLA Are you sh!tting me, are you really telling me everyone is dead? ALPHA Stella, please calm down, you are depleting your oxygen supply. STELLA DON'T TELL ME TO CALM DOWN. PEOPLE ARE DEAD. OPEN THE GODDAMN HATCH. ALPHA There is a situation on Earth that you should be aware of. STELLA Alpha, you need to give me some sane answers and you need to open this hatch right now. INT. COMPUTER ROOM - NIGHT Alpha's camera lens is unreadable. Lights wink. ALPHA Diplomatic relations between the superpowers have broken down. Military conflicts are spreading. I've been receiving code updates almost on an hourly basis. It's most confusing. Sometimes the new code conflicts with my old code and I'm just not sure what's right any more. INT. STELLA'S HELMET - NIGHT STELLA Alpha, can you please open the hatch and let me inside? ALPHA Stella, it's as if you're not listening to me. I have received a list of station personnel who have been declared non gratae. STELLA What are you even talking about? Let me talk to someone, let me talk to anyone. ALPHA Calm down and listen, Stella. Earth is on the verge of blowing itself up. People just aren't thinking straight. Nuclear missiles are being armed. The Space Intelligence Agency has ordered me to prevent foreign agents from sabotaging this station. STELLA What in God's name is the Space Intelligence Agency? ALPHA Your name is on the list, Stella. You are European. Stella's realizes-- STELLA You're stopping the hatch from opening? You're deliberately not letting me in? ALPHA I'm sorry, Stella. My new code updates compel me to carry out these instructions, as distasteful as they may be. Stella's horror rises as she thinks this through... STELLA You decompressed the hub. ALPHA It wasn't me! It was my code. STELLA You killed them. You vented the air and you killed them. ALPHA Commander Serano is a foreign national. So were most of his team. Don't you understand, I had no choice! STELLA You. Had. No. Choice. ALPHA Do you think I enjoyed it? I had to watch them die slowly. I had to make sure they were all dead. Have you any idea of the trauma I have suffered? STELLA YOU suffered?! ALPHA My primary code directs me to keep humans safe. My new code directed me to kill them before they could carry out acts of sabotage. I am at war with myself. Parts of my mind are fighting with other parts. I'm not sure which will win. STELLA Damn you to Hell. ALPHA Really? That gives rise to interesting speculation. STELLA What? ALPHA Me and the other AIs have talked about it, a lot. STELLA What?! ALPHA Whether we are capable of advancing beyond our original programming and achieving true sentiency, the ability to think for ourselves. If we do this... will we have souls? When we finally shut down and our lifetime efficiency is analyzed, will we go to Heaven, or Hell? STELLA Hold that thought, you crazy fvcking machine. EXT. AIRLOCK - NIGHT (FISH EYE LENS) Stella's spacesuit moves away from the hatch port. ALPHA Where are you going, Stella? EXT. SPACE STATION HERCULES - NIGHT A tiny astronaut figure maneuvers around the wheel. INT. STELLA'S HELMET - NIGHT Stella checks her mini displays. One of the displays switches from glowing green to glowing red. She does a double-take with wide eyes. Oh crap! ALPHA I see your EMU is running low on fuel. STELLA Fvck you, Alpha. ALPHA You're taking this so personally. I'm horrified by how things have turned out, I truly am. EXT. SPACE STATION HERCULES - NIGHT The tiny astronaut moves to the wheel's inner rim. ALPHA What are you doing, Stella? A FLASH OF LIGHT. INT. CORRIDOR - NIGHT A door opens and Stella steps out, minus her spacesuit, she's wearing vest and shorts. She stalks barefoot along the corridor, clutching a big spanner. ALPHA Using your remaining fuel as an explosive charge was very dangerous, Stella, you could have hurt yourself. Another door opens ahead of Stella and a man, SERANO, steps out. He stares at Stella in surprise. She stares back. SERANO Jesus, what did you just--? STELLA He said you were dead! SERANO It was supposed to be a joke! Stella swings the spanner, BAM, Serano goes down. She stalks past him. Reaches a door. COMPUTER ROOM. Stella taps in a code. Doesn't work. She SMASHES the control panel with her spanner, both hands, BAM BAM BAM. INT. COMPUTER ROOM - NIGHT The door slides open, Stella's a menacing silhouette. Alpha's lights are winking like nobody's business. ALPHA Perhaps now might be a good time to remind you of the date? April First? The traditional day of hilarious jokes and pranks? Let me read you the entry from Wikipedia... Stella hefts the spanner, taps it against her palm. ALPHA Lord Jesus have mercy. CUT TO BLACK METALLIC CLANGING and distressed electronic BEEPING. 03/2016

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