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Transcript - Season 3, Chapter 10



We hear the roar of CARPENTER and HAYWARD’S car; faint background noise of the city.




Suddenly it’s daybreak - and Glottage opens up to us like a wound.


The bypass bears us on over broken terraces and boarded-up temples, dead parks and lonely walkers.


When I was last in this city, I used to dream that my sacred river would rise up and drown these streets.


It almost looks as if I succeeded.


There’s no bomb damage that I can see, no signs of direct bombardment this far south, and yet you can see the war’s ruin and the war’s cost everywhere around us.


You can see it in the disrepair of the houses and shopfronts, the exhausted and unhappy faces of passers-by who are walking a little too fast and with a little too much urgency, and in the noisy brass-band confidence of the billboards selling victory announcements and aluminium air-raid shelters.


You can see it in closed-up stores and broken windows, and in the absences, too; the quiet market streets that would once have been bustling. The unoccupied corners.


Loudspeakers and placards overhanging checkpoints and guard-posts bark out commands to empty squares about the new laws on gatherings of more than four persons; the harm caused by statements or jokes that undermine the nation’s confidence.


Nobody is standing around long enough to listen to any of this, but we roll forward past the remnants of the riots that must have caused this new wave of vigilance - broken bottles, stones, and blood on the tarmac.


Perhaps I was wrong to expect such a dramatic annihilation, Wither Tides and river’s rise - because after all, this is the only way that something as grand as a city or a nation or an empire can ever die.


Starving, slow, and in terrible self-denial.


I look out and all I can think is that I no longer want to wreck this city; I no longer feel dwarfed by its towers and heights, frightened and furious in my own smallness and anonymity amongst the millions here.


I want to lie down in the ruins of Glottage, and comfort it as it bleeds to death.


I find, detestably, that there’s pity in my heart for the great and clumsy brute that killed my family.


The funny thing is this - the further in we go, the more the extent of the city’s injuries are concealed from us.


The billboards lose their war-fervour; they become glossy, international, resurrectionist.


‘Glottage is still open for business.’ ‘Through thick and thin, the Bank of the Wealth Creator will be here for you - with four new downtown branches.’ ‘Newly opened - the Silver Crane Wharf, commercial lettings.’


We begin to see road-sweepers and litter-pickers, functioning infrastructure.


In Glottage’s business district, amongst the skyscrapers and the grand avenues, the suited passers-by have learned to stroll again.


And you don’t have the sense of healing so much as a papering-over, a great pretence and performance that’s fraying at the edges - and the frays keep on working their way inwards.


Somewhere in the glass and concrete heart of this place, the deathly sickness proclaiming itself newly cured, we’ll find our contact. 


This is where we’ll find Adjudicator Shrue.


SHRUE groans in annoyance as their alarm goes off - and then picks up the alarm clock and tosses it across the room.



Perhaps five minutes later. SHRUE is cooking breakast. The now-familiar sound of an answering machine message.


The microwave comes to a halt in the background.


(Speaking haltingly into the phone)

Hey. Me again.


I know there’s been a lot of trouble with the phone lines lately. I don’t know if you’ve been experiencing the power cuts as well, but, uh, maybe you could take a moment and call me back?


It’d put my mind at ease.


I’ve got no reason to worry, I know you’re safe down there, it’s not like any harm could have come to you, but-


-but I need that comfort from you. If you’re willing to give it to me.


I’m going to be on the radio again tomorrow, if the girls want to listen.


I’m, um, I’m at this thing all day, I’m at the summit, but. You can leave me a message.


Leave me a message. Please? 


So I know you’re alive?


I’ve got no leverage, this is the only number they gave me, so you’ve - you’ve just got to call me back and tell me you’re alive.


Imagination’s going to start running wild otherwise.

SHRUE hangs up.


SHRUE steps out of their front door, locking it behind them, and heads to their car.

Overhead, we can hear the roar of warplanes, the thrum of helicopters - and the endless sound of adverts.


As SHRUE drives, a NEWS HOST on the radio blathers on.


-and another letter from Jo, no last name given, in Ciston Malreward: ‘We keep hearing that there’s a plan; we keep getting told to put our trust in the Legislatures to see us through this crisis. We’re days away from a ground assault over the channel; the southern farmlands are in tatters from constant bombardment and Glottage is next. Isn’t it about time to stop talking about enlistment and start talking about surrender?’


Thank you, Jo. I should restate the government line, as delivered to us this morning, is that CLS airstrikes have been restricted to the northern coast and that there is no evidence of sustained bombardment in the south-




SHRUE pulls up in the car. The gates to the university are closed.


They step out and press a buzzer at the gate.





Uh, I’m with the government. I’m here for the summit. Think I’m in the right place.


Is everything OK on campus? 

A moment’s silence.


Then we hear the voice of CARSON over the tannoy.



(Over the comms, as cheery as ever)

Hello, there, Shrue. Welcome to the University of Greater Glottage - or as we alumnae like to call the ol’ alma mater, the God-Kiln.


Glad you could make it. Ooh, I can see you on the cameras. Ooh, love the suit, lovely.

(Before SHRUE can interrupt)

Just speak into the little box, please. Down to your right.



(Speaking a little loudly, as if to a nearby receiver by the open window)

Press Secretary. Gates look tightly shut. Did something happen?



(Over the comms)

Campus is on lockdown. Big protest last week, lot of arrests. 


But. Just means we’ve got more space for the summit.

(Changing the subject)

Ready to make history?



That’s right.



(Over the comms)

Wonderful. They’ll open the gates for

(Giving instructions)

OK, so the summit’s taking place in the Bowery today. 


It’s right across campus - take a left, then a left, then keep going straight past the playing fields and you’ll see a parking spot marked with your name.


It’s a walk from there into the trees, but just follow the signs, and - oh, can you scoot?







It’s peaceful out here. Birds - or the sound of birds - is being piped in across the campus.


We hear the sound of SHRUE scooting - and coming to an abrupt halt in front of the BOWERY.



You are now entering the Bowery; where the high priests of the Peninsula are born; where the gods of the Peninsula are conceived.


Innovate. Catalyse. Create.



Again, the doors creak open.




SHRUE’s footsteps upon the floor as they enter the BOWERY.


CARSON’s voice pops in on the tannoy again.



(Over the tannoy)

And you’ve made it! Welcome. Let me give you the spiel.

(Reading aloud as if from a pamphlet)

“All of the GGU Department of Experimental Theology’s acts of innovation take place in sealable units just like this one, equipped with steel shutters and blast-proof glass, as well as a wide array of snacks and drinks, to allow our students to create even under the most testing of conditions.”


Just, uh, reading from the pamphlet.


“But The GGU Department of Experimental Theology also believes that the best new ideas come out of nature. Which is why each unit comes with its own customisable soundtrack.”


A variety of soothing nature sounds begin to play.



(Clicking through the options, excitedly)

Would you care to innovate in the depths of the lush rainforest


Or beside the magnificent ocean?


Or perhaps your best ideas come to you on the dance floor?


Bad disco music begins to play.


(Politely pretending to be entertained)

Oh! Ha-ha. OK, yeah.



Any requests?




Not this second, Press Secretary.


The disco music switches off. Slightly hurt silence for a moment.



Suit yourself.

(Brightly moving on)

And if you look to your left, someone you’ll recognise! 


Adjudicator Shrue of the North-West, Adjudicator Cross of the True Eastern. Cross there eating…what appears to be a crumpet, it looks like?



(His mouth full)

Cinnamon bun.


SHRUE looks up at ADJUDICATOR CROSS, who is eating from the buffet.



Uh - hey. Good to see you, Cross.



(His mouth full)

Mm. Shrue.





(Over the tannoy)

Oh, and Shrue, of course please follow Cross’s lead and help yourself to the buffet; we’ve got raisin cookies, coffee, tea, and isotonic energy drinks. 


They’ve got everything. Really, they do.


We also have a fridgeful of beers, and we’ll crack those open from about three, which I know you reprobates will be looking forward to!

I’m just going to check the cameras, make sure we’re all set up in the Imagination Suite. Excuse me, both of you.


The voice clicks out over the tannoy.

SHRUE sidles closer to try and have a conversation.




Hey, uh, Cross-


Not to talk shop, but is the High Adjudicator’s office impossible to get through to these days, or is it just me?


I’m trying to get the H.A.’s attendance confirmed for this, this river-god legalisation announcement I’m doing next week.


It’s all set in stone at this point, everything’s confirmed for the ceremony, we’ve got the elders coming down to Glottage - and I still haven’t heard anything back.


Carson just dives in front of the ball each time. Says the old man’s still feeling poorly. 

(Growing animated)

And, and, I’ve been trying to get a postal address so I can send some presents to my family down south, but again, nobody’s telling me anything.


Did something happen? I mean - what aren’t they telling us?


CROSS does not look up.



(Rudely, still eating)

What are you doing?






I don’t like you, Shrue. 

(Taking another bite of his food)

Do you like me?


SHRUE stares at CROSS.




Not at all.



(Still eating)

So why are you talking to me?




I don’t know, man. It’s really awkward here.



(Still eating)


(Taking a bite)

-don’t. Go and stand over there.


SHRUE hesitates, and then goes to stand over there.


Nearby, MELISSA and BRAND are gossiping quietly but excitedly.


Both are senior executives - professional, arch, a little cut-throat behind the pleasantries.



Honest to gods, it’s going to happen. It’s inevitable. Marketing are all over it. They think she’s stale.



But that’s ridiculous. She’s your mainstay. Everyone loves her.



Somebody, somewhere up the chain, is afraid that people don’t want that any more. 


Maybe they saw a focus group survey that found she was 4% lower favourability than she should be, and, well, what if there’s another 4% drop next year?


So the decision’s been made. We’re giving her a pantheon, and in time we’ll phase the Saint herself out.



Ugh, come on-



(Pitching it)

The Family Electric. So far we’ve announced the Meter Reader, the Soothing Flame - he’s only for premium customers - and Lil Lightbulb, who’s going to be the mascot.  They've got a radio serial planned, a kind of family sitcom.


And eventually, they’re going to move her out of focus.



I utterly, entirely loathe it. It’s unprovoked commercial suicide.




Everyone agrees with you. And yet it’s happening.




So what I’m hearing from you, Melissa, is that the Church Electric is too busy fucking up their own business model to keep us from nationwide grid failures every other day.



(Softly exasperated)

For gods’ sake, don’t. Just don’t. 


A bunch of sparkies halfway across the country get angry, they decide to stage their big Woundtree moment, and suddenly that’s my fault. 


Suddenly that’s a, a leadership failing on my part. 


But hey - guess what? We’ve got no budget increase approvals. The share price is plummeting. Everyone’s in a panic and nobody wants to act.


So what am I meant to do? 

SHRUE tries to join the conversation. 



(Like a shy kid joining a playgroup)

Hey. Hey, how you both doing?




Adjudicator. Nice to see you.



(Introducing himself)

Adjudicator, good morning to you. Julius Brand, from the Slag Court. National VP of Sales.



And I’m Melissa Dalton, Regional Head for North, North-Western, and West, Church Electric.




She’s the one you need to be yelling at about all the blackouts.



(Chuckling nervously)

Good to meet you both.


You know, I haven’t been to anything like this before, and maybe it’s just me, but it all just feels really fucking weird so far, with Carson piping himself in over the-


CARSON’s voice rings out over the tannoy.



(Tannoy, grandly)

Ding, ding, ding! Delegates, if you wouldn’t mind.


The Innovation Summit is about to begin, and the Imagination Suite is ready.


Please; set your brains to greatness, grab an isotonic energy drink and a biccie, and make for the mezzanine floor.




A central workshopping room. 


In the corner of the room, secured to a chair, is the IDEAS CONDUIT, a hallowed human being who faintly gurgles and gasps in pain throughout the conversation.


As the door swings open, the workshop participants enter one by one.

CARSON continues to speak over the tannoy.



(Over the tannoy)

OK, welcome, welcome! 


Please - take your egg-chairs. Choose whichever chair speaks to you. Sit however you’d like.


Everyone begins to settle.



(Taking his seat)

Ahhh, very comfy.




Nothing but the best for our innovators.



(Curiously, looking around)

Where precisely are you, Carson? 



(Over the tannoy, lying)

I’m back at my office in the Moridame. The government never sleeps, and these days it rarely takes a shower.


Believe me, I’d much rather be down there with all of you in person, but I’ll be moderating the summit remotely instead.

(Getting to the point)

Now. Our task today is…historic, delegates.


If you want to get really grandiose about it, it could, honestly and actually, be essential to the future of our civilisation.


This summit has been charged with finding a workable solution to the problem of anti-sacrificial sentiment that’s spreading rapidly across the Peninsula and beyond.


Protests. Outrage. Distrust. We’ve never been more divided.


And all the while, a violent cult of anti-sacrificial renegades stirs up trouble in our schools and in our workplaces.


And naturally, it’s a lot harder right now in wartime, when there’s so much strain on all of us to maintain our current rate of economic growth and industrial output.



(Not very quietly)

Good job there’s not going to be a war on for much longer, isn’t it?


CARSON ignores this.



(Still presenting)

And so the public is hungrily looking to its government, to its business leaders, to come up with some answers. 


The old methods - they haven’t worked. 


People are tired of the same stale old stuff from us. Sustainability quotas! Humane hallowing procedures! It’s no longer enough, it’s a line too often repeated.


But who better to come up with something truly original, truly new, than the people in this room, mm?


Some of the finest minds, the greatest leaders, that our country has to offer.


Just look around at each other for a moment, OK? Take in those noble faces and wise, farsighted expressions.


We have Adjudicator Cross, from the True Eastern district. One of our finest politicians, one of our most respected public voices. 


At least until he gets a couple of bevvies in him - isn’t that right, Cross?



(Smarmily self-deprecating)

Guilty, Press Secretary.



(Over the tannoy)

We have Brand and Melissa, our captains of industry, representing international commerce.


The SAINT’S EXEC and SLAG EXEC both make ‘hi’ and ‘hey’ sounds.



(Over the tannoy)

And, of course, we have Adjudicator Shrue. Our firebrand, our ethical-sacrifice activist.




Ready to do my part.



(Gesturing to the IDEAS CONDUIT)

And, er - Carson, Carson. What’s going on with the boy in the chair?


We begin to hear the pained gurgles and struggling of the IDEAS CONDUIT more strongly.


(Over the tannoy)

So, yeah. Timothy here is an undergrad, kindly volunteered by the University. He’s going to be our Ideas Conduit for the day.


He’ll generate raw creative prompts for us, direct from the mouth of the Maw Enthusiasis - the Peninsula’s finest homegrown god of inspiration.


Like I said - anything Nesh can do, we can do better.


If you’d like an additional prompt, just ask him.

(Calling out, as if the IDEAS CONDUIT is Alexa)

PROMPT, Timothy.


The IDEAS CONDUIT screams and convulses.



(Screaming grotesquely)

Opt-out hallowing for the over-16s.



(Over the tannoy)

He’s well-secured, don’t fret.


Now, delegates, today’s summit has four rules. Just four. No more than that, and we’re going to keep things loosey-goosey. Because after all, genius doesn’t come from red tape and regulation, now, does it?


And these rules aren’t anything new - as a matter of fact, I’m hoping they’re all very pleasantly familiar to anyone who’s innovated before.


One, no criticism of other innovators’ ideas. Two, build on the ideas of other innovators.


Three, wild and exaggerated ideas are to be encouraged. Four-



(Asking it honestly)

How - Carson, how are we supposed to know which ideas are sincere and which are exaggerated?



(Brightly ignoring SHRUE)

Four. Generate as many ideas as possible. 


Now, a few fun extra twists that might not be so familiar!


First. In the centre of the floor, you’ll see the Interruption Cactus.


Because we don’t want criticisms in the Imagination Suite, we want you to be careful and gentle when speaking out of turn - like you’re handling a cactus!


So if you want to make an interruption, just raise your hand and ask for the Interruption Cactus.



(Quietly, to CROSS)

Isn’t that a fifth rule, though?




Stop talking to me.


CARSON continues.



Now. When you realise an idea, go ahead and grab one of our gorgeous illustrated postcards, write it down, and pin it to the Wall of Illumination.


We can take as many breaks as we like, we can go for a wander and a ponder, and if you give me an idea I really like, you are encouraged to grab yourself a snack or isotonic drink as a reward.


Are there any questions before we begin?


(As a warning)

There’s a power outage planned at midday.



(Over the tannoy)

Ah, we’re off-grid out here. Only way to ensure everyone’s safety. Solar power, I think.

(Imitating the sound of the lift doors opening)




(Raising a hand)

Press Secretary. What happens at the end of the summit? Who are we presenting these ideas to?




Great question, and we’ll get to that at the end. I promise you.


Now - to get your neurons firing, we’re going to start with a couple of short videos.


This first one is a targeted ad campaign that Adjudicator Cross’ people have been testing in True East, aimed at seniors - because we all know nothing happens without the senior vote, don’t we? 


Starring one of the Peninsula’s finest creative talents, director Leonard Trunce.


The projector begins to roll.


Old-timey music begins to play, and we hear an old-timey voice.


(As if walking and speaking to camera)

I’m Leonard Trunce, award-nominated actor and director of Carlie Cape.


When I was young and living out on the farm, my old man taught me a few simple truths. 


You kept your gods well-fed, and your gods bestowed their grace upon you in turn. 


We didn’t need more than that.

(With scorn)

These days, though, some people want to take all of that to pieces. They say we shouldn’t be feeding gods at all. 


Everyone just seems angry all the time; nobody’s willing to have a conversation.


I don’t know what my old man would’ve said about all that. I think he might have seen it as a little bit selfish.


And now things are getting harder, and our gods are going hungry - and my dad taught me that when times are tough, all of us need to pull together.


That’s why I’ve signed the Vow of the Unsung Heroes.


The Vow states that at a time of the government’s choosing, they are entitled to my body and my spirit to be sustainably sacrificed to a licenced war-god of the state.


You’ll get it framed and certified, and sent direct to your door with postage and package included.


It even comes with its own limited edition medal, too.


Come on, Peninsulans. Let’s pull together, and show these kids how it’s done.


The film ends. CROSS claps enthusiastically.


The rest of the room considers it.



How’s it testing?



(Ceding the floor to CROSS)




We, um, we trialled it in eight retirement homes across True Eastern.


It saw a 59% approval rating and a 4% sign-up rate, which we were fairly chuffed with.


Our challenge, I suppose, is - they’re not top-quality product, these old folks. Lot of faiths want ‘em young, after all.


And they’re often less mobile, too - so, naturally, pricier to transport them across the country to places of worship.



(Over the tannoy)

OK, so we have a quality problem. And maybe that’s something we can build on, hm? 


Can anyone build on this idea to meet the Adjudicator’s challenge?





(Raising his hand)

We could create a sacrificial annex in the retirement homes. 


Ground floor only. They’ll have the stretchers already in the homes, so we can just roll them right on through.



(Over the tannoy)

Ooh. Brilliant stuff, Brand, we absolutely love it. Please go ahead and write it down on our first postcard, then grab yourself a treat. What design would you like?



Ducks in a pond, please.


BRAND goes to pin up his postcard.



(Over the tannoy, excitedly)

Ducks in a pond! Delightful.



(Raising a hand)

Carson, it’s great content, but, uh-

(Trying to find the words)

Gah! Just trying to find a way to avoid criticism!




Hard, isn’t it? Really makes you stop and think.


Ooh, and take the Interruption Cactus, of course.



(Taking the cactus)


(Thinking aloud)

We…look, we can spend all the money we like on advertising, but that’s not going to stop the problem at its source.


I think we should be looking for ways to defang the Woundtree. Repurpose it. Patent it. Redirect it to a more appropriate goal. 


A weapon in our hands is out of our enemies’ grasp, after all.


At the Church Electric, we’ve actually been studying the prayer-marks - um, I’m sharing this in confidence. We think we can find a legitimate use for it.



Repurpose it how?




Corporate and high-end security. 


The sacrifice is placed in a special cage during long periods of absence. An intruder tries to enter, trips an alarm - an electrical current instantly kills the sacrifice, which then activates via the Woundtree to kill the intruder.


Suddenly this isn’t a god that makes business owners fear for their livelihoods - it’s a god that helps keep all of us safe.


So hold on. How long are you keeping the sacrifice in this, uh-



Oh, as long as need be. We can supply them with a drip, a suitable low-motion diet that could keep them alive and well for-


(Over the tannoy)

OK. So, yeah - a rebranding, fresh patents, copyright enforcement. I like it. I really like it! Grab a postcard and a drink, please, Melissa-


(Unable to hold their frustration in any longer)

That's not the answer! You know that's not the answer!




(Over the tannoy)

No criticisms, I’ll just remind everybody again. It’s a pretty simple rule.


But perhaps, Shrue, you have an idea of your own that you’d like to share.


SHRUE blanches - then takes a breath and tries to speak honestly.


A nasty silence.



(With innocent relish)

I’ve got an idea, Press Secretary. 


I propose we find ourselves a lightning-rod.


It’s simple, really. It’s something we’ve done in the past to great effect, when there was a divisive issue being stirred up by some troublemakers.


We find a spokesperson who’s been rather too outspoken on the wrong side of the argument, and we shift the focus entirely onto them.

(Cheerfully picturing the headline)

“Was Adjudicator Shrue breaking impartiality laws when they spoke out in favour of anti-sacrificial reform?”

(As a reassuring aside)

I’m just using you as an example, Shrue.

(Cheerfully picturing the headline)

“Adjudicator Shrue on the defence as impartiality row escalates..”

(As the same reassuring aside)

Again, hm, just an example.

(Cheerfully picturing the headline)

“Adjudicator Shrue found guilty and sentenced, after Legislatures impartiality investigation and a full trial.”


He does not add the reassurance this time around.



And then we can go on the offensive with the lightning-rod’s fellow travellers: 

(Intimidating Paxman/political interviewer voice)

“Oh, so you’re an anti-sacrificial activist, aren’t you? Well, let me ask you this right off the bat: will you condemn Adjudicator Shrue’s alarming and illegal acts?”

And after a while, people who might have once been swayed are getting exhausted from having to hold too many opinions at once.

(Putting on voices)

“Why is Adjudicator Shrue in the papers so much anyway?” 


“Maybe Adjudicator Shrue needs to shut their mouth and then all this fuss and nonsense can go away.”


Maybe the lightning-rod dies, with our intervention or without. Maybe they live on in squalor and contempt. But either way, the stink is on the movement, and the movement belongs to them.


Silence. Perhaps for a second we might imagine that CROSS has gone too far. Then-



(Over the tannoy, warningly)

Adjudicator Cross. 


What postcard design would you like?



(Getting up with a grunt to pin the postcard to the wall)

I would like to choose the pug in the birthday hat.



(Over the tannoy)

Smashing. Well, can anyone build on Adjudicator Cross’ lightning-rod idea?




Absolutely open to additional ideas.



(Furiously protesting)




(Over the tannoy)

You can build on the idea, Adjudicator, but no criticisms, please.



I mean, I do feel, Press Secretary, like the suggestion that I should be defamed and killed is at least tantamount to criticism.



(Holding up his hands)

I was just using you as an example, and I said it politely-



(Growing increasingly angry)

OK, Cross. OK. I’m glad you were polite.


But the thing is - how am I meant to respond?


What is the value of politeness when politeness is…a a big fucking boulder you’re using to hide behind while you fling liquid shit at me?


Should I be grateful for receiving a decorous and well-behaved stabbing from you?



Shrue wasn’t even holding the cactus, so-



Oh, shut up!



(Over the tannoy, keeping the peace)

Delegates. Delegates. 


We can always be respectful towards one another. We can always disagree without being unkind.




I do just want to say, you know, that we’ve all been rather down on the Adjudicator, but I respect their take on things, and I do believe they are an important part of the multi-lineal approach we’re trying to establish here.




This isn’t a take, Melissa. 




Well, no, because it is important. That’s what I said. 


Part of the solution is that we need to show the world that sacrifice can be soft. It can be sustainable, and humane, and it can be kind. So yes, I agree with Shrue, absolutely.



(Over the tannoy, approvingly)

“Soft sacrifice.” Very good. Shrue, do you want to pick a postcard?


I think the daffodils look nice.




That’s not - that wasn’t my idea. 


I never actually got a chance to share my idea before everyone talked over me.





(Over the tannoy, with less patience than before)

OK, well…Shrue, this is your opportunity.


What proposals would you like to share with the group? How would you solve the rise in anti-sacrificial sentiment?


Everyone is watching SHRUE, who takes a breath.



What happens when our stories stop working for us?


What happens when the words are no longer enough?


And I think the longer I sit here, with respect to my fellow delegates, the more strongly I feel the immense inadequacy of our response. The smallness of us.


We are not prepared for the moment that’s already upon us. We are most certainly unprepared for what comes after.


We are drinking premium coffee and sitting in glass-paneled rooms discussing ad campaigns while the Lingers bomb us.


While outside, our people protest and riot against the scale of sacrifice, the scale of cruelty, that we have allowed to go on escalating beyond the point of no return. 

(Almost with furious wonder)

How can we even be sitting here? How can we be talking and smiling when we should be rending our clothes and ripping out our hair and screaming aloud to the sky about the doom that’s upon us, the doom that we invited in upon ourselves?


That’s honestly what horrifies me, more than anything else - the very real possibility that our circumstances are too dire for us to ever admit to them.


What if there is no breaking point for us?


What if we continue to distract ourselves and amuse ourselves and hunt for cynical little angles to give us the upper hand over one another, even as the shadow of our final devastation grows and darkens over us all?


So this is my proposal. And yes, it’s the only solution, Cross.

(As if it’s a big deal)

An immediate 30% reduction in industrial-scale sacrifice across the board for businesses, with the intention to hit 50% by the end of the year. No special exemptions, no special cases. 


We show the world that we’re willing to take immediate action-

Both CROSS and MELISSA are laughing openly at SHRUE.



(Overlapping, chuckling)

Absolute blasphemy. Heavens. Absolute blasphemy!



(Overlapping, also chuckling in a patronising way)

That’s very easy - that’s very easy for someone to say from the outside.


I’d call that a glib suggestion, Adjudicator. And one that could only come from somebody who does not know our business, who does not know our margins-




And what exactly happens, I wonder, when the Church Electric, or the Slag Court, decide that they’d be better off taking their business elsewhere? What does that leave us with, precisely? I mean, really, come on.



(Protesting to the teacher)

Press Secretary, I’m - I’m clearly receiving criticism, which is against the rules of the summit.


Silence for a moment.



(Calm but with a warning note in his voice.)



Is there a different idea you’d like to share with us?


SHRUE stares for a moment - and then protests.




No. I want to put my idea on a postcard.





(Over the tannoy, increasingly firm and serious)

Share another idea with the group, Adjudicator Shrue. Then you can take your postcard and help yourself to an energy drink.



I don’t want an energy drink. I’d like the postcard with the red footbridge, please.



(Over the tannoy)

Shrue, if you refuse to share another idea with the group, you’re going to regret that decision when everyone else is enjoying a cold three-o’-clock beer.



I can live with that. The red footbridge.


Silence. This is a tense stand-off.



(Over the tannoy, with cheerful cruelty)

Well, maybe you just need a little inspiration.


Timothy, PROMPT.


The IDEAS CONDUIT shrieks in momentary pain and chokes out,



(In pain)

Tax incentives...for large families.


Stop it.



(Over the tannoy)

Prompt, Timothy.



(In pain)

Partial sacrifice...payment per...limb...


I said, stop it-



Prompt again.


(Choking it out)

All take place...behind a really big curtain...



(Yelling furiously)

I said, stop, you son of a bitch! Stop! Stop! STOP THIS NOW!!


It’s loud and angry enough that everyone does, in fact, stop.


A long, hostile silence.


Then MELISSA and CROSS burst into delighted, mocking laughter.



(Over the tannoy, cheerfully)

Why don’t we take a five-minute bathroom break, everybody? Five minutes, tight five? Thank you.



SHRUE angrily enters the bathroom; the automatic door slides open.


SHRUE enters the stall, locks the door, and sits on the toilet.


They exhale, slowly - and then yell aloud in anger and frustration.


A moment later, we hear the automatic door open again.


The SLAG EXECUTIVE has also entered.


He sniffs and examines himself in front of the mirror.



(Calmly, casually)

Doing all right in there?


SHRUE takes a breath.




Having the time of my life, thank you very much.


Silence from beyond the stall door.




I agreed with what you were saying back there, you know.


SHRUE takes this in.




You didn’t say anything.



(Just as calmly)

No, obviously not. 


You want a drink?



(Drily, mockingly)

Is it isotonic?


Something rolls unevenly under the stall - a hip-flask.



Whiskey in the flask. The final consolation of ill-advised truth-tellers everywhere.


SHRUE picks it up, uncorks it, and takes a swig.





You’re welcome.


You know, at my place of work - at the Slag King’s court - I used to think we were the only genuine pragmatists out there, the only truly reasonable people.


We may drown a couple of poor bastards in the concrete foundations, and, yes, we all agree that their sacrifice will keep the building good and stable for centuries to come…


…but we still hire architects, don’t we? We still hire engineers. We don’t mistake the framework for the product.


But even for us, just like you said - it’s all become angles these days.


We’re about to introduce a new deluxe earthquake-safety service, did you know? 


One sacrifice-in-cement for every floor.


If we were honest with ourselves, we might admit it; we don’t know what useful purpose the damn ritual or the damned god are serving for our customers, and the more we feed it, the more harm it does…


…but we don’t know how to stop.

(As an amused aside)

They’re always telling me I can’t be saying things like that around the office.


Today is good practice for me - learning to be a little more diplomatic.


The board’s come to see me as something of a troublemaker.


Diplomacy…not a skill you ever mastered either, mm?



(Sourly, taking another swig)

I used to be better at it.



(To the mirror, lightly and absent-mindedly, as if squeezing a zit or plucking a hair)

You’re right, though. We are running out of stories, but we don’t know how to give ‘em up.


We’re all going to die screaming that we’re not really dying, and that we’re not really screaming.


Y'know, I didn’t even want to be here today. I think somebody at the office has it out for me.











What…what are your people saying about the High Adjudicator?



(Deeply amused)

You’re joking, Shrue. You haven’t heard?



Heard what?



Any of it.



I mean…rumours.



It’s exactly as vulgar, obvious and stupid as the very worst of the rumours.



(Fascinated despite themselves)

So it was a pleasure-god?



(Gossiping cheerfully)

A banned and entirely illegal pleasure-god. Apparently he’s been worshipping it for a while in secret, got addicted to it.


He was redirecting truckloads of sacrifices away from the initial draft, and he was sending them to his country estate in South-Eastern.


He’d been attempting to hallow them, if you’ll believe me, into a grand sex-saint.


Apparently the third effort was all too successful.


He’s been in a coma for the past month.


SHRUE reflects on this.



So who’s in charge? 


Who’s…who’s leading the war effort? 




Carson, maybe. Some halfwit general? Maybe no-one. 


I’m sorry to say it, but that’s your problem rather than ours.

(Examining his reflection with a sigh)

All right. Better get out back there.


Good luck, Shrue. Keep on fighting for the rest of us.


We hear the stall open up.


We hear the SLAG EXECUTIVE walk to the mirror, turn the taps on, and begin washing their hands.


A moment's silence.






(Faintly, focused on the mirror)

Funny. There’s something on my face.


It looks like-


Silence for a moment. Then the mirror cracks.


And then we hear the SLAG EXEC gasp, in surprise rather than in horror,, and then a sound like glass forming, like flesh peeling away, like a wet explosion and a scattering of debris.


The MIRROR-ANGEL has burst through their reflection and swallowed them up.


Funny. There's something on my face.


Then sudden, heavy, crystalline footsteps on the floor. The bathroom door pushes open at the far end of the room, and something leaves. 


A long silence.


SHRUE is hyperventilating in their stall.




SHRUE dashes out through the lobby, frantically tries the door.



Come on! Open! Open!


It doesn’t open.



(Muttering frantically as they read the sign)

‘Break in case of emergency’, yeah, I’ll break in case of emergency-


SHRUE ineffectually kicks the door.



They turn and run back into the building.

As they do so, unseen and unheard, the glass begins to crack- and a MIRROR-SHRUE horribly emerges.


Open! Open!




CROSS is telling an anecdote to MELISSA. Both are increasingly addled - although CROSS seems to have mellowed out, while MELISSA has become more and more giggly.


We hear the muffled sound of running footsteps, and SHRUE shouting in the distance,



(Animated and cheerful)

Gods, these buns are dreadful, but I just can’t stop eating ‘em.


So, um, I said to this woman, ‘Ma’am, you’re telling me my policy proposals are antiquated and full of holes - well, what about that cardigan you’ve got on?’ And she blushed bright beetroot red-


-SHRUE bursts back into the room as MELISSA cackles.



(Furious and frantic)

There’s something in here with us. We need to get out.

(Not getting a reaction)

I’m not joking! I’m not joking!


There’s a fucking angel in the Bowery, it…it must have got loose. They’ve sealed the exits, we’re locked in here with it.


It - it took Brand, in the bathroom I-



(Over the tannoy, interrupting)

Um. Brand’s right here, Adjudicator. He came back right before you did.

The meeting room doors open - and MIRROR-BRAND steps into the room.



(Reused audio)



MELISSA and CROSS both chuckle lightly.


SHRUE takes a step backwards.



(Having a horrible realisation)

That - that isn’t Brand. 


Cross, get away from him - that isn’t Brand.


Brand’s dead.



(Reused audio)

But that’s ridiculous.

MELISSA giggles delightedly.


(Over the tannoy)

It is amusing, isn’t it, Brand?


Folks, could we please take our seats again? We’ve got a lot to get through, and I-




I’m telling you, that’s not Brand! It’s not-




A horrible noise as the MIRROR-BRAND transforms, skewering MELISSA-

-who continues to giggle as she falls to the floor.


Well, would you look at that! Looks like...looks like...


She collapses.

Over her, MIRROR-BRAND continues to twist and churn.


(Inhuman and horrible)

Funny. There's something on my face.



(Very mildly, with little surprise or shock)

Good gods.


Cross! What is wrong with you? Come on!


SHRUE grabs CROSS and drags him forcibly from the room, as a new MIRROR-MELISSA begins to form from the glass debris-


Looks like...looks like...


Her laughter follows them out.




The closet door slams. SHRUE, breathing hard and fast, locks it.




SHRUE waits - and then exhales.



No glass in here, no mirrors. I…I don’t think it can get in.


I don’t know how we’re going to get out, though.

(Realising something)

Are you bleeding, Cross?



(Reacting very mildly)

Oh. So I am. 


Got a bit of glass jammed in the ol’ calf, it looks like.


Doesn’t hurt, though. Should I take it out?



No, no, for gods’ sake, leave it in. Let me stabilise it.


SHRUE takes off their suit jacket, tears the sleeve, and begins to wind it around the glass shard to hold it in place.



You really don’t feel anything?


What’s happened to you, Cross? 




Not really sure. It’s a rum do all around. 


I - I wonder what’s going on. Have you ever been to a summit like this before, Shrue?


SHRUE slides down to the floor. They’ve figured it out.




Well, we weren’t brought here for the summit, Cross. 


We weren’t brought here because they want to hear our solutions.


We’re sacrifices. You and I, we’re here to be sacrificed.

(Counting victims)

Brand, he…he said he’d made enemies at the Slag King’s Court.


Melissa, she said they were blaming her for the blackouts back at the Church Electric.

This is some new war-god, some horrible fucking thing they’ve concocted to beat the Lingers or the Woundtree, and they’ve set it loose on us to…to get rid of us.



(Calmly and with zero surprise)

Mm. Makes sense.



What? Why are you talking like that?




I’m agreeing with you, that’s all. Makes total sense. 


SHRUE stares at CROSS and feels, strangely, a little pity for him.



No, it doesn’t.


Why would they pick you, Cross?


They hate me, but you - you never cause them trouble, you never disagree. You always vote the right way. You’re their mouthpiece on the radio. 


Why would they want you dead?



(Just as mildly, but with a little sadness)

I…I really don’t know, Shrue, to be perfectly honest with you.


Maybe it’s because I’m pitiful, mm? 


Maybe it’s because I never do disagree.


Maybe that’s why they think they don’t need me.


CARSON interrupts.


(Over the tannoy)

Actually, Shrue, you’re barking up the wrong tree. On more than one count.


And you’re really being just a little bit too cynical, I think. We didn’t bring you here to give you all up to some battle-saint.

(‘Eh’ meaning ‘so-so’)

Now, Old Man Mirrors - the angel that’s been hunting you, it’s…eh. 


A very old god of glass. Been worshipped for five hundred years in some parts of the Peninsula.


Tested for warfare in the past, but ultimately found wanting.


Terrifying for all of you, certainly, in an enclosed space like the Bowery, but of limited use from a strategic perspective.


There’s nothing fresh or exciting about it.


No. The real innovation that we’ve been trialling here today is - well, everyone’s been drinking it.


The speakers begin to play triumphant drum-roll music.



(Over the tannoy)

Proudly introducing a groundbreaking new formula from the Grindinglord’s laboratories, and created with the help of Peninsulan government funding: Tranquili-Tea Seven.


Absolutely packed with antioxidants, electrolytes and essential caffeine, as well as anxiety-suppressing psychotropic supplements and pain inhibitors.


Induces a powerful sense of calm, receptiveness, and peace.


Available in orange or in matcha.


“Your morning dose of Never-Mind."


CROSS begins to lightly applaud.



Oh, that’s good! That’s jolly good!



(Over the tannoy)

Fully active in Cross’s bloodstream in just twenty minutes, by my watch. No fear, very little pain.


Because after all, why should a sacrifice need to suffer? Shouldn’t it be a pleasurable experience, to give yourself up to a god?


And couldn’t we all do with a bit of cheering up, at a time like this?



(Cutting him off)

Shut the fuck up, Carson!

(Shocked and horrified) could you do this to us?



(Over the tannoy)

Well, Melissa didn’t suffer, Adjudicator - and Cross is perfectly happy, aren’t you, Cross?



Peachy, thank you for asking!



(Over the tannoy)

There we are. A humane solution to the problem of sacrificial suffering. Properly marketed and distributed, I think it’ll do a great deal of good.


I told you, we’re making history here.

(A little tetchily)

And - and as a matter of fact, I wouldn’t call either of you sacrifices. Seeing as you’ve survived this far, I’d be inclined to interpret this more as an abject lesson.


Isn’t it, Cross?

(Scolding CROSS)

Because Cross here, you’re quite right - he does as he’s told. He never speaks out, he always votes the right way.


And yet for - for some reason! - he just can’t stop himself from getting blotto down at the local wine bar every night and blabbing about our security council meetings to his hook-ups. 


And that’s just not the level of professionalism that we expect from our Adjudicators, is it, Cross? That’s going to make us all look bad, isn’t it?




Guilty as charged, Press Secretary. Very sorry.



(Over the tannoy, chastising CROSS)

Don’t apologise to me. Apologise to that poor reporter from the Herald. She’s the one who really suffered from your errors of judgement, Cross. 


Just imagine how she felt. And she didn’t have any Tranquili-Tea Seven, either.


SHRUE just stares.




What - what about me, though?


I’ve…Carson, I’ve behaved. I’ve done everything you asked me to.

(With soft anger)

I haven’t given you any trouble. I didn’t deserve this.



(Over the tannoy)

Oh, you’ve been perfectly well behaved, Shrue. I really can’t fault you for that. 


But we are, I’m afraid, going to be moving forward on the anti-sacrificial sentiment stuff by making one or two policy decisions that you may not privately agree with. 


Decisions that you might otherwise be inclined to speak out against.


So - here’s the proposal, and I hope we’ve shown you today why it’s in your best interests to go along with it. 


If you get out of here alive, you’re going to be the public face of Tranquili-Tea Seven. Celebrity ambassador for the Grindinglord.


Official endorsements, interviews. Long and impassioned speeches about how this is the product that addresses your deeply-held concerns about ethical sacrifice. Triumph of the free market to address society’s woes.






(On the tannoy, calmly and casually)

Well, because you’re an outspoken voice on a divisive topic, and therefore your support will lend a great deal of legitimacy to the product.


And because if you don’t, we’ll dose you up with Tranquili-Tea Seven and then kill your family in front of you.


And you’ll feel nothing as you watch them bleed out and die, Shrue. Absolutely nothing, but a mild, chemically-induced sense of approval and the taste of orange zest.


So. You’ve seen what we can do. You know what will happen. You’ve got no excuses.


A long silence.



(With cold resolve)

Yeah, I’ll take the job.



(Over the tannoy)



All right, I’ll give you a little clue. Just one little clue. And let’s see if you can problem-solve your way out.

(Like reciting a riddle)

It’s past midday now.





(Mildly, giving up

Ah, I’m no good at riddles.



There was a scheduled power outage at midday.


He never stopped talking. He never stops talking, godsdamn him.


He’s not back in Glottage. He-


You’re here with us in the Bowery, Carson. Aren’t you?



(Over the tannoy)

You can't see it, but I am tapping my nose.



(Thinking fast)

So. So there’s another way out.


Carson. Where’s the door?



(Over the tannoy)

Opening it for you now. Very smart.


The wards are carved into the threshold, so no need to worry about Old Man Mirrors following you through.


In the back of the closet, a door clicks open-




-The same door opens in a small observation room.


CARSON is seated, tapping away at a keyboard. He rolls around to face SHRUE and CROSS as they stagger out.




You made it out! Drop the balloons, toss the confetti-


SHRUE slugs CARSON in the face. CARSON ‘oofs’ and falls back against the panel.



(Screaming into CARSON’s face)

We could have died, we could have died!



(Just as cheerfully)

You were perfectly safe, Adjudicator-


SHRUE screams, and screams, and screams, in pure rage, battering CARSON again and again.


He coughs and chokes weakly as SHRUE hauls him back up.



(Choking him out)

A fucking energy drink? That’s your solution? That’s the best you had?


We’re losing a war, we’re losing our land, we’re losing our people, all of it’s going to shit, and a fucking isotonic, fucking energy drink-



(Being throttled)

Just…calm down, would you? 



You tried to murder us!



(Being throttled)

If you’d just tried the tea, Shrue, you’d be a lot less grumpy about all this-



I’d be dead!

SHRUE hits CARSON again. 



This is…it’s a really good thing for both of us, Shrue. 


Stop and think about it.

(Taking a breath)

Lingers have got us on the run. We could lose this war in a matter of weeks, and if that happens, it’s the great faiths, the multinationals - they’re the ones that’ll keep us safe.


If I see this deal through, if people accept it, they’ll put me on the board at the Grindinglord’s Temple. Non-exec status, civilian life.


You and I, we’ll both be protected, and we’ll be taken care of. Doesn’t matter if we win or lose the war. 


The Daily Grind goes on.


You’re welcome.


SHRUE just takes this in for a moment.

Then they pick up a can of Tranquili-Tea Seven - open it - and silent toss the contents onto CARSON, who gasps.


SHRUE tosses he can and turns to go.




You coming, Cross?



(Just as mildly as before)

Oh, jolly good. Yes, yes, why not.


They turn and go.


After them, on the floor, CARSON cheerily calls out his farewell.


He does not feel that he’s lost.



(Wildly, still laughing a little hysterically)

Adjudicators! Adjudicators!


Looking forward to CenSec next week! See you then!




CROSS is dozing on SHRUE’s sofa - sleeping off the results of a chemical hangover.


SHRUE quietly approaches him.



…Cross? You doing OK?


CROSS continues to snore.


SHRUE goes over to the phone and dials again.


They are exhausted, traumatised - but almost elated. 


They’ve decided to take action.



Me again.


If you’re not calling me back because you’re angry at me, or because you want a divorce but you’re not feeling brave enough to say it yet, then…fine. That’s fine.


If you’re not calling me back because something’s happened to you, if they’re holding you somewhere or they’ve harmed you or the girls, I will find out where they’re holding you and I’ll get you back, and if I can’t get you back, I’ll…

(Simply, softly)

I’ll get satisfaction out of them - some kind of reckoning, a fury and a fire they won’t ever forget.


I’ve found my breaking point, and it was you.

(The thought occurring to them)

And if you’re not calling me back because you don’t exist, because they made you up just so they could hold you over me, then…

(Taking a breath; tightly)

…well, then, the satisfaction?


That’ll be for me.


SHRUE hangs up.



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