Drone on Trial by Tom Stohlgren | Script Revolution

Drone on Trial

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Page Count: 
87pp

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Logline: 
When a beautiful Syrian widow brings charges of murder against a defense contractor’s Drone operator and software engineer, the armed monster-like Drone begins to take matters into his own artificial-intelligence controls.
Synopsis/Details: 

A four-foot wide, six-propeller, military Drone named the Peacekeeper-0608 is powered-down in the center of the courtroom. It’s fully loaded with a rifle and two small but deadly missiles. In walks the plaintiff, a meek Syrian woman, HALI BASSIM (28), gorgeous in a Hijab (head scarf) and flowing black gown. Her innocent civilian husband and baby were murdered by the Drone following 131 successful terrorist kills. Her assigned lawyer is a nervous, African-American, first-year lawyer, DAMEON HARRISON (28). The defense table includes MARY KOWALSKI (30) the Drone’s software designer, and PETER SAMUELS (22) the computer programmer who operated the Drone. They’re represented by a slick, experienced lawyer, REDMOND DAVIS (50). The JUDGE is Major Harlan Foster (60), in full-dress uniform. The Judge’s digital bailiff is ALEX, a glorified Google Echo device to save court costs.

From the opening statements of the defense attorney, things look hopeless for the plaintiff. The prototype Drone is hugely successful in finding terrorists with enhanced facial-recognition technologies. It’s equally efficient in eliminating enemy combatants with its powerful weapons. When Redmond Davis brashly claims his clients must be innocent because they sell drones to both sides in every conflict, the Drone becomes a real monster in the courtroom. It takes flight, shoots the defense attorney, controls Alex’s voice, and puts the courtroom on a prison-like lock down.

The Drone demands the trial continue, and it forces Dameon to argue only for the defense. Hali must represent herself. Fearing for their lives, the trial presses on. The Drone operator, Peter, brags about the Drone’s artificial intelligence. It now deploys on missions by itself. Peter, who takes no personal responsibility for accidental civilian deaths, is the next to be killed by the Drone. Mary, the software engineer describes her role in designing and programming the Drone, and has second thoughts on the monster she created, but she is the next to be shot dead.

The trial is forced to go on, and the Drone gets more agitated. Hali and Dameon plea their cases as best they can under the circumstances, until the Judge is killed by the Drone after divulging that the entire case was a sham: the verdict of not-guilty was predetermined from on high.

Hali and Dameon are determined to survive. They change their appearances with makeup to confuse and wear down the Drone. Hali shorts two electrical outlets to prevent the Drone from recharging. In a last-ditch effort, they start a fire to set off the fire sprinklers. In the end, the monster Drone chooses not to self-destruct, and helps the lone survivors, Hali and Dameon, escape. But GENERAL TAPPIN (55) arrives on the scene and he’s furious! To save the Drone Program by blaming a suicide bomber (Hali), he resets the self-destruction sequence on the Drone. KABOOM!

Submitted: February 10, 2020
Last Updated: February 10, 2020

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Wilmer Villanueva's picture
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The Writer: Tom Stohlgren

By day, Tom Stohlgren is a Senior Research Scientist at the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory, Colorado State University in Fort Collins, CO 80523, and Affiliate Faculty. He wears Hawaiian shirts every day to teach classes, advise graduate students, and conduct research part-time. He received a Ph.D. in Ecology from the University of California, Davis. Tom is recognized as one of the top ten most productive scientists in the world in the field of biological invasions. He is invited around the world to lecture. He has published over 200 scientific papers and a textbook on methods of assessing plant diversity. In his copious spare time, Dr. Stohlgren is a novelist, screenwriter, and... Go to bio
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