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Targeted Strike 2: Judgement Database

There’s no way to count the human lives destroyed by the machines. Killed by bombs guided down from heavy aircraft above, they were faces logged into databases, rounded up and disappeared. They called the system Judgment Database.

by Adam Rothstein
Nov 17 2014, 2:00pm

Art by ​Gustavo Torres

Spoiler Alert: contains spoilers for Targeted Strike 2: Judgment Database (Studio Version

Boilerplate Disclaimer: this transcript is completely from memory. I used no live speech-to-text services. All copyrights are held by their respective owners. I am recalling witnessed events from memory and therefore this narrative falls under Fair Use provisions of the Personal History clause of the DMCA14.

I'm posting this for L who is media-restricted for another eighteen months, and for all you others who seems to enjoy my powers of recollection. If you like this memory script, why not fave it? If you can actually go see the film instead, what are you doing reading this? Get out there and see it, it's awesome! I know it's a remake. But it's totally solid. I'm going back to the theater to see it again this weekend.

The film opens on a scene of wreckage. It's a bright sunny day somewhere in Southern California. A road stretches out through farmland, over a green hillside that could be a desktop image. In the foreground, pieces of twisted metal, folds of smoke drifting upwards from wrinkling flame, and dark, wet-looking objects (probably bodies) amidst car seats and tires strewn across the road.

Narration breaks the stillness:

There's no way to count the human lives destroyed by the machines. Killed by bombs guided down from heavy aircraft above, they were faces logged into databases, rounded up and disappeared. They called the system Judgment Database. There were no appeals, no justice against the system. There was only the daily nightmare of waiting for the results to be called in.

The soundtrack swells, the credits roll. A montage of guerrillas hiding weapons in pick-up trucks, families being searched at highway checkpoints, soldiers brutalizing citizens in slums and ghettos, vans of prisoners being unloaded at prison gates, militias defending themselves against gangs of strongmen, explosions from above, murdering suddenly.

Narration in the feigned seriousness of action film dialogue:

Judgment Database had sent drones to track my son before, but this time they wanted to kill him. The Resistance had sent their own drones to protect him. It was just a question of which would reach him first...

The camera pans across a blue sky, catches a glint of metal. The shot circles a Reaper drone, flying quietly above the Californian landscape. Sunlight reflects off its curved radome head. The camera gimbal swivels ominously, scanning the terrain below.

Cut to a suburban area. Two teenagers drop their bikes and approach an ATM. One sprays the camera with paint. The other inserts a card into the machine and enters a code. The machine spits cash. They take it and ride off, leaving the card in the machine.

"Where'd you learn how to clone cards, John?"

"My mom. My real mom, I mean."

"So she's pretty cool?"

"Actually no, she's a complete psycho. Tried to blow up a cloud storage facility, but she got shot and arrested."

They enter a mall. The CCTV system logs John's face as he walks into an internet cafe. They set up their laptops and play Counterstrike. A close up of their screens: their webcam indicator lights blink once, and then remain off.

Overhead, a Reaper drone banks in flight. The mall below is a massive white structure, vaguely cross-shaped, like a European cathedral. In false-AR cinema effect overlay, we see a map of the interior of the mall on the rooftop. A laser designates a target indicated on the diagram by an IP address. On the wing pylon, a Hellfire missile releases and ignites, stretching off in an arc and banking towards the roof below.

Cut to the parking garage: a white panel van with an odd bump on its roof suddenly opens, and four quadrotors buzz out. They head skyward, not nearly as fast as the missile, but quickly. We see the glare of the missile in the distance, increasing in size rapidly, one quadrotor moving to intercept. Just as the missile approaches, the quadrotor explodes, sending out an arc of small shrapnel that rips through the missile's transparent nose. The missile tumbles and loses control, crashing into the roof of the mall.

Inside, John and friend look up with a start as the lights go out. The building shutters. "Airstrike!" yells the friend, and they both grab their laptops and run.

The Reaper gimbal shivers, as if in recognition of its miss, and immediately launches two more missiles. Again, we watch a spectacular CGI encounter: two more quadrotors intercept, one with exploding shrapnel, the other distributing mylar chaff that disperses the laser beam from the Reaper, causing the missile to lose track and crash.

John and friend split up, biking as fast as they can from the remains of the mall. We see the Reaper above John bank to follow him, re-establishing laser designation outside the cloud of chaff. But the chaff quadrotor has caught up with the Reaper, straining to reach altitude on its four propellers. The quadrotor reaches an intercept position. It hovers. It misses the Reaper's radome, but is sucked into the engine intake. The engine explodes, shooting flames, and the Reaper begins streaking to earth. We watch as it hurtles down towards John, narrowly missing him, crashing into a passing city bus. John mouths "what the f—" at the visible wing sections of a full Reaper drone amid the wreckage, and skids off into an alley.

Suddenly the last quadrotor appears, blocking his path. He screams involuntarily and hits the ground, throwing up his arms to block an incoming stream of of pepper spray that never comes. The drone lands on the pavement in front of him, rotors winding to a stop. John inspects it, sees a flashing Secure Bluetooth sigil on the top, a hex key scribbled in pen on masking tape. He takes out his phone, and authenticates. His phone's voice begins reading the script to him in its broken digital voice:

"John Connor, I am drone construct algorithm 101. You have been targeted for termination, and I have been assigned to protect you."

"Who programmed you?"

"You did, in part. The paint-ball targeting code that you uploaded as part of your sixth-grade science fair project was forked, added to other modules by resistance programmers. You released it under public license, and so you and the rest of the network programmed me."

"But I'm not part of the resistance."

"You will be. Predictive Judgment Database algorithms analyzed your code output and determined that you have an 80% chance of being part of the commit cycle for Future Resistance Project X. You are now within the disposition matrix."

"Project X? What is that?"

"Project X is any development project likely to grant a substantial asymmetric advantage to the insurgency. In this case, it is likely that you could improve your targeting code to make the OSSAM project functional."


"Open-Source Surface-to-Air Missile."

"A SAM that could be built in any hacker space? But that would end air travel as we know it!"

"Affirmative. But it is also the only way to end the air superiority that allows Judgment Database drone support. JD cannot allow this possibility. It will not stop until you are dead."

John is shattered, if still a bit incredulous.

"So what now?"

"We get you out of data range. Off network. Please attach me to your bicycle to save my power cells and connect me to your personal grid."

John plugs the quadrotor into his pocket battery, and latches its landing gear to his handlebars.

"Mom always wanted to teach me how to be this great military leader. Then she gets busted and it's like...sorry kid, your mom's a psycho, didn't you know? It's like...everything I'd been brought up to believe was just made-up fantasy, right? I hated her for that. But everything she said was true. We gotta get her out of prison."

"Negative," the drone replies. "The Database's next move will be to eliminate your mother to prevent the possibility of her providing you material support."

"Screw that! She can help. And you're attached to my bike, so I'll make the strategic decisions!"

The drone, via John's pocket, pauses as if trying to run an emote routine that hasn't been installed.

"I will see what resources in the network might be routed to support this operation."

John pedals off towards the local internment camp.

We cut to the camp, a collection of cinderblock buildings surrounded by several rings of chain-link fence. Security towers with radar-equipped mini-guns, tracked TALON units outside the perimeter. An aerostat floats tethered overhead, watching over the many prisoners milling about the yard. Sarah, John's mother, is among them, staring out into the distance. Suddenly, simultaneously, small bots within the fence begin moving among the prison population, their stalk-like cameras examining each face. The prisoners know what's happening—the Database is looking for someone. They avoid looking at the cameras, but know better to hide their faces.

Outside the prison, John crouches behind a piece of rubble. He whispers into his phone:

"What now?"

"Units are in motion. Wait 90 seconds."

On a main highway on the other side of the prison, a garbage bag falls off a passing truck and rolls into the ditch. Out of the bag pops a small swarm of throw-bots: two wheels with an axle and a camera. They struggle from the ditch, and bolt towards the prison fence. They form a robotic arrow pointing towards Sarah, who is still sitting in the yard as the prison robots systematically make their way towards her. Then a flock of aerial robots swoops past the camera, heading towards the prison, and the camera follows them. Four flying wing gliders swoop down, and then a handful of quadrotors, followed by one large octorotor.

Security towers sense the approaching aerial targets. The flying wing gliders cut left and right as they pass the perimeter, and the guns light up, shredding each one in less than a second. The prisoners jump with the terrible ripping noise of thousands of rounds per second firing into the air. But the flying wings are filled with aluminum chaff, and suddenly the prison yard is filled with a drifting shower of metal. The mini-guns, attempting to acquiring the nebulous cloud as a target, turn confused. All the TALON units are now on alert, using visual motion tracking to scan for human targets entering the kill zone.

A chain of explosions. From outside the fence, in a bee-line towards Sarah, sequential clouds of smoke jet upwards as each throw-bot detonates. The first takes out the anti-bot trip line, the second reaches a bit further and explodes in the kill zone. Covered by the smoke, the next hits the outer fence, tearing it open. The next misses its trajectory, rolling into a TALON in the no-mans-land. The next rends open the inner fence. The last hits a TALON that has rolled to cover the open hole in the fence. The blast knocks the TALON sideways, throwing it ten feet and burying its camera mast in the dirt.

The prisoners hit the dirt, scared to trigger the threat detection algorithms they know are in high alert. The unarmed warden bots, meanwhile, are still searching for Sarah's face in the crowd, their programming uninterrupted by ongoing assault management routines. A camera stalk pans, spots her lying down.

"Present biometrics for identification. Failure to comply will result in countermeasures."

A massive, droning racket fades in, overwhelming the bot's speaker. It is the octorotor, approaching the underside of the aerostat. The chaff has almost faded from the air, but it's too late—the drone reaches its target. Spray jets coat the underside of the aerostat with clear jelly, and the octorotor sparks its igniter. The sensor pods, camera gimbals, tethers and the gasbag itself all erupt into flame. The mini-guns reacquire and shred the octorotor into scrap metal, but the aerostat is falling now, its gasbag ruptured. Prisoners run for cover from the falling flames.

Sarah leaps to her feet, punts the nearby warden bot out of the way, and runs towards the fallen TALON. With flames everywhere, the thermal data is useless, and all the prisoners know it. They run to the hole in the fence. In a single motion, Sarah rips the grenade launcher from the fallen robot, throws the feeder belt over her shoulder, and reaches inside the servo mount's twisted metal actuators to find the trigger mechanism. Sarah levels the grenade launcher, twists the mechanism as the metal cuts into her hand, exploding the TALON in one shot. She runs towards the gap and fires again, hitting a security tower head-on. Vaulting over the wreckage of the downed TALON, she makes her exit.

A wide shot: the prison in chaos as the aerostat lights the prison buildings on fire. Another quadrotor is taken out by the mini-guns; two more find Sarah, pointing her in the direction she should run. In the rubble, she meets John. They jump inside a stolen car and speed off. John's quadrotor is on the dash. It dispenses a slim packet, which unfolds into a Faraday blanket. She hastily wraps herself. A pursuit monoplane from the prison locks onto the vehicle, but one of the quadrotors moves to intercept, and they both come down in a tangle of metal and rotor blades.

After Sarah removes her tracking implant, John, Sarah, and the drone construct discuss their situation. They decide the only way to stop the construct from killing John and Sarah is to do what it fears: complete Project X. They must code the rest of the OSSAM, distribute the software, and end the reign of the Judgment Database once and for all. A montage begins, with laptops plugged into datalines in dark alleys, green code running down black screens.

This was as much of the film as I saw. The lights came on in the theater and management entered with Wifi antennas, followed by a hard squad of police in anti-pirate gear.

"Someone's streaming!" a manager yelled. "Turn in whoever it is, or the studio will pull the IP license, and nobody will see the end!"

I was annoyed—everybody heard the rumors of a simultaneous pirate production, didn't they? The film had been pirated before it was made, using the same footage edited into a crowd-cut after being stolen from the studio servers. So who cared about some shitty live screen grab? I mean, I came to see the studio version anyway.

The crowd was angry too.

"Which one of you fucks did it?" yelled a bro towards the front. "I paid to see this!"

A shower of candy from the balcony, followed by phone flashes and laughter.

"I'll download your car, bro!" jeered someone from the back.

It must've been someone from the black hoodie crowd I saw as I was coming in. I could smell them vaping through the whole show. The manager looked disconcerted—he was totally min wage, and didn't seem like he wanted to shutdown the show, but he was held by contract. He started gesturing with the WiFi antenna, but didn't seem like he was fully versed in its operation. The cops moved forward into the aisles, using their own scanners and attempting to quiet everyone down. But then they hoisted up a kid in the front who'd left his personal network on, and moved to clone his drives. He should've just done what they said, but he was stupid and scared. He was trying to show them his screen status, yelling he didn't even have a data plan capable of streaming.

The balcony crowd turned.

"Leave him alone, pig! He says he doesn't have the data!"

Two officers moved towards the stairs, And then a full soda hit one of them in the face.

The theater exploded. The drenched cop had his taser out and was waving it around. His partner was telling him to calm down, and the manager was waving the WiFi antenna and shouting about delivering a quality entertainment experience. One of the cops popped a gas canister, and the hoodies were all scrambling to get their masks on while still attempting to trash the place. People were screaming and trampling each other. The cops arrested fifteen people, and sent five to the hospital. One of the hoodies must have had a smoke bomb, because purple smoke mixed with the gas, and as I made it out, vomiting, I saw they'd coated all of the lobby CCTV cameras with spray foam. A final parting shot to cinema and studio. Hell of an opening night.

So, the film is pretty good, but if you are going to see it don't go to Cinema 10, because I heard they are still deep-cleaning the big screen room to get out the tear gas powder. And besides I think their license for TS2 was revoked after the melee. Maybe try Scene Screens at the mall, if you aren't Zone A restricted. Otherwise you can always just find yourself a [redacted] like everyone else, but this blog is linked to my name, so no mention of that here! No hoodies, yo! :)

This dispatch is a part of Terraform, our new online home for future fiction.