By Nojh Livic
“And… release,” Justin ordered, smoothly pointing towards the screen. The technician at station two hit a button and the screen when white only to be followed by static. Justin did not have to make a motion for an image filled the screen again, this time displaying camera two’s field of view according to the label at the bottom of the screen. It showed two figures backlit by a huge explosion. They were running away only to be blown forward off their feet. The pair managed to keep a death grip on each other’s hands as they fell forward. The man fell on his face while the woman kept a knee under her.
Justin could feel the tension in the room. He slowly pushed his hand forward and the image on the screen slowly zoomed in towards the fallen man. He was perhaps in his mid twenties wearing a jumpsuit of brown and blue. He was not moving. Justin’s eyes flickered to a smaller screen in a console in front of him which was showing the feed from camera five. An operator at station three was keeping camera five trained directly on the woman’s face. She was coughing and recovering from the explosion. With a flicker on his other hand that feed was now on the dominant screen. He panned it slightly so that both her face and her grip on man’s hand was in view. “Stand by audio two,” Justin said to the room. Behind him the lead audio engineer began typing at his console. Most of the rest of the room, in contrast, had their eyes glued to the screen.
The woman tugged at the man’s hand as she tried to wave away smoke from in front of her face. She opened her mouth to say something. “Audio,” Justin ordered.
“David,” the woman coughed and tugged on the man’s hand again. Justin switched to the wider view, framing both David and the woman, who also wore a jump suit like the man save that hers was red and gray. With his other hand he took direct control of camera five and manipulated it to zoom in on the woman’s face again. The was not making any attempt to stand up. “David?” the woman repeated, turning towards the fallen man, still on her knees.
“Clean the air!” Justin barked. More technicians began typing away at their consoles. Within a second the view of both of them was clear of the smoke from the explosion. The woman didn’t notice. She shifting her glances between the man’s head and the death grip he had on her hand while trying to shake him awake.
“David, get up. David!” the woman’s cry was far more urgent now. She spared a glance back in the direction of the explosion’s origin. On camera three the operator had a close up of the face down man but it didn’t tell Justin anything. Instead, he glanced at his own console which had to the side a vitals read out. Justin nodded to himself. He scanned the row of small monitors, looking for the prime shot.
“Sir! Camera one is operational again,” the operator at station one reported. Justin saw his smaller monitor of camera one flicker back to life. The static had been replaced with the exact image he was looking for. He waved one hand at the view of the two people and it vanished. A blasted landscape replaced them at the edge of which lay a humanoid robot, scorched and mostly in pieces, twitching. Justin let that image hang for several heart beats before he panned the camera slowly up. Several robotic legs, followed by torsos, arms, and heads, were revealed as they marched forward into view, obviously unmarred metallic skin gleaming in the dusk light. Their optic ports glowing a menacing red.
“Oh no. David, please no,” the woman’s voice was carrying over the speakers even as the view showed the relentless march of at least three more drones. Justin checked his monitors before flipping back to three for the wide view of the pair. The man was now on his side and the woman was touching his face with her free hand. Camera five had a good close up on his face. His eyes were closed and his lip and nose were bloody. He wasn’t responding to anything the woman said.
“Ready cut!” Justin called out. He kept one eye on the main screen, another on camera five, and yet another on camera one. Each time the woman glanced back over her shoulder, he switched to camera one and the relentless march. The woman had stopped pleading for David to wake up and was now just pulling on him and grunting. She showed muscle through her gray and red jumpsuit but she couldn’t bodily lift David. Each time Justin switched back the man’s grip on the woman’s hand was the focal point of the camera.
Time seemed to crawl for everybody in the room. Justin found he was holding his breath. The rest of the staff were leaning forward towards the main view screen or their own consoles. Then Justin’s console flashed a time warning. Justin let his left hand fall and camera five dominated the screen. David’s face filled the entire screen. “Boost audio!” Justin yelled as the side of the woman’s face appeared on the screen. She was leaning in close to press her lips to David’s. Justin’s hand slid to his console and he pressed a single button. David writhed suddenly, mid-kiss, and bucked. The woman gasped and the man’s eyes shot open. “Catherine!” he exclaimed.
“CUT!” Justin barked and the main engineer slapped their console. The main screen went gray and the audio of the two died. Catherine was saying something animatedly, pointing towards the direction of the robots, and tugging on David’s arm, who was now groggily standing up but most of the room was ignoring that. Instead there was applause and even a few cheers.
Justin, at the main chair in the center of the room, looked around the control station, grinned broadly, and raised a hand to acknowledge the applauds. “Thank you, thank you. Settle down. First things first. Post! I need a standard graying between sections four and five. See if you can add a slight hum or ringing. I also need player five a bit more on the pale side until the kiss. And let time slot six know player three has a romantic entanglement and they’ll want to piggy back our raw feed. We’ll all get some bonuses out of this, guys. Good job, all of you.”
The entire room was now abuzz with excitement and some more cheering. Operators stood up and stretched from their pods while engineers clustered to follow Justin’s last commands. From behind him came a quiet clearing of the throat. Justin turned to see a network assistant, out-of-place in her suit and heels. She also wore a not so out-of-place smirk, although most of her attention was still on the data pad she held in one manicured hand.
“Congratulations. The feeds are already reporting the highest viewership yet. Once those scenes past delay you’ll likely have shattered every reality television record for the last ten years,” the woman said. Her tone was cool but Justin could sense the admiration behind the mask.
Justin just smiled broadly and inclined his head in acknowledgment. “Anything for the viewership,” he said, waving to the screen where the pair were fleeing their robotic pursuers slowly. David was leaning on Catherine to support an obvious hurt leg. Terror was evident on both of their faces.
The assistant simply tapped her pad and the monitor turned off, sending the couple to another time slot room to handle. “Indeed,” she agreed. “Anything for the viewers.”