For this chapter, we were trying something I might describe as a “forked outline,” where almost every page contained suggestions of other possibilities. I have forgotten most of these suggestions by now, and this page is so laden with seeming inevitability that it’s hard for me to remember a time when it wasn’t so.

But it wasn’t! My notes reveal that we developed an alternate thread in which Ferris discovered the tubes and escaped! It went like this:

Ferris does not speak up when his fellow employees are joking at HR’s expense, and Carol fires all three of them in a fit of defensive anger. Her scene with HR plays out as before, and so does Ferris spotting the keys, but now he’s trying to get his job back in the few hours he’s got before his security clearance is revoked. He goes down, sees the tubes (HR is too deep in meditation to notice), goes back up, contacts Shanna about it… and then goes to Carol, offering to entrap Shanna in exchange for his old job.

Interesting? Yes… but again, the basic appeal of Ferris is his simplicity. Carol already has “increasingly desperate moral compromises” covered. Sometimes you need a character who doesn’t scheme, who’s a bit of an innocent, if only to contrast with the ones who are not.