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DEUS X "Mysterious Ways" (Pilot) by Rus McLaughlin email@example.com Twitter: rusmclaughlin Copyright (c) 2011. This screenplay may not be used or reproduced without the express written permission of the author. TEASER FADE IN: INT. SHIP'S MEDICAL BAY An unconscious man - DOUG STRAW, 30's - lies on a metallic medical bed, stripped down to his Army Green boxers. His eyes SHOCK OPEN, he lurches off the bed as if hit by a cattle prod, sitting bolt upright. A MALE NURSE in scrubs is right there, easing him down. MALE NURSE Whoa-whoa-whoa... easy soldier, easy. The ride's just starting. STRAW I'm fine. I'm fine. Sorry. I always do that, coming out of suspension. MALE NURSE Yeah, okay. Slow, steady breathing. Make sure you hydrate yourself. He hands Straw a bottled water, and goes back to work. Straw's calm, centered, sweating like he's woken up from a nightmare, and he's already over it. He slips off the bed, moving around the clean, clinical Medical Bay. He wanders over to a window in the bulkhead; it's SHUTTERED. STRAW I guess I'm here. MALE NURSE Safe and sound. STRAW Where's here? MALE NURSE Your gear's under the bed. Your escort's outside. Captain Wagner wants you front and center in forty mins, so I guess you're already late. It'll take you thirty just to get there. STRAW So I'm on an Orson-class ship. (no response) These shudders don't open? MALE NURSE Not today. Straw considers that, then beelines for the bed and pulls out a set of pressed green military fatigues. INT. CAPTAIN'S OFFICE Straw stands in the doorway of an impeccably tidy office. Large window set into the bulkhead, ALSO SHUDDERED. A long pivoted workstation/desk at one end. Behind it: CAPTAIN ILSA WAGNER, a brisk, blonde, 50ish German. She's got a pair of glasses perched on her nose. STRAW Chief Warrant Officer Douglas Straw, reporting as ordered, sir. WAGNER You're early. Take a chair. Straw sits. She studies him for a moment. WAGNER So. You're the guy. STRAW Yessir. WAGNER I spent a whole hour on Fort Meyers once. Running security there for two years had to be batshit insane. STRAW It was challenging, sir. WAGNER Major Chen told me once you were "ingested." His words. STRAW More challenging some days than others. WAGNER It takes a lot to shake you, doesn't it? Straw doesn't let on, but his attention is on A REFLECTION in Wagner's glasses: it's her computer screen, displaying STRAW'S PERSONAL FILE. STRAW I never found the situation that was improved by panicking, sir. WAGNER Oh, that's good, Chief. That's a good one. I'm almost sorry to poach you away from Chen, he's got a high enough turnover as-is. Just can't take all the snakeheads, I guess. STRAW Xenos, yessir. Some of them can be pretty intimidating. WAGNER You a religious man? STRAW My service file codes me agnostic, but you know that. Upper right, tenth line down. Wagner's eyes shift, figuring it out instantly. She takes her glasses off, tosses them on her desk with a clatter. WAGNER Clever little prick. STRAW Yessir. I assume that's why you requisitioned me. WAGNER Kid, I've got thirty-five security chiefs and a military governor on my boat. Why the hell would I need you? STRAW Beg pardon, sir. This feels like a job interview. WAGNER (working console) Not anymore. I'm hereby raising your security clearance to S-3. STRAW Sir? WAGNER Now you're official. See? She perches her glasses back on her nose, mockingly "showing" him the screen's reflection again. She tosses the glasses aside, settles back in her chair, takes a breath. WAGNER Seven years ago, we found an artifact in deep space. Codename Alpha. We've studied it for years, and far as I can tell, we still haven't figured out dick. STRAW How do we know it's important? Wagner snorts. She's got a big secret. WAGNER You'll run security on our research posts. The science lead is Nathan DeStefano. Heard of him? STRAW Nossir. WAGNER Probably better that way. Crew's nearly all brain-types, eggheads. We've learned it's best to keep a minimal armed presence there. STRAW Then what's the problem? Espionage? WAGNER If only. The environment around Alpha is...unstable. The strangest shit you ever saw on Fort Meyers will not compare. All personnel undergo mandatory psychographics every two weeks, and we still don't catch everyone before they pop. On top of that, there is absolutely no way to anticipate what Alpha itself might throw at you at any given second. I am not exaggerating when I say every moment on, in, or near that thing is dangerous. STRAW You make it sound like it's alive. WAGNER You like a challenge, right? STRAW Respectfully sir, what kind of artifact needs a warship the size of Manhattan to guard it? Wagner raps a pad on her desk; the shudder on the bulkhead window OPENS. Something HUGE and pale fills the view. She nods at it. Straw moves to the window, pressing against it to see more. STRAW What is that? WAGNER That's God. Straw glances back at her, then turns back to the window. EXT. SPACE - THE SWORD OF DAMOCLES Straw is looking out the window, simply in awe. PULL BACK Until the window is a pinprick in the side of an impossibly huge warship - THE SWORD OF DAMOCLES. PAN AROUND To see what Straw sees: A COLOSSAL MAN floating through space and huge beyond imagining. This is ALPHA: naked (no genitalia visible), pale gray/white skin, flowing shoulder-length hair. The Sword of Damocles is the length of His fingernail. His right hand continually balls into a fist, then relaxes. Three hundred smaller ships - the 9TH FLEET - fly escort around Him, surrounding Him like gnats. Alpha ignores them as He calmly cruises through space. FADE OUT: END OF TEASER ACT ONE FADE IN: EXT. SPACE Alpha flies through space, surrounded by the 9th Fleet. Closer: a two-man FOLKER areospace fighter zips through the fleet, on course for Alpha's head. INT. THE FOLKER - CONTINUOUS A Chinese pilot, EDDIE HA, is cocooned in the front seat, Straw in the rear. Both wear environment suits. Straw watches Alpha's flexing hand. STRAW (FILTER) He always do that with his hand? EDDIE (FILTER) Started about two weeks ago. Funny that you figured Alpha for a guy. STRAW (FILTER) He looks like a guy. EDDIE (FILTER) Check the crotch. He's missin' his three-piece set. STRAW (FILTER) (incredulous) God's androgenous. EDDIE (FILTER) Don'tcha just wish you could tell the Pope? Eddie banks left, on course for Alpha's slightly open mouth. STRAW (FILTER) We're going in through the mouth? EDDIE (FILTER) Like DeStefano says, it's that or up the ass. I don't care if half the Joint Chiefs swing both ways, we're still the fuckin' Marines. Straw studies Alpha's immense, benign face getting closer. The eyes are solid white, no irises or pupils. Wavy hair flows; a strand occasionally drags in front of His face. A QUICK FLASH of light to starboard. EDDIE (FILTER) ...the Hell? Straw glances at his instruments, then claws the sky with his eyes, locking onto something. INTERCUT: EXT. SPACE - CONTINUOUS A FAST-MOVING SHIP, barely a blip at this distance, zips across the starfield, a quick flyby down Alpha's left side. STRAW (FILTER) Sword of Damocles, Folker-119, brake: I have visual on a fold-in, mid-class xeno victor, ten klicks off Alpha's port-side. I can't get a sensor lock. RADIO VOICE Copy Folker-119. Victor is stealth active. Maintain visual, alert wing Kilo on intercept. Another FLASH: the intruder's GONE. STRAW (FILTER) Damocles, Folker-119. Xeno victor just folded out. He's gone. RADIO VOICE Copy, Folker-119. Return to course. Kilo will sweep. Damocles out. STRAW (FILTER) Get a lot of visitors out this way? EDDIE (FILTER) Welcome to the funhouse. Eddie pilots the Folker straight at Alpha's open mouth, and at the quarter-mile gap between His upper and lower teeth; they're like granite mountains. Shadows fall on Straw as he's literally swallowed whole. INT. ALPHA'S MOUTH - CONTINUOUS The Folker's spotlights snap on, climbing to an AIRLOCK built into the upper pallet at the back of the mouth, lit up. The Folker flies straight in. The doors close behind it. INT. ALPHA - THE STEM A vast, dimly lit cave, mountain ranges of muscle and spinal column. Way down, man-made structures are built into the bone, lit up like Christmas trees. The Folker falls at them, a controlled flat-spin. Straw gets a look over the side: coming up fast is MAIN MISSION, a huge, three-story ellipse sticking half-out of the vertebrae wall. Floor-to-ceiling windows curve up its roof, lots of movement inside. There's a railed wraparound deck around its middle. They fall past it. Straw looks up at its smooth underside as it drops away. EDDIE (FILTER) That's Main Mission, we're heading up there later. Ready for your check-up? The outpost is stretched out across a few vertebrae, built right into the bone. Lights dot the structure. A BOOM CAR high-speed elevator zooms up-Stem on its rail. Eddie vectors the fighter towards a landing pad. INT. ISOLATION CHAMBER/MEDICAL BAY Straw sets his environment suit aside; he and Eddie are down to their green boxers, in a small, white clean room. EDDIE Got any nanotech in your skin? STRAW No more than anybody else. A FEMALE VOICE comes over the intercom. MAGS - 21 YEARS OLD (COMM. VOICE) Stop smirking, Eddie. Chief Straw, you'd better brace yourself. The room is bathed in BLUE LIGHT. Straw grimaces as SPARKS fly off his forearm, his chest, arms, and thighs, POP POP POP! The blue light FADES. Straw dusts ash off himself. A door OPENS: a beautiful Jewish woman (21) in a blue jumpsuit is smiling at the beefcake. MARGARET "MAGS" SHULMAN looks way too young to be a doctor. MAGS - 21 YEARS OLD Doctor Shulman, chief medical. Come on in, let's get you set up. Mags leads them into a high-tech Medical Bay, all gleaming metal and white plastic. She's enjoying herself. STRAW You just destroyed two paychecks' worth of gear. MAGS - 21 YEARS OLD Trust me, you really don't want to be wearing any embedded nanotech here. Deep breath. She swabs his chest and INJECTS HIM with a shiny metal gun. Workmanlike, Mags reaches for the bright green bracelet on her wrist - a FLEXI - "unlocking" it with a touch. It flattens out, candybar style, and she opens it like a book; the Flexi is now a notepad-sized translucent sheet. Graphics and controls glide onto its surface. Mags touches one, holds it up to Straw's chest; the Flexi shows her an X Ray view of his chest. MAGS - 21 YEARS OLD Okay, your codelock and BIOS monitor are in... She steps over to a workstation and calls up a holographic screen: it displays a male silhouette and live vital signs. Mags steps back. SHE'S NOW 55 YEARS OLD. MAGS - 55 YEARS OLD And you're all synched up - what? STRAW You're older. Mags touches her face, sees her obviously older hands. She touches her Flexi; it becomes a mirror. Mags sighs at her reflection, very frustrated. Very tired. MAGS - 55 YEARS OLD Journal On. I'm back to what looks like my base age. Note time and report...Christ, anything. COMPUTER VOICE Time from last age shift, 83 hours exactly. No patterns have emerged. MAGS - 55 YEARS OLD Thank you. STRAW Are you okay? MAGS - 55 YEARS OLD Nathan's in Main Mission, that's one vertebrae up. He's your boss now, maybe you should go meet him. Mags turns away, heading back to her work station. EDDIE She's fine. I'll take you up. Leave your suit, Alpha's got gravity and atmosphere, inside and out. STRAW That's not possible. EDDIE Yeah, and the rest of this shit is. Straw glances back to Mags. Her back's to him, slumped. EXT. MAIN MISSION LANDING PAD Straw leans over the railing to look down the Stem. A slight breeze meets him. The drop seems to go forever. He's on a wide landing pad adjacent to Main Mission, in uniform; chrome SMARTGUN on his hip, smaller and boxy STUNNER on the other side. Blue Flexi on his wrist. Two Folkers are parked here. Eddie's poking around his. EDDIE I gotta do post-flight. You good? STRAW Don't think I'll get lost. Straw heads across a ramp connecting the pad to Main Mission. COMPUTER VOICE Codelock recognized: Straw, Douglas A. Full access. A red door-light turns green; it OPENS. Straw goes through. INT. MAIN MISSION Double doors slide OPEN. Straw ENTERS, taking stock. It's the iPod of nerve center design: three interconnected tiers of whites, light grays, and cherrywood. N.D. ENGINEERS in jumpsuits and Flexis occupy workstations. A BIG holograph of Alpha is central, showing Him inside and out, with some sections flashing red, green, or blue. Voices BUZZ. The forward bulkhead is one big 150-foot holographic MAIN SCREEN. Three people in special uniforms - MONITORS - are in a bank set into the floor, chattering rapidly, fingers flying over keyboards. Silver domes cover their faces - RAPIDLY FLASHING LIGHTS are visible underneath. MONITOR #1 (P.A.) All points, be advised: gravity in Cage-16 has increased to two-point five Earth standard. Straw angles to a station above theirs, manned by an African with an English accent giving orders: FRANK AIMES(48). The activity's more frantic here. STRAW Excuse me, are you the Duty Ops? I'm looking for Dr. DeStefano. AIMES If he was here, you'd hardly miss him...sorry, yes, Frank Aimes, pleased to meet you. We're having more of a day than usual. STRAW Doug Straw. Anything I can do? AIMES Not sure. Some sort of writing appeared on a wall near one of our dig sites, and everyone who's seen it's gone violently insane. STRAW You cordoned it off? AIMES It's moving. And we can't risk the Monitors getting a good look, so tracking the damn thing's tricky. Straw studies the Monitors. DESTEFANO (O.S.) Amazing, isn't it? They're hit with ten terabytes of data every second and they just suck it up. It's like we weaponized ADHD. They turn: A DWARF in a sports jersey and sneakers is there, sweating, checking his own pulse. No Flexi. NATHAN DESTEFANO (40) moves with total certainty of purpose, intense eyes, robust voice, always the center of attention. AIMES What happened to you? DESTEFANO Went for a jog. Clear all J-probes out of the port-side scapulae and task a drone. Get Bill to project the insanity graffiti's path, then laser out the whole section of wall as it passes through, clamp on and just pull it right out. Let's see if that doesn't isolate the thing. AIMES Since when do you jog? DESTEFANO You should come with, get the blood pumping. I don't suppose Grayson described the writing before he wigged out? AIMES He said it was like Sanskrit. DESTEFANO Huh. (to Straw) Y'know, there's no word in Sanskrit for "miracle." Or for "irony." Man, those people must've been dull. STRAW Dr. DeStefano, I'm Doug Straw, your new security chief. DESTEFANO Hello. Do you jog? STRAW Every day. DESTEFANO Invigorating, isn't it? STRAW That's my experience. DESTEFANO You're gonna like it here. DeStefano grins at him. Straw just stares back. An ALARM SOUNDS. MONITOR #1 (P.A.) New contact: Class-4 manifest off the upper atlas, inbound! DESTEFANO Track it! Frank? AIMES It's big and it pings biologic! DESTEFANO Yeah, look up, Frank. Looking up through the transparent dome; the silhouette of a HUGE GREAT WHITE SHARK circles overhead, descending rapidly. AIMES Holy shit. STRAW You get this often? DESTEFANO Spontaneous generation? Every day. Four-ton flying sharks? Nope, first time. Everyone in Main Mission watches the 40-foot monster glide past the forward window, moving exactly as if it was swimming through water, on course for the Landing Pad. Straw MOVES, DeStefano close behind. EXT. LANDING PAD/MAIN MISSION DECK - CONTINUOUS The shark's swimming right at Eddie. He's unarmed, sees it coming and drops, rolling under the nearest Folker. The shark BUMPS it hard, knocking the fighter ten feet away, bending the landing gear and denting the hull bad. Eddie scrambles to get back under cover as the shark turns for another pass. Straw strides out onto the Main Mission deck, drawing his smartgun, eyes on the shark now coming his way. STRAW Max yield, full spread. His smartgun BEEPS. No hesitation: Straw aims, FIRES... ...a burst of yellow bolts slams into the shark, LIGHTING IT UP; its skeleton FLASHES under its skin. The beast whips around and rapidly "swims" down-Stem. Straw thumbs a button on his smartgun; a thin panel OPENS and displays a full video gunsight. Straw leans over the rail. STRAW Targeting. Zoom. Zoom. FRZAHM! FRZAHM! FRZAHM! Straw fires three more bursts down the Stem. DeStefano leans over the rail, watching. DESTEFANO Nice shot! But in future, we study things first, then shoot them. Eddie! You okay? EDDIE Still kickin'! DESTEFANO Grab a Folker and go fishing! Shark fin soup's on the menu tonight! STRAW You're not gonna study it first? DESTEFANO I make exceptions. He heads back inside. Straw stares at him. INT. MAIN MISSION - CONTINUOUS DeStefano ENTERS, Straw trailing behind. DESTEFANO Bill! I want graffiti pictures before you start lasering. We'll figure out how to look at 'em later. Frank, put a Cricket on the pad. I'm going out. STRAW Out where, Doctor? DESTEFANO Nathan. Mags is the doctor, I've just got a bunch of PhDs. STRAW Out where? DeStefano's heading for another door. DESTEFANO Oh, I spent about six months trying map a fingerprint on Alpha's right hand before he stopped cooperating. Think I'll give his left a try. STRAW (incredulous) God's got fingerprints. DeStefano pauses half-out the door, considers, shrugs. DESTEFANO You do. He EXITS. Straw's not sure what to make of him. EXT. THE STEM A Boom Car - high-speed elevator - ZOOMS down a vertical monorail running the length of Alpha's spinal column. INT. BOOM CAR Straw watch the view outside: a massive installation is set in Alpha's muscle and bone. Its lights flow over the Boom car's glass, over Straw, as he calmly takes it all in. INT. STATION HOUSE/HOLDING A skinny bookworm-type, GRAYSON, screams his lungs out, held in a double-armlock courtesy two SECURITY GUARDS; one is CARRIE SANTOSIERO (32), a seriously tough lady showing muscle under her short-sleeve uniform. She wears a baseball cap low over her eyes and sergeant stripes. GRAYSON I SAW! I KNOW! They push him through a corridor of padded cells with clear plastic doors, several occupied by also-hysterical PRISONERS. Grayson lifts up and kicks off the wall, bashing the Guard into a cell door, twisting away. Santosiero grabs him, and Grayson comes at her - she blocks with a forearm, he BITES into it. Judo move: she sends him face-first into a cell door and holds him there,jamming her fist against his neck. He struggles, face turning red, veins popping. Grayson drops. Fast, she and the Guard pick him up and dump him in an empty cell. They're out and the door sealed just as Grayson's back up and beating his head against the glass, drawing blood. GRAYSON I KNOW! I KNOW IT! I SAW! SANTOSIERO Shit! Lights out on six! Santosiero glances at the OBSERVATION WINDOW opposite the cells, looking out to the Station House: Straw's there. She instantly knows who he is, and isn't happy to see him. Straw hits a button. Grayson's cell FLASHES, and Grayson drops like a stone, unconscious. SANTOSIERO (to Guard) Keep him that way until somebody from Medical shows. He can tell them what he knows. Santosiero moves to the door at the end of the Holding corridor and turns into the Station House proper, a smallish security post with workstations. Straw's waiting for her. STRAW You've got a stunner. You went for his artery instead. Santosiero pauses, suddenly aware of the shift in authority. She's not in charge anymore, and she doesn't like it. SANTOSIERO It's not his fault Alpha decided to pop him. STRAW You're the outpost Sergeant? SANTOSIERO Or was. STRAW You don't want the job anymore? They appraise each other. Santosiero offers her hand first. SANTOSIERO Carrie Santosiero. I'll get my stuff out of your office. STRAW Thank you. Any idea where your last boss landed? I'd like a word. SANTOSIERO Steve Wichman vanished a month ago. STRAW Then I want the case file on that investigation. SANTOSIERO No, I mean he vanished right in front of us. Three of us saw Steve just fade away. He's gone. (looks him over) That's your new beat, copper. STRAW Did you run down all the poppers? SANTOSIERO There's two unaccounteds somewhere down in the Cage. You learn the lingo fast. STRAW We had lingo on Fort Meyers. Unfortunately, I just pushed a four ton shark towards the Cage, so let's account for everybody. Santosiero doesn't budge for a second, then softens slightly, nods, and HEADS OUT. Straw watches her go. EXT. SPACE - TIME BREAK Alpha cruises through space, the 9th Fleet escorting. WAGNER (O.S./FILTER) Looks like you had a fun first day. INT. STRAW'S QUARTERS Small, but not cramped. There's a bunk and a bathroom. Straw sits by a small desk built into the wall, all touch controls. Wagner's image is on a screen there. STRAW Every job has a breaking-in period. Did we ever ident that Victor? WAGNER (MONITOR) It was an Ohusq-Den scout. That was a good spot, Chief. STRAW Thank you, sir. I don't know the Ohusq-Den. WAGNER (MONITOR) Minor race, but they have ambition. We're about to bump their territory so we're expecting some noise. STRAW We can't plot around their boarder? WAGNER (MONITOR) Sure, just as soon as DeStefano stops putzing around and installs Alpha's steering wheel. Until then, we go where He goes. STRAW Where's He going, sir? Wagner considers. She either doesn't want to say, or she's not supposed to. WAGNER (MONITOR) Earth. STRAW ...How long? WAGNER (MONITOR) Unless something changes, three years, and you never heard this. STRAW Yessir. DeStefano doesn't seem all that concerned. WAGNER (MONITOR) Hopefully that's because he's a lot smarter than we are. Daily reports, starting tomorrow. Get some sleep. STRAW Goodnight, sir. Wagner DISCONNECTS. Straw sits silently for a moment. He reaches in under his collar, and pulls out a silver chain - a necklace - and takes it off, setting it down on his desk. There's a silver cross on the end of it. He moves to the bunk, taking off his shoes and placing them close by. Straw lies down, hands folded over his chest, and closes his eyes. A COMM BUZZ. STRAW Straw. AIMES (COMM. VOICE) Duty Ops. Report to Medical. Steve Wichman just reappeared. Straw's eyes open. FADE OUT: END OF ACT ONE. ACT TWO FADE IN: EXT. SPACE - THE SWORD OF DAMOCLES In formation to Alpha's starboard. INT. THE SWORD OF DAMOCLES - COMMAND DECK Cavernous; dozens of DECK OFFICERS locked into their consoles control every function of this Manhattan-sized ship. Wagner ENTERS the COMMAND TIER overlooking the deck, drinking coffee. Her EXO and ten mission-critical command stations are here, manned by BRIDGE OFFICERS. Other ships in her fleet are visible out mammoth windows reaching up across the ceiling. WAGNER I have the deck. Sit-Rep. EXO We had a few more sightings, but nothing exciting. WAGNER The Ohusq-Den wouldn't survive our brand of exciting and they know it. BRIDGE OFFICER Sensor contact: Ohusq-Den combat carrier just folded in on their side of the fence. WAGNER Not a real trusting bunch, are- BRIDGE OFFICER She's spiking! Wagner reacts... INTERCUT: EXT. SPACE - THE 9TH FLEET Quick, distant flashes becomes A SALVO of ENERGY BOLTS that SLAM into several support ships around the Damocles. The Damocles itself is untouched. WAGNER Target the hostile! EXO He's gone! Vipped in just long enough to shoot, then vipped out. WAGNER Pricks want to play tag with me? Alert Status One throughout the fleet, update Main Mission. I want total sensor coverage to a thousand klicks inside enemy space with firing solutions! They jump at her orders, leaving Wagner alone with her scowl. INT. MEDICAL BAY STEVE WICHMAN is blond, blue-eyed and tanned, All American, worn bomber jacket over his uniform. Bit of paunch, not enough to slow him down. He's seated, staring at soft light patterns on a screen. From a distance, Straw and Santosiero watch Mags (55) examine him medically. SANTOSIERO Oh yeah, it's sharkmeat. Full burst from a Folker railgun. And we found the last Popper, dock worker trying like hell to auto-cannibalize. That one I did buzz. STRAW Okay. Solid work, Sergeant. (re. Wichman) What about him? SANTOSIERO Looks like Steve to me. That's what he was wearing. I dunno.... (off Straw's prompt) I've seen him survive things normal people don't survive. It just never took him this long to make it back. Straw processes that. Mags comes over. MAGS - 55 YEARS OLD It's him. Everything checks and his BIOS reads normal. STRAW What about psychographics? MAGS - 55 YEARS OLD He's showing a normal drift pattern for a two-month gap. Outside of that, no sign of psychosis or retardation. He's fine. Straw thinks. He and Santosiero head over to Wichman. The man's got charisma to spare; his hand's out before Straw gets close. They shake. WICHMAN Steve Wichman. Hey, Carrie. SANTOSIERO Hey, boss. STRAW Doug Straw, welcome back. Do you know what happened? WICHMAN My team was looking for a popper in the Cage, I turned around and they faded away. Four weeks, huh? STRAW Afraid so. You should know that until we figure a few things out, your codelock's been re-gauged for restricted access. My call. WICHMAN I probably would've cancelled it. STRAW No reason to stop you going to the bathroom. WICHMAN Well, I appreciate the professional courtesy. How're you liking Funtown so far? STRAW I'm still formulating an opinion. WICHMAN Yeah, it takes some getting used to. Especially the half-an-asshole in charge. DESTEFANO And the fat fuck who "confiscates" all the chocolate he finds. DeStefano's in the room, walking over to Wichman and clapping hands with him, grinning. Real camaraderie there. WICHMAN Rigors of the job, shorty. DESTEFANO I was just starting to think you weren't making it back. WICHMAN Yeah, and how many times have we thought that? DESTEFANO Well, this time we saved your room. (greatly amused/to STRAW) Once, we had this problem with a parasite and, y'know, tentacles. Steve's dragged off and bashed around until his BIOS monitor goes silent, while we blow up Cthulu with a bunch of drones. He ends up hiking through Alpha's pancreas for two days until we find him...through echo location. "I waaaaaaaant a beeeeeeeeeer!" WICHMAN It was an honest cry for help. STRAW Did you get that beer? WICHMAN I did! STRAW Well, that's encouraging. But before you get too settled in, we should transfer you to the Damocles for observation and full debrief... DESTEFANO No need. We're better set up here. STRAW With respect, there's a security element to consider. WICHMAN Nathan, the man's right. Let him do his job. DESTEFANO (over protests) Alpha singled you out. That means you're here until I figure out what He did and I'm satisfied He's done with you, and everybody better get used to that. (silence) Then maybe we'll see about putting you back on the clock. Straw didn't like that. His eyes are on Wichman. WICHMAN He never listens to me, either. Straw acknowledges the sympathy, but clearly isn't happy. The others crowd Wichman, happy to see him, shaking his hand, and leaving Straw very much alone, at a distance, the outsider. INT. CORRIDOR - OUTSIDE MEDICAL BAY A oval tunnel, organic and warm. The door to Medical OPENS: Straw emerges at full stride, leaving Medical behind. STRAW Comm: Security. SECURITY COMM VOICE Station House Five. STRAW Straw. Put a guard on the door to the Medical Bay. SECURITY COMM VOICE Which Medical Bay? STRAW The one on the Stem. SECURITY COMM VOICE Chief, there are three.... STRAW The one Steve Wichman's in! I don't want him wandering unsupervised. SECURITY COMM VOICE We'll take care of it. The Corridor opens up to a Boom Car Station open to the air, with a really spectacular view of the Stem. STRAW Computer, re-route the nearest Boom to this station on my authority. Leaning on the rail, stewing. He hears MUSIC: a slow, tuneless, bluesy GUITAR RIFF drifts up from somewhere. Straw looks around for the source, can't find one. He starts to wonder.... DESTEFANO It's not Alpha. DeStefano's leaning against the wall, distant. DESTEFANO If your wondering. That's Porter, maintenance chief. Pretty good, eh? STRAW You've got a lot of chiefs here. DESTEFANO It's a big place. STRAW I'm putting a guard on Wichman. DESTEFANO Good. STRAW If he's getting his job back, I'd rather know sooner. I don't like to waste my time. DESTEFANO Nothing's a waste. The Boom Car arrives, the doors OPEN. Straw heads in without a word, and watches doors close on DeStefano's smile. SHOOM! The Boom Car fires off, up out of sight. DeStefano's smile fades. INT. BOOM CAR - CONTINUOUS Straw watches the view outside, thinking. STRAW Comm: Santosiero. SANTOSIERO (COMM. VOICE) What's up, Chief? STRAW Are you flight-rated in a Cricket? SANTOSIERO (COMM. VOICE) Sure. STRAW Meet me in the hanger bay. Now. He CUTS the comm channel. INT. MEDICAL BAY Mags (55) shines a penlight into Wichman's baby blue eyes. WICHMAN I happen to like older and younger women. You're a twofer in my book. MAGS - 55 YEARS OLD How young? I've gone down to three. WICHMAN Well, we'd sleep in separate beds, of course. MAGS - 55 YEARS OLD Or one big one. I need a lot of room when I get going. DeStefano ENTERS. DESTEFANO Is Mags still prodding you? WICHMAN Yeah, she won't have it the other way around. DESTEFANO Mags? He nods her over. Mags approaches; they're too far for Wichman to hear, voices low. DESTEFANO I need you to unlock all Steve's psychographic reports, going back two years. MAGS - 55 YEARS OLD Those tests don't stand up long term. Personality drift alone.... DESTEFANO Call it scientific curiosity. (louder/to WICHMAN) Good news, buddy! Mags just agreed to give you a sponge bath! He EXITS with a grin and a thumbs-up, waving. MAGS - 55 YEARS OLD Thanks, Nathan. She looks: Wichman's gesturing, "I'm ready!" EXT. THE CAGE Even bigger than the Stem; below is the curved expanse of the ribcage, an expanse of meat and bone. Lungs are the ceiling. Installed lights throw shadows everywhere. A CRICKET - an oval-shaped ship, transparent sloped nose - shoots past, spotlights cutting the dark. INT. CRICKET - CONTINUOUS Santosiero pilots. Straw rides shotgun, alternating between working a computer panel and taking in the view. SANTOSIERO Gamma Base is a few hundred klicks that way, on the sternum. STRAW Okay. So what else? SANTOSIERO There isn't much else. A reactor tech popped and went on walkabout. Steve got a BIOS hit and we came down, split up for a foot-search. Ten minutes into that, we all hear Steve shouting. We get there just in time to see him vanish. (nods) That's the place. I'll take us in. STRAW Slow. SANTOSIERO What're you doing? STRAW Sensoring the area for metallics. SANTOSIERO You're not gonna find any. Straw's panel PINGS - a hit. They exchange a look; Santosiero doesn't like being wrong. Straw doesn't like being right. EXT. THE CAGE - RIB FORMATION The Cricket comes in for a landing, touching down. The rib is miles across. Far distant, the ribcage curves upward. It's cold and dark here. Straw and Santosiero step out onto the hard bone, wearing baseball caps and jackets with built in lamps cutting the darkness. Reading off their Flexis. STRAW Wichman reappeared here, too. SANTOSIERO Yeah. STRAW Synch to the Cricket's sensor pack and spread out. You're looking for any kind of metal, I don't care how small. Santosiero nods, splitting off. Straw follows sensor tracks on his Flexi screen. The "ground" is textured, with natural fissures. Straw kneels down and runs his hand along the bone. Curious. A PING registers on his Flexi; a long FISSURE is right next to him, fist-sized. Straw locks his Flexi back on his wrist and shines a light down the fissure. He hesitates slightly... hell with it. He reaches in. Rooting around up to his elbow, then up to his shoulder, grimacing, two fingers on it. He grannys an apple-sized METAL SPHERE out of the fissure, and frowns at it. STRAW Son of a bitch. A NOISE: Straw's up, fast-drawing, aiming his smartgun at nothing, flashlight beam swallowed up by miles of pitch black cavern. He stands, shoving the sphere into a jacket pocket. ROWS OF SHARK TEETH APPEAR OUT OF THE DARKNESS behind Straw, a giant mouth, open and ready to eat him whole. Straw SPINS, gun-first... ...there's a WIDE, GRASSY PARK there: a bright, sunny day and blue skies. Slight breeze, flowing grass, rustling trees. A lone, distant picnic table. A FIGURE lies on it. Straw's jaw drops. His smartgun screen shows the park, too. Straw takes a tentative step onto the grass - solid ground. Cautiously, he moves forward. The figure is a NAKED BLONDE WOMAN, facing away, lying on her side in a pool of congealed blood, curled up. Her hair twists slightly in the breeze. There isn't a mark on her, but SHE'S DEAD. Straw aims right at her, slowly circling around. Coming around to see her beautiful face. Her body is dead still, but HER EYES FOLLOW STRAW, darting independent of each other. It would be eerie enough if she was alive. BLONDE CORPSE Did you figure it out? STRAW Yes. One eye shift away from him, back to the direction he came; the Cage, and Santosiero running towards him. SANTOSIERO CHIEF! STRAW Stay there! He glances at Santosiero, then back to the Blonde Corpse... ...she's still here, the Park's still here, but HIS SMARTGUN SCREEN SHOWS AN EMPTY STARFIELD. STRAW Shit...! Straw glances back - Santosiero's shouts are cut off. She and the Cage disappear behind Alpha's skin. EXT. SPACE - CONTINUOUS Straw suddenly can't breathe. HE'S OUTSIDE, floating weightless in hard vacuum somewhere between Alpha's chest and upper arm, flailing helplessly in space as he starts to die.... FADE OUT: END OF ACT TWO ACT THREE FADE IN: EXT. SPACE - ALPHA Straw flails in space, drifting slightly between Alpha's chest and inner arm. INT. MEDICAL BAY - CONTINUOUS An ALARM SOUNDS. Mags (55) and Wichman look up to see a warning message flash up on a monitor; STRAW, DOUGLAS A. CRITICAL INJURY WARNING TERMINATION IMMINENT Mags spins around in her chair, fingers flying over control pads. Wichman leans in over her shoulder. MAGS - 55 YEARS OLD Oh my God, I think he's in hard vacuum. WICHMAN Security, this is Wichman, we've got a EVA emergency, I need a rescue team... MAGS - 55 YEARS OLD Starboard, off the Cage! WICHMAN ...starboard! Off the Cage! He's got maybe forty seconds! Move it! Mags calls up a tactical 3D graphic of Alpha, zooming on a blip labeled Straw, Douglas A. It's close to the arm. EXT. SPACE - CONTINUOUS Straw's still got his smartgun; he FIRES, propelling him backwards, towards the arm. He keeps firing. ...barely a blip against Alpha's body... He's rocketing towards the arm, out of control. Gravity from Alpha's arm pulls him in, but STRAW'S OUT OF AIR, starting to die. Falling helplessly towards Alpha, no longer shooting, LOOSING CONSCIOUSNESS. Wind whipping him as he hits a thin atmosphere... ...WHAM! Straw lands on his back - a leg hits first, BREAKING THE ANKLE - and bounces in the low gravity. He hits again, tumbling hard, scraping to a stop fifteen meters away as he flops onto his back. Straw's all kinds of fucked up - beat up, scraped up, frost bitten and frozen solid, convulsing bad from the bends. He's GASPING for breath, but it's not working! His head lolls to one side, looking straight down Alpha's arm, right to the far-distant palm. Alpha's fingers slowly curve up and around into a fist, then open up like a flower, over and over. The smartgun's still in Straw's hand, dented screen open and pointed at Alpha's hand, recording every second. INTERCUT: INT. MEDICAL BAY - CONTINUOUS Mags glances at some new readings. MAGS - 55 YEARS OLD He's down... he's still alive! (louder) Chief, listen to me: the air's too thin and you're hyperventilating. You've got to slow your breathing down or you'll suffocate. Straw's trying like hell to say something through clenched teeth. The sounds he makes come out like painful barks. MAGS - 55 YEARS OLD Stop trying to talk. We've got a Cricket inbound. Just hang on! STRAW Get... guh-guard! Ah-ah-arrest... Wichman! MAGS - 55 YEARS OLD What? Cobra-quick, Wichman grabs Mags in a choke-hold from behind. Her utter shock turns to panic as he starts squeezing the life out of her. Mags pushes up from her chair, struggling, but Wichman's too strong. They slam to the floor, Mags on top, Wichman gritting his teeth as she swings wildly, uselessly, trying to get away. He whispers, eyes squeezed shut, CRYING. WICHMAN I'm sorry...I'm so sorry.... She can't get out anything but whimpers. The fight's fading, she's almost gone. Wichman opens his eyes: MAGS IS NOW A 9-YEAR-OLD GIRL. Total shock - Wichman lets go and kicks away from Mags' limp body, horrified by what he's done. Staring at her. Panting. She's still breathing. Starting to come around. Mechanically, Wichman gets up, crosses Medical to grab an injector gun and load it. 9-Year-Old Mags groggily sees him coming at her with it, starts to scream... MAGS - 9 YEARS OLD No! Scrambling away - Wichman grabs her ankle and INJECTS her. Mags fights it, then her head hits the deck, UNCONSCIOUS. He tosses the injector away. Next move? INT. CORRIDOR - OUTSIDE MEDICAL BAY A SECURITY GUARD stands by the door to Medical. The door goes Green, OPENS: Wichman's seated, he looks up. WICHMAN Hey, Jeff! SECURITY GUARD Steve! Thought we'd lost you, man! WICHMAN Yeah, and how many times have we thought that? SECURITY GUARD Hah! No shit. So what's the real? The Security Guard heads into Medical, the door CLOSES: Red. A moment later, the door goes Green, OPENS. Wichman EXITS wearing the Guard's gun-belt and carrying unconscious 9-Year Old Mags over his shoulder, heading down the corridor. INT. MAIN MISSION DeStefano comes running in. DESTEFANO Put up SatCam Nine! The huge Main Screen MATERIALIZES out of thin air, showing a long-distance image of Alpha's right arm. A Cricket zooms into frame, heading for a barely-visible speck. DESTEFANO How fast? AIMES Two minutes and they'll have him. DESTEFANO Mags, how bad is he? (no response) Mags? Comm: Doctor Shulman. (no response) Cancel Wichman's codelock. DeStefano shoots Aimes a dire glance, quickly heading out. INT. CORRIDOR Wichman moves through the hallways like a cruise missile, carrying Mags. He passes an ENGINEER going the other way. ENGINEER Is that Mags? WICHMAN Yeah, she fainted after her last switch. ENGINEER Poor her. Nice to have you back. WICHMAN Thanks. The Engineer keeps going, none the wiser. Wichman reaches AN INTERSECTION, and STOPS, involuntary. He tries to look down the side corridor, but can't get his head to move. A glance out of the corner of his eye is the best he can manage. Wichman leans on the wall, and suddenly BASHES HIS HEAD AGAINST THE CORNER, and AGAIN, trying to shake something loose. Blood in his hair. He straightens, and marches down the side corridor. EXT. SPACE - THE 9TH FLEET Sweeping past a heavy cruiser, the Eastwood. FOUR SQUID-LIKE ALIEN GUNSHIPS suddenly FOLD IN. They spin to face the Eastwood and OPEN FIRE, stitching a solid line across as they glide the length of her hull. They finish their run, drifting past the cruiser... ...the Sword of Damocles is in the background: the Gunships VANISH, folding out just as a dozen streams of pulsed laser fire from the Damocles rip past. INT. THE SWORD OF DAMOCLES - COMMAND TIER Wagner stands, arms folded and scowling, as another WHITE FLASH washes over her. EXO Clean miss. The Eastwood reports moderate damage, the Al-Basra and Ushakov took particle hits. Still nothing for us. WAGNER Do these assholes not know my ship alone could wipe out their entire navy in an hour? (thinks) They're saving something for us. EXO They couldn't get past our defense grid if they tried. And they haven't tried. WAGNER I do not trust this hunt-and-peck bullshit. (thinks) Send fleet-wide: prepare to redeploy. An evil smile creeps across Wagner's face. Idea. INT. STRAW'S ROOM Wichman is seated at Straw's desk, idly messing around with Straw's silver cross and chain. Behind him, the door OPENS. DeStefano takes a step in. WICHMAN You said you saved my room. DESTEFANO I lied. Do you hold it against me? Wichman smiles, tired. He doesn't turn around. DeStefano checks: 9-Year-Old Mags is unconscious on the bed. WICHMAN How'd you know? DESTEFANO Because I'm me. I assume the Ohusq Den grabbed you on that vacation you took last year. (no reply) I stared at your psychographics for a while and it's subtle, but that's where the deviation starts. Looks like normal personality drift week to-week, but over the long term it's pretty obvious you've been completely brainwashed. They put a slow-acting worm in your mind, yes? Kinda clever. Then we had that fly by yesterday, and Straw found this. He holds up the apple-sized Metal Sphere. DESTEFANO Teleport beacon, so they could vip you out and back in. You really should've destroyed this, y'know. (then) Why'd they send you back? WICHMAN I wish you hadn't come, Nathan. Wichman turns, reaching for his gun; Santosiero and TWO SECURITY GUARDS are right behind DeStefano, aiming stunners. Wichman smiles, relieved. The Guards move in, disarm him and cuff him. Santosiero kneels down to check 9-Year-Old Mags. WICHMAN Tell Mags I'm sorry. DESTEFANO We might be able to undo what they did. I promise you we'll try. (again) Why did they send you back? No answer; Wichman CAN'T answer. DeStefano steps aside as the Guards lead Wichman out. Santosiero steps over to Destefano. SANTOSIERO You really think they can undo it? DESTEFANO His conditioning's reinforced itself for nine months now. SANTOSIERO And Straw nearly got himself killed on his second day. Command could've just given me the promotion. You could've said the word. DESTEFANO I could've. But I didn't. Looking her in the eye until Santosiero gets the picture loud and clear. DeStefano EXITS. INT. MEDICAL BAY 9-Year-Old Mags carries a stepladder across Medical, past A DOCTOR and N.D. STAFF. Bandages on her neck and arm. DOCTOR So this is you resting? MAGS - 9 YEARS OLD Wow, you really nailed Mom's voice. She plunks her stepladder down at line of hospital beds and climbs up; this bed's covered by a clear plastic dome, sealed tight. STRAW'S INSIDE. He looks in bad shape, but alert. One eye's completely red, bloodshot. Scarred patches of skin. Mags touches the dome and holographic controls APPEAR. She starts manipulating them, reading results. MAGS - 9 YEARS OLD I used to think I'd be taken more seriously if I didn't have breasts. Not so, it turns out. (off controls) Good news, they saved most of your skin and there's no permanent heart damage, but the ankle brake's going to take a while. STRAW Are you okay? MAGS - 9 YEARS OLD You keep asking me that. (then, lower) Were you scared? STRAW Yes. They exchange a look through the plastic shield. Mags slides a finger along the holo-controls; the plastic dome DISSOLVES. Straw sits up, slow and stiff. MAGS - 9 YEARS OLD Take it slow. Go easy on the ankle. Karl? Hep-lock his PICC line, we'll dissolve it later. She steps down and heads off with her stepladder. Straw stretches. Grayson - calm but depressed - is on the next bed over, looking over at him. GRAYSON You're a lucky guy. STRAW Thanks. You look better. GRAYSON "Better." My little episode means they're cashiering my ass off the most important archeological find in human history. Where am I supposed to go after this? Grayson turns away. Straw doesn't say a thing. INT. THE STEM Time break. Zeroing in on the lights of CREW QUARTERS. INT. STRAW'S QUARTERS Straw keeps entering commands into his workstation, getting an error message back: CANNOT SYNCH TO DEVICE. Irritated, he scoops up his smartgun and tries keying in commands off its touch-screen. There's a KNOCK at the door. STRAW Come. A tall, thin black man with a springy shock of hair ENTERS; Straw immediately notices his nametag: PORTER. PORTER Hey there, Maintenance. You called? STRAW I can't upload to the workstation. PORTER Right-right. Well. He motions. Very reluctantly, Straw moves - there's a plastic cast on his left ankle - hopping on his good leg to the bunk. Porter sits and starts figuring the problem out. STRAW I didn't expect the Maintenance Chief to answer the ticket. PORTER I'm a man of the people. STRAW I heard you on guitar. PORTER Oh, uh, sorry about that. Sometimes I, I, I forget how sound carries around in here. STRAW You're good. PORTER Thanks. So you, you're into acid blues, huh? STRAW A buddy dragged me to pH's farewell gig at the Stratocast. Hooked me. PORTER Aw, man, I wanted to catch that so bad, you know? Couldn't do it. I was between jobs. You play? STRAW A little. PORTER We should jam sometime. I got an extra guitar I can lend. STRAW Okay. Sure. PORTER (re. workstation) Somebody just forgot to zero it for the new user. Try now. Straw presses an icon on his smartgun's screen; a video image of the Park APPEARS on the workstation's screen, as shot from the gun's camera. Straw pauses it. PORTER That's here? Jesus. Ah, shit... sorry, sorry. I try not to take the Name in vain around here, you know? STRAW You really think Alpha is God? PORTER I hope not. I mean, bad enough if we built all this into a living being. But if it's God, well, well God forgive us. STRAW I don't feel God here. PORTER Just you wait. Porter smiles again, and EXITS with a small wave. Straw hops back to the chair and jumps the video ahead to the Blonde Corpse, her eerie eyes following him. BLONDE CORPSE (MONITOR) Did you figure it out? He stares at it, frowning. EXT. SPACE - THE 9TH FLEET A 9th Fleet CORSAIR flies off Alpha's port side, His face in the background. Four Alien Gunships FOLD IN above it, twisting to make their attack run: they're instantly bombarded by laser fire from two directions, punching clean through their hulls. One gunship FOLDS OUT as the other three are BLOWN TO BITS. Elsewhere in the fleet: an ALIEN ATTACK CRUISER takes a pounding from three directions. It tries to fold out, and DETONATES from the strain, steel tentacles flailing. INT. THE SWORD OF DAMOCLES - COMMAND TIER Wagner watches her displays, pleased. An AIDE hands her a thin e-reader. She reads it. EXO Three more vipping in, fourth quad, Kingmaker and Aja have solutions. WAGNER Prosecute. EXO (into comms) Damo One to Actuals, open on all xeno victors. Engage to terminate, and watch the shrapnel spread. WAGNER (re. e-reader) Good news. The Presidium authorizes us to answer any hostile action with due force. I love diplomats. She sneers a bit, pleased with herself. INT. MAIN MISSION - CONTINUOUS DeStefano stands, his back to everyone, hands in pockets, in front of a expansive starfield; the Main Screen displays a forward view outside Alpha. It's like standing right in front of a movie screen. He doesn't move, silently studying the fleet. Thinking. Straw walks up behind him, sporting a big limp. STRAW Dr. DeStefano? DESTEFANO Wagner's triangulated her fields of fire, but she spread the fleet pretty thin to do it. And there's the Ohusq-Den boarder, right there. He tosses the Metal Sphere to Straw. DESTEFANO That was a good find. STRAW Thank you. I want to transfer Wichman off Alpha soon-as. DESTEFANO Not yet. We're missing something. STRAW He's either a spy or a saboteur or both. Does it matter? DESTEFANO Yes. STRAW And we're dead sure they didn't load him with a body-bomb? DESTEFANO Active BIOS, Steve Wichman. A window-in-window APPEARS on the Main Screen: the silhouette of a man labeled WICHMAN, STEVEN J. reads out bio-signs. DESTEFANO His blood pressure's through the roof, but otherwise... STRAW Where's that data coming from? DESTEFANO Well, his BIOS monitor. (realizes) Mags! I need a real-time BIOS scan on Steve, full-spectrum, now! MAGS - 9 YEARS OLD (COMM. VOICE) His monitor feed's still steady. DESTEFANO It's been modified to give us a false read! NOW, Mags! The BIOS silhouette CHANGES: crackling with sharp, volatile energy surging through Wichman's body. DESTEFANO He's rigged. Off their reaction. INT. HOLDING/STATION HOUSE Inside a holding cell, Wichman is dripping sweat, clutching himself. He girds himself and PUSHES... ...A BLINDING PULSE SHOOTS OUT OF HIS BODY. ALL THE ELECTRONICS in the Station House DIE; lights go out, computers go off, doors on the holding cells pop open. Red emergency lights come on. A SECURITY GUARD on duty jumps out of his chair, drawing his smartgun and rushing for the Holding Cells. Wichman barrels out of Holding, flash-burned; he scoops a riot gear helmet off a nearby counter as the Guard aims point-blank and pulls the trigger: NOTHING HAPPENS. Wichman BASHES the Guard in the head with the helmet. INT. MAIN MISSION An ALARM GOES OFF. Aimes checks his board. AIMES Reading a massive EMP burst! All the electronics in Station House Two are fried! STRAW That's him. DESTEFANO That's nothing. At those levels, he can disable the whole installation. AIMES Nathan! Nodding at the Main Holoscreen: TEN THOUSAND FLASHES appear on the Ohusq-Den side of the boarder, as A MASSIVE ALIEN ARMADA folds in. DeStefano and Straw can only watch it happen. FADE OUT: END OF ACT THREE ACT FOUR FADE IN: EXT. SPACE The Alien Armada OPENS FIRE; a thousand particle streams homing in on the 9th Fleet... INT. MAIN MISSION - CONTINUOUS ...Straw and DeStefano watch the particle streams slowly closing on the 9th Fleet. There's nothing they can do about it. They exchange a look, then turn and head for the door. STRAW Security: full lockdown. Restrict access to S-3 codelocks and sweep for Steve Wichman. Aimes, figure out where he's got to go to scram all our reactors at once. DESTEFANO Assume a five-klick blast radius. AIMES We're kind of under attack, here! DESTEFANO That's Wagner's problem. Steve's ours. Straw and DeStefano break into a run, EXITING. EXT. BOOM CAR Zooming down-stem on its track. INT. BOOM CAR DeStefano is thinking hard, staring at nothing. Behind him, Straw works off his Flexi, pacing rapidly. MAGS - 9 YEARS OLD (COMM. VOICE) The head trauma's manageable, but your guy's codelock was dug out of his chest. He lost a lot of blood. STRAW Santosiero, track that codelock. Aimes? What've you got? AIMES (COMM. VOICE) He has to be heading for Stem 20 or 21. STRAW Get that? SANTOSIERO (COMM. VOICE) Got it. Do we shoot on sight? DESTEFANO They don't win. STRAW What's that, Doctor? -No, stunners only, body-bombs detonate if the carrier dies. DeStefano's eyes light up; he's moving, full of energy. DESTEFANO Computer, re-direct us to the Hanger Bay! Aimes! I want the J probes re-deployed to scan.... STRAW Aimes, do NOT. What the hell do you think you're doing? DESTEFANO Wagner's about to chop the entire Ohusq military. What do they care if Steve shuts our lights off? (no response) He wanted to go to the Damocles! STRAW He couldn't even dent the Damocles! DESTEFANO If he gets inside, a full-yield EMP blast puts a ten-klick hole in the Damo's defense grid! She's the lynchpin! If the Ohusq can disable her with atomics, that leaves the fleet wide open, outnumbered twelve to one. Straw's eyes shift, weighing the possibilities. STRAW No...they'll fold ten ships inside her and detonate the engine cores. DESTEFANO And then they take Alpha. Straw thinks.... DESTEFANO They've played to our assumptions from the start. STRAW Aimes, deadlock all our birds and re-deploy the monitors. Pounce anything moving between Holding and the Hanger Bay. Straw and DeStefano exchange a look, and a nod. INT. HANGER BAY Wide, bright. Ten Folkers hang vertically from clamps, a few more are parked on the deck. A PILOT in a flight suit and helmet strides towards one. A skinny GREASE MONKEY is calibrating something up on the wing. The Grease Monkey barely glances at the Pilot. The second he looks down, the Pilot draws a sidearm and SHOOTS him; the mechanic's skeleton lights up under his skin and he tumbles to the deck, DEAD. The Pilot glances around - IT'S WICHMAN inside the helmet. He grabs a bolt-key from the Grease Monkey's belt, bends under the Folker and unlocks a panel on the fuselage. Out slides an instrument package and keyboard. He types, and a flat circuit block pops out. Wichman grabs it. The circuit block drops to the deck. Wichman climbs up to the Folker's cockpit. ANGLE Straw and DeStefano ENTER through a sliding door just in time to see a Folker lift off and hover fifteen feet off the deck. STRAW Aimes! Wichman's in a Folker, over ride it and land him! AIMES (COMM. VOICE) Remote override isn't responding! He must've* The Folker OPENS FIRE. Straw and DeStefano dive for cover. Its railguns are DEAFENING. A solid stream of supersonic projectiles TEAR through parked Folkers, instantly reducing them to piles of twisted scrap. The guns sweep up to a suspended Folker and saw the entire forward half off; it CRASHES to the deck as the DECK CREW runs for cover. Wichman pivots his ship, railguns blazing until every fighter in the Hanger Bay is shot to pieces, useless. Straw, DeStefano and a few Deck Crewmen lean out from cover as Wichman's Folker glides smoothly out of the Hanger. STRAW Is there any way he can get out? DESTEFANO Yes. STRAW (to Deck Crewman) What've you got left that flies and shoots? DECK CREWMAN #1 You want me to bolt your smartgun to a Cricket? DECK CREWMAN #2 No, hang on! There's a Folker down in the Maintenance Bay! Something about a shark ramming it.... STRAW Prep it! They MOVE. INT. THE CAGE/FOLKER COCKPIT A Folker SCREAMS past, bat-out-of-hell fast. Inside, Wichman is sweating hard. Spasms rock his face uncontrollably. AIMES (COMM. VOICE) Steve, it's Frank. I know you're fighting this, if you can just help us in any small way, that's enough* Wichman CUTS the comlink. The Folker ZOOMS ahead, leaving the Cage behind. INT. HANGER BAY A pad rises up from below, holding a badly dented Folker; it's missing a few panels and most of its weaponry. The Deck Crew and Straw immediately swarm it. DECK CREWMAN #2 Charlie! Load the railgun mags! (to Straw) We already started stripping her, so you're down to the port railgun, no missiles, no lasers, and I can't promise the targeting's synched up. STRAW I'll eyeball it. AIMES (COMM. VOICE) He just cut the link. DESTEFANO Signal the Damocles, tell them to fire on any Folker that approaches without an IFFR signal. AIMES (COMM. VOICE) There's too much hard radiation flying around out there. Nothing's getting out! Straw slips into the pilot seat, DeStefano heads for the REO chair; Straw puts a hand up. STRAW Whoa, stop. This isn't your ride. DESTEFANO Oh, so you know your way around in here already? Straw frowns begrudgingly, thumbs at the back seat. DeStefano drops in, the Deck Crew clears away, the cockpit seals, and the Folker's engines SURGE, lifting off the ground. DESTEFANO Straight and take a hard left. STRAW Wichman went to the right. DESTEFANO We're going out the front. He's going out the back. It takes a second for Straw to register exactly what that means, and his distaste is obvious. DESTEFANO He's got a lot further to go than us! Hit it! Straw steers the Folker out of the Hanger, peels left, and slams the throttle open full. DeStefano hits the back of his chair, shocked by the force of it. Their Folker rockets up-Stem, maximum velocity. INT. MAIN MISSION Aimes is at his station, giving orders. AIMES Release primary airlock! We've lost all SatCams, so whatever's going on out there, it's gotta be thick. Working controls on his workstation. INT. ALPHA'S MOUTH Straw's Folker dips through the open airlock in Alpha's palette and ZOOMS through the mouth. STRAW Copy that. The fighter angles to the right, aiming for the earliest gap through the teeth. The engine is red-lined, all the panels are SHAKING with the strain. Straw grits his teeth and keeps the throttle at Full - DeStefano hanging on - as Alpha's teeth come at them very fast... EXT. SPACE - ALPHA ...Straw's Folker shoots out of Alpha's mouth and banks hard, heading back along Alpha's jaw and over his shoulder. Above them, a solid canopy of EXPLOSIONS flows in a wave, two hundred meters off Alpha's skin. IT'S A FULL-SCALE WAR out here, hundreds of human warships and fighters versus a thousand Alien ships, all trading fire. Straw pushes his Folker low, hugging Alpha's back and flying at terrifying velocities. INTERCUT: INT. STRAW'S FOLKER DeStefano is glued to the battle above him, watching mighty ships splinter and die under withering fire. DESTEFANO Jesus.... STRAW Keep praying. If they notice us, all they've gotta do is crack our canopy. DESTEFANO There's a happy-incoming! INCOMING! Stray energy bolts HIT Alpha and SHATTER, raw energy crackling over His undamaged skin, way too close; they shake the Folker up, and Straw starts weaving madly to avoid them. TWO squid-like OHUSQ FIGHTERS break off from the battle and swing behind the Folker, FIRING at it. DESTEFANO Two on our tail! STRAW You're the doorgunner! Do something about it! DeStefano hits a button. Four small panels pop open on the Folker's aft plates - two top, two bottom - and spray a random volley of laser fire at the Ohusq Fighters; one's clipped and dips, grinding into Alpha's skin, tumbling, and EXPLODING. FAR AHEAD, the "landscape" rises sharply, becoming Alpha's buttocks. A bright object flies out from the crack; IT'S WICHMAN'S FOLKER. It banks, heading back up towards Alpha's flexing right hand. WICHMAN (COMM. VOICE) Sword of Damocles, this is Folker 08, brake: I'm declaring a pilot emergency, request priority trap. Straw climbs to intercept him... ...SPINNING his Folker to bring guns on the second Ohusq fighter. He blazes away with the ship's railgun, chewing off the Ohusq's engine; it tumbles away, helpless, as Straw spins back on course, homing in on Wichman's Folker. They're closing fast. Wichman hasn't seen them. STRAW I could warn him. DESTEFANO He wouldn't listen. Do it. Straw targets Wichman's Folker. INTERCUT ALL: INT. WICHMAN'S FOLKER Wichman's at the controls, looking for a way to reach the Damocles through the colossal battle. WICHMAN (COMM. VOICE) Sword of Damocles, this is Folker 08, brake... He glances to one side, SEES STRAW'S FOLKER lining up... ...and BREAKS HARD LEFT as Straw FIRES, clean miss. Both men jam their throttles full, Wichman out in front and trying to shake Straw's Folker. He pulls hard verticals and 90-degree turns, but Straw sticks hard, FIRING at him. A half-dozen Ohusq Fighters dive at them, firing laser bolts at both Folkers. Straw weaves around them as Wichman DESTROYS an Ohusq, then spins 180-degrees to put his guns on Straw's Folker. A few slugs put holes in Straw's wing as another Ohusq fighter clips off one of Wichman's tail fins. DeStefano's doorgun lasers blow another enemy fighter apart. An Ohusq fighter gets position on Straw's Folker and shoots, BLOWING OFF AN ENGINE POD. The other flickers, barely lit, as Straw's Folker spins out of control. That Ohusq turns on Wichman; he fires a missile, hitting it dead in the face. Boom. Straw grabs the stick with both hands, trying to muscle his plane into obedience. DeStefano hangs on. ALARMS sound. STRAW C'mon! C'MON! Maneuvering thrusters let him stabilize a little, but his Folker still jerks around drunkenly. It's all he can do to keep Wichman in his sights. Both Folkers hurtle towards Alpha's hand, facing each other. In pure desperation, Straw mashes the trigger. A solid stream of supersonic projectiles rip past Wichman's Folker, unable to zero in. It gets close, closer... and ENDS. Straw checks his instruments: AMMO: 0 flashes on his panel. Wichman's HUD: TARGET LOCK. DESTEFANO He's painted us! Wichman's finger hovers over his controls; he hits a switch, the missile display CHANGES from HEATSEAKER to F/F and he instantly PULLS THE TRIGGER. Straw sees the missile launch. It's coming right at him. DeStefano checks a reading on his panel, and suddenly starts working furiously, fingers flying over the keyboard. STRAW Sorry, Doctor. DESTEFANO It's okay. See, in order to disable the remote pilot protocols on that Folker, Steve had to remove the IFFR block. For "Identify Friend or Foe Receiver." And he just fired a Friend or Foe missile at us. He finishes, closes his eyes and touches a button. The missile TWITCHES. Closing, closing... ...Straw grits his teeth... ...the missile ZIPS RIGHT PAST Straw's Folker, much to his surprise. Straw whips around to see it turn around and zoom past again, this time on track for Wichman. Wichman's Folker spins away from them, and flees. DESTEFANO (FILTER) Thanks, Fatso. WICHMAN (FILTER) My pleasure, Shorty. Wichman's Folker breaks right, releases flares, but the missile stays true and DETONATES ON IMPACT, tearing Wichman's Folker in two. A small flash, and a MASSIVE EMP DETONATION bursts out of the wreckage. The wave spreads five kilometers in all directions. All the electronics in Straw's Folker DIE; everything goes dark. The Ohusq fighters around them start to tumble, also totally without power, and all of them are on a collision course with Alpha's right-hand fist. Straw and DeStefano look up at it, looming. Helpless. Alpha's fist OPENS. A wave of hope hits them as His fingers part, giving them a clear path straight through. Their tiny ship sails through the part as they simply stare in amazement. An Ohusq fighter hits the side and EXPLODES, the others simply freefalls along with Straw and DeStefano. They come out the other side. DeStefano looks back. DESTEFANO He stopped flexing his hand. STRAW Look. The Ohusq fleet is quickly FOLDING OUT. The battle's over. STRAW They know. (then) Set our emergency beacon, willya? Their Folker drifts through a sea of debris, emergency beacon BEEPING, Alpha's passive face in the distance. FADE TO: INT. STRAW'S OFFICE Straw sits behind a crowded workstation/desk in a small, dark office. Santosiero ENTERS and takes a chair facing him. SANTOSIERO You called, boss? STRAW You're being reassigned off Alpha. SANTOSIERO Wha...what? STRAW A Cricket will transfer you to the Eastwood at 1400 hours. You'll get new orders after debrief. SANTOSIERO Chief, I think I've demonstrated that you need me here...! STRAW You're fired, Sergeant. I don't care where we are, if you'd made even a cursory sweep of the area when Wichman vanished like you should've, there'd be one less dead man on this base. But you just shrugged your shoulders and took command and no, I don't need that. She glares at him, fuming, somewhere between shock and the urge to hit him. Straw doesn't even blink. Santosiero gets up without a word and STORMS OUT. Straw leans back and exhales. His Comm BUZZES. STRAW Straw. DESTEFANO (COMM. VOICE) It's me. I'm gonna go stretch my legs outside. Care to join? Straw cocks his head. Is DeStefano serious? EXT. ALPHA Straw stands on Alpha's surface, awestruck by the canopy of stars overhead. He's in a thick parka and hat, breathing through noseplugs, breathing out steam. And he's smiling. Behind him, a bundled-up DeStefano holds A METAL CANNISTER. STRAW Now this is something. DESTEFANO Yeah. How often to you get to touch space without an atmosphere suit? Kinda makes you forget. He wanders over to a piece of debris - a fragment of a dead starship - and KICKS it away. There's a lot of junk littering Alpha's surface, making it feel like a graveyard. DESTEFANO I should get someone to clean this place up. CentCom estimates Wagner wiped about half of the Ohusq-Den's navy. That's what we do, y'know. Drift on through and accidently shift the balance of power for the entire quadrant. Hooray, us. (shouting at Alpha) YOU'D THINK THE OMNIPOTENT CREATOR OF ALL THINGS COULD'VE ORCHESTRATED THAT SHIT A LITTLE BETTER. SO MAYBE NOT ALL THOSE PEOPLE HAD TO DIE FOR NO REASON. HOW'S THAT FOR AN IDEA? STRAW You really think Alpha is God? DESTEFANO You've been here a few days now, you tell me: did this thing write down a bunch of rules for us on some rocks? Did he talk to anybody through a burning bush? Part a sea? Do you think for a second He loves us or judges us, or even knows we're here? STRAW I think if a shark hadn't dented a Folker, Wichman would've killed us all. DeStefano grins at him. DESTEFANO Exactly! Watch this. DeStefano unscrews the canister, and slowly pours out a thin stream of ash. Solar winds instantly pick it up and bend it into ribbons flowing through the air, catching light from a distant star as it forms amazing, impossible patterns. It's beautiful. STRAW What about his friends, family? DESTEFANO Nah. This and a wake is what Steve wanted. Probably figured it'd be more memorable. STRAW You never really believed Wichman was back, did you? DESTEFANO No. (shrug) He was my friend. I had to give him the benefit of the doubt. Straw simply nods. The ash flows away down Alpha's body, dissipating, diffusing until it's gone. DESTEFANO And I did trust him. Steve worked for us, not Wagner. He never reported anything behind my back, which isn't a claim you can make. STRAW I have orders. But Wagner doesn't need to know everything. DESTEFANO We'll see. They fall silent; neither looks uncomfortable about their new understanding. Straw looks around, something in the distance holds his attention. STRAW Are those mountains? DESTEFANO That's a nipple. STRAW (incredulous) God has nipples. DESTEFANO Yep. Wanna know why? DeStefano grins at him. Straw doesn't expect an answer, and turns his attention back to the view. PULL BACK They're standing on Alpha's ribcage, barely even specs against the giant's pale skin. Alpha gently soars through space, surrounded by the Sword of Damocles and the 9th Fleet. As ever, He ignores them, continuing on His way.... FADE OUT: END OF ACT FOUR THE END
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