The End of Man

April 6, 2014 — Leave a comment

T H E  E N D  O F  M A N

Screenplay by Marcus Allen Steele

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When I decided to post my screenplay The End of Man for this blog, I was asked if I had any experience writing screenplays.

For a short time I lived in Hollywood living the life of a starving artist. During that period, I wrote my first screenplay. Ultimately, that effort landed me representation by the head literary agent at one of the top agencies in the world. And in time, we had an Academy-award winning producer attached to make my movie. But it never got made–typical–and I needed to get back to work. Therein the tale of many who try to make a go in a brutal business.

But I have to admit I miss those creative moments of linking scenes to ultimately tell a story.

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So what is The End of Man about? Within the context of a murder mystery, I touch upon important issues of our time–geopolitical intrigue, fanaticism, space exploration, war,  and Middle Eastern oil dependency among others.

But most importantly, this is one man’s journey. Our hero, who’s spiritually bankrupt in the beginning, develops a spiritual awareness as the plot progresses. As events unfold and he encounters the genius of God, he ultimately becomes a man of faith.

How long does it take to read a screenplay? It’s actually equivalent to watching the movie itself–less than two hours.

A few administrative notes. A screenplay is a succession of scenes. The scenes are either exterior (EXT.) or interior (INT.) and they identify a location. Every now and then you’ll see an abbreviation in the scene, when first presented I’ll define it. Within the scene there’s narrative and dialogue. The narrative has its own concise way of furthering the story but the character dialogue is the driver.

So stick with me on this experiment–this movie wrapped in a blog–you might be surprised.

I hope you enjoy THE END OF MAN

FADE IN:

EXT. SOMEWHERE IN ANTARCTICA – DAY

A rock formation rises up two hundred feet from the barren white ice. An accumulation of snow over the ages has nestled against one side creating a gentle slope. At the top of the slope are two men. One is carefully pointing a sled downhill.

The other man isn’t helping. He’s sitting on a snowmobile adjusting the hood on his jacket. Although it’s sunny, he’s cold, the temperature a minus 10 degrees F.

At the bottom of the slope is a crude snow ramp. And just beyond the ramp is a crevasse, one of many scarring the landscape. The crevasse is thirty feet wide and a mile deep.

Sitting on the sled, thrill seeker CMDR. DAVIS BOONE; USN, 36, poster boy. He’s hesitating. A fighter pilot and astronaut, his world revolves around precision. This launch is about as precise as a sneeze.

Standing up, Davis walks over to his brother who is straddling the snowmobile; DR. MATTHEW BOONE, astrophysicist, 32, soft features, mothers adore him. Never out of Davis’ large shadow, which is fine, there’s love but little friendship. Davis points to the snowmobile.

DAVIS

Do ya mind?  I need to borrow this.

MATTHEW

The seat’s keeping my butt warm.

DAVIS

I gotta fix the ramp.

MATTHEW

If you die, they’re gonna fire me, y’know?

DAVIS

They should.  I’d never let you do this.

Matthew gets off and Davis climbs on the snowmobile.

MATTHEW

But then again, since you’re obviously becoming a head case, maybe you’re expendable.

A quick start, Davis guns the engine and screams down the slope to his ramp. Getting off, he opens a panel and pulls out two nylon bags. Filling them with snow, he places them on top of the ramp and covers them with even more snow. The surface is packed, molded and smoothed.

Davis looks up the run to his brother then sneaks a peak at the abyss he hopes to clear. This is nuts.

EXT. LAUNCH PLATFORM, PACIFIC OCEAN, THE EQUATOR – DAY

Smooth seas, a thousand miles from anywhere. The launch platform, a converted drilling rig, is devoid of people. The three stage rocket UNITY is slowly being positioned for launch by a mobile erector arm. As the rocket moves from the horizontal to the vertical, white fumes emit from the base.

MISSION CONTROL (V.O.-voice over)

This is Mission Control at L minus forty-four and counting.  The liquid oxygen fueling is continuing on schedule –

Three miles away is the command ship ENCOUNTER; six hundred feet long, one hundred feet wide, accommodates 240 people. Both the launch platform and command ship display the “International Technologies” logo.

INT. COMMAND SHIP ENCOUNTER, MISSION CONTROL – DAY

Nerdy controllers, consoles, monitors, and a zillion microprocessors. GEORGE ANDERSON, 55, a paunchy bureaucrat and the voice of Mission Control, observes the subdued frenzy while twisting a paper clip into a pretzel. Wearing a Google ball cap he continues talking in his headset…

GEORGE

– and cameras show good venting.  Expect disengagement of erector arm in twenty minutes.

(to nearby controller)

Get Dr. Rutter.

EXT. ANTARCTICA – DAY

Davis motors back up the slope. As he turns the engine off, a loud distant HORN.

MATTHEW

They want us back.

DAVIS

In a minute.

Davis moves to the sled, lines it up, and sits.

DAVIS (CONT’D)

Now after I put my feet on this thing, give me a push. And make it a controlled one or you’ll get me off-line, okay?

MATTHEW

Don’t worry about me, you just steer.  And if you’re not gonna hit the ramp dead on, you might wanna bail.

DAVIS

You think?

MATTHEW

Sarcasm from a soon to be dead man.

EXT. COMMAND SHIP ENCOUNTER – DAY

Standing alone on the sun deck is DR. DAMIEN RUTTER, 60, tidy boardroom general. Thin lips, workaholic eyes, his demeanor is one of unparalleled power as he stares at his launch platform three miles away. The controller walks up.

CONTROLLER #1

Sir?  They’re ready for you.

RUTTER

I’ll be right down.

Reaching into his suit pocket, Dr. Rutter pulls out a cellular phone. He starts talking, red darting tongue and bleached white teeth contrast against his dark tan.

EXT. ANTARCTICA – DAY

Davis is still straddling the sled, shaking his arms, getting his nerve up.

DAVIS

Don’t automatically assume I’m toast if I fall in there.  I mean, no way is it a straight drop.  I’ll probably bounce of the face a few times and land on some ledge.

He’s stalling. For good reason. Matthew is also hoping his brother will reconsider this foolish stunt.

MATTHEW

You’ll be frozen by the time I get to you.  Maybe I’ll tell everyone that I lost you.

DAVIS

Your call.  Okay.  I’m in the zone. Let’s do it.

Matthew holds the trailing edge of the sled. Davis sits on it, positions his legs together and grabs the steering ropes.

MATTHEW

Ready?

DAVIS

How’s the ramp look to you?

MATTHEW

Ramp?  It’s a pile of frickin’ snow.

DAVIS

Looks a little severe, doesn’t it.  Maybe I need to –

As Matthew reaches with one hand to adjust his hood, the sled slips from his other hand and starts downhill. Matthew dives for the sled, misses, and can only watch as his daredevil brother tempts fate.

But Davis is in control. Steely eyed, steering a perfect line, picking up speed, faster and faster toward his ramp, yelling like a bronc rider. He hits it perfectly. Unfortunately, Davis should have made that last second ramp adjustment because his arc of flight is up more than out.

MATTHEW

Not up!

Davis crashes against the opposite edge of the crevasse at the sled’s midpoint. Fortunately, he’s thrown forward onto the ice and away from danger as the sled falls into the depths. Skidding on his back, Davis is WHOOPING like a kid.

Matthew pulls up on the other side of this mini canyon on the snowmobile as Davis stands and walks toward him and the edge, looking down, a big smile on his face. The distant horn blasts again.

DAVIS

Did I say go?  I don’t think I said go.

MATTHEW

Never mind. I’ll drive around.  I figure we got twenty minutes.

INT. COMMAND SHIP ENCOUNTER, MISSION CONTROL – DAY

Dr. Rutter walks into the darkened control center and over to George.

GEORGE

(to Dr. Rutter)

We’re at L minus ten.  The erector arm is clear, hangar doors are closed, we’re set.  I assume you want the comm.

RUTTER

Thank you.

(puts on headset)

This is Dr. Rutter.  We’re at ten minute readiness, continue the countdown.

(to George)

Do you have a probability calculation for me?

GEORGE

We’re working it now, sir.

EXT. NASA STATION CATCHER, ANTARCTICA – DAY

Davis and Matthew pull up to a rectangular dome building.  Adjacent the building is a large snow cruiser, five other snowmobiles and multiple dish and rod antennas.  We also see an American and NASA flag.  The entire facility is on metal stilts twelve feet high. At one end of the dome and away from the main generator and gas tanks are three red escape pods.  These self-contained survival pods are on rails which lead to an underground snow bunker thirty yards away.  They look like diving bells.

INT. NASA STATION CATCHER – DAY

Having shed layers of clothes, Davis and Matthew exit the dome’s vestibule, walk down a hall past the community room and kitchen, past the med room, past sleeping areas, past the bathrooms and into the…

TECH AREA

A separate windowless area with a main control room and a glass enclosed clean room.  In the main control room are computers, monitors, comm gear, data keyboards, etc.  There are also four other astronauts sitting and standing.

RUTTER (V.O.)

NASA Station Catcher, we have intercept probability at eighty-nine percent.  We are go for launch.

TRAPPER

(into mic)

Roger, sir, we copy.  Good luck.

COL. GREG “TRAPPER” EMERSON, USAF, a decent, grizzled veteran at 46 mans the comm.  Solid as the earth, his commands are practically edicts from God.

DAVIS

Man’s bold attempt to solve the riddle of the universe.  I think we oughta figure out why my wife left me.

TRAPPER

Glad you two could make it.

DAVIS

Went looking for God.

RUTTER (V.O.)

We’re at one minute readiness, the count is continuing.

SHELBY

Did you find her?

Davis mouths “almost.”  DR. SHELBY MILES; 32, a perfect blend of beauty and brains.  Also intimidating, wound a little too tight.  And what you see is not what you get, she’s as revealing as a nun.

STICKS

I don’t know about you folks, but I’m ten beats short of cardiac arrest.

ADAM “STICKS” SPENCER; 38, Irish, runner-thin and all heart.  The nicest and maybe smartest man alive.

FRANKLIN

Don’t get your hopes up, Doctor.

FRANKLIN SMITH; a cold, blue-blood equestrian type, 40ish.  Would be picked last in softball, however he’d rather not play.

STICKS

Cautious anticipation, that’s all.

LAUNCH CONTROL (V.O.)

Attention, standby for terminal countdown, ten, nine, eight, seven, six–

EXT. LAUNCH PLATFORM, THE PACIFIC – DAY

We hear groaning mechanical NOISES.  Venting gasses from Unity barely swirl before drifting upward.  Over this…

LAUNCH CONTROL (V.O.)

– five, four, three, two, one… main engine at nominal thrust, zero.

Unity’s main engine swivels to its launch position.  BOOM.  The engine ignites.  The lift-off is smooth, controlled fury.

LAUNCH CONTROL (V.O.) (CONT’D)

Lift off, Unity.

Unity quickly clears the launch tower and heads into the brilliant equatorial blue sky.

INT. COMMAND SHIP ENCOUNTER, MISSION CONTROL – DAY

One controller nudges another as they look back at Dr. Rutter.

CONTROLLER #1

Think he’s worried?

BALD CONTROLLER

NASA bought his Collector for a billion dollars.  Screw the worry, he’s rich.

CONTROLLER #1

Do you think it’ll work?

BALD CONTROLLER

Find life in a comet tail?  Gimme a break.

RUTTER

Listen up everyone.  I want a “go or no go” on the Collector release.  In order please.  You see a glitch, speak up.  Flight?

EXT. SPACE

As Unity races towards an earth orbit, it sheds its three stage rocket.  What remains is a curious maneuverable vehicle, the Collector.  Side logo reads “International Technologies.” Initially, it looks like a metal cylinder with antennae and jet ports.  However, after some time and finally stabilized in orbit, the Collector’s innards become exposed, pushed out from the cylinder like a hypodermic needle.  When clear, four huge wing like panels unfold and lock in place.  Lastly, a shaft from the center of the Collector telescopes outward in the same direction.

As the shaft extends completely, it opens like an umbrella.  It’s the protective shield; sturdy, the barrier between destructive comet debris and the crucial Collector panels.  It’s one main characteristic is that it’s a sieve that will only allow the smallest of particles to reach the panels.

PULL BACK. See the earth in orbit around the sun.  We also see a comet heading in the opposite direction which has already passed earth.  But the comet’s tail, its vast accumulation of stellar debris, is about to intersect earth’s orbit and Collector’s.  It’s this mining field where the Collector will gather its samples.

INT. NASA STATION CATCHER, TECH AREA – DAY

Sitting and standing around the control room, the nervous astronauts listen to the communication from the command ship.  They also watch the monitors as Unity paints the comet tail with radar.

MATTHEW

I musta been six, maybe seven.  Anyway, we were goin’ to the Lake of the Ozarks… or was it Lake Havasu?

Davis, irritated, starts to say something but doesn’t.

STICKS

The London Bridge is there, yes?

MATTHEW

At Havasu, yeah.  So we’re driving along, and blam, we hit a bird.  Windshield looked just like a cobweb.

TRAPPER

And your point is?

MATTHEW

We all know that a comet tail is nothing more than bits and pieces from asteroids, planets, whatever.  Throw in some ice and cosmic dust and the size of all this stuff varies from grains of sand to boulders.  So all I’m saying is that the Collector is gonna have to maneuver like an ant on a pool table.  Protective shield or not.

Davis watches the radar screen.  Unity is converging on the comet tail.

CONTROLLER #1 (V.O.)

Convergence is good, relative speed is good…

RUTTER (V.O.)

Time to mark?

CONTROLLER #1 (V.O.)

Thirty seconds.

DAVIS

Why is Rutter on the comm?

TRAPPER

Because we’re playing with his toy.

SHELBY

Dr. Rutter’s Collector is not a “toy.”  You could feed Somalia for what it costs.

TRAPPER

(to Davis)

Have you ever met the guy?

DAVIS

Rutter? Yeah. He’s all right…your basic megalomaniac. Closet Fascist, world domineering type.

INT. COMMAND SHIP ENCOUNTER, MISSION CONTROL – DAY

Dr. Rutter paces in and around the rows of controllers.

CONTROLLER #1

The Collector is positioned on axis, sir.  We’re a go for intercept.

RUTTER

(in headset)

Thank you, we’re go intercept.  Is radar tracking?

EXT. SPACE

Soon, the Collector is enveloped by the comet tail, like a car caught in a sandstorm.  Transmitters on board relay the sounds.

INT. NASA STATION CATCHER, TECH AREA – DAY

Faint TICKS… more of them now… increasing in volume.  In time, the faint ticks become a ROAR.  The astronauts are still as they hear the drama unfold.

DAVIS

Who needs radar?

EXT. MINDANAO BAY – NIGHT

As the Collector wades through the comet tail, it creates an incandescent light seen far below on earth by two Filipino fisherman standing in a boat, net in hand.  They’re not fishing.  Their gaze is toward the sky, amazed by this faraway dance of light… this secret epochal encounter.

INT. NASA STATION CATCHER, DAVIS’ ROOM – NEXT DAY

Dark room, closed door.  Davis on his bunk, half dressed, half asleep.  The door opens and in walks Trapper.  Moving to Davis’ bunk, he pulls up a chair.  On the bed table is an alarm clock, pill container and four beer bottles, one having tipped over spilling its contents on the floor.

TRAPPER

Are you gonna get up?

DAVIS

What time is it?

TRAPPER

Noon.  We’re leaving for the drop zone.  Remember?

DAVIS

I think I’ll pass.

Trapper sees an open pendant next to the bottles.  One side is a family photo of Davis and Matthew as young boys with their parents.  On the other, Michelangelo’s image of God touching Man’s hand.  Trapper grabs the alarm clock, sets it.

TRAPPER

So when were you gonna tell me?

DAVIS

Tell you what?

TRAPPER

About your quitting.

No reply from Davis.

TRAPPER (CONT’D)

And you anticipated what kind of response?  Acceptance?  My heartfelt best wishes?

DAVIS

It’s time.  I’m gonna be a monk.

TRAPPER

Then I suggest you kill yourself.

DAVIS

Is it the celibacy or Friar Tuck haircut that bothers you?

TRAPPER

Listen, smart ass.  If you quit the program, you’re toast.  You know that. Without the structure, without the adrenaline rushes and that good ol’ fashioned sense of accomplishment, you might as well be dead. So whaddya say we get through this mission and then we go fish.  Have we ever not solved the world’s problems sitting in a small boat?

DAVIS

What are the chances of you leaving me alone?

TRAPPER

Not good. We’ll finish this later.  Now get your ass out of bed.

Trapper gets up and as he leaves the room, he turns the lights on.  Davis stirs a little, then sits up.

Moving to the sink, he takes a electric shaver from a locker, starts shaving in a mirror.  He’s pensive, doesn’t hear the alarm.  Shelby comes in, smiles at his oblivion and turns the buzzer off.

She also admires his outfit.  Mismatched socks, no footwear, no trousers and shirt inside out.

SHELBY

Sleep well?

DAVIS

I’m not sure.

Shelby watches him, debating.

SHELBY

Can I ask you something?

DAVIS

Shoot.

SHELBY

Why don’t you ever kiss me?

Davis turns, her look is beyond sexy.  He comes over to her, sorrowful expression on his face.  Stopping in front of her, he slowly reaches for her blouse zipper and pulls it down halfway.  She doesn’t object. He stands there trying to figure out his next move.

SHELBY (CONT’D)

If you’re thinking about being frisky, you’re making my point.  Those aren’t me.

DAVIS

Let’s get our facts right, I do kiss you.  But you’re talking about that intimacy thing and that’s a subject, y’know, that’s… that’s real tricky, tough to get your arms around that one, I mean, can’t really quantify it… and and it requires real serious… give and take… y’know?

SHELBY

(forgiving smile, zips up)

Save this for later?

DAVIS

Bless you.  I feel like I’m at Pearl Harbor… you come outta the blue, you start lobbing bombs, I got no pants on…

As Shelby starts to leave…

DAVIS (CONT’D)

Shel. You really are extraordinary. Give me time, okay?

INT. NASA STATION CATCHER, HALLWAY – DAY

Shelby leaves Davis’ room and almost bumps into Matthew.

MATTHEW

The walls have ears.

SHELBY

What?

Matthew puckers his lips and makes the “kissy” SOUND.

SHELBY(CONT’D)

It was a private conversation, bucko.  You want entertainment, clip your nails.

MATTHEW

None of my business but… he’s in a weird place. I just wouldn’t expect much, okay?

Appreciating the concern, a touch to Matthew’s cheek.

EXT. SPACE

POV (point of view) is the outer extremes of the blue-black Milky Way.  ZOOM inward through galactic wonders, find our solar system and ZOOM past the amazing sights of the planets and moons toward earth.  There we find the orbiting Collector.

In unison, the panels begin to fold and retract back into the main body of the Collector.  The umbrella shield remains extended.  At the other end, a shaft extends and this time, a smaller “nose cone” like shield is deployed.

Spits of thrust propel the Collector back toward earth and eventually the Collector clears the comet tail.  When clear, the large umbrella shield retracts.

The Collector is positioned for its descent to earth, its “nose cone” shield will protect it on reentry.  Soon, thrust is evident from its maneuvering engines… Collector begins to dart through the atmosphere, thermal protective tiles on the “nose cone” glowing red-white and breaking off… slicing through high clouds… earth’s colors and topography sharper.

EXT. ANTARCTICA – DAY

High in the frigid polar air, the Collector floats to earth beneath three parachutes.  Below, a snow cruiser motors through stark but breathtaking landscape.  There is a large raised shovel on the front end.

INT. SNOW CRUISER – DAY

Trapper is driving, Shelby in the middle.  As Matthew looks out the window, his laptop indicates that they’re following a beacon.

MATTHEW

It should be at eleven o’clock.

SHELBY

And there it is.

EXT. ANTARCTICA – DAY

The Collector lands relatively softly.  In moments, the snow cruiser pulls up, the shovel lowers to the ice.  The three astronauts get out and begin to inspect the Collector.

INT. NASA STATION CATCHER, CLEAN ROOM – NEXT DAY

An elaborate but small clean room packed with scientific equipment.  Sticks is fully garbed and hooded and hooked up to oxygen.  On the opposite side of the glass partition, the control room is empty.

Sticks is looking through a microscope, a portion of a Collector panel nearby.  Slowly, he looks up.  Perplexed, he stands, and then goes into mild shock.

INT. NASA STATION CATCHER, COMMUNITY ROOM – DAY

Davis, Shelby and Trapper are playing poker.  Franklin is on the couch trying to read.  Matthew is listening to his iPod, eyes closed.  Trapper takes two cards from Shelby.  Davis takes three, looks at his hand and folds.  Standing, he heads for the kitchen area nearby.

DAVIS

I gotta be the worst poker player in history.

TRAPPER

You owe me thirty-seven million.

DAVIS

Yen, big deal. If it was dollars, then I’d be worried. I might have to get a second job.

He opens a refrigerator, takes out salami, pepperoni, bread and mustard.  He exchanges coy looks with Shelby as he slaps together a sandwich.

TRAPPER

So Shelby, what do you really think?  Do you think we’ll find ET in our cosmic sand pile that the Collector has so kindly delivered to us?

SHELBY

Well, would you like a scientific or spiritual perspective?

TRAPPER

You pick.

DAVIS

(walks back in)

I’m still not clear as to why they’re mutually exclusive.

TRAPPER

(to Shelby)

I’m just wondering if you’re even remotely open to the possibility.

SHELBY

So your inference is that people of faith, me in other words, are closed-minded when it comes to life beyond earth–

STICKS

(intercom speaker)

Trapper?

TRAPPER

(hits intercom button)

Yeah, Sticks.

STICKS

I think you should come back here.  All of you.

INT. NASA STATION CATCHER, TECH AREA – DAY

All the astronauts gather at the glass partition.  Sticks, inside the clean room, is setting up a LCD monitor so the others can see.  You hear Stick’s voice from a wall speaker.

STICKS

So let me tell you where we are.  Earlier this morning, Shelby cataloged the panel hits by size, weight and distribution.  Franklin and Matty started a mineral scan afterwards.  I was supposed to continue it this afternoon, but I succumbed to curiosity.

SHELBY

Why is that no surprise.

On a light table near the glass, two photographs; one appears to be a dark rock split in two, the other, a close-up of one of the halves.

STICKS

May I introduce Collector specimens one and two.  And inside, microbes.  Microscopic, multicellular, organisms.  Even better… they’re extraterrestrial.

DAVIS

What, those pictures!?  It looks like a rotten grapefruit.

STICKS

Oh, wait a minute, sorry.  Look at the monitor.

LCD Monitor on.  Two microorganisms, unlike anything ever seen on earth.  Strange cellular structures whose extraordinary color changes at random.  The astronauts look stunned.

STICKS (CONT’D)

What do you think?

DAVIS

Are the panels contaminated?

STICKS

Hardly.  Look here.

(points to left microbe)

Since I found this one first, I call him Alpha.

TRAPPER

Doctor.  Please tell me you haven’t made a mistake.  These are from space, right, extracted from the Collector panels under goddamn rigorous protocol, correct?

STICKS

I’d bet my life on it. So far, I’ve been able to fracture forty-six micrometeorites and I found specimens in seven.  And amazingly, they’re all just like Alpha.

The microbes become magnified.  The astronauts stare, let it sink in, then start yelling and laughing and high-fiving.  Except for Shelby.

TRAPPER

My God.  That sonofabitch Rutter was right.

DAVIS

Wait a minute!  We gotta say something for the history books.  Anybody?

FRANKLIN

How ’bout “go figure?”

MATTHEW

No, no, what about, “small in size, but a big deal.”  No, ah, “I come in peace, I journey in pieces.”

SHELBY

I have one.

MATTHEW

Hope it’s better than mine.

They quiet, respectful of her less than celebratory mood.

SHELBY

“Lord, Thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea.”  For the pagans amongst us, I hope I didn’t offend anybody.

DAVIS

No, Shelby, I like it. Really.

EXT. NASA STATION CATCHER – DAY

Trapper, Davis, and Franklin are loading the Collector into a transport container.  The container is open at both ends as Davis, on a snowmobile, pulls the Collector into the container.  Trapper and Franklin follow it in with tie-downs.

Adjacent the building dome, Matthew has opened up one of the three survival pods perched on its rails.  They’re hi-tech, rugged, and big enough for two people to sit in.  He inspects the interior, then opens an exterior compartment.  He removes two powerful batteries, reading 65% charge, and replaces them with new ones that register 100%.

Back outside the container, Davis remains seated on the snowmobile, distracted, looking off into the distance.  The wind is picking up dramatically as the sky darkens.

TRAPPER

Something wrong, Commander?

Davis gets off the snowmobile and stands by the container.

DAVIS

It’s not like we’ve found a spaceman that you can dress up and put on a talk show.  How’s the world gonna react to this?  I mean, will they understand the significance?

TRAPPER

You’re assuming they declassify this mission…

DAVIS

Sure.

Matthew walks up to the group pulling the six pod batteries.  He places them by the container’s side to give a hand.

MATTHEW

They’ll declassify it if they’re forced to or it’s in their self-interest.  If not, they won’t.

DAVIS

Why would you say that?

MATTHEW

When has our government ever taken the high ground solely on principle?  Take Rwanda.  We weren’t forced to do anything, no real skin in the game, so we sat on our hands.  And dare I mention that everybody was black? Now do you really think we’d let a million people get killed if they were white and or sittin’ on some extraordinary natural resource? Like oil? Please.

Franklin steps out and closes one end of the container.

FRANKLIN

Actually, it was eight hundred thousand Rwandans, one-third of them were children and they were butchered by machete chops to the skull.

DAVIS

Thanks for the clarification.

FRANKLIN

You know, some people think that interventionism ultimately kills more people than isolationism. Look at the middle east. Because of our involvement, we now have a whole new generation of folks clearly emboldened and destined to kill American infidels, and others no doubt.

TRAPPER

So don’t get involved, right?  Rather slippery morality, don’t you think?

FRANKLIN

When isn’t it slippery?

DAVIS

I’m gonna give Sticks a hand.  Can you guys handle it from here?

TRAPPER

Yeah, go ahead.

(to Matthew as Davis leaves)

You saw the forecast?

MATTHEW

Yep. Katabatic winds.

TRAPPER

Hurricane force unfortunately. Spread the word, let’s batten down.

INT. NASA STATION CATCHER, CLEAN ROOM – DAY

As the winds build outside, you hear the buffeting inside.  Sticks moves a slide sample from a refrigerator to an electron scanner.  Davis, also clean room attired, watches.

STICKS

… and I agree with you.  It doesn’t define me, but nonetheless it’s a burden that I’d rather not shoulder. And I wish they’d leave it alone.

DAVIS

I’m sorry.  Are we talking the gay thing or the genius thing?  Listen, to the people who matter, and screw the rest, you’re beyond amazing.  You’ve got like, the best of both hormones, right?

STICKS

You weren’t a science major, were you?

DAVIS

Okay, how ’bout enzymes?  It’s not like I got an A in biochem.

Smiling, Sticks takes another slide sample and puts it under a microscope with dual sets of oculars.  They both look through the oculars and see a pair of microbes, their brilliant color randomly changing like a chameleon on acid.

DAVIS (CONT’D)

I wonder if their color change is a reaction to anything?

STICKS

I have video where the color is absolutely static.  But the second you look at them?  Well, the color change is spectacular.

DAVIS

No…  they sense we’re watching?

STICKS

Makes you ponder, yes?

Davis pulls away from the oculars and does just that.

DAVIS

Didn’t Einstein or somebody suggest that outcome can be affected by observation?

STICKS

So you have read books.

DAVIS

One a year come hell or high water.

STICKS

And now we venture into the miraculous.

Sticks takes the slide sample out from under the microscope, puts it on a perforated grid over an empty glass bowl and places it into another sophisticated “oven.”  Attached are heat generating coils and digital read-outs.

STICKS (CONT’D)

Since our specimens have to be organic, I needed to test the strength of their carbon bonding.

Sticks adjusts the settings and observes the read-outs.  The coils are getting hot.  Sticks moves to two small cannisters, turns a dial, and watches the readouts rise.  Now!  He shuts everything off.  Inside, the bowl is now full of a dirty thick fluid.

Sticks pulls the bowl out, places it on the counter and removes the grid and now-messy slide sample.  He pours the bowl’s fluid into a steel and glass container/processor.  He also pours in a small amount of additive and places a lid on the container.  He turns the processor on.  The glass becomes clouded by the chemical interactions taking place inside.

STICKS (CONT’D)

But I discovered something else.  Think of this as a mini refinery.

From the processor flow multiple wires which are connected to a laser, currently off.  The laser is pointing at a prism at the other end of the work station.  Sticks dims the lights, a beat… instantly, an intense blue light from the laser pierces the middle of the prism.  Colored light blossoms outward like a rainbow.

A long beat.  Sticks hits a switch, the laser goes off, the lights come on.

DAVIS

Am I to assume that the laser was powered by the fluid you just made?

STICKS

Exactly.  Now here’s the tricky part.  Somehow, and that’s a monstrous how, these microbes, through some unique biochemical process, can create an energy source.  I throw in a little hydrogen, it combines with some of their expelled carbon, the resultant molecule grows exponentially as a function of heat, pressure and time, and it liquefies.  You then mix in a touch of additive, refine it –

(touches processor)

– and voila.  Petroleum.

DAVIS

Whoa whoa.  You’re telling me that with a relatively simple process, these microbes create… oil?

STICKS

Basically.  And because of some strange unbelievable magnifier effect, these things could probably produce an ocean of it.

DAVIS

So let me understand. They’ve been suspended in a comet tail for god knows how long, somehow living in the most extreme kind of environment –

STICKS

Extremophiles some would say –

DAVIS

They eat nothing, breathe nothing, and just lay in rock for billions of years, and now they’re producing something absolutely alien to their own existence?

STICKS

Not so farfetched. Microbiologists have found subsurface microbes in Virginia that have been geologically isolated for a 150 million years that can produce magnetic iron for industrial uses. They’ve found microbes in both boiling water and sub-zero temperatures, and in and around radiation levels that rival nuclear reactors. They’re used to clean up oil spills, used in medical research. Researchers are even figuring out ways to use these little guys to reduce air pollution and believe-it-or-not, to someday create another energy source for the future.  From Hydrogen.

(pause)

And we now have Alpha.

DAVIS

My God, If Exxon hears about this, they’re gonna vomit blood.

(beat)

We’ve captured the genie.

QUICK CUTS, almost as impressions or images.

Coal mines… coal yards… strip mining… fields of solar panels… massive hydroelectic dams… grinding hydroelectric turbines… miles of churning wind generators… deep pit uranium mines… nuclear power stations… electric power stations… distribution stations… dumps of discarded batteries… burning gas wells… gushing oil wells… oil refineries… oil pipelines… oil ports… oil tankers… Alpha.

EXT. NASA STATION CATCHER – DAY

The Katabatic is in its full fury as gale force winds and blowing ice assault the facility.

INT. NASA STATION CATCHER, CONTROL ROOM – DAY

Shelby is getting her foot massaged by Sticks.  The buffeting heard earlier has increased as the wind pounds away outside.

SHELBY

I never liked the term “bad” weather.  Listen.

(long pause)

However self-conscious or self-absorbed we are on a clear, sunny day… on days like this, we’re in awe.  I love that.

STICKS

The elements do shift our focus to the external, agreed.  But more importantly, have you managed to get that kiss yet?

SHELBY

Oh please.  What am I, in high school?

Sticks continues to do a masterful job on her foot.

STICKS

Okay, I’ll switch the subject.  Alpha.  He obviously has genetic structure, right?  So why not DNA?

SHELBY

Listen.  DNA is an earth thing.  If Alpha had any, which he doesn’t, it’s only because some huge meteor crashed into earth a billion years ago and blasted organic matter upward right smack into the middle of that comet tail which just happened to be passing by –

STICKS

– and that material evolved into Alpha and we found it and brought it back home again. Yeah yeah. But what if you’re wrong?  Just think how wonderful it would be if Alpha was cut from the same cloth as we were… DNA but from somewhere else.  Imagine.  A sort of divine symmetry throughout the cosmos.

SHELBY

Very poetic, but that’s not the nature of the universe.  Think of space as nothingness to the nth degree–

BOOM. A huge EXPLOSION followed by a blast of blowing frigid air knocks them off their chairs.  They’re stunned.  The lights go out as an alarm sounds.  A large ragged hole is visible in the control room as is the arctic landscape.

The other four astronauts run into the control room, fighting the force of wind and ice.  Trapper runs for the console and silences the alarm as Davis hits a red emergency button which transmits to NASA.  Wall mounted emergency lights instantly go on. Shelby is scrambling to put her boot on.

Davis crawls to the blast hole, looks outside, and sees the smoking destroyed generator and APU (auxiliary power unit).  Just missing him, a section of wall separates and slams into the clean room glass breaking it.  Shreds of glass fly, cutting Sticks.

Davis crawls back towards Trapper.  He yells over the roar.

DAVIS

The power’s gone!  Get to the pods!

TRAPPER

Did you send the alarm!?

DAVIS

Yes!

Matthew is on the floor and grabs Davis’ leg.  Debris is flying everywhere.  The hole is getting bigger, they might as well be outside.

MATTHEW

Time to go!

And BLAM, a chair knocks Matthew out.  As Davis picks up his brother, Trapper runs to Shelby to assist her.  Franklin is already helping Sticks.

The six astronauts manage to get to the other end of the dome.  Three small doors, access to the survival pods, are evident.  Davis, Trapper and Franklin open the doors, then the pod hatches.  Shelby climbs in one, Sticks in another.  Matthew is out, so Davis and Trapper struggle to place him in the third pod.

The dome is quickly disintegrating as the winds blow it apart.

DAVIS

(to Trapper)

I’ll stay with Matthew!

Trapper nods and then climbs in the pod with Shelby.  Franklin gets in with Sticks.  They close the pod hatches and in moments, two pods release down the rails.

EXT. NASA STATION CATCHER – DAY

Grey, low visibility, one hundred and thirty m.p.h. winds.  There are three sets of rails.  They all lead into one protected snow bunker thirty yards away.  As two of the pods slide down, a snowmobile is up ended and crashes into Trapper and Shelby’s pod #2.  The collision knocks it off the rails before it reaches the snow bunker.

INT. NASA STATION CATCHER – DAY

Davis is in pod #3 with his brother reaching to close the hatch, then stops.

DAVIS

The microbes!

Climbing out, he closes the hatch door and heads back to the control room.  Avoiding flying debris, some of the emergency wall mounted lights are sheared from their mounts.  It’s getting darker.

In the area that was once the clean room, Davis finds a storage locker.  It’s on its side.  Struggling to get the door open, he opens it and sees a metal case.  It’s labeled “Collector Specimens.”  He grabs the case’s handle.

EXT. SNOW BUNKER – DAY

At the bottom of the snow bunker, sitting on rails, is Franklin and Sticks’ pod #1.  They successfully made it and are now well protected from the Katabatic.  Through one of two windows, we see Franklin applying a bandage to Stick’s forehead.

INT. POD #1 – DAY

Like a small submersible, Franklin and Sticks are surrounded by instrumentation.  Franklin reaches down to the main console and checks that the power, heat and comm switches are in the “on” position.  They are, but their breath is condensing.  It’s freezing inside.  The gauge reads no power.

INT. POD #3 – DAY

Davis closes the hatch door.  Matthew is groggy.  Reaching for the “release” handle, he pulls, and with a lurch they head down.  Through their windows, the storm outside is evident, as well as an overturned pod which startles Davis.

Like a mini roller coaster, they slam to a stop at the bottom of the bunker.  Davis can see Franklin/Sticks through his window.

Davis tries to turn “on” his instrumentation, but nothing.  No lights, heat, or communication.  He reaches behind his seat, grabs a heavy coat, and covers Matthew.  He reaches for the hatch.  It’s freezing in their pod #3 as well.

EXT. SNOW BUNKER – DAY

Davis climbs out of pod #3, reaches in for the other coat, and puts it on.  Closing the hatch, he opens an external panel and strains to read the power level on the battery gauge.  It reads zero, in the red.  The battery casing looks warped, unnatural, tampered with.

Rushing over to pod #1, he smacks the window.  Franklin opens the hatch.

DAVIS

Are you all right!?

FRANKLIN

No.  We don’t have any power.

DAVIS

Must be the batteries.  Mine are dead, too.

Davis looks over at Sticks.  He’s white, bleeding profusely, and incoherent.

DAVIS (CONT’D)

Keep watching him.  Trapper and Shelby’s pod were knocked off the rails.

EXT. POD #2 – DAY

Adjacent the rails, not in the bunker but outside and exposed, the pod is on its side, hatch down.  Davis peers in the window, brushing away the ice.  He gets a thumbs up from Trapper.

Fighting the gale winds, Davis hurries to one of the snowmobiles thirty yards away.  Starting it, he drives to the pod, gets off and grabs a rope beneath one of the emergency panels.  Securing it to the pod, he gets back on the snowmobile, guns in, and slowly the pod starts to move.  It rights itself.  Davis pulls it into the bunker.

EXT. SNOW BUNKER – DAY

At the bottom of the bunker, Davis runs to the rescued #2 pod as the hatch door opens.  Trapper emerges, looking very cold.

TRAPPER

We’re gonna have to go three to a pod.  This one’s a refrigerator.

DAVIS

No good.  They’re all dark.  Probably the batts. Is Shelby okay?

SHELBY

(climbs out)

I’m okay.

TRAPPER

I’ll check the pods again.  You find some batteries.

EXT. NASA STATION CATCHER – DAY

Davis comes roaring out of the bunker on the snowmobile.  The dome facility is mostly in shreds, precariously perched on its stilts.  The Katabatic is ferocious.

Davis drives directly to the disposal bin.  He tries to look inside, but the visibility is too poor.  He climbs in and rummages around.  Nothing.

Climbing out, he looks at the tattered remains of the station.  The winds continue to howl.  What now?  He sees the Collector transport container and then remembers…

FLASHBACK

The day they were loading the Collector into the transport container.  Matthew walked up dragging six batteries…

TO THE PRESENT

Davis runs to the transport container and starts frantically digging for the batteries.  First spot, no good… second spot, no luck… then he finds them.  Thank God for absent-minded brothers. They weren’t thrown away.

EXT. SNOW BUNKER – DAY

Davis roars to a stop pulling the batteries.  By this time, everybody is out of their pods.  Each group takes two batteries, goes to their pod and secures them in the external compartment.

Davis’ battery gauge is in the green, 58% charge, as are the others.  The astronauts climb back into their pods.  One by one, the internal lights go on.

INT. POD #2 – DAY

Trapper grabs the mic.  Shelby places her hand on a heating panel.

TRAPPER

Radio check.  Who’s up?

FRANKLIN (V.O.)

Franklin here.

DAVIS (V.O.)

We’re with you, skipper.  We’re actually starting to get some heat in here.

TRAPPER

Franklin.  Are your coils heating?

FRANKLIN (V.O.)

We’re good here.

STICKS (V.O.)

It’ll be like Florida in no time.

SHELBY

Hot and humid, c’mon baby…

INT. POD #3 – DAY

Davis reclines his seat.  Both he and Matthew start to warm up… and relax somewhat.  Matthew slides his seat back, opens a small trunk, inside is food and water.  He hands a frozen water bottle to Davis.

DAVIS

Great. An ice cube.

(in mic)

If I were a betting man, I’d say we’re gonna make it.  This time tomorrow, they’ll be here.

EXT. LANDING AREA, ANTARCTICA – DAY

Calm, sunny day.  Two Air Force C-130’s are off-loading another NASA dome facility.  The Collector transport container is waiting to be loaded.  The astronauts stand by mixing with the rescue personnel and their station replacements.

EXT. AIRBORNE C-130 – DAY

Taking off, one of the C-130 circles around and passes over the new NASA station. Davis, Matthew and the rest of the crew are aboard. With flags flying, the replacement crew waves.  With a tip of its wings, the C-130 powers up and begins its journey to the coast of Antarctica, over glaciers, mountains and overwhelming emptiness.

EXT. NASA ADMINISTRATION, KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FLORIDA – DAY

An impressive, modern six-story glass and concrete building.  A busy parking lot abuts manicured grounds.

INT. NASA CONFERENCE ROOM – DAY

Except for Davis, the astronauts are all seated in a small, plush conference room.  Davis walks in hurriedly.

DAVIS

You won’t believe who I just saw.

TRAPPER

I’m listening.

DAVIS

A skinny guy with an entourage.

Davis sits down next to Shelby.  A few moments later George enters (NASA rep last seen on the launch command ship), followed by U.S. PRESIDENT BURK, rail-thin, but obviously in control, and DR. OLIVIA GIORDANO, 34, and very classy.  Everyone stands.  Two Secret Service remain by the closed door.

Davis and Olivia exchange looks, it’s clear they know one another.  They should, they’re still married.  She smiles faintly, Davis goes cold.  Shelby whispers in Davis’ ear.

SHELBY

She really is beautiful. You blew it bud.

GEORGE

(to Trapper)

Col. Emerson, I’m gonna turn this over to your commander-in-chief.

(to Burk)

Sir.

PRESIDENT BURK

Thank you, George.  First of all.  On behalf of the American people, let me congratulate everyone on an extraordinary mission.  It’s good to have you home safe and sound.

TRAPPER

Thank you, sir.

PRESIDENT BURK

And this Alpha matter… my my.  I was telling Olivia here that it’s like finding gold wrapped in hundred-dollar bills.

STICKS

Sir, what about Alpha?  Shouldn’t we make some announcement, I mean it is rather extraordinary. Life in space. Like wow.

PRESIDENT BURK

No, I think it’s wise that we take our time on this one.  Explore the ramifications, you might say.  Now, the reason for my visit. Tomorrow morning we’re going to launch a new STARSEARCH satellite.  It will map the comet tail and scan for the same kind of minerals found in your precious micrometeorites.  Once we confirm a probable location, we’re launching you fine people for a manned mission, the one you’ve already trained for, and this time Collector number two will do the honors.  Olivia?

Olivia had been leaning against the wall.  She walks over by the President.

OLIVIA

At best we have nine days before the comet clears the earth’s orbit, so nine days to complete this mission.  Since we have one remaining Collector, a larger one designed for an orbital release only, a redesigned, untested shuttle is our only option.  Risky, yes, but we really don’t have any other choices.

PRESIDENT BURK

Now, I know it’s a long shot but I’m committing America to this historic task.  They just won’t know it.  George, why don’t you finish up here.  Thank you, everyone.

Everyone stands as the President leaves, Olivia and secret service in tow.

STICKS

The greatest discovery of the century and he says it’s wise to keep it secret.  I don’t get it.

MATTHEW

Are you kiddin’?  It’s absolutely consistent.  What the world doesn’t know can’t hurt them.

GEORGE

Hold on, there’s more. What the President didn’t tell you is that as we speak, our entire national security apparatus is going nuts.  Surveillance satellites have picked up frantic launch site activity by the French, Japanese, even the Russians.  All of a sudden, they’re dying to get into space.  It’s not a coincidence. It seems we’re in a horse race.

MATTHEW

So others know about this? NASA is not so keen on keeping this secret I guess.

FRANKLIN

Or it’s somebody at International Technologies.  But without an orbital release Collector, how can the others possibly find… wait a minute, maybe Rutter has more. He’s stoking the fire. Imagine the price he could get for them now.

GEORGE

I doubt it, but I do appreciate your cynicism.  Ladies and gentlemen, it is our view that Alpha, hell, that entire comet, is the sovereign property of the United States and we plan to keep it that way –

DAVIS

And tomorrow, let’s claim the earth’s core and Saturn while we’re at it.  George.  Why the hell didn’t you tell me my wife was coming?

GEORGE

I didn’t even know the President was coming ’til three hours ago.  So enough.  Trapper, it’s your show.

TRAPPER

Thanks, George.  We’ll be ready.

INT. PRESIDENTIAL LIMOUSINE – DAY

Olivia and the President climb into the back of a limo, part of a caravan.  There’s one other passenger, Dr. Rutter.

PRESIDENT BURK

You should’ve come in.

RUTTER

Have you’ve forgotten that it was my vision and my Collector that delivered Alpha into your hands?  It’s my discovery, too, and by agreement I’m entitled to half.

PRESIDENT BURK

Unwritten agreement.  C’mon, there’s barely enough for NASA.

RUTTER

You’re recanting the deal?

PRESIDENT BURK

I’ll get more, don’t worry. Relish the moment for chrissakes. The future’s looking dandy.

(to Olivia)

He thinks I work for him.

Olivia powers her window down and takes in the fresh air.  She watches the astronauts leave the building.  Davis and Shelby are walking together, her hand on his shoulder.  They’re animated, enjoying each other’s company. Olivia’s heart aches as the limo pulls away.

EXT. NASA MISSION ARCHIVES – NIGHT

The moon is intermittent as storm clouds pass.  One-story building; bunker-like, small windows, surrounded by a fence. A sign next to an unmanned gate reads “Restricted Zone-Authorization Required.”  A gloved hand punches a six number code on the keypad by the gate.  The gate CLANKS open.

INT. NASA MISSION ARCHIVES – NIGHT

In the bowels of the empty building, lights are dim.  In a windowless room are steel shelves, vaults and workstations.  One vault’s door is illuminated: “Collector Specimens.”

A NOISE reverberates off the walls as the room’s thick metal door opens.  Standing outside the door in the hallway is a figure.  The figure moves into the room carrying a small bag.

EXT. NASA MISSION ARCHIVES – LATER – NIGHT

An EXPLOSION, the glass of a window is BLOWN OUT.  ZOOM through this window back into the building, ACROSS a hallway, PASS an unhinged metal door and see the destruction of the storage room, the vault and the Collector specimens.

EXT. TRAPPER’S HOUSE – NIGHT

The rear of a modernist house is glass, concealed by curtains.  Rain dances down the windows.

Through a crack in the curtains we see a family portrait above the dining room table.  It’s Trapper, his wife, and two young daughters, 5 and 7.  They’re beautifully poised in front of a large stone fireplace.

There is a BLAST of light that softens to a glow, a beat, then the curtains erupt on fire.  The interior is now an inferno as the Emerson’s portrait boils.  The house succumbs as flames eat the structure.

EXT. LAUNCH COMPLEX 39 – CAPE CANAVERAL – NIGHT

Unlike the previous launch of the heavyweight Titan Unity rocket from the sea-based platform, the STARSEARCH satellite atop the smaller Atlas rocket is a slimmed down Ferrari.  It’s basked in floodlights.

Unfortunately, no rocket ignition but an EXPLOSION which starts at the base of the rocket and ignites the solid fuel like a bomb blast.  As the lower segments of the rocket crumble, gravity helps the cause sucking the rest of the rocket, satellite and support structures to the flaming earth.

EXT. NASA ADMINISTRATION – DAY

Davis pulls up in his ’68 Mustang fastback.  Few cars in the parking lot, it’s early.

INT. GEORGE’S OFFICE – DAY

Before charging into George’s office, Davis notices a government “suit” in the adjoining conference room.  An awkward glance from the guy. He continues in.

DAVIS

So what happened?

GEORGE

Have a seat.

(long beat)

Davis.  There’s no right way to do this.

(beat)

Trapper and his family were killed last night in a fire.  Some kind of accident at their home, they’re not sure what.  Now I –

But Davis, stunned, uneasy, slowly stands and leaves the office with deaf ears.

INT. NASA ADMINISTRATION – DAY

Davis walks down an empty hallway turning right into his office’s anteroom.  ERLENE, his southern-fried heavy secretary, is applying eye shadow.

ERLENE

Lordy, you don’t look so good.

No answer.  A small shrug from Erlene.  Davis walks into his office and shuts the door.  George has followed but before he enters Davis’ office…

ERLENE (CONT’D)

Don’t go in there, I know his looks.

GEORGE

What do you suggest?

ERLENE

Count to a hundred.

George reaches into his coat pocket, takes out a pack and lights up.  Erlene starts her computer work, intermittently waving smoke away, as Olivia walks up.  George nods.

OLIVIA

(to George)

Have you told him?

GEORGE

Only about Trapper.

Erlene looks up with a huge smile.  She stands, comes around her desk and bear hugs Olivia.

ERLENE

Can you get any prettier?!  My my, you’re just sweetness in a spoon, aren’t you?

OLIVIA

Hi Erlene, it’s been a long time.

Erlene releases Olivia but holds her at arms’ length.

ERLENE

So.  What brings you down here in these crazy times?  Don’t tell me you wanna be an astronaut again?

OLIVIA

I’m happy in Washington, but honestly, I do miss it.

ERLENE

And it’s my genteel opinion that you-know-who misses you-know-who.

OLIVIA

I wonder.

George puts his cigarette butt in a Pepsi can and before entering Davis’ office –

GEORGE

Olivia.  Give me a few minutes.

INT. DAVIS’ OFFICE – DAY

It’s dark.  George turns on the lights, remains standing. Davis is sitting at his desk, feet up, head back.

GEORGE

Davis, things are happening fast and furious around here, and whether we like it or not, we have directives to keep pushing.

Davis doesn’t move a muscle.

GEORGE (CONT’D)

Besides the launch pad explosion which is plastered all over the news, somebody blew up Mission Archives last night as well. We’re going to keep that quiet. The FBI found plastic explosives, fuse, timer, stuff like that.  Unfortunately, no forced entry, which is throwing ‘em somewhat.  But it’s clear that Alpha and his pals were the target.  Except for the ones being analyzed in Clean Room Six, which maybe ten people know about, we’re outta microbes.

Davis crosses his feet.

GEORGE (CONT’D)

Now.  Something the world is waking up to.  STARSEARCH.  We’re gonna blame a bad fuel cell but that wasn’t it.  Forty-seven minutes before the launch crew arrived, our data read-out tells us that the two mission abort buttons were simultaneously pressed.  The launch pad explosion was deliberate.

DAVIS

Do you really think I care about any of this?

George takes a seat.

GEORGE

Two hours ago, I had a conversation with the President.  He’s aware of everything I’ve just told you.  Notwithstanding last night’s three events, the mission is still on.  He’s not going to back off.

DAVIS

Events, huh?  Trapper and family are gone, someone is trying to eliminate the microbial golden goose and someone wants to keep us away from the comet. And he still wants to risk it.

GEORGE

Yes.  And God knows I’m sorry, but without Trapper, it’s your mission now.  We don’t have time to send another reconnaissance satellite or train another crew –

Davis leaps up from his desk.

DAVIS

My best friend’s dead!  His family is dead!  I’ve been able to grieve for what, the length of a hallway?  Now you’re in here talking to me about missions?!  Leave.

GEORGE

Listen, I know the timing stinks, but we can fly this mission with four people, you know that.  And you have to lead this thing.  Franklin will be your copilot.

DAVIS

If I say no?

GEORGE

Don’t.  Trite I know but you’ll put our national security at risk.  I’m appealing to your sense of duty.

Davis plops back into his chair.

DAVIS

No.

GEORGE

Reconsider –

DAVIS

Somebody is blowing up Cape Canaveral.  You go.

George stands, grabs a document from his coat pocket and drops it on the desk.

GEORGE

I had nothin’ to do with this.  It’s a letter of reprimand suggesting all kinds of bad things. This goes public, you’re cooked.

Davis looks at it, wads it up and throws it on the floor.  George takes out another doc and waves it.

GEORGE (CONT’D)

They anticipated your response. In my hand is Matthew’s letter of termination. For cause. There isn’t any, of course, but this paper suggests criminal fabrication of research results for the sole purpose of bilking the U.S. Government out of lots of money.

Davis does a slow burn.

GEORGE (CONT’D)

They’re not playing games.

The door opens and Olivia walks in tentatively.

GEORGE (CONT’D)

Olivia, I was just about to mention you.

(to Davis)

The President wants his science advisor to be his eyes and ears down here.  He also wants her on the Explorer mission.  Since that’s Dr. Giordano, meet your new crew member.  And no, it’s not negotiable.

OLIVIA

George, ease up.

On his wall, Davis sees a picture of Trapper and himself standing in front of two F-18s, they’re both in flight gear.

GEORGE

I don’t need to tell you that there’s a lot at stake here.  Just go with the program, all right?

DAVIS

Please leave. Both of you.

EXT. DAVIS’ HOUSE – NIGHT

A two-story, well-kept colonial.  Big storm rolling in.

INT. DAVIS’ HOUSE – UPSTAIRS BEDROOM – NIGHT

Bed table stacked with books, a bottle of scotch, prescription pills.  On the dresser, a photo of an alligator.

Above the dresser a framed newspaper clipping from the Las Vegas Tribune dated June 21, 1983. Headline: “Virginia Couple Killed In Freak Car Accident, Children Spared.”

A silent 8 MM. film FLICKERS against a bare wall.  A family enjoying a day at the beach; it will be the same family in Davis’ pendant.  Davis and Matthew, 8 and 4, are trying to pull each other’s pants down.  Their father is laughing.

The picture wobbles as the camera is handed off to Pop.  The mother enters frame, plays tag.  Matthew reaches up to kiss her while Davis rough-houses and grabs her neck.  Her pendant falls to the sand, she picks it up and blows the sand away.

Davis, sitting in bed, the projector by his knee, is clearly upset.  The bed is covered with 8 MM. reels.  He switches reels.

Davis, now 12, is standing on a dock.  He’s nervous, receiving instruction from off camera.  Matthew breaks into the picture making faces and tries to push Davis in.  The mother enters frame and holds Matthew back.  Davis, hands together for a quick prayer, leaps and flips.  As he surfaces, he raises his arms in celebration.

EXT. MARINA – DAY

Shelby steps off her 35-foot sailboat “DICHOTOMY” onto the dock, and walks toward the parking lot.  Dressed in funeral black, she climbs into her Jeep and drives away.

EXT. GOOD SHEPHERD CATHOLIC CHURCH – DAY

FATHER COOK, old and street wise, is walking down the front steps.  Davis, in uniform, walks up to the priest who stops, somewhat bewildered.

FATHER COOK

May I help you?

DAVIS

I imagine you’re not one for irony.

FATHER COOK

As a reflection of divine providence, perhaps.

DAVIS

Then what’s this day about?  Part of the grand design?

FATHER COOK

You’re a friend of the deceased family aren’t you?

(beat)

Don’t presume, dear friend, to question God’s plan or his will. As mysterious as his ways seem, they all stem from love so I would suggest you accept it.  Now if you’ll please excuse me.

The priest walks toward a red car, climbs in and drives off.  Davis hesitates and then enters the church.

INT. GOOD SHEPHERD CATHOLIC CHURCH – DAY

Davis stands in the empty church.  It’s been a long time.  Beautiful stained glass windows adorn the interior. The twelve stations of the Cross attract his attention.  Davis takes it all in, contemplative.  Behind him the doors OPEN.

Davis turns and sees a young girl.  He’s reminded of innocence, fragile and tentative… and Trapper’s children.  Eyes glistening, his face is sad but warm.

DAVIS

Hi.

The girl, bashful, doesn’t say anything.  She waves, gifting a beautiful smile and leaves.  Davis turns back toward the altar and ponders Jesus the man hanging on the finely crafted cross.

EXT. CEMETERY – DAY

Shelby, Matthew, Franklin, Sticks, George and others mill about the grave site waiting for the service.  They also look for Davis.  Cars park in the background.  Four coffins, one draped by the American flag, lie in repose.

A glance between Shelby and Matthew suggests “Where is he?”  Matthew shrugs.  Shelby then walks to the flag draped coffin, kneels and discreetly lays a cross necklace on the coffin.  Standing, her eyes fill with tears.

EXT. THE SALSA PALACE – DUSK

Tacky Mexican restaurant and bar.  Franklin and Sticks get out of a car still dressed in mourning clothes.  Davis’ car is already parked.

EXT. THE SALSA PALACE – BACK PATIO – NIGHT

Near a water fountain, Davis, drunk and wearing a sombrero, and Franklin are yakking.  Sticks halfheartedly listens.

DAVIS

… I’m telling you, this Alpha’s a mind reader.  You sneak a peek, he’s like a chameleon on speed.

FRANKLIN

I suspect electromagnetism, don’t you think?  Perhaps they’re organic EEG machines that somehow tap into our brain functions.

STICKS

Oh, Davis.  Might I suggest you run for your life?

DAVIS

(sees Shelby)

Uh oh…

As Matthew walks onto the patio, Shelby is steaming in behind him and coming their way.  Matthew turns to intercept.

MATTHEW

He’s drunk.  Why waste your time?

SHELBY

Matthew, outta my way.

Shelby steps around Matthew but Franklin stands there smugly.  His hair is slicked back and perfectly parted.  He offers Shelby a martini.  She slaps it out of his hand.

FRANKLIN

A bordeaux perhaps.

SHELBY

(to Davis)

Why weren’t you at the funeral?!

DAVIS

No good answer.

SHELBY

You should’ve been there.

DAVIS

They didn’t miss me.

Matthew has heard enough and grabs his brother’s arm.

MATTHEW

Asshole, we just buried your best friend.

DAVIS

Exactly my point.

(mocking)

Life’s a poem but it doesn’t rhyme. We were supposed to go fishing. Big problems, small boat.

MATTHEW

You’re pathetic.  Where’s your heart?

Davis jabs a finger on Matthew’s chest.

DAVIS

I fed it to the alligators.

Matthew swats Davis’ finger away and leaves the patio.  Davis’ sombrero is frisbeed at Matthew’s back and almost hits him.  The others leave.  Davis sits back down on the fountain’s side and stares at a wet shiny buffalo nickel.

INT. THE SALSA PALACE – MAIN BAR – NIGHT

Davis, unsteady, walks up to the bar.  They make room for him.  Grabbing a beer mug, he POUNDS on the bar.

DAVIS

Okay, everybody, pipe down.  A toast for the toasted –

SHELBY

Davis!

DAVIS

Ah, ah.  Let me finish.

SHELBY

Are you gonna just stand there?

MATTHEW

Yep.

STICKS

It’s been a difficult day, Davis, why don’t you just –

DAVIS

Siddown?  No, ’cause I’m standin’.  And furthermore –

Davis uneasily shifts his weight, finds a wet spot on the floor, and goes down hard.  The others manage to tenderly pick him up, he’s blitzed, and they set him in a chair.  He can only look down.

EXT. DAVIS’ HOUSE – NIGHT

A taxi cab pulls up.  Davis gets out holding his sombrero and shoes, he’s barefoot.  Sitting on the grass, he puts his shoes on.  He notices movement by the side of his house. His front door is open.  Someone darts from the shadows.

DAVIS

Hey!

Davis chases after him.  Through lawns, down the street and toward the woods…

The hatted figure runs into a back yard, hops a fence and lands in heavy brush…

Skidding down a small bank, the figure sloshes down a stream toward a one track freight bridge…

And disappears.

Davis has followed the same trail and eventually climbs up a dirt embankment next to a steel and concrete foundation.  He finds himself on the same freight bridge.

Out of breath, by the tracks, he listens for movement.  He hears a train WHISTLE, the ground starts rumbling, and he’s suddenly lit up by a spotlight.

He steps back but is instantly pushed from behind.  He lands on the tracks, rolls with his momentum, pops up, and sees the figure.

Leaping back across the tracks, barely missing the passing train, he tries to tackle the figure but misses…

And is pushed over the rail into the black.  The figure leans over the rail, stares… then vanishes.

EXT. RESIDENTIAL STREET – NIGHT

Davis is walking down the sidewalk, soaking wet, uneasy.  He stops to dry heave.

INT. THE SALSA PALACE – NIGHT

Sticks, disconsolate, is sitting alone at the bar.  Franklin, sweating, walks in the front entrance and joins him.

STICKS

I thought you left.

FRANKLIN

I did.  Unfortunately, my wife bores me.

(gets bartender’s attention)

Bartender, your best cognac.  Dos, please.

(to Sticks)

And so, my Irish prancer, can you imagine how famous we could be if the world knew about Alpha?

STICKS

Please.  Allow me this evening to commiserate. In peace would be rather nice.

The bartender delivers the drinks.  Franklin raises his glass and sips his drink, they both become lost in thought.

INT. DAVIS’ HOUSE – KITCHEN – NIGHT

Davis, drying out, is sitting on the counter sipping a cup of coffee.  He’s looking at his phone.  He picks it up and punches some numbers.  One ring later…

MATTHEW (V.O.)

(recording)

Hello.  This is my mother’s favorite son.  Please leave a number.

INT. MATTHEW’S APARTMENT – NIGHT

A loft apartment, large but messy.  The answering machine sits near a computer setup that Bill Gates would envy.  Matthew is vegging on the couch watching lions chase gazelles.  Sound off. He hears his machine.

DAVIS (OFF SCREEN)

Hey brainiac.  It’s your brother, the asshole.  Call me, will ya?

Matthew turns up the volume as the lion scores.

INT. OFFICE PENTHOUSE, MIAMI – DAY

Sixty floors up, Dr. Rutter is pacing in his plush office.  The sound is off on his eight TV monitors.  Shelby marches into his office.

RUTTER

Well, well, what a surprise. You’re not training today?

SHELBY

We need to talk.

RUTTER

Not a good time. And heaven forbid, I thought we did.  If memory serves, two months ago you told me to, how did you put it… spend my money on age appropriate females.

SHELBY

I thought you were getting attached.

RUTTER

And your rationale for returning the diamond brooch… to my wife?

SHELBY

I did it anonymously.  I thought she might appreciate some insight into your character.

RUTTER

Fortunately, I was able to sidestep that land mine. Were you angry with me?

SHELBY

No.  Not at all.

RUTTER

I didn’t think so. Such is your charm, yes?

(pause)

So why this sudden compulsion to talk to me?

SHELBY

I’m in a real quandary here.  And you understand me.

RUTTER

Obviously not –

SHELBY

No, no.  You have great intuition… and don’t tell me to talk to my crew.  I need to be strong for them, not some whining spineless princess.

RUTTER

Given my limited availability, here’s what I suggest.  You’re enticing and infuriating and way beyond my managerial talents.  So let’s keep things the way they are.  You desirous of conversation, me without time.  Agreed?

SHELBY

Do I have a choice?

RUTTER

Anything else?

SHELBY

I did what you told me.  My broker thinks I’m insane, but I sold the stocks.  You’ve been right so far, but I am concerned about the appearance of insider–

RUTTER

May I interrupt?

SHELBY

Of course.

RUTTER

This smells like a conversation. Wasn’t I clear?

SHELBY

You’re right.  Forgive me.

Shelby meekly gets up and leaves.

EXT. NASA GUEST QUARTERS – DAY

Parking lot.  Sitting in his car, Davis is lost in thought.  Doesn’t notice cars coming and going.  His cellular rings.

DAVIS

(phone)

Hello?

STICKS (V.O.)

Guess what I have marinating?  It used to moo.

DAVIS

Sticks? Hey bud. What are you up to?

STICKS

Getting you healthy.  We launch in days and you’re not gonna be some malnourished, pasty Mission Commander.  So cancel whomever tonight, because I won’t take no.

DAVIS

Don’t you have a boyfriend?

STICKS

I’ll take that as a yes.  See you at seven. Oh, and I’ll even cook up advice for handling two beautiful women. Dear boy, you’ve become pathetic.

(CLICK)

Davis gets out and climbs a flight of stairs.  Finds room 276.  He knocks.  After a few moments, Olivia opens the door.

DAVIS

Hi.  I’ll get to the point, I’d like some answers.

A beat, Olivia waves him in and shuts the door.

INT. OLIVIA’S ROOM – DAY

She goes back into the kitchen, bacon and eggs cooking on the stove.  Davis takes a stool at the counter.

OLIVIA

So wonderful of you to visit by-the-way. My family’s fine, they think you’re a putz, I’ve lost six pounds, thanks so much for noticing.

DAVIS

Listen.  I’m a little focused right now.

OLIVIA

Fine.  Your dime.

DAVIS

Why are you here?  Besides being the President’s spy.

OLIVIA

I’m his science advisor, dear, and in case you’ve forgotten, we’re sitting on the greatest scientific discovery of all time.

DAVIS

So your role here is strictly advisory… there’s no hidden agenda.

OLIVIA

Define agenda.

DAVIS

Okay.  Not complete honesty but I sense an opening.  So I’ll be blunt.  You shouldn’t be here, it makes no sense, but you are and I absolutely wanna know why.

Olivia opens the refrigerator and pulls out a Coke.  She gestures to Davis to see if he wants one, he shakes his head.

OLIVIA

I asked for the job.

DAVIS

You asked the President?

OLIVIA

Yes.

(turns the stove off)

What do you know about Damien Rutter?

DAVIS

Not much.  The politically correct answer is that he’s influential, sits on NASA’s Oversight Committee–

OLIVIA

He heads the committee.  And of course, he’s responsible for the Collector.  But more importantly, and what most people don’t know, he’s the President’s best friend.

DAVIS

Okay, golf buddies, so what?

OLIVIA

Rutter is majority owner of one of the largest diversified conglomerates in the United States.  International Technologies. Defense, hi-tech, biotech, agribusiness, energy –

Davis is looking her over, admiring.

DAVIS

If somebody told you to lose six pounds, they’re nuts.

OLIVIA

Pay attention. So Rutter practically owns the President’s ear.  He’s one of the reasons your microbes are so darn secret.  If it was up to him, the rest of the world would never hear about Alpha.

DAVIS

Why’s that?

OLIVIA

Because he plays the angles, that’s how you get rich.  Listen, in the past week, Rutter has been dumping energy stocks… oil, gas, coal, hydro, you name it.  And what has he done with his new-found twenty-two point four billion dollars?  He’s been buying up all the International Tech stock he didn’t already own.  Now, why would he do this?  Perhaps one, he doesn’t see much value in energy stocks long term, or two, maybe he thinks his own company will explode in value. Or maybe both.

DAVIS

How come you never handled the checkbook?  You’re good at this.

(pissy look from Olivia)

Since when have you been so interested in the finances of a billionaire?

OLIVIA

Since I heard the guy practically conspire with the President to steal some of your microbes… and after I read the report on Alpha. World energy assets may get repriced in a monumental way and it would be kinda spiffy to control the one with unlimited value.

DAVIS

So he’s in cahoots with the President?

OLIVIA

I don’t know.  Maybe.

Davis thinks about this as he reaches for a slice of bacon.

DAVIS

Did the President give him any?

OLIVIA

Microbes? Not that I know of –

DAVIS

So he’s bullish on his own stock.  Putting his money where his mouth is, you know.

OLIVIA

Well, I don’t think it’s coincidental.

DAVIS

Yeah, maybe.

(beat)

So. I assume you’re gonna keep checking this guy out. It is kind of curious. If you don’t mind, would you keep me in the loop, I mean, as long as it doesn’t violate your limbo relationship code of conduct.  Y’know, talkin’ and all.

OLIVIA

Don’t start.

DAVIS

I gotta tell you, in spite of what you just said, you still don’t need to be on this mission.  C’mon, give it up.

OLIVIA

Not now, I’m already late for a refresher brief.  So get outta here, go, go.

DAVIS

Okay, I’m goin’, but if you would just tell me real quick why you abandoned me?

She pushes a reluctant Davis out of the room and shuts the door, leaning against it to get her bearings.

DAVIS (O.S.) (CONT’D)

I peed on your rose bush, y’know.  I killed it!

Olivia walks back into the kitchen, throws out her cold fried eggs and cracks two more into the frying pan.

EXT. STICKS’ HOUSE – NIGHT

An Austin Healy pulls up in the driveway to a cottage-like house.  Sticks gets out carrying two grocery bags.

INT. STICKS’ HOUSE – KITCHEN – NIGHT

Sticks is putting groceries in the refrigerator, classical MUSIC in b.g.  He hums along.  The doorbell RINGS.

IN FOYER Sticks opens the front door.

STICKS

Oh hi.  I thought you might be Davis.

EXT. DAVIS’ HOUSE – NIGHT

Davis walks out of his house and gets into his car.  As it starts, we hear…

RADIO

Both sides have now completed their closing statements in the case of Daniel Purvis, the man accused of brutally murdering an abortion doctor. The foundation of the defense has always been diminished capacity, as Mr. Purvis claimed he killed because of his religious convictions.  In a related story –

DAVIS

So put a bible in his hand and fry him.

INT. STICKS’ HOUSE – NIGHT

No movement, just classical MUSIC.  TRACK SLOWLY from kitchen, refrigerator door still open… THROUGH dining room… THROUGH living room… DOWN the hall to a

DIMLY LIT BATHROOM

Door partly open.  Someone, we can’t tell, is positioning a chair next to the sink, a sheathed hunting knife on their belt.  Sticks is a heap on the floor.

The figure leans down, grabs an unconscious Sticks and roughly throws him in the chair.  A few feet of rope and he ties Stick’s hands and feet.

Sticks is slapped twice.  A moment or two to regain his senses, to focus, to recognize the moment, then a wave of silent panic envelopes him.

HALLWAY

METAL SCRAPING METAL, like a knife being removed from its sheath.  Begin to hear faint SOBBING. Then a SLICING noise, maybe a GURGLE.  And silence.

EXT. NEIGHBORHOOD STREET – NIGHT

Davis drives along a residential street.  Ignoring a stop sign, he’s almost hit by a truck.  He looks in his rear view nonchalantly mirror before racing into Sticks’ driveway.

EXT. STICKS’ HOUSE – NIGHT

Davis parks behind Sticks’ car and gets out.  He’s carrying a potted cactus.

INT. STICKS’ HOUSE – NIGHT

Entering, Davis hears classical MUSIC.

DAVIS

Sticks?

IN THE KITCHEN

groceries are on the counter, the refrigerator door open.  Davis puts the cactus on the counter, finds a cold beer, opens it.  He shuts the refrigerator door and enters

THE LIVING ROOM

He sniffs some orchids in a vase then curiously checks the books on the various shelves.

DAVIS

Yoa buddy!

Casually, he walks down the lit hall.  The bathroom light is off but he stops by the doorway and peers in.  Strange.  Sticks appears to be getting his hair washed.

DAVIS (CONT’D)

Sticks?

IN THE BATHROOM

Davis turns on the light… and sees a nightmare.

Sticks is sitting in a chair, his back toward the sink.  His head is snapped backwards resting in a sink full of blood, his throat cut, the wound a gaping smile.

Frantic, Davis lifts Sticks’ head… “WE” is etched on the forehead.

He steps back gasping, almost slipping in the blood… then grabs a towel off the rack and holds it to Sticks’ throat.  Stupid.  There’s no more blood.

Davis runs into

THE BEDROOM

and punches 9-1-1 on the phone.  RING after RING.  And then the CLASSICAL music is suddenly loud.

They’re here.  Dropping the phone, Davis races toward the dining room but an explosion of flames slams him against the wall.  On the floor, in the bathroom, he sees that Sticks is consumed by fire, a human torch.

EXT. STICKS’ HOUSE – NIGHT

Fire trucks, emergency vehicles, lights flashing, local police.  Davis is leaning against his car, blood on his shirt.  Olivia walks out of the house and over to him.  She touches Davis’ hair and then pulls away.

The suit seen earlier outside of George’s office, AGENT FELDMAN, comes out.  He looks like a haggard accountant.

AGENT FELDMAN

Commander Boone, I’m Agent Feldman, FBI.  Pretty rough in there.

Davis barely acknowledges him.  George pulls up in a NASA sedan, jumps out and quickly walks over.

GEORGE

Davis, are you all right?

(no response)

AGENT FELDMAN

He’s fine.  But it looks like we have a real interesting connection.

(to Davis)

Commander, you told the officers inside that the letters “W-E” were carved on Dr. Spencer’s forehead…

(Davis nods)

… and that his throat was cut.  The house doesn’t appear burglarized so we’ll most likely rule out robbery.  You have any thoughts on what this is about?

DAVIS

No.

AGENT FELDMAN

Have to ask. You didn’t do it, did you?

Davis can only glare. A uniformed cop walks up to Agent Feldman.

COP

Excuse me, sir.  They need you back inside.

AGENT FELDMAN

I’ll be right in.

The cop leaves.

AGENT FELDMAN (CONT’D)

I understand you made plans to see Dr. Spencer tonight.  Do you think he told anyone?

DAVIS

How would I know?

AGENT FELDMAN

Right.  Your friend didn’t know any bad guys, did he?  Or have nasty habits, y’know, gamblin’, women, drugs –

DAVIS

Women might take offense at your question.

AGENT FELDMAN

Listen, Commander, Dr. Spencer was on somebody’s unpopular list.  If you wanna help this investigation, you think about that.  In the meantime, this stays between us.  You tell no one about our conversation, not even your crew.  I’d prefer to question them first.

DAVIS

Question?  What, they’re suspects?

(to George)

What’s this goon talkin’ about?  Help me out here.

George glances at Feldman, who hesitates, then nods.

GEORGE

Okay.  Brief your crew but tell them to keep their mouths shut. We don’t want any details leaking.  Clear?

COP (O.S.)

Agent Feldman.  Sir?

A suspicious look from Feldman as he leaves.  Davis stops leaning against the car and distractedly starts tucking in his blood soaked shirt.  He’s pensive, thinking out loud.

DAVIS

Two nights ago, I got pushed off a bridge.  And Trapper lived in a glass house.

IN FLASHBACK

The aftermath of a fire at Trapper’s house.  Charred remains, partial walls, household effects destroyed.  Davis is walking through the ruins, no one around.  He’s dressed in Naval uniform, chest adorned with ribbons and wings.

Davis (V.O.) (CONT’D)

Here’s what I’m getting at.  Every Sunday night, Trapper and Kathy would put a puzzle together with their kids.  They’d put a table in the den, pull two chairs together facing one another… and the girls would climb on their laps.  And when they were done, they’d put everything back.  Immediately. Kathy’s rule. She was a neat freak.

Davis stops and stares at the remains of two large easy chairs.  They’re facing one another, about four feet apart, in the area that used to be the den. A barely recognizable table between them.

Reaching between the chairs, he picks up a charred puzzle piece.  Fingers blackened, he walks the few feet to the side of the house, where the glass used to be.

Davis (V.O.) (CONT’D)

I’ve been to the house.  The chairs were together, they weren’t finished with the puzzle.  And on a bad day it would’ve taken Trapper fifteen seconds to get everybody out. But they never made it. So it’s not adding up. They just sat there and burned?

TO THE PRESENT

DAVIS

– and now this joker says somethin’ about a connection.  Would someone mind telling me what’s goin’ on?

George, uncomfortable, has to come clean.

GEORGE

Trapper and the girls were murdered, it wasn’t an accident.  They were found in the master bedroom, on the floor, no obvious signs of restraint.  The FBI is still unclear on how they were actually subdued and killed. The fire was a cover-up.

DAVIS

So how do you know they were…

GEORGE

The connection the agent mentioned?  “IN” was cut into Trapper’s forehead.  Forensics picked it up.

DAVIS

How long have you known about this?

GEORGE

Not long. I should’ve said –

DAVIS

But you didn’t, not a word.  You disappoint me.

Davis starts to walk back toward the house.

GEORGE

(to Olivia)

He needs a drink.  Get him outta here.

INT. NEIGHBORHOOD BAR – NIGHT

Dark, seedy charm.  Davis and Olivia sit at one end of the bar.  Drinks on the counter, not many patrons.  Davis’ bloody shirt attracts strange looks from the barkeep.

DAVIS

(sad chuckle)

This nightmare’s gotta have a way out, doesn’t it?  How ’bout a door, Monty?  Lousy frickin game you got here, but I’ll take door number three.

(beat)

Five extraordinary people. Murdered.  Blessed souls?  Damned souls?  Please tell me, Olivia.

OLIVIA

They were good people. Loving souls.  And I don’t know what else to say.

DAVIS

Are we supposed to just keep going? Train, count the days, wear blinders?  Because I don’t know if I can.  If we could just slow down a bit.  That’s all.  Regroup.

OLIVIA

Then let’s ask.

DAVIS

What?

OLIVIA

It’s a long shot, but I think I can set it up. I agree with you. Ever been to the White House?

EXT. WHITE HOUSE – DAY

As the visitor’s gate rises, Davis and Olivia ride to the East Wing entrance.  Getting out of the limo, apprehensive, they feel like students going to the principal’s office.

INT. WHITE HOUSE OVAL OFFICE – DAY

Davis and Olivia sit stiffly as the President stokes the fire.  Finishing, the President takes his customary power chair… six inches higher than the others.

PRESIDENT BURK

Stalin killed twenty million of his own to achieve his warped vision.  Undeniably certifiable, but you have to admire his commitment.

DAVIS

Mr. President, I would suggest you keep that opinion to yourself.

Davis is looking at the President not believing this guy.

ADJACENT INNER OFFICE

Dr. Rutter sits quietly, listening to a speaker phone.

PRESIDENT BURK (V.O.)

Commander.  Are you motivated?

OVAL OFFICE

DAVIS

Sir?

PRESIDENT BURK

You haven’t really embraced your upcoming mission with open arms, have you?

DAVIS

Right about now, and with all due respect, the mission can go screw itself. But if you’re concerned about me doing my job, why don’t you fire me.

PRESIDENT BURK

You know I won’t do that.  And I can’t take away the pain of losing your friends.  But what I can do is lay the fate of NASA in your lap.  You see, some folks want me to shut the whole goddamn agency down until we clear up a few things.

OLIVIA

That would be a mistake, Mr. President.

PRESIDENT BURK

Well I’m not gonna, not yet.  Unless you screw up this mission. Or try to delay it in any way.  You see, I’ve committed American resources to collect a boatload of microbes.  For a whole lot of reasons.  From powering SUVs to independence from our Muslim friends to demonstrations of American capitalist superiority. Now that’s my vision.  And some day the world is gonna know all about it.  And when that history is written, I’ll be on page one.

The President stands and heads for the door to the inner office.  Before opening it, he turns back.

PRESIDENT BURK (CONT’D)

We needed to have this heart to heart.  So, you make this happen, you hear me?  This mission is going, even if I gotta send monkeys.

INNER OFFICE

As the President enters, Dr. Rutter greets him.

RUTTER

One hour ago, the European Space Agency launched a reconnaissance satellite from a platform in the North Sea.  My sources tell me it’s to reconnoiter the comet tail.

PRESIDENT BURK

And from what I understand, that satellite was actually built by Hughes Aerospace.  Not surprisingly, the French consortium couldn’t deliver.  I love America.

RUTTER

You don’t seem worried.

PRESIDENT BURK

I got the power.

An aide pops in the room.

AIDE

Mr. President.  Line one.

The President grabs the phone off the antique table.

PRESIDENT BURK

Yes?… Thank you.

(hangs up, to Dr. Rutter)

I ordered the Air Force to take out the aforementioned satellite and ten minutes ago, we jammed it.  You take the cover off that finely crafted Hughes device, you’ll find grilled cheese.  Europe will learn nothing.  Satisfied?

INT. NASA RESEARCH HALLWAY – DAY

Davis and Matthew stand by an elevator with keypad.  Matthew punches in his code and the elevator door opens.

VOICE (V.O.)

This elevator is for authorized personnel only.  Please identify.

MATTHEW

Boone… Matthew.  5-6-5-2-2.

VOICE

Access approved.

The door shuts, the elevator travels to a subterranean level.  They exit and show their badges to a NASA security guard.

They walk over to a metal vault door where Matthew places his hand on a finger print scanner.  The scan takes two seconds. The vault door opens and they enter…

INT. NASA RESEARCH CLEAN ROOM SIX – DAY

MONTAGE.  Davis and Matthew put on hospital greens and slippers… climb into advanced clean room apparel… and enter the decontamination room where a special “shower” cleans them.

Garbed, helmeted and hooked up to oxygen, Matthew is moving a slide from one machine to an electron scanner.

MATTHEW

Shouldn’t we be in some sort of federal protection program?  I mean God bless the U. S. of A. but how ’bout a time out here.

DAVIS

Ain’t gonna happen.  But don’t worry, from now on consider yourself watched.

MATTHEW

And that makes me feel warm and fuzzy? Okay. Let’s go to work.  As you requested, I’ve read most of Sticks’ notes and you’re not gonna believe what I found.

Looking through one set of oculars on the electron scanner, he adjusts two separate dials with his right hand.  Davis walks over and looks through the other oculars.

MATTHEW (CONT’D)

You’re looking at one of Alpha’s buddies.  Before I put it in this electron scanner, I denatured, ah, I changed the structure of the nucleic acids.  A way to isolate some of the molecules.  So tell me what you see.

At the subatomic level, we see an incredible vista of molecules, some of it vaguely familiar to the trained eye.

DAVIS

I see small stuff. Wait a second. Nucleic acid? Isn’t that –

MATTHEW

Yep. It’s DNA.  Twisted ladders of parallel nucleotides… deoxyribose sugar, phosphoric acid, nitrogen bases, and a whole bunch of weird attachments I’ve never seen.

DAVIS

DNA?  How’s that possible?

MATTHEW

I know.  Who’d have thunk. And it’s my guess that it’s a very evolved kind.  Now.  I can’t remember what page it was, but at the bottom, Sticks scribbled something that just fried me.

DAVIS

What?

MATTHEW

“I-markers implied by gene mapping”.

DAVIS

What’s an I-marker?

MATTHEW

Intelligence marker.  He thinks they’re smart.

DAVIS

What?  Is that your opinion or Sticks?

MATTHEW

Listen, I may be a physicist but I’m not totally ignorant when it comes to cellular physiology.

Matthew moves over to a light microscope and looks through it.  Davis follows.

MATTHEW (CONT’D)

This is another microbe sample.  And why do I think that this particular organism is in some sort of suspended embryonic phase?  Because I see structures that are only around when cells divide.

DAVIS

You mean they could grow?

Matthew steps aside.  Davis looks into the oculars.

MATTHEW

Why not?  You’d almost expect them to under the right circumstances. DNA separation and replication, cellular division, multiplication, differentiation, then, who knows?  Maybe this one will run for President.

DAVIS

You know what’s weird?  Shelby was responsible for DNA analysis at Station Catcher.  She came up empty.  Said there wasn’t any.

MATTHEW

I don’t know what to tell you, but she messed up.  Christ.  Now I know how Neanderthal felt when he met the more superior Cro-Magnon. From what I see here, Davis, Homo Sapiens just got demoted.  This DNA is much more advanced than ours.  Probable intelligence, possible consciousness. Human-like characteristics at the cellular level, can you believe it?

DAVIS

And assuming they came from somewhere else in the universe, you’re still saying that they’re basically built like we are…

MATTHEW

Notwithstanding size, which is most likely irrelevant, we’re like apples from the same tree.  And that, my dear brother, is monumental.

DAVIS

Does this infer creation or better yet, a Creator?

MATTHEW

God? I don’t know. Maybe. But it clearly blows Darwin’s evolutionary theory right out of the water. Random mutations, natural selection, commonality of genetic material… but, and this is big, no way, no how could that have happened in different parts of the universe. Unless the watch maker willed it according to some divine plan. So for the moment, the intelligent design guys are going to pop their cork. When you see the same kind of drawings in different caves, wouldn’t you assume the same artist?

EXT. OCALA, FLORIDA HORSE FARM – DAY

Rolling hills, manicured pastures.  Beside a rural road, Shelby is waiting near her car, her foot on a white fence.  In the b.g. a magnificent estate.  On the other side of the fence are playful thoroughbreds.

A black Lincoln pulls up and stops.  Out steps MR. BARIZ, who walks over to Shelby and politely shakes her hand.  Mr. Bariz is Middle-Eastern, 60, impeccably dressed.

SHELBY

Thank you for meeting me.

BARIZ

Why here?

SHELBY

It’s beautiful, isn’t it.  I’m going to buy it.

BARIZ

Assuming what you tell me is true, I don’t see why not.

Shelby starts to walk along the fence, a large envelope in her hand.  When Bariz catches up, she hands him the envelope.

SHELBY

For your boss.  The key to your future. Negatives, rather intriguing data and my terms.  They haven’t changed.

BARIZ

A large fortune, sooner than later, yes?

SHELBY

Yes.  But if you delay beyond my timetable, you’ll get nothing further.

BARIZ

We appreciate your generosity.  And your intuition.  Had you gone to anyone else, well, power is best exercised by those that respect it.  May I ask you something?

SHELBY

Sure.

BARIZ

Why are you doing this?

SHELBY

Well, it’s not the money.  Other than this estate, charities will get all of it.  A gift from a mysterious donor.

(stops to pet a horse)

Why am I doing this?  I once had a professor in grad school who used to walk ten miles a day.  Every day, month in month out.  Same route, never varied.  And it’s not like he didn’t have anything else going on.  He taught, wrote books, had a family –

BARIZ

He enjoyed the exercise, yes… the solitude?

SHELBY

No, he hated to walk.

BARIZ

Perhaps he was avoiding his family.

SHELBY

You might think so, he certainly despised them.  Their mediocrity sickened him.  But no, he walked because he was compelled to.  He obeyed the inner commands of his soul… because he had no choice.

A brief look into Bariz’s eyes, and Shelby walks away.

INT. UP AGAINST THE WALL – DAY

Indoor climbing gym.  Davis passes Franklin who is leaving.

DAVIS

You’re lookin’ smug.

FRANKLIN

Feeling good.

Davis sees Shelby maneuvering a difficult section.  Using ropes and anchor bolts, she is mid-way up a section but is having a problem planting her left foot.  She finally plants it and ropes to an anchor bolt.

DAVIS

Don’t you think it would be more challenging without ropes?

Shelby talcs her hand from a waist pouch as Davis comes over to the wall.

SHELBY

Something on your mind?

DAVIS

Should I wait ’til you’re done?

SHELBY

No.  I can hear you.

DAVIS

They want us all to stay at the Cape.  Security reasons.

Shelby reaches for a new hand hold and starts another section.

SHELBY

Can I move my boat there?

DAVIS

If that’s what you want, I’ll clear it.

SHELBY

So you came out here to tell me this?

(no response)

I didn’t think so.  We have to go, Davis.  We’re the only ones that have been trained on the Collector and the shield.  You know that.  And I’m the only one that can fix it if it breaks.

DAVIS

And the murders and everything else going on doesn’t bother you?

Shelby lets go from the wall, drops twenty feet, and dangles in front of Davis.

SHELBY

I’m an astronaut.  And we have a mission. And you have to admit it’s all kind of exciting.

She kicks away from the wall, swings back and starts climbing back up.  Davis watches briefly.  Maybe she’s right.

EXT. UP AGAINST THE WALL – DAY

As Davis leaves the converted fire house, his cellular rings.

DAVIS

(phone)

Hello… Sure… Yeah, I know where it is.

EXT. ADVENTURE PARK – DAY

Benches surround a spectacular fountain in a green and manicured park.  In b.g., children are having the best time of their lives.  Just playing.  Davis walks up behind Olivia who’s sitting on a bench admiring a loving couple strolling by.

DAVIS

Two people in love, committed, destined to stay together.  Maybe it’s an omen.

Davis takes a seat.  Olivia rolls her eyes.

OLIVIA

I don’t think so.

DAVIS

I beg to differ.

OLIVIA

I’m happy for you.

DAVIS

What about a portent then?

OLIVIA

Will you knock it off.  I left you because you were no longer giving me the time of day.  The fact that we’re sittin’ here under the sun watching lovers walk has nothing to do with you and me.

DAVIS

Uh huh.  Really?

OLIVIA

Davis, you were either depressed, drunk or detached.  What did you expect?  You stopped being real a long time ago.

DAVIS

Explain real.  Then I’ll know and I’ll crank it up again.

OLIVIA

No, you won’t.  And it’s selfish and mean for you to even say that.

Olivia gets up, Davis follows.  They walk.

DAVIS

I don’t wanna let this drop.

OLIVIA

Too late.  You already dropped it and it broke.  Besides, I don’t care what you want.

DAVIS

Wrong.  You care about everybody.

OLIVIA

In your case, I’ll make an exception.

Davis gently grabs Olivia’s arm

DAVIS

C’mon…

OLIVIA

Don’t push it.  Please.

Olivia pushes the emotion back down in her gut and pulls out a photo of an industrial facility whose parking lot is full of cars.  Hands it to Davis.

OLIVIA (CONT’D)

This research facility is owned by one of Rutter’s companies.  Four days ago, a work day, the parking lot was practically empty.

DAVIS

What do they do in there?

OLIVIA

Genetic engineering, some pharmaceutical research, general biotech stuff.

DAVIS

So why the sudden activity?

OLIVIA

I don’t know.  But I was thinking, this place could easily process the microbes –

DAVIS

If they had any.  Wait a minute.  The remaining microbes are in Clean Room Six, right?

OLIVIA

As far as I know.

DAVIS

And we’ve assumed that the ones in Mission Archives were completely destroyed.

OLIVIA

Yeah, they were –

(catches Davis’ drift)

Of course.  Whoever blew up that place could have stuffed a few in his pocket –

DAVIS

And maybe they end up in the hands of one very rich man.

OLIVIA

You think?

DAVIS

I think it’s possible.  But could that have anything to do with the murders?

EXT. RAS TANURA PORT FACILITY, SAUDI ARABIA – DAY

MONTAGE.  Ghawar oil field, the world’s largest onshore field, hundreds of oil wells interspersed with burning gas wells… Petroline oil pipeline, miles and miles, connecting Ghawar to… the Ras Tanura oil refinery, located on the Persian Gulf, and next to… the Ras Tanura port terminal, the Kingdom’s largest oil export terminal.

Offshore, four tankers are connected to the port terminal and are filling up.  Two of those tankers are American, the other two are Japanese.  Three foreign tankers wait their turn.

INT. KING’S PALACE, RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA – NIGHT

Ostentatious dining room.  One hundred guests enjoying the riches of food and drink served by an army of servants.  At the table’s end sits King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, 89, content in his birthright but quite distracted.

The King nods to his Oil and Defense MINISTERS and Mr. Bariz who are watching him intently.  The four get up and walk into a gilded anteroom so they’re not heard.

KING ABDULLAH

I saw the pictures.  They don’t look threatening.  They look like germs.

BARIZ

We have evaluated the information given to us by Dr. Shelby Miles.  The threat appears legitimate, assuming they have correctly assessed the biochemistry.

DEFENSE MINISTER

Do you think the Americans will share?

KING ABDULLAH

At some price, perhaps.  But I assure you, as sovereign leader and guardian of this great kingdom, they will have no choice but to share.

OIL MINISTER

Shall I convene the cartel?

KING ABDULLAH

No.  I foresee a strategy that requires boldness and commitment.  Those qualities generally intimidate our associates so for the moment, this will be an independent matter.  And in matters strategic, why not fire the first volley?

INT. NASA RESEARCH CLEAN ROOM SIX – NIGHT

Microscopes, electron scanners, equipment everywhere.  Shelby is in clean room apparel and hooked up to oxygen.  She’s diligently looking for something, but can’t find it.

INT. NASA RESEARCH CHANGING ROOM – NIGHT

Shelby is taking off her clean room garb.  She hears a NOISE, gets up, goes to the door and opens it.  Looks concerned.

SHELBY

Hello.  Somebody there?  Anybody?

No response, she sits back down, quiet for a moment then takes off the rest of her stuff.  Suddenly, Franklin barges in wearing hospital greens.

SHELBY (CONT’D)

Franklin?!

FRANKLIN

Well, well.  What a surprise.

SHELBY

You scared the hell outta me.

FRANKLIN

Why?

SHELBY

Because, you moron, people are gettin’ killed around here.

FRANKLIN

We’re gonna be famous, y’know.

SHELBY

Don’t hold your breath.

FRANKLIN

When greatness is thrown your way, you embrace it.

SHELBY

Sorry to ruin your delusion, but you’re not going to embrace squat. Sticks discovered Alpha.  Don’t forget that.

FRANKLIN

He’s dead, isn’t he?  And if you remember, I was working on the panels before he was.

Shelby storms out… and storms back in.

SHELBY

And I was working on them before you!  And dammit, where the hell are they!?

FRANKLIN

I think my paper will clarify the chain of events… and for the moment, they’re locked away. New security. I’ll fill you in tomorrow.

SHELBY

Any paper you write is gonna be shoved in a drawer.  So cancel the ticker tape parade, will ya?

(leaving)

The arrogance.

As the door SLAMS, Franklin stops putting on his clean room attire.  He follows Shelby into the

WOMEN’S LOCKER ROOM

Shelby is reaching for her blouse.  She’s braless.  Franklin hesitates briefly to watch.

FRANKLIN

What do you think is really goin’ on around here?

SHELBY

I wish I knew.

She buttons her blouse.

SHELBY (CONT’D)

If I put aside the hurt of losing people I love… it’s almost like chaos theory.  When it’s all said and done, maybe somebody is expecting order to come from all this.  Whatever. It’s very sick.

FRANKLIN

Hmm.  Well.  You were right to be scared.  Watch yourself.

EXT. ORBITER TRAINING BUILDING – DAY

Agent Feldman is sitting in his car, reading his note pad.

AGENT FELDMAN

All I need is a motive… give me a motive… speak to me El motiva…

Franklin pulls up and parks his Dodge Viper.  He gets out, turns and admires his car.  Feldman intercepts him.

AGENT FELDMAN (CONT’D)

Dr. Smith?

FRANKLIN

You’re FBI, correct?

AGENT FELDMAN

(flashes badge)

Nice car.

FRANKLIN

It’s a symbol.  It’s an amalgamation of disparate elements.  It’s secular creation.

AGENT FELDMAN

Never thought of it that way. Clever. Doctor, I hope you don’t mind, but can I get personal?

FRANKLIN

Oh?

AGENT FELDMAN

The bartender at the Salsa Palace, the evening of Col. Emerson’s funeral, he says that you and Sticks Spencer were acting very… buddy buddy.  His words.

FRANKLIN

He did?  Perhaps he should be a good bar keep and learn some discretion.

AGENT FELDMAN

You’re probably right. All the same, would you be willing to give me some hair and body fluid samples?

FRANKLIN

So you’re looking for something more nefarious in our relationship?

AGENT FELDMAN

Not really. But when people get murdered, we’re kinda obligated to do the forensic thing. And you don’t look like a rump ranger by the way.

FRANKLIN

Very alliterative.  And please define this so called look.

AGENT FELDMAN

If you’d like, I can come back after your training.

FRANKLIN

Fine.  Knock yourself out.

Davis pulls up and parks next to Franklin.  As Franklin walks toward the training building, Davis angrily walks over to Feldman and throws him against a car.

DAVIS

What are you doin’?!  He’s a jerk, not a killer.

AGENT FELDMAN

Maybe we were talking about cars.

DAVIS

Listen.  Talking to my crew is a waste of time.  We’re the victims, remember?  So go figure out why and that’ll lead you to who.  Simple.  Just leave us alone so we can train.

Davis pushes him back and walks away.

INT. ORBITER TRAINING POOL – DAY

At the pool deck, the Explorer crew are in spacesuits, helmets off.  A training SUPERVISOR walks over to Davis.

SUPERVISOR

We’re ready, sir.

DAVIS

Thanks.

Shelby, distracted, inspects her helmet.

DAVIS (CONT’D)

Are you up for this?

SHELBY

I need a vacation.  When all this is over, can we just go somewhere where we don’t have to wear shoes?

DAVIS

I don’t know, Shelby, it’s kinda tough to think beyond the mission right now.

SHELBY

No it’s not, you just…

(quick glance at Olivia)

Ah.

(angrily heads for the pool)

Are we gonna train or not?

DAVIS

(under his breath)

Help me…

UNDERWATER

A Shuttle mock-up is at the bottom of the pool.  The cargo bay is open, the Collector model is extended.  NASA personnel in scuba gear are observing.

FRANKLIN

If I don’t get hazardous pay, I’m not going.

SHELBY

What are you talkin’ about?

DAVIS

We’ve been over this, Franklin, put a lid on it.

SHELBY

Wait a minute, I want to know –

DAVIS

Not now!

SHELBY

Don’t tell me to shut up –

OLIVIA

If you all don’t mind my opinion, we better start developing a little harmony.

SHELBY

Wife leaves husband, preaches harmony.  News at ten.

OLIVIA

Oh, that was quaint.  Feeling better?

DAVIS

Guys, I’m beggin’ ya.

Shelby hands Franklin what appears to be a large wrench.

FRANKLIN

Uh uh. No pay, no workee.

Shelby maneuvers closer toward Franklin.  Mask to mask.

SHELBY

You think we have time for this? You repulse me.

DAVIS

All right, let’s everybody calm down.

Shelby floats towards the lift.

SHELBY

Training’s over.

EXT./INT. F-18 – NIGHT

Moon-lit clouds.  Cruising along, the red glare of instruments reflect on Davis’ clear visor.

DAVIS

(transmit)

Atlanta Center.  This is NASA 7-4. Request immediate descent to flight level one-five-zero, heading zero-nine-five.  I’ll be switching VFR.

ATLANTA CENTER (V.O.)

NASA 7-4.  Cleared as requested.

Davis rolls the F-18 on its back, hits AFTERBURNER, and pulls straight down.  As he passes through 15,000 feet, he turns off his transponder and just plays.  Aerobatics, wings touching clouds, skimming over the moonlit trees.

EXT. RAS TANURA PORT TERMINAL, SAUDI ARABIA – DAY

The same four American and Japanese tankers seen earlier remain connected.  The number of tankers waiting in the Gulf has now increased to fifteen.  The usual good service is now very bad as people aren’t getting their oil.

INT. NASA MISSION CONTROL – NIGHT

A clock says 2 AM.  Davis, in flight suit, is sitting alone at a console as Olivia walks toward him.  He stands, softly kisses her cheek, and sits back down.  She’s a little flustered.  There’s a file box next to him.

DAVIS

I’m glad you came.

OLIVIA

You went flying.

DAVIS

I needed it.  The g’s always seem to rattle my brain in a good way especially when something is gnawing at me. So listen to this.  When Catcher blew, we had no choice but to head for the escape pods.  We were gonna wait out the rescue at the bottom of the snow bunker but our batteries were bad.  So I had to find new ones.

OLIVIA

I’m not following.

DAVIS

Six batteries, recently installed and checked by Matthew… all bad?

OLIVIA

Maybe it was bad luck, or bad batteries, I don’t know.

DAVIS

No way.  I could believe one pod but not all of them.  And these batteries are unlike any you’ve ever seen.  They could probably light up Times Square.  And mine didn’t look right.  There was some kind of chemical warping on the outside.

OLIVIA

(nods at the box)

What’s in there?

DAVIS

One of the guys who replaced us at the station put this together for me.

OLIVIA

Why?

DAVIS

Because I’ve read the internal report on Catcher that NASA is issuing tomorrow.

He picks up various colored electrical wires from the box.

DAVIS (CONT’D)

The Auxiliary Power Unit apparently experienced an electrical short.  Now, normally, this wouldn’t be a bad thing, except that the APU was right next to a propane line that had a small puncture.

OLIVIA

How big was the puncture?

DAVIS

Very small.  X-rays picked it up.  Look.

(hands her X-ray sheet)

OLIVIA

Were you having problems with the gas?

DAVIS

My eggs got cooked.

OLIVIA

I take it that’s a no.  So, the APU shorts, the resultant electrical spark ignites the leaking propane gas and you get an explosion.

DAVIS

Basically.

Davis picks up three small screws, puts them in the palm of his hand, and shows them to Olivia.

OLIVIA

What are those?

DAVIS

The APU is in a box that has an access panel.  The access panel is closed and sealed with these screws.  Notice something strange?

Olivia takes a screw out of his hand and inspects it closely.

OLIVIA

No.

DAVIS

There should be four of them.  We’re missing one.  Here, look at this.

(hands her photo)

That’s a close-up of the APU before it was packed for shipment.  All four screws are right where they should be.

OLIVIA

So one came out in flight.  That happens.

Hands her a magnifying glass, and points.

DAVIS

See this?  The manufacturer’s logo on the panel is right side up, like it should be.

(hands her another photo)

This is a new picture taken at Catcher.  See anything?

OLIVIA

Sonofagun.  The logo’s upside down.  So maybe that’s why a screw is missing.  Somebody could’ve dropped it messing with the panel.

DAVIS

That’s my guess.

OLIVIA

So you’re suggesting sabotage? That someone purposely shorted the APU?

DAVIS

I am but NASA’s not so sure.  But then again, I haven’t told them about my battery tampering theory.

OLIVIA

Why not?

DAVIS

Because it’s the middle of the night.

OLIVIA

I need to make some calls –

DAVIS

No, no.  C’mon, let’s talk.  I’ve been thinkin’ about that being real stuff.  So I’ve got a couple ideas.

OLIVIA

Not now Davis. Your timing really sucks, ya know?

DAVIS

Fine. Then let’s figure out how to call off this mission. Somebody’s trying too damn hard to blow up anything and everything that has to do with Alpha.  Us included.

OLIVIA

Listen, I’ll give it a shot.  That’s all I can do.  I gotta go.

EXT. SHELBY’S BOAT – NIGHT

Davis, beer in hand, is walking unsteadily toward the dock where Shelby’s boat is moored.  He briefly stops as a military policeman asks for identification.  We don’t hear this, but Davis shows him, and continues to the sailboat.

On the deck, he hears something.  Moving aft, he peers over the stern.  Shelby is hanging on the stern, in the water, scraping “DICHOTOMY” off her boat.

DAVIS

What are you doing?

SHELBY

Changing the name.

(notices his beer)

You really do drink too much.  What’s up?

DAVIS

Wanna come out?

SHELBY

Sure.

Extending his hand, she comes on board.  Her body is terrific and Davis notices.  Grabbing a towel, Shelby walks to the cabin deck, Davis follows.  They lean against the rail.

DAVIS

What are you going to name it?

SHELBY

It’s a “her.”  Haven’t really decided.  So?  Something on your mind?

DAVIS

(sing song)

I know a secret.

(pause)

NASA kinda knows that the Catcher explosion down under was not an accident.  But… they’re still gonna study it to death.  I, personally myself, happen to think it was good… old-fashioned… sabotage.

SHELBY

What?!  How?

DAVIS

That’s the beauty of it.  It could’ve been rigged here or maybe…

SHELBY

At the South Pole?

DAVIS

The lady wins a refrigerator.

SHELBY

No… no way!  It would’ve been suicide.

DAVIS

Sick, huh?

SHELBY

Then you’re suggesting one of us?  Davis, have you run outta neurons?  To even suggest that.  Have you lost faith in everybody?

Shelby walks over to Davis and puts her arms around him.  He reciprocates, his head on her shoulder.

SHELBY (CONT’D)

I adore you, you know that.

Davis disengages himself slightly.  Shelby moves his hand to her breast.  He starts to move his mouth toward hers.  She stops him by putting her finger on his lips.

SHELBY (CONT’D)

I see the way you look at Olivia.

Good point.  She takes his face in her hands and gently kisses him, he reciprocates, and then it’s not so gentle anymore.  And then, a cold blast of guilt.

DAVIS

I can’t do this.

SHELBY

I want you too.

DAVIS

No… no, Shelby, I can’t.  I’m sorry.

Davis smiles slightly, cups Shelby’s chin, then leaves.

INT. NASA GUEST QUARTERS/DAVIS’ ROOM – NIGHT

Davis opens the door and sees a MP car outside.  He shuts the door.  Sitting down, he picks up the phone and dials.

MATTHEW (V.O.)

Hello?

DAVIS

Tomorrow, after training.  Wanna bond?  I think we’re overdue.

MATTHEW

You serious?

INT. U.S. STRATEGIC PETROLEUM RESERVE, HACKBERRY, LA.- NIGHT

Buried deep below ground in salt caverns are huge oil reservoirs.  Surrounding these tanks are pumps, piping, electrical conduits and monitoring stations.  Two workers enter a control room, switch on the lights and sit down at a large desk and control panel.

ROOKIE

So how much oil we got?

VETERAN

The better question is how long will it last.  Reality?  Two months.  After that it’ll be pure hell.

ROOKIE

Hell?

VETERAN

Buddy, pal, look around.  This is our nation’s emergency supply.  The engine of our economy is black gold. If it’s gone, gas lines will be the least of our problems.  America will plain shut down. And they won’t be happy.

EXT. SWAMPS – DAY

Davis and Matthew are slowing cruising in a small motor boat.  Davis is holding a stick with meat attached to a cord.

MATTHEW

This is not quite what I had in mind.

DAVIS

You need to see the essence of life unencumbered by thought.

Matthew is sitting in the back, a camera around his neck, a cooler and back pack of cooking supplies beside him.

DAVIS (CONT’D)

You don’t look so good.

MATTHEW

I feel like warm dog food.

A SPLASH and a stirring in the water.  An alligator slides from the shore.  Matthew shuts down the engine.

DAVIS

Here it comes.  Its entire being only wantin’ to eat.  Doesn’t give a crap about the Sudan, Oprah, fat grams or women priests.

The gator, its mouth opened wide, strikes for the food and nails it.  As Matthew snaps pictures, he slips.

MATTHEW

Davis!!

And falls backwards into the water.  Davis rushes to help.

DAVIS

Grab on!  Hurry, grab my hand!  He’s coming back, he’s gonna get ya!!

Matthew flails, grabs Davis’ hand and practically leaps back into the boat collapsing on Davis.  A long beat and Matthew peers over the side.  An alligator wasn’t going to get him.  Then they break up, laughing hysterically.

EXT. SWAMP TREE HOUSE – SUNSET

The boys having a cold one, legs dangling from the deck.  The natural sounds of the swamp are increasing in decibels.

DAVIS

Are they working you hard in the simulator?

MATTHEW

Let’s not talk about work.

DAVIS

Sure.  I’ll count frogs.

Matthew gets up to flip the steaks on the grill.  Has something on his mind.

MATTHEW

I finally figured it out and I think you’re stupid.

DAVIS

That’s not news. Which “it” are we talking about?

MATTHEW

The car accident.  Y’know, tragic… parents killed… Davis and Matthew go live with strangers… remember?

DAVIS

Which reminds me, it wasn’t Lake Havasu, it wasn’t Lake of the Ozarks.  There wasn’t a drop of water anywhere.  It was Las Vegas.  I’m tellin’ you we were going to Las Vegas when a rock smashed our windshield.  It wasn’t a bird.

MATTHEW

Details.  We still crashed.

Matthew slaps a steak on a plate and hands it to Davis.  He grabs his, sits down and for a bit, they eat in silence.

DAVIS

So why am I stupid?

MATTHEW

Brother, you’re never gonna be able to connect the dots.  Keep trying, and your life will just stay in the toilet. Life’s a splendid mystery, surrender to it, and know that you can’t fight it alone.  Rather simple, really. Ask for guidance, dear brother, and you know who I’m talking about.

DAVIS

You know, I think about God all the time. It’s just that I don’t talk to him. I can’t imagine that I’d be one of his favorite guys.

Davis moves some food around his plate, then reaches into his pocket.  He hands over their mother’s pendant.

DAVIS (CONT’D)

But you’re right, I’m an idiot.  No way do I deserve this.

MATTHEW

I agree one hundred percent.  Never should’ve happened.

Matthew opens it up and looks at his family as Davis stares pensively at the natural beauty surrounding them.

DAVIS

Ask, huh? You know, my whole life I’ve tried filling my self up with, with stuff. Whether it’s been pride, women, look how great I am accomplishments, booze, pity, whatever, it hasn’t mattered because I felt and still feel extraordinarily empty. And I’ve hurt people I love. I know God wants us to find Him, it’s wired in our hearts. And I know we can also find Him with reason. And using the bad parts of our life, like Mom and Dad dying or all the hell that’s going on now as excuses to reject God, well, for someone who likes to think they’re smart, I guess I am pretty stupid, aren’t I?

MATTHEW

As far back as I can remember, I’ve always viewed evil, tragedy, immorality, even disaster as nothing more than the absence of good. And God permits it because one, we’re free beings in an imperfect world but even more importantly, good is somehow derived from it. Like I said, splendid mystery.

DAVIS

Well, I sure hope you’re right. For all of our sake.

MATTHEW

Trust me on this one, bro. It’s the truth.

A wink from Matthew.

INT. NASA GUEST QUARTERS/DAVIS’ ROOM – NIGHT

Davis walks out of the bathroom, a towel around his waist.  He sees the flashing light on the phone, walks over, and retrieves his message.

MATTHEW

(recording)

Hey, Davis.  Simulator four, right?  So where are you?  I’ll try your cell.

(CLICK)

Confused, he slowly walks back to the bathroom then stops.

INT. SHUTTLE SIMULATOR BUILDING – NIGHT

Davis flicks on a switch and a large facility is illuminated.  Shuttle Simulator four is on hydraulic stilts.

DAVIS

Hey Matthew!

Davis cautiously walks to the ladder leading up to the Simulator.

INT. SHUTTLE SIMULATOR FLIGHT DECK – NIGHT

The equipment is turned on, lots of red and green lights on the console.  To his right, red spray paint haphazardly encircles a logo: “International Technologies.”  Dr. Rutter’s company.

DAVIS

Matty.  You in here?

Davis climbs down the ladder to the mid deck where he hears a banging NOISE.  He follows the noise to the crew compartment.  There are three horizontal sleep areas and one vertical one.

Matthew is locked in the vertical one, hitting the wire mesh with his hand.  He’s in a spacesuit, “TRUST” sharpied on the helmet.

DAVIS (CONT’D)

Are you all right?

Through the visor we see Matthew’s lips moving but no sound.

DAVIS (CONT’D)

Push the mic button.

(points to spacesuit belt)

There.

Matthew looks down, sees it, and pushes it.  His voice comes over a speaker on the bulkhead.

MATTHEW

This would be a good joke if someone hadn’t whacked me over the head. And I can’t get this damn helmet off.

DAVIS

Somebody hit you?  Who?

MATTHEW

Davis.  I just said someone.  That implies I don’t know.  So just get me outta this thing.

Davis grabs the lock, very secure, and then grabs the wire mesh and shakes it.  It doesn’t budge.

DAVIS

Who told you to meet me here?

MATTHEW

The message sounded like Olivia.

Davis looks at Matthew’s visor and sees condensation on the inside.  A glance at the oxygen gauge on the spacesuit belt.  It reads in the red, three minutes remaining.

DAVIS

Are you breathing okay?

MATTHEW

Yeah.  Why?

DAVIS

No reason.  You’ll be outta this in no time.

Davis runs over to the bulkhead and tries to rip a lever off the commode.  He can’t, but the toilet forcefully FLUSHES.

MATTHEW

That thing actually works?

DAVIS

Shut up!

Matthew looks down and sees the oxygen gauge. Two minutes.

MATTHEW

Ah… Davis?  I think you better hurry.

Davis bounces around looking for anything to break the lock.  His back is to the ladder.  Suddenly, through the deck hatch, a gob of petroleum gel plops on the deck.

MATTHEW (CONT’D)

Behind you!

A flare follows, igniting a fire.  Davis runs back to Matthew and checks the gauge.  One minute.  Again, with super human effort, he tries to dislodge the wire mesh panel.  Nothing.  The fire is getting bigger, flames blocking any escape.

MATTHEW (CONT’D)

Forgetaboutit!  Get the fire!

DAVIS

Hold on, you hear me!

MATTHEW

DAMMIT!  GO!!

Davis runs to a fire extinguisher compartment… it’s gone!  He runs to a floor hatch, opens it, and there lies an extinguisher.  Pulling it out, he turns it on.

DAVIS

Hold on Matt!!

He sprays the fire, the deck, the walls, the ladder and finally, the fire is out.  Smoke everywhere.  He hits the emergency exhaust button, and smoke starts to dissipate.

Davis runs back to Matthew, the oxygen gauge reads empty.  Staring back with frightened eyes, Matthew struggles for life.  Davis heaves the extinguisher at the lock and mesh over and over and over… Impenetrable.

DAVIS (CONT’D)

NO!  GOD!!  NO!!!

Matthew heaves mightily, one last frightened look at Davis, his gloved hand against the wire mesh.  Over the speaker, we hear Matthew’s last agonizing, slow GASP.

INT. SHUTTLE SIMULATOR BUILDING – NIGHT

Matthew, dead, is being carried out on a gurney by emergency personnel.  Davis is guiding them down the simulator steps.  As they reach the bottom and the wheels drop down, Davis calmly walks to his brother, takes him in his arms, and softly pulls him to the floor.  The emergency personnel try to grab him.

DAVIS

No.  Go away…

The emergency guys sheepishly back away as Davis starts to rock his brother.  Olivia steps through the crowd and cautiously approaches.

OLIVIA

Davis?

(he doesn’t look up)

Davis?  Talk to me…

Davis continues to rock… holding the last of his family.

OLIVIA (CONT’D)

I want to help you.

Davis doesn’t look up, tears in his eyes.  Olivia kneels down and whispers in Davis’ ear.

OLIVIA (CONT’D)

You have to let them take Matthew.  Please.  They –

DAVIS

I have to take care of him.

OLIVIA

You can.  I’ll help you.

Olivia nods to the emergency personnel who carefully help Davis up and place Matthew back on the gurney.  They start wheeling Matthew out, Davis and Olivia by his side.

In a matter of steps, Davis somehow finds strength.

DAVIS

Look at the helmet.

Olivia looks around, then spots the helmet by the simulator steps.  Walking over to it, she picks it up, sees “TRUST.”

Catching up to Davis, he pulls a dollar bill out of his pocket.  He stops the gurney and hands it to Olivia who stares at it momentarily.  He points with his finger.  She reads “In God We Trust.”

DAVIS (CONT’D)

In God We Trust. No mystery now. Trapper had In on his face. Sticks. We. And now Matty with Trust. God is all that’s missing.

Davis leans down and kisses his brother softly on the forehead then taps the medic to take him away.  Suddenly, a loud COMMOTION behind them.  It’s Shelby storming toward them, eyes red, hysterical.

SHELBY

No!  No!  I have to see him!

Barreling through bodies…

SHELBY (CONT’D)

Get outta my way!

Seeing Matthew… then collapses on him, sobbing.  Davis is surprised as he reaches for her.

DAVIS

Shelby?  C’mon, now.  Stop.

She fights his efforts to get her off.

DAVIS (CONT’D)

(to Olivia)

Will you give me a hand here?

They both manage to pull her away from Matthew.  She quickly calms and looks directly at Davis.

SHELBY

I’ve had enough.  I quit.  Can we quit, Davis?  We’re gonna die.

Shelby breaks down again.  Two military police rush up.

OLIVIA

(to MP’s)

Will you take Dr. Miles to her quarters please?  We’ll send a doctor.

Davis and Olivia watch Shelby being led away.

EXT. ORBITER SIMULATOR BUILDING – NIGHT

Shelby is sitting in a van with the MP’s standing outside.

SHELBY

I behaved terribly.  Please forgive me.

NICE MP

It’s okay ma’am.  Totally understandable.

SHELBY

I’m sorry, I’m such a mess.  Could one of you nice men find me a tissue?

The two MPs eye each other before one goes back into the building.  As he enters, Shelby steps outside the van, smiles at the other MP and then plants her foot in his groin.  He MOANS loudly and drops to his knees as Shelby runs off.

INT. HOSPITAL MORGUE HALLWAY – NIGHT

Olivia is slouched on a cold bench outside the morgue entrance.  Davis walks up and hands her a cup of coffee.  He sits down beside her, blows on his coffee to cool it.  The environment is dismal, their mood worse.

DAVIS

Did you call Matthew tonight?

OLIVIA

Not at all.  Why?

DAVIS

He thought you did.

OLIVIA

I don’t know why he would say that.

Davis stares off, seeing nothing.

OLIVIA (CONT’D)

Y’know… when I told the President about your sabotage theory, he listened politely and then reminded me that theories need to be proven.  He wished me luck, told me to stay the course and hung up.

DAVIS

What an ass.

OLIVIA

Listen.  This morning I received a coded e-mail about an emergency meeting of the National Security Council.

DAVIS

What’s the meeting about?

OLIVIA

I don’t know.  It’s in two days.  And then Dr. Rutter arrived today –

DAVIS

Do you know where he is now?

OLIVIA

Yeah.  Anyway, his people have been jumping through hoops to get the exact same equipment specs as Clean Room Six.  Get this.  On Presidential orders.  Any ideas?

DAVIS

I don’t know. Call the aide for what’s-his-name, the National Security Advisor.  Tell him your training is light that day and you’ll be attending the meeting.  And remind him to scramble the agenda back to you.  We’ll see if that tells us anything.

INT. TOKYO COMMODITIES EXCHANGE – DAY

In one area of a very busy exchange, eighteen assistant traders sit around a semi-circle of computer monitors.  They’re wearing white, most are holding two phones listening and talking, and they’re watching their screens.

At the top of one screen, in Japanese and English, we read “Arabian Light Crude.”  Beneath that are two graphs, one labeled “Current Price,” the other “Futures.”  The vertical axis for both graphs is yen/dollars.  In both cases, the vertical trend line is rising… sharply.

Oil now and in the future is getting very expensive.

EXT. FOUR SEASONS HOTEL – NIGHT

Davis pulls up near the entrance.  As he gets out —

DAVIS

Don’t even ask to come up.  Just wait.

OLIVIA

Davis.  We don’t know anything.  Be careful.

INT. FOUR SEASONS HOTEL, PRESIDENTIAL SUITE – NIGHT

Davis stands outside the door and rings the buzzer.  In moments, Dr. Rutter opens the door.

RUTTER

Commander Boone…

Davis walks in brushing him out-of-the-way.  The room is full of executives.  Their conversations stop when they see Davis.  He walks to the wrap around windows with unbelievable views.

RUTTER (CONT’D)

Leave us.

They do.  Dr. Rutter is cool as he casually sits in an easy chair.  Moments pass.  Davis stares out the window.

DAVIS

At this very moment, every ounce of my being is remembering my brother’s last breath.  If I could prove you were responsible, believe me, I’d separate your head from your torso.

RUTTER

My condolences, I just heard.

Dr. Rutter methodically prepares and lights up a pipe.

RUTTER (CONT’D)

You think you’re entitled to answers.  That’s why you’re here.

Dr. Rutter expects some sort of response, gets nothing.

RUTTER (CONT’D)

Very well, I’m aware of the following. Murder, sabotage, influence peddling, profiteering… yes, I know of Dr. Giordano’s inquiries.  Then there’s Alpha.  Unlimited energy, genetic wonder, a scientific miracle.  And on the margins?  Intellectual revolution, cultural transfiguration and political domination.  All things considered, interesting times.  But my role?  Minimal.

DAVIS

Someone’s responsible for murder.  I vote you.

RUTTER

I am guilty of nothing!  The murders are tragic but have no effect on me or connection to me.  If your Explorer mission fails, if you don’t go, the microbes will be even more valuable.  Seems like a pretty good motive for burying your crew, doesn’t it?  However, it’s not mine.

DAVIS

Then who’s?

Dr. Rutter walks over to the bar, grabs an Evian.

RUTTER

I can’t begin to guess.  So, Commander.  I suggest you search elsewhere.

DAVIS

I’m supposed to believe you?

RUTTER

My world is grey, Commander.  Seldom black and white.  But blood on my hands is not my style.

DAVIS

So help you if I find out otherwise.

INT. FOUR SEASONS HALLWAY – NIGHT

A CHIME.  Davis enters the elevator.  He stares at the floor as the doors close, suddenly tired, lost, broken.  He leans against the wall as soft MUZAK plays.

From nowhere, a CRASH, as someone, head first and wearing a ski mask, drops through a top panel, stops just above Davis and slips a noose over his neck…

And he’s jerked up and off the elevator floor.

He tries to struggle with the intruder and the rope.  His foot smashes the emergency stop switch and the elevator lurches to a stop.

The intruder frees himself from Davis’ weak grasp and vanishes upwards leaving him hanging by his neck, flailing, the noose cutting into his skin.  Time screeches to a halt, as Davis fights the rope.

Suddenly, the elevator doors are jammed partly open from the outside.  The elevator is two feet from the landing.

OLIVIA

My God…

Olivia, with an ax in her hand, tries to squeeze through the doors, can’t, and watches Davis twist and jerk as he fights to release himself.

All her strength and the doors still won’t budge.  Frantic, fearful, her fingers graze his shirt, so close…

And he doesn’t move anymore… swinging so gently.

OLIVIA (CONT’D)

No!

Panicked, she sees a fire alarm down the hall and runs for it.  Crying, determined —

OLIVIA (CONT’D)

Davis, you be tough now, c’mon, please baby…

Halfway down the hall, a THUMP behind her.  Startled, she looks back.  Then a CHIME.  The elevator doors open…

And Davis pours out in a heap collapsing on the floor… coughing, gasping.

OLIVIA (CONT’D)

Davis!

Running back, she scoops him in her arms and holds him as he slowly regains his senses.  Soon, barely among the living, his hand touches Olivia’s cheek.  In a weak voice…

DAVIS

Don’t tell anyone.  They’re gonna try again.  I want them to.

Olivia can’t respond, just shakes her head gently and cries.

He looks over and sees a slip of paper in the elevator.  Olivia follows his eyes, grabs it and hands it to him.

It says: “At Rope’s End?”

Olivia helps Davis to his feet.  Staring at the note briefly, he gives it back to her.  They start walking down the hall.

DAVIS (CONT’D)

Pull some strings, look for prints. Any kind of evidence. But don’t tell anybody why you’re asking.

EXT. NASA GUEST QUARTERS – NIGHT

Olivia and Davis pull into the parking lot.  She gets out of the driver’s side, walks around and opens his door.  As he slowly gets out…

DAVIS

Will you stay with me?

She nods.

INT. NASA GUEST QUARTERS, DAVIS’ ROOM – NIGHT

Shutting the door, Davis gently grabs Olivia and backs against the wall.

DAVIS

When I hold you, things aren’t so bad.

Lovingly, Olivia strokes Davis’ face.

DAVIS (CONT’D)

I’m so tired…

OLIVIA

Shhhh.

(long pause)

I never told you my real reason for coming back.  I used to think that you were the most sensitive man I’d ever met… that you just savored the world more than anyone else.  That’s who I fell in love with.  And I guess I wanted to see if you had changed.

DAVIS

What happened to me?

OLIVIA

Oh, sweetheart.

(pause)

A parent’s love is a kind of sanctuary.  Take it away and it’d be like flying with half a wing.  Take them both away too soon and maybe you question everything.  Even love.

DAVIS

(beat)

Somebody took Matty.

Davis sobs.  Olivia puts her hand behind his neck.  And holds him, compassionate and loving.

INT. NASA GUEST QUARTERS/DAVIS’ ROOM – DAY

Early morning.  Davis is laying on his bed, barely awake, channel surfing.  His neck is severely bruised.  Asleep, Olivia’s arm is draped over his body.

TELEVANGELIST

Stay on the righteous path.  For if you stray, if you succumb, you will be struck down on your path of sin.  As Hebrews twelve twenty-nine says, “For our God is a consuming fire.”

DAVIS

Fire…

He reaches for the phone and punches 411.

DAVIS (CONT’D)

Yes, operator… Good Shepherd Catholic Church… Perhaps there’s a residence number.  I’m looking for a Father Cook.  Thank you.

Waiting for an answer, Davis admires Olivia’s soft skin.

FATHER COOK (O.S.)

Yes, hello?

DAVIS

Is this Father Cook?

FATHER COOK

Yes it is.  Who’s callin’?

DAVIS

It’s Davis Boone.  I’m the one who asked you about irony.  Do you remember?

FATHER COOK

Yes, I do remember. I’m sorry, but I’m just leaving –

DAVIS

Sir, it’s very important.  Can we meet?

FATHER COOK

All right then.  I’ll meet you here in, say, thirty minutes.

Hanging up, Davis leans over and kisses Olivia softly on her shoulder.  Without disturbing her, he gets out of bed.

EXT. NASA GUEST QUARTERS/DAVIS’ ROOM – DAY

Davis carefully closes the door to not waken Olivia.  As he turns, he’s startled by Shelby who’s just standing there.

SHELBY

I ran away last night.  But I didn’t know where to go.

DAVIS

Are you okay?

SHELBY

Now I am.  And you can count on me, Davis.  I swear.  We’re gonna do this.

DAVIS

(tries to read her)

Enough said.  Let’s go to church.

Strange look from Shelby.

EXT./INT. DAVIS’ CAR – DAY

Driving fast, Davis answers his cellular.

DAVIS

Hello.

OLIVIA (V.O.)

Where did you go?

DAVIS

I have some questions I wanna ask a priest.  I won’t be long.

OLIVIA

I love you.

DAVIS

Dear dear wife. Thank you.

EXT. CARRIER BATTLE GROUP 12, PERSIAN GULF – NIGHT

Under a half-moon, a full battle group.  The aircraft carrier U.S.S. Eisenhower is undergoing night operations, along with two destroyer escorts and various other ships.

INT. U.S.S. EISENHOWER – NIGHT

On the bridge of this nuclear powered aircraft carrier sits REAR ADMIRAL A.L. HAWKING.  Calm, in control, observing the professionalism of his crew.

He walks over near the AIR BOSS and watches an F-18 catch a three-wire.  An Ensign slithers up and hands him a note, his face grows quite serious.

AIR BOSS

Bad news, sir?

ADMIRAL

Matter of perspective, I guess.

(to Ensign)

Round up the squadron C.O.s and all department heads.  Give me ten minutes.

ENSIGN

Yes sir.

ADMIRAL

(to Air Boss)

Our alert status just went up two notches.  Saudi Arabia has apparently pissed off the President.

EXT. GOOD SHEPHERD CATHOLIC CHURCH – DAY

POV steeple.  Davis and Shelby pull into a full parking lot.  The congregation is pouring into the church as they walk toward the front doors.  Davis talks to one of the members who points to the side of the church.

ROSE GARDEN

Father Cook is gazing at a wonderful variety of roses holding a rosary.

DAVIS

Father Cook?

(Cook looks up)

This is Dr. Miles.

FATHER COOK

I remember.  The Emerson’s funeral.

SHELBY

Father.

DAVIS

I know you’re short on time.  If I said “God is a consuming fire,” does that mean anything to you?

FATHER COOK

Fire is a familiar metaphor in Scripture. I think you’ve quoted Hebrews.  It’s an Old Testament passage that deals with the Mosaic covenant and the penalties of disobedience. Divine punishment by an angry God some would say.

DAVIS

I’m asking because some people have died recently and in each case there was a fire –

FATHER COOK

And you’re tryin’ to relate those fires to Scripture?

DAVIS

I’m just wondering if there’s a connection, that’s all.  Maybe anger is part of it, as you said.  And if somebody asked me if I was “at rope’s end?”

SHELBY

Who asked?

Davis ignores her.

FATHER COOK

You’re suggesting another scriptural reference?

DAVIS

You’re the expert.

SHELBY

Davis.

DAVIS

(to Father)

Sorry.

The Priest considers it.

FATHER COOK

I think the question was personal.

DAVIS

Not from the Bible?

FATHER COOK

Religion does mean to bind, a connection to God if you will. But no.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a mass to celebrate. But might I make a suggestion?

DAVIS

Of course.

FATHER COOK

Come see me. I believe you have a lot of questions about God. I know a thing or two so perhaps I can help. Agreed?

DAVIS

Yeah, okay. Couldn’t hurt.

As the Father walks off, Shelby is pensive as she looks at all the gravestones.

SHELBY

You know, life probably can’t get any worse than it is right now.  There’s so much heartache and fear and… and I’m even losing you to Olivia.

DAVIS

Shelby, listen…

SHELBY

No, that’s okay.  I’m just so thankful that I have enough faith to get through this.  And I pray that you discover that faith as well.  I love you and I want you to love God.

She smiles sweetly as Davis takes her in his arms and holds her tenderly.

EXT./INT. DAVIS’ CAR – DAY

Davis and Shelby are driving back to the base, still on a deserted two-lane road.  Davis’ cellular rings, he answers.

DAVIS

Hello…

OLIVIA

They found prints on the note.  And you won’t believe who. It’s Shelby. What the hell is going on?

(beat)

Davis?

Turning off the phone, Davis calmly puts it down next to him.  Putting both his hands on the steering wheel, he squeezes harder and harder until his emotions boil and erupt.

He back hands Shelby with a hard blow to her face…

She SCREAMS and as he tries to hit her again, he swerves off the road towards a rest area.  They smash into a concrete picnic table.

Davis regains his senses a moment before Shelby and lunges for her neck, wrapping both hands around her but…

She fights back, clawing and tearing…

Davis doesn’t relent, wanting her every last breath to remain in her murderous body.  But as her eyes roll back, he releases her… and in a rage, opens her door and shoves her out…

And follows her to the ground.

Moments pass as Shelby gains strength then crawls to a tree.  She looks at Davis wondering “what next?”  He’s hunched over on his hands and knees.  They’re both breathing hard.

DAVIS

What have you done?!

Shelby doesn’t answer, still out of breath.

DAVIS (CONT’D)

Answer me!

SHELBY

Please, I don’t know what you’re talking about.

DAVIS

We found your prints dammit!  The note, the note!

SHELBY

Davis, as God is my witness, you’re not making any sense!

Davis stands and walks toward her, barely in control.  He’s gonna beat it out of her.

SHELBY (CONT’D)

All right, all right!  But you have to believe that I had nothin’ to do with anybody getting hurt.  They were gonna kill me!  They forced me to steal the microbes and blow up the Archives.  But I don’t know about anything else, I swear.  Then, then people started dyin’ and next thing I know they’re telling me they messed up the samples.  The microbes were worthless so they wanted more.

DAVIS

Who are they?

SHELBY

No, no, listen.  I told them that there weren’t anymore, that we were their only chance to get more microbes.  I lied. I was trying to save our lives, Davis.  I bought time with Explorer.

DAVIS

Who are they?!

SHELBY

If I tell you, they’ll kill me.  They’re too powerful.  And then we won’t go anywhere.

DAVIS

Screw the mission!

SHELBY

But the microbes?!

DAVIS

We have enough.

SHELBY

No.  No, we don’t.  After what they did to Matthew, I was angry.  So I went to the Clean Room… I destroyed everything.  They’re gone, they’re gone…

Davis picks her up by the front of her shirt and slams her against the tree.

SHELBY (CONT’D)

We have to go.  You have to take me.  The Collector requires Franklin and me.  It’s our only choice!

DAVIS

But the sabotage at Catcher?  How’s that related?  I don’t understand –

SHELBY

I don’t know either, you have to believe me.

DAVIS

So we just go, huh?  I was almost killed last night.  So much for being their last hope.

SHELBY

No, no.  They’re not just powerful. They’re evil.  They’re playing sick games, tormenting you, that’s why they left evidence that I was there.  They weren’t gonna let you die.  If Olivia hadn’t saved you, someone else would’ve.

DAVIS

You know about that?  Who are they?!

SHELBY

No, I can’t, I can’t.  Don’t ask… please.

INT./EXT. NASA GUEST QUARTERS/DAVIS’ ROOM – NIGHT

On his bed staring at the ceiling, Davis answers the phone.  It’s George from Mission Control.

DAVIS

Yeah.

GEORGE (V.O.)

Tomorrow morning.  You’re a “go.”

DAVIS

I don’t think so.

GEORGE

(beat)

I’ll send a car.  And bring Olivia.  Someone wants to talk to you.

Davis hangs up.  He looks over to the couch, where Shelby is sleeping.  Her hand is handcuffed to the radiator.

EXT. LAUNCH COMPLEX 7 – CAPE CANAVERAL – NIGHT

The new revolutionary redesigned EXPLORER is bathed in floodlights.  A black Jaguar pulls up next to a parked car.  Rutter and two big guys get out of the Jag.

Davis and Olivia get out of the parked car, leaving the driver.  Wary, suspicious, not trusting, Davis waits for Rutter’s move.

RUTTER

Spectacular sky, don’t you think?

(no response)

I’m aware of your problems with me, Commander, but tonight they’ll be no talk of shady deeds or conspiracies.  There are other matters.

Davis and Olivia follow his lead and walk towards the launch tower.  They’re followed at a distance by the two bodyguards.

RUTTER (CONT’D)

I’ve been instructed by the President to tell you the following.  If Explorer does not launch tomorrow, for whatever reason, you’ll be indicted for the murder of three of your crew members.

OLIVIA

You can’t be serious. On what grounds?

DAVIS

Doesn’t matter, let him try.  Burk’s not omnipotent and his threats mean nothing.

RUTTER

I suggested he appeal to your sense of duty but he’s a bit of a prick. And he said there wasn’t time.  Let me explain.  Sometime in the last twenty-four hours, the microbes in Clean Room Six were destroyed.  That means that earth doesn’t have any more.

Davis knows this but stays mute.

OLIVIA

How did that –

RUTTER

The how is irrelevant.  To dampen our festivities even more, Alpha’s discovery and its economic potential was leaked to a foreign power.

OLIVIA

(to Davis)

Oh my God.  That’s what I was gonna tell you.  The NSC meeting tomorrow?  It was supposed to be a demonstration.

(to Dr. Rutter)

All that equipment you wanted.  You were gonna take a few microbes to Washington and put on a show for the President, the Security Council and –

RUTTER

The King of Saudi Arabia, yes.

DAVIS

Holy crap.

OLIVIA

So much for the demonstration.

RUTTER

You see the dilemma.

At the bottom of the launch tower, they enter an open air elevator and start up.  The large guys stay behind.

DAVIS

I’d say the meeting is the least of your worries.  Let’s say I’m King Abdullah and I’ve just learned that America has discovered an energy source that could, in time, possibly destroy the value of my oil reserves.  And let’s say that those reserves are worth… thirty trillion dollars.  So I call the President to demand some accommodation.  A deal.

OLIVIA

Assuming we had microbes, why deal?  We wouldn’t need your oil.

DAVIS

In the short-term you do, desperately.  So I threaten.  Make a deal, share your microbes, or I shut off the oil faucet tomorrow.

OLIVIA

Davis, if Explorer fails, this is all hypothetical.  We still won’t have any microbes.

DAVIS

I won’t believe you.  Don’t you see?  If there isn’t a demonstration, I’m gonna assume you’re lying or holding out.  And then I’m gonna reach for the faucet.  It’s my only leverage.  And the second I do, America is one second closer to ruin.  There has to be a show.

OLIVIA

I don’t know how.  Unless you light some charcoal.

RUTTER

Very good.  You almost nailed it.  However, the King turned the oil off three days ago.  Sort of a preemptive strike.  Energy prices are already climbing through the roof and if this isn’t handled right, it’s just a matter of time before there’s hell to pay with the fine citizens of our great nation.

They get off the elevator, walk out on an access arm and have a breathtaking view of the Shuttle, the Cape and the stars.

DAVIS

You handle it right by having the meeting.  That’s what I’d do.

RUTTER

Correct.

OLIVIA

Because the President has a contingency plan, right?  All set up, ready to go.

DAVIS

They’re gonna give the King an ultimatum.  Give us our oil, we didn’t mean to lose the microbes but we did, we’re trying to get more, or –

RUTTER

We’ll declare war and take it.

OLIVIA

That’s the plan?!  We’re going to war?!

RUTTER

And I don’t think the King will back down.  At least not immediately.  So at this moment, we have two battle groups in the Gulf and a third is on its way.  I think the import of your mission is quite obvious, don’t you agree?  Launch, and I suggest, bring home the bacon.

Dr. Rutter starts to walk back to the elevator but hesitates.

RUTTER (CONT’D)

Incidentally.  Those gentlemen down there have firearms.  They’re going to keep an eye on you.  Just in case you have any unpatriotic urges.

INT. NASA CREW CHANGING ROOM – DAY

Davis and Franklin are taking off their street clothes.  NASA personnel stand nearby to help pour them into their spacesuits.  Davis takes his watch off, puts it in his locker drawer, and notices the family pendant.  It’s resting on a sealed envelope.

He opens the envelope.  The note inside reads: “Surprise!  You know me and conspiracies, I couldn’t resist.  So, look in the pendant. Microbes buddy. Maybe we should adopt them.  As Pop would say, what would the wise man do?  Matty.”

Davis folds the note and almost throws it into a trash can: receptacle bottom, sand-filled top for cigarette butts.

Davis turns around and sees the two rather stern bodyguards from the previous night.  He waves one of them over.

DAVIS

Gotta phone?

BODYGUARD

Yes.

DAVIS

Get Dr. Rutter on the line.  It’s very important.

BODYGUARD

You’ll be on the flight deck in a matter of minutes.

DAVIS

Just give him a call, will ya?

The bodyguard does nothing.

DAVIS (CONT’D)

You’re not moving.

BODYGUARD

No, I’m not.  My orders are to oversee your pre-launch activities, to escort you to the flight deck, and to anticipate that you’ll do damn near anything to obstruct this mission.

DAVIS

A phone call?!  Well, I have orders too.  Let’s see, go up, go round, come down, don’t crash, don’t kill myself or my crew, and get you thrown in a deep hole for being an asshole!

BODYGUARD

And you can do all that on the flight deck.  You might wanna get dressed.

EXT. LAUNCH COMPLEX 7 – CAPE CANAVERAL – DAY

Sunrise.  The Launch Complex is bathed in the early morning sun, perfect weather.  The Shuttle Explorer is raring to go.

INT. EXPLORER FLIGHT DECK – DAY

Davis and Franklin are in the pilot seats, Shelby and Olivia behind them.  Davis turns around to Olivia.

DAVIS

Are you with me no matter what?

OLIVIA

Of course.  Why are you asking?

DAVIS

In case I do something stupid.

INT. NASA MISSION CONTROL – DAY

George is pacing behind the rows of consoles and controllers.  Low murmur as people report status of shuttle systems.

GEORGE

No one’s talking to me.  I like that.

(transmit)

Explorer.  H-two tank pressurization OK,  you’re green for launch.

INT. EXPLORER FLIGHT DECK – DAY

Davis stops procedures and just sits.  Thinking.  He reaches into a pocket and pulls out a small bag of sand (minus any cigarette butts) and starts pouring it over the console.  Franklin starts to object.

DAVIS

Shhhh.  The United States is on the brink of war.  The President wants to gamble lives from a cushy chair in a mansion, but I don’t think so.

(transmit)

Control.  Negative launch, I’m seeing red.

SHELBY

Davis, what are you doing?!

DAVIS

I have the microbes.

Davis reaches down to the console and methodically starts breaking toggle switches, turn-dials and glass monitors.

SHELBY

How can that be, I’m sure I — my God… they’re gonna kill us.

FRANKLIN

I rather doubt that, they’ll be pissed, but do I detect an opportunity to be heroic?

OLIVIA

What about the President’s threat?

He doesn’t care as he dramatically breaks one last switch.

DAVIS

(to himself)

Okay monkeys.  All yours.

INT. NASA MISSION CONTROL – DAY

Minor confusion in Control.  Everything looks perfect from their perspective.

DAVIS (CONT’D)(V.O.)

Control.  Ah, George?  We took a vote.  Thanks, but no thanks.  We’re not goin’.  Out.

Now major confusion.  TRACKING notices the “radio off” light.

TRACKING

(to George, quiet shock)

He turned off the radios…

GEORGE

What the hell?!

INT. EXPLORER FLIGHT DECK – DAY

The shuttle door is open, the astronauts are gone.

EXT. LAUNCH COMPLEX 7 – DAY

Attached to the launch tower is the emergency exit system for ground abort.  Two slide wires extend from the tower to the entrance of an underground bunker 1,200 feet away.  One steel basket hangs on each wire.

Franklin and Shelby have jumped in one basket, Davis and Olivia in the other.  Davis climbs up and simultaneously releases the brakes.

Franklin/Shelby’s basket releases and goes flying on its thirty-second ride.  Davis/Olivia go nowhere as he pounds and pounds on the brake release.  Finally, it releases.

EXT. EMERGENCY STATION – DAY

Crash trucks, ambulances and fire engines pour out of the station.  The launch tower is in the distance.

EXT. ABORT BUNKER – DAY

As Davis and Olivia crash into the arresting net at the bottom, they see Shelby huddled over Franklin in the basket.  They jump out, run over, and pull her off him.  His head is crushed, barely recognizable.  He’s dead.

SHELBY

He panicked, he tried to jump out, I couldn’t hold him.  I tried, I really did.

The first of the crash trucks pulls up.

DAVIS

C’mon!  Let’s move it.

Olivia helps Shelby out of the basket, Davis hurries them toward the crash truck.  Jumping on the foot step, he flashes a knife from his space suit at the surprised driver.

DAVIS (CONT’D)

This isn’t a conversation.  Get everybody off this truck now.  Please cooperate because I’m under a lot of pressure.

DRIVER

(pause, on headphone)

Everybody out.  Now!  Go, go!

The other crash crew members leap off.  Shelby and Olivia jump in the passenger side.  The driver’s still confused.

DAVIS

Any time. I’ll direct you.

The crash truck lurches forward, turns towards the airfield and quickly picks up speed as it hits the access road.

INT. NASA MISSION CONTROL – DAY

Very few of the controllers are sitting.  Very chaotic.  George is talking on the phone.

GEORGE

Who’s dead?… What do you mean you can’t tell?… Read the damn name tag… What truck?… They left?… Where?

(to nearest person)

Why can’t I get an answer?

EXT. AIRFIELD OPERATIONS – DAY

As the crash truck barrels toward the terminal building, Davis, still on the foot step, points toward the flight line.

DAVIS

There!  The one on the end.

At the end of a flight line full of jets sits a twin-engine Gulfstream jet.  NASA insignia.  The truck comes to a screeching stop less than twenty feet away.  Davis yanks open the door and tugs on the driver.

DAVIS (CONT’D)

Get out!

(points to terminal)

The finish line.  Now run.

The driver jumps out and starts running.

OLIVIA

Is this part of your plan?

DAVIS

My plan ended in the basket.  I’m winging it.  Keep an eye on her.

Keeping Shelby in the middle, they run to the Gulfstream’s door, open it and enter.  They start to take off their spacesuits and put on flight-suits that were draped on hooks. A lone MP pulls up outside, lights flashing.

Davis exits the jet in his underwear, knife hidden, and greets the MP with a big smile… then he starts pointing skyward.  Confused, the MP looks up and Davis just grabs the .45 out of his hand.

DAVIS (CONT’D)

I won’t shoot you; you’re on my team.  But you might wanna walk away.  Go.

INT. KENNEDY SPACE CENTER TERMINAL BUILDING – DAY

The crash truck driver is standing at the operations counter.  The three on-duty personnel are listening intently.

DRIVER

I’m telling you, it was Commander Boone.  And he stuck a knife in my eye.  What was I supposed to do?

INT. GULFSTREAM – DAY

Davis is in the pilot’s seat wearing a flight-suit.  The engines are running.  He gets up and walks the few steps into the cabin.  Shelby and Olivia are sitting across from each other, Olivia has the .45.  Davis stops in front of Shelby then picks her up by her shirt.

DAVIS

Are you gonna tell me who they are?  C’mon, it’s Rutter. Isn’t it?

Shelby struggles to respond.  Fear welling up on her face, but she doesn’t answer.  She meekly shakes her head.  Davis pushes her back down… walks back to the pilot’s seat… straps in… pushes the power forward and taxis ahead.

EXT. GULFSTREAM/RUNWAY – DAY

As the jet taxis toward the runway, emergency vehicles approach.  Davis avoids them by cutting across the grass toward the parallel runway.  They can’t catch up.  He swerves on the runway, easily takes off and turns north.

INT. GULFSTREAM – DAY

On the climb out, Davis reaches down and punches in 7600 on the transponder.  He turns on the comm, reaches over to a can of Altoids on the console, and puts one in his mouth.

DAVIS

(transmit)

Miami Center.  This is emergency ident 7600 departing Kennedy Space Center through nine thousand.  How do you read?

CENTER (V.O.)

Aircraft calling Miami Center, please identify yourself, turn to frequency –

DAVIS

I don’t think so.  Now listen up.  I’m gonna level off at flight level two nine zero.  My destination is Washington D.C.  I’m Commander Davis Boone and you’re gonna be real busy for the next ten minutes.

CENTER

I’m listening.

DAVIS

Patch me through to the President.  I’ll call you back in ten.

EXT. LAUNCH COMPLEX 7 – DAY

George is standing on the access arm looking into the Explorer flight cabin.  He’s talking into a cellular phone.

GEORGE

I don’t know what his intentions are… No sir, this craft is not flight ready… What?… I can’t hear you, did you say Washington?

INT. GULFSTREAM – DAY

Olivia steps into the cockpit and leans against the copilot’s seat.  Davis seems alarmed that she left Shelby alone.

OLIVIA

Don’t worry, she’s practically catatonic.  So what are we doin’?

DAVIS

At least stand behind me so you can watch her.

Davis reaches down and turns on the radio.  Olivia moves over behind him and glances back at Shelby staring out the window.

DAVIS (CONT’D)

(transmit)

Center.  This is Boone.  I’m ready.

CENTER (V.O.)

Standby.

PRESIDENT BURK (V.0.)

Commander.  You seem to be shirking your responsibilities.

DAVIS

I hope I didn’t screw up your place in history.

PRESIDENT BURK

Young man, you’ve put this nation in great peril. You are aware that your actions are a little bit suspect, aren’t you?

DAVIS

Mine?

PRESIDENT BURK

And by announcing your intentions to fly to this nation’s capital, you’ve put my government at risk.  I think it’s best that we shoot you down.  Look out your window.

Davis looks left and right.  On each side of him are two F-22 Raptors, fully loaded with air-to-air missiles.

DAVIS

If I were you, I’d reconsider.  I have Alpha.

PRESIDENT BURK

What did you say?

DAVIS

You heard me. So we’re gonna meet.  You and Rutter at the base of the Washington Monument.  Incidentally, you might wanna clear Constitution Avenue.  I’m landing there.  You’ll also guarantee our safety and you won’t attempt to arrest us.  I’ll give you want you want.  Wouldn’t wanna tick off the Saudis.

PRESIDENT BURK

Well then. Alright, you have my word.

DAVIS

How comforting.

EXT. WASHINGTON MONUMENT – DAY

A flurry of activity as the beginnings of a perimeter take shape.  Police barricade Constitution Avenue and chase vehicles off the street.  Parked cars that may impact the landing are bulldozed onto the grass.  Another barricaded perimeter starts taking shape around the Monument.

News trucks with communication dishes park near the Monument’s entrance.  Reporters and cameramen get out and position themselves.  A phalanx of soldiers, police and federal agents clear out civilians and then stand steady.

A heavily armed motorcade arrives, drives up the hill and  parks near the Monument’s entrance.  President Burk and Dr. Rutter climb out and are surrounded by armed protection.

EXT./INT. GULFSTREAM – DAY

Shelby, still listless, and Olivia are seated in the cabin.  To the north, Davis can see the Lincoln Memorial.  Dropping down to 500 feet, Davis aims for the Lincoln and when it is below him, he turns sharply right towards the Washington.  The four F-22s trail.

As he flies abeam the 550 foot marble obelisk at 250 knots, he looks down at Constitution Avenue.  It’s clear.  He starts his descending left turn, then lowers his gear and flaps.  The F-22s do not descend but continue circling.

EXT. WASHINGTON MONUMENT – DAY

President Burk watches the Gulfstream flare and touchdown 2,000 feet away.  As the crowd around him gets anxious, the jet continues its fast roll out.  It then veers to the left, hops the curb blowing a tire, cruises up the hill and finally skids to a stop in the grass just in front of the President.

The engines shut down but Davis sits in the pilot’s seat staring at both the President and Rutter.  He then disappears into the cabin.  The F-22s depart.

The door opens, ladder-steps advance to the ground, and Davis steps out alone.  He walks towards the President and stops three paces away within earshot of Shelby and Olivia.  News organizations everywhere are covering this live.

PRESIDENT BURK

Very dramatic.  You have your meeting. Now, let’s have ‘em.

Davis looks around taking in the incredible scene.

DAVIS

First you’re gonna tell me what you and Rutter are up to.

RUTTER

We’ve had this discussion.  Get over it.

DAVIS

Enlighten me, Mr. President.  C’mon.  You want more microbes.  Rutter probably has some hidden.  And the rest of the world doesn’t have any.  High stakes, don’t you think?  And so you play from the dark side.

No answer.

DAVIS (CONT’D)

This was never about history, was it?  It wasn’t about humanity.  It was always about power and greed and oil.

PRESIDENT BURK

Don’t be naïve.  It’s about national security.  The United States has the moral imperative and authority to maintain the status quo until we know exactly what we’re working with. Our global leadership can’t waver.  And I haven’t wavered, in spite of people dying for what will most likely turn out to be just some strange coincidence.

DAVIS

But while you guys play monopoly, people are getting killed!  My friends, my crew, my brother, even kids.  And it’s irrelevant, is that it?  Well sir, your moral authority just retreated up the Potomac.

(beat)

I’ve changed my mind. Next stop U.N.  The hell with status quo.

PRESIDENT BURK

So you do have them.

Davis stares and says nothing.

PRESIDENT BURK (CONT’D)

Whatever you think of me, or suspect me of doing, you’re wrong.  And I implore you, as your President… don’t be foolish.

OLIVIA

Davis!

Davis quickly turns and sees that Shelby is holding the .45 at Olivia’s head as they step down to the ground.  Olivia is carrying a canister in each hand.  Davis throws up his arms.

DAVIS

Nobody shoot!  Everybody stay calm.

SHELBY

Davis.  Follow me please.

INT. WASHINGTON MONUMENT – DAY

The gun still at Olivia’s head, the three of them enter through a large metal door.

SHELBY

Secure the door.

Davis spots both a green and red button adjacent the door. He pushes the red one and a large horizontal bolt-arm locks the door in place.  He follows Shelby and Olivia into the elevator, the doors already open.  Shelby hits the up button.  The doors close.  Olivia drops the heavy canisters to the floor.

The elevator starts its seventy second journey.  Fear, anger, confusion doesn’t begin to mask out the strangely amplified sounds of the elevator’s journey upwards.  Davis glances at the canisters.  Shelby notices.

SHELBY (CONT’D)

It’s liquid oxygen.

Riding upwards, everybody trying to figure out the angles.

DAVIS

Just tell me.  Who else?

Shelby considers answering but doesn’t.  Finally, the elevator jars to a stop, the doors open, and Shelby waves them out with the gun.

SHELBY

Ah… take those please.

Davis grabs the canisters, exits the elevator and stands on the landing.  Shelby flicks the emergency stop switch as she exits.

SHELBY (CONT’D)

Prop ‘em by that window.  Right there.

Davis lifts and places both canisters next to a viewing window.

SHELBY (CONT’D)

Tell me, Davis.  What do you really think about Alpha?

(no response)

Humor me.

DAVIS

Shelby, I want you to listen to me.  There’s –

SHELBY

Quiet.  Now step over there and lie down.

Davis stays between Olivia and Shelby.  As they lie on the floor, Davis partially covers Olivia’s body.  He knows what’s coming.  Shelby walks over to a vendor’s counter, kneels behind it and rapidly fires three rounds at the canisters.  BLAM BLAM BLAM.

BOOM!  Stone, mortar and glass go flying.  What remains is a crude hole big enough for five men to walk through.  Twisted rebar is exposed around the hole’s perimeter.

EXT. WASHINGTON MONUMENT – DAY

The explosion is heard below as cops try to break through the front door.  Two SWAT helicopters fly in and start circling.

INT. WASHINGTON MONUMENT – DAY

Shelby quickly walks over to Davis and Olivia…

SHELBY

It’s only been me, dear man, but it isn’t like I planned all this.

… and SHOOTS Davis in the thigh.  She grabs Olivia by the hair and starts dragging her towards the blast hole.  Olivia can’t fight too hard because of the gun.  Davis grimaces in pain.  OVER THIS…

SHELBY (CONT’D)

Man was created in God’s image. God walked this planet as Jesus … ergo God and man are mirrors of one another.  Don’t you see?  Adam had dominion over the Garden, we’re the pinnacle of creation. If you knew the Bible, you’d know that. We are supreme as God is supreme.  But Alpha?  His very existence will destroy faith.  We can’t very well allow some superior intelligent organism to float around this universe, can we?  To mock God’s word?  To confuse us?  Davis, know this truth.  Because of that microbe, Man’s unique bond with God would shatter like the tablets of Moses.

She waves the gun at Olivia who she’s now released.

SHELBY (CONT’D)

Stand closer to the hole.  I almost destroyed it, y’know.  Station Catcher, remember?  And Explorer certainly wasn’t coming back from its little scavenger hunt.  The microbes would’ve been nothing more than a fairy tale.  But apparently, God has dictated another course.

OLIVIA

Please.  You don’t have to kill anymore.  This can stop now.

Davis has managed to stand and is leaning against a wall.  Shelby moves closer to Olivia who can easily be pushed out.  In the distant, a SWAT ‘copter hovers.

SHELBY

By the way, Alpha is not one of God’s creatures.  That’s what so fascinating.  Satan was brilliant on this one.  He deserves so much credit.

DAVIS

Why kill everybody?!

SHELBY

I know.  It’s so heartless and I do repent.  Believe me, I’m suffering.  But as near as I can figure, I think punishment is clearly the reason.  Sometimes you really do have to kill the messengers.  Our crew dear boy. And maim the enablers as well to my way of thinking. America in this case, the greedy soulless enterprise that long ago turned its back on God.

(beat)

In God We Trust?  I don’t think so.

(beat)

Now.  Davis.  You said you had the microbes.  Give them to me or Olivia needs wings.  You see, I’m going to eat them.  And then I’m going to jump.

(Davis inches forward)

Davis.  I know you… don’t.

BLAM.  She shoots Davis in the same leg.  He goes down hard.

DAVIS

Aaaahhhh.

OLIVIA

Stop it!

SHELBY

No, no!  This is his journey, his truth.  He was always gonna be the last.  I’ve been pushing him on his path to revelation. To Christ. To God.

Davis crawls toward Shelby… relentless.

DAVIS

God!? What can you possibly know about God? He despises what you’ve become. You’re a fanatic! You’re about as Christian as Al Qaeda.

SHELBY

I told you to stop!

DAVIS

(barely on his knees)

Here’s the truth.  I don’t have them!  I never did.

She lowers her head.  Confused. Pensive.

Davis notices that the SWAT ‘copter is maneuvering for a good shot.  He reaches into his pocket as Shelby slowly and serenely raises her head.

SHELBY

I am the image of God, I am the Body of Christ, I am awakened to righteousness and sinning not.  Stand up.  Now!!  You don’t get to heaven unless you die.

After many agonizing attempts, he stands.  Then, slowly raising his arms as if crucified, the can of Altoids is clearly in his hands…

DAVIS

I lied.  Say hi to Alpha.

Again confused, Shelby turns her back on the blast hole then walks toward him.  Behind her, the SWAT sniper has a good bead on her back.  A CRACK as a bullet tears through Shelby’s chest.  She is propelled toward Davis who tries to grab her but she bounces off, and on wobbly legs, in shock, she backs up through the hole.  And plunges to earth.

Olivia runs to Davis who collapses in her arms, they slide to the floor. She applies pressure to his bleeding wounds.

OLIVIA

I have to get help.

DAVIS

No.  Don’t… don’t leave.  Please.  They’ll be here.

Olivia strokes Davis’ hair as they wait for help to arrive.  She opens the Altoids can… just mints.

OLIVIA

Mints?

Davis reaches into his pocket and takes out the pendant.  He opens it.  Taped to his family picture is a small clear packet, looks like dirt inside.  ZOOM IN further.  The dirt is micrometeorites, resplendent with microbes.

OLIVIA (CONT’D)

Is that what I think it is?

DAVIS

In all their splendor.

Olivia gently takes the pendant and places it on her cupped palm.

OLIVIA

What now?

DAVIS

Ever work at a gas station?

FADE OUT:

THE END