>>/ Soldier

/ Soldier. .

: / Soldier.

/ Soldier

INT. HOSPITAL NURSERY - NIGHT

BABIES in bassinets, isolettes, incubators. BABIES sleeping, BABIES blinking, BABIES cooing, BABIES chirping, BABIES squalling.

It's the SQUALLING BABIES, the ones with pinched faces and tiny bunched fists, that seem to interest the TWO ANONYMOUS MEN in Military Uniforms. (Their anonymity is assured by the angles from which they are seen; they are hands, they are feet, they are the backs of heads.)

A lone NURSE watches them grimly as they make their "selections," marking the cribs of the most active, noisy BABIES with X's.

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EXT. VAN/HOSPITAL - NIGHT

ANGLE ON VAN DOORS slamming shut on a dozen squalling BABIES in tiered red cribs.

ANGLE ON THE VAN pulling away from the loading dock of the large hospital as a date is SUPERED over the scene...

1992

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INT. CAGE/BASEMENT ROOM - DAY OR NIGHT

Vicious teeth, savage snarls, tearing flesh as three fierce fighting DOGS battle a single WOLVERINE in large steel cage.

The cage is in the middle of a gloomy windowless room surrounded by twenty TWO-YEAR-OLDS seated on folding chairs and dressed in identical gray overalls. As the TWO-YEAR-OLDS watch the battle, amazement on their innocent faces, a date appears SUPERED over the scene...

1994

WE DISCOVER in the shadows more ANONYMOUS MEN (and WOMEN), some of them in Military Uniforms, observing the children.

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INT. A WINDOWLESS CEMENT ROOM - DAY OR NIGHT

It's creepy: the same children two years older, milling about a bare cement room, apparently unsupervised. They ought to look cute, but somehow these joyless FOUR-YEAR-OLDS look slightly sinister, all of them wearing drab uniforms and military burr-cut hair. Again a date is SUPERED over the scene --

1996

-- just as an AGGRESSIVE FOUR-YEAR-OLD approaches a PASSIVE FOUR YEAR-OLD seated on the floor and kicks him.

It's a harmless child's kick. But then, as the DATE DISAPPEARS, he kicks the PASSIVE FOUR-YEAR-OLD again. And again.

The servo-motor in a remote video camera mounted high on the wall WHINES slightly as the camera pans to the record the action.

CUT TO:

INT. WINDOWLESS "CLASSROOM" - DAY OR NIGHT

Puzzles. Fingers fit shapes into holes. The puzzles aren't fun puzzles; they're obviously tests of intelligence or dexterity or both. SIX-YEAR-OLDS now, the boys perform in a grim room under fluorescent lights as more ANONYMOUS MEN and WOMEN in polished shoes and sharply creased military slacks cruise the aisles, observing.

As a date appears SUPERED over this scene...

1998

WE NOTICE one of the SIX-YEAR-OLDS is becoming familiar to us. TODD. We NOTICE his intense eyes as he dexterously manipulates a puzzle.

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EXT. FIELD - DAY

Behind a cyclone fence topped with curlicues of razor wire, the boys, now TEN-YEAR-OLDS, are marching in formation under the supervision of a (faceless) DRILL SERGEANT. Again a date is SUPERED over the scene...

2002

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INT. GYMNASIUM - DAY

Fourteen-year-old TODD is doing bench presses in shorts while all around him his FOURTEEN-YEAR-OLD COMRADES work out with weights in a very grim and spartan gym that resembles a sinister concentration camp more than the yuppie spas of the 20th Century. The date appears SUPERED over the scene...

2006

CUT TO:

EXT. OBSTACLE COURSE/MONTAGE - DAY

The FOURTEEN-YEAR-OLDS, TODD among them, jump, roll, dive, crawl, swim, and rappel through a brutal course featuring:

vertical wooden walls,

fast moving rapids,

tangles of barbed wire,

steep rock faces,

and finally a jungle of dangling chains with tiny circular "platforms" about eight inches in diameter every ten feet. FOURTEEN YEAR OLDS bloody each other with pugil sticks and padded cudgels while they swing twenty feet above the ground. One of them is knocked off, plummets downward. CRUNCH!

CUT TO:

EXT. SNOW COVERED LANDSCAPE - DAY

Long even strides, two inches of snow. Breathing hard, the SIXTEEN-YEAR-OLDS now lope through hills and woods in shorts and T-shirts, their breath coming in steamy blasts as the date is SUPERED over the scene...

2008

This a brutal cross country run under a grim sky in bitter cold weather, but the SIXTEEN-YEAR-OLDS are super-fit, their faces hard and without expression, their eyes as cold as snake eyes.

Except for the STRAGGLER, a lone boy who's bringing up the rear, obviously in trouble, gasping for air, struggling, struggling, struggling to keep his feet...

ANGLE ON A HILL where ANONYMOUS OBSERVERS, all in military dress, watch.

ANGLE ON THE STRAGGLER, unable to keep his feet, going down, gasping. With fearful eyes, he looks toward the hill where he knows the OBSERVERS are.

ANGLE ON THE PACK, sixteen SIXTEEN-YEAR-OLDS not looking back, even as a single SHOT rings out. TODD doesn't even blink, just keeps running.

CUT TO:

EXT. SHOOTING RANGE - DAY

Suddenly, out of nowhere, a scary mechanized pop-up target, a MILITARY FIGURE, erupts from the long grass, weapon pointing. Before the weapon can flash a laser bean, AUTOMATIC FIRE ravages the target and it disappears back into the grass. The boys, EIGHTEEN-YEAR-OLDS now, are wearing combat gear and carrying automatic weapons as they advance through a sloping field of tall grass.

Different sophisticated TARGETS pop up urgently, sometimes close, sometimes far, some MOVING rapidly on tracks.

The EIGHTEEN-YEAR-OLDS expertly mow down menacing MILITARY FIGURES while holding their fire when ANIMAL TARGETS or UNARMED CIVILIANS and CHILDREN appear.

The eighteen-year-old on point is RILEY, a muscular redhead. TODD is right behind him as a date is SUPERED over the scene...

2010

Suddenly multiple TARGETS appear, charging.

BUDDA BUDDA BUDDA! First TARGET down!

RILEY, panning for the next target, holds fire, passes over two MOTHERS HOLDING CHILDREN, pans for a nearby SOLDIER TARGET. But the SOLDIER TARGET zips behind the MOTHERS HOLDING CHILDREN, taking cover, weapon pointed at RILEY.

For half a second RILEY hesitates!

BUDDA BUDDA BUDDA! TODD blazes away, mercilessly blowing away the MOTHERS HOLDING CHILDREN TARGET and the SOLDIER TARGET.

THE MAIN TITLE APPEARS

as the ROAR OF GUNS gives way to MUSIC...

CUT TO:

INT. PROCESSING ROOM - DAY

Skillful hands operate a tattoo pen, stenciling an insignia and a number on the left side of RILEY'S face over the cheekbone. His cheek says RILEY, L.B., his face reveals nothing as...

OPENING CREDITS BEGIN

The next face is TODD. The skillful hands with the tattoo pen go to work on his face, marking, stenciling the skin as...

OPENING CREDITS CONTINUE

Then the tattoo artist's bands finish with TODD and move on to the next MAN, leaving TODD staring straight ahead, his cheek tattooed, his face like carved stone, his eyes as unfathomable as the eyes of a statue as THE OPENING CREDITS CONCLUDE.

CUT TO:

EXT. JUNGLE - DAY

Machinegun fire, SOLDIERS in cammies moving through lush tropical growth.

A mortar explodes, a SOLDIER is engulfed in shrapnel. As the smoke clears, the SOLDIER screams mindlessly like a siren. This is real war, not training.

A title and date appear on the screen, saying...

2011, THE BOLIVIAN WAR

As the title fades, we glimpse TODD advancing at a crouch through smoke and enemy fire, blazing away at the unseen enemy. Sweaty and smudged, his uniform torn and stained with blood, TODD reveals nothing on his stone face. But he's clearly unintimidated by the death of his screaming comrade as we...

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EXT. PINE WOODS - DAY

Automatic weapons CHATTER as TODD struggles through thick snowy woods, half-carrying a bloody comrade barely recognizable as RILEY. Bullets spatter bark and leaves as TODD and RILEY take cover behind a fallen log. A date and title appear, SUPERED over the action...

2012, THE MONTANA "INCIDENT"

RILEY is nearly unconscious. TODD glances at his own wound, a savage opening in his side. He considers the torn flesh as dispassionately as a man checking a flea bite.

Bullets whiz around the wounded man as we...

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EXT. DESERT, VILLAGE - DAY

Sunbaked landscape, a burning village, ENEMY CORPSES sprawled here and there, burned or horribly mutilated by artillery fire. SUPERED over the corpses, a date and title...

2014-2016, THE SAUDI CAMPAIGN

WE DISCOVER TODD, RILEY, and several OTHER SOLDIERS, exhausted, parched, in torn and bloodied uniforms, sharing a single canteen under the blazing sun. War is hard work!

CUT TO:

EXT. LAUNCH PAD - DAY

A fury of flames, the THUNDER of ignition as huge rocket engines lift a space vehicle off the launching pad and propel it skyward.

EXT. OUTER SPACE

Profound SILENCE! The space vehicle that the rocket propelled is a weathered looking military spaceship gliding through the blackness of outer space like a huge shark. A date and title appear SUPERED over the scene...

2017, TANNHAUSER GATE

As the title fades away in the eerie silence, we...

CUT TO:

EXT. ANOTHER PLANET - NIGHT

A huge moon looms in the blackness above a barely visible landscape...

2020, THE ARGENTINE SECTOR

SIX SOLDIERS stagger through the rough terrain in pressure suits and plexi helmets, breathing from tanks.

Sudden automatic fire staggers the lead SOLDIER. His helmet is pierced, air and blood erupt from the hole in his face plate.

The SERGEANT, his futuristic "chevrons" on his helmet, signals the men to take cover, starts to return fire. As a flare illuminates the battlefield, we RECOGNIZE the sergeant through his visor. It's TODD.

CUT TO:

EXT. EXTRATERRESTRIAL CITY - DAY

Bombed out! Buildings turned to rubble, smoking ruins, rain. An extra-terrestrial city ravaged by war to such a degree that it bears an uncanny resemblance to Dresden/Earth in 1945 after the fire-bombing! The architecture, even in ruins, recalls old Europe, and the streets are narrow, as in before (or after) automobiles.

Bursts of AUTOMATIC FIRE, occasional MORTAR BLASTS. A spooky battle between unseen SOLDIERS is taking place in seemingly deserted streets and alleyways. And SUPERED over the gloomy scene...

THE THIRD DRESDEN MOON (1.16 Earth atmos, acceptable oxygen)

CRACK! CRACK! CRACK! Shots!

Suddenly a terrified MOTHER dashes along the street, a screaming BABY in her arms, looking for shelter.

A CIVILIAN MAN pops out of a doorway, pulls her to safety.

REVEAL TODD, watching from the shell of a once proud building.

TODD'S POV of four ENEMY SOLDIERS running at a crouch among the rubble.

ANGLE ON TODD watching them scurry into a cellar door. TODD turns and gives a hand signal.

ANGLE ON RILEY twenty yards away, hidden behind exposed machinery, acknowledging the signal and, along with a THIRD SOLDIER, advancing toward the cellar.

EXT. CELLAR DOOR

TODD, RILEY, and the THIRD SOLDIER converge stealthily, coordinating with hand signals.

TODD pulls the pin on a grenade, and RILEY and the THIRD SOLDIER kick in the door.

TODD tosses the grenade in as RILEY fires a withering barrage of automatic fire through the cellar door.

BAHWHOOM! The grenade EXPLODES.

Then, RILEY, TODD and the THIRD SOLDIER charge in.

INT. CELLAR

HEAVY FIRE as TODD, RILEY and the THIRD SOLDIER spray the room.

ANGLE ON TODD signaling cease fire.

Sudden silence. Drifting smoke. Then...GROANS.

Four ENEMY SOLDIERS are sprawled motionless, horribly eviscerated. A fifth ENEMY SOLDIER, horribly wounded, is groaning.

ANGLE ON TODD surveying the scene, stone faced.

TODD'S POV of the enemy dead, and several CIVILIANS equally dead, as well as the dead BODIES of several CHILDREN.

BANG! RILEY shoots the groaning ENEMY SOLDIER.

Silence again.

CLOSE ON TODD, his stone face. What does he see? What does he feel? Anything? A mystery!

CUT TO:

INT. BARRACKS - DAY

A spartan room, bare bunk-beds. Rain POUNDS on a window that looks out into a stormy sky over the godforsaken ruins of the Third Dresden Moon.

TODD is sitting on a bunk, shirtless. His new rank has been tattooed on his right cheek; there's a scar under one eye and another scar that distorts his lip slightly. The names of various battles have been neatly stenciled down his left arm, an official record, not a decoration. TODD is silent, staring into space. The room is full of SOLDIERS in T-shirts, fatigues, sleepwear. WORDS APPEAR SUPERED OVER THE SCENE...

The WORDS FADE AWAY, the silence continues, the rain BEATS on the barracks, no one says a word, they just stare into space or watch the rain beat on the windowpane. They look like robots...used robots, made individual only by their different scars.

CUT TO:

EXT. BARRACKS - DAY

Rain. Low buildings, boarded windows, slogans painted on the war- scarred walls, the makeshift barracks in one building, command quarters in the next.

A lone figure, a MAN IN A PONCHO, hurries through the downpour, passing the barracks, heading for the command quarters.

INT. COMMAND QUARTERS

Entering, the MAN shakes rain off his poncho. His name is RUBRICK, he's thirty-five, a lieutenant. He faces the two bored OFFICERS lounging in the cluttered office where outdated equipment is strung together by mazes of wire and the desktops are heaped with printout sheets and styrofoam coffee cups.

The captain, CHURCH, has his feet on the desk. He's fifty years old, gray and fat and soft. The other officer, SLOAN, also a lieutenant, is a thirty-five year old woman, dark, moderately attractive, but not particularly happy.

RUBRICK Colonel Mekum has his "boys" unpacked. I think he wants to show them off.

CHURCH Hmmmmph.

RUBRICK They look...impressive.

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INT. "STATION" - DAY

A NEW SOLDIER fills the frame, a perfect-looking man/boy of about twenty built like a linebacker, powerful looking with sculpted unscarred musculature. He looks straight ahead, unblinking, and so does the one next to him, and the next one. Twenty of them are standing in line in one corner of an enormous space that was once a station of some sort. They don't seem to respond to the chill or to the occasional drops of rain from the skylights leaking sixty feet above them.

Wearing dripping ponchos, CHURCH, SLOAN, and RUBRICK are looking the robot-like monsters over like so much meat, while a bright- eyed blond colonel about thirty, named MEKUM, stands proudly by, glowing with satisfaction.

The vast interior is so large that in spite of clusters of stacked crates, part of a dismantled spaceship, a rusty earthmover, numerous large pieces of machinery, and a whole arrangement of exercise gear, the place has huge open spaces and a sense of emptiness to it.

SLOAN walks close to the line of NEW SOLDIERS and studies one, her eyes drifting over their muscular bodies. She breaks the long silence.

SLOAN Well, they're...pretty.

CHURCH (to Mekum) What's so hot about them?

MEKUM (proudly) Very much improved. In every way.

RUBRICK This is Colonel Mekum from Q. He's their commanding officer.

CHURCH (dubious) Improved...how?

MEKUM As I said, in every way. Physically and psychologically. More endurance, quicker responses, better hand-eye, improved technical training. Where the First Psychology gave you ninety-eight percent obedience, this bunch gives you 99.4.

CHURCH (dubiously) Mmmmmm. Weeell, you know my old daddy was in maintenance and he had a saying...

RUBRICK and SLOAN exchange an eye-rolling private glance that means they've heard a lot of Daddy's sayings.

CHURCH ...He used to say, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

MEKUM (patronizing) I...see. I'm not sure I quite get your...point...

CHURCH (indicating the Veterans) Well, the soldiers we've got now, they've been through all kinds of heavy shit...and they've always got the job done. Now these new ones, these "hot shots" of yours...what kind of action have they seen? They are battle-tested, aren't they?

MEKUM That's up to you field guys. H.Q. wants you to break 'em in when you do the annual security sweep in January.

CHURCH The sweep is just routine, not even police action. I'd like to see some sort of...meaningful evidence...

MEKUM Such as?

CHURCH Maybe we could run some tests. Kind of a comparison, the old and the new...

RUBRICK and SLOAN exchange a startled glance, but MEKUM doesn't seem fazed as we...

CUT TO:

INT. "STATION" - DAY - LATER

A WEAPON FIRING! BUDDA! BUDDA! BUDDA! The automatic weapon is being fired by the veteran soldier RILEY. He's blazing away at an elaborate electronic target a hundred yards away in the huge space.

TODD is watching with the other VETERAN SOLDIERS. They're seated on the floor, wearing drab fatigues, directly across from the twenty NEW SOLDIERS.

As TODD glances at them, the NEW SOLDIERS look back unblinkingly. (The VETERANS, in spite of their impassive expressions, look very human compared to the NEW SOLDIERS. Their battle scars mark them as individuals in sharp contrast to the perfectly-muscled young giants across from them.)

The firing stops, and RILEY, his weapon empty, leaps to his feet and salutes RUBRICK, who's been watching the demonstration with the rest of the officers.

RILEY Sir!

RUBRICK Very nice, Riley. Fall away.

RILEY (another salute) Sir!

As RILEY joins the VETERANS squatting motionlessly, RUBRICK glances at the shredded electronic target, glances at his stopwatch, then looks at Mekum.

RUBRICK Thirty seconds, 90 percent hits.

MEKUM smirks, picks up the weapon, disassembles it rapidly. MEKUM Let's make it more difficult.

RUBRICK, CHURCH and SLOAN exchange glances of disbelief as MEKUM scatters the disassembled parts onto the concrete floor with a loud clatter.

TODD watches, unblinking, as MEKUM looks to the NEW SOLDIERS.

MEKUM Caine Six-Oh-Seven!

A blond Nordic giant is suddenly on his feet among the NEW SOLDIERS. There is real dignity in his salute; he's like a pro.

CAINE 607 Sir!

MEKUM Assemble the weapon, load, fire on the target from various evasive positions in a thirty-second period.

OFFICERS look at each other again in disbelief. MEKUM Starting...now!

MEKUM punches his watch as CAINE 607 gracefully begins to pick up pieces of weapon, doing it rapidly, yet without apparent haste.

TODD is watching, revealing nothing.

CLACK! KA SHACK! CLICK! CAINE 607 slaps the weapon together, loading a magazine with a final KA SHUCK, then he dives to the floor, firing a rapid burst at the electronic target which blinks wildly...

OFFICERS watch, impressed.

CAINE 607 is firing from another position.

The target goes crazy.

CAINE 607 is rolling and firing at the same time.

The target goes wild.

MEKUM's watch clicks off 27 seconds...28...29...

The firing stops.

TODD stares impassively as CAINE 607 salutes. Beside him, RILEY watches also.

MEKUM (to Caine 607) As you were, soldier.

RUBRICK is looking at the electronic target, grudgingly impressed.

RUBRICK Ninety-nine percent...

MEKUM (smug) While taking evasive action...

RUBRICK (amazed) That's...very good.

CUT TO:

INT. WEIGHT AREA/"STATION" - DAY - A LITTLE LATER

A NEW SOLDIER cleans an awesome weight with what looks like ease as RUBRICK, CHURCH, and SLOAN again exchange impressed glances and MEKUM watches smugly.

They're still in the giant warehouse in the gym section among all sorts of ominous exercise devices. The NEW SOLDIERS and VETERANS are gathered in separate groups at attention, their faces like stone.

TODD is watching the big man handle the weight easily. MEKUM See? Much stronger.

CHURCH What about endurance?

CUT TO:

EXT. RUINS - DAY

TODD is loping through sheets of rain. The terrain around him features ghostly shells of buildings, shards of a city nearly invisible through the curtains of rain.

His feet slash through flooding gutters and trash filled streets bordered by ruins as he runs smoothly, evenly, keeping a good pace, his breath rasping rhythmically, his eyes revealing nothing as we...

CUT TO:

INT. OFFICER QUARTERS - DAY

SLOAN accepts a cup of hot coffee from RUBRICK as she considers the plastic "papers" MEKUM has spread on the cluttered desk. Ponchos have been hung by the door. MEKUM is pointing to various numbers and paragraphs.

CHURCH has been staring out the window into the pouring rain. He turns to MEKUM and interrupts.

CHURCH Our man has been out there fifteen minutes now. Shouldn't you send one?

MEKUM (smug grin, to Church) In a minute. (turning back to Sloan) Now, see this test? This shows what they do under sleep deprivation conditions. Forty-eight hours awake and they can...

CUT TO:

EXT. TODD RUNNING/RUINS - DAY

Rain slashes his face as TODD runs, his eyes staring vacantly into the blinding storm, his legs pumping evenly, his feet chopping through the thick mud in a wasteland of shelled apartment buildings where rat-like CREATURES scurry out of his way as we...

CUT TO:

INT. "STATION" - DAY

Separated by fifteen yards, the two groups of SOLDIERS, the NEW and the VETERAN, sit on the cold cement floor, staring vacantly into space as they await orders. Occasionally a VETERAN will rub his chin, another will scratch his nose, but nobody says anything, and when their eyes accidentally meet, they look away deliberately, expressionless. Nobody flinches when a big door opens and pale light streams in.

MEKUM is standing there in a poncho.

MEKUM Melton, Eight Five. Forward.

MELTON, one of the husky new soldiers, climbs to his feet and steps toward MEKUM, saluting.

MELTON Eight Five, sir.

MEKUM Ten miles, Melton, on the run.

MELTON's face shows no expression as MEKUM continues.

MEKUM (O.S.) You've got sixty minutes. Go.

MELTON Sir!

MELTON heads out into the rain running smoothly and easily as we...

CUT TO:

EXT. TODD/RUINS - DAY

TODD's breath comes in even rasps as his feet splash over rough terrain, splash splash splash, hard work but nothing in his stone face indicates he's not equal to the task. Splash splash splash!

CUT TO:

INT. OFFICER QUARTERS - DAY

In the cluttered office, RUBRICK, CHURCH, and SLOAN look up from a conversation as MEKUM enters dripping wet and takes off his poncho, smiling smugly. MEKUM My man left exactly twenty minutes after yours. Make a note of that.

RUBRICK What are we supposed to do with the old soldiers?

MEKUM (a shrug and a grin) Old soldiers never die.

CUT TO:

EXT. TODD/RUINS - DAY

Running. Splash splash splash! TODD makes a turn, heading back, his face like stone, as we...

CUT TO:

INT. OFFICERS QUARTERS - DAY

MEKUM is filling his coffee cup as he speaks.

MEKUM They'll serve as a labor force. You can use them for physical stuff... loading, unloading, repairs, power lines, that kind of thing. (a glance around the office) Even cleaning...sweeping...,uh, tidying up.

CUT TO:

EXT. TODD/RUINS - DAY

Breathing steadily, raspily, TODD lopes through the rain. Something makes him glance back over his shoulder.

Thirty yards back he sees a vague shape, obscured by rain.

TODD looks ahead again, his face revealing nothing, his legs maintaining the same even pace, running, running, running.

Then he looks back again.

The vague shape is taking form, a GHOSTLY RUNNER getting closer.

TODD continues at the same even place. He doesn't look back again until he feels closeness. Then he looks.

IT'S MELTON only a few yards behind him, running effortlessly, keeping a steady pace that's faster than TODD's. The bigger man moves even with TODD without even looking at him, as though TODD weren't there, and then he moves ahead like a big machine, inexorable.

As TODD runs, eyes straight ahead, he can see MELTON becoming ghostly, disappearing in the curtains of rain ahead as we...

CUT TO:

INT. "STATION" - DAY

The huge doors are open to the rain as SLOAN, CHURCH, RUBRICK, and MEKUM watch for signs of TODD. Still dripping vet, the muscular MELTON is standing beside MEKUM, breathing heavily but not desperately.

MEKUM Of course, age is a factor, but the real factor is the training program, especially the psychological. The mind controls the body after all, and we're doing wonderful things with the mind.

A shape appears in the rain a hundred yards off, moves closer, takes the form of a runner running. It's TODD, still moving at the same pace, his face like stone.

TODD lopes into the big warehouse and, breathing hard but evenly, comes to a halt in front of RUBRICK and salutes.

TODD Sir.

RUBRICK At ease, soldier.

CHURCH has been thinking and now he speaks to MEKUM.

CHURCH What's the price of all that speed? Is he tired? MEKUM Tired?

CHURCH Todd here ran the pace he's been taught to run. He's still strong. Send him up the chain, Rube.

RUBRICK (to Todd) Soldier! Up the chain! TODD Sir.

TODD salutes and lopes toward ten chains that dangle from the rafters sixty feet above, grabs one, and starts up it, hand over hand.

MEKUM watches TODD climb, then looks at CHURCH who is looking at him expectantly.

MEKUM grins at CHURCH.

Then MEKUM looks back at TODD, not hurrying.

TODD is thirty feet up and climbing, passing the eight inch circular "platforms" or footholds in the chain every ten feet. MEKUM (sharply) Melton, on the double! Up a chain!

MELTON (saluting) Sir!

MELTON takes a few easy strides, gracefully catches a chain mid- stride, and smarts up, climbing easily and twice as fast as TODD.

CHURCH, SLOAN, and RUBRICK crane their necks as the two men struggle upward toward the rafters.

Three quarters of the way up, MELTON comes even with TODD, then passes him. MEKUM, watching, smirks.

CHURCH is watching too, and he's still not satisfied. His brow is knit, something's bothering him.

ANGLE HIGH ABOVE, AMONG THE GIRDERS

Stonefaced, MELTON is resting an a "platform" on the chain, sixty feet up, beneath the girders, swaying gently.

His stony gaze is on the next chain where TODD is arriving at a "platform" on an adjacent chain...only three feet away.

Their eyes meet, TODD and MELTON alone together sixty feet up, three feet apart. Neither man blinks, neither man flinches, neither man reveals anything at all...

LOW ANGLE, LOOKING UP

CHURCH considers the men high above, then to MEKUM.

CHURCH What about...spirit?

MEKUM (as in "what's that?") Spirit? (...a grin) Oh! You mean "AQ"..."aggressive qualities"?

CHURCH Whatever the latest jargon is.

MEKUM Much better, much higher. For example, where your old ones expressed ninety percent of their sexual energy in aggressive physicality, these new ones are ninety-nine percent without sexual inclination. It's all aggression.

SLOAN (dryly) Real men!

CHURCH (sharply, to Sloan) At ease, Lieutenant. (turning to Mekum, serious) What if they fought?

A sudden silence.

SLOAN raises her eyebrows, gives RUBRICK a look.

Frowning thoughtfully, MEKUM looks up. MEKUM You mean up there?

CHURCH (to Rubrick) Go ahead, Rube. Tell Todd to take him. MEKUM No!

They all look at MEKUM. Is this the chink in the armor? The new soldiers can't fight?

CHURCH "No"? MEKUM Not fair. No contest. Send two more of your old ones up.

Now CHURCH, RUBRICK, and SLOAN are stunned. They exchange a glance.

MEKUM Go ahead.

RUBRICK shrugs, turns to the VETERANS still sitting stoically in a group on the cement floor.

RUBRICK Romero, A. -- Goines, D.L. -- up the chains.

Two of the veterans, ROMERO and GOINES, leap immediately to their feet and climb rapidly.

SLOAN, CHURCH, and RUBRICK exchange a look as MEKUM smirks confidently.

ANGLE ON TODD AND MELTON ABOVE. They're still facing each other across the sixty foot drop.

MELTON glances down...without losing sight of TODD.

ROMERO and GOINES are coming up the chains fast, hand over hand. They're within ten feet, their impassive faces look dangerous.

Nothing shows on MELTON's machine-face, but he starts a slight motion in his chain so that he spins slowly. That way, as the veterans surround him, he keeps a continual eye an all three.

TODD, his face impassive, eyes MELTON vigilantly.

ANGLE ON RUBRICK BELOW

For a long moment, RUBRICK looks up at the three men dangling around the new soldier, then he shouts loudly at them. RUBRICK Get him, men!

ANGLE ON TODD as SMASH! TODD is hit hard in the face even as he starts to swing. WHAM! MELTON hits him again and TODD loses his grip on the chain, starts to fall, grabs at the chain, clutches, slides...

ANGLE ON MELTON, CRUNCH!, hit as he swings at MELTON. WHAM! MELTON hits him again, hard.

GOINES swings against MELTON from behind, smashing at him with his free hand and with both feet.

MELTON ignores the blows from behind as he grabs ROMERO by the face with one hand, yanks the face close to his own, and squeezes mercilessly.

ANGLE ON TODD, TWENTY FEET BELOW. He's managed to get a foothold on one of the mini-platforms. His face horribly bloody, he looks up at the action twenty feet above him and sees MELTON suddenly hurl ROMERO downward.

ROMERO rockets down past TODD...

ANGLE ON THE FLOOR as SMASH! ROMERO's body crunches against the cement not far from RUBRICK, SLOAN, and CHURCH, splattering them with blood.

Their eyes are wide with disbelief and horror as they look up again...

ANGLE ON MELTON in the girders as he turns to face the man who's been clubbing him from behind...GOINES! GOINES swings his chain wide and MELTON, eyes merciless, deadly, swings after him.

ANGLE ON TODD, bloody, struggling up the chain hand over hand. His eyes follow MELTON above as the new soldier swings and swings, trying to get a blow at GOINES.

Just then, GOINES lunges at MELTON, SMACK, SMASH, he hits him hard, and WHAM! MELTON hits him back...

ANGLE ON TODD who has climbed to a "platform" foothold on his chain five feet above the swinging fighters. TODD looks down on MELTON's back as the big man swings close, watching, tensing, then...

TODD dives off his chain and lands on MELTON's back, crooking one arm around the new soldier's neck and pounding him with one free hand and strangling him with the other arm.

MELTON gurgles while GOINES hits him in the face.

ANGLE ON MEKUM WATCHING BELOW. For the first time a frown of concern wrinkles his brow.

ANGLE ON MELTON AND TODD on chains just below the girders. MELTON slams an elbow back into TODD's ribs hard and TODD gasps for air, but...

GOINES uses the moment to slam a knee into MELTON's balls and...

MELTON gasps, then grabs GOINES by the neck with one hand, rips him from the chain, and sends him plunging violently downward even as...

TODD goes for face with his free hand.

SLAM! MELTON smashes TODD in the ribs with an elbow.

TODD savagely gouges out one of MELTON's eyes.

ANGLE ON MEKUM, sixty feet below, enraged at the sight of MELTON's injury.

ANGLE ON THE VETERANS watching the brutal fight with blank impassive faces, RILEY among them.

ANGLE ON THE NEW SOLDIERS watching, robot-like.

ANGLE ON THE STRUGGLE OVERHEAD. SMASH! SMASH! SMASH! MELTON's elbows drive back into TODD's ribs. The breath knocked out of him, TODD gasps for air, pain contorting his face.

MELTON manages to get TODD's forearm into his mouth and bites furiously, drawing blood.

TODD grits his teeth in pain.

WHAM! Another blow to the ribs from MELTON's elbow.

TODD is losing his grip.

RILEY watches below, his face a mask.

MELTON bites and elbows furiously.

TODD loses his grip and grabs at MELTON, rakes flesh as he begins to fall and then...

Plunging downward, TODD grabs wildly at the chain and catches it ...but he keeps falling, the chain ripping flesh from his hand for twenty feet until...

He can't hold on any longer! TODD plunges the last thirty feet to the floor, landing with a terrible crunch right on top of ROMERO's broken body below.

Sudden silence!

ANGLE ON THE VETERANS watching impassively as TODD lies motionless, sprawled on ROMERO's body.

ANGLE ON THE NEW SOLDIERS revealing no feelings.

ANGLE ON CHURCH, SLOAN, and RUBRICK looking stunned and shaken.

It's MEKUM who breaks the silence, SCREAMING furiously at the one- eyed MELTON who's still sixty feet up... MEKUM GET DOWN HERE! GET DOWN HERE ON THE DOUBLE, GET YOUR ASS DOWN HERE, YOU MISERABLE PISS ANT STINKING SHIT FOR BRAINS!

CHURCH, SLOAN, and RUBRICK lift their stunned faces from TODD to MEKUM who's continuing to rant at MELTON as MELTON comes down the chain fast... MELTON COME ON, DOUBLE IT UP, DOWN, DOWN, DOWN, YOU MISERABLE THIRD RATE SHITHEAD INCOMPETENT CLOWN!

MELTON lets go of the chain and drops the last fifteen feet, landing gracefully on his feet in front of MEKUM and salutes.

MELTON Sir!

MEKUM LOOK AT YOU, YOU BIG DUMB SHIT, YOU'VE LOST AN EYE. WHAT THE HELL GOOD IS A GODDAMN ONE-EYED SOLDIER? DO YOU KNOW WHAT IT COST TO BREED YOU, YOU BIG MORON? TO TRAIN YOU, FEED YOU?

As MEKUM turns, including all the NEW SOLDIERS in his continuing tirade, CHURCH, SLOAN, and RUBRICK confer in low voices.

RUBRICK They're...fantastic!

CHURCH (reluctant agreement) Mmmmmmm...

SLOAN (worried) We could have a problem here, couldn't we? I mean, we just lost three men...

CHURCH Oh, I wouldn't worry about that. "Training accident." Paperwork.

SLOAN What about the bodies?

CHURCH (turning away) Incinerator.

Turning his back on SLOAN and RUBRICK, CHURCH approaches MEKUM who's still raging, indicating MELTON to the blank-faced NEW SOLDIERS.

MEKUM WHAT GOOD IS THIS MAN NOW? WITH ONE GOOD EYE! HE'S GOT NO DEPTH PERCEPTION! HE'S CANNON FODDER. ALL HE CAN DO IS WALK POINT AND TAKE THE FIRST HIT.

CHURCH (interrupting) They're very...impressive.

MEKUM (fuming) Yeah, well, the big moron shouldn't have lost an eye.

CHURCH glances at TODD's corpse dumped over ROMERO's broken body, tries to assuage him.

CHURCH It was our best man who got his eye... Todd, a real tough one. Survived police action in Montana, fought in the Argentine Sector, and in the Saudi Campaign to say nothing of -- MEKUM Old news! They're nothing at all! Wait until you get these new fellas into some real action. I guarantee you'll be awed. I guarantee it.

The NEW SOLDIERS sit impassively, the bleeding MELTON among them, staring right at the VETERANS.

Not far away three dead bodies lie motionless as we...

CUT TO:

INT. FURNACES/FURNACE ROOM - NIGHT

A rage of flame! The mouth of a huge furnace leers with yellow fury, eight feet high.

Two men, BURNERS, in asbestos fire suits and helmets, appear, laboriously dragging a tattered sofa leaking stuffing. With effort they shove it into the blazing furnace where it is quickly consumed. Slowly the BURNERS turn and trudge back for another load as we REVEAL A REFUSE BIN, seven feet high, looming in the shadows not far from the flickering light of the furnace. It's overflowing with junk, barely distinguishable in the gloom.

The BURNERS grab blindly and haul out the next object.

It's ROMERO's dead body. They haul it out of the bin and let it flop limply to the floor where ROMERO stares sightlessly at nothing.

The BURNERS stare at the body, exchange a blank look through their visors, shrug and start to drag the heavy carcass toward the flames.

INT. REFUSE BIN/FURNACE ROOM/CLOSE BY

In the near darkness, the faintest flickering light reveals two tangled BODIES, motionless in the confusion of refuse. But not quite motionless! A hand opens and closes! A bloody hand! Fingers twitch.

INT. FURNACE ROOM

ROARING FLAMES as ROMERO's body is tossed unceremoniously into the fire where the flames begin to consume it.

For half a second the BURNERS watch ROMERO melt into fire, then they turn their backs and head back for another load.

INT. REFUSE BIN/FURNACE ROOM

BURNERS' hands reach in and haul out another corpse, GOINES, dragging the body right over TODD's body.

As GOINES' shoe drags over TODD's face, TODD's eyes flicker stupidly.

Then GOINES' corpse is pulled over the edge of the bin.

TODD blinks, fighting for consciousness. Where is he? He moves his head...

INT. FURNACE ROOM

The BURNERS, silhouetted by flames, feed GOINES' body to the furnace.

CLOSE ON THE FLAMES as GOINES' body is consumed by raging flames.

ANGLE ON THE BURNERS trudging to the bin. They reach in blindly for whatever's next. Tugging with effort, they struggle the clumsy object over the rim, and let it fall to the floor. It's a mattress!

Communicating with a look, the FIRST BURNER drags the mattress toward the fire while the SECOND BURNER reaches again into the bin.

The SECOND BURNER frowns through the visor, struggles with something, frowns, wrestles with it.

Finally, with great effort, he pulls out a big carton that immediately spills old magazines on him.

Disgusted, he pulls the partially full carton across the refuse- littered floor toward the furnaces.

ANGLE ON HIS FEET, as the SECOND BURNER struggles toward the fire, stepping over a trail of blood which is hardly noticeable in the flickering firelight.

He passes another big corrugated bin with a sign an it. The sign says NONFLAMMABLE WASTE DISPOSAL...and the trail of blood leads to that bin!

CUT TO:

EXT. OUTER SPACE - "DAY"

Silence! A vast darkness with only a few tiny lights in the infinite depths.

A battered rusty spaceship glides slowly and silently into view. This is a GARBAGE SHIP and it looks it. Awkward and slow and totally unglamorous, it moves through space like a great clumsy church made of steel as we...

CUT TO:

INT. HOLD/GARBAGE SHIP - "DAY"

As the massive doors on the underside of the ship open, light spills in and there is a huge ROAR as tons of debris, including massive pieces of machinery, huge statues, old vehicles, and numerous containers, spill out through the open bays and tumble downward. The one that says "Nonflammable Waste" on the side careens against the bulkhead with a THUNDEROUS sound, then hurtles downward.

EXT. JUNK MOUNTAINS/LANDSCAPE

As debris from the ship tumbles down onto one of several huge mountains of junk that loom 800 hundred feet above a windswept terrain dimly lit by four pale suns, the bays close, and the rusty GARBAGE SHIP glides away.

Still the cascade of machines and other bulky junk THUNDERS down the steep slopes, shattering, breaking into parts, tumbling and tumbling, settling here and there, while a SCREAMING WIND, very powerful, picks off the lighter pieces and carries them off like snow blowing off a mountain.

The familiar-looking container somersaults halfway down the slope where it bursts open, spilling a confusion of junk.

Above the container, a huge drum smashes into a hunk of machinery and splits, oozing an awful looking liquid that spills down onto the contents of the container, sizzling and smoking on steel, eating it like acid.

Not far from a smoking piece of steel, WE FIND TODD'S foot protruding from the junk heap! It's motionless! Acid drips and hisses.

ANGLE ON TODD, sprawled "inside" the mountain of junk, grimacing in pain as acid hits his exposed foot. Trapped in the debris, battered and bloody and weak, he struggles to rise, fights the heavy objects pinning him, fights to avoid the dripping acid. As the wind SCREAMS furiously, he continues to struggle against the junk that pins him as we...

CUT TO:

EXT. "INSIDE" AND OUTSIDE THE MOUNTAIN - DAY - A LITTLE LATER

TODD's head, caked with blood, appears from the junk like a man looking out of a cave. Wind seizes at his hair furiously.

He looks up, sees four pale suns in the sky...just as a huge steel lathe comes somersaulting down from above like a loose boulder, and TODD has to duck hastily to avoid certain death.

As the heavy steel tumbles down the slope below him, wind plucks a twelve-foot I-beam from the slope next to him and whips it off in a frenzy.

Holding on for dear life, TODD looks down at the ground four hundred feet below and sees a bleak wasteland strewn with junk shifting and skittering in the wind.

He notices something and reacts.

Far down on the floor there is a strange pattern of lines...and moving along one of the lines are four tiny FIGURES...they could be humans...but maybe not!

For a moment TODD watches them.

Then he starts to climb downward through the labyrinth of junk "inside" the mountain, and we...

CUT TO:

EXT. LOWER ON "JUNK MOUNTAIN" - DAY - MINUTES LATER

Far down the slope, perhaps forty feet from the foot of the massive mountain, TODD's head pokes out of the confusion of junk and he looks down at the FIGURES below.

Seen more closely, the FIGURES are more distinct, but no less mysterious. Heavy outer garments like huge parkas and hoods blur their individual shapes as they inch across the landscape, apparently clutching one of several crisscrossing wires that stretch tautly for miles across the bleak terrain like "roads" through the wind.

TODD watches as one of the FIGURES moves off the "road." He's trailing rope that attaches him to the others as he struggles through the wind, walking almost on all fours like an ape.

TODD watches the FIGURE moving among bits of junk until he locates something he wants, picks it up, and starts to struggle back toward the others, dragging his burden after him.

TODD is watching what would seem to be some sort of scavenging process by these strange unearthly FIGURES as we...

CUT TO:

EXT. FADING SUNS - DUSK - LATER

The four suns are changing color, dimming in the sky, as we...

CUT TO:

EXT. LANDSCAPE AND "JUNK MOUNTAIN" - DUSK

Tiny in the distance, the four FIGURES are moving together along a cable, headed away from the junk mountain.

At ground level now, TODD is watching them, crouched behind a massive transformer that teeters slightly in the wind in spite of its great bulk.

Peeking around the sheltering transformer, he spots one of the taut cables lashed to an enormous piece of junk near the foot of "his" mountain. The cable is twenty yards away in a "canyon" of junk and he'll have to move across open space partially exposed to the wind in order to get to it.

He starts out from behind the transformer...

WHOOOOOO! Screaming wind lifts him and hurls him thirty feet, his arms flailing. He comes down even further from the cable, struggling to keep on his feet. Gritting his teeth, he fights the wind, struggles toward the cable.

Suddenly a chunk of steel whips at him and he ducks just in time as it whistles close to his head.

TODD drops to the ground and starts to crawl "under the wind," toward the taut cable, and we...

CUT TO:

EXT. "STEEL HENGE" - DUSK - LATER

Seen by TODD, the four tiny FIGURES are far ahead, disappearing in the distance and the dusk.

Following them on a taut wire, TODD is passing through a barren landscape punctuated by strange ruins, great shapes of steel thrusting out of the ground and looming over and around him, vaguely recognizable as the wreckage of a space vehicle that must have crashed long ago.

The mountains of junk squat a mile behind him. He's come a long way, it's almost dark, he's weak.

He hangs onto the wire, walking with effort.

He can no longer see the creatures ahead of him on the wire.

He notices something thirty yards off the wire to the right.

Steel crosses. Maybe a hundred of them. A cemetery.

Just then, the wind catches TODD, yanks him, but he hangs onto the wire, holding on desperately, as the wind pulls at him and makes him flap like a pennant in the breeze.

Then the wind dies enough for him to get both hands on the wire and get weakly to his feet. For a moment he looks like he might collapse, but he doesn't, and we...

CUT TO:

EXT. LANDSCAPE - NIGHT

At night the four suns glow darkly like night lights.

TODD is alone on the planet, punished by the savage wind, struggling along the wire, shivering.

Every stop is an effort, but the eyes stare into the dark and they reveal no emotion, not even when he suddenly tenses, seeing something ahead.

In the distance a faint light glows.

TODD considers it as we...

CUT TO:

EXT. WINDOW/SKYLIGHT - NIGHT - MOMENTS LATER

The window is detached plexi from some kind of vehicle, embedded in a low mound of "earth" like a skylight. Whatever is making the light comes from below in a sort of hut that slopes only inches above the ground.

TODD is hanging onto the cable only ten yards from the strange window. He can see more of them glowing all around him, as well as silhouetted pipes issuing smoke to the wind.

TODD drops to his belly to keep under the wind. He crawls ten yards to the window and pears through it.

TODD'S POV of a fantastic confusion of color and movement seen through the thick scratched plexiglass window. The wild blurs of activity make no sense to him whatsoever, nor do the very FAINT SQUEALS of sound barely audible over the deafening ROAR of the wind.

(What he's seeing in the room below is a violent pillow fight between eight BOYS and GIRLS ranging from four to ten years old. Wearing cotton shifts dyed red, blue, or yellow they're smacking each other violently with rag pillows and laughing happily in a dormitory-style full of stacked bunks.)

ANGLE ON TODD, prone on the "roof," mystified. He's never seen anything like it. His grease-covered face barely reveals his puzzlement when he is suddenly distracted by a change in the wind.

The ROARING WIND that has dominated the environment since he first arrived has diminished to a strong breeze.

TODD tries sitting up. The breeze doesn't overpower him. He looks around.

The meaningless SHRIEKS of the pillow fight, though still muffled by heavy plexiglass, are LOUDER now, but TODD's attention is on the other window/skylight that glows from this strange "roof" and on the strange sound that's coming to him, borne on the breeze... a MUSICAL sound.

Struggling weakly to his feet, TODD staggers toward the next window. The MUSIC is LOUDER as he approaches -- it's waltz music played on an accordion.

TODD drops to his knees and peers through the next window.

TODD'S POV through the second "window," another mysterious vision! The color and movement are more subdued, but TODD is just as puzzled.

What he's seeing indistinctly through the thick plexiglass is an OVERHEAD VIEW of a man and a woman gliding across the floor, moving as one, first this way, then that, in time to a WALTZ. In the corner, another person is making a strange movement that seems to initiate the music...

ANGLE ON TODD, flat on the roof. Now that the weak breeze has given way to a deathly stillness, the mysterious (to him) MUSIC is clearly audible as TODD peers through the plexiglass at the warm scene below, as puzzled by the waltzing couple as by the pillow fights.

Then he gets to his feet again and in the stillness makes his way past a smoking chimney toward the next window. Halfway there he freezes...listening!

A strange haunting WHISTLING sound is coming from somewhere...

TODD looks around at the blackness beyond the roof windows. There's nothing visible...

The mysterious sound is louder now, drowning out the music ominously, drowning out everything, everything, everything.

Suddenly TODD understands, but he's too late...

ROOOOOOOOOOAAR! It's the WIND, back with renewed fury, more powerful than ever!

TODD is hurtled into the air, tossed head over heels by the wind, struggling, clutching at empty air in vain, buffeted, slammed to the ground, lifted again before he can flatten himself, tossed violently, somersaulted helplessly...

EXT. INSIDE A TRENCH

WHAM! TODD is slammed face first to the ground. For a long moment he's motionless, untouched by the HOWLING WIND for reasons that aren't clear.

Finally he rolls over weakly and looks up.

In the weak light he can just make out the steep earthen walls of a narrow trench looming eight feet straight up, protecting him from the wind howling overhead.

TODD tries to get up...but the fall has injured his leg and he slumps to the floor of the three-foot-wide trench, too weak and injured even to crawl.

Lying there, barely conscious, gasping for breath, he suddenly sees something.

Shoes! Less than a foot from his bloody face.

He manages to lift his head a little and look up.

Silhouetted by the light spilling from an open door in the trench wall are four children...ELLEN, ten, WILL, six, TOMMY, five, and JOHNNY, eight.

Barely conscious, TODD can just make out the astonishment on their blurred shadowy faces as they look down at him in amazement. Then they go OUT OF FOCUS altogether as TODD slumps unconscious and everything goes BLACK BLACK BLACK, and we...

CUT TO:

INT. MEETING ROOM - NIGHT

VOICES, CONFUSION. About fifty people are jammed into the low- ceilinged meeting room, all of them talking at once. They are PIONEERS, men and women of all ages and many races, a hardy, weathered-looking group dressed in plain clothes of muted color.

Their faces seem to have been etched by the wind with deep lines, the skin burnished, and even the younger ones have crow's feet around the eyes from squinting.

As they chatter excitedly, asking each other what happened, who found him, where, and so on, a sharp-faced fifty-ish woman, HAWKINS, is standing behind a table in the front of the room, calling for order.

HAWKINS Please! Quiet, please!

Just as the hubbub finally dies down, a grizzled pioneer named SLADE bellows loudly at her.

SLADE Just tell me one thing! How many of them are there and are they armed?

HAWKINS stares SLADE down, refusing to speak until she has real silence. When she finally speaks, her voice is calm and controlled.

HAWKINS There in a man...one man. He was found in the trench by several children...

A sudden murmur dies away quickly under HAWKINS' hard stare. HAWKINS This man was not armed.

A murmur goes through the crowded room, then a woman named ELISE speaks over the hum of voices...

ELISE How could there only be one? How could he get here?

HAWKINS glances toward MACE, a muscular, bearded man, about thirty.

MACE He was unconscious. We couldn't ask him anything. He --

A commotion in the back room causes MACE to break off as JIMMY PIG, a clean-shaven burly-looking pioneer in his thirties, pushes his way in, followed by four more PIONEERS. All five of then are wearing their huge hooded parkas, strange Eskimo-type wind goggles, and carrying weapons.

JIMMY PIG Nothin' out there. We couldn't see nobody, couldn't see no ship, no vehicles, nothin'...plus the wind's up again real strong.

An excited hubbub. HAWKINS is trying to restore order when SLADE shouts over the commotion.

SLADE They're hiding, I bet.

HAWKINS ignores him as she speaks with firm authority.

HAWKINS Let's everybody calm down right now! (beat; silence; then) We have an injured man among us. One man. A traveler. Unarmed. (another pause; then) We all want to do the decent thing. The decent thing is to help him. Mace's wife, Sandra, is looking after him now. Now, I'd like a vote of support on this course of action from all of you.

The way she says it, you know she's used to getting her way, and, in fact, PIONEERS are exchanging glances and nodding when SLADE shouts again.

SLADE You keep an eye on him, Mace! You watch him!

CUT TO:

INT. BEDROOM - NIGHT

TODD is on his back in a bed in a tiny earth-walled bedroom. He stares stupidly at the woman bending over him. She is SANDRA, a woman of twenty-five who is attractive, but not in a glamorous way. It's a very natural beauty worn with intelligence and dignity. She's wiping away blood and grease from TODD's face.

TODD's eyes flick around the room even as he lies motionless.

He sees a window high on one wall.

He sees old-fashioned magazine pictures and bits of patterned material hung here and there for decoration.

Clothing hangs from pegs on the walls.

He doesn't see the look in SANDRA's eyes as she discovers the savage scar on his forehead or the sergeant's tattoo on his cheek. Eyeing these telltale marks, SANDRA pours liquid into a spoon and holds it to his lips.

SANDRA Want to try some more of this?

TODD swallows weakly.

SANDRA smiles, stands up, moves toward the door.

SANDRA You rest now. I'll give you more later.

TODD watches her exit.

He hears her VOICE in the next room...a low murmur.

He's looking around again when a NOISE makes him look back toward the door.

A two-year-old is crawling into the room on hands and knees. The baby boy, NATHAN, stops just inside, seeing TODD in the bed.

NATHAN looks into TODD's eyes with childlike interest and wonder. TODD meets the look with those blank soldier's eyes.

INT. "LIVING ROOM"

A second tiny room next to the bedroom is the rest of the Mace/Sandra/Nathan living quarters. MACE and SANDRA are deep in conversation.

MACE What do you mean he's survived worse? Did he say something?

SANDRA No, but he's covered with old wounds, all sorts of scars. Knife scars, bullet scars, burns.

MACE (worried) A soldier!

SANDRA There are words on his shoulder. Tannhauser Gate, the Argentine Sector, Montana, Bolivia, Shanghai 2012...

MACE The Tannhauser Gate was a battle...

MACE and SANDRA look into each other's eyes, very worried. Then...

SANDRA We'll have to sleep on the floor.

MACE (suddenly alarmed) Where's Nathan?

MACE is looking around. He spots the open door to the bedroom, hurries to it, and disappears.

SANDRA starts after him, looking worried...but before she gets to the door, MACE reappears with NATHAN safely in his arms.

MACE If there's any danger to Nathan --

SANDRA (interrupting grimly) I won't permit danger to Nathan.

MACE and SANDRA lock eyes in firm understanding as we...

CUT TO:

INT. WAR SHIP - "DAY"

EXPLOSION! SCREAMS! SMOKE! A SIREN! We're in some kind of war ship in outer space during a battle.

The interior is a lot like the interior of a submarine, cramped even in the best conditions and right now the conditions are awful as SOLDIERS in bulky space suits stumble through thick smoke while a SIREN WHOOPS urgently and wounded SOLDIERS scream in agony.

WHOOOOM! Another EXPLOSION! SCREAMING METAL!

Part of the bulkhead is shot away and the suction is like wind, ripping SOLDIERS out of the hole into space..

We FOCUS ON a soldier in a space suit who's wedged himself behind a cannon. As we look closely at his visor, we recognize TODD who's firing back at the enemy while all around him SOLDIERS are screaming and dying as we...

CUT TO:

INT. BEDROOM - MORNING

SUDDEN SILENCE! TODD blinks awake. He looks around.

It's the same bedroom, but morning light is streaming in the high window.

He can hear SOUNDS...LAUGHTER...coming from beyond the door.

INT. OTHER ROOM

NATHAN is wobbling forward with wide eyes as MACE holds one of his hands and SANDRA holds the other. They're teaching the child to walk, encouraging each step. But when they let go, NATHAN totters forward only one step before landing flat on his ass. MACE and SANDRA laugh, making the whole thing a game, and NATHAN, after a moment of confusion, joins in the laughter. It's a warm moment until SANDRA, sensing a presence, turns toward the bedroom, suddenly serious.

MACE follows her look.

TODD is standing in the doorway, supporting himself on the door frame...his soldier's eyes full of unspoken menace... one leg heavily bandaged.

SANDRA (nervous) You must be...you must be feeling better.

TODD says nothing. His eyes flick to NATHAN.

MACE is watching TODD sharply.

MACE We're teaching the boy to walk.

SANDRA (nervously filling silence) He's late learning. He was sick for a long time.

TODD says nothing. His eyes follow MACE who's gone to the corner where he's seizing a heavy metal rod that might be a weapon.

TODD tenses. Ready. Dangerous.

As MACE turns toward him, MACE doesn't notice the danger in TODD'S eyes.

MACE I got something for you.

He innocently approaches with the metal rod.

Super alert, TODD watches MACE hold the rod out to him.

MACE Here.

TODD looks mistrustful.

MACE Like this.

MACE demonstrates, using the rod like a cane. MACE See?

Expressionless, watches MACE use the cane.

MACE Practice with it. In a day or two maybe you'll be strong enough to go out to the garden with Sandra.

MACE never even realizes how much danger he was in.

CUT TO:

INT. OTHER ROOM - DAY - A LITTLE LATER

TODD's heavy boots come close to NATHAN, the cane clumps down, just missing him.

NATHAN looks up with open-mouthed innocence and childlike wonder at TODD who looms past him, walking very cautiously with the help of a cane.

TODD looks down at NATHAN. Their eyes meet for a moment. TODD is wearing one of the heavy parkas the pioneers wear.

SANDRA answers a KNOCK at the door, opens it, revealing ELLEN, the ten-year-old, in the doorway. Behind her are JOHNNY and WILL, as well as several other CHILDREN of various ages.

ELLEN I came for Nathan.

But ELLEN's eyes are on TODD and so are the others crowding behind her to peep over her shoulder. They all want to get a look at TODD, but when he looks in their direction, they retreat shyly.

SANDRA is wearing a parka too. She picks up NATHAN from where he's sitting near TODD's feet and carries him to the door, giving him a kiss, then handing him to ELLEN.

NATHAN starts to cry and holds his arms out to his mother as ELLEN hugs him and comforts him.

TODD watches the drama as ELLEN and SANDRA comfort the child and soothe his fears at being separated from his mother.

Nothing shows in TODD's eyes...but affection seems to fascinate him.

As ELLEN and her cohorts hurry off with NATHAN, they sneak over- the-shoulder glances at the strange monster, TODD.

Just then MACE, dressed in a heavy parka also, comes out of the bedroom and heads for the door.

MACE Let's go. Come on, Sergeant.

MACE is heading out the door as we...

CUT TO:

EXT. INSIDE THE TRENCH - NIGHT - MINUTES LATER

Single-file, a dozen PIONEERS move along a trench as the wind SCREAMS overhead.

We DISCOVER the cane and boots of TODD among them. The MAN in front of TODD glances back at him occasionally, curious, while MACE and SANDRA walk behind him.

As they pass huts, there are windows high in one sloping wall of the trench. TODD doesn't notice the distorted faces of the CHILDREN peering out at him, their noses pressed against the plexiglass, full of curiosity as we...

CUT TO:

EXT. A JUNCTION OF TRENCHES - DAY

Three trenches meet. Some of the PIONEERS move off to the left, some to the right. MACE is going left, but SANDRA guides TODD toward the right with her.

SANDRA This way...

MACE gives her a wave. He waves at TODD too. TODD looks confused at the wave, then he salutes.

MACE is startled by that. He sort of grins as we...

CUT TO:

EXT. GARDEN - DAY - LATER

A nasty little snake, a ten-inch VIPER, slithers through the dirt among the neat rows of seedlings growing there until...

SQUASH! One neat blow from the sharp edge of a trowel decapitates the VIPER.

SANDRA flips the still wriggling thing aside and wipes her trowel clean in the dirt as TODD watches with those blank snake eyes of his.

They're on all fours in a garden. The garden is simply a much wider trench covered by a trellis so the light can be regulated. There are already neat rows of vegetables are growing. Behind them, kneeling PIONEERS are planting new seedlings and weeding around more mature plants.

SANDRA turns back to place a seedling in the dirt with only an offhand glance at the dead VIPER.

SANDRA You have to watch out for them. They probably wouldn't kill someone your size, not if you were healthy anyway. But they'd make you pretty sick. Someone smaller...like me, or a child...

Her meaning clear, SANDRA continues to demonstrate to TODD how to plant the seedling in the earth.

SANDRA In a month this one will be as big as those.

TODD follows her look to the other side of the trench where the plants are already eighteen inches high.

Other PIONEERS, working on their hands and knees also, are sneaking glances as TODD, among them, a middle-aged woman named JUDITH and an older woman, EMMA.

SANDRA frowns one of their looks away protectively as she selects another seedling from a tray and hands it to TODD.

SANDRA Here. You try one.

TODD looks at it. He doesn't exactly look scared, but he handles it gingerly, seemingly intimidated by the delicate seedling. He starts to plant it carefully as we...

CUT TO:

INT. DINING COMMONS - EVENING

Jabbering VOICES, the click of utensils. Heaping plates of food are being passed the length of long tables set up in communal style. JOHNNY is kicking ELLEN under the table, WILL flips a piece of food at TOMMY when his mother, ILONA, isn't looking, and the outspoken SLADE is lecturing a pioneer named CHESTER.

SLADE You can't talk to a soldier no more than you can talk to a...a...bomb! Or a bullet! They're trained, they're killing machines. They got an objective and they go after that objective and nothing stops them but killing them.

CHESTER (a glance over his shoulder) Just one? To kill us all?

The conversation gets the attention of JOHNNY and WILL who stop food-fighting to listen to the adults talk.

SLADE First off, if there's one, there's more. That's how it is, soldiers travel in bunches. Second, they don't waste soldiers on folks like us, that's for police! Training soldiers to kill weaklings like us is not what they call "cost effective."

CHESTER Then who do they fight?

SLADE Other soldiers! There's a saying, "Soldiers deserve soldiers."

ANGLE ON ILONA noticing WILL and TOMMY listening.

ILONA Slade, hush up.

ANGLE ON TOMMY and WILL glancing toward the next table.

ANGLE ON THE NEXT TABLE where TODD, wedged between SANDRA and MACE, is eating like a machine, looking neither right nor left as people jabber all around him.

ANGLE ON JUDITH whispering to EMMA at a nearby table as she watches TODD eat.

JUDITH You see how much he's eating?

ANGLE ON SLADE who turns now and boldly addresses TODD across the gap between the tables...

SLADE I don't see how you can not remember how you got here, Sergeant.

There's a sudden hush in the noisy room, broken only by a few urgent whispers and a cough.

TODD looks up from his food and meets SLADE'S look.

SANDRA scowls at SLADE as SLADE persists...

SLADE You're not a deserter, are you... Sergeant?

The silence is even more charged than before.

SANDRA looks alarmed. Someone coughs. The tension is unbearable.

TODD No, sir.

A sigh of relief from everybody! But SLADE presses on.

SLADE Then how come you're not with your unit?

JIMMY PIG Oh, come on, Slade, let the man eat.

SLADE It's not an unreasonable question. (to Todd) How about it, Sergeant?

ON TODD, actually struggling with the question... remembering. Suddenly he blurts...

TODD I was...replaced.

MACE Replaced?

TODD hesitates for half a second before answering.

TODD By a better soldier, sir.

There are looks exchanged among the PIONEERS as we...

CUT TO:

EXT. GARDEN - DAY

A little seedling is fitted into the earth gently. TODD's strong hands pat the earth around it.

TODD reaches for another seedling. He's one of a group of ten PIONEERS, all on their hands and knees, all working intently, silently. They seem to have accepted him. Nobody stares.

TODD is carefully patting the next seedling in the ground when something causes him to look up.

Five ENEMY SOLDIERS in torn and dirty uniforms are looming over him, weapons pointed at him. All around them is a desert of sand stretching forever under a baking sun.

One of the soldiers kicks TODD.

ANGLE ON EMMA, JUDITH, and several other PIONEER WOMEN exchanging nervous glances as they look back to where TODD's kneeling.

There are no soldiers...but somehow, he's trampled several rows of seedlings.

TODD looks toward them, confused, disoriented by his "memory."

The women look away quickly, frightened, and we...

CUT TO:

INT. OTHER ROOM - NIGHT

SANDRA is changing NATHAN's diaper as she chatters, her back to TODD.

SANDRA ...And it got worse and worse. My father hadn't had any work in three months and...also...there were other things...violence... political feelings. My father said he'd heard it was better in the Trinity moons. A lot of other people must have had the same idea because the ship was jammed with people...mostly families. That's probably why it broke down... overloaded.

Across the room, TODD, wearing a T-shirt and baggy pants is sitting on a stool, his face impassive as ever.

As SANDRA talks, her back to him, TODD's eyes are on the contours of her body against the shift she's wearing. It's very...erotic.

SANDRA Even after they made the repairs, it barely got off the ground, it was an old converted mining transport, a piece of junk to start with. It just...dropped. Maybe you saw what's left of it...out there in the wind. A lot of people died. And we couldn't make any radio contact... So we were stuck here. Nobody was happy about it. A few years later, when the dumpers started coming over and dropping stuff, people tried to get their attention with explosions and fires. But it didn't work. They must be unmanned...or they just don't care. Maybe they think we're garbage too!

TODD'S face is as impassive as ever while his eyes caress the shape of her body...and she, unaware, continues to reminisce.

SANDRA So there really wasn't any choice. People had to pull together and make the best of it. We became a... community.

As SANDRA maneuvers NATHAN, TODD catches glimpses of her breasts pushing against the material of the shift. She continues, still not noticing where his attention is.

SANDRA One good thing...nobody bothers us. Who'd want to fight over a godforsaken place like this?

A wry laugh. She turns to put NATHAN down on the floor and catches TODD's eyes just as he shifts them quickly from her breasts.

For a moment it's awkward...she looks at him...then she recovers.

SANDRA I guess that's what you like! The fighting, I mean. The wars. (unsure, a question really) You must...you're a soldier...

TODD doesn't answer as we...

CUT TO:

INT. CORRIDOR (AND MEETING ROOM) - DAY

The CHILDREN are peeking around a doorway, watching something in the meeting room.

HAWKINS, coming along the dirt-walled corridor, spots the CHILDREN ahead.

HAWKINS You children are supposed to be doing lessons.

The CHILDREN barely acknowledge her as she comes even with them. She looks at what they're looking at.

What they're seeing through the doorway is TODD, shirtless, doing an eerie sequence of tai chi exercises. His muscular body ripples, revealing an incredible map of scar tissue that speaks eloquently of the life he's led...gash marks, long zippers of stitches, the puckered patches of burns.

HAWKINS watches for a long moment, her eyes worried.

In the midst of a slow graceful movement, TODD suddenly whirls and delivers a lightning blow to an unseen enemy with amazing speed and fury, the terrible force contained in the movement all too obvious.

Even as HAWKINS and the CHILDREN gasp silently, TODD returns to the graceful, almost balletic movement, even spookier now, that preceded the deadly thrust.

The CHILDREN's eyes are like saucers, their jaws agape.

HAWKINS shudders...and breaks the hypnotic spell, speaking aloud to the children.

HAWKINS Lessons.

CUT TO:

EXT. INSIDE TRENCH - NIGHT

It's dark, the wind's HOWLING just above the trench walls as TODD peers into a faintly lighted window in the wall of the trench.

TODD'S POV THROUGH THE BEDROOM WINDOW reveals a tender moment between MACE and SANDRA as they enter the bedroom and kiss. A flickering candle on a low table, the only light, exaggerates their shadows.

ANGLE ON TODD, his face revealing no feelings as he turns away.

Light spills from other windows, some more brightly lit, as TODD begins to jog along the trench, gradually picking up speed, until he's running hard through intermittent pools of light in the maze of dark trenches.

CUT TO:

EXT. BARREN WASTE - DAY

Stillness! No wind! Everything is quiet. Bits of junk are strewn across the landscape under the four suns.

MACE'S VOICE (O.S.) She's down now, but she'll come up again. Always does.

EXT. INSIDE A TRENCH

As MACE continues talking to TODD, he loads the pockets of his heavy parka with miscellaneous hunks of metal.

MACE (continuing) That's why we're weighing down. And that's why we're always on the wire even when the wind's down, like now. You don't get much warning. Here, load up, you'll want the weight, I promise.

MACE hands heavy hunks of metal to TODD who's wearing a parka like MACE'S. He pockets the metal obediently.

Behind them a small crowd of PIONEERS are doing the same: JIMMY PIG, SLADE, CHESTER, RED, a woman named SALLY and several OTHERS. In addition to the parkas, they wear eskimo-style eye-protectors and carry canteens, tools, and coils of rope attached to various parts of their outfits.

ANGLE ON MACE noticing TODD eyeing the rifle JIMMY PIG is carrying.

MACE Oh, we're not going to shoot anything. That's not what we mean by "hunting." (then, laughing, to Jimmy Pig) Jimmy Pig, you're not going to shoot anything, are you?

JIMMY PIG (laughing) What could I hit?

MACE (to Todd) It's how we call for help. Two shots. There'll be someone on duty, listening in case we get off the wire and get lost or something. We have flares too. Come on.

Other are already climbing the ladder out of the trench to the surface above as MACE urges TODD to follow.

CUT TO:

EXT. "STEEL HENGE" - DAY

It's very still, no wind. The little group of PIONEERS is moving along a wire that passes close to the towering ruins of the wrecked spaceship. They are tiny figures in the vast landscape.

CLOSER ON TODD AND MACE as they plod along in the line of PIONEERS. MACE indicates the wreck off to the right.

MACE Sandra said she told you how we wound up here. Our parents and so on. (turning left, indicating) Over here, we call these "catcher trenches."

TODD follows his look to a long open trench leading, apparently, nowhere.

MACE (continuing) Smaller stuff that blows across the ground, it falls in these trenches, it works sort of like a filter. We go through the trenches sometimes and get some good stuff.

As they pass close along the trench, TODD looks in and observes the trench is knee deep in muddy water with rusty machine parts and assorted junk protruding.

MACE chuckles at the sight.

MACE We try to work 'em when they're dry. It's lousy going in there when they're flooded. You can see...

A sudden SHOUT, "HEYYUP! YO!" distracts them.

TODD looks forward, sees RED pointing to a chunk of steel a hundred yards off the wire.

ANGLE ON JIMMY PIG, already fastening his safety rope and a second rope to the wire, then heading off toward the piece of steel, trailing the two ropes.

ANGLE ON MACE, explaining the procedure to TODD.

MACE Whatever looks useful, if we can get a rope to it, we'll go for it. But you can't ever go further than your safety line because it'll come up on you with sometimes maybe ten seconds or even less.

TODD is watching JIMMY PIG as he approaches the piece of steel and starts to attach his rope to it.

MACE Like right now. You hear that?

TODD listens.

Nothing at first...then a very faint WHISTLING. The sound he heard that first night when he was on the settlement "roof."

MACE It's close when you hear that.

TODD can see JIMMY PIG. He's attached the rope to the steel and he gives a signal.

As PIONEERS start to haul on the line, pulling the steel toward them, MACE shouts at JIMMY PIG.

MACE SHE'S GONNA BLOW, JIMMY.

JIMMY waves, starts back toward them.

MACE indicates for TODD to help haul the steel and the two of them are just joining in the effort when...

WHOOOOOOOOOO! THE WIND IS SUDDEN AND FEROCIOUS! IT STAGGERS THEM!

MACE GRAB ON, SERGEANT!

TODD follows MACE'S example and, like the others, grabs the wire and hangs on as the wind SCREAMS and tears at them.

One of the pioneers, CHESTER, shouts, points.

They all see JIMMY PIG being blown faster than he can run, his legs churning desperately to keep up with his wind-propelled body. To no avail! He's suddenly airborne, his legs still churning like cartoon legs as he flaps helplessly at the end of his safety tether like a kite, fifty feet in the air.

An eighty-pound steel barrel blows past, tumbling in the wind. Bits of junk zip dangerously around like missiles.

ANGLE ON THE PIONEERS, crouched low on their knees against the wind, clutching the wire with one hand while they pull on JIMMY PIG'S safety line. But the wind is too strong...until suddenly TODD is pulling, and TODD'S strength makes the difference... slowly JIMMY PIG is pulled toward them...and Pioneers exchange amazed glances at TODD'S strength.

As he pulls, TODD notices what the others don't...

ANGLE ON THE RIFLE dropped by JIMMY PIG, ten yards away.

ANGLE ON JIMMY PIG as he's hauled safely in to the group of PIONEERS who clap him on the back and hug him. CHESTER is laughing so hard he can barely stand up as he tries to describe and mimic JIMMY'S desperate effort to outrun the force of the wind...

CHESTER (shouting, guffawing) JIMMY...RUNNING...CAN'T...HA HA CAN'T...KEEP UP WITH HIMSELF... HA HA HA...

CHESTER breaks off, suddenly sober, staring off, and the others turn to see what he's looking at. Everybody stops laughing.

ANGLE ON TODD, carefully moving away from the wire to retrieve the rifle!!! The WIND is dropping off some, enough to stand.

ANGLE ON MACE and the other PIONEERS reacting with alarm at the sight of TODD picking up the rifle.

ANGLE ON TODD as he turns, rifle in hand.

TODD'S POV of the PIONEERS staring at him, the WIND diminishing further.

ANGLE ON TODD looking toward them. Nothing shows on his face.

ANGLE ON SLADE looking sour. Trouble! Just what he expected.

ANGLE ON MACE, taking a deep breath, smiling as he moves toward TODD, holding out his free hand for the rifle...

MACE Uh, thanks, Sergeant. Thanks a lot...

But MACE breaks off, realizing that TODD'S attention is elsewhere.

TODD is beyond MACE toward the landscape.

MACE (and the other PIONEERS) turn to see what TODD'S looking at.

ANGLE ON THE "JUNK MOUNTAINS" in the distance, several miles off, where, hovering high above the junk mountains, an ancient DUMPER SHIP issues a steady stream of metal and concrete debris onto the junk heaps far below. The faint THUNDER of the refuse tumbling onto the steep slopes is just audible over the SOUND of the wind.

CLOSE ON TODD, as realizes how he got here.

ANGLE ON MACE, reacting to TODD'S intense interest.

MACE Dumpers. They come every twenty or thirty days.

As TODD turns and looks at MACE, MACE puts out his hand again for the gun.

TODD seems to notice the weapon in his hand for the first time. Unhesitatingly, he hands the rifle to MACE...

As MACE casually takes the weapon, the PIONEERS breathe a sigh of relief, grinning again as the tension eases.

TODD has turned his gaze back to the DUMPER SHIP, fascinated. So that's what they did to him!

Just then, JIMMY PIG claps TODD heartily on the shoulder.

JIMMY PIG Thanks, partner. These no-goods woulda just let me blow away.

TODD, reacting to the smack on his shoulder, looks at JIMMY PIG like what was that? Are you hitting me?

But all the PIONEERS are gathering around TODD in such a jovial manner that the puzzled soldier sort of understands this isn't an attack.

CUT TO:

INT. OFFICE (OTHER WORLD) - NIGHT

A CHRISTMAS TREE! The corny little tree with plastic needles, blinking lights, and topped with a super cute angel is only a foot high. It's sitting on CHURCH's cluttered desk next to framed photographs of CHURCH's wife and children. We can hear MEKUM's voice badly transmitted...

MEKUM (V.O.) Sorry to disturb the tranquillity of outer space on Christmas Eve, but I'm off to the Caribbean in a few hours, and I wanted to make sure you'd got the transmission on the security sweep.

Glowering at the monitor where MEKUM's badly transmitted VIDEO IMAGE is quivering and distorting, CHURCH waves the print-out map he's holding in his hand, a map showing hundreds of little dots against a vast field, stars and moons in the vast sea of space. RUBRICK and SLOAN watch as CHURCH addresses MEKUM's image indignantly.

CHURCH We got it all right. This is an outpost here, not the Third Army! You've got us securing thirty-four locations and erecting monitor units in one month and --

MEKUM (interrupting) Piece of cake, guys! These are totally remote, totally uninhabited territories. All you do is set down, send out a patrol purely as a formality, then have those veterans of yours put up an A-Type unmanned monitoring unit. You should be on about number twenty-five by the time I get back from my vacation...

CHURCH What if we do run into people... say squatters or refugees?

MEKUM (a frown) Well, you sure as hell don't want to get involved in evacuating people and that sort of thing. (then, meaningfully) My advice would be to..."avoid paperwork."

CHURCH Eliminate them, you mean. MEKUM Well, no one's out there, but officially these are "hostile zones." Therefore you'd be within your rights to classify anyone as "hostile," I think. But I repeat, you should be worried about boredom, not action. Any other questions before I go?

CHURCH hesitates. SLOAN and RUBRICK look at him. Then CHURCH blurts a question, his voice breaking...

CHURCH Down there...is it snowing?

MEKUM (a smirk) Not in the Caribbean. Have a good Christmas, guys. See you when I get back.

MEKUM'S IMAGE disappears and the video screen goes blank, leaving a glum silence broken only by the DRUMMING of the rain on the roof.

CHURCH moodily strolls toward his desk, and his eyes go to the photographs.

His wife and children smile back at him from the pictures.

Just then SLOAN taps him, and be turns to see her handing him a cup full of amber liquid.

SLOAN Merry Christmas, Captain.

RUBRICK is pouring another glass from a bottle of Scotch as the little tree winks on and off, and we...

CUT TO:

INT. BARRACKS - NIGHT

Silence. Darkness. Dim shapes in the darkness, hard to distinguish.

Rain BEATS on the roof monotonously, relentlessly.

The room is alive with BREATHING.

Then we hear a MUFFLED WHOOP from outside.

The darkness is tense, the BREATHING changes rhythm.

The RATTLE of the door breaks the quiet.

The door swings open, a flashlight stabs the dark.

A woman GIGGLES: SLOAN!

The flashlight beams and wavers in the darkness, catching brief glimpses of the faces of the NEW SOLDIERS. Their eyes glitter in the lurching beam, their faces are ghostly like vampires.

RUBRICK switches on a dim overhead lamp as he and SLOAN (holding the flashlight) and CHURCH stagger drunkenly into the bunkhouse, carrying a couple of half-empty bottles.

SLOAN Hi, fellas. At ease!

RUBRICK Merry Christmas, everybody.

Eyes riveted on the THREE OFFICERS, the NEW SOLDIERS are unresponsive to Christmas cheer. In fact, they look almost angry, like big dangerous animals, as the three OFFICERS stagger stupidly down the row of bunks, every eye following them.

CHURCH We brought you a little Christmas tree.

CHURCH almost falls over as he places the tree on the floor

As stone faces watch him without expression, RUBRICK waves a couple of bottles.

RUBRICK And some good cheer.

SLOAN, giggling, does a provocative bump and grind.

SLOAN How about some Christmas pussy, guys? Anybody for a quick piece?

The NEW SOLDIERS don't react. Stone faces. RUBRICK (smirking) That's "conduct unbecoming," Sloan.

SLOAN It's Christmas! Haven't you heard of piece on earth? "Piece on earth," get it?

CHURCH (suddenly serious, sober) Christ, I wish we were on Earth.

RUBRICK sets three bottles down and indicates them to the NEW SOLDIERS.

RUBRICK Eat, drink, and be merry, men. For tomorrow you go on patrol in the "hostile zone."

RUBRICK burps stupidly as the NEW SOLDIERS stare back at him from their bunks, muscles bulging, eyes glittering, nothing but danger in their stone faces as we...

CUT TO:

INT. PIONEER MEETING ROOM - NIGHT

"JINGLE BELLS, JINGLE BELLS, JINGLE ALL THE WAY." In sharp contrast to the gloom of the soldier Christmas, the PIONEERS, MEN, WOMEN and CHILDREN, are SINGING and celebrating.

There's a six-foot carved wooden tree festooned with makeshift decorations and ringed with heaps of presents in crude wrapping.

There's an appetizing looking buffet and a punchbowl.

ANGLE ON TODD seated against a wall not far from the door. He stares uncomprehendingly at the merriment all around him. What on earth is going on? What are they doing?

JIMMY PIG is marching around in a Santa Claus costume, doling out presents to ELLEN, WILL, TOMMY, JOHNNY and OTHER CHILDREN.

JIMMY PIG HO HO HO! HO HO HO!

Passing TODD, JIMMY PIG acknowledges him with a wink and a special "HO HO HO."

TODD'S eyes give away his confusion. What the fuck is this? JIMMY PIG in a fake beard and a fake stomach? This is the craziest shit TODD has ever encountered.

ANGLE ON NATHAN, a wrapped present in hand. He hasn't a clue what it is or what he should do with it.

Laughing, MACE and SANDRA hover over him, showing him how to pull the wrapping off. Great idea! NATHAN likes pulling wrapping off! That's fun. SANDRA and MACE watch joyfully as NATHAN tears at the wrapping enthusiastically.

ANGLE ON TODD getting to his feet.

ANGLE ON NATHAN pulling away the last of the wrapping to expose a pull toy, a METAL BIRD on crude wheels made of wire and junk.

MACE takes the toy, demonstrates pulling it. The wings flap as the wheels turn!

NATHAN reacts with delight and amazement! Then grabs it!

A SUDDEN SCREECH...

ANGLE ON TODD looking alarmed. He's on his way to the door, but EMMA is charging at him, SHRIEKING!!!

Not sure whether this is an attack or not, TODD watches the older woman scramble onto a stool next to him, still SHRIEKING giddily.

As TODD eyes her (and everybody else) warily, she gives him a peck on the cheek and points over head.

TODD looks up, sees a strange cloth decoration with a sign on it that says "MISTLETOE."

Means nothing to TODD. There's a burst of applause as EMMA scrambles off the stool. Somebody starts to sing "GOD REST YE MERRY GENTLEMEN."

A MONTAGE OF FACES: JIMMY "SANTA" PIG, MACE, SANDRA, RED, CHESTER, SALLY, ELLEN, HAWKINS, even SLADE, SINGING.

ANGLE ON THE DOOR. No sign of TODD! Gone!

CUT TO:

EXT. "ROOF" - NIGHT - MINUTES LATER

A low wind MOANS and mingles with strains of "OH, HOLY NIGHT" as TODD bellies up to the "skylight" and peers down at the scene below in the Meeting Room.

TODD'S POV THROUGH THE SKYLIGHT. The merriment has evolved into a more spiritual mood as the PIONEERS join in the solemn hymn.

But TODD spots NATHAN trying to pull his pull toy along so the wings flap. NATHAN is pretty wobbly and he goes down hard and starts to cry.

Immediately SANDRA disengages from the adults and rushes to the sobbing NATHAN and clutches him to her breast, soothing him...and MACE joins her, hovering over his son.

ANGLE ON TODD, watching. After a moment, TODD scrambles off the roof and drops into the adjoining trench while "OH, HOLY NIGHT" continues to blend with the soughing WIND.

EXT. INSIDE THE TRENCH

Lit by spill from a window in the wall of the trench, TODD starts doing push-ups. One-two-three-four-five-six-fast-fast-fast-fast.

CUT TO:

INT. CORRIDOR AND MEETING ROOM/SETTLEMENT - (ANOTHER) DAY

HAWKINS is walking along the corridor outside the meeting room when she hears strange SOUNDS. She approaches the door and looks in.

ELLEN and other CHILDREN (including NATHAN) are playing children's games on the floor, paying no attention to the source of the strange noises...JOHNNY and WILL.

JOHNNY and WILL are doing exercises, obviously inspired by TODD's martial calisthenics, and including the sudden violent movements.

As the two boys make their ritual grunting noises, HAWKlNS frowns a worried frown, and we...

CUT TO:

EXT. TRENCH GARDEN - DAY

The seedlings have grown to twelve-inch stalks. SANDRA is pulling some from the ground as TODD imitates her. She shows him the fat edible root.

SANDRA We'll eat these.

Other PIONEERS are also harvesting, with occasional glances at TODD as we...

CUT TO:

INT. OTHER ROOM - DAY

Cleaning vegetables, SANDRA is separating the roots, shaking the dirt off, cutting away the excess.

TODD is carefully following her example, cutting the stalks away with the knife.

NATHAN is tottering across the floor an a beginner's wobbly legs.

SANDRA It seemed like he was never going to walk. Then all of a sudden...he's an expert.

Whump! NATHAN falls on his ass.

SANDRA (a laugh) Well, not quite an expert.

TODD watches SANDRA go to NATHAN and hug him affectionately.

Turning back to the vegetables, stone faced, TODD cuts his finger. Blood flows. He ignores it, continues working...

But SANDRA, returning to the vegetables, notices TODD's cut finger and immediately grabs a rag and takes his hand.

TODD looks startled is she takes his finger. Then, staunching the blood with the rag, she looks him in the eye, curious.

SANDRA Sergeant Todd...what's it like...what's it like being a soldier?

What's it like...? TODD stares at her, trying to process the question. Seeing his difficulty SANDRA tries to help...

SANDRA What do you think about?

No answer, a stare.

SANDRA Do you think about food? Or women? You must think about something.

TODD gulps. His blank stare could pass for stupidity.

SANDRA What about feelings then? You must have feelings. You must feel something.

TODD wets his lips. He seems about to answer...and yet it's difficult for him. He could kill a person easier.

On the floor NATHAN GOOS happily, oblivious.

TODD (at last) Fear.

SANDRA (startled) Fear! You mean...you feel afraid? (as he nods) That's when you're in battle... What about other times? Now, for example?

TODD Fear.

SANDRA (amazed) Now?

TODD Always.

A stunned silence. Finally SANDRA speaks...

>>>

/ Soldier.
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