Saturday, July 31, 2010

Sunday, July 25, 2010

No, no, NOT the one with Sebastian Cabot! The OTHER one!

Once upon a time (1988), I created and wrote a comic for DC called Checkmate!. which ran for about 33 issues, and was recently revived by DC for another 30 issue run, playing a major role in whatever mishagas the DC Universe recently through. But way back when, I apparently had the bright idea to do a Checkmate! novel and even went so far to write a couple of chapters. I don't remember doing this, but then, I have so many bright ideas, who can keep track? The date in the story itself is 1990, so I'm assuming that's around when I wrote it. Here's the first chapter (heavily influenced, I notice, by Adam Hall's style in his Quiller novels...highly recommended!):

Checkmate (c) DC Comic
Everything else (c) Paul Kupperberg


Chapter One
New York City.  September 5, 1990.  1:36 A.M.

Twisted metal.  Safety glass popcorned from impact, little diamonds littering the pavement, glistening in the lamplight.  Acrid gasoline stench.  Hissing steam from mangled engines.  The cemetery stillness of night.

And the dead.  Innocent and guilty alike.

Time’s still speeding, senses heightened by adrenelin.  Heart pounding, blood pounding, head pounding.
          
This is the worst moment, when it’s over.  Slumped against a wall, skin itching, the whole being surprised to be alive.  It takes the conscious mind a while to catch up with the environment, adjust to the cessation of danger.  And fear.  That was a big part of it, the motivating factor in survival.  Fear of death, or worse, of pain.
          
The other players in this game were lucky.  They weren’t going to have to deal with pain.  I was luckier, because neither was I and I was still around to appreciate the fact. 
          
And wonder who the hell wanted me dead. 
          
Wrong question.  My line of work is all about people wanting to kill me, for one reason or another.  The right one would be, who wanted to kill me at this particular moment in time?  I haven’t been active for almost two months and I’d been in New York for less than an hour, my flight having just landed at Newark Airport.  Even in this city the odds of having a car full of heavilly armed individuals trying to blast you and your taxi to bits in the heart of Manhattan inside of sixty minutes are astronomical.  So either I’d won some bizarre sweepstakes, or somebody is real unhappy me with.
         
 I wasn’t being presumptuous assuming I was the target of the attack.  The only other warm body in the vicinity during the incident had been the cab driver, one Mohammad Hardeji according to the hack license on the dashboard.  He took the first hit when the black sedan had pulled abreast of us on Houston Street, splattering his head like an overripe melon in mid-complaint about those sorry bastards at the Taxi and Limousine Commission.  I was doing what I’ve done with verbose taxi drivers the world over, tuning him out with thoughts of the nice, soft bed awaiting me uptown at the Plaza Hotel.
         
 I guess two months out of the saddle blunts the edge, dulling the instincts that you rely on to keep you alive while a mission’s running.  I didn’t do more than glance at the Buick as it came alongside the cab before settling back in my seat and closing my eyes, wishing Mohammad would shut up.
        
Something exploded.  Glass shattered.  Mohammad screamed, a high pitched cry of terror and pain cut short by the disintegration of the top of his head, his hands reflexively jerking the wheel to the left.  I didn’t get it right away, sitting up ready to deliver a few well chosen words about his driving skills.  That’s when the flying glass and bits of human tissue flew into my face and the reality of what was happening hit me.
        
I didn’t know what or why, and it wouldn’t have made a damned bit of difference if I had.  The cab was careening out of control, bumping up over the curb while automatic weapon fire chewed up its side, and me without a weapon handy.  They didn’t let you carry artillery onboard airplanes these days.  Damned stupid regulation as far as the good guys go, at least from my current vantage point.  But who the hell thought I’d need one for the cab ride between airport and hotel?
        
The Buick was speeding past us, guns trailing heavy fire out its windows.  Forget them!  The emergency, any emergency, was composed of moments, fragile slivers of time, each holding their own danger.  The worst mistake you can make is not taking them in order, one at a time.  Start thinking ahead and the control is lost.  Concentrate on the instant.
          
The instant: Mohammad was slumped over the wheel, a dead man steering us straight towards a brick wall.  I didn’t know if I was going to survive the bullets, but I wanted the chance to try and that meant I had to get out of the cab in one piece.  I was over the back of the front seat before I even knew what I was doing, shoving aside what was left of Mohammad, grabbing the wheel, fumbling to find the brake pedal with my foot.  I felt it under my shoe and squashed it down to the floorboards.  The brakes caught with a tortured squeal, but we were going too fast, the brakes locking and the cab sliding without any appreciable slowing.  I spun the wheel hard, feeling the automobile about to tip over before slamming into a wall broadside with spine jarring impact.
         
 The instant: The Buick was skidding around in the middle of the street, coming back around for another straffing run at the cab.
        
The instant: I slapped the gear shift into reverse and jammed down on the gas, gunning the car back onto the street, then into drive.  The Buick was coming for me, so I went to them.  They wouldn’t expect that.  The victim is always supposed to turn and run in the face of overwhelming firepower, right?  The Buick’s driver tried to swerve, but there wasn’t time or space.  I stayed with the cab just long enough to make sure of that before I yanked open the door and rolled out onto the pavement, still rolling as I heard the metallic scream of the head on collision.
          
The instant: I was on my feet, adrenelin filling my ears with a dull roar.  I’d taken the initiative; the trick was to keep it, not let my adversaries regain their balance.  Don’t do a single damned thing they might expect.  Drive straight at them.  Charge into their guns.  Take away the security they derive from superior numbers and heavy firepower.  Make them wonder just what the hell kind of suicidal maniac they were dealing with. 
         
 The instant: An unsteady figure in a dark suit dragging himself out of the crumpled sedan’s window on the driver’s side, steam hissing from the mangled front ends.  I was on him, charging out of the obscuring cloud of steam before he was halfway through the window.  He had his gunhand outside the car, leveraged against the door panel to help pull himself out.  He saw me and started to bring up his weapon, a Steyr A.U.G. autoloader, but I slammed my foot into his wrist, pinning his arm against the door and jamming my elbow down into his throat.  If he made a sound, I didn’t hear it over the rush in my ears and the escaping steam.  The Steyr dropped from dead fingers as he slumped in the window frame.
          
The doors on the passenger side of the Buick hadn’t been jammed shut by the collision and they flew open as I stooped to retrieve the fallen weapon.  Timing is everything, because as I bent, the two other occupants of the car opened fire over the sedan’s roof, bullets ripping the air over my head. 
         
 But the score had just evened up.
          
My hand closed around the weapon, my arm swept up, finger tightening on the trigger to unload what was left in the magazine through the window at their exposed bellies.
          
A dotted red line chewed its way across the face of a white shirt framed in the window, just above his belt, smashing him backwards and out of sight.
          
Two down, one to go.
          
The Steyr was empty, a useless hunk of metal and plastic that I disgarded.  The last man was on the far side of the Buick, crouched down below the level of the window, out of range.  He had a clean shot at my ankles and feet under the car; he could cover me coming around either end of the wreckage.  That left me with the option of going over the top.
         
 I took it, heaving myself up on to the roof, sliding on my stomach across the polished surface.
          
He heard me scrambling over the roof and was rising as I came for him.  He was too smart to expose himself, pointing the gun over the edge to fire blind at me.  I grabbed the barrel as he squeezed the trigger, jerking the weapon to the sky and throwing my full weight over the side and tumbling to the street, landing on top of him without letting loose of the chattering weapon.  I felt something in his arm snap as we hit the pavement in a tangle of thrashing arms and legs.  He howled but I didn’t care.  I wanted the son of a bitch to hurt, let him know he’d messed with the wrong man, prepare him for even more pain if he he had any thought of giving me a hard time when I got around to asking him why I’d been targeted.
          
He wasn’t ready to hang it up just yet, even flying on one wing.  He kicked out at my face.  I caught his ankle in the V of my crossed wrists, yanking up and twisting in the same movement, another bone giving way.  I leaned forward and dropped down to one knee, cushioning myself from injury on the hard pavement with the soft tissue of his groin.  His whole body heaved up, almost doubling over from the mind numbing agony of having my entire weight crushing down into his most delicate spot.
         
 Had I been thinking rather than merely reacting to the outside stimuli of attack, I probably would have admired the guy’s tenacity.  Wrist and ankle broken, balls squashed under my almost 200 pounds, he wasn’t giving up.  With his good hand he’d been groping for his fallen gun and found it, smashing it with everything he had left in him into the side of my head.  I went over, tiny stars of light exploding in front of my eyes.  I wasn’t feeling any pain from the blow, that would come later, but for now there was just the sensation of warm wetness oozing down my cheek from the gash in my forehead.  I was bleeding red.
          
Seeing red.
          
So I took him. 
         
 The heel of my shoe found his nose and mashed it into his face, jamming the stiff cartilage up through his sinus cavitity and into the soft mass of his brain.  His mind was dead several seconds before his body got the message and stopped twitching.
        
I was gasping for breath, shaking my head like a wet dog to clear the blood from my eyes, staggering to my feet.  The adrenelin was still pumping, but with the danger over, I didn’t have any way to burn it off.  I just had to wait for the glands to stop manufacturing it, for the uncontrollable shaking and stimulation of every nerve ending to die down.  Only then would it be truly over as far as my body was concerned.  But considering the alternate scenario, I could wait it out.  Gladly.
          
And that’s where I found myself now, propped against a wall, wondering why I’d just gone through this madness.  I didn’t have anything even remotely close to an answer, and I wasn’t about to get one from the trio of corpses with which I’d littered the Manhattan streets.  Maybe they’re carrying something that could point me in the right direction.  A long shot; they were professionals and pros don’t carry identification.  The best I could possibly hope for was to get a Scenes Investigative Team out here to do their usual fine tooth combing of the bodies and car. 
         
 Except for the thin, distant wail of sirens. 
         
 Far away, but getting closer, and fast.  There had been enough shooting to attract an army of cops.  From the sound of things, they’d be here in a matter of moments, which left me with two choices.
         
 I can wait for them like a good little citizen and spend the rest of the night in a New York police precinct, trying to explain what just went on without blowing my cover.  Local law enforcement agencies don’t usually take kindly to shoot ‘em ups in their streets, especially when they’re between members of a government intelligence agency and a car load of assassins.  Something about the feds in any capacity sets their collective teeth on edge in some strange territorial imperative.
          
Good luck on that score.
          
Or I could leave this mess for them to clean up and figure out on their own while I reported in to the nearest safehouse, getting what little information I had to people who could do something with it.  My superiors would handle the N.Y.P.D.  They won’t like being shut out of a triple homicide on their own turf, but things are tough all over.
        
I’m gone before the first patrol car screeches to a stop beside my handiwork.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Hey, Kids! E-Books!

I am a proud member of the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers (IAMTW), consisting of all the fine women and men who write your favorite media tie-in books and stories, from novels based on Monk, Burn Notice, Murder She Wrote, or the latest blockbuster movie novelization, to the comic books and coloring books featuring Dr. Who and the Penguins of Madagascar.

It's only natural that you get almost 200 writers together, you're gonna wind up with a book! In this case, it's Tied In: The Business, History, and Craft of media Tie-In Writing, featuring articles by such tie-in luminaries as Tod Goldberg, Jeff Marriotte, Max Allan Collins, Elizabeth Massie, Donald Bain, Robert Greenberger, David Spencer, Greg Cox, Burl Barer, Jeff Ayers, Nancy Holder, John Cox, Brandie Tarvin, William C. Dietz, Alina Adams, William Rabkin, and my own humble self ("Pictures to Prose: Comic Book and Comic Strip Tie-Ins," page 77). It's a fairly complete survey of the American media tie-in scene from early on through today, written by the folks who write these things and is edited by our illustrious co-founder, Lee Goldberg. I've been learning a bit myself reading through it!

Tied In: The Business, History, and Craft of Media Tie-In Writing is currently available as an e-book at Smashwords or Amazon (you'll find a link to the right). An ink and paper edition will be available in a few weeks, published through Amazon CreateSpace. I'll let you know when that happens!

Hey, Kids! Books!

Two new books from my friends at Stone Arch Books, part of their DC Super Heroes line! First up is my fourth Superman book, The Shadow Masters, featuring art and color by two old buddies from my DC editorial days, Rick Burchett and Lee Loughridge.

Next, my one and only Wonder Woman book in the series, Dr. Psycho's Circus of Crime! (clowns really are creepy!), with art by Dan Schoening, a name that's new to me but who did an outstanding job!

If you're interested, just find the link on the right and you can order straight from here!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

200th Post! 2nd Anniversary of 'And Then I Wrote...'--and MORE Soku!


Part 2 of a script I wrote for Pablo Marcos for a comic he produced for a Mexican publisher, Suko, The Eternal Samurai...


(c) respective copyright holders

PAGE THIRTY- ONE
1 (CUT TO: the POV of someone hiding in the shadows at the mouth of a filthy, rubble and debris filled alleyway, watching the people being herded along past the alley.)


2 (CLOSE-UP OF SUKO, in the alleyway, unarmed and dressed in peasant rags like the rest of the people.)


3 (BACK ON THE STREET, looking towards the alleyway, as we see the disguised SUKO slipping from the alley to join in with the parade of people being taken while the nearby WARRIORS have their heads turned elsewhere.)


PAGE THIRTY-TWO
1 (BIRD’S EYE VIEW of SUKO -- now safely mingled in with the rest of the prisoners -- being herded into one of the transports.)


2 (We get one last look at SUKO’S grim face as a WARRIOR slams the transport door shut in his face as he’s crammed in with the rest of the prisoners.)


3 (CUT TO: the old spider and his web, spinning away, the web growing and filling up that corner of the window with its elaborate, complex designs. A common housefly is buzzing into the window.)


PAGE THIRTY-THREE
1 (CUT TO: a FULL-PAGE SPLASH of the towering, gleaming futuristic city at the center of the slums that ring it. The place is absolutely perfect, the streets immaculate, the buildings all gleaming and sparkling in the street lights that light the night streets. It being the dead of night, the streets are deserted of pedestrians and vehicles... except for the caravan of transports bringing prisoners into the city, all heading towards the building at the very center of the city, the tallest structure in town.)


2 (INSERT PANEL: back to the web, with the fly buzzing around it.)


PAGE THIRTY-FOUR
1 (BACK TO THE CARAVAN of transports as they head towards a loading dock entrance that’s sliding open to receive them at the base of the towering structure.)


2 (INSIDE the loading bay, as the trucks come to a halt and the WARRIORS get out of the cabs to join the WARRIORS already there in opening up the transports and herding out the prisoners.)


3 (BACK TO THE WEB, as the fly alights on it.)


PAGE THIRTY-FIVE
1 (INSIDE THE LOADING BAY, as the WARRIORS pull and prod the scared, helpless prisoners from the transports, SUKO among them.)


Warrior: Faster-- FASTER, dogs! We haven’t got all night!


2 (One of the WARRIORS is shoving SUKO roughly to speed him along as all the prisoners are led towards a large doorway leading deeper into the building. If looks could kill, SUKO would have already destroyed the offending WARRIOR.)


Warrior: Keep it MOVING, you!


3 (CLOSE-UP OF SUKO, his face mostly shadowed, just barely containing his rage as he goes through the doorway, towards whatever lies beyond.)


PAGE THIRTY-SIX
1 (BACK TO THE SPIDER and its web: the spider is perched on the side of the window, “looking” down at the web where the entrapped fly is struggling to free itself from the sticky webbing.)


2 (CUT TO: the massive, underground football-stadium-sized “dormitory” where the captive citizens are kept. This place is huge, dimly lighted, lined with row upon row of sleeping mats for the dirty, half-starved workers wearing little more than tattered, shredded rags. Sanitation facilities amount to little more than overflowing slop buckets. The new arrivals are being shoved and prodded into this, with SUKO visible in the foreground, taking all this in.)


Warrior: Your new HOME, dogs...


PAGE THIRTY-SEVEN
1 (Several WARRIORS are grabbing for some of the healthier looking newcomers, separating them from the rest of the herd to drag them off now to take them off to work. One of the WARRIORS is grabbing SUKO’S arm to add him to the work force.)


Warrior: ... But don’t get TOO comfortable. There’s WORK to be done!

Warrior B: YOU!

Warrior B 2: You look HEALTHY enough. You’re coming with US!


2 (TIGHT ON SUKO and the WARRIOR as SUKO gives the WARRIOR, who’s still holding on to his arm, an icy killing look that’s taking the WARRIOR aback.)


3 (The WARRIOR is releasing his hold on SUKO, intimidated by SUKO’S killer look.)


Warrior: Uhhh...

Warrior 2: I... I said...

Suko: I HEARD you.


PAGE THIRTY-EIGHT
1 (CUT TO: the PRIEST, in his luxurious chambers elsewhere in the tower. The chamber, as everything else in this place, is decorated in a spider-motif. PRIEST, not looking at all happy, is reclining on pillows, consulting a glowing hunk of crystal set in a spider-shaped base.)


Priest: Mmmm... not good...


2 (CLOSE-UP of the crystal, with the PRIEST’S concerned face reflected in it. There’s a hazy image also visible inside the crystal, some sort of reptile, a snake, although it’s not very clear.)


Priest: ...Not good at ALL...


3 (PRIEST is looking up from the crystal as the shadow of a woman falls across him from off panel.)


Off panel: My lord Priest...?

Priest: Ah, yes.

Priest 2: Is he here?


PAGE THIRTY-NINE
1 (The off-panel GIRL has come into the panel, clad in ornate, ceremonial robes, starting to sink to her knees before the PRIEST. We only see her from the rear or some other angle, or in shadows, so that we can’t see her face to see that it’s TOMIKO.)


Tomiko: Yes, my lord. He is with the REST, down below.

Priest: Are you CERTAIN he can be TRUSTED?


2 (PRIEST is throwing a clothe over the crystal to cover it up as he looks up at the girl -- whose face is still shielded from our view -- looking skeptical.)


Tomiko: Trusted? No.

Tomiko 2: That’s why we’re doing it THIS way.


3 (The still shadowed or otherwise obscured TOMIKO is reaching out her hand to gently stroke PRIEST’S troubled face.)


Priest: This had BETTER work, my dear.

Tomiko: It WILL, my lord...


PAGE FORTY
1 (CUT TO: the city’s underground powerplant. This is another huge, dark, cavernous place, lined with massive turbine engines and huge furnaces, which are being stoked by hordes of enslaved workers shoveling coal into the blazing fires. SUKO -- among a whole shitload of other slaves -- is being led into this hell on Earth by a squad of WARRIORS.)


Cap: “... It is his NATURE...”

Warrior: This is IT, dogs. Grab some shovels and get to it!


2 (SUKO is standing alongside one of the massive furnaces as he picks up a shovel. The WARRIOR nearest him is half turned away from SUKO, issuing orders to the prisoners.)


Warrior: You HEARD him, you animals! Take up those shovels... NOW!

Suko: Whatever you say...


PAGE FORTY-ONE
1 (SUKO is suddenly jamming the handle end of the shovel into the WARRIOR’S side, catching the man as he starts to turn back towards SUKO.)


Warrior: Did I say you could... OHHHFFF!

SFX: SHAK!


2 (SUKO has whipped the shovel around, jamming the blade end into the WARRIOR’S throat, practically severing his head from his shoulders. Yuk.)


SFX: KRUMPP!


3 (SUKO has caught the WARRIOR before he’s hit the floor, quickly and silently dragging the WARRIOR around to the shadows along the side of the furnace.)


PAGE FORTY-TWO
1 (SUKO is kneeling beside the WARRIOR in the shadow around the side of the furnace. He’s plucking at the front of the WARRIOR’S uniform, but it’s soaked with blood down the front.)


2 (CLOSE-UP of SUKO, rubbing his bloodstained fingers together and looking at them in distaste.)


3 (So, with a shrug, he’s plucking up the WARRIOR’S sword as he starts to rise. He’s going to have to do this without the cover of a uniform.)


4 (SUKO’S at the far end of the furnace, peering around the edge from the shadows.)


PAGE FORTY-THREE
1 (From SUKO’S P.O.V., we see that all that’s there behind the furnaces are more slaves, pushing and pulling large dumpsters full of coal into the furnace room from a dim tunnel at the rear of the room.)


2 (SUKO is moving out from his cover, sword in hand.)


3 (Some of the prisoners are looking up to see SUKO as he heads towards the tunnel. They’re shocked to see one of their own with a sword.)


PAGE FORTY-FOUR
1 (SUKO is pausing at the entrance to the dim tunnel, looking back at the awed slaves, raising a finger to his lips to silence them. They’re not making a sound, some of them smiling.)


2 (CUT TO: the PRIEST, standing on the balcony of his chambers, gripping the balcony, staring up into the sky. The sky is clear, the moon a bright orb almost directly overhead.)


3 (CLOSE-UP of the PRIEST, his face lined with fear and worry.)


Priest (whisp): When?


PAGE FORTY-FIVE
1 (Looking up at the moon: in the otherwise cloudless sky, a lone black shape is moving towards the moon, all but invisible except that it’s obliterating the stars behind it.)


Off panel: When?


2 (CUT TO: SUKO, in a dimly lit corridor somewhere in the tower, carefully making his way along. There’s no one in sight.)


Cap: “WHEN?!”


3 (BACK TO THE PRIEST, turning to head back inside from the balcony. He fails to see the black cloud just beginning to edge over the bright moon, not quite solid enough to black out all the light.)


PAGE FORTY-SIX
1 (CUT TO: SUKO, coming upon a bank of elevators at the end of the corridor. One of them is open, almost as if it’s waiting for him.)


2 (CUT TO: the PRIEST’S chamber, as the PRIEST walks back in, head bowed, deeply troubled. We’re angling up past the crystal in the spider-base on the table that the PRIEST was consulting earlier.)


3 (SAME AS ABOVE, except now the crystal is starting to shake violently on the tabletop. PRIEST is stopping in his tracks, looking towards the crystal with a look of horror.)


Priest (burst): NO!


4 (The crystal is exploding beneath the covering, throwing shards all over the place and blowing the cover away.)


SFX: KWAAAAM!


PAGE FORTY-SEVEN
1 (CUT TO: SUKO, as he exits the opening elevator door on the floor that holds the PRIEST’S chambers, sword still in hand, looking around, very suspicious. This floor is very ornate, the walls decorated with spider-motif tapestries or ornaments, statuary lining the way.)


2 (CLOSE-UP of SUKO as he whips his head around at a distant, off-panel noise.)


SFX: ssssSSSSSRARRRRR!


3 (SUKO is racing up the corridor in the direction of the noise.)


SFX: CRASSSH!


PAGE FORTY -EIGHT
1 (Dead ahead of the racing SUKO is the closed door to the PRIEST’S chambers...)


SFX: RARRRRRRHH!


2 (SUKO is hitting the door with his shoulder, smashing it open on the fly.)


SFX: BHWAMM!


3 (SUKO is stumbling into the chamber through the smashed door, looking up in horror and surprise at what awaits him there, off-panel...)


PAGE FORTY-NINE
1 (... Which is now on-panel: from out of the shattered crystal on the table is coming a massive, ugly, demonic SNAKE-GOD, as thick around the middle as Totie Fields. It’s “growing” out of the crystal magically, accompanied by lots of smoke and pyrotechnic effects, weaving around, it’s jaws open to expose deadly fangs dripping with venom. PRIEST is recoiling before the SNAKE-GOD as it weaves before him. SUKO is stopping dead in his tracks in the doorway at this sight.)


Suko (burst): GODS--!

Priest: S- Stay BACK, reptile... your presence is not WANTED here...

Snake: SSSssssSSSS but you are WRONG, Priessst-- for I wisssh to enter thisss realm...


PAGE FIFTY
1 (The SNAKE is darting it’s mighty head at the PRIEST, who’s stumbling backwards out of its way. PRIEST sees SUKO by the door and is calling to him, almost in panic.)


Snake: ... For the ssspider and the sssnake are NATURAL foesss... and now the SSSNAKE desiresss DOMINANCE over the ssspider’s domain!

Priest: Yo- YOU-- SUKO! BLESS the great spirit... you’ve COME!


2 (SUKO is pausing, surprised.)


Suko: Eh--?

Suko 2: You were EXPECTING me...?


3 (The SNAKE is whipping its head around to look at SUKO. As much as possible, show amusement on the SNAKE’S face.)


Snake: AHHH-- the ssspider has a CHAMPION!

Suko: I’ve NO alliance with this dog, demon!

Snake 2: NOT a dog, man-being--


PAGE FIFTY-ONE
1 (Magical energy is sparking from SNAKE’S eyes, streaking across the room and striking the PRIEST dead on, enveloping the screaming PRIEST in an aura of energy.)


Priest (burst): AAAAIIIEEEEEEeeee


2 (Under the influence of the magical energy surrounding him, PRIEST is undergoing a change, starting to transform from a man into his true form, that of a man-sized half-man/half-spider demon.)


Snake: -- But a SPIDER-GOD!

Priest (burst): NOOOoooo! HELP ME, SUKO... SAVE ME...


3 (SUKO is watching this, but keeping back, as the PRIEST changes more into his spider-form. He doesn’t see the shadowy shape -- of TOMIKO -- that’s appeared in the doorway behind him.)


Priest: ... Before it... it’s TOO LATE... before I... I become... the SPIDER...!

Suko: Fight your OWN battles, priest!

Tomiko: That’s NOT the plan, warrior--


PAGE FIFTY-TWO
1 (SUKO is turning to see TOMIKO in the doorway, holding whatever type of handgun they use in this world on SUKO. She’s leaning against the doorway, as though weak and needing the support to help her stay upright. SUKO doesn’t seem to be particularly surprised to see her.)


Tomiko: -- Not why we brought you here!

Suko: Aye, I THOUGHT I smelled a rat... that my escape was TOO easy.


2 (CLOSE-UP on the weak, weary TOMIKO.)


Tomiko: We needed a CHAMPION, Suko-- one NOT allied with our Spider Cult .

Tomiko 2: The Priest SENSED you coming this way, so we STAGED my plight so you could RESCUE me--


3 (CLOSE-UP of the grim SUKO.)


Tomiko (off): -- And be DRAWN into our fight against the Snake-Demon.

Suko: Except I’m NOT going to fight.


PAGE FIFTY-THREE
1 (TOMIKO is raising the weapon at SUKO, the sleeve of her kimono covering her hand gripping the weapon, so that we can’t see that it’s turned into a hairy, disgusting spider-like hand.)


Tomiko: You have no CHOICE... if you wish to live...


2 (As she raises her arm a little higher, the sleeve slipping down to reveal the aforementioned spider-hand. SUKO is starting to whirl around to look in response to a noise behind him.)


Tomiko: ... Because WE must live.

Suko: So you’re ALL demons in disguise, eh? You can KILL me-- but either way, I’m not... WHAT?

SFX (off panel): AAARRRGHHH!


3 (The noise is the PRIEST, undergoing the final transformation to half-spider/half-man, a hideous combination on eight legs, kind of a spider-centaur, but with lots of spider in the upper-half as well. The SNAKE is, well, snaking at the PRIEST.)


Snake: Your TRUE form ssstands REVEALED, Priessst... and VULNERABLE--


PAGE FIFTY-FOUR
1 (The SPIDER-PRIEST is scampering out of the way as the SNAKE’S jaws snap after him.)


Snake: -- As the sssnake is ever SSSUPERIOR to the ssspider!


2 (SUKO is watching as the SPIDER-PRIEST scurries to escape out the balcony doors. The SNAKE is stretching from the crystal to pursue the fleeing PRIEST.)


Snake: But I ssshould THANK you... for leaving thisss kingdom to me... ssso full of FRESH HUMANS to sssatiate my HUNGER!


3 (SUKO is turning back to look at TOMIKO, who’s about half-way through the change to spider-demon herself.)


Tomiko: Hear THAT, Suko? Our humans... YOUR people, will go from being slaves to being MEAT for the greater evil of the Snake!

Suko: I heard...


PAGE FIFTY-FIVE
1 (As the SNAKE’S head disappears out the doorway after the fleeing SPIDER-PRIEST, SUKO starts running towards the SNAKE’S body. This whole time, the SNAKE has been “attached” to the shattered crystal, the length of its body growing out of it.)


Suko: ... Damn ALL of you. I heard!


2 (SUKO is leaping up onto the SNAKE’S writhing body with a snarl of rage on his lips, sword in hand.)


3 (OUT ON THE TERRACE: the SNAKE hasn’t felt SUKO yet, intent on its pursuit of the scurrying SPIDER-PRIEST. The PRIEST is spitting out a line of webbing onto the railing, intending to spin it’s way down the side of the tower...)


PAGE FIFTY-SIX
1 (... But the SNAKE is faster and stronger, closing it’s massive jaws into the body of the SPIDER-PRIEST, sinking its fangs into the critter. The PRIEST is screaming in pain and rage.)


Priest (burst): AAIIIIIIIIIiiiiiiiiiii


2 (The SNAKE whips its head up, the kicking, struggling, but firmly trapped SPIDER-PRIEST between its jaws...)


3 (... While INSIDE, SUKO -- still riding the SNAKE’S writhing back --sees this happening and he smiles to himself as he starts to raise the sword, clutched in both hands, pointed down towards the SNAKE’S back.)


Suko: Another moment...


PAGE FIFTY-SEVEN
1 (The SNAKE has reared its head straight up, opening its jaws wide to swallow the SPIDER-PRIEST in a single gulp.)


2 (INSIDE, SUKO is jamming his sword down, point first, right into the SNAKE’S hide with every ounce of strength he has.)


Suko (burst): ... NOW!

SFX: CHONK!


3 (The SNAKE is whipping around in surprise and pain to look back down the length of its body at SUKO. The lump that is the swallowed SPIDER-PRIEST is bulging in the SPIDER’S “throat.” SUKO is ripping the sword from the SNAKE.)


Snake (burst): SSSSsssSSSsss WHO DARES...?!?


PAGE FIFTY-EIGHT
1 (The violent rippling of the SNAKE’S body is throwing SUKO off. The SNAKE is whipping around, hard and fast, its mouth wide open, coming after SUKO.)


Snake: You will PAY for thisss indignity, human...


2 (SUKO is on his back on the floor as the SNAKE comes writhing down at him with mouth gaping wide... so that SUKO can stab his sword up into the roof of its mouth.)


3 (With that, SUKO is jerking his sword free as he rolls out of the way of the SNAKE’S snapping jaws.)


PAGE FIFTY-NINE
1 (Still on his back on the floor, SUKO is slashing out with his sword at the SNAKE’S head...)


2 (... And the razor sharp blade is slicing through its head, taking that sucker right off.)


SFX: SHWAK!


3 (And even while the length of the body whips around in its death throes, SUKO is sending another sword-thrust at the bulge in the SNAKE’S body, driving it clean through the snake and the SPIDER-PRIEST inside it, pinning it to the floor.)


SFX: THONK!


PAGE SIXTY
1 (SUKO is stepping back as the SNAKE undergoes its final death spasms.)


Suko: They’re BOTH dead now, girl...


2 (SUKO is turning to look towards TOMIKO, but she’s turned into a giant spider and is scampering away down the corridor, along with other large spiders. All the spiders have left their human clothes laying in heaps on the floor.)


Suko 2: ... So NO demon will rule this city... eh? They’ve LOST their human forms! Without their LEADER, they’re little more than MINDLESS creatures...


3 (SUKO is on the balcony, looking down towards the street, which is filled with little black spiders all scurrying away, headed out of the city en masse.)


Cap: The spider spins.


4 (CUT TO: the spider and his web in the window. The spider is spinning a cocoon of webbing around the captive fly. But there’s a shadow falling across the spider and its web as an old lady’s hand descends towards it from above. The dawn is breaking outside the window.))


Cap: Its web is its home. Its hunting ground.

Old lady (off panel): Tsk! FILTHY things...


5 (An OLD LADY, smacking her hand down to smash the web and the spider with a look of distaste.)


Cap: Sometimes the place where it dies...

Old lady: ... Filthy bugs are EVERYWHERE...!

SFX: SMAK!


# # #


Monday, July 19, 2010

I Soku. Do You?

During the late 1980s or early-1990s, I wrote a couple of scripts for South American artist Pablo Marcos (famous for his work on Marvel's Conan and just about everything for DC Comics), who packaged Suko, The Eternal Samurai, a Conan rip-off he had created for a Mexican comic book publisher. The script speaks for itself.

(c) respective copyright holders

PAGE ONE
1  (We open with a CLOSE-UP of the window of a bombed out old building, looking out the window at some of the other bombed out old buildings that make up this city, which looks like something out of your basic post-Apocalyptic world.  It’s morning, the sun just coming up.)

2  (SAME AS ABOVE, except now a spider is descending into the scene on a single line of webbing.)

Cap:         The spider spins.

3  (The spider is descending towards the sill, sunlight glinting off the single strand of webbing.)

Cap:         It does not question.  It does not wonder.

4  (The spider has reached the sill and is starting to spin its web in the corner of the window opening.) 

Cap:         That is simply what it does.
Cap 2:         That is its nature.

PAGE TWO
1  (CUT TO: a LONG ESTABLISHING SHOT of a flat, empty field at the edge of a densely grown dark forest of tall, old gnarled trees, a thoroughly threatening looking place.  It’s dawn, the field covered with a thick morning mist.  In the distance, walking towards the reader across the field is SUKO, packing whatever travel gear he carries in his backpack, his sword slung at his side.  He’s partially obscured by the mist, looking like a ghostly figure.)

Cap:         Morning.

2  (SAME ANGLE AS ABOVE, except SUKO has drawn closer to the reader, still shrouded in the mist.)

3  (SAME AS ABOVE, except now SUKO is in the foreground, in MEDIUM-SHOT, and is visible through the mist.  He’s turning in surprise in reaction to an off panel scream, coming from deep within the forest.)

SFX:         AAAIIIIEEEEEEEE!

4  (As the screams continue to come from the forest, SUKO is drawing his sword as he charges towards the trees.)

SFX:         EEEEEEEEEEIIIAAA!

PAGE THREE
1  (SUKO is in the forest now, dashing through the thick foliage that grows on the forest floor...)

2  (... And then stops short, in the SPLASH-PANEL, as his way is suddenly blocked by a horrific sight: a wall of bodies -- both human and animal -- in various states of decomposition, from fresh kills to skeletons.  They’re strung between the trees, hanging from a diaphanous curtain of some fine, silken material, like a gigantic spiderweb, which in fact it is.)

Suko (burst):         GODS!
Title:         THE CULT OF THE SPIDER

3 (CLOSE-UP OF ONE of the faces of the bodies hanging from the web, twisted in a grimace of horror at the moment of death.)

PAGE FOUR
1  (CLOSE-UP of SUKO, his face a cold mask .)

Suko (whisper):         Gods.

2  (But there’s no time for SUKO to figure out what this horror may be all about as the air is torn by yet another scream from off-panel, this one coming beyond the curtain of corpses.)

SFX:         NOOOOOOoooooo

3  (SUKO is slashing through the grotesque tapestry in front of him, charging deeper into the dark, forbiding forest.)

4  (ANGLING FROM BEHIND SUKO as he races towards a clearing ahead of him in the forest, visible through some of the trees.  There’re some shadowy figures visible through the trees, but not clear enough that we can make out who or what they are.)

From clearing (burst):         NO-- S- STOP...

PAGE FIVE
1  (SUKO bursts into the clearing, sword in hand, ready to confront whatever he may find there.  And what he’s found is a small open area with yet more of the webs strung between the trees, holding the bodies of more human and animal victims.  In the center of the clearing are five men and a woman.  The men are WARRIOR members of a Spider Cult, wearing some sort of samurai-like outfit with a spider motif, each wielding a sword of their own.  The woman is young and beautiful, named TOMIKO, and she’s being seriously menaced by these men, who are forcing the struggling young girl up onto the webbing to join the grotesque menagerie already there.)

Tomiko (burst):         ... PLEASE... sob!... DON’T DO THIS!  I’ll do ANYTHING you ask...!
Warrior A:         SHUT UP, woman! 
Warrior B:         You’ve been CHOSEN... ACCEPT your fate.  There’s NOTHING for you now-- except DEATH!
Suko:         If anyone’s going to die here--

2  (Four of the WARRIORS are turning to face SUKO in surprise, drawing their weapons as he walks towards them, pointing at TOMIKO, who’s being held by the fifth WARRIOR.)

Suko:         -- It’s NOT going to be the girl!
Warrior B:         WHO--? 
Warrior C:         What’d you want, stranger?  This is none of your concern.
Warrior A:         Yeah, get lost before you get HURT!

3  (CLOSE-UP of SUKO, a cold, bloodthirsty smile on his face.)

PAGE SIX
1  (Before the WARRIORS can even realize what’s happening, SUKO has attacked, charging into them with his sword flashing, cutting down the first WARRIOR in that split second.)

SFX:         SWIISSSSH!

2  (The others have recovered their wits and are on the defensive against SUKO’S attack as he stands crouched, at the ready, over the body of the downed WARRIOR.  They’re all facing him, swords up.  The fifth WARRIOR is in the background, holding TOMIKO.)

3  (The first of the WARRIORS is charging at SUKO with his sword swinging.)

PAGE SEVEN
1  (SUKO has sidestepped the attack and deflected the WARRIOR’S blade with his own.)

SFX:         KLANGGG!

2  (SUKO is whirling, slashing the WARRIOR across the back.  The other two WARRIORS are charging in to join the fray.)

SFX:         SLISSSSH!

3  (The wounded WARRIOR is starting to turn to strike at SUKO...)

4  (... But SUKO’S faster, driving his sword into the man’s belly to the hilt...)

SFX:         SHOKK!

PAGE EIGHT
1  (... Then whips it out and whirls, trailing blood from the blade in an arc through the air, to face the other two men.  This happens so fast the body of the last kill hasn’t even had time to hit the ground yet.)

2  (SUKO has leapt straight up in the air, over the blades of the two warriors as they move in for what they think is the kill.)

3  (At the height of his leap, SUKO is kicking out his foot, into the face of one of the WARRIORS.)

SFX:         KRAKK!

PAGE NINE
1  (Even as he lands, SUKO is driving his blade at the fourth WARRIOR, who’s countering the stroke with his sword.)

SFX:         CLANG!

2  (SUKO ducks under the fourth WARRIOR’S next slash...)

3  (... And drives his sword up, into the WARRIOR’S chest...)

SFX:         SHIKK!

4  (... Then whirls, to drive the hilt of his sword into the face of the WARRIOR he kicked, delivering the killing blow.)

SFX:         KHRAMM!

5  (SUKO is turning, to look across the clearing towards the last WARRIOR, the one holding TOMIKO.  The bodies of the four fallen men are scattered at his feet.  SUKO has his sword clutched in both hands.)

Suko:         YOUR turn, friend.

PAGE TEN
1  (The WARRIOR is shoving TOMIKO roughly aside as he smiles, preparing to meet SUKO in combat.)

Warrior:         My PLEASURE, swordsman.  Come and GET me!
Tomiko:         Ooooh!

2  (SUKO and the WARRIOR are rushing across the clearing towards one another as TOMIKO cowers on the ground in the background, watching.)

Warrior:         YIIIIIiiiiii

3  (The two men are meeting in the middle of the clearing, swords coming together.)

SFX:         KTANGG!

PAGE ELEVEN
1  (Some fancy swordplay between the WARRIOR and SUKO...)

2  (... The WARRIOR deftly turning his body to avoid SUKO’S sword thrust...)

3  (... Then slashing at SUKO with a backhand thrust, which SUKO blocks with his forearm against the WARRIOR’S forearm...)

4  (... Then pushing WARRIOR backwards, sending him stumbling back, off balance...)

PAGE TWELVE
1  (... And follows through with a roundhouse kick that sends WARRIOR flying backwards, towards the webbing slung between the trees, SUKO coming towards him, for the kill--)

SFX:         KHOK!

2  (-- Which he delivers by grabbing hold of the dazed, downed WARRIOR’S throat...)

Warrior:         GHAKKK!

3  (... And throwing him with a neck-snapping toss into the webbing, where he sticks, alongside the rest of the kill already hanging there.  He’s sailed right over the prone TOMIKO, who’s watching in horror.)

SFX:         SN-NNAP!

PAGE THIRTEEN
1  (SUKO is sheathing his sword as he surveys his handiwork.  TOMIKO is getting to her feet, looking gratefully towards SUKO.)

Tomiko:         Yo- you... SAVED me...!
Suko:         You were in trouble.  I was here. 
Suko 2:         That’s all.

2  (SUKO is kneeling beside one of the slain WARRIORS, examining his get-up as TOMIKO comes up behind him, looking uncertain, not knowing what to do.)

Tomiko:         But you could have been KILLED!
Suko:         Not by THIS bunch.  Who were they?  What did they want?
Tomiko 2:         They’re members of the SPIDER CULT--

3  (CLOSE-UP OF TOMIKO, hugging herself, shivering with fear at what almost happened to her.)

Tomiko:         -- The MASTERS of the city where I live.  Every month... they come... to take one of us to SACRIFICE to their dark gods.
Tomiko 2:         This month they... they chose me...

PAGE FOURTEEN
1  (TOMIKO is looking towards the web-curtain and its grisly assortment of bodies, her eyes wide with fear.  SUKO is rising to look at the girl.)

Tomiko:         ... To join... THAT!
Suko:         Your people just LET them take you?
Tomiko 2:         You talk as if they had a CHOICE! 

2  (SUKO is turning to leave, to be back on his way.  TOMIKO is startled, calling out to him.)

Suko:         I guess that’s just something they’ll have to deal with when you return home.  Good-bye.
Tomiko:         WAIT!  Where are you going...?

3  (SUKO is walking towards the reader, the startled, upset TOMIKO visible behind him, over his shoulder, calling out to him.  There’s nothing on SUKO’S face to betray what he’s thinking or feeling.)

Suko:         Wherever.
Tomiko:         Bu- but you can’t just LEAVE!
Tomiko 2:         PLEASE!  Yo- you’re the FIRST one who’s ever been able to stand UP to them...!

4  (SAME AS ABOVE, except SUKO is closer to the reader in the foreground and the mucho agitated TOMIKO is farther behind him in the background.)

Tomiko:         Did you HEAR me?!  We NEED you...
Tomiko 2:         ... I need you...

PAGE FIFTEEN
1  (SAME AS ABOVE, except now the distant TOMIKO has collapsed to her knees, burying her hands in her face and sobbing.  SUKO is stopping dead in his tracks, starting to turn to look back at her.)

Tomiko:         ... They’ll... sob!... send OTHERS... to bring me back...

2  (TIGHT ON TOMIKO, still on her knees, sobbing into her hands.)

3  (TOMIKO is looking up with a tearstained face as SUKO’S shadow -- with SUKO standing just off-panel -- falls across her.)

4  (SUKO is holding out his hand, helping the disbelieving TOMIKO to her feet.  He doesn’t look at all pleased with himself for giving in to her emotional plea.)

Suko:         Sigh!
Suko 2:         Let’s GO, girl.  I haven’t got FOREVER, you know...

5  (CUT TO: a CLOSE-UP of the spider in the window we saw on PAGE ONE.  The web it’s spinning in the corner of the window is further along than when we last saw it.)

Cap:         The spider spins.
Cap 2:         The intricate weaving of patterns UNIQUE to itself.

PAGE SIXTEEN
1  (The spider is spinning along as we move in closer to it, starting to angle the shot so that we can see out the window, down onto the street.  A common housefly is buzzing into the scene from outside.)

Cap:         There is a purpose to its workings.

2  (CLOSER IN STILL, so that we’re looking down past the web that’s being spun, into the street below.  The area is a slum, that rings the gleaming, towering futuristic city in the center of this city.  This is an old area, of stone and brick buildings, built long before the stainless steel and glass towers at the center.  Along the perimeter of the slum are evenly spaced guard towers, topped by spider-shaped structures at the top, manned by (we’ll later see) more WARRIORS from the cult army.  Think South Bronx.  Walking down the middle of the street are SUKO and TOMIKO.)

Cap:         There is a purpose to EVERYTHING.
Suko:         This is where you live, eh?  A pretty MISERABLE place, isn’t it?
Tomiko:         It wasn’t ALWAYS like this.

3  (Move on down into the street, to tag along with SUKO and TOMIKO as they walk along through the South Bronx-like city streets.  SUKO is looking around in disgust.)

Suko:         Nothing was.  Once.
Tomiko:         We were promised this would be torn down and replaced by LIVEABLE buildings.
Tomiko 2:         But that was BEFORE...!

PAGE SEVENTEEN
1  (MOVE IN for a TIGHT-SHOT of the two, TOMIKO looking very sad.)

Suko:         Before the Spider Cult?
Tomiko:         They KILLED our old leaders and made us all their slaves... the slums are BREEDING FARMS for workers and sacrifice victims.

2  (SUKO is looking up at the nearest guard-tower, the spider looming over the slums.)

Tomiko (off):         They’ve made THEIR spider-demons OUR gods and we must worship THEM or die...
Tomiko (off) 2:         ... Sooner than later...

3  (SUKO is pointing to a half-collapsed old building, turning to enter it.)

Suko:         Why don’t you FIGHT?  You’ve got the superior numbers.
Tomiko:         We’re factory-workers, not warriors.  Besides, what do we use for WEAPONS?
Tomiko 2:         Here.  This’s where we live.

PAGE EIGHTEEN
1  (Inside the building it’s as bad as it looked from outside, basically a big open space interrupted by what remains of a few interior walls.  The ceiling is half collapsed.  A large, extended family lives here: grandfather, his son and wife and their young children, the widow of another son and her DAUGHTER, TOMIKO’S MOTHER and her younger brother, TAKEO.  Also there, among the family, is the sour old maiden AUNT.  They all live in this space, which is furnished with little more than the basic necessities, like sleeping mats, habatchi-type cooking area, crates for their few possessions.  SUKO and TOMIKA are entering the scene.)

2  (INSERT PANEL: SUKO’S MOTHER is looking up from whatever domestic-type thing she’s doing and seeing her daughter come in.  She’s wide-eyed, astonished to see the girl alive.)

Mother:         Gasp!

PAGE NINETEEN
1  (Having dropped whatever she’s holding, MOTHER is racing across the room into TOMIKO’S arms, the two of them sobbing.  SUKO is looking on.)

Mother:         TOMIKO-- my CHILD... sob!... yo- you’re alive!  Sob!  ALIVE!
Tomiko:         It... it’s all right, mother!

2  (TOMIKO is introducing SUKO to her tearful mother, who’s grabbed the WARRIOR’S hand in gratitude.  He looks uncomfortable at the display of emotion.)

Tomiko:         THIS man SAVED me...
Mother:         I... I didn’t think ANYONE could stand up to them... oh, THANK you, warrior...  thank you for my daughter’s LIFE!

3  (MOTHER is pulling SUKO towards the cooking area, furthering his discomfort.  TOMIKO is slightly amused by his embarassment.)

Suko:         I...
Mother:         COME!  Please be SEATED... you must be FAMISHED.  We would be HONORED to share our food with you.

PAGE TWENTY
1  (SUKO is seated on the floor before a low plywood table as MOTHER fuses with the food on the fire to serve him.  TOMIKO is greeting her brother TAKEO and AUNT.  TAKEO’S happy to see him, AUNT is a sourball who saw TOMIKO’S death as meaning more food for everybody else.)

Takeo:         Tomiko... it’s a MIRACLE!  NOBODY’S ever come back from the SACRIFICES!
Tomiko:         Things are going to be DIFFERENT, TAKEO--

2  (TOMIKO is looking towards SUKO with something close to worship in her eyes.  SUKO is reacting to what she’s saying, as close to startled as he ever gets.)

Tomiko:         -- Now that SUKO is here!
Suko:         EH--?!

3  (SUKO has scrambled to his feet, looking grim, speaking harshly to the startled TOMIKO and TAKEO.)

Suko:         I KNOW what you’re getting at, girl... but FORGET it.
Tomiko:         Bu- but... you CAN’T see how we’re made to live and not HELP us!

4  (SUKO is making big strides towards the door, getting his tail out of there.  TOMIKO is racing after him, calling to him.)

Suko:         No?
Tomiko (burst):         SUKO!  WAIT...!

PAGE TWENTY-ONE
1  (TOMIKO is racing after SUKO, who’s well ahead of her, reaching for the door...)

2  (... And yanking open the door as we look towards it from the street outside.  SUKO is stopping cold dead in his tracks.)

3  (And we pull back for a wide shot of the street, showing SPIDER WARRIORS loading men, women, and children into transport-trucks -- whether on wheels or air-jets or whatever mode of transportation is used in this era -- at weapon point.  The people are intimidated into submission as they march with bowed backs to the trucks under the threat of the WARRIOR soldiers.  Their weapons are futuristic rifles.  SUKO is still in the doorway in the foreground, seeing his from his P.O.V.)

PAGE TWENTY-TWO
1  (With a snarl of rage, SUKO is starting to draw his sword to make a move towards the WARRIORS, but a hand is reaching out from the doorway to grab for his arm and stop him.)

2  (SUKO is whirling to face whoever has grabbed him.  It’s GRANDFATHER, a little, wrinkled, washed out old man, tired beyond even his years.)

Grandpa:         No.
Grandpa 2:         Others have tried to STOP them from taking us... the warriors always KILL the prisoners FIRST.

3  (GRANDFATHER has turned to walk back into the dwelling.  SUKO is closing the door, watching the old man.)

Grandpa:         There is ANOTHER way.
Grandpa 2:         Come.

PAGE TWENTY-THREE
1  (CUT TO: the spider in the window, weaving its web, which is growing in size and complexity.)

Cap:         The spider spins.
Cap 2:         Fragile, silken threads grow from the center, spreading outward into beauty...

2  (CUT TO NIGHT: night, in TOMIKO’S home, where we find everybody asleep.  SUKO is alone on a sleeping mat, off in a corner away from everybody else.   His sheathed sword is at hand.)

3  (A TIGHT CLOSE-UP of a booted foot, making its way across the floor, kicking a small pebble of plaster into something else, making a small noise.)

SFX:         klakt

4  (CLOSE-UP OF SUKO, his eyes snapping open as his hand moves to his sword.)

PAGE TWENTYFOUR
1  (SUKO is rising on his side to look towards the door, where he sees a dark, shadowed figure moving cautiously towards the door.)

2  (SUKO is starting to rise but freezes at the sound of an off-panel whisper, coming from the other direction.)

Whisper (off):         Suko...?

3  (TOMIKO, wrapped in a kimono, is walking towards his sleeping mat.  He’s watching her.)

Tomiko (whisper):         I... I’m sorry.  Did I wake you?

4  (TOMIKO is kneeling beside SUKO’S mat, holding her robe closed.)

Suko (whisp):         I hear something...
Tomiko (whisp):         That’s my brother.  He FORAGES for food at night.

PAGE TWENTY-FIVE
1  (SUKO is settling back onto his mat, watching the girl kneeling beside him.)

Suko (whisp):         And for what do YOU forage in the darkness...?
Tomiko (whisp):         It... it occured to me... that I haven’t properly THANKED you.

2  (CLOSE-UP of SUKO, impassive.)

Suko:         No thanks are OWED.

3  (TIGHT ON TOMIKO, starting to pull off her robe.  The darkness and shadow blocks the views of all her naughty parts, but there’s no doubt she’s naked beneath the robe.)

Tomiko:         Yes.
Tomiko 2:         They ARE...

PAGE TWENTY-SIX
1  (CUT TO: the surface of a highly polished piece of wood across which a spider is scampering.)

Priest (off panel):         ... Then they shall just have to work HARDER, won’t they, my dear Prince?

2  (A hand is reaching down into the scene, over the spider.  It’s a man’s hand, soft and pampered, weaking expensive rings, with long manicured, elaborately painted fingernails, silhouettes of spiders painted on them.)

Prince (off panel):         Is that wise?  Those poor devils are dying off fast enough as it is.

3  (The hand has extended a single finger, scooping up the spider on the long nail.)

Priest (off panel):         What matter?  We’ve an AMPLE supply of workers in the slums.
Prince (off):         Still... we can’t push them TOO far, can we?

PAGE TWENTY-SEVEN
1  (We pull back to see we’re in the luxurious penthouse apartments of this city’s titular head, the PRINCE, a frail, soft young man of about 20, dressed in expensive, elaborate robes, reclining on a stack of pillows next to an ornately carved table, holding up the spider before his eyes.  Standing before him is the PRIEST, a middle-aged, hard-faced, cold-eyed mother in black robes and cape, a hood over his head.  There’s some sort of recurring spider-motif everywhere, from the furnishings to their clothing.  A glass cage full of spiders is on the table near PRINCE’S (arf arf) elbow.  A view of the magnificent city and the outlying slums are visible below through the windows of this towering structure.)

Priest:         YOU can do as you PLEASE, Prince Itcho.  Your will is sovereign.  It is so ordained.
Prince:         So you’ve TOLD me.

2  (The PRINCE is rising, carefully balancing the spider on his hand as it scampers around.  He looks bored.)

Prince:         Very well, do what you MUST, priest.  The CITIZENS mustn’t be deprived of their standard of living.

3  (PRINCE is depositing the spider into PRIEST’S hand.)

Priest:         As you WISH, my prince.
Prince:         Well, if there’s nothing else, I think I’ll NAP.  Here...

PAGE TWENTY-EIGHT
1  (CLOSE-UP of PRIEST’S outstretched hand, the spider in his palm.)

2  (TIGHT ON PRIEST’S face as he watches the prince leave.)

3  (BACK TO PRIEST’S hand, closing over the spider, squooshing it.)

4  (CUT TO: an ESTABLISHING SHOT of the roof of an old building in the slums, the following night.  There are two silhouetted figures -- SUKO and GRANDPA -- standing on the roof, all alone.  The modern city is visible in the distance, shining in the night.)

Suko:         That’s your plan, old man?

PAGE TWENTY-NINE
1  (MOVE IN ON THE TWO of them, SUKO regarding the old man with arms crossed over his chest.  GRANDPA is smiling in resignation, shrugging.)

Grandpa:         A meager one, I know, but it’s ALL we have.
Suko:         I seem to be doing all the work.

2  (SUKO is rubbing his chin thoughtfully as the old man reaches out and touches SUKO’S sword.)

Grandpa:         From what my granddaughter told me, you are UP to the job.
Suko:         I wasn’t in the middle of the enemy’s house then.

3  (CLOSE-UP of GRANDPA, dismissing this with a wave of his hand.)

Grandpa:         You can do it, warrior.  I can see it in your eyes.  You’re no stranger to impossible odds, eh?

PAGE THIRTY
1  (CLOSE-UP of SUKO, the briefest hint of a smile curling one side of his mouth.)

Suko:         No.  We’re well acquainted.
Grandpa (off):         Then you’ll help us...?

2  (SUKO is gripping the hilt of his sheathed sword in his fist and walking towards the stairs.)

Suko:         Why not?  Lost causes are a hobby of mine...

3  (CUT TO: later that night, in the streets of the slums, as the WARRIORS have come again to gather more workers.  They’re herding these poor unfortunates out of the buildings into the streets, marching them towards the waiting transports.)

Warrior:         Let’s GO!  Move it along!
Warrior B:         The FACTORIES are waiting for you, dogs!

To be concluded...