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9: Onward and Downward

This issue begins later in the day of the events that ended the previous issue. The opening setting is still Sylvia Roth's beach house outside Seattle. The entire issue takes place at night.

PAUL SMITHSTEEN begins the scenario in his JEROME SANDERS personality and his captions will be labelled as such. Note that JEROME's captions use British spelling where appropriate (everybody else should use US spelling).

Narration in this issue is in the form of JAMES's journal entries, which should be indicated on-panel by a distinctive (neat and precise) hand-written script. These captions will be marked in the script as "JAMES's JOURNAL", to distinguish them from third-person narrative captions.

PAGE ONE. Six panels.

Panel 1

A mostly dark panel, with a bare patch of concrete flood illuminated by a cone of harsh light from an overhead source.

CAPTION:

The Future:

Panel 2

The same view of the same space. Now CHI-YUN is in view. She's stumbling and falling forward into the patch of light, as if she's been violently shoved or thrown there. She looks very similar to when we first saw her in ISSUE 1 PAGE 12: black hair cut into a short bob and a simple "Chinese-style" dress. What we can see of her from this angle shows severe cuts and bruising, as if she's been in a bad fight.

No dialogue.

Panel 3

CHI-YUN is lying in the circle of light, looking back towards us. We can clearly see the blood and bruises on her face. She looks scared, but she's trying to rise.

No dialogue.

Panel 4

We now look directly down on CHI-YUN, as if we are standing over her. She's looking back up at us. But a large black boot -- our boot -- is STOMPING down on her face. (We don't need to show the moment of impact, but the image needs to be obviously very brutal.)

No dialogue.

Panel 5

An extreme close-up of a brown eye, wide open and staring. And displayed in the dilated pupil is an exact replica of the action in the previous panel.

CAPTION:

The Present:

Panel 6

A bedroom in SYLVIA ROTH's beach house. It's night but there should be enough light (from the window) to see FRED sitting up in bed. His posture should indicate that he's suddenly sat up, as if startled awake. He's naked, at least to the waist (which is all that should be visible).

FRED (shouting):

CHI-YUN!

PAGE TWO. One panel.

Panel 1

One of our patented splash pages showing the whole group assembled (and drinking coffee -- have you noticed how much coffee gets drunk in these splash pages?). This is the main room of the house. It's still night, and the group has obviously been hastily woken and dragged downstairs -- hair is uncombed, men are unshaven, and clothing is haphazard. CHI-YUN will be wearing exactly the same clothes she wore at the end of the previous issue. FRED will be dressed in his usual jeans and T-shirt but is barefoot. DON is in the process of buttoning his shirt. JEROME wears a belted dressing gown. SARA wears an oversized T-shirt (only) and has her hair in a braid. JAMES (as if you couldn't guess) wears the ever-present, green-and-black, skin-tight costume (cowl pulled back to show his face) and has the SHIELD near at hand.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

Journal. 9/20/14.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

Somewhere near Seattle.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

Make that 9/21. It's 12.30am already.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

We don't keep very regular hours in this group.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

In fact, there's nothing regular about this group.

PAGE THREE. Five panels.

Panel 1

Everyone is looking at FRED, who is speaking.

FRED:

How many times do I have to say this? If we stay here, something bad's going to happen to Chi-Yun.

Panel 2

CHI-YUN leans in towards FRED.

CHI-YUN:

How bad?

FRED:

Let's just say it involves combat boots and your face.

Panel 3

CHI-YUN turns towards DON, her hand raised in a "pick me" sort of gesture.

CHI-YUN:

I'm sold! Let's go!

Panel 4

SARA has grabbed CHI-YUN by the wrist and pulled her arm down. She speaks to FRED.

SARA:

What — because you dreamed it? Maybe it was just a dream, or maybe—

SARA (softly):

Wishful thinking?

CHI-YUN:

Hey!

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

Fred has psychic powers. I don't know their extent, but they're real. I've seen them working.

Panel 5

A close up on JAMES speaking.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

Even so, I can't help questioning what he's said.

JAMES:

How does precognition work? Is the future inevitable? Or how do you know it will happen if we stay? Maybe it will only happen if we leave.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

I try to be fair, but there's something creepy about psychic powers that makes them hard to trust.

PAGE FOUR. Five panels.

Panel 1

FRED is standing and throwing up his hands, dismissively, as he turns away from the group.

FRED:

Fine. Debate it all night. 'Cause you know what? I don't really care what you do.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

Or maybe it's just something about Fred that's hard to trust.

Panel 2

They watch FRED as he leaves the room.

CHI-YUN:

Hey! What about me and the boots?

Panel 3

Another big panel showing the remaining group. FRED is no longer in the room.

JAMES:

I was just trying to point out—

DON:

I know, James. We just don't know what action will make his vision come to pass or what will avert it.

JEROME:

Better to go out and confront the danger than wait for it in our beds. Action is always better than inaction.

SARA:

You would think that. I like the beds here!

CHI-YUN:

Can we get back to me and the boots?

Panel 4

Close-up of SARA as she suppresses a yawn.

SARA:

We can't just sit here debating it all night.

Panel 5

JAMES looks at DON.

JAMES:

We don't have to. It's your call, Don.

PAGE FIVE. One panel.

This page is a collage of small images showing the group's activities as they prepare to leave. The exact order of images isn't important, so I'll treat the page as if it was a single big panel. JAMES's captions should be laid over and alongside the images but don't refer directly to them so again it is not important which caption goes where (as long as the order of the captions is preserved).

Panel 1

SARA is in her bedroom, stuffing clothes into a travelling bag. FRED is outside the house, pacing and smoking. JEROME is in a bathroom, shaving with a straight razor. JAMES pulls the cowl up to cover his face. In a series of small images (a bit like a "film strip"), CHI-YUN stands in front of a full-length mirror and uses her SHAPE CHANGING ability to cycle through a variety of outfits, finally settling on some practical travelling clothes (which she will wear for the remainder of the issue). DON is shrugging into his flying jacket and making a telephone call. JAMES straps the SHIELD to his left forearm. SARA walks down the hallway towards DON, bag slung over her shoulder and looking sullen. FRED sits on his motorcycle, fastening his helmet. A hand (SARA's) activates the house alarm panel. The same hand locks the front door. DON opens the driver's door of the RV.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

Most people believed that my father — the original wearer of this costume — was the leader of his team.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

That wasn't the case.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

Strikeforce was an ad hoc group of strong-willed individuals. My father was often their spokesman but nobody led them.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

I'm starting to understand the frustration in his journals when he insisted that Strikeforce was a group but not a team.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

How do you get a group of type "A" personalities — Strong willed? Try bull headed — to work together?

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

With the enemies we've got hunting us, if we don't work together we're dead.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

But even though we're not a team yet, we do have something Strikeforce didn't.

PAGE SIX. Five panels.

Panel 1

From our POV looking in through the windscreen of the RV, DON looks back at us.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

We have a leader.

DON:

Everybody in? Nothing left behind?

Panel 2

Exterior view of the RV (possibly with FRED's motorcycle nearby). The headlights are on, illuminating the road and the surrounding trees.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

I don't know what we would do without Don. Become completely unglued I guess.

DON (from inside vehicle):

Let's rock and roll.

Panel 3

A long view of the RV driving turning off the private road to the house and onto a main road. FRED is riding in convoy behind it.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

He always has a plan.

DON (from inside vehicle):

I don't know where we're going but I'll think of something.

Panel 4

The two vehicles continue down the road. They pass an inconspicuous small car, stationary, pulled off the road and showing no lights.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

At least, he's kept us safe so far.

Panel 5

The car, headlights now on, pulls on to the road. The RV is some way down the road but still visible.

No dialogue.

PAGE SEVEN. Six panels.

Panel 1

It's the CAVE which houses SPIRIT's computer centre, first seen ISSUE 1 PAGE 3. The computer fills the panel with its multitude of screens and displays and flashing lights. All dialogue in this scene will be lettered in Chinese with a translation given immediately under each caption. (The usual disclaimers about the inaccuracy of the Chinese apply.)

CAPTION:

Meanwhile:

CAPTION:

China.

Panel 2

From a different angle we can see SPIRIT standing in front of the computer, regarding it critically. She's dressed as all the other times we have seen her: long, loose robes. Her long hair is pulled into a bun at the back of her head.

SPIRIT:

Chinese dialogue (translation below)

TRANSLATION:

What have I forgotten?

Panel 3

The old Chinese MONK who usually accompanies SPIRIT's musings moves to stand a little behind her.

MONK:

Chinese dialogue (translation below)

TRANSLATION:

To sleep?

Panel 4

SPIRIT pointedly ignores him as she studies the screens in front of her. The MONK delivers his line "dead-pan".

SPIRIT:

Chinese dialogue (translation below)

TRANSLATION:

Don has false identity documents, passports, credit cards. Secure communications. Secure computer link.

MONK:

Chinese dialogue (translation below)

TRANSLATION:

And a very big gun.

Panel 5

She turns to face him and, despite her words, she can't help laughing. His face is as serene and impassive as always.

SPIRIT:

Chinese dialogue (translation below)

TRANSLATION:

Be serious! I have Internet worms erasing their data trail. I have trojans lurking for evidence of Krai operations. I have—

Panel 6

She turns back to regard the screens. Her brow furrows and her hands clench into fists at her sides.

SPIRIT:

Chinese dialogue (translation below)

TRANSLATION:

I have forgotten something—

PAGE EIGHT. Six panels.

Panel 1

The HACKER's untidy, equipment-cluttered cubicle, seen in ISSUE 3 PAGE 7. All we see in this view is his face leaning in to a computer screen, illuminated by its glow.

CAPTION (continuing SPIRIT's speech):

Chinese dialogue (translation below)

TRANSLATION

"But what?"

HACKER:

Satellite navigation!

Panel 2

The SPY (last seen in ISSUE 1 PAGE 9) is standing in the HACKER's DEN (there is a conspicuous lack of clear surfaces to sit on). He looks around at the mess -- and it really is a mess. Too much equipment, jury-rigged (or just broken) circuit boards, pizza boxes, soda bottles, precarious piles of books, etc. We don't need to see the HACKER in this panel. In fact, the remainder of the page can focus on the SPY's actions while the HACKER speaks off-panel.

CAPTION:

Elsewhere:

SPY:

What about satellite navigation?

HACKER (off-panel):

We use their van's own sat nav to track them! It's brilliant!

Panel 3

The SPY removes a pile of old pizza boxes from a swivel chair.

SPY:

You said somebody was hiding their data trail.

HACKER (off-panel):

Yeah, but—

SPY:

Somebody better than you.

Panel 4

The SPY regards the chair seat with an expression of distaste. He's still holding the pizza boxes and he's making no attempt to sit down.

SPY (softly):

Though doubtless just as slovenly.

HACKER (off-panel):

But that's the brilliance! We don't read their data, we send them data! Set up fake traffic alerts and direct them—

Panel 5

The SPY drops the boxes back on the chair.

SPY:

—Anywhere we want?

HACKER (off-panel):

Bingo! We have a rough idea where they are but you don't have the manpower — wolfpower — to search. So your boys set up an ambush in the general area—

Panel 6

The SPY uses a pocket handkerchief to wipe pizza sauce off his hand.

SPY:

—And you direct our quarry into it.

HACKER (off-panel):

Exactamundo! Hey, we make a good team!

SPY (softly):

Unfortunately.

PAGE NINE. Four panels.

Panel 1

The focus of the panel is a small backpack, sitting on a table. It's a simple, blue-and-pink nylon affair. It's already partially full, though we don't need to show what with (it's just clothing). Hands are sliding a small laptop computer into it. SPIRIT's hands. From what we can see of her (just her hands), she's exchanged her voluminous robes for a lacy white shirt.

MONK (off-panel):

Chinese dialogue (translation below)

TRANSLATION:

Leaving is a mistake.

SPIRIT (off-panel):

Chinese dialogue (translation below)

TRANSLATION:

There are some things I can only do in person.

Panel 2

The same view. SPIRIT's hands now put a pair of TONFAS in the backpack. (Martial arts weapons -- similar to police batons, a stick with a short handle jutting out at a right angle.)

MONK (off-panel):

Chinese dialogue (translation below)

TRANSLATION:

Going after Parsifal is foolish.

SPIRIT (off-panel):

Chinese dialogue (translation below)

TRANSLATION:

He is a monster. If he still lives, he must be brought to justice.

Panel 3

A close-up on the MONK's face. He looks disapproving.

MONK:

Chinese dialogue (translation below)

TRANSLATION:

Do you seek justice? Or vengeance?

SPIRIT (off-panel):

Chinese dialogue (translation below)

TRANSLATION:

You are not my master, old man.

Panel 4

Now a full-length view of SPIRIT as she swings the closed pack on to her back. And it's a startling transformation. Gone are the concealing robes. She wears a white shirt with a simple lace decoration and tight black trousers ("pedal pushers"). Her figure is slim and athletic. Sneakers on her feet. And her hair is loose, a mass of golden-brown waves reaching half way down her back. She may be wearing make-up. She is startlingly beautiful yet remarkably "ordinary". If we didn't know otherwise, she could just be an ordinary Chinese-American college girl heading for class.

SPIRIT (off-panel):

Chinese dialogue (translation below)

TRANSLATION:

I am just doing what he would do.

PAGE TEN. Five panels.

Panel 1

The RV (and motorcycle) turns in to the parking lot of a small, out-of-town motel. A handful of other cars are here. We should be able to see a row of cabins, mostly in darkness. A large sign reads "BATES MOTEL".

No dialogue

Panel 2

The group is leaving the RV. JAMES has his long overcoat over his costume. FRED is taking off his motorcycle helmet. SARA looks obviously disgusted.

SARA:

A Bates? Come on, Don, I'd rather sleep in the van!

DON:

They take cash, they don't ask questions, and they let you check in at two A.M. That's what we need right now.

Panel 3

The interior of the motel's office. It's a typical grubby, cheap place. The scruffy young guy behind the counter is watching TV. DON and FRED approach.

DON:

We need uh—six rooms. Just for one night.

Panel 4

The guy is now standing and writing something in a ledger on the counter. He's not looking at DON or FRED.

CLERK GUY:

Cash or—?

DON:

Cash.

CLERK GUY:

It's real late. Travelled far?

FRED (softly):

Thought they didn't ask questions?

Panel 5

DON and FRED are outside again, passing room keys to the rest of the group.

DON:

Get what you need out of the van. We can make plans in the morning.

PAGE ELEVEN. Six panels.

Panel 1

Back on the main road, the car we saw earlier is parked under the "BATES MOTEL" sign. The driver's window is wound down a little and we see a small pair of binoculars poking out.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

Even without Fred's "dream", I'm glad to be away from that house.

Panel 2

This panel is "binocular shaped", showing us the view that the hidden observer sees. SARA is unlocking the door of a cabin. The number "6" is nailed to the door.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

I don't think that Sara was safe there.

Panel 3

We now see the man in the car. He's unimportant and we're never likely to see him again -- just some guy. He's holding the binoculars to his eyes, still observing the motel through the window. His other hand holds a phone to his ear.

MAN:

She's in cabin number six. Alone.

VOICE (from phone):

Good work. Get out of there and we'll take over.

Panel 4

CHI-YUN opens the door of her cabin. The number nailed to the door is "9".

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

Although if my suspicions about her are correct—

Panel 5

Still in close-up on door number "9", CHI-YUN has now entered and the door slams shut.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

—her power would have kept her safe from harm.

Panel 6

Identical panel, but the number "9" has slipped loose, pivoted round on the nail, swung down, and now looks like a "6"! (We will need to show the number slightly crooked, or motion lines, or some other visual clue to communicate what has happened.)

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

I think she's inherited her mother's supernatural luck.

PAGE TWELVE. Five panels.

Panel 1

A car, something fast and probably expensive, is driving in to the parking lot of the motel. Nobody else is around. (The car which was parked in the street, if we happen to see that way, has gone.) It's still night but the lights of the motel will let the reader see the action.

CAPTION:

3 A.M.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

Sara hasn't said it outright, but I think her mother is Sylvia Roth. A major mob boss in Los Angeles.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

Alleged mob boss.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

And, incidentally, an old nemesis of my father.

Panel 2

Four men have emerged from the car (one from each door). They are dressed in a variety of casual clothes. Each wears a loose coat that could have some form of weapon concealed under it. They are looking round, cautious but confident. None of them speak. Their names are unimportant so I'll refer to them as "THUGS".

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

As if we didn't have enough to worry about, her enemies have been watching Sara.

Panel 3

Two of the men have approached the door to one of the cabins. The door has the number "6" on it. It might not be obvious to the reader but this is actually CHI-YUN's room. One of the men is doing something to the lock.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

So I'm glad we got away from the house.

Panel 4

The door is open and the two men are slipping in.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

We'll be safer here.

Panel 5

Now inside cabin six. We don't need to show much of it -- just a bed and a nightstand. A patch of light from the doorway falls across the bed and illuminates the sleeping figure. And it's CHI-YUN. (This should be obvious to the reader. She's sleeping face up, for a start.) She's sleeping fully clothed, dressed exactly as she was when she arrived at the motel. (This may not be obvious in this panel but will become obvious later.) The shadow of a THUG falls across her.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

Although, honestly, I don't know if we'll ever be truly safe again.

PAGE THIRTEEN. Seven panels.

Panel 1

In close-up, a THUG's hand holding some wadded cloth comes down over CHI-YUN's mouth and nose.

No dialogue.

Panel 2

CHI-YUN's eyes are open and her hand grabs the THUG's wrist...

No dialogue.

Panel 3

...but her eyes roll up and her grip slackens. It should look like she's rapidly lost consciousness.

No dialogue.

Panel 4

Now in JEROME's room. What we can see of it is identical to CHI-YUN's room. JEROME lies asleep in bed.

SFX:

THUD

Panel 5

JEROME's eyes fly open.

No dialogue.

Panel 6

JEROME is standing at his window. He's parted the blinds and is looking through the crack. He's naked apart from his shorts (and will remain so for the remainder of this action).

No dialogue.

Panel 7

A view of JEROME's door from the outside. The door is open and JEROME is standing in plain view.

JEROME (shouting):

Ho! You there!

PAGE FOURTEEN. Four panels.

Panel 1

JAMES's room. And he's also in bed, but he's awake and starting to rise. He's wearing full costume and the SHIELD is propped against the edge of the bed.

JAMES:

Whu—

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

I've been sleeping in the costume since we've been on the run. The spider-silk weave is incredibly light and comfortable. By now, I hardly notice I'm wearing it.

Panel 2

JAMES is now at the window and peering through the blinds, exactly as JEROME was a few panels ago. The SHIELD is now in its familiar place on his left arm.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

Looks like it was a good move.

Panel 3

The action that JAMES can see: JEROME has charged the two THUGS who were waiting by the car. We see him in the middle of a dramatic martial arts manoeuvre: kicking one THUG in the face while punching the other.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

Jerome's good in a fight—

Panel 4

A wider view shows the other two THUGS, who have emerged from CHI-YUN's room. One of them has CHI-YUN slung over his shoulder. Both of them are drawing weapons from beneath their coats (Ingram MAC-11 machine pistols). JEROME stands, facing them, poised for more combat. Maybe 10 yards separates him from them. The first two THUGS are lying on the floor next to JEROME, showing no signs of getting up.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

—but he's not wearing bullet-proof spider silk!

JAMES (off-panel, shouting):

Jerome!

PAGE FIFTEEN. Three panels.

Panel 1

JEROME executes a flashy forward roll towards the THUGS as one of them sprays bullets well above his head (where he would have been if he hadn't rolled).

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

Jerome believes he's from 17th century England.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

I guess bullets were slower back then, because he seems to believe he can dodge them.

Panel 2

As JEROME rolls to his feet again, the second THUG fires! JEROME has closed the gap between them considerably. He takes three bullets at close range. We should clearly see where they hit: one goes cleanly through his upper arm; the second grazes the side of his chest, drawing blood but not looking serious; the third, however, hits him in the stomach area and looks like a very serious wound. (Actually they would have hit in the reverse order to what I've just said, as the line of bullets would rise with the gun's recoil, but on the comic panel that's probably not important.)

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

He's going to get himself—

Panel 3

JEROME is on his hands and knees in front of the two THUGS. He's obviously badly hurt, though he's struggling to rise. There is a LOT of blood. One of the THUGS is aiming his weapon, intending to shoot JEROME at almost point-blank range. It looks bad for our hero...

No dialogue.

PAGE SIXTEEN. Four panels.

Panel 1

...When at that moment, the SHIELD comes slicing through the air like an over-sized discus and smashes into the THUG's wrist. The gun flies out of his hand. This action is shown in close-up detail on the THUG, so we don't need to see what's happening to the second THUG.

No dialogue.

Panel 2

Now, in a wider view, we see SARA is engaging the second THUG. She's delivering a spinning kick to his head. He's hit hard and he's going to go down and not get up again. SARA is dressed in her over-sized night shirt: she's obviously been raised from sleep, too. (Please note that SARA doing high-kicks in nothing but a T-shirt is a natural consequence of plot and character and is not intended to provide gratuitous titillation. We don't do things like that in this comic.)

No dialogue.

Panel 3

JAMES runs up to the (now disarmed) THUG. As he runs, he reaches out his left hand and grabs the flying SHIELD as it spins past him. He should do this effortlessly, without looking, as if it's second nature to him. (We haven't seen the full path of the SHIELD. Presumably it ricocheted off something or curved through the air after disarming the THUG. The exact mechanism isn't important at this point, we just need to make the reader aware that JAMES can catch the SHIELD when he throws it.)

Panel 4

JAMES reaches the THUG, the only one still standing, and puts him down with a hard, efficient right hook. JEROME, trying (and failing) to stand up, watches.

JEROME (softly):

Nicely done with the shield, James.

PAGE SEVENTEEN. Six panels.

Panel 1

DON comes into view. He's only half dressed (shirtless) and running towards JEROME.

DON:

Sara, first aid kit from the RV.

Panel 2

DON is now kneeling next to JEROME, examining him. JEROME is still conscious but not moving.

JEROME:

See to the girl first.

Panel 3

JAMES is kneeling over CHI-YUN, who seems to be sleeping peacefully. He checks her pulse in a professional manner (at the side of her neck).

JAMES:

She's out but she's ok. Drugged, maybe?

Panel 4

SARA drops to her knees next to DON. She's carrying a large, sturdy box with a red cross on it -- obviously a medical kit.

SARA:

Is he gonna be ok?

Panel 5

DON just looks at SARA. His face is grim. JEROME, on the ground between them, notes the look.

JEROME:

I have taken worse injury than this.

Panel 6

Close-up on JEROME's face as his eyes close.

JEROME (softly):

But I do not much care for your century's guns.

PAGE EIGHTEEN. Six panels.

Panel 1

JAMES is standing, holding CHI-YUN in his arms, with FRED (finally arrived on the scene) standing in front of him. FRED is fully dressed. He doesn't look at JAMES as he speaks, instead scanning the nearby motel cabins.

FRED:

We need to move. Curtains are twitching. Somebody's sure to have called cops by now.

JAMES:

I know. Here — take CHI-YUN to the RV.

Panel 2

JAMES passes the still-unconscious CHI-YUN to FRED. In this view we can see one of the THUGS at their feet. It's the one SARA kicked, and he's regaining consciousness, starting to move.

FRED:

Me? Wh—

JAMES:

I need to deal with the low-life.

Panel 3

The THUG on the floor is hauled up by JAMES's gloved hand.

No dialogue.

Panel 4

The THUG is slammed hard into the exterior wall of a cabin.

SFX:

WHUMP!

THUG:

Uhhhh

Panel 5

JAMES steps up to the THUG and holds him up against the wall -- holding him by his throat.

JAMES:

Who sent you? Why are you after us?

THUG:

I don't even know who you are—

Panel 6

Still holding the THUG, JAMES pulls back his free hand, making a fist, seemingly about to punch the man in the face. The THUG looks genuinely terrified -- after all, JAMES has the whole scary costume thing going.

JAMES:

Wrong answer.

THUG:

Don't hurt me!

PAGE NINETEEN. Five panels.

Panel 1

JAMES freezes, fist still cocked.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

Don't hurt me?

Panel 2

JAMES has lowered his fist and let go of the THUG. We need a slightly wider view of the two of them so we can see FRED has come up behind JAMES.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

What am I doing? The guy's terrified of me.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

Of the costume.

Panel 3

Now JAMES has turned his back on the THUG, who remains staring after him, sweating. FRED has stepped closer to the THUG, staring at him.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

I put this costume on so I could help people. Not so I could beat up on people.

FRED:

He doesn't know who we are. He's working for Jacques. He's here to kidnap Sara. As a pawn to use against her mom.

Panel 4

DON and SARA are supporting JEROME and walking him to the RV. JEROME is heavily bandaged but he's conscious and on his own two feet. JAMES steps towards them.

JAMES:

Need a hand?

DON:

It's under control.

Panel 5

DON looks at JAMES.

DON:

How about you?

JAMES:

Under control.

PAGE TWENTY. Six panels.

Panel 1

Close-up on FRED's eyes, showing the reflected face of the THUG.

FRED:

You. Will. Forget —

Panel 2

Slightly wider view of FRED's face, and we see a trickle of blood from his nose (and his eyes are now normal).

FRED:

Aw, hell.

Panel 3

Wider view again, showing both FRED and the THUG. The THUG hasn't moved, obviously intimidated by all the weird stuff going on. FRED swings a punch at the THUG's head.

SFX:

SMACK

Panel 4

FRED looks down at the THUG who is now slumped at his feet.

FRED:

You will stay unconscious in a heap.

Panel 5

FRED catches up with the others, who are entering the RV (DON and SARA still helping JEROME, JAMES opening the side door for them).

FRED:

We'll be identified. Krai will be right on our tails.

DON:

I know.

Panel 6

FRED grabs DON by the arm.

FRED:

We can't take Jerome to a hospital!

DON:

I know, Fred.

PAGE TWENTY-ONE. Four panels.

Panel 1

SARA rounds on FRED.

SARA:

Are you crazy? look at him!

JEROME (softly):

They are right, Sara.

Panel 2

DON helps JEROME through the door.

DON:

Fred, you'll ride with us. I don't want us separated now.

Panel 3

Inside the RV, DON lowers JEROME onto one of the narrow beds.

DON:

I'm sorry, Jerome.

JEROME:

No need. You have to think of the whole group.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

Nobody ever pretended this life would be easy.

Panel 4

DON is settling himself into the driver's seat. SARA sits next to him, looking surly.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

But we all knew what we were signing on for.

DON:

Sara... We can't risk a hospital. We have no idea what the Krai's intelligence sources are or where—

SARA:

It's because of me. Those men came to get me.

DON:

Oh.

PAGE TWENTY-TWO. Five panels.

Panel 1

The HACKER staring intently at his computer screen. It's displaying a message window: some sort of "alert" icon and the text, "POSITIVE SEARCH MATCH". (As usual, computer screens in 2014 shouldn't look like any current proprietary software interfaces.)

No dialogue.

Panel 2

The HACKER's hands typing on his keyboard.

HACKER (off-panel):

"Anywhere we want them". Suckers.

Panel 3

Exterior view of the RV on the highway. We can possibly see FRED's motorcycle attached to a rack on the back.

DON (from inside vehicle):

It's not your fault, Sara. It's mine. I didn't take the threat from Jacques seriously.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

Whatever happens, we all trust Don to pull us through.

Panel 4

A close-up view of the RV's high-tech, computerised dash. DON is reaching down and pressing a button under the display labelled "Sat Nav".

DON (off-panel):

I've been making too many mistakes.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

We have to. He's all we've got.

Panel 5

Outside, somewhere on the highway, illuminated by headlight beams from a large, stationary truck, stand two K-MEN in WOLFMAN form. One of them holds a communications device -- a phone with a video screen. On the tiny screen, if the POV of the panel permits, we might be able to see the SPY.

FROM PHONE:

Don Newman is your primary target. Eliminate him and the youths will be at our mercy. Repeat — Don Newman is to be terminated

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

We'd be dead without him.

Next: Unglued

See also: Don's Mission Report; Los Angeles Globe Headlines

Copyright © 2003, 2016 by David Meadows. All rights reserved.