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26: Patriots

This issue doesn't involve any regular characters, and although it's nominally set "now", the story is told mostly through flashbacks. Therefore, there are no real continuity issues to worry about.

Most narration in this issue is in the form of GENERAL HAMMERSTEIN's memoirs, which should be indicated on-panel by a distinctive (but mundane) typeface. The idea is that these are from his personal diaries or something like that. These captions will be marked in the script as "HAMMERSTEIN's MEMOIRS".

The story spans more than two decades, and during that time HAMMERSTEIN will age noticeably from late 30s to late 50s, losing most of hair and gaining several pounds as he goes. Other people should also age at a realistic pace.

Note that we've previously called HAMMERSTEIN simply "THE GENERAL", but in this issue we'll call him by name as there are other generals involved in the story. (In fact the man we will call THE GENERAL here is HAMMERSTEIN's superior. Confusing, or what?)

PAGE ONE. Two panels.

Panel 1

GENERAL HAMMERSTEIN (modern day, so aged late 50s) stands in full Marine Corps uniform, regarding himself in a mirror. His hat is tucked under one arm and he runs his other hand over his balding scalp. His face is serious. We don't need to see a lot of the room he's in, apart from him and the mirror, but what we do see is drab and utilitarian; a room in a military establishment.

CAPTION:

Friday 17 October 2014.

CAPTION:

K-Man Headquarters.

VOICE (off-panel):

They're ready for you now, general.

HAMMERSTEIN:

Thank you, sergeant.

CAPTION (HAMMERSTEIN's memoirs):

Is this all I have to show for 21 years of my life?

CAPTION (HAMMERSTEIN's memoirs):

How did it come to this?

Panel 2

We see a younger HAMMERSTEIN -- with hair, and in a colonel's uniform -- looking in a mirror. His hat is tucked under one arm and he runs his other hand over his military-precise hair cut. This panel should look the same as the previous one; or perhaps "echo it" is a better term, as it's obviously not the same scene.

CAPTION:

1993.

CAPTION:

The Pentagon.

VOICE (off-panel):

They're ready for you now, colonel.

HAMMERSTEIN:

Thank you, sergeant.

PAGE TWO. Four panels.

Panel 1

Still in 1993, as we should be able to tell from HAMMERSTEIN's hair and uniform. He has entered another office and is saluting the man sitting behind the desk. This man is a Marine Corps general, and we'll just call him GENERAL. He has a folder in front of him, which he will occasionally peruse while talking.

GENERAL:

At ease, colonel. Please, sit.

Panel 2

HAMMERSTEIN is seated. His hat is on the table in front of him.

GENERAL:

What I am about to reveal has the highest security classification. You will not speak of these matters outside this room, even with fellow officers.

HAMMERSTEIN:

I understand, sir.

Panel 3

This will be a close-up on the GENERAL, who is about to deliver a huge chunk of plot exposition.

GENERAL:

Are you aware of the Event of May 27, colonel?

HAMMERSTEIN (off-panel):

I am aware of some unusual happenings on that day, sir, but—

GENERAL:

The Event was a cosmic energy phenomenon which our top scientists are still unable to explain. Whatever it was, the energy wave instantaneously stripped all paranormal abilities from every metahuman on Earth. At the same time, a large amount of cutting edge technology failed and has proved impossible to repair or recreate.

GENERAL:

This has of course has significant impact on our defense capability.

Panel 4

Close-up on HAMMERSTEIN, looking shocked. This is news to him.

HAMMERSTEIN:

A weapon? A precursor to an attack on the United States?

GENERAL (off-panel):

As far as our intelligence can determine, every nation on Earth was equally affected by the event.

HAMMERSTEIN:

Then an attack of extra-terrestrial origin?

PAGE THREE. Three panels.

Panel 1

Back to a view of the GENERAL. He has his document folder open and is reading something inside it.

GENERAL:

You were in action when the Krai invaded in '89, were you not, colonel?

HAMMERSTEIN (off-panel):

In Central America, sir.

GENERAL:

We cannot discount the fact that it could be a Krai weapon. However—

GENERAL:

However, intelligence believes the event was triggered by Strikeforce.

Panel 2

Back to HAMMERSTEIN, who hasn't lost his shocked look.

HAMMERSTEIN:

Strikeforce are heroes—

Panel 3

A close-up on the GENERAL.

GENERAL:

Strikeforce's political motivations have always been... ambiguous.

GENERAL:

Unusual activity was detected at the Strikeforce space station that day—

HAMMERSTEIN (off-panel, softly):

Strikeforce have a space station?

GENERAL:

Had. It's now at the bottom of the Pacific.

GENERAL:

Strikeforce have been unwilling to talk to us since the Event. But the Defense League—who, you will appreciate, suffered losses of their own—has confirmed that Strikeforce was in some way involved.

GENERAL:

But all this is background you can read up on later. Let's address the reason you're here.

PAGE FOUR. Four panels.

Panel 1

The GENERAL is still statically delivering chunks of plot exposition. Oh dear.

GENERAL:

Some months before the event, several Marine Corps personnel volunteered for a medical experiment.

GENERAL:

Genetic material from Krai prisoners was implanted into human embryos.

Panel 2

Close-up on HAMMERSTEIN, who is growingly increasingly more shocked.

HAMMERSTEIN:

That's in—

CAPTION (HAMMERSTEIN's memoirs):

Inhuman? If I had said it, what different path would my life have taken?

HAMMERSTEIN:

—credible.

CAPTION (HAMMERSTEIN's memoirs):

Thus can one word change a life. And, not being egotistical, a nation.

Panel 3

The GENERAL is speaking again. He's looking down at the papers in front of him.

GENERAL:

Incredible is correct, colonel. A tribute to American ingenuity.

GENERAL:

Even more incredible is that the embryos remain viable after the Event—even though we no longer possess the technology to repeat the procedure.

GENERAL:

And tests show that each one is expressing Krai genes.

GENERAL:

Twelve Krai-human hybrids, colonel. Potential super-soldiers of the future, and our best hope for metahuman defenders in the post-Event world.

Panel 4

The GENERAL looks HAMMERSTEIN in the eye.

GENERAL:

You will oversee their training.

PAGE FIVE. Two panels.

Panel 1

HAMMERSTEIN stands alone in a room with big glass windows. The room is white, functional, minimally furnished -- it's a part of a military hospital. HAMMERSTEIN is looking down through the big windows (but we don't need to include what he's looking at in this panel). He is in full uniform. He's speaking into a cordless phone -- but it's a big, chunky, 1993-technology phone, not the tiny cell phones we're used to seeing in 2014 (or 2005, for that matter).

CAPTION:

Six weeks later.

HAMMERSTEIN:

Yes, general. A routine delivery. The child appears alive and well.

HAMMERSTEIN:

Yes—

Panel 2

The dominant panel on the page shows the room he's looking into. It's a delivery room. The mother will be tastefully hidden from the reader's view, but we can see the father -- he's in a Marine Corps uniform (though he probably has a hospital-type gown over the top of it). The medical staff standing around are also military people (this may be obvious from their attire, I don't know). A nurse holds a baby out to the father -- and it's the baby that's the focus of this panel. It's basically... human. A perfectly normal baby boy, no hint of being half-Krai at all.

HAMMERSTEIN (off-panel):

—It's a human boy.

PAGE SIX. Four panels.

Panel 1

HAMMERSTEIN is back in an office -- evidently HIS office, as he's sitting behind the desk -- talking to a man who sits on the other side of the desk. This man is DR. HENRY FRANKLYN. He's about 30, average build, glasses, brown hair in an unkempt, non-military style -- in fact, he's in civilian clothes and is obviously not a military man.

CAPTION:

Six months later.

FRANKLYN:

Twelve healthy male babies. Lab tests show they all possess Krai DNA, but physically they are 100% human.

HAMMERSTEIN:

Then it's been a failure.

FRANKLYN:

Not a failure, colonel. The genes are undeniably there. We just don't understand how to make them express themselves.

Panel 2

Close-up on HAMMERSTEIN.

HAMMERSTEIN:

What are your recommendations, Doctor?

Panel 3

Close-up on FRANKLYN.

FRANKLYN:

That you find yourselves a better expert.

HAMMERSTEIN (off-panel):

Doctor Franklyn, not only do you have extensive experience with metahuman physiology, you've also studied the Krai. There are no better experts—

FRANKLYN:

There's—

HAMMERSTEIN (off-panel):

—that have a security clearance.

Panel 4

Wide view of the two of them again.

FRANKLYN:

Serval—

HAMMERSTEIN:

Out of the question.

FRANKLYN:

Fennec—

HAMMERSTEIN:

No!

PAGE SEVEN. Five panels.

Panel 1

A completely different scene, while we continue FRANKLYN's plot exposition in voice-over captions. This one shows a young couple—a man in a Marine Corps captain's uniform, a pretty woman holding a baby—moving into a new house.

CAPTION (FRANKLYN's voice-over):

"Then my recommendation is that we let them live out normal lives."

Panel 2

A different couple—this time the man is a colonel—watching as a boy, maybe age five or six, runs into a school yard.

CAPTION (FRANKLYN's voice-over):

"Keep them under observation for a few years."

Panel 3

Another scene. An older boy, maybe age 10 or 11, sits in a doctor's waiting room, his mother (a different woman again) next to him.

CAPTION (FRANKLYN's voice-over):

"Give them regular checkups."

CAPTION (FRANKLYN's voice-over):

"But make sure they're never seen by any doctors other than our own."

Panel 4

A different boy again, this one in his mid-teens. He's in a bathroom and he's holding his hand in front of his face. The nails are elongated, claw-like, and he has a look of panic on his face.

BOY:

Ahhhhhhh!

CAPTION (FRANKLYN's voice-over):

"If they have any kind of latent expression of their Krai genes, it will most likely manifest during puberty."

Panel 5

A different boy, but similar age to the last one. He's sitting in a doctor's surgery (and probably stripped to the waist, so we can see he's got an amazing physique for a high-school student). A doctor is preparing to inject something into his arm.

CAPTION (FRANKLYN's voice-over):

"And if it happens, we need to be ready with something that will suppress it or control it. At least until they are old enough to deal with what we've done to them."

PAGE EIGHT. Six panels.

Panel 1

Colonel HAMMERSTEIN is standing by a door, having just entered. He is saluting. We should be able to see in his face and his thinning hair that he's fifteen years older, probably around 50 now.

CAPTION:

2008

GENERAL (off-panel):

At ease, colonel. Please be seated.

Panel 2

HAMMERSTEIN is seating himself at a conference table. We can now see the other occupants of the room. At the head of the table sits the GENERAL from PAGE 2. At his right is the SPY first introduced back in ISSUE #1 PAGE 9, though a few years younger obviously. It's about time we gave him a name, so we'll call him MR SMITH. SMITH is in an anonymous black suit and wears dark glasses, his usual "man in black" look.

GENERAL:

Colonel Hammerstein, this is Mr. Smith from Homeland Security.

HAMMERSTEIN:

Homeland Security?

SMITH:

It may not surprise you to learn, colonel, that my department has been tracking occurrences of post-Event metahuman activity.

Panel 3

Close-up on HAMMERSTEIN, whose face is carefully neutral.

HAMMERSTEIN:

And why should that concern me, Mr. Smith?

GENERAL (off-panel):

Relax, colonel. Smith is aware of our K-Man program. He has full security clearance.

Panel 4

Looking down the table at the GENERAL and SMITH, from HAMMERSTEIN's POV.

SMITH:

Routine intelligence sifting turned up a potential metahuman hit, which we naturally followed up. It was one of yours.

GENERAL:

Subject nine.

SMITH:

Naturally we had no idea it was a military project.

GENERAL:

We had to step in and inform Homeland Security. Otherwise, the result could have been ...

Panel 5

Close-up on SMITH, who wears a slight (and vaguely creepy) smile.

SMITH :

Messy.

Panel 6

Back to a close-up of HAMMERSTEIN, who is frowning.

GENERAL (off-panel):

From this point on, you will be working with Smith. He will be coordinating the intelligence efforts of project K and liaising with Homeland Security.

PAGE NINE. Four panels.

Panel 1

This scene takes place at night, in the woods, on a clear moon-lit night. It's important to emphasize the clichéd details, to show that we know and we've done it on purpose...

So, we observe, from a distance, a teenage couple parked in a secluded spot and making out in their open-topped car. He's handsome and athletic, she's beautiful, etc.

CAPTION:

2011

CAPTION:

Norfolk, Nebraska.

GIRL:

Oh, Mikey, you're not like other boys...

Panel 2

Now we'll cut to the man observing them. He's a "man in black", obviously one of SMITH's agents.

GIRL (off-panel):

Oh, Mikey... Mikey, your hand!

BOY (off-panel):

It's ok, I'll leave it there. I won't—

GIRL (off-panel):

No! I mean—what's happening to it?

BOY (off-panel):

What? Oh my G—rrrrrraaaaarrrrrrrgggghhhhhhhhh

Panel 3

The girl is out of the car and backing away in horror, with one hand raised to her mouth in a typical "screaming victim" pose. MIKEY is bounding after her -- yes, you've guessed it, he's changed into wolf form. His shredded clothes hang off him in tatters.

GIRL:

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

BOY:

Ouuuuuuuuwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww

Panel 4

Back to the agent observing them. He is talking into a cell phone.

BOY (off-panel):

Grraaaaarrrrrrrr

GIRL (off-panel):

EEEEEEEEEEEE—*

AGENT:

Big Eyes Six to Granny. We have a problem.

PAGE TEN. Four panels.

Panel 1

We're back in the conference room, this time with only HAMMERSTEIN and the GENERAL present. Both men have folders and papers on the desk in front of them. We seem to have come in at the tail end of a meeting.

CAPTION:

2012

GENERAL:

A promotion goes with the new post, of course.

GENERAL:

It's long overdue. It's just that we couldn't, without revealing your work—

HAMMERSTEIN:

I understand, sir.

Panel 2

The GENERAL looks down at the papers on the table.

GENERAL:

The plan's solid, George. Good work.

GENERAL:

You'll keep a covert watch on them while they go through basic training?

HAMMERSTEIN (off-panel):

Of course, sir.

Panel 3

Both men are standing and shaking hands.

GENERAL:

Good work, col—general.

HAMMERSTEIN:

Thank you, sir.

Panel 4

HAMMERSTEIN is saluting.

HAMMERSTEIN:

If you don't mind, sir, I'd like to go and look over my new command now.

GENERAL:

Of course. Dismissed—general.

PAGE ELEVEN. Four panels.

Panel 1

HAMMERSTEIN is walking from a building (it's probably the Pentagon but there won't be enough to identify it in this panel) towards a military staff car. He is now wearing the insignia of a one-star general A Marine stands by the car, holding the door open and saluting. HAMMERSTEIN is walking past two other high-ranking Marine Corps officers (I'll call them OFFICER #1 and OFFICER #2, to distinguish their captions). One of them is looking towards HAMMERSTEIN and calling over.

OFFICER #1:

Hey, George, congratulations on the promotion!

HAMMERSTEIN:

Thanks, Floyd.

Panel 2

The officers watch HAMMERSTEIN getting into the car (he's out of their earshot).

OFFICER #2:

Who was that?

OFFICER #1:

George Hammerstein? Not surprised you haven't heard of him. He's been on the fast track to nowhere.

Panel 3

They watch the car drive away.

OFFICER #1:

He was the golden boy. But he's spent ten years stagnating in recruitment, and now they've put him out to pasture. Hospital administration, or something.

Panel 4

HAMMERSTEIN is getting out of the same car. It's parked on something like a parade square in front of a big, grey, two-storey building, which could be a hospital. Several Marines (not K-MEN, ordinary enlisted men and junior officers) are lined up to greet him. It's actually far less men than you would expect a general to command, but there is obviously a good reason for that. We can also see SMITH, as well as FRANKLYN and the woman we've been calling simply THE DOCTOR since back in ISSUE 1. FRANKLYN and the DOCTOR will be wearing white lab coats. SMITH is in a black civilian suit. This will probably have to be the dominant panel on the page, to fit it all in. (Would have liked it to be a full-page splash panel, but the story pacing doesn't allow for it.)

CAPTION (voice-over, continuing OFFICER #1's speech):

"His career's washed up. Poor guy."

PAGE TWELVE. Four panels.

Panel 1

On a parade ground (not the one we just saw, one on a "regular" Marine base), a company of Marines stands to attention in front of a drill sergeant. In the front rank stand several K-Men. (They have no distinguishing features, but they should be recognizable as K-Men we have seen in previous issues.) They are now aged 18 or 19, very close their "present" age.

CAPTION (HAMMERSTEIN's memoirs):

All twelve men enlisted in the Marine Corps, once we revealed what they were. They were the elite. More than elite, they were unique. The first of a new generation of superheroes.

CAPTION (HAMMERSTEIN's memoirs):

To a man, they stepped forward to serve their country.

Panel 2

Twelve Marines -- the 12 K-Men -- board a Chinook helicopter in a forested area. Other Marines are running around and we can see other helicopters and vehicles in the background.

CAPTION (HAMMERSTEIN's memoirs):

They suppressed their abilities through basic training.

CAPTION (HAMMERSTEIN's memoirs):

Until the day everything changed.

Panel 3

A big crash scene! In a forested area, the Chinook ploughs into the ground, exploding in a huge fireball. (The panel needs to capture the crash at just the right point -- the explosion should be big enough to show us that nobody is walking away from it, but small enough for us to recognize that it's the Chinook.)

CAPTION (HAMMERSTEIN's memoirs):

It should have been a routine training exercise.

Panel 4

A military funeral. Twelve coffins (or as many as we can comfortably fit in the panel) draped in the Stars and Stripes. Marines with rifles fire a salute into the air. Military men and civilians stand in attendance. Among the civilians we can see SAM WEAVER from ISSUE 17, as well as other K-MAN parents shown earlier in this issue (at appropriate ages).

CAPTION (HAMMERSTEIN's memoirs):

But it was necessary that they die.

PAGE THIRTEEN. Three panels.

Panel 1

Indoors, a windowless room, and the 12 K-MEN stand to attention while HAMMERSTEIN addresses them.

HAMMERSTEIN:

America has never asked so much of her soldiers. That you give up your former lives. Your families. Your friends.

HAMMERSTEIN:

But it is the only way to guarantee the secrecy and security of this project.

Panel 2

Close-up on HAMMERSTEIN as he speaks.

HAMMERSTEIN:

You are unique soldiers. You need unique training.

HAMMERSTEIN:

If you thought boot camp was tough—

Panel 3

The K-MEN gymnasium (previously seen in ISSUE 14, as well as other places). K-MEN are working out, some in human form, some in wolf form. They lift weights, run on treadmills, punch punchbags, etc. All under the watchful eyes of FRANKLYN and THE DOCTOR.

CAPTION (voice-over, continuing HAMMERSTEIN's speech):

"—This is where we sort the wolves from the boys."

CAPTION (voice-over, continuing HAMMERSTEIN's speech):

"When you go into the field, I want you to be ready for anything."

PAGE FOURTEEN. Five panels.

Panel 1

Central to this panel is a humanoid shape wreathed in flame -- completely immolated, blazing more brightly than any man should and still be alive. But he evidently is alive, and mobile. From his outstretched arms pour streams of fire. His targets: two K-MEN in wolf form who are diving to avoid the flames. It's not obvious (and not important) where the location is -- it may be outdoors, some kind of industrial area with high factory walls in the background, some abandoned vehicles (a couple of them on fire), a forklift, some stacks of crates, etc. We don't need to show all of this background in this panel, as the focus should be on the battle. This is the big dramatic panel on the page -- the other panels can be smaller.

CAPTION:

21 July 2014

CAPTION:

Phoenix, Arizona.

FLAMING MAN:

Yaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

SFX:

Fwoooooooossssssshhhhhhhhhh

K-MAN #1:

Yow!

K-MAN #2:

Backup! We need backup!

Panel 2

Two K-MEN (wolf form) are observing the battle. One (#4) has a rifle raised to his shoulder, aiming at the FLAMING MAN. It's not a standard military assault rifle -- it's more like a single-shot sniper's rifle. We can see the FLAMING MAN blasting more streams of flame at the first two K-MEN, who are still diving and rolling to avoid the attacks. We should also now see that secondary fires are burning all around the area.

K-MAN #3:

Take the shot!

K-MAN #4:

Shut up!

K-MAN #3:

Do it! They're dying out there!

Panel 3

Close-up on the hand of K-MAN #4 squeezing the trigger.

No dialogue.

Panel 4

Close up on the muzzle of the rifle firing -- and we can see that the projectile isn't a bullet, it's a dart.

SFX:

ffft

Panel 5

Close-up on the FLAMING MAN. We can't see any features, clothing, anything like that. Just flames. But we can see the dart streaking towards his chest -- and bursting into flames, possibly even melting.

No dialogue.

PAGE FIFTEEN. Six panels.

Panel 1

One of the first pair of K-MAN (we'll call him #1) dives over some big crates as flames stream inches above him. The speech caption comes from his ear, as it's a transmission to his radio earpiece.

SFX:

Fwoooooossssshhhhhhhh

RADIO:

No effect. The tranq had no effect.

K-MAN #1:

Crap.

Panel 2

He crashes to the ground behind the crate, where K-MAN #2 is already crouching.

K-MAN #2:

You ok?

K-MAN #1:

Singed. We should've brought grenades.

K-MAN #2:

We should take off and nuke him from orbit. It's the only way to—

Panel 3

Close-up on K-MAN #1, nose raised to the air.

SFX:

sniff sniff

K-MAN #1:

You smell that?

SFX (off-panel):

sniff sniff

K-MAN #2 (off-panel):

Oh God. The propane tanks.

Panel 4

K-MAN #1 seems to be gathering himself to pounce over the crate.

K-MAN #1:

If he torches those, half the town will go up.

K-MAN #1:

I'm taking him down.

Panel 5

The FLAMING MAN is blasting flame off to one side as K-MAN #1 springs over the crate and directly at him.

FLAMING MAN:

Heeeeeeelllllllp Meeeeeeeeee

SFX:

Fsssshhhhhhh

K-MAN #1:

Grrraaaaaarrrrrrrgh

Panel 6

The FLAMING MAN is down, still blazing away, with K-MAN #1 kneeling, straddling him, flames licking at him, his head thrown back and jaws open in a wide howl of pain even as his claws slash down.

K-MAN #1:

Owwwwwwwwwwwwwwllllllll

SFX:

Slash!

SFX:

Slash!

PAGE SIXTEEN. Five panels.

Panel 1

A uniformed K-MAN (human form) stands rigidly to attention in HAMMERSTEIN's office. HAMMERSTEIN sits behind his desk. The K-MAN's hands are wrapped in bandages and he has a dressing on his head.

K-MAN:

In summary, sir, we were out of time and I did what I had to do to neutralize the threat.

HAMMERSTEIN:

Given the chance to repeat the mission, would you take the same action?

K-MAN:

To save the lives of my fellow marines and the civilians I have sworn to protect? I would take the same action without hesitation.

K-MAN:

Sir.

Panel 2

The door is open and FRANKLYN has burst into the office.

FRANKLYN:

Why is there a dead boy on my table?

HAMMERSTEIN:

Doctor Franklyn!

HAMMERSTEIN:

Dismissed, marine.

Panel 3

FRANKLYN and HAMMERSTEIN are now alone in the office.

HAMMERSTEIN:

That boy posed a clear and present danger to—

FRANKLYN:

He was fourteen!

Panel 4

Close-up on HAMMERSTEIN.

HAMMERSTEIN:

And suicide bombers come much younger than that, doctor.

HAMMERSTEIN:

Can you imagine the results if terrorists sent a pyrokinetic child to a shopping mall? Or into the Whitehouse on a school outing?

HAMMERSTEIN:

It's your job to ensure we have ways of detecting that kind of threat. And neutralizing it.

Panel 5

FRANKLYN is leaving the office.

FRANKLYN:

Neutralizing, like hell. Find somebody else to do your damn autopsies.

FRANKLYN:

I quit.

CAPTION (HAMMERSTEIN's memoirs):

Nobody ever quits, doctor.

PAGE SEVENTEEN. Five panels.

Panel 1

HAMMERSTEIN and the female DOCTOR are consulting in the medical room that overlooks the gymnasium.

HAMMERSTEIN:

How is Wierbowski healing?

DOCTOR:

Quickly. About twice as fast as I would have expected.

HAMMERSTEIN:

In wolf form?

Panel 2

Close-up on the DOCTOR looking down through the window.

DOCTOR:

No, in human form. In wolf form he would probably heal even faster.

Panel 3

In the gym, we see a number of K-MEN in human form. Some lift weights, some are on treadmills, etc. In the foreground one particular K-MAN lies on a flat bench, pressing a bar above his chest -- or trying to. The bar is loaded with a huge amount of weight and is pressing down upon him.

CAPTION (voice-over, continuing DOCTOR's speech):

"The wolf form has twice the stamina of the human. Fifty percent greater reaction speed. Four times the strength."

K-MAN:

nnnnnngggggggg

Panel 4

Close-up view of the bench-pressing K-MAN. And he's morphed into WOLF form.

CAPTION (voice-over, continuing DOCTOR's speech):

"But I don't want him to remain in that form for the time it will take to heal his burns."

K-MAN:

Grrahhhhhhhhhhh

Panel 5

The wolf has hurled the bar, plates and all, clear across the gym, where it crashes into the wall.

K-MAN:

Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

SFX:

CRASH!

CAPTION (voice-over, continuing DOCTOR's speech):

"I don't think it's good for them."

PAGE EIGHTEEN. Five panels.

Panel 1

In the woods. Not just any woods -- specifically these are the woods where DON fought the K-MEN, as related back in ISSUE 17. It's daylight, with clear autumn weather. In fact, this panel shows the scene we saw back in ISSUE 18 PAGE 5, in FRED's psychic flashback. DON is here. He looks badly banged-up, as if he's already been through a tough fight (actually it was a car crash, if you recall). But his gun is in his hand and firing at a K-MAN (wolf form) who leaps at him. The bullet has struck the K-MAN squarely in the chest.

CAPTION:

Thursday 25th September 2014.

CAPTION:

McDonough County, Illinois.

K-MAN:

Grrrrrarrrrrrrrrrrgh

SFX (gun):

BOOM!

Panel 2

The K-MAN, still in wolf form, lies on the forest floor. There is blood. Quite a lot of blood. No sign of DON now.

No dialogue.

Panel 3

HAMMERSTEIN's office. He is alone, doing some paperwork. The desk phone rings.

SFX:

r-i-i-i-n-g

Panel 4

HAMMERSTEIN answers the phone.

HAMMERSTEIN:

Hammerstein.

VOICE (from phone):

Newman got Watkins.

HAMMERSTEIN:

Got—?

VOICE (from phone):

He's dead.

Panel 5

The phone is back on the cradle. HAMMERSTEIN sits with his elbow on the desk and his forehead cradled in his palm.

No dialogue.

PAGE NINETEEN. Four panels.

Panel 1

The K-MEN barracks. It's a typical military barracks room -- long, narrow, two rows of beds, lockers, etc. Several K-MAN are here (actually 11, but there's no need to cram them all in each panel), all in human form and all in various states of dress. They are in the process of putting on full dress uniform.

CAPTION:

Today.

Panel 2

Same scene, same K-MEN, still dressing (now in a more advanced stage).

No dialogue.

Panel 3

Same scene, same K-MEN. They are finishing dressing -- adjusting caps, lacing boots, etc.

K-MAN #1:

So, we gonna do it? Wolf up?

K-MAN #2:

It'll play hell with the uniforms.

K-MAN #3:

So? Uncle Sam can afford it.

K-MAN #4:

We should do it. For Watkins.

Panel 4

Dressed, they are lining up to leave the room. The lead soldier (K-MAN #1) is opening the door.

K-MAN #1:

Let's do it.

PAGE TWENTY. Three panels.

Panel 1

In a repeat of PAGE 1 PANEL 1, HAMMERSTEIN stands regarding himself in the mirror.

CAPTION (HAMMERSTEIN's memoirs):

Twenty-one years devoted to this project. It's been hard. Personally and professionally.

CAPTION (HAMMERSTEIN's memoirs):

But my sacrifices have been nothing compared to theirs.

CAPTION (HAMMERSTEIN's memoirs):

And nobody can ever know.

Panel 2

Same scene, except he's now looking sideways towards the off-panel speaker.

VOICE (off-panel):

General?

HAMMERSTEIN:

Hmmm? Sorry, sergeant, I was lost in thought.

Panel 3

HAMMERSTEIN exits through a door which is being held open by a saluting Marine sergeant.

CAPTION (HAMMERSTEIN's memoirs):

Let's get this over with.

PAGE TWENTY-ONE. Two panels.

Panel 1

Small close-up on HAMMERSTEIN's face. His eyes are wide with shock.

CAPTION (HAMMERSTEIN's memoirs):

Oh, dear lord.

Panel 2

And now we see what he sees. He has come in the side door of a small hall (part of the K-MAN base, so drab military decor). Several rows of chairs have been set out in front of a small raised platform. HAMMERSTEIN's command stands to attention by their seats -- a couple of dozen Marines in dress uniform, the DOCTOR in a plain black dress, SMITH the SPY (also in black, but that should be no surprise). And occupying the front row, 11 K-MEN. In wolf form, which is indeed hard on dress uniforms.

On the raised platform: a speaker's lectern and a couple of flags (the flag of the United States, naturally, and the flag of the Marine Corps. On the wall is the Marine Corps emblem. There is probably some other military paraphernalia, but I can't think what.

No dialogue.

PAGE TWENTY-TWO. One panel.

Panel 1

HAMMERSTEIN is standing at the lectern, addressing the assembly. The flags should probably be visible, flanking him, as he speaks.

HAMMERSTEIN:

Private Christopher Watkins won't receive any medals. Won't be getting a hero's funeral.

HAMMERSTEIN:

But he understood that when he joined this unit. He didn't ask for the gifts he was given, but that didn't stop him using them, and using them gladly and willingly, in the service of his country.

HAMMERSTEIN:

He never shirked his responsibility, never sought to escape his duty, even when that duty led to his death.

HAMMERSTEIN:

I pray for the day when the world is at peace and units such as ours are no longer needed. When that day arrives, perhaps the world can learn what we, his friends and comrades, will never forget.

HAMMERSTEIN:

That when his country called, Christopher Watkins answered. And that he paid the greatest price any man can pay in her service.

HAMMERSTEIN:

And that when he died, he died a patriot.

HAMMERSTEIN:

And a hero.

Next issue: Under the Boardwalk

Copyright © 2005, 2018 by David Meadows. All rights reserved.