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29: Maelstrom!

This issue takes place a day (and a bit) after the last one. Characters have changed clothes, obviously, though they all still dress in character. PAUL's own personality is currently back in charge of his body, though there will be no clue to this other than in dialogue (but it does mean he won't be wearing HARRY's fedora).

The majority of the issue will take place at night, outdoors, in heavy rain. Consequently, the art should be suitably dark and murky (though of course we will still need to show what is going on).

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. Four panels.

Panel 1

We are looking at a large, modern factory at night. The factory is engulfed in fire and is probably a lost cause despite the numerous fire trucks surrounding it and despite the heavy rain currently falling (the rain is significant, so it needs to be obvious). A sign in the foreground reads: GREEN INDUSTRIES. (There should also be some sort of corporate logo... I don't know, a green tetrahedron, or something?)

GREEN (off-panel):

This was my Allentown plant last week. A miracle that no one was seriously hurt.

ELLIOT (off-panel):

I read about it. It was an accident, wasn't it? A lightning strike on chemical tanks?

ELLIOT (off-panel):

I can't use the FBI to investigate your insurance claims, Tim. That's stretching past friendships a bit far.

Panel 2

Now we've pulled away from the above scene and we see that it is a film playing on the screen of a notebook computer. The computer sits on the far side (from our POV) of a large mahogany desk in a big office and the screen faces us. Next to the computer sits a man -- but in a visitor-type chair, so we should be aware that this isn't his office. He is TIM GREEN. He's around 60, grey hair almost completely gone, slim and thin-faced, and wearing an expensive business suit. In this panel he is pressing a key on the computer keyboard. In the background we should see more chairs (empty), the office door, and probably some book cases (with unidentifiable books).

GREEN:

It was a lightning strike. But an accident?

SFX (keyboard):

tak

GREEN:

I got this at the weekend.

VOICE (from computer):

Having problems with the weather, Green? Just another insurance write off? Barely a dent in your billions? Lucky nobody was killed—but maybe you won't be so lucky next time. I'll destroy you, Green. I'll tear your empire apart piece by piece, then I'll destroy you. You know I have the power. Watch the skies. Maybe lightning will strike twice.

Panel 3

Now we're looking the other way, at the person who sits behind the desk. It's STEPHANIE ELLIOT the director of the FBI (who we saw back in ISSUE 14 PAGE 9). She's wearing suitable "office" clothing. Behind her is a big window but the blinds are drawn so we can't see outside.

ELLIOT:

That voice—

GREEN (off-panel):

It's Henry Sturm.

ELLIOT:

Maelstrom.

GREEN (off-panel):

Yes. I'm certain of it.

Panel 4

Now a wide view of the office, showing them sitting opposite each other.

ELLIOT:

How can he have done something like that?

GREEN (off-panel):

Come on, Stephanie, he was in a group that called themselves the Holocaust Squad! We both know what he's capable of. He's psychopathic, he's insane, and he's got reason to hate me.

ELLIOT:

No, I mean—

PAGE TWO. Four panels.

Panel 1

Back to a close-up on ELLIOT.

ELLIOT:

How could he do it? He must have lost his weather control powers in the Event.

Panel 2

Close-up on GREEN.

GREEN:

He's not using powers. I think he's using technology.

ELLIOT (off-panel):

A weather control machine? Is that possible, post-Event?

GREEN:

Jacques Flaubert at Louisiana State has been working on it. Here—

Panel 3

This shows the computer screen again (this time with GREEN's hand in the foreground as he's pressing keys). The picture on the screen is a schematic of some kind of big, high-tech weapon firing a laser beam into a clouded sky, and a lightning bolt coming down from where the laser intersects the clouds. Small captions with tiny writing (too small for us to read, because it's not important) point to different parts of the picture.

GREEN (off-panel):

You focus a megawatt laser into a cloud formation to trigger a pre-plasmatic—

ELLIOT (off-panel):

Whoosh. Did you see that physics flying right over my head? Just tell me—do you think Maelstrom could have built something like this?

Panel 4

And back to the wide view of the two of them.

GREEN:

He doesn't need to. Flaubert's prototype was stolen ten days ago.

ELLIOT:

Prototype. Megawatt. Laser. Oh.

ELLIOT:

You could have led with that. Is there anything we can do if he uses the weapon again?

GREEN:

Yes—

PAGE THREE. Two panels.

Panel 1

In the main panel of the page, our heroes' RV is driving along a dark, deserted road in lightly-forested, hilly country. It's night and rain pours from the overcast heavens. JAMES is driving, with SARA in the front passenger seat. (We can't see this, but speech captions should be positioned appropriately.)

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

"We can pray nobody gets in the way."

CAPTION:

Thursday 30 October 2014.

CAPTION:

New Jersey.

CAPTION:

10:30pm.

SARA (from vehicle):

You could just admit you're lost.

JAMES (from vehicle):

We're not lost. We're taking a scenic route.

Panel 2

Now we are looking in to the cab of the RV, through the front window. The window is slick with rain but we can see through the part cleared by the wipers. JAMES is on our right (driving) and SARA on our left. We don't need to see much behind them in the body of the vehicle.

SARA:

We wouldn't be lost if you'd turned on the Sat Nav when you turned off the Interstate.

JAMES:

I've explained why I don't like the Sat Nav.

SARA:

Oh that's right. You have the same irrational phobia of technology that your father had.

JAMES:

That's not—

11. CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

—Not entirely true. I don't trust the satellite navigation because the Krai can use it to trace us. But Sara knows that.

PAGE FOUR. Four panels.

Panel 1

Same view of the two of them in the cab.

SARA:

Did your father ever tell you why he hated machines?

JAMES:

He never—

JAMES:

He never talked about his career as Major Democracy. I learned it from reading his old journals.

JAMES:

And he never hated machines.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

Except maybe the killer robots.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

But you can't really blame him for that.

Panel 2

Now we see the RV from the outside again. It's approaching a bridge over a steep, narrow ravine. The bridge is one of those box-like things made of steel girders.

SARA (from inside vehicle):

My mother never talked much about her super-villain career, either.

SARA (from inside vehicle):

Actually she never talked to me much at all.

SARA (from inside vehicle):

Hey, did you just see a flash of—

Panel 3

Just as the RV is about to drive onto the bridge, a huge bolt of lightning strikes it. (Strikes the bridge, not the RV.) There is a big, colourful pyrotechnic display.

SFX:

KRAK-A-BOOM

SARA (from inside vehicle):

Look out!

Panel 4

The RV swerves off the road, heading for the edge of the ravine.

No dialogue.

PAGE FIVE. Three panels.

Panel 1

The RV is now driving directly down the steep slope of the ravine. Actually, it's hard to tell whether it is driving or falling, and it's probably not important. We can also see the bridge in this panel -- and the lightning strike has blown out the central section. Girders rain down into the torrent below, several of them striking the vehicle on the way down. It's not a deep valley -- or at least, not with the current level of the floodwater. The river is only a couple of vehicle-lengths below them.

No dialogue.

Panel 2

Inside the cab, which should be drawn at a crazy angle to represent the impossible slope it's driving (falling?) down. JAMES, at least, seems to consider it "driving", gripping the wheel with both hands, his customary confidence unshaken in the face of certain death. SARA is looking ahead with something more like terror on her face.

JAMES (shouting):

Everybody brace for imp—

Panel 3

And a view from outside again as the front of the RV smacks into the swollen river at the bottom, kicking up a huge wave.

SFX:

KER-SPLASH

PAGE SIX. Five panels.

Panel 1

And, oh no, just as we reach an exciting moment I'm going to cut away to an interlude! The scene is an office building at night, seen from the outside. Rain lashes down here, too. There is one particular lighted window (there may be others, but we are only concerned about the one the captions are going to come from).

CAPTION:

Interlude.

CAPTION:

Washington, DC.

VOICE #1 (from inside):

Looks like a wet night.

VOICE #2 (from inside):

Cut the weather report, Pol. What have you got for me?

Panel 2

Cut to the interior of a smallish and modestly-decorated office. We can probably see the rain-streaked window. A woman sits behind a desk: curly brown hair, glasses, middle-aged, slightly overweight. We'll just call her POLLY for now. Standing in front of her is a man that readers might recognise: in his 60s, wiry and tough, looking a little like an older Clint Eastwood. This is MIKE DOYLE, who we met back in ISSUE #4. He's wearing a long (wet) overcoat over casual clothes. She is pushing a cardboard folder across the desk towards him.

POLLY:

Teenage runaways. Federal job.

DOYLE:

What the hell are Feds interested in runaways for?

Panel 3

He has opened the folder and he's obviously surprised by what he sees.

POLLY:

It's not that straightforward. These kids are—

DOYLE:

I know. I've met them.

Panel 4

Now it's her turn to look surprised.

POLLY:

You have? When? Where?

DOYLE:

Last month. California. Remember the Carter case?

POLLY:

Remember it? Sure, that's the one you royally screwed up!

Panel 5

DOYLE is leaning on the desk, facing her belligerently.

DOYLE:

I screwed up? It was you who took a job based on a lame-ass warrant—

PAGE SEVEN. Five panels.

Panel 1

She's staring back up at him with an equally belligerent look.

POLLY:

Yeah, whatever. Are you going to take this one or not?

POLLY:

And here's a hint, Doyle—you owe me two months' alimony and there's no other agency in town that's offering you work.

Panel 2

He has straightened up again and is perusing the folder.

DOYLE:

You're a hard woman, Polly Doyle.

DOYLE:

There's almost nothing to go on. Not even proper names.

Panel 3

He holds out a photograph to her. We'll have to see this from her POV, so we can see whose face is on the photo -- it's CHI-YUN.

DOYLE:

This one's a God-damn shape changer! How the hell am I supposed to find her?

POLLY (off-panel):

You used to be good enough.

DOYLE:

I used to have powers of my own.

Panel 4

He's walking away, towards the office door.

POLLY (off-panel):

So you're not taking the job?

DOYLE:

Mail me what info you've got and I'll start digging.

DOYLE:

Like I said, I've met them. I've got some ideas.

Panel 5

He's exiting the office, closing the door behind him.

DOYLE:

I'm still the best at what I do.

POLLY (off-panel, softly):

I know.

PAGE EIGHT. Three panels.

Panel 1

Inside the cab, JAMES and SARA are disentangling themselves from the airbags which have probably just saved their lives.

JAMES:

Are you ok?

SARA:

Yes. Oh God—the others!

Panel 2

Now we see the rest of the vehicle's interior. It's a mess, with everything not fastened down (which includes computers, clothes, coffee cups, and, er, kitchen utensils) flung all over the place.

It also includes PAUL and FRED, but they are lying embedded in a huge translucent mass of gloop. In fact, it's a giant jellyfish. In fact, it's a giant jellyfish with a mouth (because it needs to speak).

PAUL:

What the hell?

FRED:

This is so disgusting, Chi-Yun!

JELLYFISH:

Yes I just saved your lives.

JELLYFISH:

No need to thank me.

JELLYFISH:

No, don't mention it—

Panel 3

JAMES and SARA are clambering over the seats to join the others in the back. Note that JAMES has found the time to strap his SHIELD on to his arm. CHI-YUN is back in her normal form. PAUL and FRED are standing on the floor and holding on to furniture to stay in place. CHI-YUN isn't holding on to anything (we already know that she can walk upside down on the ceiling, so she can certainly stick to a sloping floor).

PAUL:

Been taking flying lessons from Don, James?

JAMES:

Ho ho, very funny.

SARA:

I think we're watertight but if we sink all the way under...

FRED:

We need to get out. Chi-Yun, get the top hatch.

PAGE NINE. Five panels.

Panel 1

An outside view again. The vehicle's "top hatch" (sunroof) is open. CHI-YUN is standing on the roof and reaching down to help out FRED. In this view, we should be also able to see the raging river swirling around the front third of the vehicle. We can also see the lower bridge supports, several metres above them. Rain is still lashing down.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

I'm actually pretty proud of that driving.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

But we couldn't have gotten out of there without Chi-Yun's powers.

Panel 2

A closer view of the scene, and all five of them are now on the sloping roof. PAUL and FRED are kneeling or on all fours. JAMES, SARA, and CHI-YUN manage to keep their footing while standing upright.

SARA:

Can you fly us out?

CHI-YUN:

Not all of us. Two at a time, maybe.

JAMES:

Take Paul and Fred.

Panel 3

A close-up on SARA and JAMES looking up into the sky -- where we can see that CHI-YUN has sprouted a pair of huge wings and is flying up with PAUL under one arm and FRED under the other.

SARA:

I felt it move!

JAMES:

I know. that's why I sent those two first.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

I trusted Sara's luck to keep the RV stable until I got what I needed from inside.

Panel 4

JAMES is dropping back through the hatch.

SARA:

Are you crazy?

JAMES:

Just wait there. I won't be long.

Panel 5

SARA is still on the roof, nervously watching the water swirling around. CHI-YUN is flying back down again.

CHI-YUN:

I'm back! Where is he?

SARA:

Trying to get himself killed.

JAMES (from hatch):

Coming back up!

PAGE TEN. Four panels.

Panel 1

CHI-YUN is now flying SARA and JAMES up and out of the ravine. We can see that JAMES is carrying two large, flat objects.

SARA:

What have you got there?

JAMES:

Warning signs. Because the bridge is down, we need to set them up on the road.

Panel 2

CHI-YUN is setting them down on the level ground of the road surface. FRED and PAUL are nearby.

SARA:

We're about to get swept to our deaths and you think about signs?

JAMES:

I think about protecting people.

JAMES:

It's what we do.

Panel 3

JAMES holds out one sign to CHI-YUN (who doesn't take it just yet).

JAMES:

Take it over the river and set it up about a hundred yards down the road. I'll take the other one.

FRED:

Don't mind us. We'll just stand here and get wet.

JAMES:

And we'll have to call this in to the highway patrol.

SARA:

Guys—

Panel 4

SARA is pointing off to one side.

SARA:

Just before the bridge got hit, I saw a flash—

PAUL:

That would be lightning.

SARA:

No! A second before the lightning. A red beam from that hill over there—

PAGE ELEVEN. Five panels.

Panel 1

CHI-YUN takes to the air once again, heading in the direction that SARA was pointing.

CHI-YUN:

I'll check it out!

Panel 2

The other four look up at the winged figure retreating into the darkness.

JAMES:

Wait!

FRED:

You're saying wait to Chi-Yun?

PAUL:

There's probably nothing there.

Panel 3

SARA faces PAUL. In the background JAMES holds out the "emergency" sign (which CHI-YUN didn't take) to FRED, who looks at it disdainfully.

SARA:

Are you kidding?

SARA:

With us there's always something there!

Panel 4

The four are standing in identical positions but now the view is framed by in a panel shaped like a figure 8 on its side, with a thick, black surround. As if we are looking at them through binoculars.

VOICE (off-panel):

We missed the factory. Repeat, missed the factory. Over.

Panel 5

We see two men lying flat on a ridge, looking down towards the demolished bridge. (There's actually no need to show the bridge in the panel if it seems obvious that's what they're looking at.) One looks through a pair of binoculars, the other holds a walkie-talkie to his mouth. They are both dressed in camouflaged combat fatigues but they don't seem military -- the guy with the binoculars wears a backwards baseball cap and the other guy has a "rebel" flag stitched to the back of his jacket. We'll call the guy with the walkie-talkie THUG #1 for dialogue purposes. The other one will be THUG #2.

THUG #1:

But there are some people here—

PAGE TWELVE. Four panels.

Panel 1

A close up of another man. This is HENRY STURM, aka MAELSTROM, though the text won't identify him by name immediately. We just see his face in this panel. He's wearing one of those floppy yellow waterproof hats that sailors wear, with water dripping from the brim. He has a large, hooked nose, bushy eyebrows, and he is glaring out of panel at "us" with a dark, malevolent glare. He has a radio earpiece in his ear with a microphone that extends alongside his cheek.

STURM:

Excellent! Witnesses to my genius!

VOICE (from radio):

No, boss, I think you ought to come see them—

STURM:

Impossible! I am calculating a new firing sequence.

Panel 2

Now a wider view of STURM (showing that he has a yellow waterproof poncho to match his hat) so we can see that he is typing on a notebook computer. It's still pouring with rain, but that shouldn't bother 21st-century computers. In the background of the scene should be the hint of large machinery mounted on the back of a flatbed truck, but details shouldn't be too specific at the moment.

STURM (softly):

Refractory ionization index was twenty percent—

VOICE (from radio):

Boss—

Panel 3

STURM is waving his fist in anger or frustration (even though the guy on the radio can't see it).

STURM:

What do I pay you for?

STURM:

If they come this way — deal with them!

Panel 4

Back to the two wet lookouts on the hilltop.

THUG #1:

Deal with them, he says.

THUG #2:

It's his money.

THUG #1:

I'm gonna ask for a raise.

PAGE THIRTEEN. Four panels.

Panel 1

Ok, time for an unrelated interlude. This scene still takes place at night but it's not raining here. It appears to be a city park: a green area, mostly grass but with some trees, surrounded by high-rise buildings. Any people in this scene will be dressed appropriately for a milder (and drier!) climate than the one we just left on the East coast.

We see SUZI G, last shown in ISSUE #25 PAGE 7. She's wearing a plain, long-sleeved, black shirt and "artistically" torn black leather trousers and her lipstick and eye make-up is dark and overstated. She is in the foreground of the panel and looking towards a large white marquee in the background. (Hmm... that probably means we can't see her face properly. Oh well, we'll show it in subsequent panels.) We can see other people -- mostly young -- filing into the marquee. A couple of large, menacing security guys flank the tent's entrance. The entrance and the area in front of it is flood-lit.

Readers who haven't been keeping track of the subplots are probably going to be hopelessly confused, but I'll try to make things obvious without resorting to plot exposition in captions.

CAPTION:

2nd interlude.

CAPTION:

Houston, Texas.

Panel 2

A close-up on the marquee entrance. We can see the security guards more clearly -- they are tall, broad-shouldered thugs with shaved heads and sullen expressions. They don't appear armed but they could possibly have weapons beneath their zipped-up black jackets. Not that it's relevant to this scene.

We can also see the painted sign next to the marquee entrance:

TEMPLE OF UNITY
HELP FOR BODY AND MIND
ALL WELCOME

No dialogue.

Panel 3

We now see SUZI striding across the grass towards the temple. She is still a dozen yards away.

VOICE (off-panel):

Oh my gawd!

Panel 4

SUZI is stopped as she is accosted by two female fans (we'll call them FAN #1 and FAN #2, because I'm original like that). They are high-school age, both wearing black and emulating SUZI's make-up and hair style. One of them has a logo on her t-shirt which says GRANITE HEAD in chunky gothic lettering. SUZI looks nervous and flustered and is looking at the marquee guards (in the background) rather than at the girls.

FAN #1:

It is you, isn't it?

SUZI:

Uh—No—I—

FAN #2:

Oh my gawd Suzi we're your biggest fans!

PAGE FOURTEEN. Five panels.

Panel 1

SUZI has turned and is walking briskly away from the marquee. The fans hurry to keep up.

FAN #1:

What are you doing here? Have you come to hear Brother Thomas speak?

SUZI:

No—

FAN #2:

Oh my gawd the kids at school will never believe we met Suzi G in the park!

Panel 2

SUZI has stopped and grabs one of the girls (probably FAN #2, because she's the most annoying) by the upper arm.

SUZI:

Listen, you mustn't tell anybody that you saw me here.

FAN #2:

Ow! You're hurting!

Panel 3

Close-up on SUZI's intense black eyes.

SUZI:

Swear it!

Panel 4

A view of the three of them again. SUZI has released the girl. We can possibly still see the marquee in the background.

FAN #2:

Ok, ok! But—

Panel 5

We now see a man observing the scene from a distance. He's standing among some trees. We only see his silhouette from behind, so we can't really tell much about him. His name is KLOUD (as the readers will shortly find out).

KLOUD:

"—Why can't we tell anyone?"

KLOUD:

"Of course we trust you, Suzi"

KLOUD:

"Backstage passes? Oh my gawd!"

PAGE FIFTEEN. Five panels.

Panel 1

KLOUD has slumped against a tree. He is still in silhouette but his posture indicated extreme exhaustion. In the background, we can see SUZI still walking away from the marquee and the two fans moving in another direction. We will call the other speaker in this scene KLIMB.

KLIMB (off-panel):

Kloud? Did you learn anything?

KLOUD:

Only that she believes the Temple of Unity is evil.

KLIMB (off-panel):

Nothing we didn't already know, then.

Panel 2

Another silhouette now is standing next to KLOUD. This is KLIMB. It's another male, of similar build to KLOUD, maybe a little taller and thinner.

KLOUD:

I don't know what her interest is or what she intended to do there.

KLIMB:

So what are we gonna do?

Panel 3

Now a close-up front view of KLOUD's face. He's Caucasian, no more than 20 years old, with wavy black hair and dark eyes.

KLOUD:

For now, Klimb, we just watch. I need to figure out what's going on.

Panel 4

A look inside the Temple's marquee. The scene should be similar to when we first encountered them, back in ISSUE #6 PAGES 18–21. We can see the stage with BROTHER THOMAS "preaching" to the crowd, with the white-clad temple SISTERS -- including FAITH -- behind him.

CAPTION (continuing KLOUD's speech):

"There's something there we've never dealt with before. Something—"

Panel 5

A close-up on FAITH's face. In her eyes, we can clearly see an image of KLOUD's face.

CAPTION (continuing KLOUD's speech):

"—Powerful.

PAGE SIXTEEN. Five panels.

Panel 1

Back with our four Heroes: JAMES is striding off in the direction CHI-YUN flew. The others look on.

JAMES:

If we spread out, we'll have a better chance of spotting her.

Panel 2

Same view. JAMES is a few strides further on while the others still watch. He's talking away to himself, apparently unaware that they haven't budged.

JAMES:

Everybody keep in touch by phone.

Panel 3

Same view. He's vanishing rapidly into the night.

JAMES:

I'm sorry I didn't bring extra flashlights from the van. Does anybody want to borrow mine?

Panel 4

Finally, he has stopped and looked round.

JAMES:

Well come on!

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

Sometimes it's hard to continually motivate people.

Panel 5

The remaining three reluctantly follow in a straggling line.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

There's a mystery to investigate! You wouldn't think that they would be put off by a little rain.

FRED:

Somebody really needs to talk to him.

SARA:

Don't look at me!

PAUL:

In my professional opinion—

PAUL:

—he wouldn't listen.

PAGE SEVENTEEN. Five panels.

Panel 1

Back to the hapless THUG #1 and THUG #2 lying on the wet hilltop. This is a close view of them talking, with our POV from in front of them -- they are looking at each other, not looking out of panel (at us) as they should be if they were keeping a proper watch.

THUG #1:

What I don't get is, why don't he just use the laser to blow the factory to smithereens, 'stead of messing about making lightning?

THUG #2:

It's his gimmick, ain't it? His, you know, signature attack method.

Panel 2

Same view of them talking.

THUG #1:

I don't get it.

THUG #2:

You don't have to "get it". It's his money.

VOICE (off-panel, from above):

Whose money?

Panel 3

Same POV for us -- and now they *are* looking ahead, and upwards. Our view is pulled back and we are seeing their faces between a pair of high, black boots (i.e. there is a man standing between our POV and the thugs, only a foot or two from them, facing them). Oh, ok, I'll ruin the suspense -- it's JAMES.

No dialogue.

Panel 4

Our POV is pulled further back. We now see that the boots are topped by dark green leggings, skin-tight to show off rippling leg muscles.

No dialogue.

Panel 5

And pull back further still to show the skin-tight, black costume over JAMES's broad muscular back, the back of his cowl, and the disk of his shield strapped to his left arm.

THUG #2:

I think we oughta call the boss.

JAMES:

No, I really don't think you should.

PAGE EIGHTEEN. Five panels.

Panel 1

Cut to a scene of FRED trudging up a grassy hill, collar turned up against the rain, head down, looking thoroughly miserable.

FRED:

That's ok, James, I don't need you to rescue my cigarettes.

FRED:

Yes, James, little warning signs are much more important.

FRED:

Sure, James, we'll follow you on another exciting adven—

SFX (off panel):

THUD

Panel 2

FRED looks off to the side.

SFX (off panel):

WHACK

SFX (off panel):

CRACK

VOICE (off panel):

I really don't want to hit y—

SFX (off panel):

SMACK!!!

Panel 3

FRED trudges off in the direction he was looking.

FRED:

No problem, James, I love reading the minds of thugs you've knocked unconscious.

Panel 4

FRED joins JAMES, who is standing next to the unconscious bodies of the thugs.

FRED:

You took your time over these two.

JAMES:

It's the wet grass. Difficult to keep your footing.

FRED:

Did you learn anything before you punched their lights out, or should I—?

Panel 5

FRED points off to one side.

JAMES:

There's some kind of laser weapon—

FRED:

It's over that way.

PAGE NINETEEN. Five panels.

Panel 1

JAMES is running of in the direction FRED was pointing.

JAMES:

We need to stop it before anybody gets hurt.

JAMES:

Get the others and try to figure out where Chi-Yun went. I'll scout ahead.

Panel 2

JAMES is now running alone among the trees.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

I know what Fred's thinking, but it's not as if I go deliberately looking for trouble.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

Not this time, anyway.

Panel 3

Still running. Now going up a steep, grassy slope.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

And if I don't take charge, we'd never get anything done. Fred acts as if I want to be the leader!

Panel 4

Now he's standing on the crest of a hill and looking down at something ahead of him (which we don't see in this panel).

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

I just want to—

Panel 5

Close up on JAMES's face as he looks ahead and down, eyes wide with surprise.

JAMES:

Woah!

PAGE TWENTY. One panel.

Panel 1

Full-page splash of the laser weapon. It's the real version of the weapon shown as a schematic on PAGE 2. It's mounted on the back of a flatbed truck, that's how big it is. It consists of a long "barrel" made of a tubular steel framework and filled with lenses, mirrors, and prisms. The tube is angled into the sky, supported by hydraulic machinery, and the whole thing is hooked up to a bulky generator near the truck's cab. On a platform about half way down the trailer is a man in yellow waterproofs -- HENRY STURM. The whole thing is parked at the bottom of a shallow depression in the hills, and it is this that JAMES is looking down into (we might be able to see him in the background of the panel, to establish his position).

No dialogue.

PAGE TWENTY-ONE. Four panels.

Panel 1

JAMES is striding down the slope, shouting as he goes.

JAMES:

Step away from the giant laser, sir!

Panel 2

STURM looks over at JAMES. He is shouting and his eyes are manic and scary.

STURM:

Too late, fool! The capacitors are fully recharged. Take one more step and I will blast you to cinders!

Panel 3

JAMES continues to walk. He is still a few dozen metres away from the truck. We can see that the laser weapon is still pointing into the sky.

JAMES:

I have reason to believe that weapon has been used with criminal intent. Step away or—

STURM:

Ahh ha ha ha ha haaa!

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

I'm trying to goad him into firing at me. Better me than an innocent victim.

Panel 4

A close up of STURM typing on his keyboard.

STURM:

Elevation minus thirty degrees... wide dispersal pattern...

PAGE TWENTY-TWO. Three panels.

Panel 1

Small close-up on the glass at the end of the laser's firing aperture. The weapon is still angled up into the air.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

And I'm confident that I can move faster than that bulky weapon can track me.

SFX:

vmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

Panel 2

Same view, but the glass at the aperture is now tilted downwards (use motion lines to show the movement if it's not obvious).

SFX:

vmmmm *click*

SFX:

vmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

Then I realize that the entire weapon doesn't move. Just the mirrors, and they're already tracking me.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

I tense to dodge the beam, but I can't get good footing on the wet grass.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

And if I could, I still can't move faster than light.

Panel 3

The dominant panel is a side/rear view of JAMES, showing the giant laser in the background. He has raised his shield in front of him, both arms through the straps, so that the disk protects his upper torso.

SFX:

vmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

So I raise my father's Shield—

Next issue: Dr Smithsteen's Casebook (Volume 2)

Copyright © 2006, 2019 by David Meadows. All rights reserved.