# Scene 1 - INT Housing #Narrow corridor with rationed lighting creating dim pools of illumination amid the darkness. The metal walls have many doors, each about ten feet apart with a perpendicular corridor between every set of five doors. The halls extending off into the distance for perhaps a mile or more.RUS, a slim and wiry man, creeps along the corridor. His clothes seem dark, but in light several uniform stripes of dark forest green can be seen wrapped around his gray sleeves, collar, chest and belt. A sheen of sweat covers his face and his eyes are wide and darting.Silence can't be easy on these metal floors, but he is both silent and quick. At any sounds, from the CREAK of a door to any distant echoing FOOTSTEPS, he pauses. Stopping at one intersection, he glances down to a small wristband device with a faint holographic map display. He peers around a corner at one particular door, then slips off into the darkest shadows of a nearby wall.A teen GIRL in a silver-white padded flight suit jogs down the perpendicular corridor, her feet SLAPPING the floor. When some other door opens along her path, a teen BOY in a similar uniform but partially unzipped leans out and calls to the Girl.BoyI'll be there.The Girl barely slows down, only half glancing as she calls back.GirlYou'll never make it.She disappears around a corner and the Boy closes his door. Seconds later, the door Rus looked at opens and SERIN emerges, a woman of just above average height and build. Her clothes, visible in the light from within the open doorway, are form fitting and gray with stern black stripes in the same places as Rus's green stripes. She looks back inside to where a small figure in a face-concealing yellow shawl has followed her, their hands folded together.Serin (strained)I'll call tonight. Love you, mom.The figure nods and Serin pulls away, closing the door behind her. She stands outside the door, closes her eyes and takes a deep, calming breath. Her hands clench and reopen, her shoulders lower, and she quietly sighs. When she walks away, her footsteps become short and clipped, making soft TAPS. At a sudden loud BEEP from behind her, Serin glances back. The door behind bursts open and the Boy runs out in the same direction the Girl went, passing Serin without comment. She frowns and continues. After crossing several blocks and a couple turns, Serin arrives at a large door set against a long exterior wall with no smaller doors, hallways or even windows. To the side of the large door is a card slot. Serin digs through her pockets, pauses, then searches with more care. Her face, half-illuminated under the lights, scrunches up as she scowls. Around this time, Rus saunters from another hallway.RusOfficer Serin, a good morning.She pulls away from his sudden appearance, shoulders raised and standing firm ready for a fight then watches as he pulls a card from his pocket and inserts it into the card slot, which takes it.Serin (suspicious)Um Rus, right? Seems we've run into each other a lot lately.RusIs that so, Officer Serin? We both work for command, so that is not odd. Perhaps you notice me more.He tries a casual smile, but his teeth make for a predator's grin. The large door opens. Beyond is a short hallway with solid metal walls, like a tube cut through armored plate, after which is another door and a bright exterior. The card does not emerge from the slot. Rus glances back at Serin.RusIs something wrong, Officer Serin? Are you not going out?Serin (reluctant)My ID. I must have dropped it somewhere. Left it behind.RusMy greatest sympathies, Officer Serin. You think you dropped it? I can help you look.SerinNo. I'll find it. You continue with wherever you were going. Thank you, Officer Rus.Rus stares at her, his expression unreadable, then taps a button near the card slot. His card comes back out and the doors close. Half turning from Serin, he starts to search around the area.RusI am in no hurry. Allow my help, Officer Serin. I am good at spotting.She doesn't speak up or take her eyes off him, beginning to back away toward the hall. At a loud BEEP from his wristband, she stops and watches him, her eyes narrowing. Rus works steadily around the area, then kneels down at a dark corner before holding up a card much like his own.Rus (triumphant)Here it is, Officer Serin.Serin (flash of anger)You you knew right where that was. Were you following me? Did you ...Rus (pained)You think I'm following you? I have some friends here. One is a quiet man. He rarely leaves his room.He takes a step closer to her and holds out the card.Rus (rehearsed)I sometimes visit and say, come out and do something. He does not answer comms, so I must visit him.She eventually takes the card and checks the front and back.Rus (trying to smile, insinuating)And why are you here? Perhaps you were following me.SerinNo. I was That's a nice thing to do for your friend. If you'll excuse me.He brightens at her compliment. She walks around him and slips her card into the door slot. Before the doors can open, Rus has inserted his card in behind hers and tries to casually stand near her.RusWhere might you be going? Our destinations could be similar. I will walk with you.A sharp BEEP from his wristband device interrupts him. He smiles at her with the same hopeful look while holding the arm behind his back, but at another couple of sharp BEEPS he sighs and checks the screen, then starts reading with sudden focus. The large doors open and Serin exits without replying to him. Rus watches her go, frustrated, but when she is gone he continues reading.# # Scene 2 EXT Gardens # A giant artificial habitat dome filled with plants bio-engineered to be oxygen-producing and beautiful, from the large to the small, with many bright green things and flowers of every color. Walking paths wind through, connecting a few widely spread grass lawns. The HUM of insect life fills the air.On one of the paths, Rus hurries up a slight incline toward another edge of the dome. He holds his wristband in front of him and a small two-dimensional hologram from the device provides a live feed of KRILL, a man with only one eye and metal plates covering the other half of his head.Rus (exasperated)What do you mean dying? He has never been well. How is today any different?KrillThis time it's serious. He took a bad turn last night and won't accept medical help today. The green branch members are gossiping about who the replacement will be and your name came up.Rus rolls his eyes and grunts, considering this news. At the mention of a replacement, he grimaces.KrillMany well, all except Tark say they'll preemptively refuse the job if you want it. Do you?RusI have more immediate wants. Won't command decide this anyway?KrillCommand technically makes the final decision, but some officers refuse the position before it comes.Rus nears a group of thirty or more children in identical all-silver uniforms gathered at the edge of a lawn. Most carry small bags and water bottles, while a few have canvas tents, sports equipment, or large cooler chests. They hesitate to actually leave the path and eye the grass with suspicion.Rus (dismissive)That is too much politics. If they actually ask me, I might try doing it. When is the decision made?Krill (learned what he wanted)We should know soon. Excuse me.The call ends. Rus grumbles and tries to go around the crowd of children, but DONNA, a tall burly woman wearing a gray and green uniform like Rus, steps out from the crowd and stands in his path.Donna (politely)Officer Rus? A word, please.RusCan it be another time? I have somewhere to be.DonnaThis won't take long. I need your assistance removing a hornet's nest so these children can play here.Rus blinks and looks around at the landscape. A faint BUZZING comes through the insect HUM.Rus (confused)There shouldn't be hornets here.DonnaAnd yet I found a hive and identified them as such. They must have escaped from another area.Donna points to the opposite edge of the lawn, where one of the trees has a branch extending out over the lawn. From that branch hangs a hive only small enough to just fit in one of the large coolers. Rus stares at the hive for a moment, glances around, eyes the largest cooler a moment more and points to it.Rus (commanding)Empty that completely for me.The children look to Donna, who nods at them. As they empty it of food, Rus walks over to the grass and crouches down, touching the dew. Donna takes a position nearby, hands clasped behind her back.RusWhy would they picnic today? This dome will be raining, I believe near fifty percent.DonnaThe temperature is scheduled to reach thirty-one degrees Celsius. They wish to enjoy the warm rain.The children bring Rus the empty cooler. He takes it and shoos them away, then pulls a small knife from a pocket and flicks open the blade. With both ready, he starts to creep across the lawn.Donna (quietly)I think I see what you plan, yet I can't help thinking this will be difficult or cause problems later.RusYou asked for my help. This is a good solution. I will make it work.A short distance from the hive, Rus stops moving and stands absolutely still. The BUZZING does not get louder and he watches a hornet land on the hive and crawl inside. Opening the cooler in one hand, he pulls back with the other and throws the knife, which slices through the two supports for the hive, dropping it as Rus runs forward, catches the hive inside the cooler and slams down the lid. Immediately the BUZZING intensifies to a mad clamor, but he seals the latches. Glancing up, he spots a hornet charging at him and snatches it out of the air, crushing the fragile creature between his fingers. Tossing it away, he calmly walks over to the tree and retrieves his knife to place back in his pocket.A low MURMUR of gasps come from the children. Donna approaches and Rus pushes her the cooler.Rus (smug)Obviously do not open that.DonnaThank you, Officer. Would you also take it away? I must watch the children until their teacher returns.Behind them, the children start to set up their tents, lay out food and begin playing around.Rus (shakes his head, starts to turn away)I am too busy today. And since you found this, you should bring this in, if they have any questions.DonnaOf course. Thank you. And I hope things go well for you if Chief Jorm is indeed leaving us.Rus (stops to complain)Hopefully command doesn't ask me. I much prefer field work. Sitting around giving out orders, deciding what others will do, dealing with other branch Chiefs none of that interests me.Donna (slow, uncertain)I believe the Chief can delegate such decisions. Early green branch Chiefs did much of their work while exploring out beyond the colony.Rus (not even trying to pretend he didn't know that)Perhaps I should ask someone. If you will excuse me.Donna nods as Rus walks away, going back to the path. He waves away or ignores the thanks from the children and starts jogging again. Donna sits on the cooler and watches over the children.Some distance up the path, Rus reaches the edge of the dome and another large security door. People in uniforms like his enter and exit here some have stripes that include black, red, yellow and blue, while others lack the stripes. Those entering slide ID cards into the slot and pass through the doors in single file. Those leaving press their hand to a pad outside the door, take their ejected ID card, then most walk off following a road that takes the long way around the giant dome's edge. Rus cuts into the line going in, taking the place of someone without stripes and using a toothy grin on them as they back off.# # Scene 3 INT Green Sector # This large lobby includes tasteful green carpeting, a single green stripe along the walls, and a ceiling with plenty of lights. Framed pictures hang on the walls, depicting red-rock landscapes untouched by human hands, or photos of a Garden dome in various stages of construction and planting. There are also several doors around the room's edges, including grand double doors and two elevator doors.A somber air pervades the space. Most people coming and going have green stripes on their uniforms and moods fit for a funeral. Krill stands at the reception desk alone, wearing a simple gray uniform.An elevator door opens and Rus steps out. Spotting Krill, he heads for the reception desk. A few other people in the room spot him and quickly look away or leave.Krill (to Rus)I was just about to call you. Jorm is dead. Chief Vite left moments ago to inform the commander.Rus stops, not exactly thunderstruck or grief-stricken, but with a grimace of pain all the same. After a moment to process this, he continues approaching the desk and leans against it near Krill.RusSo the old man's gone. Does that mean I am
Krill (shrugs)When all of command is informed who knows how long they'll take to decide. But with all the other green branch officers turning it down, the only ones left are you and Tark.Rus (disgust)He is my only competition? I would rather leave here, than be led by him.Krill stares for a moment, then looks around and leans closer across the desk.KrillI know someone in command who might be able to get you transferred to the prime colony.RusThat could be even worse. Perhaps as a final option. But answer my question first. What can branch Chiefs do? Must they always stay here, giving the others their orders? Or do they have freedom?KrillThat varies from Chief to Chief. Some stay in their quarters for days or weeks at a time, as Jorm did, while others have been known to take out small teams for just as long.Rus (slowly, interested)No need to follow missions, free to travel as desired ... Could I choose the team?KrillYes. Precedent would be teams of five or less, which could be requested from other branches. The only person who must go every time would be their black branch liaison, who the Chief chooses.Rus (confused)I could choose a what? Some person from black branch?KrillOf course. Every branch Chief has a personal security officer on loan from black branch.Rus (forced casual)Isn't politics a funny thing. If you will excuse me. I should go see Jorm.Krill nods and Rus leaves the desk, headed for the large double doors. He pushes through and enters a hallway lined with portraits. A grin crosses his face which he struggles to hold back. After the hallway he arrives in an orderly office space with a desk and chairs surrounded by shelves filled with thin electronic books and data-pad binders, plus a few more photos and mementos of agricultural interest. One large window in the back of the room looks out over a huge, barren, reddish desert in the morning. There is one other fairly large door to the side here and Rus pushes through that as well, entering a somewhat odd room.The floors of this multi-room apartment suite are covered in a layer of dirt, more than expected even for a very dirty home but not enough to completely hide the smooth sandstone below. Plants in pots and trays and walled beds fill the rooms, creating a jungle-like appearance and almost obscuring the few bits of ordinary furniture. There are several people spread out in this front room, wearing a variety of uniform colors including some without stripes. In the very center, laid out on a divan, is the body of JORM, a tall, old and strangely built man with arms and legs bent at odd angles, a deformed chest and boneless hips and shoulders. Rus walks up and clears his throat to catch the attention of everyone.RusI wish a moment alone, if you would allow it, to speak with my Chief.The others in the room, some of whom look to have been crying, glance at Rus. One with green stripes whispers to the others, and slowly the group filters out. They close the doors and Rus sighs.RusSo you finally did die. Is this all for real? How am I not dreaming?He shakes his head and crouches near the body. His hand reaches out, briefly touching Jorm's head.Rus (plaintive, whining whisper)I wanted to kill you. To end your painful life. You stole that from me, but gave a wonderful gift.Grinning again without a hint of sadness, he stands and exits the room. Holding a hand over his mouth to hide the smile, he goes out past the other mourners, through the office, down the hall, and into the lobby. From there he heads for one of the side doors, swipes his ID card at a simpler security check door, walks down a very plain hall, and arrives at a door where he slides his card into a card slot. Opening the door, he enters a plain apartment, kicks off his shoes and plucks his ID card from the slot before closing the door. No longer able to contain his smile, he chuckles while walking through.RusEverything has gone my way. It is all so easy. Surely there is some problem?Entering a small bedroom, he goes to a desk and picks up a hologram statuette with two-dimensional layers enmeshed to form a passable three-dimensional object. The image is a howling wolf, but he taps a button on the side and the image becomes a static Serin. He kisses her passionately and sighs.RusSoon we will be together. The only hurdle is Tark. That cowardly and annoying busybody.Laying down on the bed, he sets the statuette on his stomach and alternates between staring at it or the ceiling. He doesn't sleep, but a considerable length of time appears to pass as he thinks in silence.Rus (slowly)It would be very risky. But what is some risk, when love can be had?Sliding over in the bed and reaching out a hand, he taps the side of his desk. A compartment opens there and he pulls out a dark, heavy-looking Luger Pistol. Spinning the gun in his hand, he aims at the ceiling and smiles. With another tap to the statuette's base, the image becomes a howling wolf again. He stands, places the statuette back on the desk, slips the gun into a concealed back holster and exits.# # Scene 4 INT Black Sector # This large lobby includes stern black carpeting, a single black stripe along the walls, and a ceiling with plenty of lights set to a somewhat dim level. Framed pictures hang on the walls, ranging from teams of armored soldiers standing near blast craters after battles to people in dark, professional suits. There are also several doors around the room's edges, including a grand double door and two elevator doors.Only a few people are in this room, most of whom wear the black striped uniform. A few have obvious weapons such as batons at their hip or a slim black staff propped nearby, but all seem relaxed. OPIE, a woman with soft features and proud shoulders, has no stripes and stands behind a reception desk.An elevator door opens and Rus steps out, looks around and walks to the reception desk. A few people in the room give him a brief glance. He approaches Opie and inclines his head to her.Rus (politely)If I may ask this, have you seen Officer Tark?Opie (warmly smiling)And why would you be looking for him here, hun?Rus blinks, not quite frowning, taking a moment since now he has to come up with the reason.RusWe have things to discuss. I heard he visited here.OpieHe did, and then he left. That was a short while ago.Rus (annoyed, then careful)I suppose the search continues. But while I am here, I wish to confirm something. Any officer of black branch, even the most junior officer, can become Chief's personal security?Opie (knowing smile)Indeed that is so. And since you, Officer Rus, are currently rumored to be next in line, I suppose you are wondering about which black branch officer might be best for your personal security?Rus (nervous)Am I wondering about someone? I do not know specifically. This is a general question.Opie (all business)Well then. Generally speaking, there are a number of excellent choices. Some highly qualified female officers in black branch have been passed over several times for that assignment. If you become Chief of green branch, I would suggest picking one of them. Tell me who and I could start the paperwork.Rus (easily agrees)This sounds good to do, if only to expedite matters. Perhaps you have a roster?OpieI indeed have a listing of officers, ranked by experience but didn't you need to find Officer Tark?Rus (quick, ready to flee)Oh I cannot forget that. Thank you very kindly, ma'am. If you will excuse me.He walks away. Opie appraises the back of his uniform and tilts her head a little, eyes narrowing. Rus approaches the elevators, considers the buttons then turns and sits in a chair. He crosses his arms, thinking, then stands and looks at the double doors at the back of the room stops and scratches his head, goes back to the elevator, taps his foot and stares at the buttons again, then returns to the desk.RusNow that I consider it, this was my only lead. Finding Officer Tark can wait. May I see the roster?Opie smiles, reaches under the desk and pulls out a thin data pad which she hands to him. Rus takes it, showing her his toothy smile, and goes to sit in one of the lobby chairs again. Opie blinks, tilts her head in the opposite direction, and eventually resumes her waiting posture from before. As Rus peruses the data pad, people come and go. A soft BEEP comes from under the reception desk. Opie taps a button, bringing up a hologram communication video the face of the other person isn't visible, but Opie nods and glances over to Rus during the call. Some time after the call ends, Rus returns to the desk.RusIt was a tough choice. But Officer Serin looks capable. I hope that is okay?Opie (a tiny bit disappointed)Officer Serin? She's qualified, of course, but there are some with more experience.Rus (shrug, grin)Her skills would complement mine. The others seem pretty good, but she could be perfect.OpieAll right. You can change your mind later. And I hope this isn't presumptuous, but congratulations.Rus (very nervous)What do you mean congratulations? Those are not yet needed. We haven't done anything yet.Opie (raised eyebrow)Hmm? Congratulations because you now appear to be the only candidate remaining for the position of green branch Chief. After command discusses it, you will most likely be formally named.Rus stands silent and still, staring at Opie. He blinks, slowly looks down at the data pad still in his hand and smiles with something between confusion and triumph.Opie (all business)Now while I handle the paperwork, you should go get Officer Serin's secure ID code from her, or even bring her here. It's just a quaint old formality, to show trust. I'm sure you understand.Rus (forced casual)Yes I can give that. I happen to know already. Where do I sign it?As Opie looks up at him with her usual smile falling away, Rus' wristband BEEPS. He looks down, his eyes widen, and he taps the device. A hologram call begins, though the face can't be seen.Rus (formal)Good day to you, Commander. Is there something you wanted? # END #...