FUTURE SHOCK - THE DWELLERS IN THE DEPTHS
by Steve Moore
Five frames here. The first one should be big, probably right across the page, and includes the titles, etc. The next three can be fairly small, so maybe they can go on the middle bank; the last, though not necessarily huge, could go horizontally across the page to give us a bit more scope. Maybe lay it out something like sketch, right.
1. Big pic, with titles. We're on an alien planet with a brilliant blue-white sun in the sky. In b/g is a Terran exploration ship, which can be designed pretty much as you please... nothing too massive, but it probably carries a crew of about 40 or 50. Coming in to pic from right, and heading away from us toward the ship, is the front of a column of men. We need to see at least four, with the implication that there are at least as many again following on, out of pic. They're a bunch of Grunts, basically, all of them wearing heavy body-armour and helmets, and all of them have blasters, designed how you like. Leading the party, and furthest from us, is Thompson, talking into an intercom, though whether that's hand-held or helmet-mounted, I leave to you. Following him is a group of three... a badly wounded man in the centre, being dragged along by companions to either side. From the sky, in all directions, a number of winged reptilian beasts are swooping to attack, and the guys are blazing away with their guns, trying to shoot them down. These Hell-beasts should be as nasty and savage, and fast and deadly, as you can make them... a bit like alien pterodactyls (but please make them rather more alien than straight pterodactyls) with mouths full of savage fangs, razor-talons on their wing-tips, etc. They're hungry, and they want to eat men. One of them might be hit by a blaster-beam, flapping, broken-winged in the air. There might be a gun-turret on the ship, opening up at the beasts to give the party covering fire. As for general b/g, it'd probably be easier if they were in a fairly open area approaching the ship, but in the distance we might see steaming jungle and rising hills, and if there's any undergrowth nearby, it's lush and pulpy and tropical. The whole place stinks of heat and sweat and death.
ROOM FOR TITLE AND LOGO
BOX: THE TERRAN EXPLORATION SHIP STAR-TREADER, THREE DAYS DOWN ON THE PLANET SPC-7071, BOILING UNDER A BLUE-WHITE SUN.
BOX: THE PLACE DOESN'T HAVE A NAME, EXCEPT THE ONE THE CREW HAVE GIVEN IT.
BOX: THEY CALL IT HELL.
THOMPSON (JAG): MEDICS ON STAND-BY! WE'RE COMING IN WITH CASUALTIES!
2. No need to see the incoming party now, as we close in more on the ship itself, looking toward the bridge, or at least toward some sort of window or viewport. One of the Hell-beasts might be skimming across f/g, and if there's a turret-gun, it'd still be firing.
FROM SHIP (1): IS IT WORTH IT, CAPTAIN? WE LOSE SOMEONE EVERY TIME A PARTY GOES OUT.
FROM SHIP (2): IT'S THE PRICE WE HAVE TO PAY, PETERSON.
3. Closing right in on the window now, we look through it into the interior, where two men stand facing us, looking out. One is the Captain, a veteran of about 40, wearing some sort of military/Space Navy uniform, though it's not battle-kit like the guys are wearing outside. The upper part is like a jacket, with a fairly normal collar, and there'd be various decorations, badges, etc, to indicate his rank. Next to him stands Peterson, the ship's priest/counsellor. He wears a similar uniform, much less-decorated... but also, at the neck, he wears an old-fashioned dog-collar. He's probably about 30, maybe with a small beard, looking reasonably intelligent and not necessarily particularly muscular. Both of them look very grim as they watch the carnage outside. Don't really need to see much b/g through the window here, but they're on the otherwise empty bridge... usual thing: pilot seats, control consoles, screens, etc.
CAPTAIN: IF EARTH CAN'T FIND NEW RESOURCES OUT HERE, EVERYONE'S GOING TO WIND UP DEAD.
LINK: A FEW MEN, OR A CIVILISATION. BALANCE IT UP.
PETERSON: I TRY TO, CAPTAIN. I TRY...
4. Our viewpoint has now moved inside through the window, and we're now on the bridge itself. Peterson is still standing there looking out of the window grimly at the swooping hell-beasts, but the Captain is turning away, starting toward a door that leads off the bridge.
PETERSON: BUT BEING EATEN ALIVE BY THOSE HELL-BEASTS ISN'T A GOOD WAY TO DIE.
CAPTAIN: NO WAY IS. JUST BE THANKFUL THEY CAN'T GET INTO THE SHIP.
LINK: COME ON, WE'D BETTER JOIN THE MEDICS...
5. Wide pic. Down by the main airlock, where the casualties have now come in. The Captain and Peterson have entered from left, though the Captain doesn't need any emphasis here; he could be pretty much a b/g figure. Peterson has immediately been confronted by Thompson, the young group-leader, who's pointing across pic with one hand and demanding that Peterson gets about his business. Right of pic is taken up with medics and casualties. Hedges, to whom Thompson is pointing, is virtually dead, and simply lies there on a stretcher. A medic stands by another casualty who's sitting on a bench with his arm bitten off, though the medic might be standing in front of him and masking our view of the wound. The casualty's in shock and pain, the medic's yelling for assistance. Add other, less-injured casualties as you see fit... but the main idea here is to show a scene of chaos and blood and pain that the crew are stretched to deal with.
BOX: " DOWN IN THE AIRLOCK."
THOMPSON: OVER THERE, FATHER PETERSON. HEDGES. LOOKS LIKE A LAST-RITES JOB.
CASUALTY: MY ARM... IT JUST BIT IT OFF --
MEDIC: PARA-MORPHINE HERE! NOW!
1. Still in the airlock, but now we're concentrating on Thompson and the Captain as Thompson makes his report. Peterson would have moved off to help Hedges into the after-life, the medics would still be ministering to the wounded; but it's up to you how much we see of all this going on in b/g. Captain still has half an eye on the carnage around him, but Thompson, perhaps having removed his helmet now, is making his report in a business-like fashion and also, though we don't need to see too much detail of it here, holding out a small statuette/carving toward the Captain. There's nothing human-shaped about this: it might just be a collection of intersecting geometric solids like cubes, spheres and rings... the point is, it's obviously been made by something.
CAPTAIN: BAD BUSINESS, THOMPSON.
THOMPSON: YES, SIR. WASN'T ANYTHING OF SPENCE AND HUDSON TO BRING BACK AT ALL.
LINK: BUT I THINK YOU OUGHT TO SEE THIS.
2. Maybe from the Captain's viewpoint: he now holds the carving in his hand, holding it up to look at it, and we really only need to see his hand coming in to f/g here. Obviously this gives us a good look at the carving. Thompson faces us from b/g, still trying to be business-like about making his report, but unable to disguise his enthusiasm.
THOMPSON: FOUND IT IN FRONT OF A CAVE, HALF A KAY FROM HERE. IT'S OBVIOUSLY CRAFTED.
LINK: MORE TO THE POINT, IT LOOKS LIKE PLATINUM TO ME.
CAPTAIN: GOOD WORK, THOMPSON. TAKE SOME R-AND-R. TOMORROW MORNING...
3. Next day. Another exploration party has set out, including the Captain, Thompson and Peterson. They're all wearing body-armour and helmets, and they're all armed except Peterson. They've just about reached the cave-mouth, which stands at the foot of a cliff... it's a natural-looking, tunnel-like entrance, and there's nothing but blackness within. Main emphasis here is on Thompson, pointing toward the cave, and the Captain. If we could add a couple of other troopers, blazing away with their guns at more attacking hell-beasts, that'd be great.
BOX: "WE'LL HAVE TO CHECK THIS FURTHER..."
THOMPSON: THAT'S THE CAVE, CAPTAIN.
LINK: AT LEAST WHEN WE'RE INSIDE, THE HELL-BEASTS WON'T SEE US ANY MORE.
CAPTAIN: RIGHT. BUT LET'S HOPE THERE'S NOTHING WORSE IN THERE.
4. Inside the cave. All we really need to see here is Thompson, who's leading the way and going away from us, though if you wanted you could partially show someone else's head and shoulder to one side, in extreme f/g, to indicate that he's being closely followed by the others. Thompson might have a small flashlight, perhaps mounted on one wrist, though he has this pointed down toward the floor. Ahead of him in b/g, the dark cave walls turn as they reach a bend, and from beyond the bend we can see a faint light shining, and an indistinct shadow on the illuminated cave-wall.
THOMPSON: A GLIMMER OF LIGHT UP AHEAD...
LINK: AND SOMETHING MOVING!
LINK: WHO'S THERE?
5. They've turned the bend now, into the dimmish light, to confront the alien Gnoi. These are like tentacled slugs, about 8 feet long, but their bodies bend in the middle... the rear 4 feet or so is horizontal, rippling along the ground on a fleshy "skirt", while the front party of the body rears up almost vertically to the head. A small mouth, large round eyes, no ears, the head set straight onto the body without any real neck. From just below the head emerge a pair of slim tentacles, one to either side, perhaps a foot long, which serve as antenna-like sense-organs. A few inches below these are two pairs of rather thicker, longer tentacles, with calliper-like ends for holding things. They don't seem to have a bone in their body, and they look rather slimy and squirmy. There should be at least two or three of them here, and the main emphasis is on them, giving us a good look at them. They stand a few feet from the humans, of whom we have to see the Captain and maybe Patterson, who's probably removed his helmet by now. Both sides just stand there looking at each other in surprise... no one's making a hostile move. In farther b/g, behind the Gnoi, we ought to see a sculpture, like a large version of the statuette Thompson found earlier, so it's obvious that the Gnoi are the ones who made it. NOTE TO LETTERER: The Gnoi are telepathic, and a group mind. Any one of them could be speaking, so we don't need balloon-tails... the balloons can float. If we could vary the balloon borders to indicate they're not talking normally, that'd be good. I give their dialogue in italics here. Thanks.
GNOI (tele, floating): WE...
GNOI (tele, floating): WE ARE GNOI.
6. Looking rather surprised and concerned. Peterson now finds himself being pushed toward the Gnoi by the Captain, who wants him to talk to them. If not before, Peterson definitely has his helmet off now, clutched in one arm, and he raises his other hand, open palmed, toward the Gnoi, one of whom might be oozing forward to meet him.
CAPTAIN: PETERSON. TALK TO THEM.
LINK: GREETINGS. WE ARE HUMANS...
1. Just Peterson and the Gnoi with whom he's conversing. The Gnoi has stretched upward until it's head is at the same level as Peterson's, or slightly above it, and is leaning close to look at him curiously with its large eyes, one of the sensing tentacles reaching toward his face, though not touching it yet. Peterson looks bewildered, but he isn't trying to resist.
GNOI (tele, floating): STRANGE. ALL INDIVIDUAL. NOT ONE, LIKE GNOI.
LINK (tele, floating): WILL YOU SHARE MIND WITH US, HU-MAN?
PETERSON: WILL I... ?
2. Main emphasis still on Peterson and the Gnoi, the latter now leaning forward and looming over Peterson even more, its sensing tentacles now attached to his temples. Peterson is staggering, arching his back slightly, open-mouthed, receiving some sort of mental zap. Angle this so we can see the Captain in b/g, stepping forward with a hand raised toward Peterson and an expression of extreme concern.
GNOI (tele, floating): COME. NO HURT...
PETERSON: UUH - !
CAPTAIN: PETERSON? WHAT... ?
3. Peterson has now turned away from the Gnoi, which is retreating to rejoin his fellows. Peterson has a hand raised to his head, groggy, and looking as if he's got a bad headache. Peterson faces us. The Captain's head and shoulder might be partially seen in close f/g to one side of pic, facing away from us, as Peterson starts to talk to him.
PETERSON: IT'S OKAY, CAPTAIN. A MASSIVE TRANSFER OF INFORMATION... AND TRUST.
LINK: I THINK WE CAN DO BUSINESS WITH THE GNOI.
4. Only really need to see Peterson and the Captain here, perhaps in half figure or less. Captain faces us from b/g; Peterson, in f/g, is pretty much side on, talking to the Captain but at the same time looking round toward the Gnoi, off-pic in f/g. Peterson looks a bit more recovered now.
PETERSON: THEIR COLONIES ARE UNDERGROUND BECAUSE THEY CAN'T STAND THE SUNLIGHT.
LINK: THEY'RE LIKE ANTS - GROUP-MINDED, INDUSTRIOUS. BUT THEY'RE ARTISTIC TOO. AND THEY MINE THEIR OWN METAL.
CAPTAIN: WOULD THEY MINE IT FOR US?
5. Reversing the angle: Peterson, to one side of pic, maybe half-figure or less, looks away from us toward two or three of the Gnoi, who face us from b/g.
PETERSON: IT SEEMS SO... THEY'LL TRADE FOR THE TECHNOLOGY THEY'VE SEEN IN MY MIND.
LINK: BUT THEY WANT TO SEND A PARTY BACK WITH US TO SEE IT FOR THEMSELVES.
CAPTAIN: IS THAT SAFE?
6. No need to see the Gnoi here. Captain is slapping Peterson on the shoulder, and the human group is starting to turn away, ready to depart. Add Thompson and any others you feel like, most of whom look decidedly relieved to be getting away from this bunch of slugs.
PETERSON: I THINK SO. THEY SEEM ENTIRELY PEACEFUL.
CAPTAIN: ALRIGHT. GOOD JOB, PETERSON. TELL THEM I AGREE.
LINK: WE'LL GET THEM ABOARD...
1. Somewhat larger pic, if possible. A bit like the opening frame, in that a party of armoured troopers, led by Thompson, are making their way across open ground toward the ship (which doesn't have to be seen here), guns blazing away at the swooping Hell-beasts. Captain and Peterson aren't present. The men are surrounding a group of four or five Gnoi, who are slithering over the ground holding the edges of large tarpaulins (given to them by the Terrans) with their calliper-ended work-tentacles. The tarpaulins are thrown over their heads and backs, and drape over them a bit like tents, protecting them from the sun. Up to you how much you show here: we need to see Thompson and at least one other trooper, Stine; also at least one or two Gnoi; and at least one Hell-beast, to establish what they're shooting at. Add other humans and aliens as you please, or as you can fit in. Please note: the Hell-beasts are not attempting to attack the Gnoi, only the humans.
BOX: "AS SOON AS WE'VE FIGURED OUT HOW TO PROTECT THEM FROM THE SUN..."
STINE: IS THIS WHAT I SIGNED UP FOR? HERDING SLUGS IN TENTS?
THOMPSON: SHUT UP AND KEEP SHOOTING, STINE! I WANT TO GET OUT OF HERE ALIVE!
2. Inside the airlock, same scene as last frame on page one, but here we don't need any casualties or medics; we'll assume they've all come back safe. Thompson toward f/g, talking into his intercom and informing the Captain that they're aboard. He's turned somewhat to look toward b/g, where we can see at least one of the Gnoi, who's now let go of the tarpaulin and is slithering forward, letting it drop to the floor behind him. Add other Gnoi, relieved troopers, etc., as you see fit.
THOMPSON: THE GNOI ARE SAFELY ABOARD, CAPTAIN.
LINK: IM SEALING THE AIRLOCK...
3. This one can be a smaller pic, if that's more convenient. It just shows the ship heading for space, already some way above the planet. Angle it how you like... it could be coming up toward us, with some of the planet shown as an arc in b/g... or it might just be heading up away from us into the starry sky.
BOX: "LET'S GET OFF THIS HELL-HOLE WORLD!"
BOX 2: "ONLY A MONTH AND WE'LL BE HOME, THANK GOD "
4. Inside the quarters that have been given to the Gnoi. This is a large cabin, big enough to hold all of them, and we should see at least a couple of them here, perhaps with bits of one or two more seen at edges of pic, to indicate that they're all there. There's no furniture; they just slither about or lie on the floor. Peterson is with them, dressed pretty much as when we first saw him on page one, in his uniform and dog-collar. He's talking to them seriously, trying to explain things. One or more of the Gnoi might be angling their heads as if in puzzlement, not quite understanding what he's on about. This is a general shot, establishing the scene.
GNOI (tele, floating): WE DO NOT UNDERSTAND THIS "RELIGION", PE-TER-SON. WHAT IS A "PRIEST"?
PETERSON: WELL, I'M THE SHIP'S COUNSELLOR. I LOOK AFTER THE MEN'S SPIRITUAL LIVES... AND SEE THEM INTO THE NEXT LIFE.
GNOI (tele, floating): NEXT LIFE? WHAT IS THAT?
5. Maybe Peterson only partially seen in close f/g, head and shoulders to one side of pic, looking away from us toward one of the Gnoi who, again, looks at him in some puzzlement (if you can figure out how to draw a puzzled slug!)
PETERSON: THE LIFE AFTER DEATH...
GNOI (tele, floating): DEATH? AT THE END OF LIFE, THERE IS ONLY THE SLEEP.
GNOI (tele, floating): IT COMES TO ALL AT ONCE. WE DO NOT WAKE.
6. Reverse angle. Gnoi in f/g, facing away from us, looking toward Patterson, who's now moved to the cabin door and is reaching out with one hand, about to open it, ready to leave. He's looking back toward them as he goes, concluding the conversation.
GNOI (tele, floating): WE KNOW NOTHING OF ANYTHING MORE.
PETERSON: AH, WELL, PERHAPS WE'LL HAVE MUCH TO LEARN FROM ONE ANOTHER...
Five frames here. The last one should be big, for the gory climax.
1. Some days later. A corridor on the ship. The Captain and Peterson were walking along together chatting, but now they look up as they see Thompson hurrying toward them, calling for their attention urgently. Both Captain and Peterson look dismayed by the news. Everyone from now on is in normal space-uniform, not body-armour, and they're all unarmed.
BOX: " GIVEN THE PASSING OF TIME."
THOMPSON: CAPTAIN, FATHER PETERSON... WE'VE GOT A PROBLEM WITH THE GNOI.
THOMPSON: WE CAN'T SEEM TO WAKE THEM.
CAPTAIN: OH, HELL! GET THE MEDICS!
2. Inside the Gnoi quarters. In f/g, one of the medics, as seen previously, is leaning over a prone Gnoi, who's just collapsed limply on the floor, apparently asleep. Medic might have some sort of scanner instrument that he's holding over the Gnoi, but he looks baffled; he simply hasn't seen anything like this before. Captain and Peterson stand in the b/g, looking toward him worriedly.
MEDIC: THEY'RE STILL ALIVE, CAPTAIN. THAT'S ABOUT ALL I CAN SAY.
PETERSON: MAYBE IT'S THE "SLEEP" THEY WERE TALKING ABOUT.
MEDIC: MAYBE. THEIR BIOLOGY'S ALIEN. ALL I CAN SUGGEST IS TO LEAVE THEM...
3. The corridor outside the Gnoi quarters, the door of which is closed. Thompson's standing there speaking urgently into an intercom, calling for the Captain. Another man stands nearby, looking uncertainly toward the door. They don't know what's going on, but they're worried.
BOX: " AND SEE WHAT HAPPENS IN A DAY OR TWO."
THOMPSON: CAPTAIN, YOU'D BETTER GET DOWN HERE!
LINK: THERE'S ONE HELLUVA RACKET IN THE GNOI QUARTERS!
S/EFS: SKRIKK! KRASSHH! SKARKK!
4. Looking out from inside the cabin toward the corridor as the door starts to open, so we don't see anything of what's happening within. To left, in b/g, the Captain looks toward us, still unaware of what's going on. In f/g, Peterson faces us, looking into the cabin, in half-figure or less, and he's starting to shout in absolute horror at what he sees.
CAPTAIN: OPEN IT UP, PETERSON. LET'S SEE--
PETERSON: OH GOD... WE SHOULDN'T HAVE BROUGHT THE GNOI ABOARD SHIP!
LINK: THEY WERE ONLY LARVAE! THE ADULT FORMS--
5. Big pic, in corridor. The door is now open. The Gnoi have turned into the winged, reptilian Hell-beasts we saw previously, and now they're bursting out into the corridor in a flurry of wings and teeth and talons, killing and eating. One of them already has its jaws clamped onto Peterson's shoulders, shaking him like a rag-doll... he's still able to shout, but obviously he isn't going to survive. The others are attacking the Captain, Thompson, and anyone else you want to add, as they try to flee. One of the beasts has a severed arm in its mouth, and they're simply biting lumps out of everyone. Being unarmed, the crew are unable to resist, and they're just going to get eaten, like it or not... and so, probably, are the rest of the crew. Be violent and nasty here.
PETERSON: -- ARE THE HELL-BEASTS!
FX (LINK): AAAAIIIIEEEEEEEE - !
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