Friday, December 16, 2022

Screenplay

FADE IN...

1    EXT. WASHINGTON, D.C. – DAY...                         

IMAGES OF THE CITY: SUPERIMPOSE: “SEPTEMBER 30, 2009”

IT’S REAL TIME PRESENT DAY...

2    INT. U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY (USGS) – DAY 

It’s morning of day two. The meeting the previous day looks extremely promising for the guest. Inside a bland windowless conference room sits the same handful of bespectacled scientists around a long table. Today there is a huge map on one wall of MARS as a bright vermilion sphere.

The other wall has a blackboard with complicated looking math calculations, trajectories scrawled on it. Someone was busy last night. The room this morning is abuzz with chit chat about yesterday’s meeting.

At one end of the table now sits a 35 mm carousel slide projector facing a portable white screen on tripod. Also appearing today is a large TV monitor with VCR and remote control. The table is adorned with coffee mugs, donuts, water bottles, a COFFEE CARAFE, note pads, Blackberrys and associated meeting items.

All present are SENIOR PHDs and sit on either side of the table looking like disheveled, eccentric over-the-hill college professors.

3    INT. CONFERENCE ROOM - DAY                             

Next to the projector the same tall and obese, sloppily dressed elderly man with no hair and bright pink skin speaks. He has been up all night preparing. The room quiets down as he turns on the projector and we hear a click as the first slide drops into view on the screen. MARS appears. His hand held pointer is aimed at the screen:

DR. BENJAMIN “PIG” LEMKAU (V.O.)

You may be seeking to harvest GOLD on MARS, DR. BROWN, but more important than the noble metal for the mining project will be water, the ELIXIR OF LIFE on that god-forsaken planet.

4    INT. CONFERENCE ROOM (CONT.)                            

We look away from LEMKAU and see mild disgust, skepticism on the faces of others present, except for a mid-thirties handsome black man in an expensive suit busily taking notes. He is DR. RANDALL CINZA BROWN, Chief Economist of the prestigious STUDEBAKER INSTITUTE whose influence arranged this meeting. He is the VIP guest and reason for the meeting.

He is excited this morning. Those present do not know the real reason for his visit.

He is there to help the new administration on a TOP SECRET project to dig the United States out of a severe recession by returning the country to the GOLD STANDARD. This meeting is BROWN’S last ditch effort to salvage the project by mining vast amounts of GOLD on MARS. His pet project is called OPERATION GERDA, an acronym of GOLD EXTRACTION & RELOCATION FOR DEFENSE OF AMERICA.

5    INT. CONFERENCE ROOM (CONT.)                             

We are taken back to the screen where we see color slides and hear them plinking down one by one. They are of a technical nature and discuss general logistics in setting up a mining colony. We hear LEMKAU in the background as he discusses potential landing sites with likely sources of water.

6    INT. ON THE SCREEN A SERIES OF SLIDE IMAGES APPEAR...       

LOGISTICS: Extraction of gases like hydrogen, methane, helium and oxygen to be stored as sources of energy / solar panels and windmills / water desalination plants / dune buggies / life support systems / Lego-like Quonset huts / metallurgy / and chemical analysis instrumentation for judging GOLD content of MARS ore:

LEMKAU (V.O.)

It’s very important the mining colony become as quickly self sufficient as possible and take advantage of whatever materials exist on MARS to that end. MARS once had a much thicker atmosphere. As it dissipated millions of years ago it was absorbed by rocks and soil but ample quantities of water-ice are still present at the poles.

NASA already knows the regolith soil on the RED PLANET will allow us to produce bricks and the large variety of metals and alloys, in addition to GOLD, can be extracted and purified for repairing life-support equipment.

A colony of 200 men and women will be on MARS in two years, with half arriving the first year to set up GOLD mining operations. There will be a mix of professionals whose skills are most needed, from construction workers to geologists, botanists, engineers, and medical staff, the best of the best.

Ironically, like the construction of King Solomon’s Temple, key to our success will be the work of skilled craftsman such as bricklayers, stone cutters, and masons – the heirs of Hiram Abiff (LEMKAU chuckles at his clever wit).

MARTIAN soil also contains iron oxide which gives the planet its red appearance. It is an innate binder. When compacted with high-pressure hammers it forms blocks stronger than reinforced concrete. We can build anything we goddamn well feel like up there!

7    INT. CONFERENCE ROOM (CONT.)                            

LEMKAU pauses to take a drink of water. Sweating profusely he also wipes his brow and cleans his glasses. There is restless fidgeting as the meeting drags on. LEMKAU’S colleagues (not friends) are surprised at his energy, thinking him an introvert if not lazy. BROWN the invited guest is keenly attentive and takes notes furiously.

Also present and suspiciously quiet thus far is LEMKAU’s boss at the far end of the conference table, Division Chief DR. MORRIS VINE, a British national with crisp accent and pencil-thin mustache.  He is half the size of PIG LEMKAU.

VINE loathes LEMKAU who although has not had a successful career while at NASA or the USGS, is brilliant and frequently belittles VINE for his frequent intellectual fuckups just for the fun of it. VINE now nudges another underling and kiss-ass nearby, DR. PETER OWENS to speak up:

OWENS (V.O.)

Ben, dagnabbit, aren’t you putting the cart before the horse here? By that I mean, how do you intend to get there? What are the logistics for putting this all together? The kind of project you’re talking about will take decades to succeed! Set up GOLD mining operations in just a few years, fucking ridiculous!

In the background a wry grin appears on VINE’s face. BROWN is crestfallen when he hears a timeframe of decades. The United States may not be around if the recession worsens over the next year alone. Look what happened to the Roman Empire:

LEMKAU (V.O.)

Actually Pete, getting there is not a problem. We can fast-track reusable nuclear propulsion and forget liquid oxygen and kerosene and the Saturn V chemical fuel mixtures altogether. We can cut the 35-million-mile trip from six months to two months. Yes, getting oodles and oodles of dollars from Congress to fund our project may be a problem.

After all, those bastards run the only whorehouse on the planet that actually loses money! (Only LEMKAU and BROWN chuckle) But if our objective is the recovery of GOLD, I mean thousands of tons of GOLD within FIVE YEARS it’s an offer they can’t refuse.

8    INT. MORE 35 MM SLIDE IMAGES APPEAR ON THE SCREEN:      

As each slide appears we hear the voice of LEMKAU in the background. The challenge of the MARS trip will be the several hundred tons of start-up survival materiel, only light-weight equipment, and fuel requiring heavy lift capacity rockets.

The three areas of emphasis are human settlement, exploration and mining preparation, and finally GOLD extraction and storage. Nuclear propulsion rockets can triple the 140-ton payload of the old Saturn V rockets. LEMKAU then concludes his remarks:

LEMKAU (V.O)

There also needs to be launches of orbiting satellites for improved preparation of topo-graphical maps and potential GOLD excavation sites, and a satellite for high altitude demolition work. This technology will include advance imaging detectors, multi-spectral imaging radar, and lidar for surface and substance characteristics recognition. We’ll also use low-level drone targeting support.

9    INT. THE WHOLE CONFERENCE ROOM NOW COMES INTO VIEW:    

Those dozing off are now wide awake, and we hear and see anxious movements as people perk up to take part in the discussion. VINE appears dumbfounded:

VINE (V.O.)

Excuse me Dr. Lemkau, but did you say demolition work?  What the hell does that mean?

LEMKAU

Hold your water Vine, I’ll get to that in a minute. So Pete, we´re talking mining operations, correct? (OWENS nods in the affirmative) We will not go conventional mining like on Earth with heavy equipment for obvious reasons, just too much weight to ship to MARS.

To my knowledge none of the soil samples taken by Robotic Landers to date have shown evidence of GOLD so it must be seeded deeply inside the planet’s surface by asteroids and meteors during four billion years of bombardment. I estimate no more than 25 milligrams of GOLD per metric ton of MARTIAN deep ore. That’s why our mining operations won’t be pretty.

10   INT. ANOTHER VINE UNDERLING NOW SPEAKS UP, THEN ONE AFTER ANOTHER AS LEMKAU DROPS A “BOMB” AND PANDEMONIUM ENSUES:

DR. DAVID PRENDERGAST (V.O.)

But Ben, we have absolutely no evidence from NASA that GOLD exists on MARS, even in the tiniest of quantities! How then can you justify a GOLD RUSH to MARS on such a massive scale? And how can you get deep into the MARTIAN crust without heavy mining equipment? This is all bullshit!

LEMKAU

Well Davy boy, that’s because my strategy is basically blunt force trauma! Forget the heavy equipment. Fuck it, I say go big or go home. We use high-yield THERMONUCLEAR WARHEADS! (The room goes deathly quiet then...)

VINE

Are you bloody fucking insane! 

LEMKAU

Certifiably, Morris but ain’t it bloody fucking cool! I say we use B61-11 bunker busters timed to detonate deep within the MARTIAN crust, tipped with shaped explosive charges of 50 megatons or more. The blowback from the blast many miles deep will release trillions of tons of soil and rock into a mushroom cloud that we catch already mined, crushed, and pulverized thanks to the genius of Albert Einstein! 

Hell, we can go to 1,000-megaton warheads if we want because you can’t kill a dead planet. All our guys will be wearing radioactive protective gear anyway because MARS has no atmosphere.  And our home base will be positioned far from any polar blast sites, located on the Equator line.

DRS. BARIGARG, PRENDERGAST, OWENS, CRAMPTON

Madness! Potential Armageddon for life on Earth! MARS may be hollow and explode! Our Solar System could be thrown out of balance, we could all be killed! (Crampton, rail thin, begins sobbing and trembling uncontrollably)

11   INT. CONFERENCE ROOM (CONT.)                       

We see VINE regain his composure, he is sure LEMKAU has gone bananas, he is embarrassed for himself and the invited guest that the meeting has gotten out of control. But he will get his revenge on this fat, pink-skinned, blasphemous bastard and make his last few years at USGS a living hell. LEMKAU continues:

LEMKAU (V.O.)

Well I’ll be a blue-nosed gopher all y’all, thanks for the votes of confidence! Since I’m just spitballin’ here anyway, let me show you guys a little something I put together.

LEMKAU turns on the TV monitor and inserts a VCR tape. It is a computer generated video animation of his plans for finding GOLD ON MARS. It’s crude. He made it last night at home. The room grows quiet as the tape begins. BROWN wonders if he made the right decision in coming here again, if LEMKAU is a mad genius or just nuts. The video is narrated by LEMKAU who is heard in the background.

Images of workers in space suits are shown damning up dried riverbeds in a mining camp and the immense reservoirs are filled with subterranean water pumped to the surface to create GOLD cyanidation tanks. Rockets are launched high above from an orbiting vehicle and strike the planet at the ice-laden North Pole, tremendous explosions ensue, debris is thrown into space 500 miles above.

We hear the narrator say how the airborne debris will be captured by AEROGEL developed by NASA in 1999, a sticky sponge-like fishnet hundreds of miles in diameter and transferred to the holding tanks by orbiting drones.

The narrator says the Sun’s cosmic rays will cook the potassium-cyanide soup made from chemicals sourced locally including hydrocyanic salts and quicksilver made from cinnabar like the alchemists of old. When the AEROGEL debris is deposited, the Sun and chemicals with the aid of mercury-sulfide will leach out GOLD. The dark brown GOLD powder will be purified by smelting and the molten liquid formed into bars of solid GOLD.

12   INT. CONFERENCE ROOM (CONT.)                           

As the tape concludes LEMKAU switches off the monitor and begins to speak again. BROWN’s interest is piquing but has a few questions.  He raises his hand to speak but LEMKAU doesn’t see him and speaks first. The others in the room have looks of bewilderment on their faces:

LEMKAU (V.O.)

Just imagine DR. BROWN the scale of GOLD production if we created hundreds of these massive 10,000-square-mile leaching tanks. Why there will be thousands if not millions of metric tons of GOLD waiting to be transported back to Earth in no time! If we have to sacrifice MARS then tough shit, it’s like Abraham and Isaac. 

After MARS is sucked dry of its GOLD, we go upwards and outwards to harvest the yellow metal on other planets and even from the bigger asteroids. Yeehaw, space cowboys! Shit, there’ll be no stopping us, no siree Bob! By then MARS is just one big cyanidation tank anyway so fuck it.

BROWN interrupts LEMKAU and speaks up, catching him by surprise. His heart jumps, he is elated when he hears the amounts of GOLD but remains guarded:

BROWN (V.O.)

DR. LEMKAU, could you elaborate on that a little more please? Not sure I understand your rationale after MARS and I’m a little fuzzy on how all this GOLD gets back to Earth. GOLD is heavy stuff, two cubic feet weigh over a ton. That’s a lot of trips when we’re talking thousands of tons, how is that even feasible?

Bingo! VINE senses now that the whole PIG show is blown to bits, fuck him and his presentation! LEMKAU, a little less cocky tries to respond:

LEMKAU (V.O.)

Uh, still working on that little hiccup DR. BROWN. I hear what you’re saying, like we need the Spanish Galleons of old to get the stuff home. Return weight as we re-enter Earth’s atmosphere and rocket fuel are big problems, agreed. 35 million miles is a long way.

I’m toying with ideas like shooting GOLD-LADEN capsules back to Earth from low-gravity MARS without burning up upon re-entry. We’ll need lots of ablative material to protect those capsules though. Still not sure.

BROWN

And the AFTER-MARS part, that’s pretty ambitious. Talk about logistical problems, and how will the astronauts even handle such long voyages? And your opening remarks highlighted water, what will astronauts do for that basic life compound?

LEMKAU

True, as out flight voyages get longer and longer, water will be the main issue but when I was at NASA years ago we had almost perfected a top secret powdered-water project that by now must be viable.

They’re single packets the size of a Jiffy Pop popcorn foil pan and to activate we developed a oxygen-nitrogen chemical catalyst pellet and generated from one packet adequate water supply for a nine-person space crew lasting six months. We can carry all the water we need and likely supplement our needs from water sources in space. So that aspect is covered.

As BROWN nods his head up and down, he wonders who amongst the group present has high level government clearance besides him. He makes a note to check. He will make sure no minutes from these past two sessions will ever see the light of day then speaks:

BROWN (V.O.)

Okay, I got the water part but how about the people part. Even with new-fangled nuclear powered rockets we’re talking months if not years in space round trip, plus long lengths of time on MARS. There are psychological and physical problems for humans, correct?

LEMKAU

Well DR. BROWN, there doesn’t yet exist any ELIXIR OF LIFE so we have to play the cards we´re dealt. The wealth generated from our efforts will blaze the trail for human biological engineering and we’ll learn how to delay our body’s propensity to rust internally. We’ll vastly extend current life spans.

There will come a day when through cloning, memory chips, and chemical enhancements we can create John and Jane Doppelgängers who are genetically the same but not quite exactly the same person soul wise. But by the time they get back to Earth, everyone they’ve ever known will have died so who cares! These 500-year-old worker bees are just collateral damage!

Well gentlemen, that concludes my presentation. Are there any questions?

13    INT. CONFERENCE ROOM (CONT.)                           

LEMKAU scans the room but everyone looks away in a daze. No questions. He turns off the projector and sits down. He shakes from the adrenaline rush and drains a bottle of water, spilling half on his shirt and table.  He lights a cigarette even though smoking is not permitted in Federal Buildings, daring anyone to complain, no one does. VINE speaks with sarcastic tone:

VINE (V.O.)

We thank you DR. LEMKAU for your unusual yet entertaining insights, disturbing as they are.  Especially the part about blowing up MARS!

VINE’S comments serve to take some of the tension out of the room so everyone except BROWN laughs and we hear people pushing coffee mugs and the rustle of papers, feet and chairs shifting.  VINE and LEMKAU exchange barbs:

VINE (V.O.)

Just a note of correction, Abraham only offered Isaac up to God but was spared by God at the last minute or so says the Old Testament. God decided not to nuke anybody! (more laughter)

LEMKAU

Well shucks, thanks Morris, no hard feelings I hope. After all, this ain’t exactly rocket surgery! (he chuckles sarcastically)

VINE

Very amusing. But pray tell sir, I was wondering, WHAT WILL TRIGGER, within our agency and the top echelon of government, the most ambitious and expensive undertaking in the history of humankind?

14   INT. CONFERENCE ROOM (CONT.)                       

The room grows quiet and we see looks of amusement on everyone’s face except BROWN’s. He’s still scribbling notes but perks up when he hears the question. LEMKAU thinks for a moment and in a totally deadpan response says:

LEMKAU (V.O.)

The greatest GOLD rush in American history was set off when a humble carpenter reached down into a clear, cold streambed at Sutter’s Mill and pulled out a solid GOLD NUGGET NO BIGGER THAN A PEA – you know Morris, about the size of your shriveled nutsack of a brain!

Now VINE becomes infuriated, stands and grabs the lidless COFFEE CARAFE from the conference table and hurls it at LEMKAU. He misses the target but sprays stale coffee on everybody else. Everyone in the room stands. We hear LEMKAU roar with laughter as he says next:

LEMKAU (V.O)

Eureka you limey shitbird, you throw just like a little girl!

15   INT. CONFERENCE ROOM (CONT.)                       

We now see VINE rushing to LEMKAU and begin pummeling him with tiny fists as the big man laughs and pushes him away. It gets noisy. For no apparent reason the others in the room join the ruckus except BROWN, pushing and shoving in slow motion. We hear grunts, bones creaking, and farting.

Yelling and cursing. Crap from the table is being thrown. General chaos. Security guards enter to break up the fight, one that will live on in USGS folklore. BROWN had intended to say a few words of thank you but decides to quietly and nonchalantly exit the rather disconcerting scene.

16   EXT. VIRGINIA AVE., WASHINGTON, D.C. – NIGHT           

It’s late. The night is cool. BROWN strolls along the street after exiting the USGS building. He’s in deep thought. For the first time in months he feels good about his brainchild project GERDA which he thinks might now achieve liftoff after many setbacks. It’s been a terrible year. This bone crushing recession is growing worse. He feels now is the time to present the final product to leadership at STUDEBAKER and afterwards, to the PRESIDENT of the United States!

Thousands upon thousands of metric tons of GOLD just think of it! He’ll be a hero, earning kudos and rich rewards on all sides, maybe a medal. The WHITE HOUSE still has to approve the project but since STUDEBAKER’S board consists of retired high level bigwigs that won’t be a problem. It’s the secret symbiosis of deep state and lobbyists that gets things done.

And what choice does the country have. WE’RE BANKRUPT! The U.S. dollar is almost worthless. We’re on the brink of a second GREAT DEPRESSION. As he walks to the Green Line station to take the Metro home, he thinks about what he had just heard, the “trigger” and the “pea” and how to get all that MARTIAN GOLD back to Earth. Then it hits him, with sublime clarity as he talks to himself:

BROWN (V.O.)

Fuck yes, Occam’s Razor! The GOLD will never leave MARS! On Earth we dig up GOLD ore, process it, and store the bullion back underground in vaults. We’ll just build a MARTIAN Fort Knox and store our GOLD there! We can bring small quantities back to Earth as proof and have the United Nations appoint a neutral board to inspect and verify our GOLD supply on MARS. Brilliant!

We see BROWN remove a cell phone from his pocket and speak. He’s calling his boss:

BROWN (V.O.)

BUDDY, I know you’re still pissed at me but I have to see you first thing tomorrow morning. It’s important. We finally have a breakthrough...

REAL TIME PAUSES: PICKS UP AGAIN WITH SCENE 95...

17   EXT. ROSSLYN, VIRGINIA – DAY...                         

THE BACK STORY BEGINS NOW...

Opening shot northward over the IWO JIMA MEMORIAL, POTOMAC RIVER, AND KEY BRIDGE towards GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY with a date on screen of JULY 2, 2008... 

18   INT. BEST WESTERN HOTEL BAR – NIGHT                    

Rowdy scene, VIETNAM WAR era army buddies from Foxtrot Company gather for the 4th of July reunion, chairs, tables, booze bottles, plates of half-eaten food, classic country music blaring, tobacco smoke, multiple conversations, frivolity, brotherhood. Last reunion was a few years back. Trash talking:

SAMUEL LEE NOBLE (V.O)

Hands down the best canned C-ration in NAM was scrambled eggs and ham, opened with a P38...

ARCHIBALD “ARCHIE” JEFFERSON

I hated that can opener. No fuckin’ way, beans and franks, after that spaghetti and meatballs...

BIG GEORGE SAVIDGE

Fuckin’ A Bubba, make you shit like a goose! Remember this one, “those who write on shit house walls roll their shit in little balls, those who read these words of wit eat those little balls of shit...” (howls of laughter all around)

GERARD RAINOS

Let’s kick the tires and light the fires big daddy, more fuckin’ tequila shots please...(waves to a waitress)

JIMBO PHELPS

Watch your language assholes, there’re ladies present! Hey, you guys ever smell mothballs, how’d you get their little legs apart...(slapping his knee with a guffaw)

JAIME MOORE

Hey, what has two legs and bleeds a lot...half a dog...(shouts of fuckin’ sick, man) 

ERNIE PARRENT

Is it just me or does the Statue of Liberty have big tits! Shit, you fuckers ain’t drunk enough if you can lay down on the floor and not hold on...

PEDRO CAMPANA

Archito, you still fixing photocopiers man? Careful, those paper jams and paper cuts, they can “paralyze” the whole office. You still work at that fancy place ‘cross town holmes...

19   INT. BAR - SHOT OF JEFFERSON IN A WHEELCHAIR                 

On furlough from VIETNAM in 1965 JEFFERSON is paralyzed from the waist down. Car crash on the way to Mardi Gras. Has a long recovery in VA hospitals and at home in Chicago’s south side Cabrini-Green projects. His friend is NOBLE, a good ol’ boy from Western Kentucky. JEFFERSON is NOBLE’s first black friend. They arrived in Nam with the 4th Infantry Division as FNG grunts early 1964:

JEFFERSON (V.O.)

Fuck you man, go eat some tacos! I know some high level shit going on over there right now, big money shit about GOLD...(he catches himself, shuts up, changes the subject)

Though still friends, JEFFERSON has never been able to forgive NOBLE completely for not visiting him while he was in the hospital recovering. But both remain friends, and both live in the Washington, D.C. area so socialize occasionally, SPEAK BY PHONE REGULARLY:

JEFFERSON (V.O.)

Okay everybody get this shit, Sammy boy said he’s finally going to write the book he be talking about since NAM. Hey NOBLE, tell the boys here how you come up with the name for your book’s hero!

Scene shows NOBLE standing at the bar, the room quiets down, everybody’s staring at him. He’s been with the U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT over forty years as a COURIER of Diplomatic Pouches, has traveled 10 million miles in economy class, eaten crappy food.

Has watched countless movies, read countless books. Has met hundreds of people. He especially loves old movies, legends of lost civilizations, the HOLY GRAIL HOAX, KNIGHTS TEMPLAR, and anything to do with GOLD. He’s always wanted to write a novel:

NOBLE (V.O.)

Thanks Archie, you fuckin’ prick. Yup, I’m going to bite the bullet and write that book I promised all y’all since Moby Dick was a minnow and fluff was a kitten (laughter from the room). So far I only got as far as coming up with a name for the hero. Be starting it real soon and Archie boy here is going to edit it for me!

JEFFERSON

Fuck you man, I ain’t your boy! (flips NOBLE the middle finger, more laughter) Go on, tell ‘em the name!

NOBLE

The hero’s name is DUKE MITCHUM. Who here has seen the movie El Dorado? (a few hands go up) And The Longest Day? (more hands, voice mumbles “great movie”) Well my two favorite actors were in both of ‘em, John “Duke” Wayne and Robert Mitchum.

STU ANDERSON (V.O.)

You sure about the Western? I think you mean Rio Bravo buddy.

NOBLE

Nope, same basic movie though. Rio Bravo was made with the Duke and Dean Martin. El Dorado came years later, with Wayne and Mitchum. Watched them both a million times!

STU ANDERSON

Kinda sad really, get a life man. I say Sammy buys us all a drink to celebrate his book, who seconds my emotion? (loud clinking of glasses, cat calls of verbal abuse, cursing, NOBLE shrugs his shoulders and lifts both arms up)

WAITRESS

Okay boys, last call! We’re closing after this round. (boos at the waitress)

LITTLE GEORGE YOUNG

We gotta hear the story first, tell the story! (everyone yells story, story, story...)

20   INT. BAR WIDE SHOT (CONT.)                              

NOBLE and JEFFERSON look at each other, and JEFFERSON points to NOBLE:

JEFFERSON (V.O.)

It’s your turn man, I did it last time in 2004, or was it 2005! Anyway, you do it! 

NOBLE

Okay, okay assholes, quiet down and listen up! Just keep in mind it was a long time ago and my memory is a little fuzzy. (crowd yells, “tell the story”)

21   FLASHBACK: EXT. VIETNAM - DAY                               

NOBLE narrates the story, as ARCHIVAL FOOTAGE appears on screen, of a base camp near An Khe shared with the very noisy 29th Artillery. We see and hear sights and sounds of a jungle base clearing, rows of CHOPPERS, artillery. In the barracks we see cots, GIs in tee shirts and fatigues, booze, card playing, weapons, soldier paraphernalia:

NOBLE (O.S.)

Okay, so me and my new friend Corporal “Agarn” Jefferson here were playing tonk and he was insulting me as usual. “I’m fixin’ to double tonk yo’ cracker ass boy,” and then he did. (tonk was a popular barracks card game, Agarn was TV character in a series back in the World called “F-Troop” as in Foxtrot). We’re getting wasted on weed and Jim Beam when I feel a massive shit coming on from a dose of dysentery. You guys remember what I mean?

22   FLASHBACK: EXT. VIETNAM – DAY (CONT.)                  

Amoebic dysentery and malaria were quite common, there are shouts of affirmation heard over the footage, NOBLE continues as more flashback video unfolds on screen:

NOBLE (O.S.)

So I grab my new ARMALITE and head for the latrine, whereupon I’m surprised by literally a shit house rat the size of a coyote! Sitting on the commode with my ass out I grab my weapon and bambambambam I blow the shit outta that beast! (howls of laughter fill the room)

Next thing I know the base siren is blasting and I’m thinking Viet Cong sappers are through the wire again so I pull up my drawers and run out. I see you guys come running out the hooch, there’s mass confusion, and I’m backing up firing on full automatic. Sure I saw something in the distant twilight, dark forms, thinking it was Charlie.

Turns out they were oil drums. Arch here trips over some sand bags and his Remington 12-gauge makes a loud boom, next thing I know I’m screaming in pain ‘cause he glances me in the ass! I do a hand wipe and see blood and puke my guts out! (someone yells to NOBLE “don’t let me die, don’t let me die”)

23   INT. BAR WIDE SHOT (CONT.)                              

Narration ends. The old soldiers are falling out of their chairs laughing even though they’ve heard the story before. On the jukebox Smokey Robinson is singing The Tracks of my Tears:

NOBLE (V.O.)

I got hit by four, maybe five pellets I think but it hurt like hell. We sobered up real quick, especially when the MPs appeared along with LTC Parrent, Captain Rainos, and the Top!(PARRENT yells “I should’ve court marshaled your sorry asses” and SAVIDGE yells “fuckin’ pathetic soldiering”)

I’m glad the big wigs at HQ didn’t agree with you guys! I’m lying in the infirmary face down on a cot recovering when the action report comes out.  Seems that Spec-4 NOBLE and  Corporal JEFFERSON were commended for thwarting an enemy attack and we get medals for combat heroism, the Bronze Star for Christ’s sake! Then a year later I get a Purple Heart!

24   INT. BAR WIDE SHOT (CONT.)                              

It’s late. There’s applause, vibes subside, bar closes down. We hear feet shuffling, bottles clinging, men still chuckling, bro handshakes, hugs, brotherhood. In late 1964 NOBLE’s father dies of Black Lung. NOBLE is furloughed home to attend the funeral in MOHLENBURG. Returns to VIETNAM to complete second tour and is promoted to Sergeant E-5. He is assigned a cushy job in Saigon shuttling military dispatches between military installations and the U.S. Embassy. He learns to TYPE:

NOBLE (V.O.)

Okay you bums, don’t forget, tomorrow morning the bus picks us up out front at 9am. Hey Archie man, you need a push?

JEFFERSON

Thanks dude, I’m wiped out. Let’s head up.

25   INT. HOTEL LOBBY, THE ELEVATORS - NIGHT                     

Some of the crew leaves the hotel to find another bar. The two friends wait for the elevator. NOBLE brings up an old anecdote. They talk as they make their way up to the rooms:

NOBLE (V.O.)

Archie, what was that comment you made about GOLD, something about the place you work at, the STUDEBAKER INSTITUTE? (JEFFERSON has sobered up somewhat, he’s cautious)

JEFFERSON

It was nothing man just bullshit to put that fucker Campana in his place, making fun of me and shit. (feigns hurt feelings) Why you ask?

NOBLE

It reminds me of that funny story I told you about once. My 18th birthday party I had right before basic training, remember? (it was on the 19th anniversary of D-Day)

JEFFERSON

Kinda man. Refresh my memory. (JEFFERSON thinks he just dodged a bullet)

26   FLASHBACK: EXT. MOHLENBURG, KENTUCKY - DAY              

NOBLE narrates as video clips show a small coal mining town, dilapidated house, dirt yard with big oak tree. In the distance a rusted out old car, ice box, more junk. Many kids playing, many relatives, picnic tables, cake remnants, party scene. Warm day, Faron Young song If You Ain’t Lovin’ on the radio. NOBLE’S talking to his ill Pa breathing with oxygen tank sitting next to Ma:

NOBLE (O.S.)

So Pa thanks Uncle Harold for taking me to interview at the Old Ben coal mine and getting hired on family legacy. We’re coal miners for generations, as were our Welsh forebears. I hated the idea. I went 1,110 feet down a mine shaft with him.

It was hot, dusty, and noisy. Choking diesel fumes. Pitch black. When I complain Uncle Harold tells me, “don’t get above your raisin’ boy”. Ma tells her only child, “THE FUTURE AIN’T BEEN WRIT YET SO ANYTHIN’ CAN HAPPEN!”

Now bored and pissed off, I counterfeit an old, dirty, and wrinkled up treasure map showing GOLD buried by the oak tree. I get Uncle Harold to bite hook, line, and sinker. He’s a blabbermouth and sucks everybody in on the fake map. Aunts, uncles, and cousins go nuts and start digging up the yard. I yell over and over again, no GOLD, no GOLD, it’s a joke!

These fuckers get really pissed off! I’ll tell you man, no mob anger is worse than kinfolk anger. I enlist the next day figuring I’d be safer in the bosom of the U.S. ARMY! And here I am!

27   INT. HOTEL 10th FLOOR – NIGHT                                 

JEFFERSON (V.O.)

Come to think of it, I kinda do remember that story, some real fucked up shit man. It’s sort of, because of GOLD you’re here now!

NOBLE

You know, I never thought of it like that but I guess you’re right! I saw some real GOLD nuggets once down in BRAZIL panning with my wife’s brothers, but those were SADDER times, you know, after little SARAH left us.

JEFFERSON

Sorry man, but I gotta get some sleep, good night.

NOBLE

Night, see ya in the mornin’. (both go to their rooms, doors close, the sorrow and pain from the loss of little SARAH so long ago has never left NOBLE)

28   EXT. BUS TO THE LINCOLN MEMORIAL – DAY                      

Despite hangovers, all the boys make it down on time. It’s a hot, humid Thursday morning, the day before fireworks on the MALL. Lady folk get in this evening for supper and then festivities tomorrow. Today is for paying respects. The bus is only half full, fewer and fewer brothers make each reunion. Yeah, they all know this is the last one. Conversation turns to politics:

CAMPANA (V.O.)

Man, don’t know about you guys but Alaska is getting killed! (the U.S. recession is entering its third year taking the rest of the world with it) Had to close my VHS equipment store up in Homer, sure glad I got Medicare and Social Security and my wife works part time at the Walmart. (he moved up north from Texas in 1974 to work on the TRANS-ALASKA PIPELINE, has told many stories, the adventure of a lifetime) 

Except for NOBLE who still has a real job, the others including JEFFERSON, depend on government benefits and part-time work. NOBLE retires in two years from STATE. Plans on moving to his wife NELLIE’S FAZENDA or homestead in BRAZIL, near a village called CAMPO DOURADO (it means GOLDEN FIELD in Portuguese). Cost of living is cheaper and he’ll have his government pension.

Other chime in and animated conversation ensues: Seems Old Stu and his wife lost their jobs at a Mississippi Gulf casino when Katrina blew everything away, never rebuilt. Another Vet was laid off at his job on the railroad, a math teacher lost his job, collapse of the real estate market caused one Vet his job so now he works part-time at Jack-in-the-Box. JEFFERSON speaks up:

JEFFERSON (V.O.)

Y’all need to vote for MITCH HAPGOOD for President, let a black man show you how it’s done. Man’s a hero and don’t take no shit. He’ll fix this fuckin’ country!

The Democratic Governor of Tennessee, a Vanderbilt graduate and Desert Storm company commander was favored to win in November’s election four months away. Was awarded the Medal of Honor during Desert Storm at the tip of the spear with the Big Red One:

SAVIDGE (V.O.)

I read all our big cities have long lines at discount grocery stores and unemployment is the highest it’s been since the GREAT DEPRESSION. People are scared man. I remember my parents’ stories about bread lines and soup kitchens in the 1930s. I worked my ass off to make a better life for my kids and they have to take out massive loans, and work to go to college. Ain’t right man! I’m scared for them.

NOBLE is getting generally depressed listening to all this negativity. At least these guys have kids and some grandkids, when he and NELLIE kick the bucket that is the end of his blood line. Oh shit, here we go again:

YOUNG (V.O.)

Why did we fight anyway? I got PTSD, some of you guys got wounded, not counting you Sammy (general laughter) and our brothers on the WALL got dead. I paid taxes my whole fuckin’ life. Where’s my foreign aid? Where’s my welfare check? PUBLIC SERVANTS my ass, Washington politicians are the lords and masters and we’re the fuckin’ SERVANT PUBLIC! (applause and cheers ring out, even the anonymous bus driver gives a fist pump)

All the old warriors shared the view that country and patriotism is the same thing.  But sentiments are changing, and not for the best. Over the bus-speaker the song God Bless the U.S.A. by Lee Greenwood plays.

29   EXT. LINCOLN MEMORIAL OVERLOOKING THE MALL - DAY            

The bus pulls in. It’s crowded with tourists and VETS this long holiday weekend. Long lines form at the sacred sites. Red, white, and blue decorations abound, AMERICAN FLAGS, POW MIA black and white flags. The mood grows solemn. The respected leader and former battalion commander stands and speaks, utter silence:

PARRENT (V.O.)

Okay men, we’re going to head over to the THREE SOLDIERS STATUE just north of here and then to the VIETNAM MEMORIAL WALL just like always. We have plenty of time, ceremonies don’t start for another hour. After that we’re going to find the names and give the salute. Top, you’ll form us up (you hear SAVIDGE off screen say “yes sir”). Gentlemen, as always, it was my honor to have served with you in the war.

God bless you and God bless our country. (everyone, some wearing parts of old uniforms, an assortment of head gear, some in civvies, some displaying medals instinctively stand and snap a salute)

30   EXT. HALLOWED GROUND AT THE WALL - DAY                       

They were FNGs (fucking new guys) when enemy mortar rounds fell on top of the base July 4, 1964. PFC Mike Huffman is killed instantly, and PFC Tim O’Connor dies the next day. The band of bothers touch the names on the WALL after their salute. Both were barely out of their teens when they died.

31   INT. T.G.I.FRIDAY’S RESTAURANT, ROSSLYN – DAY           

After over 40 years of government military and civil service NOBLE is wore out and looking forward to mandatory retirement on his 65th birthday in 2010. Peace and quiet On NELLIE’S HOMESTEAD, slower pace, no bullshit. No Metro Orange Line from Vienna. Take today for example.

Just a few days after the reunion he and his wife go to an impromptu retirement party for a co-worker after work and he thinks he makes a witty retort. It didn’t go well with his boss’s boss’s wife NAOMI, with her puffed-up-hair condescending tone:

NAOMI ATWOOD (V.O.)

Well Mrs. Noble, I understand from my husband Larry you’re from Brazil. I imagine it’s beautiful down there but yet quite poor, dirty, and dangerous.

NELLIE (Broken English)

Yes, I miss my country very much. We are a simple people you know – we laugh, we sing, we dance. Perhaps someday Brazil can be as rich and modern as America.

NOBLE

I’ll tell you what I miss the most when I’m in those dark third-world shitholes – pink nipples!

So now first thing tomorrow morning he’ll get an ass chewing, yet again from the Acting Assistant Deputy Director, Office of Courier Services. He’s a political appointee, not career.

Courier Services work out of an annex office in Rosslyn, not the main STATE DEPARTMENT location at Foggy Bottom. NOBLE’s boss is also present, his Office Chief KIRK ROWAN:

32   INT. ELABORATE GOVERNMENT OFFICE, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT ANNEX - DAY 

Tax dollars at work, elegant furnishings, latest gadgets, on the wall a tiny framed diploma from Southern Illinois University next to framed inspirational sayings, “There’s no I in team”, “An opportunity is never lost, just found by someone else”, “We will not fail, peace and freedom will prevail”.

Photo on his desk, wife NAOMI and a wooden plaque, “No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else’s draft – H.G. Wells”. Photos on credenza, important bigwigs like STATE’S Deputy Secretary, DUMBARTON CLOUNWISSEL. The centerpiece is a certificate in huge ornate glass frame behind his desk from a one-day seminar at Harvard Business School. Such a tool:

LARRY ATWOOD (V.O.)

Well Sam here we go again...insulting comments...lack of sensitivity shown to others...complaints from colleagues about your poor attitude...posting insulting remarks about religions by the water cooler...mocking HOMELAND SECURITY’S color coded threat alert system...(he paces around the large room, gesturing with his hands, lost in self importance, his voice trails off)

NOBLE PLAYS THIS OUT IN HIS HEAD - Considers the religious blasphemies: “Taoism: Shit happens, Hinduism: This shit happened before, Catholicism: Shit happens because you’re bad, Islam: If shit happens it is the will of Allah, Judaism: Why does this shit always happen to us, Rastafarianism: Hey mon, let’s smoke this shit, and Atheism: Shee-it”:

NOBLE (O.S.)

What’s the big fuckin’ deal with a little humor! All I said about the stupid alert system was that yellow meant little old ladies were infiltrating airports with blue hair and knitting needles and red meant it was time to bend over and kiss your ass good bye.

After 9/11 the NATION’S CAPITAL goes through massive infrastructure building programs and billions of dollars spent on fortress AMERICA. Trillions on foreign wars. PATRIOT ACT. HOMELAND SECURITY. Size of FEDERAL GOVERNMENT balloons. Yet STATE still uses old fashioned telex and cable communications, and INTER-AGENCY SNAILMAIL.

Tower cranes everywhere, bollards embedded in streets at choke points, underground connecting tunnels, electronic surveillance, overhead satellites and drones watch everything, CCTV at street level. NOBLE’S mind wanders and he begins daydreaming:

33   EXT. SMASH CUT DAYDREAM - DAY                           

MOTION – Snippets from the 1964 movie ZULU appear on screen, the Battle at Rorke’s Drift, actor Michael Caine fighting the noble warriors, the noise of primitive combat, a few brave men badly outnumbered...Stanley Baker tells Owens to sing “MEN OF HARLECH stop your dreaming”...all looks lost. The noble ZULUS WITHDRAW as a gesture of respect to WELSH warriors...many Victoria Crosses awarded for bravery...

MOTION – Snippets from the Civil War, a battle between the Blue and Gray...we hear Maj. Ballou’s words, “But O SARAH! If the dead can come back to earth and flit unseen around those they loved...if there be a soft breeze upon your neck, it shall be my breath...it shall be my spirit passing by”...

MOTION – Sam closes his eyes, imagines he sees his little SARAH. She walks just ahead and turns to smile, every time he feels a cool breeze on his cheek he thinks of her...

34   INT. SMASH CUT GOVERNMENT OFFICE (CONT.)               

ROWAN (V.O.)

Sam, Sam!...(he whispers and gives Sam a gentle nudge then speaks louder) Larry, Sam understands your concerns and let me say I’ll work with him on your thoughtful and fair criticism. Our colleague as you know is nearing retirement age, is a war hero after all, and none of us want to appear callous. (this has the desired effect)

ATWOOD

Gentlemen, let’s make an effort not to have any more misunderstandings, it makes us all look bad. (Larry sits signaling end of meeting and the lads exit)

35   INT. ROWAN’S OFFICE – DAY                          

ROWAN (V.O.)

Jesus Christ Sam! You weren’t even paying attention back there, you alright? (ROWAN is concerned with NOBLE’S increased difficulty focusing)

NOBLE

Sorry man, I must be getting a little senile or something, it won’t happen again, and thanks for having my back one more time. Did you know that NAOMI spelled backwards is I MOAN? (both men laugh)

ROWAN, a few years younger, is respected by NOBLE who is himself only a civilian pay grade GS10. ROWAN breaths the glorified air of a Senior Foreign Service Officer. Multilingual, carries a black diplomatic passport, makes big bucks.

Has strong family ties to an elite lineage in D.C., THE DAHLGRENS. High society. Graduated with honors from GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY. ROWAN plans to teach there someday. NOBLE has never seen the campus: 

ROWAN (V.O.)

Sam, this guy ATWOOD is a dangerous prick. In case you haven’t noticed he doesn’t like us. He’s the new breed, we’re the old fucking pot-bellied, white-haired dinosaurs. If enough people file anti-bias complaints against you, they’ll furlough you with a medical discharge and loss of pay.

ROWAN doesn’t want to scare NOBLE but knows a Reduction in Force is coming government-wide due to recession and rampant inflation. Too much damn money in circulation. The RIF to go deep, thousands to be laid off. Need to get NOBLE to retirement:

ROWAN (V.O.)

By the way, how was your Army reunion?

NOBLE

Special as always but I’m pretty sure this was the last one for me, the other guys I think felt the same way. Told ‘em I was finally going to WRITE A BOOK and got lots of shit over it. Got my IBM SELECTRIC plugged in, paper ready, and pencils sharpened. You’re kind of an egghead, got any tips for me?

ROWAN knows that except for emails at work, NOBLE is computer illiterate. He calls it the INTERWEB. He missed that generational boat, has to rely on an assistant ROWAN assigned to him for any computer work, a good kid named JORGE ARTES:

ROWAN (V.O.)

Tell you what, I have contacts over at GEORGETOWN, let me get you a guest library card in case you need to do some research. Never written a book myself but my late grandfather on my mother’s side has. Old ROLLIE DAHLGREN wrote more than one, on American history. Used to tell me to write a book was like throwing a handful of pebbles in a calm pond.

The circles on the water connect. WRITE WHAT YOU LOVE, WHAT YOU KNOW, LOVE WHAT YOU WRITE. What shit you don’t know, just make up! Stroll around the campus and take in the DAHLGREN CHAPEL, mysterious place, you know, the JESUITS.

NOBLE

Thanks buddy. All I know about the HOYAS is that they have a great basketball team and famous alma mater tune, borrowed from an old Welsh battle song called MEN OF HARLECH.

36   INT. NOBLE RESIDENCE VIENNA, VIRGINIA - NIGHT           

NOBLE sits at his small desk, LAMP LIGHT. Looks at analog IBM SELECTRIC TYPEWRITER, ponders next step. View is over right shoulder, we see him load two sheets of paper with carbon paper in between. Assorted pencils, pencil sharpener, pens, eraser, stapler, white-out scattered on desk.

Sits and stares. The PIONEER CASSETTE PLAYER on low volume, plays George “Possum” Jones singing Who’s Going to Fill Their Shoes through FAIRFAX speakers. He’s ready, types “THE ADVENTURES OF DUKE MITCHUM”. DUKE’S voice a rich baritone with Texas accent when he speaks. NOBLE decides character names will be HOMMAGE to his Army brothers. WRITE WHAT YOU LOVE.                                          

37   EXT. SMASH CUT HOUSTON, TEXAS – DAY                     

[NOTE: IN NOBLE’S “BOOK”, HE USES CONVENTIONAL QUOTATION MARKS WITH DIALOGUE. HEREINAFTER THAT DIALOGUE APPEARS AS VOICE-OVER DENOTED IN BRACKETS. NOBLE TYPES MORE PAGES FOR HIS BOOK THAN ARE EXCERPTED HERE.]

[ADDITIONALLY, WHENEVER THE STORYLINE OPENS WITH A DUKE MITCHUM ADVENTURE, ITS FOOTAGE APPEARS IN BLACK & WHITE AND AFTER TWO MINUTES TRANSITIONS TO COLOR]

MOTION – An All-American six-foot-four tight end gets tackled. Wears the helmet and colors of Texas A&M. Crowd cheers for DUKE MITCHUM for scoring winning touchdown. TIGHT on both parents cheering, father a famous heart surgeon, mother a Texas blueblood. Carried off the field on teammates’ shoulders, kissed by cheerleader. A hero.

CEREMONY – Applause as DUKE starts first day with conglomerate Houston Industries Corporation (HICO) as a newly minted civil engineer assigned to work on the TRANS-ALASKA PIPELINE. Hubbub, photos, toasts, congratulated by CHAIRMAN & CEO GERARD RAINOS, HQ staff in executive dining room. Being groomed for rapid advancement at HICO, perhaps CEO someday.

ARCHIVAL FILM FOOTAGE – 1973 long gas lines at stations, Yom Kippur War, HEADLINES OPEC members stop oil exports to U.S. led by Saudi Arabia as punishment for helping Israel, 25-cent gallon of gas now over one dollar. Had us by the balls. Nixon creates Department of Energy.

Rush to develop Alaska North Slope, abundant oil reserves. Need pipeline to transport oil to port of Valdez. To support pipeline, a 415-MILE ROAD needs to be built from Prudhoe south to Livengood. And a new bridge to traverse raw foamy waters of YUKON RIVER.

38   EXT. SMASH CUT, ALASKAN WILDERNESS 1976 – DAY      

MOTION – Aerial view with ribbon of a thick, sharp gravel road in distance getting closer and closer. It’s the tire-eater called the HAUL ROAD. Breathtaking scenery. Close-in on vehicles, bouncing, traversing rough terrain. Radio chatter between MITCHUM, his boss SAVIDGE the foreman, and his boss PARRENT the superintendent of the road crew:

39   EXT. SMASH CUT, CHATTER BETWEEN VEHICLES – DAY         

[MITCHUM]

Maker-breaker-one-niner, this is TALL TEXAN unit three, come in BOSS MAN unit two. I’m with tundra trolleys loaded with pipe south of Deadhorse. We got more breakdowns, road’s bad.

[SAVIDGE]

Hey college boy, who’d you blow to get this job! Fuckin’ moron, we’re not using CBs up here, these are two-way radios. Just speak normal and say “over”. Over. (throws his cigar butt out the window, pours whisky from a pint bottle in a coffee mug, takes a swig)

[PARRENT]

Knock it off you two, no cussing, the FCC is listening. Get your asses back to camp. MITCHUM, we don’t use CB HANDLES on the job, just say your name or unit number. (he cracks up, loves his foreman) We got problems, need you both back here asap, over.

[MITCHUM]

Roger that unit one, I’m on my way back to camp and I’ll see you there, unit 3 over. (looks sheepish after admonishment)

40   EXT. ROAD CREW BASE CAMP, NORTHERN ALASKA - DAY              

A group of men milling around waiting for jobs paying $10-$13 an hour working construction equipment, long shifts, overtime, bonuses, big money in 1976. FOOTAGE of trucks, flatbeds, skid steers, loader backhoes, bulldozers, tow cats, excavators, scrappers, crew quarters, mess hall, canteen, map unfolded over superintendent vehicle’s hood. Men huddle around:

[PARRENT]

Listen up Savidge, we’re behind the eight ball! This stretch has to be done in three days or no bonus money. Three shifts and overtime ain’t enough. (runs finger along map, points while speaking)

[SAVIDGE]

10/4 Good buddy. I’ll take some guys up north to get those trolleys running, pipe delivery is way behind schedule. That’s our choke point. Let’s have our young civil engineer here go south to shore up the bridge road. Whaddaya say greenhorn, think you can handle it? (he snickers as others nearby chuckle)

[MITCHUM]

Does a bear shit in the woods? (he actually saw a grizzly bear taking a dump just a few days before)

[SAVIDGE]

Listen here hotshot, everybody likes a little ass but nobody likes a wise ass! We don’t expect much from you. Ain’t no one here calling you bridge builder, bridge builder. But if we don’t get our bonus, you’re cocksucker, cocksucker! (roars of laughter, even DUKE cracks up)

[PARRENT]

CAMPANA, you go out with MITCHUM and some senior guys. JEFFERSON, I want you on the Triple Nickel. (the legendary Ford 555 loader backhoe) Okay men, let’s get it done, we’re burning daylight!

The Bicentennial is Sunday, fireworks hardly visible even at midnight, daylight almost all day. It’s cool, high 40°s but men wear light gear. In perpetually dark winter, temperatures fall to -30° or more. Noise from diesel engines, they scramble into vehicles, activity.

41   INT. BASE CAMP CANTEEN – NIGHT                          

Friday night celebration two days before Bicentennial. SAVIDGE passes out bonus money, cheers, toasts. Bar, beer bottles, whisky shots, juke box playing Johnny Horton’s North to Alaska, pats on the back, handshaking, party atmosphere. Men crowded around a pool table, game is Sag River Three Ball. Fewest number of shots after break to sink remaining balls wins the pot unless a tie, one tie all tie, ante up again and the game continues:

[SAVIDGE]

Get over here bridge builder, put some money down. (MITCHUM grabs a cue stick from the rack, chalks it, the bet is a sawbuck, lays it on the table beneath the bumper pad)

There are several rounds of play, CB HANDLES used JOKINGLY, TALL TEXAN, BOSS MAN, DING-DONG CAMPANA, and SHAFT JEFFERSON are on the fourth round of play. Pot is $160. Room has silenced, everybody now watching. Play starts:

[CAMPANA]

Hijo de puta! (Ding-Dong sinks a ball on the break but scratches, is eliminated, can only get back in for a next round if there’s a tie)

[JEFFERSON]

Let’s see you muh fuckahs beat that! (Shaft sinks one on break, takes two shots to sink the other two, his score is two, next up Boss Man).

[SAVIDGE]

Well Katy bar the door, that’s how it’s done gentlemen! (sinks two balls on break, makes the third in one shot, his score is one, sits down to light up an enormous stogie, drains his sixth double-vodka on the rocks)

Smoke-filled room is tense, dramatic scene unfolding, the hardcore crew boss SAVIDGE is smug, can taste victory, can’t resist mocking the rookie one more time:

[SAVIDGE]

You going to shoot or what college boy? Show some goddamn backbone and bust up those balls! (hopes to rattle young Duke)

[MITCHUM]

I’d like to show a little confidence but I don’t know what it looks like! Seems I’m always getting my ass chewed out for something.

[SAVIDGE]

See this right here hoss, it’s the world’s smallest violin playing my heart bleeds purple piss for you! (he rubs his right index finger over his thumb)

The repartee breaks the tension in the room, shouts and laughter, then silence once again. MITCHUM steps up to the table, chalks his stick, sets the cue ball on the table. Loud thwack as balls break, two find opposite corner pockets immediately, third ball RICHOCETS off bumpers several times, slows to a crawl, finds a side pocket. Score is zero, wins!

The room erupts in cheers! The two men approach, hands extended. SAVIDGE brushes hand away, grabs MITCHUM in a bear hug, lifts him off the ground. More cheers. THUS THE LEGEND OF DUKE MITCHUM IS BORN!

42   INT. NOBLE RESIDENCE VIENNA (CONT.) – NIGHT             

The typing staccato ceases. Adrenalin rush. It’s late. NOBLE feels good, can see the tale unfold, can hear the characters speak. CIRCLES ON THE WATER. Corrects typos on original and carbon copy with WHITE-OUT, organizes in two stacks, places PAPERWEIGHTS on each.

THEY ARE METAL INGOTS 8 INCHES LONG, 3 INCHES WIDE AT BOTH ENDS, 2 INCHES IN THE MIDDLE, AN INCH THICK shaped like BOW TIES, antique patina, uneven. Pours himself a Makers on the rocks as his EIGHT-TRACK plays a song from Local Hero, one of his favorite movies: Even the Lone Star State Gets Lonesome. Basks in the moment. Eventually turns in. Over the next days, weeks, and months he keeps tying.   

43   EXT. SMASH CUT HOUSTON, TEXAS – DAY                

THE ADVENTURES OF DUKE MITCHUM...

CEREMONY - HICO, HOUSTON hails the conquering hero. After Alaska DUKE MITCUM returns and is promoted by Chairman Rainos himself to an international management position, accolades at luncheon reception in executive dining room, mover and shaker, fast tracker, sky’s the limit. Not yet 30. Everyone applauds.

44   EXT. SMASH CUT BORNEO, INDONESIAN SIDE – DAY                 

MOTION – Aerial view, dense green jungle. GOLD mining operations, heavy machinery, mammoth earth-eating excavators, gigantic dump trucks, ore crushers, huge mercury-cyanide mixing tanks, leaching tanks.  Noisy, dusty, toxic, poisonous chemicals. A pallet of GOLD bullion. LARGE SIGN reads JAM ENTERPRISES, LTD.

VIDEO MONTAGE – Headline images of newspapers, snippets from Indonesian TV, CNN, European networks, SCANDAL IN BORNEO. Massive fraud uncovered, large American multinational corporation behind scheme, local executives jailed. U.S. Embassy involved. Culprits interviewed on live TV, PERP WALKED to jail in HANDCUFFS:

[JAIME A. MOORE]

We all got greedy! I was mining small amounts of GOLD but not enough to pay bills. HICO said they could help my company. They bribed the Minister of Mines to give me mining rights to lands around Mount Besar. I had to sign an exclusive contract to buy only HICO equipment and spare parts from its Brazilian subsidiary. Then they salted core samples and tricked everybody.

[INDONESIAN TV REPORTER]

You had mining rights to 100,000 acres of pristine jungle and told the government to displace the Meratus Dayak people. Where did the money come from to buy $75 million in new mining equipment, international banks?

[MOORE]

Absolutely! They lined up to lend me money. All I had to do was promise the mining equipment as collateral. The more machinery I imported from HICO’s subsidiary Brasilex and the more I spent on mining operations, the more money banks lent me.

HICO told me and the banks Mount Besar weighed 500 million tons and it was potentially a mountain of GOLD! HICO had no risk, they busted out my company! They got rich, I got the shaft!

[REPORTER]

So the Minister made money, Brasilex made money, HICO made money, and you dumped tons of toxic chemicals into the Borneo rainforests. Who told you Mount Besar was a mountain of GOLD weighing so much?

[MOORE]

HICO’s surveyor and civil engineer in charge of mining equipment operations, he lives here. He’s an American and his name is MR. DUKE MITCHUM!

MITCHUM told upon arrival in Indonesia that this could be one of the country’s richest GOLD finds ever. The GOLD vein estimated running through the mountain was 60 tons. MITCHUM visits GOLD field, assured by local assaying engineer and his boss, an American geologist that much more mining equipment is needed. The engineer and geologist were paid by the Minister to salt core samples and raise estimates from 60 to 90 to 150 and then to 300 tons of GOLD, on par with the KLONDIKE AND YUKON GOLD RUSH.

[REPORTER]

MR. MITCHUM, why did you lie to the Indonesian people and build up their hopes for a better standard of living, a better way of life?

[MITCHUM]

I’m innocent, innocent I tell you! I’ve been set up! The core samples were analyzed by outside auditors, I checked and double checked! I wish to see a representative from the American Embassy please!

The case was broken wide open when the American geologist, JIMBO PHELPS, for no apparent reason throws himself out of a helicopter while on inspection flight, right in front of MITCHUM, MOORE, AND THE MINISTER OF MINES. Horrified, the Minister panics and does an about face after authorities search PHELPS’ personal belongings, find suicide note, and confession to his crime.

He had terminal AIDS. The assaying engineer disappears. Minister orders new core samples and under electron microscope analysis reveals GOLD found is placer GOLD, found in rivers, not from underground volcanic deposits. The fraud is revealed.

By the time dust settles, DUKE MITCHUM is made the scapegoat, everyone else walks away. PASSPORT SEIZED. He’s locked up in the hoosegow for months until the American Embassy Attaché, LLOYD JONES, negotiates his release. He returns home to Texas, summarily fired by HICO with no severance pay, no medical, legal bills, no future, his hopes and dreams SHATTERED!

45   INT. HOUSTON, TEXAS – DAY                     

Moves back home to parents’ basement, HEAD in funk, takes up smoking MARY JANE, drinks LONE STAR BEER all day, has no ambition. A BROKEN MAN. Cannot find work, has no friends, a pariah, contemplates suicide, DAYS TURN INTO WEEKS. Then suddenly, one morning, EPIPHANY!

SMASHCUT MONTAGE OF IMAGES ONSCREEN:  Wall posters I’M NO LOSER GODDAMNIT! DON’T LET THEM GODDAMN CITY SHITTERS KICK YOU DOWN! Like a PROPHET from the OLD TESTAMENT he knows what he has to do. Grows hair long, beard, dresses in tee shirts, bell-bottom jeans, Converse high-top black sneakers.

Has renewed hunger for learning, devours books, visits the Houston library until he’s finished there, then drives to COLLEGE STATION and spends hour after hour at the library of his old alma mater. Borrows money from parents. They have mixed feelings.

He travels to the nation’s capital, visits the Library of Congress, then GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY’S RIGGS LIBRARY – either he discovers life’s meaning through a leap of faith and placed hope in GOD or he dies concluding everything has been meaningless. It was about RAISON D’ETRE, WHY ARE WE HERE! Life must be more than a MUSTARD BURP – momentarily tangy than lost instantly into air!

HE INTENDS TO SEARCH FOR TRUTH, JUSTICE, AND THE AMERICAN WAY! WHAT IS IT ABOUT GOLD THAT DRIVES MEN TO MADNESS!

46   EXT. BENCH OUTSIDE DAHLGREN CHAPEL, GEORGETOWN - DAY              

IMAGE – Long-haired hippie freak sits on bench scribbling notes, eccentric, talks to himself and passersby, oblivious to surroundings, absorbed, a large scary-looking man:

[MITCHUM]

Listen my children and I will be your teacher, I am the creature of my own wrongdoing, it is my fault, all my fault. I should have been more careful, more vigilant...guard your heart on what comes in...let in only what builds you up...guard against hubris...

47   EXT. DISTORTED STREAKY IMAGES - DAY                

[O.S.] JUMBLE OF MITCHUM’S NARRATION AND THOUGHTS:

...What is GOLD and what makes it so special? Archaeological diggings reveal lust for GOLD goes back millennia, to mankind’s earliest recorded history. It’s heavy, 20 times heavier than water, 70% heavier than lead.

...Will never tarnish or rust, indestructible, your GOLD filling could come from ancient Egypt, repurposed from a Pharaoh’s death mask or a Conquistador’s Peruvian loot. NASA uses GOLD because it’s resistant to heat. Found in cell phones, car batteries. It can never be lost, just temporarily hidden.

...GOLD can be found anywhere in minute quantities, in sea water, rocks in your backyard. The human body has gold. TO MAKE MONEY, deep-shaft mining needs at least 2.5 grams of GOLD per metric ton of ore. They look for the color silver on rock face, “GOLD is fake, silver is GOLD”.

...Open-pit mining is big and dirty because those mines only extract 1 gram of GOLD per metric ton of ore. More dirt means tearing up environment and destroying NATURE! IT IS THE MOST EVIL KIND OF MINING! Grotesque scarring of MOTHER EARTH.

...The easiest GOLD to mine is placer but also most rare, NATURE brings it to the surface PURE, already mined, found in EXPOSED ROCK FORMATIONS IN VEINS, or in streambeds waiting for someone to bend down and pick it up! Crowd forms, someone speaks up:

[ANONYMOUS]

What’s your fuckin’ point man, you need to chill out! (crowd laughs)

[MITCHUM]

I beg of you brothers and sisters, just a few more minutes! (someone yells fuck off)

[MITCHUM]

A GOLD nugget the size of a walnut can be hammered thin enough to cover your football field or make a thread 50 miles long!

[ANONYMOUS]

Bullshit! 

[MITCHUM]

No, it’s true, GOLD is cursed! Did you know that the ancients used GOLD to make the ELIXIR OF LIFE, their GOLD was called the PHILOSPHER’S STONE! It’s how we got ALCHEMY and BLACK MAGIC! MERCHANTS IN ANITQUITY used GOLD to buy shit along the SILK ROAD so that’s why we use it for money!

[ANONYMOUS]

Is the GOLD in Fort Knox cursed man? Far fuckin’ out!(more laughs)

[MITCHUM]

OUR LEADERS SELL THEIR SOULS TO HOARD GOLD MAN, that’s how they grab power from us and keep it, it’s because they think they’ll live forever! It’s politics man, it’s all about politics! (DUKE raises his fist and pumps it up and down)

[ANONYMOUS]

BUMMER! BRING IT DOWN MAN, BRING THE WHOLE STINKING SYSTEM DOWN! (the crowd cheers and laughs, mocking DUKE)

The security guards finally arrive. It’s the 1970s, it’s D.C., this kind of shit happens all the time. MITCHUM is politely escorted off campus and out onto 37th Street. It doesn’t matter, he has what he came for, it was all there, hiding in plain sight. HE WILL NOT REMAIN SILENT ANY LONGER! HE’S JUST GETTING STARTED!

48   INT. SMASH CUT DUPONT CIRCLE NEIGHBORHOOD, WASHINGTON D.C. - NIGHT       

IT’S A SUNDAY IN EARLY AUGUST 2008 A MONTH AFTER THE ARMY REUNION. ARCHIE sits in his studio apartment brooding. Mumbles to himself, wasted from reefer and wine:

JEFFERSON (V.O.)

Those dumb bastards, I was drunk, but I wasn’t that drunk!

Can’t let it go, being disrespected at the reunion. That wisecrack about special needs, who visited him in the VA HOSPITAL after the car crash? FUCKIN’ NOBODY. All he got was a postcard from NOBLE SAYING “DON’T LET THEM GODDAMN CITY SHITTERS KICK YOU DOWN.” Big fucking deal! Takes another hit from a BONG:

JEFFERSON (V.O.)

Think they’re so smart. They can laugh all they want but none of them know shit about repairing the king of office machines – the Xerox Photocopier! 

(O.S.) NARRATION IN JEFFERSON’S FIRST-PERSON VOICE. SLOW MOTION VIDEO OF XEROX ANALOG COPIER DETAIL:

...I GUESS I SHOWED THOSE MOTHERFUCKERS! Sure, you have all those new-fangled gadgets now, like Blackberrys, personal computers, and pagers but when the chips are down, if the copier fucks up the office goes nuts. Remember carbon copies and mimeograph machines, how about making copies by hand?

...And those new-fangled digital machines, can they copy, collate, staple, and separate finished products like my trusty XEROX? I think not! Digital is tyranny by the conformity overlords of Big Tech! Analog is freedom! DIGITIZATION IS AN ABOMINATION!

...It’s modern-day alchemy! The drum, the light-induced conductivity, the latent image made up of microscopic electrical charges, a specially charged toner, and photoconductive material all working in tandem. Fucking magic!

...To see it in action, just hit the start button activating a bright lamp that coats paper being copied in light. The drum then rotates and light is reflected off the blank areas of the paper. A mirror reflects the image onto the drums surface. Dark areas absorb light on the paper and drum.

...There’re fucking photons and electrons bouncing off each other and fine black-powder toner particles sprayed against the drum’s surface. Then you got the thin corona wire and image embedded on the copier paper passing through the fuser that seals the print. Heated rollers ensure permanent pigment adhesion, and finally the rollers eject the finished copy into the collection tray. Perfection!

49   FLASHBACK: INT. DUPONT CIRCLE, WASHINGTON D.C. - DAY        

IT’S MAY, SIX WEEKS BEFORE THE ARMY REUNION. JEFFERSON gets an idea by pure COINCIDENCE: Suppose after the rollers eject the finished copy into the collection tray, the copier doesn’t automatically prepare for the next go-round by cleaning the drum’s surface? What if latent images are still left behind on the drum? THE IDEA CAME FROM A SUNDAY MORNING TV SHOW ON PBS.

TV IS ON. JEFFERSON sifts through discarded newspapers and empty PIZZA BOXES, BEVERAGE CUPS on the coffee table, searches for remote control. HE CHANNEL SURFS. Comes upon a PBS telecast about the National Archives’ “Charters of Freedom”.

Subject is a Celt named JOHN DUNLAP who was a PRINTER, Presbyterian Minister, and newspaper man. Was connected by marriage to BEN FRANKLIN, and family friend THOMAS JEFFERSON.

On a hot summer day in July 1776, DUNLAP is given a rush job to print a broadside called the DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE. The drum cracks the engraving plate while printing but scores of BROADSIDE COPIES can still be printed. HERO OF THE FLEDGLING REPUBLIC!

JEFFERSON (O.S.)

That sly dog Dunlap, he used the latent image left behind on the drum until the image just wore out!

This is where the proverbial shit hits the fan!

50   FLASHBACK: INT. MASSACHUSETTS AVE., D.C. - DAY     

EARLY JUNE, JEFFERSON is asked to fix the XEROX photocopy machine where he works, located on the executive’s FOURTH-FLOOR suite of offices, WHERE THE BIG SHOTS RESIDE. THIS BUILDING IS THE STUDEBAKER INSTITUTE. The building and elevator is wheelchair friendly.

NOW HE GETS A CHANCE TO TEST HIS IDEA! He partially disassembles the guts of the copier, DISCONNECTING the drum’s self-cleaning switch. It’s reassembled. He makes sure it’s all systems go. HITS THE START BUTTON.

A SHEET OF PAPER IS EJECTED INTO THE COLLECTION TRAY. Its printing quality faintly legible! Hits the start button again. Out pops another sheet of paper, barely legible! On the third try, the copy is no longer legible. HE HAS PROVEN HIS THEORY, it was indeed possible to lift latent copies from the drum if not cleaned immediately!

JEFFERSON hears footsteps, someone coming. Quickly RECONNECTS cleaning switch. Does not dispose of pilfered copies in the waste bin but stuffs them in the toolbox with his tools. Is curious, wants to see what they are. He exits photocopy room nonchalantly in his wheelchair, enters elevator. Descends to basement for an early lunch in the plebian cafeteria.

No one else there. Opens lunch box, eats and drinks. Then opens toolbox, takes out copies, glances at contents. WORDS POP OUT: ATLANTEAN GEODESY, OPERATON GERDA, NSA, CIA, USGS, SPANKH SITES, STAPLE-LIKE CLAMPS, TENENTS, AND GOLD. Lastly he reads at the bottom of each of the two legible copies these words:

Note: U.S. Government Classified. The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this document in whole or in part is illegal under U.S. Code: Title 50. Infringement of this law is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to ten years in federal prison and fine of $500,000.

JEFFERSON FEELS SICK TO HIS STOMACH. KNOWS HE FUCKED UP! Knows where he works does really secret shit for the FEDS and has lots of important people coming and going all the time. PANICS! Loses appetite, rips up the copies, and with the remnants of his fried egg sandwich, plastic wrap, paper bag, banana peels, and half-empty can of Dr. Pepper, scrunches everything together, tosses the garbage in an open dumpster.

Checks back the next morning, makes sure the trash was picked up. It was. He’s relieved. He didn’t get caught!

51   INT. JEFFERSON’S APARTMENT (CONT.) – NIGHT              

LATE THAT SAME SUNDAY IN EARLY AUGUST. Ready for bed, brushes teeth, low-set sink and mirror, handicap friendly bathroom. JEFFERSON stares in the mirror, talks to himself having relived the whole episode, and in retrospect is proud of his accomplishments:

JEFFERSON (V.O.)

Yeah, I shouldn’t have mentioned GOLD at the reunion but fuck it. No one ever going to catch me no how so shit maybe I do it again. (finishes up, rinses, flicks off light as he exits bathroom)

52   EXT. MASSACHUSETTS AVE., D.C. – DAY                     

BACKGROUND...

A gated and walled four-story, modern-style building of gray marble, reinforced steel doors, bulletproof blue mirrored windows. Heavy security. Small, tarnished green copper nameplate on front gate column with motto beneath: STUDEBAKER INSTITUTE, THE FUTURE IS HERE. Assorted antennae and parabolic dishes on the rooftop draw no special attention, the neighborhood is EMBASSY ROW. ITS NICKNAME IS SIMPLY SI. THERE IS NO “THE” BEFORE GOD EITHER.

SI sits on donated POWHATAN Indian land. Technically, is a PRIVATE SECTOR POLICY INSTITUTE, known in vulgar vernacular as a THINK TANK. It is a very old and distinguished non-profit entity which only accepts “CHARITABLE CONTRIBUTIONS”. SI does not pay Federal or D.C. taxes. Neither do its board members thanks to a one-off IRS codicil obtained by a former board member, a retired Secretary of the Treasury.

Except for the board chairman and executive director, the other seven positions are a revolving door of civilian and military heavyweights: captains of industry, generals, admirals, cabinet heads and deputies, deep-state intelligence agencies, congressmen, senators, one president, and a few vice presidents over the years. All are handsomely compensated by SI plus draw retirement pensions from former employers.

SI is the apex predator of Think Tanks. It sits at the confluence of wealth, power, and politics inside the BELTWAY and is unrivaled in influence. This is due to the lifelong labors of its ancient, respected, and feared chairman, ZACHARIAH GREESE. He’s a small man. He looks like MR. BURNS from The Simpsons. His voice is strong. It was he who took the one-time industrial giant and car maker and made it into what it is today.

Claims as a boy to have met The Colonel, THEODORE ROOSEVELT’S preferred moniker, and most Presidents since then. He also claims to have known STALIN and MAO ZEDONG. It was thousands of STUDEBAKER trucks that helped the Soviet Union turn the tide against Hitler. GREESE is proud he still has most of his teeth but they are a hideous muddy yellow like his old friend Mao, who once told him, “Old lions never brush their teeth”. The country he fears most is China, “They will eat our lunch someday”.

Over the decades SI has evolved into a QUASI-GOVERNMENTAL AGENCY, with all rights and privileges accorded thereto. It all began with the ARMALITE PROJECT, SI’s masterpiece of 50 years. SI still earns royalties from military and civilian model iterations.

A gigantic income stream. GREESE convinced the U.S. Military to replace the robust M14 7.62 mm automatic rifle with the smaller, lighter 5.56 mm ARMALITE AR15. SI lobbied to save it when it malfunctioned under enemy fire in Vietnam, jamming. SI blamed the ammunition. The Army agreed and rebranded it the M16. The rest is history.

SI has access to classified files and intelligence agency databases based on its employee’s security clearance. The Chairman and Executive Director have the LEGAL RIGHT to designate any of SI’s projects CLASSIFIED TOP SECRET under the protection of the FBI.

Even SI’s postage expenses are paid for by taxpayers: it is included in all INTERAGENCY CORRESPONDENCE ROUTES BY THE U.S. GOVERNMENT’S MESSENGER SERVICE.

53   FLASHBACK: INT. STUDEBAKER INSTITUTE - DAY              

EARLY JUNE, THE MORNING AFTER JEFFERSON PULLS HIS STUNT PILFERING PHOTOCOPIES. The head of SI security knows of a security breach in the basement’s cafeteria. He decides to inform CHAIRMAN GREESE first and not his boss BUDDY. BUREAU SOP excludes as few people as possible from suspicion of a crime:

GREESE (V.O.)

I thought you Jew boys were so fucking smart COCKSTEIN! You convinced me to buy all those expensive electronic gadgets and gizmos now this shit happens! Why back in the day I’d have called old J. Edgar, queer that he was, and he’d have arrested the sonsabitches before sundown! (mispronounces the name on purpose)  

MCKINLEY “MAC” KOPSTEIN is head of security. Some of the gizmos are new digital CCTV CAMERAS strategically placed in the building. He’s ex-FBI, likes to dress in seersucker suits, red suspenders, and blue suede shoes. GREESE’S office is dark except for a dimly lit lamp on a bare desk. Out of sight is a button he presses to open and close his office door. A tiny man sits in a huge chair, deep, clear voice. KOPSTEIN does not sit, there are no guest chairs. Feels his name’s mispronunciation is a petty admonishment:

KOPSTEIN (V.O.)

Actually MR. GREESE sir, this matter came to light as a result of old fashioned detective work. Besides modern methods we use a grid system on each floor and basement. At the end of each business day, after everyone has left, we do a manual search of shredded documents, waste bins, garbage cans, and dumpsters before allowing the cleaning team to enter and before anything can be hauled away. (it was understood that GREESE’S office was the only exception to the rule)

GREESE

Continue.

KOPSTEIN

Well sir, the TRASH and the GRID didn’t line up. Some page fragments from torn pieces of paper were clearly in the wrong grid. Not the right watermark, not the right weight or bond. This unique paper was what we use for classified work. Should’ve been shredded. My investigator RADWELL was up all night. He can be trusted. He was able to determine source because some plastic wrap had somehow protected the paper fiber from total decomposition.

GREESE

Cut to the chase, what the hell are they?

KOPSTEIN

MR. GREESE, they’re fragments from three pages. One was blank and not legible, but the other two pages sir, therein lies the problem. They are government classified documents. Upon further investigation, we determined they are the last two pages of a 25-page INTERNAL MEMORANDUM written by DR. CINZA BROWN, OUR CHIEF ECONOMIST. The paper is entitled ATLANTEAN GEODESY and dated May 7th. The designated recipient is MR. PEOPLES.

BARTHOLOMEW “BUDDY” PEOPLES IS SI’S EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR AND BOARD MEMBER. Both the Chairman and Director of Security know that the unauthorized knowledge and/or possession of a Federal document stamped U.S. GOVERNMENT CLASSIFED meant the FBI should be called in to investigate:

GREESE (V.O.)

Hmm, this is indeed a serious matter KOPSTEIN. You are aware of course we are working on a very important project in concert with the government called OPERATION GERDA. (now more composed, gets the name right)

KOPSTEIN certainly is aware of GERDA, he is one of only a handful of people who have knowledge of the project at SI. It is touted as being potentially the biggest federal government contract award a.k.a “charitable contribution” in SI’s illustrious history.

EVEN BIGGER THAN THE ARMALITE PROJECT. SI board members are all over town schmoozing up the next WHITE HOUSE team under shoe-in winner for president, BUCHANAN “MITCH” HAPGOOD, this November:

GREESE (V.O.)

The documents you found, they tie into that project, although we don’t think very highly of the ATLANTEAN GEODESY itself. We really struck out with that dog. Still, in the hands of the wrong people – I’m referring here to our cunning competition and the liberal press – our reputation could be tarnished and STUDEBAKER compromised in achieving its goal. Tell me what you have so far.

KOPSTEIN

Sir, we went back and reconstructed events. We used CCTV CAMERA footage where available. We believe DR. BROWN made photocopies of a poor quality and rather than shred them as per protocol, he tossed them in the waste bin. They were then retrieved by ARCHIBALD JEFFERSON, SI’S part-time office machine repairman. You’ve probably seen him around.

He’s the crippled old black guy in a wheelchair. He works here half-days under our VA outreach program. Has a cubbyhole in the basement’s maintenance room next to the cafeteria where he hangs out most of the time.

Anyway, he repaired the photocopy machine in the copy room on this floor next to DR. BROWN’S office between 11:02 a.m. and 11:44 a.m. No camera footage available for that room but we do have his signed work order.

Neither do we have footage from the cafeteria but we think that when JEFFERSON sees the warning at the bottom of the pages he panics and tries to destroy the evidence. We do have footage showing DR. BROWN leaving his office to make copies at 9:46 a.m.

JEFFERSON could only have obtained these copies from DR. BROWN’S carelessness. JEFERSON did not break into anyone’s locked files. Was DR. BROWN CARELESS ON PURPOSE, implying a conspiracy of some kind? If so why and for what reason? Why was he copying the ATLANTEAN GEODESY in the first place? Was JEFFERSON only curious? We don’t know.

GREESE

So you, I and RADWELL are the only ones who know about this, correct?

KOPSTEIN

Sir, yes sir.

GREESE

Inform your boss and only him. Let’s not get the FEDS involved, they can be a pain in the ass. I’m prepared at the present time to chalk this incident up as an UNFORTUNATE COINCIDENCE, nothing more. I need BROWN’S full attention on GERDA. Say nothing to BROWN or JEFFERSON either. I don’t want to make this a big deal. For now, tell your team to keep their eyes open and let me know if there are any further developments.

KOPSTEIN

Yes sir. Anything else Mr. Greese?

GREESE

Yes there is KOPSTEIN, I strongly suggest you install more fucking TV CAMERAS! You are dismissed.

KOPSTEIN makes a mental note, next time tell BUDDY first and let him feel the WRATH OF KHAN! This guy GREESE is creepy.

54   INT. STUDEBAKER INSTITUTE (CONT.) – DAY                     

BACKGROUND...

As KOPSTEIN departs, GREESE knows he’s on the right track. He saw it coming three years ago. Anyone with a lick of sense could. Politicians are liars and cheats. They just want to get re-elected. Need fiat money? Just print it.

IMAGES OF EARTH, OF SATELITE LIDAR. OLD PHOTOS, ARCHIVAL FOOTAGE OF THE GREAT MEN OF HISTORY. IMAGES OF THE MYSTERIES OF THE PYRAMIDS, SIMILAR PYRAMID DESIGN WORLDWIDE, THEIR BLOCKS FASTENED WITH CLAMPS, GOLD OF ANTIQUITY:

The U.S. has a titanic national debt. High inflation currently only happens when you circulate too much money. Big-government liberal guru FDR led the way. Influenced by the Brit economist and mega-socialist Keynes, “Was there ever such a union of beauty and brains as when the lovely Lopokova married John Maynard Keynes”.

FDR took the country off the GOLD STANDARD in 1933. GREESE was a young executive with the STUDEBAKER MOTOR COMPANY then and felt it was a mistake. He waited, watched, and decided to act once the time was right like now. Politicians squirm more in bad times than good times.

Convince the sitting President to return the country to the GOLD STANDARD to save the economy then reap the rewards. The consulting income stream from royalties and fees will dwarf the ARMALITE PROJECT.

The moment was at hand, the 2008 Presidential Election. “Come into my web said the spider to the fly”. He selects DR. BROWN from a chorus line of best and brightest. “Feed the tiger, ride the horse, shoot the dog”. BROWN IS A TIGER. Ambitious, ruthless, brilliant. The return to the GOLD STANDARD is given code name OPERATION GERDA BY DR. BROWN: GOLD EXRACTION & RELOCATION FOR DEFENSE OF AMERICA.

The question is how much GOLD does America need to return to a GOLD STANDARD? BROWN’S preliminary econometric analysis estimates at least as much GOLD known to be in existence. In all history, humankind only brings to the surface 130,000 metric tons of GOLD, a 60-foot cube. But supposedly only 13,000 tons mined before 1850 A.D. Absurd he says. THE GOLD OF ANITQUITY is vastly more than 13,000 tons.

BROWN determines there has been an advanced society whose Diaspora spread worldwide in search of GOLD. Evidence can be found going back in the study of structures, building techniques, geology, and metallurgy. He bets all his chips on DOVETAIL METAL CLAMPS first used 10,000 years ago.

BROWN CALLS THEM TENENTS found everywhere. They hold together blocks of stone in temples, pyramids, from Egypt to India, Bolivia, Japan, China, Cambodia, Peru, Greece, Italy, and Ethiopia to name just a few places. The CLAMPS are of a sophisticated alloy poured molten at high temperature to form ingots that act like staples.

BROWN SPECULATES THE ADVANCED SOCIETY COULD HAVE BEEN ATLANTIS. ATLANTEANS come to settle in EGYPT and build the pyramids then branch out worldwide in search of GOLD. They have knowledge of seafaring using both latitude and longitude for celestial bearings. They survey new foreign lands.

ATLANTEAN EXPLORERS USE THE GREAT PYRAMID CAPSTONE AS THE PRIME MERIDIAN. BROWN identifies 32 “GOLD HOARD” locations worldwide, whose surveyors left behind markers which become known as CELTIC SPIRALS AND CRUX ANSATA OR ANKH. BROWN calls his 32 sites SPANKH SITES. There are hundreds more.

Once located, the U.S. Intelligence Agencies are to undertake WHATEVER MEASURES NECESSARY TO EXTRACT AND RELOCATE THE GOLD to American shores, providing satellite mapping and ground penetrating radar, LIDAR support.

The ATLANTEAN GEODESY is a dud, voted down unanimously by the SI Board. Rejected by SI leadership as farfetched, naïve, loony, not feasible, nice try. Go back to the drawing board. Tick, tick, tick, THE STUDEBAKER INSTITUTE IS RUNNING OUT OF TIME.

    55   INT. SMASH CUT NOBLE RESIDENCE VIENNA, VIRGINIA – NIGHT

NOBLE busy “writing” his book. He amasses more pages and chapters. Has spoken with JEFFERSON by phone several times, he encourages NOBLE to keep going. NOBLE researches at Vienna Public Library, Riggs Library at Georgetown, goes through his own collection of dog-eared paperbacks for ideas, DA VINCI CODE, BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME.

One catches his eye, CHARIOTS OF THE GODS. What a revelation that book was! What memories! Reads it in 1969 while finishing up this two-year associate degree in English Literature from Mohlenburg Community College on the GI Bill.

Degree in hand, heads to D.C. to conquer the world, and gets hired by STATE DEPARTMENT AS CIVIL SERVANT. By 1972 has joined the SMALL AND ELITE COURIER SERVICE, a GS7 making a mind-boggling ten grand a year.

Only a handful of men and women are chosen. Gets a TDY to work out of Brasília for a few months to cover South America. Meets a young, raven-haired, black-eyed beauty, they fall in love, get married, have a little girl, SARAH.

NILZA “NELLIE” APARECIDA VASCONCELOS is six years younger. Hails from the remote hinterland of the OLD GUAPORÉ TERRITORY, RENAMED THE STATE OF RONDÔNIA IN HONOR OF CÂNDIDO RONDON. She is one-quarter NAMBIKUÁRA INDIAN. Father dies at a young age. NELLIE comes from a large family.

The BICENTENNIAL JULY FOURTH was supposed to be a happy family vacation near Fort Lewis, Washington where NOBLE went through Army basic training. SARAH WAS THREE YEARS OLD.

NOBLE’S MIND WANDERS, HE DAYDREAMS...

56   FLASHBACK: EXT. TACOMA, WASHINGTON – DAY...                 

AGAIN HE RECALLS THOSE SADDER TIMES...

(O.S.) NARRATION IN NOBLE’S VOICE – DREAMY IMAGES APPEAR OF DOWNTOWN TACOMA, THE B&I CIRCUS STORE, STEVE’S GAY 90s, HAYSTACK CALHOUN, IVAN THE BABY GORILLA:

...Early that morning things went horribly wrong. I wanted to show her the baby gorilla Ivan. He had a cage inside the B&I Circus Store, a HAPPY discount department store. SARAH wanted to see the LUVAFUL LITTLE MONKEY. I said his cage was just up ahead, maybe 20 feet, I was looking for a present to surprise  Mommy who stayed back at our cheap motel, headache.

...I’ll be there in just a second sweetie, you go ahead. THEN IT WAS OVER, in a blink of an eye, the last time I saw her. Torment, screaming, pleading for help, the police, the FBI, anyone, just help me. NO CCTV TAPES, NO SECURITY. Kidnapped they said, no leads.

...I beg the Tacoma News Tribune to offer a reward, they ask for money. I have none. Had I been a rich man, maybe they could have found her.

...No one helps, I go ape shit. NELLIE is distraught beyond SANITY, needs sedation. I yell obscenities at police call them worthless MOTHERFUCKERS, GODDAMN CITY SHITTERS. FUCK GOD, FUCK JESUS! WHERE’S MY BABY! I want to kill them all. I get arrested, then released.  

...Hours, days, weeks drag on, my employer gives me time off to stay in Tacoma, to cope, to grieve. I return to D.C. after a month. Keep in touch the police say.

...Time passes, nothing. Grief counselor at STATE recommends leave of absence, I’m unstable, may hurt colleagues, I’m a former military combat veteran, potentially dangerous scenario. Fear I MIGHT GO POSTAL. Forced to take extended paid leave. NELLIE wants to go back home, needs her family.

...We depart D.C. for SÃO PAULO, onward to PORTO VELHO, THEN BY BUS DUE NORTH TO CAMPO DOURADO, a small village, no street lights, no traffic lights, no stop signs, dusty horses, MUDDY GAÚCHOS, backwards, poor. NELLIE’S farm and homestead is 20 minutes north of town. Locals call it the FAZENDA...

57   EXT. SMASH CUT CAMPO DOURADO, BRAZIL - DAY             

...MOTION – Blurry images, drunken stupor. NOBLE remembers little from FIRST MONTH. Memorial service, NELLIE inconsolable, has family support, mother, two sisters, four brothers, aunts, uncles, etc. Catholic Mass, sedatives, pilgrimage to ABADIÂNIA, CASA DE DOM INACIO. Cooler temperatures, winter months in Brazil.

...SECOND MONTH clearer head. NOBLE remembers walking into town from NELLIE’S FAZENDA A.K.A HOMESTEAD, 8 miles on a dusty red-dirt potholed road. Bad idea. A tree trunk blocking the road turns out to be an immense ANACONDA. Paths off-shooting from the main road prove to be wild game trails, JAGUARS, RAPTOR-LIKE WILD OSTRICHES, MANED WOLVES.

...BEEHIVES OF KILLER BEES. Deeper inside the jungle a hostile Indian tribe finds it sporting to shoot curáre-tipped arrows at strangers. From then on, he only travels via ancient rural bus.

...NOBLE befriended by CAMPO DOURADO CONSTABLE RICARDO MARQUEIJO. Day-drinking at BOTECOS AND BOTEQUINS. CACHAÇA AND CHOPINHOS. Thousands of Canadian migrating swallows in the trees. Also makes friends with BRUXO PACHE THE PHARMACIST. His name means wizard. He and NOBLE are about the same age. NOBLE stops by mornings for strong sweet coffee CAFEZINHO.

...His pharmacy sells aspirin for headaches. VALIUM sold over the counter too. It’s an old-fashioned locale and general store as well, has GOLD ASSAYER SCALES on the counter. You can take him what you think is GOLD AND HE CAN TEST PURITY FOR YOU. BRUXO is also the town barber.

...THE GUAPORÉ TERRITORY IS HISTORICALLY GOLD COUNTRY. On the counter is also a large, very heavy APOTHECARY MORTAR AND PESTLE. Both are of a dark green color, have spider webs of thin yellow veins. BRUXO tells NOBLE they are made from a meteorite. CAMPO DOURADO gets many meteor showers.

...The new friends fish the big rivers, TAPAJÓS, TOCANTINS, ARAGUAIA for 100-pound catfish with leather skins. They travel the PARAGUAY RIVER via passenger barge to fish the PANTANAL, an ecological paradise. THE AMAZON RIVER BASIN IS THE LUNGS OF THE WORLD.

...NELLIE’S brothers are artisanal GOLD PROSPECTORS. Take NOBLE out in the bush for two weeks to pan for GOLD, deep inside the lush rainforest. There are caverns, gorges, streams, and narrow rivulets, sandy river beds. Speaking in Portuguese, they explain the business while snippets of video / archival footage are shown:

MOISÉS (O.S.)

We GARIMPEIROS must go out into the FLORESTA long periods. Our PATRONS, the DONOS AND FAZENDEIROS pay us a percentage of profits but we do all the work and they get rich. We go out with salt and bullets and come back with bags of PLACER GOLD DUST. In three weeks, 80 to 100 grams is considered lucky. Ours is the labor of peasants.

LAÉRCIO

Everyone dreams to find the BAMBÚRRIO, the mother lode, EL DORADO, that’s why we are trailblazers and take risks. To be honest, we live in a fantasy world. We pursue the ILLUSION OF GOLD knowing full well we will never be rich but there’s always hope. We are superstitious. We interpret jungle codes as spiritual signs pointing to where to look for GOLD.

ANDRÉ

This is true. The jungle can make you crazy, the quiet, and the isolation. It is a mystical world of unknown ways, and you need to know what is good luck and what is bad luck.

You need to read the streams, the land, the trees and show humility to MOTHER EARTH or she will punish you. Be careful what you hunt, do not be arrogant, do not be disrespectful to her creatures great and small. You can be eaten too, you are part of the food chain.

LÍVIO

Sometimes Indians kill you, hack you up, and bury you. There are no inquiries. It’s their land. We take guns for protection but a big cat can steal a man from his hammock. It weighs more than us. We take rice, coffee, manioc flour, kerosene for lamps, picks, shovels, mosquito nets, waterproof matches. There is little food in the FLORESTA, we are always hungry. There are many insects. We build small smoky fires at night to fend them off.

ANDRÉ

We bring iodine pills for dirty water, sometimes we are too tired to boil water. Sometimes we forget and we get sick. Teams always go out in threes, two to watch one. If someone hides GOLD to retrieve later, he is killed because he steals from his friends. Sometimes it is kill or be killed. If you go out alone you go mad.

Out in the jungle with his brothers-in-law NOBLE PTSD’S back to Vietnam, flooding him with memories. The senses are wired in, more intense, adrenaline rush, foreboding, the skin tingles, peril at each step, profuse sweating, exhaustion. He swears he can smell the empty mackerel tins left behind by Charlie:

MOISÉS (V.O.)

If an artisanal GOLD strike looks promising the PATRONS start mining operations on a larger scale. Two CAT bulldozers come in slung with long, thick chains and clear wide swaths of rainforest land. Then fire-setters come in. Afterwards charred animal carcasses are everywhere. Teams with high-pressure hoses arrive powered by diesel generators. Tons of top soil and sand is washed away quickly from hundreds of acres of land to get at GOLD ORE DEPOSITS.

58   EXT. SMASH CUT SERRA PELADA, PARÁ STATE – DAY           

Two of the brothers would die a few years later, one from cave-in and one from gunshot wound. DISPLAY ARCHIVAL FOOTAGE.

A MASSIVE HOLE CALLED “BABYLON” 1983: 600 feet deep, 8 miles in circumference. Largest excavation in history dug by human hands. Scenes from Dante’s INFERNO, Bosch’s GARDEN OF EARTHLY DELIGHTS. HELL ON EARTH. A massive ant hill of artisanal prospectors, rickety wooden ladders, wet walls.

200,000 GARIMPEIROS worked tiny claims, one on top of the other. GOLD PROSPECTORS from the Northeast, the SERTÃO, the poorest region of Brazil, with nothing to lose. A domino effect down below if one ladder slips above.

Squalid conditions, no sanitation, cave-ins, men buried alive. Machete fights over ownership. Gunfights. Lawlessness, men driven mad by GOLD.

59   EXT. SMASH CUT CAMPO DOURADO, BRAZIL (CONT.) – DAY      

Slowly, slowly THE SADDER TIMES subside. It is the third and final month of NOBLE’S forced leave of absence from work back in D.C. NOBLE likes to explore NELLIE’S FAZENDA of 125 acres. There is some jungle but mostly MATO or scrubland. It has a thin layer of soil for small-scale farming on a few acres of papaya, manioc, sugar cane, mangos, a few rubber trees, coconuts, avocados, and açaí.  

There is a small stream and freshwater well. There is electricity and back-up generator. Has a one-story main house, small and in need of repair with large front porch. There is a shed storing manual farming implements and a shack where the homestead caretaker ANACLETO resides. Its farmland is poor. Its output can barely pay operating expenses.

A fourth of the FAZENDA is taken up by a MORRO or hill rising 150 feet above, covered in brush and gnarly trees called CERRADO. There are many rocks and boulders. The ground is covered in QUARTZ CRYSTAL.

From there NOBLE has a panoramic view of surroundings. There are SEVEN HILLS in the MORRARIAS including THE FAZENDA’S HILL, the smallest. These are the sacred lands of the NAMBIKUÁRA TRIBE.

ANACLETO is full-blooded NAMBIKUÁRA INDIAN. Short, compact, powerful. Has piercing coal-black eyes, weathered deeply-tanned skin. Speaks Portuguese with heavy Indian accent. Makes soft grunting noises when speaking.

There are holes through his nose septum and upper lip where on ceremonial occasions he wears straws and feathers. He is an important man of the tribe, a PAJÉ or medicine man. NELLIE’s mother is his grandniece. ANACLETO is the keeper of the tribe’s history through spoken word handed down from one PAJÉ to the next. He tells stories of the BANDEIRANTES, the PORTUGUESE FORTUNE HUNTERS looking for GOLD.

While descending from the hill one day, NOBLE is waved over by ANACLETO sitting on his front-door stoop and meets him for the first time. Farm noises. There are a few scrawny chickens, a rooster, flea-bitten dog and a domesticated CAPIVARA, an 80-pound rodent. He has a chirpy and colorful macaw on his shoulder. ANACLETO is wary of white men.

NOBLE tells him in decent Portuguese that his mother was one-quarter CHEROKEE INDIAN. He offers NOBLE a drink of homemade CACHAÇA, a liquor distilled from sugarcane juice. NOBLE chokes it down. ANACLETO SAYS THE FIRST AMERICAN HE EVER MET WAS THEODORE ROOSEVELT.

60   EXT. RIVER OF DOUBT, BRAZIL – DAY                           

ANACLETO tells NOBLE an extraordinary tale, one hard to believe, one that for some inexplicable reason assuages his grief:

(O.S.) PORTUGUESE NARRATION IN ANACLETO’S VOICE SPEAKING IN FIRST-PERSON. WE SEE ARCHIVAL FILM FOOTAGE, PHOTOS, AND RENDERINGS. WE SEE STRANGE SYMBOLS FROM ANTIQUITY:

...It was December 1913 when I first see ROOSEVELT and the GREAT MAN RONDON. RONDON is three-quarter Indian, engineer, a legend already. He surveyed during many years the AMAZON BASIN for our first telegraph, organized the Indian Protection Service. He is given the honor to guide ROOSEVELT to explore the RIVER OF DOUBT.

...The Foreign Minister has the idea for the expedition. RONDON insists he survey the trip. Roosevelt says he will go because it is his last chance to be a boy.

...I am a 13-year-old steward aboard the NYOAC, a stern-paddle-wheel steamship docked in Porto Murtinho. I am strong. I am hired as a CAMARADA. We are porters, paddlers, and choppers. We outfit in TAPIRAPUÃ in January 1914. It is RAINY SEASON, bad time of year for exploring, big water, fast water. We pass the Utiariti Waterfalls and old JESUIT ruins along the way.

...Around the smoke fires at night RONDON tells us stories about BANDEIRANTES and the ruins of ancient cities he sees while surveying. INDIAN TRIBES TELL HIM OF AN ADVANCED SOCIETY that once built a magnificent city with giant pyramids swallowed up by the jungle. PERCY FAWCETT is RONDON’S friend and they once spoke of this place.

...We ascend 2,000 feet above sea level by mule and ox cart, and descend in electric trucks to the headwaters at Bonifácio 600 feet below. We have too much useless equipment. The canvas boats rip on the rocks. The EVINRUDE boat motor weighs as much as me. The many tins of kerosene are heavy.

...We hew out heavy wooden dugouts instead. Clearance from river level to gunwale is only a few inches. We are 19, 3 GRINGOS, RONDON, and 15 CABOCLOS. ROOSEVELT brings along his son KERMIT and naturalist CHERRIE. KERMIT speaks good Portuguese.

...We carry tinned food, boxes of rations, photographic equipment for KERMIT, books and journals for ROOSEVELT, guns, ammunition, tents, hammocks, and insect nets. We take a few tins of kerosene for lamps and leave the rest behind with the motor. The AMERICANS dress heavy, we dress in rags. ROOSEVELT calls us TATTERDEMALIONS. KERMIT TAKES MANY PHOTOS.

...We start down river on February 27th heading northward. We travel 470 miles to the Aripuanã River, our journey’s end by April 27th. We lose many dugouts and have to build new ones. We have to portage around many waterfalls, chop many logs. Hard work. Hard work. We lose three men. KERMIT almost drowns. ROOSEVELT almost dies from leg infection.

...It is SUMMER. Every day is 100°. Heavy wet air. We have malaria, dysentery. We run out of food early. There is little food in the rainforest to forage. The fish do not satisfy hunger. We eat monkeys and palmito. We are tortured endlessly by mosquitoes, gnats, stingless bees. Termites eat our hats and shoes.

...We are watched by Indian tribes, some are cannibals. They kill our dogs with arrows. There are poisonous snakes and frogs, giant spiders, caimans, and jaguars. There are immense storks, the five-foot tall TUIUIÚ. We steal eggs.

...At evening on March 18th RONDON reads a dispatch from Brazil’s President officially renaming the RIVER OF DOUBT the ROOSVELT RIVER. There are three cheers!

...Then on March 22nd a strange thing happens. We are three. ROOSEVELT steers the canoe. I paddle into a small tributary named the RIO CARDOSO. ROOSEVELT wants to shoot the fast LONTRA, the river otter. He shoots many animals for sport. RONDON is displeased but says nothing. He paddles too. We chase the LONTRA. We come to a gorge with 50-foot cliffs and series of minor rapids.

...There on the bare cliff we see symbols carved deeply into the rock face halfway down. One is a LARGE CROSS but with a long loop on top. The other three are a connected series of three SPIRALS drawn counter-clockwise. (ANACLETO bends over and draws the symbols in the dirt with his finger to show NOBLE). ROOSEVELT SAYS HE RECOGNIZES THE SYMBOLS. THEY ARE FROM EGYPT AND IRELAND. RONDON SAYS THESE ARE A HOAX. ROOSEVELT AGREES.

...That evening RONDON and me sit by a dying camp fire alone speaking in dialect. RONDON tells me he lied to ROOSEVELT. He has seen these symbols before, in remote parts of the GUAPORÉ TERRITORY. The SPIRALS AND CROSS ARE SYMBOLS OF THE FIRST PEOPLE. Then we speak.

61 EXT. RIVER OF DOUBT, BRAZIL (CONT.) - NIGHT              

Campsite by the river, smoky haze, dugouts, pitched tents, hammocks, a few kerosene lamps dimly glowing, jungle sounds, flashes of lightning far away, men snoring, faint rumble of thunder, the breeze picks up. IT WAS THAT NIGHT OF A WAXING MOON:

ANACLETO (V.O.)

It was not to be prevented. The otters showed the way. ROOSEVELT steered too quickly. Such is the will of the spirits. They wished him to see the signs left by the ANCIENT ONES, and now we must decide.

RONDON

The ANCIENT ONES have surveyed here, this I know. We must be careful now. Like all white men of ambition and power, he craves immortality, the yellow metal above all else. But we must not kill him.

He is a great MORUBIXABA, a chief of a powerful tribe far to the north. They have vast armies, warriors numbering the stars at night, magical weapons of war. They will seek revenge and learn our secrets. 

ANACLETO

We will not kill him but our journey henceforth will greatly weaken his body and he will die a natural death from festering wounds and disease a handful of seasons from now – for this I have read on his face.

62   EXT. SMASH CUT CAMPO DOURADO, BRAZIL (CONT.) – DAY      

NOBLE is flabbergasted by ANACLETO’S tale. Could it be true or some kind of fantasy conjured up by an old man who drinks too much firewater? NOBLE remembers clearly the drawings made by ANACLETO, has seen them many times in books and museums. ROOSEVELT is right, they are in fact a group of three CELTIC SPIRALS AND THE EGYPTIAN ANKH. Question is what the hell are they doing in a remote part of Brazilian jungle?

It is time to depart CAMPO DOURADO. A large group of people are at the bus station to say good bye. There are hugs and tears as NOBLE AND NELLIE board the bus for PORTO VELHO’S rural airport. From there they fly to SÃO PAULO AND THEN ON TO WASHINGTON, D.C. NELLIE wears around her neck a simple white plastic rosary her MOM gives her to honor little SARAH.

Her sisters give her a small terracotta statue of NOSSA SENHORA APARECIDA.  Every year on the anniversary of SARAH’S disappearance NELLIE lights a candle and prays.

ANACLETO GIVES NOBLE A FORTE ABRAÇO and hands him a heavy paper bag as a farewell gift. Inside are two metal ingots, shaped like BOWTIES. ANACLETO tells NOBLES they are GRAMPOS, CLAMPS once plentiful and were used by ancient ones to build pyramids and temples now gone. He waves goodbye, turns, and walks away. BRUXO is there too to bid them farewell. He is ANACLETO’S SON...

63   INT. NOBLE RESIDENCE, VIRGINIA (CONT.) – NIGHT         

(O.S.)

SAMINHO, SAMINHO...NOBLE HEARS A VOICE.

HE SNAPS OUT OF HIS DAYDREAM. Needs to focus, needs to get back to reality, not healthy to think of SADDER TIMES. Nellie enters with a tray of sweet coffee and cheese rolls:

NELLIE (V.O.)

Você gostaria de cafezinho e pão de queijo meu amor? 

(Would you like coffee and cheese rolls my love?)

NOBLE

Mas claro minha Nelizinha!

(But of course my little Nellie!) 

NELLIE places coffee and cheese rolls on his desk. She softly touches his hand, he squeezes her hand gently. As she walks out with the tray, she turns to NOBLE and says:

NELLIE (V.O.)

Não se preocupe meu amor, tudo vai ficar bem.

(Don’t worry my love, everything is going to be all right.)

It was never the same after he went back to work. Damaged goods they said. Whispers, so sad, he’s the guy who lost his little girl. He never gets beyond the rank of GS10 but through it all, NELLIE stays by his side. They decide not to have another child. When NELLIE gets homesick, NOBLE finds the money to send her home but she always comes back.

As a STATE DEPARTMENT COURIER, he travels internationally non-stop, sometimes logging 50,000 miles in a single month. She stays by his side. Nambikuára believe marriage extends into afterlife. He makes her a promise, swears some day they will move to CAMPO DOURADO permanently.

WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW. There is a song on his record player by Hank Snow, I’ve Been Everywhere. NOBLE HAS BEEN EVERYWHERE, all the continents several times over, all the major cities. His two favorite places are JERUSALEM AND MCMURDO STATION, ANTARCTICA.

He travels little now, grounded five years, bad back, knees, health. But he has many memories. Not bad for a poor hillbilly kid from the coal fields of Kentucky. He begins typing.

64   INT. SMASH CUT HOUSTON, TEXAS – DAY                    

THE ADVENTURES OF DUKE MITCHUM...

MITCHUM turns his parents’ basement into a research center. Pool table cluttered with books, Bible, Old Testament, Quran, Torah, Kebra Nagast, Gilgamesh. Chalkboard full of drawings, stacks of notepads. On one big sheet of paper: EVERYTHING IS THE CAUSE OF ITSELF scrawled in magic marker. Taped to walls pictures cut from travel magazines, modern maps, copies of ancient maps, newspaper articles.

65   EXT. HISTORICAL IMAGES OF ANCIENT TIMES - DAY          

[O.S.] NARRATION IN MITCHUM’S VOICE:

...Many thousands of years ago Earth has a geomagnetic field reversal and plate tectonics slide causing crustal shift. A lush green island continent is created and through evolution populated by an advanced society of people.

...A craftsman discovers a billion-year-old meteorite. It is malachite green, covered in yellow gold striations. He chisels a large APOTHECARY MORTAR AND PESTLE from the meteorite. He presents it to a HIGH PRIEST and is rewarded.

...A SKILLED ALCHEMIST, the Priest ascertains that by mixing combinations of yeast inside the MORTAR, the MORTAR provides an ever-replenishing dough-like substance that eaten in small quantities satiates hunger.

...Then the HIGH PRIEST experiments again. He pours into the MORTAR metallic elements of MERCURY AND GOLD together with secret ingredients. Each foul potion prolongs life indefinitely. The ruling class indulges the new discovery. It craves more and more GOLD. The potion is called THE ELIXIR OF LIFE.

...The place where the meteor fell is called BRAZATLAN. A glorious and beautiful place. But more tectonic shifts occur and slowly the paradise becomes uninhabitable, there are terrible earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. It becomes cold and ugly, cannot support life. Today this place is permanently covered in ice one-mile thick and once reached -130°. It is ANTARCTICA.

...THE BRAZATLANTEANS are forced to abandon their homeland. They settle in another beautiful land with abundant GOLD. It is called BRAZIL. Here they plant their banner. It displays THREE JOINED COUNTER-CLOCKWISE SWIRLS.

...Its society creates the most learned men and women the world has ever seen: scientists, doctors, astronomers, surveyors, engineers, philosophers, and navigators. Its most skilled stonemason is called the GREAT ARCHITECT. He carries a WALKING STAFF in the SHAPE OF A CROSS WITH LOOP AT THE TOP.

...Knowledge of the GREAT ARCHITECT spreads the world over. Indigenous people are taught how to build cities, temples, and pyramids but must pay tithes of GOLD in return. Today ancient ruins of similar design are found on every continent. The same technique is used for cutting and joining immense stones. To connect blocks of stone METAL CLAMPS of advanced alloys are used.

...There is a GREAT FLOOD. The HOLY MORTAR AND PESTLE are saved. Hieroglyphics capture the imagined symbol of the GREAT ARCHITECT’S STAFF as the ANKH. The ANKH is carried by HEMON, builder of the GREAT PYRAMID OF GISA. A millennium later AARON, BROTHER OF MOSES creates a replica. History calls his staff THE ROD OF AARON.

...THE TOP BROKEN END OF THE ROD OF AARON, TWO TABLETS OF THE WORD OF GOD, AND THE HOLY MORTAR AND PESTLE ARE PLACED IN THE ARK OF THE COVENANT. THE HOLY MORTAR IS RENAMED. IT IS CALLED THE JAR OF MANNA.

...Another GREAT ARCHITECT builds KING SOLOMON’S TEMPLE where the ARK is kept. He is HIRAM ABIFF. EXPERT STONEMASON. He sires a son with the wife of SOLOMON: SHEBA, QUEEN OF ETHIOPIA. SOLOMON has 1,000 wives and concubines. ABIFF is murdered by jealous craftsmen. Upon obtaining manhood the illegitimate son, MENELIK, OSTENSIBLY steals the ARK OF THE COVENANT and flees to Ethiopia. It is never seen again...

66   INT. SMASH CUT HOUSTON, TEXAS (CONT.) – DAY                     

MITCHUM opens a small fridge, takes out a Lone Star, pops the top, drains it in one gulp. Crumples the can with one hand and flings it across the room.

[MITCHUM]

Hell yes, this makes sense! The ages of those dudes in the OLD TESTAMENT weren’t allegorical, they were real! ADAM, METHUSALEH, NOAH, they really did live to be 900 years old. Both MOSES AND AARON live to be 130. ABRAHAM was 175 when his wife SARAH has a child at age 90. She dies at 127 years of age.

They drank the ELIXIR OF LIFE from that apothecary mortar made from the billion-year-old meteorite! THE JAR OF MANNA! They were all members of royalty. Even JESUS WAS ROYALTY!

He was born a Jew and died a Jew but he was a young Rabbi, descendant of the Royal House of KING DAVID and KING SOLOMON.

What happened to the ARK OF THE COVENANT? THE JAR OF MANNA? MITCHUM thinks he knows where to find out. He has information in his notes, the ones taken at the Library of Congress, and the notes he took at Georgetown, from the records kept by JESUITS. How he would love some day to have access to the VATICAN’S library! THE JESUITS KEEP TRACK OF EVERYTHING AND WRITE IT DOWN.

67   EXT. IMAGES, FIRST CRUSADE AND JERUSALEM – DAY         

[O.S.] NARRATION IN MITCHUM’S VOICE:

...The story of the JAR OF MANNA picks up again in JERUSALEM. There is a descendant and namesake of HOLY ROMAN EMPEROR CHARLEMAGNE’S GREATEST PALADIN AND NEPHEW, SIR ROLAND OF EAST PRUSSIA AND HIS 12 PEERS. SIR ROLAND was the model for King Arthur’s Sir Lancelot and the Round Table. He dies in 778 A.D. at the Battle of Roncesvalles Pass.

...The descendant is baptized ROWLAND VON DAHLGRÜN in a small village called München and is now a KNIGHT TEMPLAR OF JERUSALEM. The year is 1119 A.D. two decades after the FIRST CRUSADE and the year that Order is founded. His story is the greatest story never told!

GAYLY BEDIGHT A GALLANT KNIGHT IN SEARCH OF EL DORADO. STAY TUNED BOYS AND GIRLS FOR THE NEXT THRILLING EPISODE OF THE ADVENTURES OF DUKE MITCHUM. IT’S A KILLER!

68   INT. SMASH CUT NOBLE RESIDENCE, VIRGINIA (CONT.) – NIGHT

It’s late on Sunday but NOBLE calls JEFFERSON anyway. He wants to send JEFFERSON some of his first chapters. “Hallelujah man, send the shit over”! NOBLE intends to send JEFFERSON the carbon copy. There are white speckles on most pages from correcting typos with white-out but he doesn’t think his friend will mind.

He staples them together. He beams with pride! Tomorrow at work he will place these pages in a brown U.S. GOVERNMENT MESSENGER ENVELOPE AND SEND THEM TO JEFFERSON VIA THE STATEMENT DEPARTMENT POUCH. He will receive the envelope later the same day.

69   INT. STUDEBAKER INSTITUTE – DAY                    

BARTHOLOMEW “BUDDY” PEOPLES agrees entirely with CHAIRMAN GREESE’S marching orders as relayed to him by MAC KOPSTEIN. But then again the frumpy, plain looking Executive Director of SI always agrees with the Chairman, no matter what.

He’d been, as they say, to the fucking rodeo several times during his 30 years with the NO SUCH AGENCY. He survived long enough to retire with a sweet pension and is now making tons more in his second career of 10 years.

He is relaxing after lunch reading the Washington Post about the Presidential Election results. Their man won, MITCH HAPGOOD. Whether SI’s generous campaign contributions helped or not didn’t matter.

A favor was done and now a favor is owed, that’s how shit works in this town. GREESE will have a sit down face-to-face with the new President eventually to pitch OPERATION GERDA. The telephone rings:

KOPSTEIN (V.O.)

Good morning BUDDY. I’ve got to come up and see you, it’s really fucking urgent! (voice wavering)

BUDDY

Sure, come on up. (shit, always something)

As Buddy waits for KOPSTEIN, he reads where the new President Elect promises to find a way out of the terrible recession. Fear is growing amongst the UNWASHED MASSES that we could be heading to another GREAT DEPRESSION. If that isn’t enough, problems are flaring up again in JERUSALEM, more car bombings, more protests. KOPSTEIN walks into BUDDY’S office carrying a brown envelope:

KOPSTEIN (V.O.)

Remember the ARCHIBALD JEFFERSON affair last summer? Well, things just got a lot more fucking complicated. RADWELL flagged this envelope from the incoming STATE DEPARTMENT POUCH. We read through it. We’re worried, this could be something serious. Take a look. (hands the envelope and contents to Buddy)

BUDDY takes his time, reads through the contents, looks to the front of the envelope. Makes a mental note of the sender’s full name. Knows his tradecraft. Has the memory of a spy. Attached to the contents a yellow Post-It Note, “Archie, read this and tell me what you think. Sam”.

BUDDY (V.O.)

What we have here KOPSTEIN is a quintessential CUTOUT by the name of SAM NOBLE over at STATE DEPARTMENT acting as an intermediary for a clandestine handler by the name of DUKE MITCHUM, no doubt an alias. The case of the stolen photocopies has just escalated exponentially. The similarities with the ATLANTEAN GEODESY are striking. 

KOPSTEIN

So I take it we can rule out another mere coincidence? (wears a worried look)

BUDDY

Mac, once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action. James Bond. So what is your recommended course of action? 

KOPSTEIN

Best case scenario is we’re looking at leaked Classified Documents outside this building. Worst case I agree with you, that we have some kind of conspiracy about what, why, and who I’m not quite sure. We mustn’t rule out domestic terrorism. 

The FBI has to be informed. Suggest you inform MR. GREESE right away (no way Mac wants that job again) Do you agree we can eliminate DR. BROWN from suspicion at this point?

BUDDY

Agreed. The culprits are clearly JEFFERSON and his CUTOUT over at STATE. But we should at least follow up and ask BROWN if he remembers tossing photocopies of the GEODESY in the waste bin.

KOPSTEIN

Roger that. About JEFFERSON, he only works half days so he’s gone. Won’t be back until tomorrow morning. We need to work fast, make copies of this shit and deliver it to his cubbyhole before he gets there. What I’m wrestling with is who the hell uses carbon paper anymore and what is the significance of all these specks of white-out?

Could it be a code in a code? You can feel the bumps with your finger. We’ll get the BUREAU to quickly have a Braille expert take a look, forgive the pun. (he chuckles)

BUDDY

I want the FBI to do a deep dive on these assholes, and expand it to relatives, friends, and friends of friends. Psychological profiles. But take no action until I personally give the order to execute. Then we’ll swoop in and bag the whole bunch, shock and awe!

I want a SWAT TEAM weapons out to knock down doors in the wee hours and perp walk these motherfuckers to jail. We have unlimited resources, we’ll squeeze them until somebody breaks.

KOPSTEIN

Very good sir, at the BUREAU we called this approach WALKING THE DOG! Leave suspects out in the wild until we’re ready to pounce. May I also recommend we monitor phones, mail, and computers at work and at home? Let’s go with DOMESTIC TERRORISM because that way we can use the PATRIOT ACT and do whatever we want without search warrants.

BUDDY

Do it! I’ll call the Chairman and brief him. Anything else?

KOPSTEIN

Yes. We can snoop on JEFFERSON all day here at SI but it would be helpful to have someone reliable, someone at STATE on the inside close to this fucker SAM NOBLE. That contact can feed us intel on an ongoing basis. 

BUDDY

Consider it done. I’ll set up a meeting, stroll next door, and ask GREESE in person for help with a contact over at STATE.

STUDEBAKER INSTITUTE is a beehive of activity this holiday season. True to GREESE’S credo, SI earns more money during crises than in times of non-conflict. GREESE hasn’t had his face-to-face yet with MITCH HAPGOOD but already his team promises to send consulting business SI’s way immediately after inauguration on January 20th.

SI’s Non-Compete Contract Awards will have to do with U.S. Government downsizing. No Department or Agency will be spared. The Reduction-In-Force will affect thousands of employees. 

The door opens magically as BUDDY comes into GREESE’S dark office. GREESE was briefed over the phone so agrees to see his underling right away. There is now one chair in front of the desk where the guest sits.

GREESE is not happy, prefers to spend his time making money, not on bullshit personnel issues. He is having a late lunch, an overly ripe tangerine. He’s peeling it with raccoon-like fingers, struggles to break the skin. He finally succeeds, begins smacking loudly:

GREESE (V.O.)

Well? (no pleasantries, juice drips from his fingers onto the desk)

BUDDY

Sir, like I said the case of the cripple black guy in the wheelchair has resurfaced but not to worry, MR. KOPSTEIN is contacting the FBI for assistance. (GREESE pinches a seed between index finger and thumb and shoots it at BUDDY, hits him in the forehead, BUDDY does not flinch) Sir, I need your influence over at STATE to find us a snitch.

GREESE

Know any Shakespeare? Here’s some for you and your Jew boy, “No beast so fierce but knows some touch of pity but I know none”! (shoots another seed, misses) Sounds to me like you fuckers don’t know the difference between Chicken Shit and Chicken Little.

BUDDY

I’m dreadfully sorry MR. GREESE but I’m not sure what that means sir. Could you please be a little clearer? (dodges another seed)

GREESE

It means I’ll play this horseshit game a little longer but if you and KOPSTEIN can’t clean up this mess then I will. A phone call is all it takes. There are no victims. There are only volunteers. Back in the day we called it employee termination with extreme prejudice, capeesh? Now quit your caterwauling and get the hell out of here!

70   INT. NOBLE AND JEFFERSON RESIDENCES – NIGHT             

JEFFERSON calls NOBLE at home after reading the first installment of his book.

JEFFERSON (V.O.)

Sammy boy, this is some cool shit dude! Even looks like a book, got all them commas and semi-colons and shit. You got me in Alaska, man I ain’t never even been to Alaska! That’s far fuckin’ out! PEDRO CAMPANA used to tell us all them stories. All the bros in the book with me.

And man DUKE MITCHUM is one awesome dude, don’t take no shit from nobody. He sure don’t like GOLD! You even got my Rastafarian brothers covered talking about Solomon and Sheba and shit! You gonna write some more? (he’s not totally comfortable with the talk of GOLD but that scare is long gone, so good on NOBLE)

NOBLE

Archie my man! Glad you called, I was wondering if you had read the stuff I sent you. As a matter of fact I just started some new chapters. I’ll pouch you over some more shit when I’m done. Just hold onto the pages I already sent you. If this ever gets published man, we’re going out on the town and celebrate!

Neither man hears a click in their telephone receivers when conversation engages. The FBI hears and records everything. This is only the beginning.

71   INT. STUDEBAKER INSTITUTE – DAY                        

It is 7:00 a.m. days later. BUDDY, KOPSTEIN, and RADWELL are in the 4th floor executive conference room. It is expensively decorated to impress the movers and shakers who come through. On one wall is a large framed-in-glass World War II era poster. Color artistic rendering: Studebaker Builds Wright Cyclone Engines for the B-17 Flying Fortress: 90th Anniversary 1852-1942.

They await the arrival of the snitch candidate from STATE. Meanwhile RADWELL is briefing the pair on latest developments. The room smells of Old Spice aftershave thanks to RADWELL, who is wearing a disco-era leisure suit. He says two more brown envelopes have been received by JEFFERSON.

There are FBI photos, files, and reports scattered around the conference table. A team of “cable TV repairmen” entered NOBLE’S residence in Vienna without search warrants when nobody was home. Phones are bugged. One of the photos is an old ARMALITE MODEL A-16A1 with fully automatic select switch, circa 1965. RADWELL points out that the switch is illegal.

The report says NOBLE keeps it under his bed wrapped in a blue towel loaded with a 20-round magazine of 5.56 mm full-metal-jacket military rounds. He also has a box of ammo, 100 rounds, and two empty magazines. It amuses those present that SI probably made a few bucks off NOBLE’S weapon back in the day. Many GIs disassembled weapons in the early years of the Vietnam War and mailed them home using APO Mail. 

Military records are discussed. JEFFERSON has been on disability since 1965. Both he and NOBLE are decorated veterans with honorable discharges. No criminal records, minor traffic violations. No home computers, cheap Nokia cell phones, no red flags.

Photos of JEFFERSON’S apartment show radical literature stacked in boxes, Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, Black Panthers. Books on MLK, Haile Selassie, Muhammad Ali, and Sammy Davis Jr. A magazine article on MITCH HAPGOOD marked with a paper clip. The Holy Bible, on top of which is an Army Colt M1911 by his bedside table loaded. His phone is bugged:

PEOPLES (V.O.)

Does anything you and the Feds have seen so far indicate radicalization, connections to this guy DUKE MITCHUM or Al-Qaeda? Trips outside the country, passport stamps? What about financials, major monetary deposits, withdrawals, anything suspicious? Let’s see if we can’t put a hold on passports so they don’t suddenly leave the country.

RADWELL

Good point. We contacted HOMELAND SECURITY about his Brazilian wife, maiden name of NILZA APARECIDA VASCONCELOS, naturalized American citizen in 1984. She takes trips to Brazil every few years, sometimes alone, sometimes with NOBLE. Her village is a typical third-world poverty-stricken shithole by the name of CAMPO DOURADO IN THE STATE OF RONDÔNIA.

She is of mixed-race and was born there. For some God-only-knows-why reason NOBLE marries this Pocahontas. (everyone laughs) She’s active in her Catholic Church, knits clothes for toddlers.

KOPSTEIN

The report says here they had a daughter by the name of SARAH INOCÊNCIA NOBLE who was kidnapped in 1976, never found. Apparently NOBLE went nuts and threatened to kill a bunch of people, even got arrested. His psychiatric evaluation when he went back to work said he had sociopathic tendencies when angered. His job reviews thereafter were just good enough to keep him employed but not good enough for career advancement. 

BUDDY

Well, if that’s not a red flag then I don’t know what is! He’s not writing a book, he’s writing the classic anti-establishment MANIFESTO! Precisely at the time this institution wants America to return to the GOLD STANDARD this whacko is attacking GOLD and by extension the United States. I don’t know about you gentlemen but it makes my blood boil!

Didn’t he write that we need to tear the whole fucking system down? There you have it! (heads nodding up and down in agreement) Well, let’s break for now, our nine o’clock should be here any minute. You guys keep looking.

72   INT. WEST FALLS CHURCH, VIRGINIA – DAY                 

Excitement this crisp cool morning inside the ATWOOD mid-thirties power-couple’s townhome. Larry got a call from Deputy Secretary Clounwissel himself. Come up to the 7th floor of the Truman building, Valhalla.

Needs his help with a confidential assignment. Told to report to the STUDEBAKER INSTITUTE tomorrow at 9:00 a.m. NAOMI has picked out his outfit, looks like a Brooks Brothers fashion model head to toe. She works at Homeland Security:

NAOMI ATWOOD (V.O.)

You good, should we rehearse one more time? Don’t blow this Mister Man! (she straightens his tie)

LARRY ATWOOD

I’m feeling it baby! We’re on our way! (pecks her on the cheek, heads for the Metro station)

73   INT. STUDEBAKER INSTITUTE – DAY                        

BUDDY likes LARRY ATWOOD right off the bat. KOPSTEIN sits at the 4th floor conference table with stacks of files nearby. He observes this bureaucrat samurai peacock but says nothing.

BUDDY sizes up ATWOOD as arrogant, vain, ambitious, stupid, and dickless – in other words he’s perfect. Handshakes, pleasantries. ATWOOD is awkward with fawning praise over SI, ass kissing. BUDDY cuts him off:

BUDDY (V.O.)

Excuse me Larry for interrupting but time is short. Your credentials are impeccable. What we speak of here today is of vital national security importance so needless to say it stays between us and only us. I recognize a fellow patriot when I see one. (ATWOOD looks nervous, deer in the headlights, nods his head) We have reason to believe there is a traitor amongst us and he works for you!

ATWOOD

Oh my dear Lord, not in my department! (grows deathly pale, fearful) Sir, I can assure you that I know nothing of this matter, and if you think I had anything to do with this...

BUDDY

No, no, no Larry, your integrity is beyond question. We just need you to keep an eye on the suspect, feed us information, that’s all. The traitor’s name is SAMUEL LEE NOBLE and he reports to a person right below you, KIRK ULRIC ROWAN. We’re not after ROWAN, we’re after NOBLE.

ATWOOD

Sonofabitch! Forgive the French sir but I knew it! He’s a troublemaker from way back, a real hayseed of a retard. I told my superiors he was a useless slack-jawed yokel from the sticks of Kentucky, a loser but no one listened. He’s protected because he killed babies in Vietnam and got some medals! Personally I diagnosed him as suffering from ADD, probably bipolar, and with paranoid schizophrenia thrown in.

BUDDY

Absolutely Larry, and we here at Studebaker couldn’t agree with that razor sharp and eloquent assessment you just made more vehemently. Our Chairman is always on the lookout for people who fit the SI mold and I’ll be sure to tell him exactly what I think of you. (it was done, they had their man)

ATWOOD goes back and dredges up all the old sins, the nipple joke, the jokes on religion, his near computer illiteracy, he is old, disobedient, belligerent, and disrespectful. There are persistent rumors he whacked out many years ago over personal problems. He is friendly with his boss and gets together with his old Army buddies from time to time. No Aryan Nation ties he is aware of. He agrees to snoop and keep his eyes open:

BUDDY (V.O)

Thank you Larry, Mr. Kopstein here will see you to the elevator and escort you out.

And with that the meeting is over. Goodbyes, more pleasantries, and the snitch is set loose. BUDDY thinks to himself:

BUDDY (V.O.)

Yessiree Bob, those obsequious bastards over at STATE sure don’t need a compass to know which way the wind blows!

74   EXT. SMASH CUT 12TH CENTURY JERUSALEM – DAY                       

THE ADVENTURES OF DUKE MITCHUM...

Beneath the Temple Mount we see a dusty, narrow corridor, cobwebs, catacombs, dim lantern light, two men are digging with pick and shovel.

[O.S.] NARRATION IN MITCHUM’S VOICE:

...Of royal Carolingian blood, a ne’er-do-well Knight arrived in Jerusalem 20 years after the First Crusade to seek fame and fortune. It is now seven years later. There are rumors of vast wealth still to be discovered under the TEMPLE MOUNT, hidden by Jews and Muslims. He is of the elite Catholic Military Order the KNIGHTS TEMPLAR.

...The Grand Master of the Order Hugues de Payens has taken possession of scrolls, tablets, manuscripts, and chests filled with religious icons, some of pure GOLD from the excavations. The young ROWLAND spends his free time drinking, gambling and whoring in the taverns. He has learned to speak French, Arabic, and some Hebrew in addition to his native German tongue.

...In one such tavern he meets a serving boy, Kali-bin-Saleh. They become friends. ROWLAND learns to play a game called chess from the boy who he nicknames KYOTO. KYOTO is highly educated from a family of scholars who originally hail from UR KASDIM their ancestral homeland and birthplace of ABRAHAM. He is also a trained scribe.

...KYOTO is hired by ROWLAND as a servant to accompany him on new excavations and interpret the ancient texts by lantern light found increasingly as new shafts and passages are being dug beneath the MOUNT. It was during one of these digs that something happens. A pickaxe strike penetrates the hollow space of a catacomb wall revealing a sealed terracotta amphora containing an ancient vellum scroll. It is opened revealing a map.

...It is a TREASURE MAP which points to the Plains of the Moab unto the Mountain of Nebo, to the top of Pisgah against Bethpeor. There are pieces of rotten SHITTIM wood with GOLD gilding, four GOLD rings, and two small GOLD CHERUBIM with wings swept forward. There are chunks from broken stone tablets.

...And in the dirt they both see a heavy stone cup about four inches wide and seven inches tall looking like an APOTHECARY MORTAR WITH PESTLE nearby. ROWLAND cleans them with his hand and can make out yellow striations in the dark-green mineral. There is a broken staff which looks like the Egyptian ANKH.

...By lantern light he can make out the word GOLD in Hebrew on the map. He thinks he has found a lost hoard of buried GOLD and becomes joyous. He tells KYOTO to saddle two horses with provisions. Meanwhile he places in a small burlap sack the GOLD relics, a few pieces of the gilded SHITTIM wood, a few chunks of stone, and the MORTAR AND PESTLE. He also grabs the shovel and pickaxe.

...Although night approaches, both ride hard out of Jerusalem. Destination on the map is JORDAN and the TOMB OF THE GREAT DELIVERER OF WATER MOSHEH. Both are excited. Meanwhile, the broken catacomb wall is discovered by workers. Artifacts left behind by ROWLAND in the hollow space are found. Alarms are sounded. There is a thief. Where are he and his servant boy?

...Hugues de Payens announces a reward, sentences both to death by flaying. They are to be skinned alive from head to toe and have their flesh pelt nailed to the front door of a Catholic Church. Rowland and Kyoto follow the map 50 miles eastward...

75   EXT. THE TOMB OF MOSES, MOUNT NEBO – DAY                    

A large well-hidden mound surrounded by fragrant eucalyptus trees. Two men dig with pick and shovel at the west entrance. A heavy iron door is uncovered. It is pulled open with great effort. Two men stand in front. The interior is dark. A torch is lit:

[KYOTO]

No one has entered this crypt in 2,000 years. It is a holy place. MOSES is a great prophet of Islam. I cannot enter, you must go in alone and make the discovery for yourself. It is your destiny. (he trembles with fear)

[ROWLAND]

I will enter and share the GOLD I find with you because you are my friend. Then we will flee to someplace far away and find a new life as rich men.

[O.S.] NARRATION IN MITCHUM’S VOICE (CONT.):

...ROWLAND exits the tomb a PROPHET. He finds much GOLD COIN SHEKELS AND INGOTS in small wooden boxes. He wipes dust away with his gauntlet and reads the Hebrew inscribed on top of the huge stone sarcophagus but cannot decipher all the words. He convinces KYOTO to enter. KYOTO reads the inscriptions, tells ROWLAND of an astounding challenge.

...Who first enters has been chosen by the ONE TRUE GOD to unlock the secret of the ELIXIR OF LIFE and drink from the JAR OF MANNA. He must take an oath this day, to swear to undertake his adventure, his destiny. ROWLAND feels a divine presence, is overcome with emotion, comforted by his friend, he swears an OATH. PROTECT THE JAR FROM EVIL.

...The instructions inscribed on the sarcophagus and four sides are complex. KYOTO does not understand some ancient references. Thus a quest begins, one that will last 10 years and unlock the formula of the ELIXIR OF LIFE. ROWLAND will drink the potion and henceforth become a PROPHET AND PROTECTOR OF THE HOLY JAR OF MANNA...

76   EXT. CENTRAL ASIA ALONG THE SILK ROAD – DAY                 

A winding dusty road through mountain range passes, along open plains, lines of camels, horses, beasts of burden, spices, silks and cloths, merchants dressed in many different national garbs, noise, bandit raids, ruins of ancient villages long gone:

[O.S.] NARRATION IN MITCHUM’S VOICE (CONT.):

...They have one box of GOLD SHEKELS to pay expenses. They begin their journey heading eastward along the perilous SILK ROAD, a web of choices through CENTRAL ASIA, many bandits. KYOTO has inscribed all ELIXIR preparation secret ingredients and instructions on papyrus. The burlap sack of artifacts and the HOLY JAR is left inside the tomb. The tomb is re-sealed...

77   EXT. SOMEWHERE ALONG THE SILK ROAD – NIGHT             

ROWLAND AND KYOTO ARE ASLEEP. Daybreak approaches. Campfire embers are dying. Suddenly a loud yell, “ALLAHU AKBAR” as six armed men rush the camp, swords raised to strike. ROWLAND dodges a sword thrust and stabs his attacker in the throat with a dagger. He reaches his feet while grabbing his CRUSADER SWORD, killing a second attacker with the weapon’s crossguard. KYOTO raises his saddle for protection from a sword blow.

The sword strike is deep and the blade sticks. KYOTO slashes the attacker’s face with his JANBIYA than stabs him in the belly. There are cries of pain. The fourth BANDIT is almost cut in half by ROWLAND’S sword. The remaining two BANDITS flee on foot to their horses screaming in terror. ROWLAND gives chase, throws his sword with two hands, impales a rider on horseback, he falls, the other rider escapes:

[ROWLAND]

Are you all right my friend? We must leave this place quickly, our attacker may come back with many friends. (cleans blood from his sword) 

[KYOTO]

You saved my life SIR CAVALIER, blessed is Allah. These men are not bandits sire, they are bounty hunters. We are wanted men. We must take precautions henceforth. We must barter horses for camels and dress as Bedouins wrapped head to foot in tunic, cloak, and headcloth. Grow hair and beards long we must and soil our faces if we are to live. Look at no one with your fair eyes. (ROWLAND only keeps his CRUSADER SWORD)

78   EXT. SOMEWHERE ALONG THE SILK ROAD (CONT.) – NIGHT     

The heroes are camped by a stream. It’s a clear night. Shooting stars appear in the sky. The desert is cold at night, there’s a fire. ROWLAND carves an image in a small block of wood. It appears to be the face of KYOTO wearing a Bedouin headcloth:

[ROWLAND]

The bandit made off with a gold bag. We are almost out of coin with much travel before us. I will try and sell this wooden icon but I fear its nose is too large and it will scare women and children. (he laughs)

[KYOTO]

My large nose tells me that the Infidel amongst us has the aroma of camel dung. I shall gift you my soaps and pray you bathe before the start of tomorrow’s journey. (both men laugh)

[O.S.] NARRATION IN MITCHUM’S VOICE (CONT.):

...The GOLD runs out. KYOTO earns money writing IMAGINARY stories about the TEMPLE MOUNT AND BRAVE KNIGHTS TEMPLAR under the pen name FLEGETANIS. He barters pamphlets of ROMANTIC TALES in various languages for food and provisions. They became popular along the SILK ROAD. The tales speak of a HOLY CHALICE.

...The ELIXIR instructions say a yeast mixture must be prepared with a white powder, distilled from mercury, GOLD, and many other rare ingredients, including frankincense and myrrh. They must travel far eastward to China then after many years return to JORDAN and the TOMB OF MOSES...

79   EXT. THE TOMB OF MOSES – DAY                            

[O.S.] NARRATION IN MITCHUM’S VOICE (CONT.):

...At the TOMB preparation begins. The JAR OF MANNA is retrieved. Secrets are revealed. ROWLAND must fast for 40 days and 40 nights, undertake body shaving, bathing, and meditation daily. A workshop must be erected.

...Packed hard earth, a three-tiered square wooden platform, a warrior’s sword implanted in the earth hilt up. A hearth and kiln is built. Cinnabar is heated to produce mercury, 60 talents or about two tons of GOLD are melted, ingredients are added, a tiny amount of white powder is distilled.

...The JAR AND PESTLE are cleaned with vinegar, the yeast mixture prepared and placed next to the sword. Then the JAR must sit another 40 days. The MANNA is a thick, dark-brown syrupy substance. The white powder is added and mixed with PESTLE. The resulting six-ounce potion has a metallic taste. SIR ROWLAND VON DAHLGRÜN drinks the ELIXIR and is stricken ill, needing 40 days to recover from the poisons. Very thin, very weak.

...He reaffirms his oath to protect the JAR OF MANNA. HE MAKES A COVENANT WITH THE LORD. ROWLAND’S lifespan will exceed that of Methuselah, and he still lives to this day. The TOMB OF MOSES is resealed for the last time. KYOTO insists he must leave inside the tomb as well the sacred words he has written on papyrus to prepare the ELIXIR. ROWLAND concurs...

80   EXT. TOLEDO, SPAIN – DAY                                     

[O.S.] NARRATION IN MITCHUM’S VOICE (CONT.):

...The heroes leave Jordon with the JAR OF MANNA AND PESTLE, load pack animals with boxes of GOLD, travel to the Port of Jaffa and depart the Holy Land never to return. They are wealthy, buy a boat and sail for Valencia, Spain. Their destination is Toledo, a bustling walled city and home to Christians, Muslims, and Jews alike.

...Both men assume aliases and marry and father children. KYOTO becomes FLEGETANIS a successful merchant. ROWLAND becomes ROLANDO, a quarry owner who supplies stone for the construction of great cathedrals during the Middle Ages.

...Many years pass, FLEGETANIS is past 80 years, loves to drink wine and tell whoever will listen about the exploits of a gallant KNIGHT TEMPLAR and his faithful friend and their QUEST FOR THE JAR OF MANNA. He is considered an old fool and teller of tall tales.

...FLEGENTANIS dies at 90 yet his friend ROLANDO looks like his grandson. By the year 1200 A.D. CHRISTIANITY’S HOLY CRUSADES to retake Jerusalem have failed. The Crusades to come will also fail. THE CHURCH IS WEAKENED, DEUS LO VULT OR “GOD WILLS IT” RINGS HOLLOW.

...It is no accident THE CHURCH embraces the writings of WOLFRAM VON ESCHENBACH about a HOLY GRAIL. He claims to have read first-hand accounts from a Muslim scribe named FLEGETANIS. This epic German tale is called THE 16 BOOKS OF PARZIVAL. Yet 1,200 after the death of JESUS CHRIST, this is the first we hear of a HOLY GRAIL.

...There is no mention of a HOLY GRAIL anywhere in the Bible. It is a myth, a hoax, a fairy tale, a CONFABULATION. There is renewed faith in GOD AND CHURCH. Belief is restored, the hoax is successful.

...More decades and centuries pass. ROLANDO must move repeatedly, those around him age, he does not. It is painful to see his wife pass, the dark-haired Spanish beauty, and his first daughter, SARAH who married a nobleman named DON JORGE ARTES and bore him many grandchildren.

...ROLANDO lives throughout Europe of the Middle Ages, re-marries, has more wives and children. He gives offspring his original surname. They proliferate, grow old and perish too, he moves on.

...It was the Age of Discovery that brought tales of EL DORADO to Europe, and legends of the SEVEN GOLDEN HILLS OF CIBOLA. Men are driven mad by GOLD. The Spanish CONQUISTADOR FRANCISCO DE ORELLANO searches for CIBOLA but is killed by Indian arrows and buried in the AMAZON. Meanwhile the old Knight Templar who now calls himself ROLLIE DAHLGREN has lived in Scotland for decades working as a stonemason.

...It’s 1750 A.D. and he travels to mainland Europe. He retrieves small boxes of GOLD coins he has stashed in secret locations. He boards a ship from Leiden, Holland, says good bye to the Old World and sets sail for the New World

...He will settle in Maryland where he has many descendants. He is 650 years old but looks no more than 50. He takes with him packed very carefully the JAR OF MANNA AND PESTLE, AND HIS KNIGHTS TEMPLAR SWORD...

81   EXT. OLD MARYLAND ON THE BANKS OF THE POTOMAC – DAY    

[O.S.] NARRATION IN MITCHUM’S VOICE (CONT.):

...It is the modern-day Promised Land. The American Colonies and Port of Baltimore. Swampy land and a settlement just granted township status called George’s Town becomes ROLLIE’S new home. It will one day be part of Washington City. There are horse and carriages, the hustle and bustle of a young dynamic village where the evil institution of slavery flourishes.

...ROLLIE’S registered occupation is recorded as Master Stonemason and Bricklayer, much in need, and joins an elite guild of craftsmen who call themselves Freemasons. When Georgetown University is founded in 1789 he helps build Old South and Old North structures, and a honeycomb of underground passages beneath the Hilltop built for the JESUIT Clergy for reasons known only to them.

...By 1824 ROLLIE is working on the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal to connect with the Alexandria Canal, heading south across the Potomac River over a two-story bridge. The Aqueduct Bridge was a marvel of engineering with a 1,000-foot-long wooden trough filled with 10 feet of water.

...Looking up from the Potomac River, a boatman could see overhead barges floating by, and above the trough was another gravel-covered level for horse, buggy, and pedestrian.

...ROLLIE cut the stone groves into solid quarry stone himself which held the wooden trough. The lone surviving bridge abutment can still be seen today on the Georgetown side of Key Bridge. His trademark style was called “The Rosslyn Cut” which he learned in Scotland. Rosslyn, Virginia is named for that cut.

...He suffered through the Civil War years and saw the students divided over slavery, some fought for the North, some for the South. The school sought peaceful reconciliation on all sides by adopting school colors of Blue and Gray.

...One of ROLLIE’S remote descendants gained fame during the Civil War, the Yankee Admiral John Dahlgren, whose family became one of the great names in Washington high society. The fact that ROLLIE happens to have the same last name is considered mere coincidence, not part of the same clan.

...The Admiral’s sons attended Georgetown. It was the death of the Admiral’s infant grandson that prompted the family to build a memorial chapel on campus. The unique location gave ROLLIE an idea for a safe and secure place to hide the JAR OF MANNA AND PESTLE.

...Since departing the TOMB OF MOSES so long ago, he fears for the safekeeping of the HOLY RELICS. He will not live forever. THE ELIXIR OF LIFE guaranteed long life but not immortality. He is subject to mortal wound but not by illness. He has had a series of broken bones, cuts, and accidents over centuries but recovered quickly. He felt it was time to store the HOLY RELICS someplace permanent and safe.

...By the time the Cornerstone is laid for the DAHLGREN CHAPEL at Georgetown in 1892, a metal chest secured with thick chain and locks rests below rock and dirt encased in concrete. Inside is a billion-year-old meteorite fashioned in the shape of an APOTHECARY MORTAR AND PESTLE. It has traveled a long way since BRAZATLAN froze over. A potion made from MANNA combined with properties of GOLD anointed elite members of society with long life.

...Its MANNA fed the Israelites for forty years. THE JAR OF MANNA was kept in SOLOMON’S TEMPLE INSIDE THE ARK OF THE COVENANT. The instructions for the preparation of THE ELIXIR OF LIFE can be found in the TOMB OF MOSES to this day. But the JAR OF MANNA AND PESTLE is given a new home, the New Jerusalem and safest city on the planet, WASHINGTON, D.C.

...ROLLIE helped build the CHAPEL shaped like a cross using the Scottish-Gothic style he was familiar with. Red brick and soft Indiana stone outside, Georgia pine inside. Stained-glass windows from Munich with designs of religious images and saints including St. Ignatius of Loyola, the first JESUIT, decorate throughout.

...On the stained-glass window of the north wall appears the image of a large golden grail and on the floor beneath is a small stone tabernacle. In front is a small bronze door with a carved chalice. On that very spot beneath the tabernacle, 100-feet below, rests the HOLY JAR OF MANNA AND PESTLE.

...The finishing touch for the CHAPEL was an image from distant memory ROLLIE carved in stone. He tucked it beneath the eve of the CHAPEL roof on the north side facing east in tribute to his old friend KYOTO. IT IS THE IMAGE OF A BEDOUIN IN HEADCLOTH AND LARGE NOSE.

...ROLLIE, a direct descendant of EMPEROR CHARLEMAGNE, is over 900 years old these days but looks like a healthy senior citizen in his seventies. The JESUITS have given him a burial plot in the small cemetery on campus. He donated much GOLD to their ORDER. It is said ROLLIE’S forebear donated an ancient KNIGHT TEMPLAR sword too, many years back, in perfect condition. JESUITS WRITE EVERYTHING DOWN.

...ROLLIE talks kind of funny. No one can quite place his accent. But there is no better raconteur should you chose to believe what he says or not. He’s still there. Just go by the Georgetown campus. When you see him, wave. He always waves back!

82   INT. SMASH CUT HOUSTON, TEXAS – DAY                

[MITCHUM]

I have nothing more to say my friends. Let this be a cautionary tale. We humans are only on this Earth a very short time. Let us not waste it on a crusade to find the yellow metal. I learned the hard way. May peace be unto you.

83   INT. SMASH CUT: ARCHIE JEFFERSON’S RESIDENCE   - NIGHT     

It is early 2009. OPEC increases the cost of a barrel of oil yet again and the price of gasoline is soaring. The stock market is sinking like a rock and double-digit inflation is out of control. The FED jacks up interest rates again as more companies reduce headcount.

With mortgage rates at 20% the housing market is in a tailspin. Just today the Federal Government announces a massive Reduction in Force as bureaucrats are finally being fired.

JEFFERSON is concerned. There is increased security at SI. New CCTV security cameras are installed, even in lavatories, AND THOSE ARE THE ONES HE CAN SEE. All the analog office machines including photocopiers have been switched out for new digital models. He feels security guards are watching him and he’s getting strange looks from the head of security MAC KOPSTEIN. He reads more chapters of NOBLE’S book, calls him:

JEFFERSON (V.O.)

Hey man, where did you get the idea for that dude Rollie and him being a Templar Knight and shit? One minute he’s in Jerusalem and next thing you know he’s in Georgetown. And then you got Antarctica going on too, man it’s hard to keep everything straight. Sounds like this kid DUKE MITCHUM’S on LSD. I don’t get what you’re saying about the Holy Grail.

NOBLE

That’s the point Arch, there was no Holy Grail, it was all made up and rubber-stamped by the Church because people were losing faith in religion. I call it a CONFABULATION. My boss at work told me when in doubt just make shit up, so that’s what I did. The real Grail was the Jar of Manna. And the Templars, fuck, everybody loves the Templars.

Jefferson

You got any more chapters you can send me or has DUKE MITCHUM gone as far as he can go?

NOBLE

I don’t know man this shit really tires me out. Writing a book is hard work. I think I might take a time-out for a while.

Another conversation duly recorded by the G-Men and transcript sent over to SI.

84   INT. STUDEBAKER INSTITUTE 4th FLOOR – DAY               

BUDDY is in a bad mood even though his Steelers won the Super Bowl. GREESE calls him at home during the game last night and wants a briefing on the JEFFERSON NOBLE AFFAIR AND OPERATION GERDA. KOPSTEIN AND BROWN are summoned to the 4th floor conference room bright and early for an impromptu meeting. BUDDY will report back to GREESE:

KOPSTEIN (V.O.)

BUDDY, we’ve done extensive surveillance and I have with me here a number of phone transcripts, emails, copies of letters, photos, and background files.

PEOPLES

What about text messages Mac?

KOPSTEIN

Nope, these jokers have cheapo Nokias but hardly use them. I doubt they even know what a text is. We do have information on MRS. NOBLE. Nothing electronic but there are letters we found at the residence from relatives in Brazil. They were in Portuguese so we had them copied and translated. Just bullshit. But that moron ATWOOD has given us some good information.

KOPSTEIN explains to his two colleagues that NOBLE is talking to the HR Department about his pension when he retires next year. He wants the money wired to a local bank in CAMPO DOURADO. Same query about Social Security and how his medical benefits will work in Brazil. He also asked about paying U.S. taxes while living abroad:

BUDDY (V.O.)

So apparently he intends opening an account at the First National Bank of Podunk! (laughs at his own joke) Seriously, check out Brazilian extradition laws with JUSTICE in case we have to get our hands on him.  

KOPSTEIN

Legally we can get at him but the problem is that his wife’s village is so fucking remote. I mean Heart of Darkness deep-jungle shit. It only has about 20,000 people of mostly Indian descent.

Not exactly the kind of people you’re going to invite over for tea and crumpets. It’s one of the poorest regions in the country. Theoretically, NOBLE’s in-laws could hide him and the local police constabulary wouldn’t do jack shit. NOBLE’S an old guy with time on his side should he decide to choose jungle over jail. (BROWN is offended by the slurs to indigenous people)

KOPSTEIN thinks BUDDY is a yellow-belly when it comes to the rough stuff. He heard urban legends about GREESE while still at the BUREAU. Supposedly he keeps a team of CLEANERS on call 24/7 at some remote air strip in Panama, real hardcore mercenary types.

He makes one phone call to the BLACK SITE and says three words: EVERYONE MUST GO and that’s that, anyone tangentially involved goes bye-bye permanently. KOPSTEIN has let GREESE know in not so many words that he is available for wet-work anytime, anywhere:

BUDDY (V.O.)

Mac, what about the material we’ve put together thus far, have we learned anymore about what he wants with his increasingly bizarre MANIFESTO? I mean shit, KNIGHTS TEMPLAR AND THE HOLY GRAIL, someplace called BRAZATLAN, what the fuck is all that about? And who the fuck is DUKE MITCHUM? Why does he hate GOLD so goddamn much!

KOPSTEIN

The psychological profilers at the FBI have some ideas but nothing concrete. They think NOBLE is some ZEITGEIST wannabe, a self-proclaimed prophet with delusions of grandeur. At a minimum he needs professional counseling and antipsychotic medication. That would explain NOBLE’s split-personality disorder in that DUKE MITCHUM may in fact be none other than NOBLE himself and vice versa.

BUDDY

Fucking ZEITGEISTS, everybody’s got to be somebody! Fact is GREESE doesn’t give a shit about some nut job out there, he’s worried that if word gets out we can’t keep our own house in order security wise and our secret projects aren’t secret, that new bunch in the White House will avoid us like the plague.

Our competitors are lined up waiting to fuck us. GREESE won’t have it! Which leads us to DR. BROWN. Sir, will you please enlighten us, where are we with OPERATION GERDA?

85   INT. STUDEBAKER INSTITUTE (CONT.) – DAY                     

DR. CINZA BROWN’S IQ is higher than the other two men in the room combined and has a photographic memory. He has read through all the material concerning JEFFERSON, down to the last detail, and was briefed by KOPSTEIN shortly after it was determined NOBLE and a DUKE MITCHUM were the suspects in stolen documents from his ATLANTEAN GEODESY.

He had to swear the stolen documents had nothing to do with him and take a humiliating polygraph test. He had followed protocol to the tee. BROWN wouldn’t have even been at photocopier making a copy of GEODESY had GREESE not asked for a paper copy for his files. Says he doesn’t trust all that digital bullshit. BROWN honestly doesn’t know how JEFFERSON came into possession of said documents:

BROWN (V.O.)

I’ll address that in just a second Mr. Peoples but I would like to add my two cents for what it’s worth regarding JEFFERSON AND NOBLE if that’s okay? (Buddy nods his approval, Kopstein looks surprised but says nothing)

Well gentlemen, I think we might be missing another possible scenario regarding this whole affair. What I mean is, what if all we have here are two old friends and Vietnam War veterans having one last bite at the apple?

Suppose NOBLE is just putting in his own words personal experiences he has had. He’s been a COURIER for how long, almost 40 years? That’s a lot of lonely time in airports and on airplanes. Maybe he created a fantasy world of his own. Maybe it’s a kind of escapism.

KOPSTEIN

DR. BROWN, we’ve already been through this. Twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action. There are just too many similarities between the GEODESY AND NOBLE’S MANIFESTO.

And the timing, why now, why after all these years does some old retard finally decide to write a book he calls THE ADVENTURES OF DUKE MITCHUM precisely at the same time OPERATION GERDA is set to be presented to the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES? I mean who the fuck can make this shit up!

BROWN

Mr. Kopstein, you may in fact be right, but what if you’re wrong? How will you undo the negative consequences? These two men are veterans, they deserve some consideration. There is only one real provable crime here in that JEFFERSON somehow got his hands on classified documents that he had no business having.

That’s it. But NOBLE has committed no crime other than suspected guilt by association. Yes he keeps a loaded assault rifle under his bed but there are 10 million Americans who own the same weapon, automatic selector switch notwithstanding. A one-person crime is not a conspiracy.

BROWN’S late father, Frederick Douglas Brown, was a highly decorated Marine Corps veteran, having fought during the Vietnam War at the Battle of Hue. He was wounded six times. He told his son wounded Marines refused to leave the battlefield. They fought for each other. He was buried at Arlington with full military honors a few years ago:

BUDDY (V.O.)

Hmm, not bad DR.BROWN, not bad at all. I will take what you say under advisement and discuss the matter with CHAIRMAN GREESE. Mac, the investigation is not concluded by any means but let’s focus more going forward on how JEFFERSON got the GEODESY documents in the first place. 

We’ll give it a few more weeks before calling JEFFERSON in for a little chat. Then we’ll lay the hammer down hard. Now DR. BROWN, if you don’t mind, OPERATION GERDA please.

As BROWN makes ready his PC and PowerPoint presentation, he reflects that he was just a little disingenuous with regard to NOBLE’S culpability. He saw it amongst the high-definition photos taken at the NOBLE residence but said nothing. It was perhaps the most disturbing coincidence of all. On NOBLE’S desk stacked on top of some papers are two BOWTIE-SHAPED INGOTS.

NOBLE refers to them as “metal clamps” in his book. They are in fact mentioned on page 24 of his own ATLANTEAN GEODESY, one of the three pages JEFFERSON stole, as “staple-like clamps called tenents”. BROWN would love to know where NOBLE got those ingots from.

86   INT. STUDEBAKER INSTITUTE (CONT.) – DAY                     

GREESE sounds out influential members of Congress about returning to the GOLD STANDARD to avoid another economic catastrophe. Except for the Congressman from Texas the reception so far is lukewarm. The Chairman has made it clear he wants OPERATION GERDA to put the USA in the CATBIRD SEAT for decades, if not centuries, to come.

By doing so SI will make billions of dollars from government contracts, dwarfing the ARMALITE PROJECT. KOPSTEIN is invited to stay for BROWN’S GERDA briefing. BROWN thinks KOPSTEIN is an idiot. As he speaks he displays PowerPoint slides:

BROWN (V.O.)

Gentlemen, the foundation of OPERATION GERDA is solid. There are TWO PILLARS of rationale. First, SI must convince the PRESIDENT of the United States that the country has to return to the GOLD STANDARD. Second, having done that we must by then have found access to enough GOLD, huge quantities in fact, to back our play.

The project is a “GO” once we can guarantee GOLD extraction and relocation within a WINDOW OF FIVE YEARS. It is at that moment the PRESIDENT can make an official announcement. He will need to do a lot of arm twisting but in the end Congress will acquiesce. They have no choice. Then we have to get foreign countries on board as well.

Over the past three years BROWN writes extensively about the economy and the need to return to the GOLD STANDARD. Apparently no one at SI pays attention. He and his team have access to intelligence data on every country, satellite spying, and human assets on the ground.

Detailed geological data worldwide is available. The team conducts sophisticated analyses using high-speed computers and algorithms BROWN designs personally. BROWN IS WORN OUT MENTALLY AND PHYSICALLY. He continues:

BROWN (V.O.)

The benefit of a GOLD STANDARD is that a fixed asset backs the money’s value. This has a stabilizing and self-regulating effect on the economy. The government can only print as much money as its country has in GOLD RESERVES. It can no longer print fiat money. This eliminates inflation which is too much money chasing too few goods.

Inflation can only be caused by a country’s monetary policy of easy money thus it cannot be caused by the private sector. Our government must live within its means like every household in America. We can eliminate national debt and deficit spending altogether under a GOLD STANDARD thus fiscal and monetary austerity are assured.   

87   INT. STUDEBAKER INSTITUTE (CONT.) – DAY                     

BROWN could see he was losing his audience, so tried to make things as simple as possible. The reason FDR left the GOLD STANDARD in the first place was that he did not have enough GOLD in Fort Knox to make it work any longer. He needed to print fiat money, so we became UNFETTERED FROM GOLD.

It was WWII that actually took us out of the GREAT DEPRESSION but by then we were hooked on steroids. Need more money? Just print it. The problem is politicians are clueless junkies, they don’t know when to stop.

At the end of WWII national debt was $260 billion, by 1960 $320 billion, and by 1992 it had reached $4.2 trillion. BROWN estimates in the year of our Lord 2009 the U.S. could amass $9 trillion in national debt!

KOPSTEIN (V.O.)

Holy shit! Why the hell doesn’t Congress do something! Hell, in this economic environment we could hit $18 trillion in just a few years. (BROWN is surprised at KOPSTEIN’S comprehension) 

BROWN

You’ve hit the nail on the head Mac, the problem is the speed of acceleration of the debt. Almost a year ago I estimated, given the size of our economy and debt load we would need an amount of GOLD equivalent to all the GOLD brought to the surface ever. That’s 130,000 metric tons. But I now believe my econometric modeling used then is no longer valid. Not by a long shot.

BUDDY

Well DR. BROWN, therein lies the rub doesn’t it, what you call the SECOND PILLAR? This new President is a big proponent of military spending, given problems in the Mideast, and he will need that component factored in as well. That said, how much GOLD do we need and where will it come from so the President embraces OPERATION GERDA?

Ugh, the question BROWN is dreading the most since his ATLANTEAN GEODESY was shot down. How much indeed, so many variables? HIS STRESS LEVELS HAVE NEVER BEEN HIGHER. HE HAS SLIDES PREPARED JUST IN CASE ON THE FOLLOWING POINTS:

The fluctuating price for a troy ounce of GOLD, economic chaos across the globe, political turmoil in the Mideast, and so forth need ongoing consideration. He looks at America’s balance sheet, its debits and credits, in order to determine how to administer a massive electric shock to the system.

The data he obtains from the TREASURY DEPARTMENT is impossible to cross-reference and correlate. The numbers have no connection to reality. This is the old Potomac two-step. So much lying, so much manipulation he sees while peeling back the onion.

BROWN analyzes unfunded liabilities and commitments, federal debt, states and municipal debt, private sector debt, household debt, plus the present-value of all future non-interest spending, minus the present-value of all future federal and non-federal receipts.

Throw in national debt plus interest, Social Security and Medicare, pension liabilities, and the Federal Reserve Note debt in circulation. There is ongoing government and military spending and special project spending, including OPERATION GERDA. If approved by the President, Congress has to act quickly to pass all new GOLD STANDARD legislation within 100 days.

He estimates the USA is in the hole $140 trillion! It currently has 8,200 metric tons in GOLD reserves worth $262 billion based on the current troy ounce price of GOLD. This is a debt-to-gold ratio of 535:1. The economy is built on a house of cards!

Between now and assuming a FIVE-YEAR window to get GERDA up and running, plus the accelerating economic ruin on the horizon, he recalibrates his econometric modeling and comes up with a new figure. It is roughly seven times as much as all the GOLD brought to the surface in human history:

BROWN (V.O.)

Well Buddy, given the current circumstances with our economy and the instability in the rest of the world, it is my belief WE will need to identify the whereabouts of approximately 900,000 metric tons of GOLD worth $40 trillion based on the estimated future price per troy ounce. (BROWN lets this sink in while his colleagues look at each other dumbfounded)

BUDDY

Are you fuckin’ shittin’ me! (BUDDY is angry, KOPSTEIN smiles) Who’s this WE shit, it’s your ass on the line not mine! CHAIRMAN GREESE is going to tear your heart out when he hears about this! (BUDDY is only half kidding)

BROWN

Please let me explain. (he gets in the weeds with slides aforementioned) These 900,000 metric tons leveraged at the old Knights Templar loan to reserve ratio of 10:1 creates $400 trillion in wealth plus interest earned, once volatility in the GOLD market stabilizes, more than enough runway to finance a GOLDEN AGE OF AMERICA well into the 22nd century!

BUDDY

No shit boy genius but where does all that GOLD come from! If we shit the bed and not produce the goods there will be global panic with soaring interest rates and foreign currencies crashing.

BROWN

For your information, I already spoke with the CHAIRMAN using the same rationale I’m outlining for you right now. He said he would back me to the hilt. He said this plan will stick it to our enemies, decrease the price of oil, and scare the shit out of China. He mentioned THE CATBIRD SEAT. All other nations will have no choice but to follow our lead. GREESE says that when you have them by the balls their hearts and minds will follow.

With the help of the CHAIRMAN I’ll be setting up a meeting at the U.S. Geological Survey to look at mining new quantities of GOLD domestically and abroad. He wants me to determine how much GOLD still exists below ground everywhere on the planet and how we can get our hands on it.

BUDDY

(Fucking GREESE, went behind his back again. He’s starting to worry about his own termination with extreme prejudice) Well, I’m not one to disagree with MR. GREESE. It’s his company. I wish you luck. You have an incredibly difficult task before you. I’ll loop back with him and let him know you briefed us.

I won’t keep you any longer DR. BROWN so you are excused sir. Mac, do you mind holding back for a second, I have another matter to discuss with you? (BROWN pretends he doesn’t see BUDDY wink at KOPSTEIN)

BROWN packs up his PC and files and walks out. Has trouble concentrating, feels dizzy. Heads to the elevator. Takes it down to the 1st floor and meets with his team. Meanwhile back in the conference room:

BUDDY (V.O.)

Okay Mac, all that horseshit BROWN spouted about not worrying about NOBLE but rather focusing all our attention on JEFFERSON, forget it. I don’t trust that little shit. See what more you can dig up. (KOPSTEIN wonders if BUDDY knows something about a CLEANER TEAM IN PANAMA that he doesn’t)

88   INT. STUDEBAKER INSTITUTE 1ST FLOOR – DAY               

BROWN meets with his team in the IT Department. Computers are whirring, hustle bustle of people talking, high-level economic and scientific jargon. Nerdy looking egghead crowd. Papers scattered everywhere, tables full of files, huge flat screen TV monitors, looks like NORAD:

BROWN (V.O.)

Wonder what those jackasses are saying behind my back, must have something to do with that wink. Wouldn’t be the first time I was treated as an outsider. (has a terrible headache, excuses himself for the day)

89   EXT. SMASH CUT MARYLAND NEAR FORT MCHENRY – DAY         

BROWN does not return to work the following day, or week, or month. Doctors tell him he must take a hiatus. Too much stress at work, his health is at risk. BUDDY is furious, thinks BROWN’S screwed the pooch at the crucial hour. His personal problem has become a sideshow to the big show. Without BROWN there is no contingency plan for GERDA.

BROWN goes home to stay with his Mom. BUDDY calls him only once the whole time. Tells him GREESE says all pay and benefits will continue until he’s back on his feet. BROWN drinks beer all day, watches television, normally likes neither. Violence in the Mideast is getting worse. Thinks about chucking everything and going into teaching. Introspection phase:

(O.S.) NARRATION IN BROWN’S VOICE – IMAGES OF BROWN’S OLD NEIGHBORHOOD, HIS MOM & POPS ON THE FRONT PORCH OF THEIR MODEST YELLOW BRICK HOUSE BACK IN THE DAY, AN AMERICAN FLAG. HE RUMINATES TO HIMSELF:

...Now I know how DUKE MITCHUM felt. Why can’t I shake the blues?

...I was raised in a working class neighborhood, a small house with two other siblings. My father was a former Marine Drill Instructor turned mail carrier, my mother an elementary school teacher. While a young man I knew I was different, my classmates teased me for being effeminate, not liking sports. Pretty much a loner, my passion was books, especially ones on archaeology and dinosaurs. I loved movies too. My favorites were Indiana Jones and Jurassic Park.

...I excelled in school, straight A’s all the way through, graduated with full scholarship to the University of Maryland. Graduated Summa Cum Laude. My family knew I didn’t date girls but it didn’t matter, they loved me just the way I was.

...Anybody gave me any shit they’d have to deal with my Pops, Downtown Freddy Brown. You don’t mess with an ex-Marine Drill Sergeant. My brother became a lawyer, and my sister, SARAH went to Annapolis and is a Naval Aviator.

...Growing up I was Randy, short for Randall. But in college I wanted to be called by my middle name Cinza, in tribute to my Eastern African heritage. Only family and close friends still call me Randy. My goal in life was to be rich and famous, so with PhD in hand I got a job at the most prestigious Think Tank in D.C. in 2002. I felt proud, as did my family.

...My Pops passed shortly afterwards. He was a patriot to the core, loved this country and especially loved the big construction projects like the Boulder Dam, later renamed Hoover Dam. I found out why during the family’s road trip out west when I was still in high school.

...When we returned home I wrote Pops an essay. I found it today. It was opened and closed so often it almost fell apart. I read it one more time in his honor...

90   FLASHBACK: BOULDER DAM CONSTRUCTION SITE – DAY         

(O.S.) NARRATION IN BROWN’S VOICE – ARCHIVAL IMAGES OF GIANT CONSTRUCTION SITE, DESPERATE HUNGRY PEOPLE, START OF GREAT DEPRESSION, THE MIGHTY COLORADO RIVER, HOT SUMMER OF 1931, DIRTY, DUSTY, EPIC:

...The temporary shanty for workers and family was called RAGTOWN. Entire families arrived with everything they owned. Cars broke down miles away so they walked. The government overlords would not help them. 16,000 workers came.

...From the Las Vegas crossroads they made it out to the desert however they could. By moonlight the river was a beautiful silver strand but the next morning it was ugly brown and muddy. That summer was one of the hottest on record reaching 126° on July 24th. Construction workers inside the diversion tunnels had to endure temperatures of 135°.

...By nine in the morning it was routinely 115° and wouldn’t get below 100° before nine in the evening. Food rotted or was eaten by black ants, freshwater was rare, river water after boiling still caused dysentery. Primitive sanitary facilities with trench latrines but Ragtown grew as a city. Kids kept pet kangaroo rats, snakes, and horned toads some of which made it into mother’s stew pot.

...Everyone was happy to have steady work paying $4 a day. Jobs of all kinds, hot, heavy, backbreaking toil but no one complained. Some drove trucks and were called double-uglies, there were electricians called juicers, menial janitors called muckers, there were easy-doughs, signal-punks, dinky-skinners, and wood-butchers.

...But the most dangerous, glamorous, and highest paying job belonged to men called high-scalers. They dangled 700 feet above Black Canyon, swinging on bosun’s chairs suspended from long ropes from side to side prying away loose rocks from the steep cliffs with jackhammers and drilling dynamite powder holes. Their pay was a whopping $7 a day. 

...The culmination of our trip was the Visitor Center. A banner over the door said, “When times were darkest Americans turned their face to the sun so they wouldn’t see their shadow”. Fully 50% of able-bodied black men were unemployed in 1930.

...I saw my Pops looking at old black and white framed photographs on the walls showing the dam’s construction. He was looking for a picture of his father, the grandson of an ex-slave. My granddaddy refused to take a job as a mucker because he was a proud man, hardworking, fearless, and determined. He was a high-scaler. As we walked out of the Visitor Center my Pops told me, “Randy, always remember son, we’re a family of high-scalers”.

After nearly three months, BROWN gets a postcard. It’s from CHAIRMAN GREESE. It says, “Come back son, there’s work to do”.

He’s heartened, the old man hasn’t given up on him!

91   INT. STUDEBAKER INSTITUTE – DAY                    

The PRESIDENT HAPGOOD administration is handing out new government contracts left and right to SI. It is printing and spending money at a record pace. At SI big-shots from the public and private sectors are coming and going all day long.

Titans of industry and banking with snouts out are feeding at the public trough. They want tax breaks, bailouts, and subsidies. JERUSALEM has another bad week of car bombings and protests.

BROWN’S FIRST DAY BACK FEELS SURREAL. He’s worried about being shunned for failing to activate OPERATION GERDA. He hears that the meeting with PRESIDENT HAPGOOD IS DELAYED. He’s having difficulty seeing BUDDY who makes excuses about being too busy.

GREESE rarely leaves his 4th floor office these days, even has a cot there where he sleeps at night. With all the new SI business forthcoming, there are rumors that GERDA is cancelled and BROWN’S to be reassigned or fired. KOSPSTEIN is noticeably more hostile:

KOPSTEIN (V.O.)

Hey RANDY, welcome back! Did you hear the one about the planet Uranus? Seems it’s been the butt of a lot of jokes lately. It’s full of ass-teroids! (he and those near laugh at BROWN’S expense)

BROWN

Fuck you Kopstein! (what’s this RANDY shit, such a dick)

BROWN has heard NOBLE’S envelopes have stopped coming over for JEFFERSON but they are still under investigation. But this morning things are looking up. GREESE asked one of the SI board members, a former Secretary of the Interior, to set up meeting at the U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY for BROWN. They are experts on all things related to the Earth’s natural resources. This reinvigorates BROWN. The Chairman is still interested in GERDA!

GREESE personally concocts a cover story for BROWN and they meet to discuss next steps. The old man’s office reeks. In the dark office he can barely make out a cheap Army surplus cot next to a table with old-timey wash basin and water pitcher. It’s unmade, old clothes on the floor, stale food, unwashed body smell, revolting:

GREESE (V.O.)

First of all, welcome back. Now listen up. The USGS thinks you’re going over there as part of SI’S government downsizing project so they’ll be suspicious at first. Just tell your contact at USGS that STUDEBAKER has an important project with the Department of Defense involving matters of national security.

You need to hear ideas for dramatically increasing the nation’s GOLD SUPPLY within the next five years. If some wiseass calls over to Defense to verify, we got that covered too. Somebody gives you any shit, you get back to me.

It works perfectly. His contact calls him a few days later, DR. MORRIS VINE, a Green Card holder from the U.K. He is cold and suspicious. Keeps BROWN at arm’s length. Has him spend a couple of weeks attending useless departmental orientation sessions within the Department of the Interior then finally meets with him one on one. VINE makes promises to cooperate but continues to stall.

He recommends a few weeks of domestic and international travel for BROWN to see GOLD MINING operations first hand. USGS organizes the visits. It is only after all this time that VINE sees the chance to score political points with higher ups and actually cooperates. The first meeting with VINE’S staff is finally organized after BROWN’S trips.

92   EXT. VARIOUS MINING OPERATIONS WORLDWIDE – DAY     

BROWN’S extensive travel is reluctantly approved by his boss BUDDY under orders from GREESE. BUDDY finally calls BROWN, welcomes him back. We see a montage of video and images from the most important GOLD MINING operations: in the U.S. all the biggest mines are in Nevada and Colorado starting with the massive Carlin open-pit mine. Immense loss of land involved, gargantuan earthmoving equipment needed to extract only about 200 metric tons of GOLD per year. BROWN thinks to himself:

BROWN (O.S.)

Got to hand it to GREESE, he saw this all coming three years ago, the economic meltdown. That’s when I looked at a new project and came up with GERDA. I considered mining operations then to increase our GOLD supply. I ruled it out because of cost and time constraints.

It’s incredibly capital intensive, so much machinery. Getting our hands on GOLD from antiquity would be so much easier. It’s already been dug up and processed. But they shot down the ATLANTEAN GEODESY, so here we are, back to square one.

Outside the U.S. the biggest GOLD mines are in Uzbekistan, Russia, Dominican Republic, Indonesia, New Guinea, and Australia. The largest GOLD reserves underground are in Australia, Russia, China, and Witwatersrand in South Africa. Total production is about 3,000 metric tons per year. Complete disregard for damage to the environment.

93   INT. U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY OFFICE (USGS) – DAY             

SEPTEMBER 29, 2009...

BROWN meets for the first time with VINE’S staff and is introduced to them in the conference room. THE MEETING BEGINS PROMPTLY AT 1PM. All are polite except one. He appears uninterested and so does not acknowledge the introduction given by his boss VINE.

He just grunts. VINE says BROWN works for the STUDEBAKER INSTITUTE but is developing a classified mining project in conjunction with the Department of Defense. Everyone is impressed except that same guy sitting alone in the corner. BROWN gets right to it:

BROWN (V.O.)

Good afternoon, pleasure to be here. My objective is to learn from the experts, from you gentlemen concerning how much GOLD exists inside the Earth and how can the U.S.A. get its hands on it for national security reasons? Dr. Vine sir, the floor is yours.

Long-winded HOURS LONG scientific presentations begin from different members of VINE’S team. It starts with a history on the formation of Earth. BROWN learns about meteors and asteroids, rock formations like granite and basalt, coal, marble and slate, quartz and GOLD. GOLD is formed as the result of molten rock, called magma, being intruded into solid rock.

As it cools water and volatile substances separate under high pressure causing disposition of materials to occur, especially QUARTZ. Because GOLD has a high melting temperature, its particles are carried by hydrothermal solutions and solidify in QUARTZ veins. When the GOLD breaks loose naturally, it’s called PLACER GOLD like that found during the 49er GOLD RUSH.

The USGS has access to land-based remote sensing from high-altitude satellites with Signature Aperture Radar. USGS sees everything worldwide because these are latest generation spy satellites. The signals reflected back tell USGS geologists everything. Wavelengths of minerals and elements are matched to 99% accuracy. USGS knows where mineral-rich deposits are located but sometimes CERTAIN QUARTZ FIELDS are problematic. Magnetic interference can screw up accurate data feedback.

As the presentation rises to a crescendo VINE takes over:

VINE (V.O.)

Well Dr. Brown, that pretty much wraps it up except for the $64,000 question. In consultation with my colleagues at the Minerals Management Division it is our collective opinion (pause for dramatic effect) that there is at a minimum 150,000 metric tons of GOLD still left buried inside the Earth’s crust and quite possibly 15 to 20 times that tonnage figure!

BROWN is shocked by the large quantity, many thoughts hit him at once, how to get our hands on the GOLD, who to bribe, what foreign government re-engineering will be needed, this news might save his OPERATION GERDA...but only seconds later:

VINE (V.O.)

And you can tell the Defense Department to be rest assured that enough GOLD will be mined and processed this century to fulfill all the needs of the United States and its allies’ national security needs! (beams with pride)

BROWN

Excuse me but did you say GOLD mined and processed this CENTURY? (is crestfallen)

VINE

Why yes Dr. Vine. Pretty remarkable if you think about it. We’re saying that with advanced technology and our diplomatic ties with foreign countries we can very easily surpass in the next 100 years all the GOLD mined in the last 6,000 years.

BROWN knows he fucked up big time. He never mentioned the TIME CONSTRAINT to these bureaucrats! Sees his pet project going down in flames, prays there is still hope:

BROWN (V.O.)

Understood sir but what if the U.S. embarked on a balls-to-the-wall moonshot initiative, and spared no expense, could we somehow get our hands on 900,000 metric tons of GOLD reserves within five years? (all but BROWN and one other person in the room burst out laughing)

VINE

Impossible Dr. Brown! The logistics are insurmountable. The capital investment alone would surpass the value of the GOLD being mined. Not to mention negotiating contracts with foreign countries, political complexities, and environmental concerns.

The world is in recession, that much GOLD could cause catastrophic damage to world economies hanging on by a thread. (pauses) I take it our news did not produce the desired effect we had hoped it would. (the room grows quiet, somber)

At that moment the first few notes of a song are heard, In-A-Godda-Da-Vida, giving the room a surreal feeling. It comes from the far end of the room over by the corner. BRUCE “PIG” LEMKAU takes his sweet time turning off his cell phone. Everyone glares at him. VINE challenges the corpulent usurper:

VINE (V.O.)

Dr. Lemkau, if there’s anything you wish to add please speak up. I’m sure we’d all like to hear from you given your lack of participation thus far.

LEMKAU

Okay I will, horseshit! You guys are flunkies of the establishment. No one really knows how much GOLD is inside the Earth’s crust. The only way to find out is to take deep, I mean really deep core samples and to do that means using massive amounts of explosives. But the scientific community is a bunch of politically correct cowards. You guys don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about.

VINE

First of all sir, let’s watch the language. We all know what a rebel you are, your reputation precedes you and you know what I’m talking about. At this juncture I don’t see what we have to gain by pursuing an infinite set of permutations and combinations.

BROWN

Actually Dr. Vine, if you don’t mind I’d like to hear what this gentleman has to say about harvesting GOLD. After all, what do I have to lose at this point?

VINE

Very well Dr. Brown but may I suggest we take a 15-minute break before giving our esteemed colleague the floor. This will allow us all to cool down a bit.

94   INT. U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY OFFICE (CONT.) – DAY            

People rise from their chairs, refill coffee mugs, exit for the restrooms. VINE asks BROWN to walk with him to his office next door. There he gives BROWN the lowdown on LEMKAU. He was a wunderkind at CalTech and was swooped up by NASA as soon as his doctorate was in hand. He worked at their Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

He worked on Apollo 17 in 1972, the last Apollo mission to the Moon. He had followed the space program since growing up in Spokane. After the Apollo program was cancelled by Nixon LEMKAU became bitter and that cynicism only worsened over the years.

He criticized NASA for using left over Apollo hardware to build the Skylab Space Station which he called a boondoggle, a term he also used to describe the Space Shuttle program. As far as LEMKAU was concerned, after landing on the Moon, all efforts should have been focused on MARS. He became an expert on Martian terrain and potential landing sites having worked on Viking 1 and 2 exploring MARS and taking soil samples in 1975 and 1976.

But criticizing the Bush Administration in 1991 for dithering with space exploration was the last straw. He was “detailed” to USGS and there his career stagnated, never surpassing the rank of GS12. The last hour of today’s meeting begins:

LEMKAU (V.O.)

Let me start Dr. Brown by saying the presentations thus far despite my colleague’s petulance are not necessarily wrong. 

The problem is that conventional theories about the creation of GOLD and the geological forces which percolate the metal from deep below to the surface exclude the most obvious consideration, that at least some of the GOLD inside the Earth’s crust was actually seeded there by thousands of asteroid and meteor strikes proving that GOLD exists elsewhere in our Solar System, Milky Way, and Universe. (BROWN is thinking, why not?)

As groans erupt from his USGS colleagues who have all heard this many times before, LEMKAU is essentially talking to an audience of one, BROWN.

Summarizing, he believes during four billion years some asteroid and meteor bombardments got by our giant planet protector Jupiter and ripped into our own Solar System striking Mars and Earth. Stripping away from Earth ground covering and draining the oceans will reveal a planet pock-marked with craters resembling MARS.

It was those strikes that seeded GOLD deep inside Earth’s crust, lodging into magma that hardened into rock and QUARTZ over eons. LEMKAU concludes by saying GOLD has been around since the Big Bang and is present everywhere amongst the stars.

BROWN cannot contain his excitement further and blurts out:

BROWN (V.O.)

DR. LEMKAU, taking everything into consideration then, how much GOLD is out there? By that I mean, what quantities of GOLD are close by in our Solar System and beyond? Is there some way the amount can be quantified, say in troy ounces or better yet in metric tons? (he can hear his heart pounding)

LEMKAU

Well I’m glad someone has finally asked me that question! Sir, there’s GOOGOL GOLD out there in them thar hills! That’s the number one followed by a hundred zeroes, measured in troy ounces or metric tons, just take your pick!

And if you want to suck it out of the ground fast then go to MARS. Our commitment should be like the Manhattan Project. Shit, it’s a wartime footing exploitation mission. Fuck looking for life and terra-forming bullshit. This is about MANIFEST DESTINY!

It’s late. Sure his porky nemesis has gone completely mad, VINE suggests they conclude matters for the day and resume first thing in the morning. BROWN is so excited he barely sleeps, can hardly wait to hear more from DR. BRUCE “PIG” LEMKAU.

THE BACK STORY CONCLUDES...

95   INT. STUDEBAKER INSTITUTE – DAY...                          

REAL TIME RESUMES: PRESENT DAY OCTOBER 1, 2009...

Coming to work this morning on the Metro BROWN is a tangle of nerves. Almost no sleep. So many things to consider. How will he be received by BUDDY after his MENTAL BREAKDOWN? He reviews his USGS notes. Cannot fathom how someone deep within the bowels of government, a lowly GS12, somehow comes up with a solution for OPERATION GERDA while all the high-paid geniuses just sat and watched.

But something else gnaws at him this morning, how does NOBLE come up with the image of an APOTHECARY MORTAR AND PESTLE with GOLD striations for his crude book? And he has the damn thing originating in outer space. It was carved from a meteorite, Antarctica no less! BROWN never mentions outer space GOLD in his ATLANTEAN GEODESY, not anywhere so that eliminates any connection to JEFFERSON.

God forbid KOPSTEIN starts snooping around and decides NOBLE got the idea from another loony public servant, BRUCE “PIG” LEMKAU, who is in fact none other than DUKE MITCHUM. He even used the same name yesterday that NOBLE invoked in his book, HIRAM ABIFF, how weird is that?

Who more than LEMKAU fits the bill of a lunatic extremist hell bent on bringing down the establishment he despises. The JEFFERSON AFFAIR needs to be brought to a close before it fucks up OPERATION GERDA, assuming GERDA is still a go.

BUDDY has a large corner office, expensively decorated. Full of vanity memorabilia from 30 years with NSA, photos of important people, awards, certificates. There is awkwardness at first. There was the mental breakdown that still pisses off BUDDY.

Both men make a weak effort to mend fences, shake hands. Moments from now all will be forgiven. BROWN fully briefs BUDDY from his two days of USGS notes about GOLD ON MARS, then their meeting continues:

BUDDY (V.O.)

Holy shit BROWN! This is unbelievable! While you were with the SURVEY bunch yesterday, we had a board meeting here and I got my ass chewed out by GREESE. He announced the White House confirmed his meeting with the President was in about 10 days. GERDA along with other SI projects are on the agenda.

He insulted me in front of everyone and said that if I didn’t have GERDA locked down by then my ass was grass and he was the lawn mower! Fuck him! I can’t wait to shove that ARMALITE PROJECT up his bony ass! (BROWN has never heard BUDDY say anything critical about his boss, must be stressed out)

BROWN

10 days? This is it then, the big pitch? That’s not much time Buddy. I’ll get my staff crunching numbers right away. The President’s going to give our proposal to his science and economic advisors who’re going to tear it apart. There’s no way we’ll have answers for every detail. We can lay out the big picture but a detailed plan is going to take much more time to prepare. How do you think our proposal will be received?

BUDDY

It’s all in the way we sell our proposal laddie boy, but in the end it’ll be his political advisors who rule the day. They’ll tell him we have no choice, the world economies are in the shitter and the United States is the only country that can lead us out of this mess. Yeah, the eggheads will poke holes in our pitch but we’ll win, trust me.

BROWN

But BUDDY, don’t you think the President and his staff will want to see proof that GOLD does indeed exist on MARS and in quantities sufficient to justify an undertaking of this enormous magnitude? Without vast quantities of GOLD there’s no returning to the GOLD STANDARD and without that there’s no OPERATION GERDA.

Surely there has to be a TRIGGER, surely NASA and the President’s science advisors will need to show the public at least a minute sample of MARTIAN GOLD, correct? You didn’t even ask me for proof. Why do I get the distinct impression that this “small detail” doesn’t worry you one bit?

BUDDY

There are none so blind who will not see. Amigo, in the land of the blind the one-eyed man is king

BROWN

I don’t see shit, can you please explain? (BUDDY is getting more like GREESE every day)

96   EXT. SMASH CUT ANTARCTICA, OUTER SPACE IMAGES – DAY

BUDDY explains while we see old ARCHIVAL IMAGES of Robert Falcon Scott’s doomed journey to find the South Pole. Images of the U.S. Naval Fleet sent to Antarctica, images from Moon landings, MARS Landers. BROWN has government security clearance to the CONFIDENTIAL level, the lowest level. BUDDY still has clearance to TOP SECRET/SENSITIVE COMPARTMENTED INFORMATION, the highest level, although he left NSA ten years prior:

BUDDY (O.S.)

Everything I’m about to tell you is strictly off the record. Just insert the overused Top Gun quote here. If at some point you do tell someone I’ll deny it. It’s your word against mine, understand? (BROWN gives him a thumbs up) We’ve known for some time that there’s GOLD on MARS.

Before we found it on MARS during Viking Lander flights we had found proof here on Earth, right under our noses but we didn’t know it at the time. You don’t really think we’ve spent billions of dollars looking for microscopic signs of life on MARS do you?

The Brits found it first. Rocks were discovered in 1912 when they found the bodies of Robert Falcon Scott and his friends eight months after they froze to death. They didn’t find the South Pole but they did find meteorite fragments with minute traces of GOLD. The 35 pounds of MARS rock were in a knapsack.

The knapsack was kept at London’s School of Geologic Sciences until WWII. It was during the Blitz the discovery was made by a museum worker. Our OSS found out, that’s when we first knew.

MI5 told us after the war the Soviets may have found out. Truman wanted every meteorite sample in Antarctica found and brought back to the U.S. and then to set up a watchdog apparatus. Despite having their own vast resources of GOLD, he didn’t trust the fuckin’ Commies.

A full-scale operation was launched using 13 U.S. Navy warships, OPERATION HIGH JUMP in 1947. They came back with a ton of samples but only a few had minuscule GOLD content. We have learned since that Antarctica is the easiest place on Earth to find meteorites.

Meteorite samples were also brought back from the Apollo flights to the Moon. But it wasn’t until the mid-1970s that technology was sophisticated enough to determine that the rocks going back to Scott originated on MARS. We did vesicular gas testing and determined his meteorites and our Moon samples had the same molecular chemical fingerprint as rocks tested by Viking 2 on MARS. That was the year of the BICENTENNIAL.

97   INT. SMASH CUT STUDEBAKER INSTITUTE (CONT.) – DAY 

BROWN (V.O.)

Holy Jesus! This guy DR. LEMKAU, he told me he worked on both Viking 1 and 2 programs. Is that when he found out about GOLD ON MARS do you think? (BROWN is glued to BUDDY’S every word)

BUDDY

Possibly, but it would have depended on his security clearance back then. Very hush-hush, top secret need to know stuff. But it gets better. NASA launches its own project also in 1976 called ANTARCTIC SEARCH FOR METEORITES OR ANSMET.

Over 20,000 meteorites have been found since, all catalogued and kept in a nondescript Smithsonian annex building under tight security. Even I couldn’t get in and I had TS/SCI clearance. By the way, ANSMET is managed by the U.S. Geological Survey!

BROWN

Fuck me! Why the hell am I just hearing about this now and why haven’t we already started harvesting GOLD ON MARS?

BUDDY

For a guy with a genius IQ you’re not too bright are you? I couldn’t tell you before because you have low-level security clearance. I’m telling you now because the cat is out of the bag, you found out anyway only a day ago.

I thought you were looking for GOLD below ground, not in space. But I tell you this keep your mouth shut if you know what’s good for you. Why haven’t we mined GOLD already? How could we have over 30 years ago with the available technology back then? Even today it won’t be easy.

As soon as we make the announcement it becomes a “Global Project” with every shithole country in the world wanting a piece of the action. Think of the tree-hugging environmentalist coalition with a campaign to save MARS. And with the UN wanting to approve everything we do. Fuck that! This is STUDEBAKER’S project and we’re going to sell it to the United States. We have the means, we have the muscle, now’s the perfect time!

BROWN

Well BUDDY, the jig is up. In a few days we pitch our ideas to the PRESIDENT. Somebody is going to have to explain why we kept all this secret for so long. Shit, he probably doesn’t even know. But there will be scrutiny of our scientific evidence and his economic advisors are going to have to back him.

BUDDY

Yeah, well why don’t you let me worry about those details. It’s not like the HOI POLLOI hasn’t been lied to in the past. For example we can say, “This was all kept under wraps due to national security reasons. There was fear of viral bacterial infection from outer space, blah, blah, blah”! Come on, let’s go get some coffee. (both men laugh to relieve tension) 

98   EXT. STARBUCKS DUPONT CIRCLE – DAY                          

They chitchat in the car during the ride over. The mending of fences continues. BROWN’S blues are gone. Bright sunny morning. Both men sit outside having coffee:

BROWN (V.O.)

You said that amongst all those meteorites found in the Antarctic and on the Moon and in soil samples recovered from MARS, there are just trace amounts of GOLD. BUDDY, even the President is going to ask for proof, and not some photo of GOLD molecules under a microscope either.

I mean the real stuff, actual GOLD he can hold in his hand stamped with the seal of approval of an international board of geologists. Do you know how much MARTIAN GOLD we have all in, a gram, an ounce, a pound? How much? 

BUDDY

The last time I heard was over ten years ago during an ANSMET briefing in a NSA SCIF. The estimate back then was about two grams. If we molded that much GOLD into a small sphere today I guess it would be about THE SIZE OF A PEA. 

BROWN

Well BUDDY, that amount will do nicely! (THE TRIGGER! BROWN takes a deep breath and regains his composure) I also think maybe it’s time we put the JEFFERSON NOBLE AFFAIR behind us. We haven’t received any new chapters from NOBLE in months and our investigation has hit a dead end.

BUDDY

Why shame on you RANDY, you know better than to try and bullshit an old bullshitter! And just because we’ve stopped receiving new chapters from NOBLE doesn’t mean he’s stopped writing does it? Where did NOBLE get the idea for an APOTHECARY MORTAR AND PESTLE made from a meteorite showing traces of GOLD?

Didn’t think I’d catch that did you? The connection between outer space and GOLD wasn’t mentioned in the ATLANTEAN GEODESY because I checked. Aren’t you the least bit curious about what the hell is going on?

BROWN

(what’s this RANDY shit) Of course I am! There are a lot of questions I’d like to ask him. (especially about his PAPERWEIGHTS that look like ancient tenents)

BUDDY

Well in that case why not just ask him yourself?

BUDDY explains that also on the agenda at yesterday’s board meeting was JEFFERSON and tells BROWN what happened. The board votes unanimously to suspend the investigation and make the whole affair go away. GREESE calls KOPSTEIN upstairs and tells him it’s over.

The last thing SI needs is a harassment lawsuit from a handicapped black man and decorated Vietnam veteran who happens to find some documents “by accident”. Too much big dollar business coming SI’s way to risk it. KOPSTEIN disagrees but GREESE cuts him off. Tells KOPSTEIN to make sure the FBI buries the files.

RADWELL and his FBI buddy corner JEFFERSON after the board meeting and make him an offer he can’t refuse. Says SI has DNA evidence and he is looking at 10 years in the slammer. He comes clean. Admits everything and even explains how he did it, actually kind of proud of himself. Acts cool as a cucumber.

Passes a polygraph test. An FBI technical expert on photocopiers backs up his story. JEFFERSON says the whole thing with NOBLE and GOLD is just a coincidence. DUKE MITCHUM is just a random name NOBLE made up from his favorite movie stars.

GREESE wants to tie up loose ends. Get from NOBLE everything he’s written so far with a promise to write nothing else. JEFFERSON will receive a nice fat bonus if he signs an NDA and helps out. He turns over his copy of NOBLE’S 151-page manuscript. He is to tell NOBLE a client of SI is in publishing and wants to buy his book for $30,000 plus all rights.

Do that JEFFERSON or go to jail. The dimwit over at STATE, LARRY ATWOOD, has been told to make sure NOBLE doesn’t stay in government service one day past his 65th birthday. GREESE wants him and his wife out of the country as soon as possible, never to be heard from again:

BUDDY (V.O.)

The good news DR. BROWN is that you get to be the publisher! After all, who knows more about the subject matter than the author of the ATLANTEAN GEODESY! One last thing and then we need to head back to the office. It’s the usual project bullshit at STUDEBAKER. The Chairman and Board of Directors will need to have a RISK ASSESSMENT FOR OPERATION GERDA. You know, just a routine boilerplate write up.

BROWN

Okay, I have no problem meeting with MR. NOBLE. I’ll liaise with KOPSTEIN on my cover story. The biggest risk to GERDA that comes to mind right off the bat is the use of THERMONUCLEAR WEAPONS ON MARS and public backlash. How will we overcome the hue and cry from the media? Will we burn that bridge when we get there?

BUDDY

Not to worry RANDY, I’ve been down this road before. There’s always a way to shimmy through the briar patch. It’s called spin control and branding. We won’t call them thermonuclear weapons. We’ll call them FREEDOM FIRECRACKERS! (both men laugh as they leave Starbucks)

99   INT. NOBLE AND JEFFERSON RESIDENCES - NIGHT               

Late that same day a nervous JEFFERSON calls NOBLE at home, tells him he met a book publisher at work today, a client of STUDEBAKER. He showed him some of THE ADVENTURES OF DUKE MITCHUM and the publisher said his company was looking for new material and might pay as much as $30,000:

NOBLE (V.O.)

$30,000! Holy cow, that’s more money than I ever saw in one place my whole life! How did this happen, how do I get a hold of this guy?

JEFFERSON

Just luck man, some educated black brother I met at work. He loved how you came up with the name DUKE MITCHUM. He’s from New York City, in town only one more day then he heads back. He works for some big outfit. His name is RANDALL BROWN. I’ll give you his number and you call him. This pans out man you owe me dinner and drinks!

100  EXT. SMASH CUT LINCOLN MEMORIAL REFLECTING POOL – DAY     

BROWN is called the morning after his meeting with BUDDY by NOBLE. BROWN’s false-front cover includes an unlisted cell phone. They speak. NOBLE already spoke with NELLIE and they decide $30,000 goes a long way in fixing up the CAMPO DOURADO home they will be living in next year. NOBLE tells BROWN he agrees to sell his book rights. BROWN says bring all the paperwork to our meeting.

NOBLE wants to meet today after work in front of the LINCOLN MEMORIAL BY THE REFLECTING POOL. NOBLE picks that spot because there’s a bench there used in two of his favorite movies, The Firm and JFK. BROWN’S team is busy working on the presentation to the President. It is built around TWO PILLARS: RETURN TO THE GOLD STANDARD AND HARVESTING GOLD ON MARS. BUDDY says keep the presentation pithy. Presidents have the attention span of GOLDFISH.

At the moment he’s working on the boilerplate RISK ASSESSMENT requested by the SI’s Board of Directors. Considering things like rocket malfunctions, atomic bomb accidents, lethal environment on MARS, chemical contaminations, lack of water, supplies, and so forth, he concludes these problems can be overcome.

Geopolitical problems on Earth in order to get all major countries’ Central Banks to convert to the GOLD STANDARD after America’s lead, these problems he feels also can be overcome. But the one thing that cannot be overcome is the X-FACTOR.

In that some tinhorn dictator, or lucky archaeologist, or lucky-assed GOLD PROSPECTOR stumbles upon a pure GOLD HOARD of biblical proportions, mammoth and easy to get to. That would make OPERATION GERDA economically unviable and create catastrophic turmoil in worldwide financial markets. It would be an existential threat to the United States of America. But this is a boilerplate hypothesis, NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN.

NOBLE and BROWN meet. Exchange pleasantries. Sit on a bench.

It’s a beautiful evening. NOBLE is given all the paperwork, he signs the NDA and Intellectual Property Agreement, relinquishes his book rights, hands over the original copy of his 151-page manuscript, says he has no other files, doesn’t know what digital files are or what a USB Flash Drive is.

BROWN hands him a cashier’s check for $30,000. NOBLE looks at it admiringly, folds it, and sticks it in his jacket pocket:

NOBLE (V.O.)

I really like this spot MR. BROWN. Every few years our Army reunion includes a visit here and then we walk to the Wall just over there (he points). JEFFERSON and I were in NAM together. I have lunch here frequently too. I go over to that food wagon (points again) and buy a hot dog and sodie. The lady what runs it is from Munich, that’s how I got my idea for the birthplace of ROWLAND VON DAHLGRÜN. 

BROWN

Oh sure MR. NOBLE, I remember that name from reading through the copy of your manuscript MR. JEFFERSON gave me. Speaking of which, how did you come up with the ideas for your book? I already know the part about DUKE MITCHUM and how you came up with his name from JEFFERSON but please tell me more, starting with ALASKA. (what the hell’s a sodie)

NOBLE

Well, ALASKA is based on firsthand accounts from my pal PEDRO CAMPANA. He worked on the pipeline for two years. That whole cast of characters are the names of Army buddies.

SHAFT JEFFERSON is in there! (he laughs) Indonesia same thing, names of Army buddies. The rest is based on a true story I once read about in some airline magazine. DUKE went to Texas A&M because I like their military uniforms. (pause) Call me SAM if you want, the mister stuff makes me feel old.

BROWN

Okay SAM, will do. Just wondering why write about GOLD at all, and why have the hero fall from grace after his career looks so promising?

NOBLE

GOLD has always fascinated me. I played a trick once on my relatives with a fake treasure map. I couldn’t believe how quickly things got out of hand. Then 13 years later I was in BRAZIL and got to hear and see firsthand what GOLD does to people. My wife and I were going through a rough patch then so I guess I associate GOLD with SADDER TIMES. (he takes a moment) How about we take a little stroll?

101  EXT. LINCOLN MEMORIAL (CONT.) – DAY                   

Both men rise from the bench and walk leisurely in the direction of the Three Soldiers Statue and Memorial Wall. DR. BROWN knows what happened to NOBLE’S little girl SARAH but he can’t let on. That was in KOPSTEIN’S investigation report. As MR. BROWN book publisher he wouldn’t know anything about that:

NOBLE (V.O.)

Come to think of it, maybe that’s why old DUKE fell from grace. Life is so fickle, you just never know what might happen. Being strong in the face of adversity is easier said than done. Looking back at our SADDER TIMES I wish I had been stronger, if not for me then for my wife. She was stronger than me, always has been.

BROWN

But you had old DUKE bounce back. He discovers astonishing secrets written down by Georgetown University JESUITS as told through the life and times of 900-year-old ROLLIE DAHLGREN. There’s the APOTHECARY MORTAR AND PESTLE carved from a meteorite. There’s the ELIXIR OF LIFE. Then the HOLY GRAIL is buried beneath the floor of the DAHLGREN CHAPEL. Oops sorry, not the HOLY GRAIL that was a hoax, the JAR OF MANNA was the real deal. 

NOBLE

Hahaha, well some of that might be MAKERS MARK talking! The idea for all that came from my boss at work. He went to Georgetown and his Mom’s family were Dahlgrens. The rest I just made up. I had plenty of time on long flights when I was a Diplomatic Courier and I liked books on lost civilizations and ancient history.

I loved The Da Vinci Code. And anything having to do with the KNIGHTS TEMPLAR AND JERUSALEM, my favorite city! KYOTO AND FLEGETANIS are actual names associated with the first published stories in Germany about a HOLY GRAIL by the way.

BROWN

And the APOTHECARY MORTAR, PESTLE, AND BRAZATLAN, where did those ideas come from SAM?

NOBLE

Oh yeah, sorry. I got those ideas sitting in a pharmacy nursing a hangover in a BRAZILIAN village called CAMPO DOURADO, my wife’s hometown. A large green mortar was sitting on the counter next to an assayer’s scale. It really did have yellow striations running through it though, probably FOOL’S GOLD.

I lifted it. It was damn heavy. The pharmacist told me it was made from a meteorite. I had it originate in ANTARCTICA for my book because I’ve been there a few times and loved it.

Feels like a different planet. BRAZATLAN is a name I just made up combining Brazil with Atlantis.

Another case of enemy action? BROWN is dumbfounded that with all the resources at their disposal KOPSTEIN and his friends at the FBI didn’t even come close to the back story behind the JEFFERSON NOBLE affair. They were ready to destroy these two men over three torn-up pieces of paper found in a garbage can:

BROWN (V.O.)

SAM, your book makes references to religion from time to time, the Old Testament, Jesuits and such. You also weave throughout its telling the subject of IMMORTALITY as somehow tied to GOLD’S ALLURE. Are your views on religious beliefs somehow expressed vicariously through DUKE MITCHUM who sort of acts as your alter ego?

NOBLE

Well sir, I was brought up a bible-thumping Baptist but I lost my faith during the roughest patch of my life. I blasphemed and dismissed God but we’ve since reconciled somewhat. I’ve come to realize you can believe in God on your own outside of church. Now I would say I’m more spiritual than religious. But I respect all religions because they help us mere mortals get through hard times

DUKE my alter ego? Pardon me MR. BROWN but that sounds very scholarly. I’m just a simple country boy so I’ll leave that one to you educated city slickers. (both men laugh) GOLD’S ALLURE? I think its allure might mean different things to different people as they journey down life’s path.

BROWN

WELL SAM, IF GOLD MEANS DIFFERENT THINGS TO DIFFERENT PEOPLE, THEN WHAT DOES GOLD MEAN TO YOU? WHAT IS NOBLE’S GOLD?

NOBLE

I reckon I knew what it once was a long time ago. But our little darling was taken from us. Presently of course my GOLD is family, friends, and a renewed faith. I suspect though there is more to it than that, some intangible element I'm still overlooking. I’ll be moving to BRAZIL in a few months, maybe I can sort it out there.

Let me ask you a question MR. BROWN. A friend of mine once told me that a copy of every book published is kept in the Library of Congress. Is that true? So sir, do I still have a shot at a small measure of IMMORTALITY? (NOBLE chuckles)

At this juncture BROWN realizes that NOBLE reminds him of his Pops. They are both military veterans and heirs of the Greatest Generation. They share the same qualities of work ethic, patriotism, humility, gratitude, and sense of duty. 

Too bad their Baby Boomer Generation will be coming to an end soon. BROWN wants to ask NOBLE just one more question. He has to be careful not to let on that he has seen photos of his PAPERWEIGHT BOWTIE-SHAPED INGOTS:

BROWN (V.O.)

Hey SAM, I think it’s about time you call me RANDY! Yes, I believe that’s correct so if and when we publish your book you will indeed acquire a tiny bit of IMMORTALITY. As long as the book lives, you live! (BROWN has no idea if this is true or not but wants to make NOBLE feel good)

One last question if you don’t mind and then I’ll let you go. Tell me about those METAL CLAMPS you mention in your book, you know, the ones used to bind together the large blocks of temple and pyramid stone? Where did that idea come from?

NOBLE

Oh those! I actually own two of ‘em! They were a present given to me let’s see, back in 1976 by the caretaker of my wife’s property in BRAZIL. He told me this amazing story about how he had met Theodore Roosevelt during his River of Doubt expedition.

The caretaker said there were once many more of these CLAMPS found in the jungle but since have all vanished. They were used to construct temples and pyramids that have also vanished. I thought he was nuts! But later over the years I read about CLAMPS similar to mine in books about ancient civilizations used throughout the world. I could never figure out what they were doing around CAMPO DOURADO, in such a remote region of the Amazon.      

Tell you what RANDY, I hereby extend to you an open invitation to come on down to BRAZIL for a visit anytime. I can show you where Teddy Roosevelt once walked. We can do a lot of fishing and search for METAL CLAMPS! My wife’s a great cook and the beer is always cold. I’ll even take you to the pharmacy where I first laid eyes on the APOTHECARY MORTAR and you can tell all your friends you saw the HOLY GRAIL!

A good laugh is had by both men as they shake hands and depart friends. BROWN thinks to himself he just might take up NOBLE’S invitation someday. And he prays NOBLE AND JEFFERSON never find out how close they came to being terminated with extreme prejudice over the most ridiculous criminal investigation in history.

102  INT. STUDEBAKER INSTITUTE – DAY

The day before BROWN’S scheduled, and what he assumed was his, presentation to PRESIDENT BUCHANAN “MITCH” HAPGOOD ON OPERATION GERDA he is called to BUDDY’S office:

BUDDY (V.O.)

DR. BROWN, I know you and your team have been working your asses off on the OPERATION GERDA presentation for the President but I’m afraid there’s been a change of plans. We won’t be making the presentation, as a matter of fact, there will be no presentation.

BROWN

Fuckin’ Christ BUDDY, why the hell not? My team hasn’t slept in days to meet the presentation deadline!

BUDDY

I know, I know, but shit happens. Relax, the meeting is still on but not in the Oval Office. It’ll be in the PRESIDENT’S private office between only he and CHAIRMAN GREESE. That’s how the really big deals are done in this town kiddo, no minutes taken, nothing recorded, off the record.

Subtlety and secrecy are the embodiment of raw power in our beloved Republic! But afterwards we’ll take pictures in the Oval Office and you can have your picture taken with the PRESIDENT, how’s that?

BROWN

Okay, I get it. 

BUDDY

For all we know, this plan could change again. HAPGOOD has his hands full with the escalating situation in Jerusalem. More car bombings. The State Department has issued a travel advisory for Americans not to travel there until further notice and for those there now, they need to leave. An emergency G7 summit meeting has just been called.

The meeting between GREESE AND THE PRESIDENT goes off as planned in MID-OCTOBER. SI’s proposal is received with amazement by HAPGOOD. He tells GREESE the sheer audacity and imagination of OPERATION GERDA is brilliant. He will need to get his advisors involved. They will be in touch with the STUDEBAKER INSTITUTE to set up a series of meetings to vet everything and make plans for implementation. 

The PRESIDENT’S inner circle does contact STUDEBAKER about conducting its own economic and scientific examination of all project assumptions. They will prepare a series of draft bills to be sent to Congress ONCE GERDA IS APPROVED BY THE PRESIDENT and an Executive Order for the PRESIDENT’S signature that returns the U.S. to the GOLD STANDARD.

But current events keep intervening. The U.S. economy worsens as does the violence in the MIDDLE EAST. Meanwhile there’s a buzz inside the Beltway about some incredible and grandiose government program in the works to bail America out of its economic abyss. But by CHRISTMAS EVE there has still not been any decision by the PRESIDENT. That is about to change.

103  EXT. SMASH CUT OLD CITY OF JERUSALEM – DAY            

Aerial view of a peaceful TEMPLE MOUNT AND OLD CITY, then an immense explosion, fireball, a mushroom cloud rises high above. Panic and chaos ensue, terrible tragedy. We hear the voice of a news reporter from the studio:

TV REPORTER ONE (V.O.)

This is madness, the coldblooded murder of innocent pilgrims and citizens! This is obviously the work of deranged terrorists and it will not stand!

I am reminded of the words by the Secretary of War under President Truman who said shortly after the atomic bomb strike on Nagasaki, “The future may see a time when such a weapon may be used suddenly and effectively and with devastating power by a willful group against an unsuspecting nation of much greater size and power”. The world must pray for this city.

104  EXT. OUTSIDE THE OLD CITY – DAY                       

Experts quickly determine that the nuclear device detonated early in the morning Christmas Day 2009 had a yield of approximately ONE KILOTON and originated from a military depot in one of the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union. 

Other reporters are nearer to the blast site but can get no closer than four miles. Overhead a helicopter shows destruction, pandemonium, rescue vehicles, army troops, an outraged populace revealed in a broadcast viewed around the world:

TV REPORTER TWO (V.O.)

We believe the explosion came from beneath The TEMPLE MOUNT to maximize the effects of radiation poisoning. People are being kept back as far as possible, while first responders are risking their lives to enter the contaminated zone and rescue as many injured souls as possible. The explosion epicenter appears to fan out about a quarter mile with radiation detected three miles out.

The ground shock felt like an earthquake and damaged many buildings nearby. There are more fires and secondary explosions from gas lines, vehicles, and petrol stations. A sad day for humankind! This 5,000-year-old city, venerated by Christians, Jews, and Muslims alike, has been obliterated and in its place is left only a vast smoking crater. 

We learn from the preliminary aftermath investigation that the bomb’s components somehow got past the world’s best airport security system in Tel Aviv, most likely using a diplomatic courier pouch, and was subsequently reassembled. The investigation continues with the FBI assisting Shin Bet and Mossad.

The world pours in massive medical aid and personnel to help the 2,000 immediate casualties and the 100,000 people contaminated by radioactive fallout. Due to high levels of radiation the once Holy Site will be inaccessible for decades to come. Meanwhile, the Middle East is a tinderbox.

105  INT. SMASH CUT CAMP DAVID, MARYLAND – DAY             

PRESIDENT HAPGOOD orders the U.S. military forces to DEFCON 4. The bombing sets off economic panic in worldwide financial markets hanging on by a thread even before the mushroom cloud settles. Economic collapse on the scale of the GREAT DEPRESSION is imminent.

An emergency meeting under heavy security at CAMP DAVID is called and a plan is drafted by the PRESIDENT AND HIS CABINET. It contains extraordinary measures to stabilize the crisis. By January 1, 2010 the PRESIDENT is ready to make an important announcement on TV:

HAPGOOD (V.O.)

Good evening my fellow Americans. We are at the brink of the nation’s worst economic crisis in its history. To show the world we have absolute confidence in our currency and banking system and to ensure you, the American People, that your way of life now and in the future is safe and secure, I wish to make an important announcement.

Effective immediately the United States is returning to the GOLD STANDARD and going forward our currency will be backed by GOLD. Additionally I wish to announce a bold new MARS exploration and permanent settlement project with the express purpose of mining GOLD on the RED PLANET.

Our scientists at NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey have long suspected GOLD has existed on MARS in abundant quantities but were recently able to produce unquestionable scientific proof thanks to our monitoring stations in Antarctica. I know there are many questions so I will be speaking to you again in the next several days. God bless you and God bless the United States of America. Good night.

The country is now RE-FETTERED TO GOLD. When financial markets open for business the following Monday the price of GOLD shoots up from $1,400 a troy ounce to over $6,000 while trending upwards. NASA AND USGS hold a press conference at midday showing their plans for mining GOLD on MARS in great detail, and provide a certified sample of PURE GOLD originating there weighing TWO GRAMS.

They estimate a minimum amount of 900,000 metric tons will be mined there within five years. The price of GOLD per troy ounce stabilizes and over the next few months declines. That night the PRESIDENT addresses Congress and the American people.

106  INT. SMASH CUT CAPITOL BUILDING, WASHINGTON, D.C.         

The PRESIDENT’S prime time address to the nation from the House Chamber comes after a special emergency session of Congress:

HAPGOOD (V.O.)

My fellow Americans, this is not the time for me to speak vaguely but a time for honesty in the face of perhaps this country’s most serious threat since our founding as a Republic.  

During a patch of similarly rough times the great President Franklin Delano Roosevelt spoke to the nation almost seven decades ago the words that still ring true today “that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance”.

I stand before you today and hereby affirm that I will, with the help of Almighty God, spare no effort nor be pressured by any source, foreign or domestic, to restore order in the American economy and confidence in our free market system.

I am confident that the normal balance of executive and legislative responsibility will be adequate to meet the unprecedented task before this government but I am prepared under my Constitutional duty to take any measure that this stricken nation in the midst of this serious crisis requires be undertaken.

In the event that Congress shall fail to take the necessary course of action required under this national emergency, I shall not evade the clear course of my duty. The citizens of the United States have not failed. It was their collective elected leadership, the political class, who failed them.

I now call upon all three branches of government to work together in passing a new Amendment to the United States Constitution requiring a Balanced Federal Budget. I call on every man and woman who takes the oath of public office to swear to uphold ARTICLE 1, SECTION 10, CLAUSE 1 OF THE CONSTITUTION THAT NO STATE OR CONGRESS SHALL MAKE ANYTHING BUT GOLD LEGAL TENDER AND LAWFUL MONEY IN PAYMENT OF DEBTS.

And henceforth, let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, and oppose any foe, in order to assure the safety and success and future of the United States of America.

107  INT. THE CAPITOL HOUSE CHAMBER – DAY                   

Congress is in session and a beehive of activity, images of politicians giving live interviews on all TV networks, sounds of the gavel, we see the sausage being made two days after the President speaks:

...The U.S. Congress votes unanimously to pass the NEW GOLD RESERVE ACT making it the law of the land, placing America once again officially back on the GOLD STANDARD. Thereafter, in 100 days more legislation is passed than during the Great Depression under FDR’s NEW DEAL. Also passed is THE GOLD EXTRACTION AND RELOCATION FOR DEFENSE OF AMERICA ACT authorizing tax dollars on space flights to MARS and underwrite all costs for harvesting GOLD ON THE RED PLANET.

...The GERDA ACT calls for the establishment of FORT ZACHARIAH GREESE, a military installation and U.S. Treasury GOLD BULLION depository on MARS. The Fort is named in honor of the newest recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. THE ACT declares the Fort HQ location is to be located at the geographical center of MARS along the Martian Equator.

...Furthermore, the GERDA ACT declares that the RED PLANET shall henceforth and forevermore be called MARS USA becoming sovereign American soil.

...A new federal government super-agency is created reporting to the PRESIDENT. It’s called the FEDERAL GOLD TRUST CORPORATION OR FGTC. It brings together NASA, USGS, and the EPA under one umbrella. A new cabinet level position is created and BARTHOLOMEW PEOPLES is named its first SECRETARY.

...A press release from the White House quoting PRESIDENT HAPGOOD reads, “Few men I know have the vision and capability of MR. PEOPLES and I can think of no one that I or the American people can trust more for this unbelievably important undertaking”. BUDDY promises to only use safe and clean forms of thermonuclear energy for the extraction of GOLD from MARTIAN soil.

...Other important new appointments are: LARRY ATWOOD as BUDDY’S Deputy Secretary, DR. BRUCE LEMKAU as Special Science Advisor, and ZACHARIAH GREESE as Governance and Ethics Advisor, which he accepts on a part-time basis. MCKINLEY KOPSTEIN is appointed new Director of the FBI.

...THE STUDEBAKER INSTITUTE has been awarded multi-non-compete, multi-year contract awards to assist the Federal Government implement all new initiatives. SI announces that DR. CINZA BROWN is the new Executive Director and board member while JOHN RADWELL has been appointed its new Head of Security.

...The BALANCED BUDGET AMENDMENT passes Congress unanimously. The UNITED NATIONS passes a resolution condemning the United States for the JERUSALEM bombing saying its foreign policy in the Middle East was to blame citing wars in Kuwait and Iraq. The Holy Pontiff calls for world peace.

...The G20 issues a statement condemning the U.S. annexation of MARS and returning to the GOLD STANDARD saying it marks the start of a new age of economic imperialism and ruthless subjugation of have-not nations by a colonial power. There are massive protests around the world.

...But all the criticisms soon die down as every industrialized nation has no choice but to return to a GOLD STANDARD and seek economic alliances with the UNITED STATES. AMERICA’S GOLDEN AGE HAS BEGUN!

108  EXT. SMASH CUT FAZENDA, CAMPO DOURADO, BRAZIL – DAY    

The camera shows CAMPO DOURADO from high altitude and slowly zooms in on NELLIE’S FAZENDA encompassing all SEVEN SURROUNDING HILLS then onto the front yard. The HILLS look like PYRAMIDS in the fading daylight.

Five years have passed. NOBLE AND NELLIE move to her family’s FAZENDA after NOBLE retires from the STATE DEPARTMENT. They sit on the lawn. There are two cheap white plastic chairs and a small matching table beneath mango trees. It’s a cool pleasant evening. It’s autumn in the Southern Hemisphere. Soon a smoky fire pit will be lit but for now insects aren’t too bad.

There are several empty beer bottles on the table and a full one in NOBLE’S hand. In an ashtray a cigar smolders. He occupies one chair and NELLIE the other. She is knitting, NOBLE is daydreaming again. In the background is their small wood frame house with Jatoba siding, clay tile roof, old-fashioned TV antennae, and freshly-painted yellow window shutters

There are red Bougainvillea bushes. The raised screened-in porch has three steps. On the top step sits ANACLETO feeding his pet CAPIVARA. 

(O.S.) NOBLE’S NARRATION AS HE DAYDREAMS:

...My oh my how time flies when you’re having fun! DUKE MITCHUM, how the hell are you? A lot of shit has gone down my friend since our big adventure. Let’s see, I got a kind of going away party right before I retired, 10 people maybe, Kool-Aid, and sugar cookies in the cafeteria put together the last minute by my boss KIRK ROWAN. He thanked me for 47 years of government service. State Department HR promised to send me a plaque but I never got it.

...Took us a while to get here, D.C. flight to São Paulo, connecting flight to Brasília, another flight to Porto Velho, and north by bus and ferry crossing over the Madeira River before finally arriving at CAMPO DOURADO then 20 minutes out to the FAZENDA by taxi. THERE CAN BE NO MORE BEAUTIFUL OR PEACEFUL PLACE ON EARTH.

...Feels like I’ve been here forever. We’re good and settled. I go into town occasionally. I bought me a 30-year-old VW Beetle with some of my book money. I’ve learned to use the GOOGLE MACHINE at the pharmacy. BRUXO still works there and still has the MORTAR AND PESTLE on the counter. I can keep track of current events on his computer too, courtesy of the INTERWEB. I read where JERUSALEM is slowly coming back.

...I also read where PRESIDENT HAPGOOD got reelected in a landslide. All anyone talks about up there is how great our MARS GOLD MINING OPERATIONS are doing. The economy is booming. The U.S. is even allowing some countries to set up their own mining operations provided certain conditions are met. Might makes right!

...I’m glad I got to see my buddy ARCHIE JEFFERSON one last time before I left...

109  FLASHBACK: INT. WASHINGTON, D.C. – NIGHT               

JEFFERSON’S studio apartment off DuPont Circle. He does not feel well. NOBLE comes over to say good bye. They have one last beer together:

NOBLE (V.O.)

Well ARCHIBALD, what can I say old friend, NELLIE and I head out tomorrow morning for South America. Not sure if I’ll ever be back this way again. I just want to say what an honor it’s been knowing you and wish you the best of luck.

Sure wish you could come down and see us some day. Man, we’ll have a high old time down there in the muck and the mud and the bugs and the beer! I’ll take you to my favorite fishing hole! (they clank bottles)

JEFFERSON

My man SAMMY NOBLE, my brothah of a different mothah! I can’t believe you’re moving down to BRAZIL for good with NELLIE! Man, you really lucked out, she’s a fine woman. Figure I’ll work me another couple of years at the STUDEBAKER INSTITUTE and after that just maybe you’ll see me again.

I just wanted to say I’m sorry for everything, you know, for all the shit I gave you over the years. You’ve been a good friend to me. (he chokes up)

There is a moment when all goodbyes get awkward. This is that moment. NOBLE finishes his beer, places the bottle down on the coffee table. Goes over to JEFFERSON in his wheelchair, bends down, gives him a bro handshake and hug:

NOBLE (V.O.)

Goodbye Archie, take care my brother! (gets emotional)

JEFFERSON

Goodbye SAMMY! (he pauses and as NOBLE walks out he yells at him) HEY SAMMY, DON’T LET THEM GODDAMN CITY SHITTERS KICK YOU DOWN MAN!

110  EXT. FAZENDA HOMESTEAD, CAMPO DOURADO (CONT.) – DAY

(O.S.) NOBLE’S NARRATION (CONT.)

...And that was the last time I saw Archie. He went into the hospital shortly after I saw him and never came out. He died from complications of pneumonia. I’ve lost track of the rest of my army buddies and my old boss too. Never heard back from that nice young fella MR. BROWN either.

...So now it’s just me and NELLIE and her family. They live in town, in CAMPO DOURADO.  Believe it or not, ANACLETO is still kicking at over 115 years old. His skin is withered but his eyes are clear and sharp. He still lives out back on our FAZENDA.

...Besides buying me a VW Beetle I used some of my book money to spruce up the place. I screened in the front porch and put in a screen door. I got new ceiling fans put in and a window A/C for our master bedroom. I fixed up ANACLETO’S shack too, got him a new color TV and antennae like mine so we can watch all three local channels. I also bought me a little boom box to play my country music cassettes on. You can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t...oh well, you know the rest.  

...I had to leave all my stereo equipment behind but I did manage to bring along Waylon, Merle, and Johnny cassettes. Isn't it funny how music transcends time and space. I snuck in my disassembled ARMALITE and a couple of ammo magazines in my check-in baggage at the airport too. It comes in handy when I walk the fence line because the big cats can get too close to the house trying to get at ANACLETO’S CAPIVARA.

...On Sunday mornings I make pancakes for me and NELLIE and ANACLETO the way little SARAH used to like them. I recited her favorite poem as she ate: “Wee folk, good folk, trooping altogether. Green jacket, red cap, and white owl’s feather down along the rocky shore some make their home. They live on crispy pancakes made of yellow-tide foam. Some in the reeds of the black mountain lake with frogs for their watchdogs, all night awake”.

...But enough of all this bullshit, let me tell you about something that happened, something truly incredible, and it happened only a short while ago...

111  FLASHBACK: EXT. CAMPO DOURADO HOMESTEAD - NIGHT             

It’s an exceptionally clear night one year ago. IT WAS THAT NIGHT OF A WAXING MOON. The Milky Way is plainly visible. The sky is full of shooting stars:

(O.S.) NOBLE’S NARRATION (CONT.)

...NELLIE AND ME are just relaxing watching TV when we hear this boom in the distance. We go out of the house to check. ANACLETO also comes out of his shack and meets us in the front yard. We’re all looking up when SWOOSH, a wave of meteors goes shooting by! Then another, then another! The sky is full of shooting stars! You can see in the distance flashes of light where some are crashing into nearby hills. They’re close.

...Then all of a sudden, BOOM! A meteor hits the top of the hill behind our house, the ground shudders, and a few windows in our house shatter. We can see the flash and fire, but the fire subsides quickly. There is plenty of smoke though. I grab my flashlight and head up the hill to take a look.

...The other two tell me to be careful. I get to the top and I can feel the warmth, smell the smoke. I see a few smoldering pieces of meteorite and black burnt-out patch where they hit. I come back down and explain what I saw. It’s getting late. I’ll investigate more tomorrow.

...I go back up the next morning. I see a big gash in the Earth. There are fragments and shards of broken QUARTZ intermingled with burned out brush and small black fragments of meteorites. Then something catches my eye. SOMETHING SHINY AND YELLOW, SOMETHING METALLIC. COULD IT BE? I pick up a few small fragments to take down and show ANACLETO. They’re heavy and warm to the touch. Should I dance the jig like Walter Huston in Treasure of the Sierra Madre?

NOBLE (V.O.)

Do you think this is GOLD? Should I take these samples to BRUXO for testing? (breathing hard)

ANACLETO

No need my son. You found GOLD. THE SEVEN HILLS ARE FULL OF GOLD! This is the work of the ANCIENT ONES. They are righteous in their wisdom. They wanted you to find the yellow metal. My time on Mother Earth grows short. The GOLD can only belong to Her.

They selected you to take my place. What is old is young again. You have many years ahead. BRUXO AND NELLIE already know this secret. They are WATCHERS like you now. There have been many before us. There must be many after us.

NOBLE is overcome with emotion, cannot believe what is happening. It’s a defining moment in his life. He is awestruck, has a difficult time responding:

NOBLE (V.O)

What am I supposed to do with this knowledge? What do I do if someone else finds out? I remember the awful story of SERRA PELADA. The crater dug by hand by GOLD CRAZY men was 600 feet deep and 8 miles in circumference. If knowledge of our GOLD gets out ALL SEVEN HILLS will be ripped out, our FAZENDA will disappear, the town of CAMPO DOURADO will disappear. 2 million prospectors will come here with picks and shovels overnight!

112  EXT. MADEIRA-MAMORÉ RAILROAD, PORTO VELHO – DAY              

ARCHIVAL IMAGES ARE SHOWN. It is the construction of a railroad line through thick jungle between Bolivia and the land of the SEVEN HILLS that ended in failure in 1912. Local indigenous people still call it the DEVILS RAILROAD. Workers came from the construction of the PANAMA CANAL to find work. They die of disease, arrow wounds, and wild animal attacks:

ANACLETO (V.O.)

Many foreigners invaded our lands a 100 years ago to build the MAD-MARIA railroad. 10,000 died by the hands of the ANCIENT ONES. Some found the yellow metal but were quickly hacked to death and buried. Others were eaten by large animals or made ill by tiny ones. This land must be protected at all costs.

NOBLE

I shall do my best to be worthy of the WATCHER honor. I love this land. This I swear and take an oath on the memory of my beloved daughter.

113  EXT. FAZENDA HOMESTEAD, CAMPO DOURADO (CONT.) – DAY

(O.S.) NOBLE’S NARRATION (CONT.)

...So DUKE boy that’s what really happened! I swear it! Remember that mountain in Borneo, the one that was your undoing? Mount Besar and it weighed 500 million metric tons? OUR SEVEN HILLS weigh at least that much. That means if they have only 10% GOLD content, that’s 50 million metric tons of GOLD! Shit, 1% is still 5 million metric tons! So you know what I did next? I bought two sacks of concrete from BRUXO and went back up to our hill.

...I pushed all the meteorite debris and GOLD fragments back in that gash and filled it in. Then I threw dirt on top. Today vegetation has grown back and you can’t tell anything happened there at all. I will honor my promise to ANACLETO to my dying day. All the GOLD in these mountains will never bring back my little SARAH.

...I imagine I can see her beautiful little face sometimes in the fluffy clouds when they pass by and wave my hand. I pray we’ll all be together again someday in the great beyond, but not today, not yet. I still have work to do.

...Well old pal, that’s just about all for now but one last thing before I let you go. Remember MR. BROWN’S question when he purchased my book? What was my GOLD? I've had lots of time to think about it and I think I figured out that intangible element.

...It's the memories of experiences from those marvelous places I've been to and all the good souls I met along the way. It's that simple. I took the fork in the road less traveled by and that was the right decision, after all is said and done. I take great comfort in being here and now. My GOLD is fleeting, ephemeral, mortal but incredibly valuable so long as it lasts. It rewards me every day in Mother Nature's tropical paradise and for that I am truly grateful. 

... Sometimes I wonder, was it all real, did everything happen exactly as I remember it? A 1,000 years from now, will the WATCHERS speak of an OLD GRINGO around the smoke fires and toast his SPIRIT with their most robust firewater? Who knows, but for now I’m taking life one day at a time with my GOLDEN GIRL, my wise and beloved NELLIE...   

114  EXT. FAZENDA HOMESTEAD, CAMPO DOURADO – NIGHT      

(O.S.)

SAMINHO, SAMINHO...NOBLE HEARS A FAMILIAR VOICE.

HE SNAPS OUT OF A DAYDREAM YET AGAIN. It’s getting late, night has fallen:

NELLIE (V.O.)

É hora de entrar em casa meu amor, minha novela favorita está prestes a começar na televisão.

(It’s time to go inside the house my love, my favorite soap opera is about to start on the television.)

NOBLE

Vá em frente meu amor, estarei aí em um minuto.

(Go on ahead my love, I’ll be there in a minute.)

NELLIE clears away the beer bottles and ashtray, walks inside the house. ANACLETO follows. NOBLE kicks dirt on the fire’s dying embers and walks up the stairs of the porch. He opens the screen door. There are night sounds, cicadas in the yard and critters in the nearby rainforest moving about making noise.

He can hear the TV. NELLIE’S soap opera has started. Before going in NOBLE takes one last look around the yard and then looks upwards. It’s a beautiful clear sky. It seems every star in heaven is out tonight. He waves his left hand as if to say good bye. He turns to go inside and lets the screen door slam behind him. It makes a loud bang!

115  EXT. THE SEVEN GOLDEN HILLS OF THE GUAPORÉ – NIGHT     

There’s a full moon. The camera pans out from the FAZENDA as the scene ascends and widens. It encompasses all SEVEN HILLS on the horizon. They look like pyramids in the moonlight.

SUPERIMPOSE: "THE FUTURE AIN’T BEEN WRIT YET SO ANYTHIN’ CAN HAPPEN"

...FADE OUT

 

  

This is a work of fiction.  Although some real-world names, organizations, historical settings, and situations are used to enhance the authenticity of the story, any similarities to actual persons, organizations, or situations are coincidental and all portrayals are purely the product of the author’s imagination.  Copyrighted. All rights reserved.







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