Hoped for/ideal cast:
Jean Connelly: Bryce Dallas Howard
Stanley Balto: Denzel Washington
Wolfram Smidgen: James McAvoy
Vera: Kate McKinnon
President Lang: Bryan Cranston
An underground warehouse in the Middle East, four guards armed with assault rifles stand on opposite walls near the steps at the front of a large room full of crates and various containers of weapons, ammunition, and chemicals. The sound of the metal door at the top of the steps (out of frame), clanking and swinging open. A voice shouts (in Arabic), “Hurry up, lock it in!” The sound of a metal case dropping on metal rails, and the voice yells (in Arabic), “Careful!” The sound of the case sliding down the rails on either side of the steps, and the backs of two men, side by side, walking backwards down the steps with the case in front of them (about the size of a refrigerator), come into view at the bottom of the steps, and slide the case onto two pallets on the floor in front of the steps. The guards don’t move as the five men transporting the case center it on the pallets and prepare to store it among the other crates of weapons.
In the small bedroom of a house in an unspecified Middle Eastern city, a white man (soldier) in plain clothes sits at a table with a laptop in front of him. On the screen, bank account information showing a recent transfer of $75,000,000. He opens a new window on the screen, a blank message box, and types, “The beans have been planted. Say hello to the farmer.” and clicks send.
The U.S. General who received the coffee cup message sits at the desk in his office, reading an email on his computer. The phone beeps and his secretary’s voice speaks.
General Albertson, President Lang for you, sir.
He stops reading and looks from the screen to the telephone, thinks for a moment.
Thank you, Sarah.
Picks up phone.
Hello, Mr. President… I’m doing well, how about yourself?
Of course, not the fairest weather…
Listens for fifteen seconds as Lang speaks.
Yes, sir. I will be there. Eight o’clock… You too, Mr. President. Mm-hm, God bless.
Hangs up phone, sits back and stares blankly at screen for a moment.
In the classroom at the University in Koreston, Melissa sits among students spaced every other chair, taking an exam. Close-up on page, multiple choice question: “A prominent leader and medicine man of the Chiricahua Apache tribe, he both raided and resisted U.S. and Mexican forces in southwestern American territories and northern Mexican states, following the end of the war with Mexico in 1848.
a) Chief Touch the Clouds
b) Thayendanegea (Joseph Brant)
c) Tisquantum (Squanto)
She reads over the answers, and circles “d.” She exits the class and sees Jean standing across the hall waiting for her, but Melissa doesn’t seem to recognize her.
Walks after her.
Melissa. Can we talk for a minute?
Catches up to her, walks alongside.
I can help you, if you talk to me.
Jean and Melissa sit at a table in a study room of the University Library. The front wall of the room is glass, and we see them speaking for a few seconds but don’t hear what they are saying.
We weren’t even officially “together.” I went over to his place once or twice a week, and we’d watch tv and hang out. Neither of us wanted a relationship.
Why didn’t you tell the police?
Adnan and I stopped seeing each other almost half a year ago. What could I have told them?
It was serious enough for his mother to know about you.
He exaggerates. He probably told her so she’d think he was normal.
Melissa, I know there’s nothing I can say to make sense of what happened—the shooting. And I know you know more than you’re letting on. I’m trying to help us to be more protected from this type of violence in the future.
Glances up at her, then back down at the table.
When you were with him, did you ever see or hear anything that might indicate his being connected to a terrorist network?
* * *
Wolfram Smidgen stands behind a row of desks in a room in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. A large flat-screen tv almost covers the wall in front of them, and is divided into twelve equal sections, each one showing a different news channel, some from foreign countries. Most of the sections are muted, while a few have people speaking and footage playing simultaneously. Headlines:
- Dutch Lawmakers Approve U.K. Trade Deal with Ukraine
- KESG Blast Kills Dozens at Family Gathering in Iraq
- More Than 150 Pot Shops Busted in Detroit
- South Korea Leader Orders Investigation into Unreported U.S. Launches
- Bangladesh Cyclone Wreaks Havoc in Rohingya Refugee Camps
He walks down a hallway, past several doorways, and stops at one to lean in and talk to his assistant.
I’m going out to grab some lunch.
Okay, Mr. Secretary.
He walks through the hall toward the front entrance of the building. View of doors from outside, one door opens and Wolfram emerges, starts down steps and down the walkway to the street. As he walks toward Pennsylvania Avenue, the camera zooms out at a medium-fast pace to reveal the entirety of the Eisenhower Building, the front courtyard, and then the White House and front lawn next door, continuing to zoom out until all of downtown D.C. is visible in the frame.
On a restaurant patio overlooking a lake, college students stand and sit around tables, drinking beer and eating appetizers. Jean stands inside the glass doors, looking out at the students. She sees Jonathan sitting with a few other kids, talking and laughing. Jonathan slides three empty glasses onto the outside bar.
Three more Heineken’s, please.
Coming right up.
Finally getting back to normal around here, huh?
Looks quickly at her.
You’re that reporter. Don’t you have a show coming up in a few days?
That’s the plan. I’m hoping you can answer a question for me first.
What do you think they’re going to do when they find out you pushed Adnan into killing all those people?
I don’t know what you heard, but—
God knows. And the authorities know about Fairfield.
So what? I didn’t shoot those people, Addie did. You get the hell away from me.
What you did as a child, plus giving Addie the .38, your life’s over. Good luck finding a job.
I don’t need a—
Looks away, then back at her.
This is harassment. You have no right to be here.
Leaves a twenty on the bar, takes the beers, and walks away.
Smidgen walks along a street, turns into a park, and continues on a path while fixing a thin black adhesive strip to a black zip drive. Near the center of the park is a fountain (different fountain than the earlier scene), light crowd in the surrounding area. He enters the square and walks past the fountain, bending quickly to hide the zip drive underneath its outer edge. He glances around rapidly as he keeps walking and exits the square on the other side.
Deborah Elm rides in the passenger seat of a golf cart, beside a man with gray hair, and they stop on a fairway a few hundred feet from the green. She removes her phone from her pocket and checks the message: Private Number: “Keating Park. Center fountain. Southeast side, under the outer edge.”
Early evening, as the sun is setting, she walks toward the fountain, a little nervous, and kneels down to look under the edge. Seeing the zip drive, she stands up and walks a few paces, removes it, puts it in her pocket and keeps walking.
* * *
Stanley and Joe in the editing room at CDN, watching Jean’s gun violence special on the center screen. She is walking down the sidewalk in a quiet, sunny neighborhood, and talking into a microphone.
Some believe having the right to carry a concealed firearm serves to promote peace, by discouraging would-be attackers from preying on others.
She stops walking.
But what’s keeping the people who lawfully carry guns from misusing them in public—with potentially fatal consequences?
The special cuts to Jean interviewing a man in the front yard of his house.
Have you ever drawn a weapon on a human being?
Few times. Never had to shoot nobody.
Monique knocks on the door to the editing room, and opens it.
Mr. Balto, you might want to see this.
They walk into the main studio, where a few large screens are showing a national news channel with Deborah Elm speaking to the camera.
We can clearly hear President Lang’s voice on this recording. There is no question that this is the President of the United States.
The screen splits to show a man at another desk.
In your opinion, is there any way to tell when this conversation took place?
He starts replying, as Stanley reacts.
No, no, no… What is this?
So we know the file was saved onto the drive approximately forty-eight hours ago, but we can’t as yet determine when the President spoke these words.
Can we hear the recording again, please?
The next one gets cleared by me… Make sure they know that…
Now they can trace those weapons to us.
An investigation into the specific types, quantities, and locations of the weapons is currently underway. Neither President Lang, nor any member of his administration, has made a statement.
Could it be fake? Can they fabricate someone’s voice like that?
They can and they did.
He looks at the screen a moment longer, then turns and starts to leave.
What about the show, are we gonna—
On his way out.
Still on, tomorrow night.
Jean sitting near the back of an airplane, dark outside.
Good evening, passengers, please fasten your seatbelts and return your seat backs to their upright and locked positions. We will be landing at Ronald Reagan National Airport in about fifteen minutes. I repeat, we will be landing in Washington D.C. in about fifteen minutes.
Aerial view of D.C. at night, followed by a time-lapse shot of the sun rising over the downtown area.
A conference room in the Capitol Building, twenty or so of the President’s Advisors, Generals, and Chiefs-of-Staff, (including Wolfram and General Albertson), sit quietly around a long rectangular table. President Lang enters, walks to the head of the table, pulls out the chair, sits down, and looks up at them.
Thank you all for being here this morning. I don’t intend to bore you with any stale anecdotes about the time before I came to Washington, the years when the thought of my becoming President would have been pretty funny. I should say that I’ve always loved this nation. It’s not our freedom that I love, or our ideals, our values, or our history. I love it cause it’s mine. And yours, and the bums who sleep outside on benches, or in the woods, it’s theirs too. The United States is everyone’s.
When I took office I swore to faithfully execute my duties, and to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution. In the course of carrying out that promise I’ve made some enemies, some of whom are right here at this table. Some have devoted themselves to undermining my work with blatant lies, vindictive accusations, and treasonous plots to cast my presidency in the most sinister shades of darkness. Don’t think for one instant that either your actions, or your intentions, have gone unobserved.
A number of you might cringe upon hearing this again, but my grandfather fought and died for this country in the first World War. He took a stand for this place, marched off to hell, and died there, in part so we could serve here, free from the threat of hell overtaking our own shores. If you disagree with my agenda to increase regulations on certain firearms, that’s fine, you’re free to oppose me. But if you’re operating under the assumption that you have any chance of getting away with treachery…
He looks around at them again.
You’d better take a step back, and find a different way to go.
He stands up, walks out of the silent room.
(End of Part IV)