Screenplay inspired by a short story by brothers Strugatsky conceived
by Sergei Khramtsov (email@example.com), copyright NYC NY USA 2000
Origin: A&B Strugatsky "O stranstvuyushih i puteshestvuyushih"
FADE IN: NIGHT STAR STADDED SKY TURNS INTO AQUATIC DARKNESS PULSATING
WITH SOUND FROM TIME TO TIME BEING PENETRATED BY LIGHT SOUNDS OF UNDERWATER
EXT. UNDERWATER. DAY
ECU on the eye of SEPTOPOD, a squid-amoebae like aquatic organism, ECU
on the eyes of a man, IVAN, wearing underwater diving-hydraulic suit, PULL
OUT: we see IVAN, a semiotic biologist, hiding beside underwater weeds
Septopods are very sensitive animals, may be
disturbed away by the lightest sound, any abrupt movement, and then
they would leave and come back only at night. And at night its better not to
An eel stirs out from under IVAN's feet, other fishes swim by, tubby
cat fish observing dully with his bulging eyes follows, crowd of silver
fishes sparkle by. Finally a SEPTOPOD appears slowly from the weeds on the
right. His semi-closed eye shakes and opens wider. IVAN slowly rises marking
ionic gun, presses the trigger and quickly dives up toward the surface. The
water around fills with acid colors of SEPTOPOD protective masking
substance. IVAN appears on the surface of the lake and starts swimming
towards the land.
EXT. MEADOW NEAR THE LAKE. DAY
Hot summer day, clear shining skies, clouds are towering from behind
the woods. IVAN is walking towards the tent on a meadow. Near the tent is
his daughter MASHA, slim longlegged teenager wearing blue swimming suit,
talks gesturing about something to a short, stocky and a very stringy man,
GORBOVSKY, wearing only a head band and wild-colored swimming trunks.
GORBOVSKY notices IVAN, turns and smiles, waves his hand.
MASHA (turns to IVAN, jolly)
Here he is!
IVAN comes up to the tent, drops down his equipment and suit. GORBOVSKY
smiling observes him.
How many did you mark today?
Just one. I got cramps.
MASHA (helping IVAN to take off aquastat)
Wow! (to GORBOVSKY) Yesterday he marked two, a day before four. If it
would go on like that we better move to the next lake. (she picks up a towel
and starts rubbing IVAN). You look like a frozen duck. This is Leo
Gorbovsky, he is an astro-archeologist. Leo, and this is my dad - IVAN.
GORBOVSKY (nods, to IVAN)
Cold, eh? And we hear are having a great time, sun, grass...
MASHA (rubbing IVAN with a towel)
He'll warm up in a sec. He is jolly usually, just got too cold...
We started to worry about you here. Even, wanted to dive after you.
You, though, cannot imagine a man like me, who never dived on a job.
(confidingly) Tomorrow I depart. Don't even know when I'd get to lie on a
grass by the lake next time, just like that... And have an opportunity to
dive with an aquastat...
GORBOVSKY (touches an aquastat)
He turns and lies on his back, observing IVAN with his slightly sad and
confiding eyes. A blue dragonfly hangs over in the air a top of a grass.
Dragonfly... tiny dragonfly.., blue.., lake dragonfly... Beautiful..,
just sits and waits who to devour. (he tries to touch the dragonfly, but it
stirs and flies away). How complicated it is, my friends. You know, its
absolutely perfect, gracious, enjoying its life totally! Eats a fly,
procreates, and its almost a time to die. Simple, gracious, rational. It has
no soul torments, no self-consciousness, no reasonable doubts of being,
meaning of life questions...
A machine, boring cyber machine
Boring indeed... But imagine now a poisonously yellow-green dragonfly
with red stripes, with a 20 feet wing-spread and black slimy jaws...
Imagined? I used to run away from such, and notice, I had a scorcher gun...
And know you ask, what do they have in common these two cybers?
The green one is obviously from the different planet, isn't it?
Right, from Pandora...
So, what do they have in common?
Well, it's obvious. They have the same level of information processing
cycle. Reactive output on the primal instinct level.
Words. Don't be mad at me but it's just words. It doesn't help me a
bit. I have to seek signs of an intelligent life in the Universe (Universal
Mind). And what is intellect? And I am being told about levels of
information processing. Of course, I know that I and a dragonfly are on a
different levels from each other, but only intuitively. Tell me, for
instance, I have found a termite colony - is it a sign of an intelligent
life or is it not? On Mars and in Orion constellation they have discovered
buildings without any doors or windows - is this a sign? What shall I look
for? Ruins? Wall paintings? A rusty nail? A screw-nut? How shall I know what
kind of signs do they leave. What if the sole purpose of their existence is
to destroy an atmosphere everywhere they go; or to build a planetary
circles; or to hybridized, to clone life? Or to create life? And what if
this dragonfly is indeed a bio-ciber machine which was designed to
self-replicate since a very long time ago? And I am not talking about them
who design signs and posses the intellect themselves. One may pass by twenty
times turning up his nose at a sleazy monster grunting inside a puddle. But
this monster is observing you and contemplates: "Interesting. It's
definitely a new kind of species. We shall come back here with an expedition
and catch at least one specimen..."
GORBOVSKY covers his eyes with a palm and starts whistling a tune,
others pause observe him silently.
As for an intelligent life in the universe, it indeed does exist. Now I
know for sure it does. But it's not as we think it is. It's not what we
expect. And we are looking in a wrong place, or, not in a right way. Or
just, don't know what is it we are looking for...
It's kinda vague explanation...
GORBOVSKY (cut him short)
Take, for example, A Voice Of The Void. Have you heard about it?
Probably not. A half century ago it was in the news. Not anymore. Because,
you see, there was no further development, and since there was no
development may be there isn't any Voice. You know, these accurate
And what is it, this Voice Of The Void?
There is an interesting effect in some parts of the universe. When you
are taking a certain direction traveling through outer space and turn on an
auto-search on your ship communication computer, sooner or later it tunes on
to a strange transmission. You can hear a voice, calm and indifferent,
repeating the same phrase in a fish language over and over, for many years
constant, the same. I've heard it, many others did too, but not many talk
about it. It's not a pleasurable memory. Imagine yourself being very far
from Earth, in empty tranquil space, no radio interference, nothing, just
some slight rustle on communicator. And suddenly - this Voice. And you are
alone on the deck, everyone else is asleep, silence, scary - and this voice.
It's not pleasurable, trust me. There are recordings of this Voice. Many
have tried to decode it and are still trying, but I believe it makes no
sense... There are other mysteries too... (pauses) You have to understand
it, it's not easy. We don't even know what to expect. We may meet with them
any moment face to face. And you know, they may be on a much higher level
then us. Totally different from us, plus much higher than us. People argue
about contacts and conflicts, about all kind of reasonable perception of
humanism and goodness. But I am not afraid of that. I am afraid of the
unheard annihilation of humanity, of a gigantic psychological shock. You
see, we are so proud. We've created such a beautiful world, we know so much,
we travel in outer space, discover the vast universe, study, research - but
what? May be for them the Universe is home sweet home. For millions
of years they live in this Universe, like we live on Earth, and just look at
us and wonder - where did they come from?
GORBOVSKY suddenly gets up and listens. Thunder strike comes from a
It's thunder. (looks up in the sky) Thunder... Storm is coming...
GORBOVSKY (studying the sky)
No, it's not a thunder. (sits down again). Sky ship. There, see?
He points at a shiny spot in the sky which quickly disappears.
Thundering sound comes again.
Now, sit here and wait... (looks smiling at IVAN, pauses) And what do
you do Ivan?
Well, I'm a biologist. I study septopods, dual-gilled type of amphibian
cephalopod mollusk previously unknown to us. They have a specific
characteristics: like three rows of suckers on their tentacles, total lack
of celom, unusually strong venous hearts, developed to the maximum central
nervous system and some other less important differences. They were
discovered recently for the first time, when some specimens appeared near
the eastern and south-eastern shores of Asia. A year later they appeared in
the deltas of great rivers like Mekong, Huanhe and Amur and also in lakes
far from the ocean shores like this one. Which is very strange since
cephalopod specimens avoid even arctic waters with a small concentration of
salt, and they almost never come out on a land. But the fact remains:
septopods feel great even in the fresh waters and even come out on the land.
They get into boats and onto bridges, and, recently, two specimens were
found in the woods a few miles from here...
While IVAN talks MASHA gets up and goes to the tent. She comes back
with a small stereo, turns it on and starts tuning.
And these two, in the woods, were alive?
No, they were found dead. Here there are a lot of wild boars, so they
were trampled down. But 30 miles from water where they were first discovered
they were still alive! Their insides were filled with lake weeds thus
providing them with the required supply of water. But they definitely were
moving down south, off the lakes, inside the land. I also have to mention
that all of the found specimens were males. Probably, females and babies
cannot exist in the fresh waters and come out on a land. It's all rather
interesting. Since usually sea creatures change their lifestyle so abruptly
only during the mating period. Then instinct makes them move to the most
unaccustomed places. But in the case of septopods it's definitely not
procreation that makes them move. It's definitely some other instinct, maybe
even more ancient and powerful. The most important for us now is to track
their migration path. Thus here I am at this lake spending 10 hours
underwater everyday. Today I marked one. If I'll be lucky, may be I'll mark
a couple more by the evening. However at night they become incredibly active
and catch anything which comes near. There were even a few attacks on humans
registered. But only at night.
MASHA turns up the volume on the stereo and thoroughly enjoys the
Please, lower it down.
GORBOVSKY (after MASHA turns the volume down)
So, thus you are marking them. Amazing. How?
With an ultrasound generators marker. (he takes out a magazine with
ampoules-generators and shows it). Here. The generator is inside the bullet
like this; it can be traced on a distance of 100- 300 miles and 20-30 miles
GORBOVSKY pick up the bullet and studies it. His face turns sadly aged.
Witty..., witty and simple.
GORBOVSKY studies the ampoule-bullet for a bit more, then accurately
puts it down on the grass before IVAN and gets up. He moves slowly and
lazily, goes toward the pile of his clothing, picks up the pants to put them
on but stands still. IVAN observes him with some worrying interest. MASHA is
holding a marker gun to show it to GORBOVSKY and is also silently observing
him. Her face takes on his expression, corners of her lips slide down.
Suddenly GORBOVSKY speaks up with some irony.
Amazing, really. Such a clear analogy. For centuries they were living
deep down, and now arouse and came into the alien and hostile to them
world... And what is it that moves them? Dark ancient instinct, you say? Or
may be it is a mode of information processing arisen up to the level of
unstoppable curiosity? Isn't better for him to sit down low in the salt
waters, but no, something moves him to the shores, in to the lands... (he
stirs and starts to put on his trousers). Really, Ivan, think about it,
these are not just simple cephalopods, are they?
Somewhat right, not just a simple.
GORBOVSKY pays no attention to IVAN, turns and stares at the stereo.
IVAN and MASHA also puzzled turn to the stereo which starts to transmute
some powerful and unpleasant sounds like an interrupted radio broadcast.
MASHA puts down the marker gun and picks up the stereo.
Hmm, six in eighths thousand wavelength. Is it some service station?
(eyes closed, listens attentively to the signals) No this is not a
service station. It's me.
Yes, it's me.
MASHA (totally perplexed)
GORBOVSKY (laughs dryly)
Really, why? I would really love to know why myself. Yes why three
pilots and their spaceship came back from the flight EN 101 - EN 7789, and
became transmitters of the radiowaves with a longitude six in eight
He continues to dress up silently. MASHA and IVAN are silent as well.
We were studied by doctors, by physicists, scientists of all sorts. All
came to the unanimous conclusion - it's impossible. You know, you'd died
laughing if you'd have seen their faces. But for us it wasn't so funny. One
of us took a sabbatical and left for Pandora, saying that he prefers to
transmute far from Earth, another one changed his career and went to work at
the underwater substation. Only I hang around and transmute, constantly
expecting something. Expect with fear. I am afraid but I expect. Do you
I'm not sure. I don't know. (looks at MASHA)
You're right. (he picks up the stereo and puts it up to his ear) And
nobody knows. It goes on almost for a month now, non stop, not weakening...
Waui-iuya, waui-iuya... And "Tariel's", my ship, it's transmitting power at
lower and lower wavelengths. It also interferes with the transmission of
some station on Venus. They keep sending angry inquiries. Tomorrow I shall
take my ship somewhere far from this Galaxy. Well, time to go. Good by and
good luck to you. By Masha, don't think about it to hard (don't break your
leg on it), it's not an easy puzzle.
GORBOVSKY raises his open palm up, nods and starts to walk away. He
stops by the tent and turns around.
You know... Be a bit delicate with these septopods. Just you know, you
mark one, and he gets only troubles later.
He leaves. IVAN lies down for a while observing MASHA who impressed by
GORBOVSKY still looks in the direction he went.
And I don't care about his idea that the source of universal mind may
be much higher than us. Let it be. The higher they than us the less chance
we have to be on their way. It's like plankton which is not afraid of the
net with big holes. As for the pride, humiliation, shock... Probably we will
overcome it. I'll definitely live. As for us discovering the universe for
ourselves populated since a long time ago, so what? It wasn't populated by
us. And they, they are just a part of (mother) a universal nature which we
have to discover. Even if they are hundred times higher than us. For us they
are aliens, however if I would have been marked...
IVAN looks up at his watch, gets up, checks his equipment and starts
getting ready to go.
Help me to put on the aquastat.
MASHA gets up from the stereo which still transmutes signals and starts
helping him to put on an equipment. They go together towards the lake and
enter the water. IVAN turns on his underwater locator which starts
transmuting sounds of marked septopods.
But really, there is a big difference between a spaceship and a pile of
wet water-weeds in the stomach.
You should go back. I wouldn't worry too much if I were you or even
Gorbovsky. It's not so serious, like all of his astro-archeology, signs of
ideas, carriers of universal intellect, psychological shock. There will be
no shock. Most likely we wouldn't even notice each other. It's hardly likely
that we would interest them at all.
IVAN dives. STAR-FILLED NIGH SKY. FADE OUT.
Sergei Khramtsov. About Travellers and Wondering (screenplay)
Last-modified: Thu, 10 Aug 2000 12:35:10 GMT