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 Screenplay inspired by a short story by brothers Strugatsky conceived
 by Sergei Khramtsov (begemot@earthlink.net), copyright NYC NY USA 2000
 Origin: A&B Strugatsky "O stranstvuyushih i puteshestvuyushih"


     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

     IVAN VO
     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
disturb them.

     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.

     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...

     IVAN (offers)
     Go ahead.

     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.

     GORBOVSKY (tenderly)
     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?


     From Pandora?

     Right, from Pandora...

     So, what do they have in common?

     Yeah, what?

     Well, it's obvious.  They have the same level of information processing
cycle. Reactive output on the primal instinct level.

     GORBOVSKY (sighs)
     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

     MASHA (quietly)
     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

     MASHA (quietly)
     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.

     GORBOVSKY (vaguely)
     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.

     GORBOVSKY (attentively)
     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.

     GORBOVSKY (mumbling)
     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?

     IVAN (agreeing)
     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.

     MASHA (perplexed)
     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)
     But www-why?

     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.

     GORBOVSKY (continues)
     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
understand me?

     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.



Last-modified: Thu, 10 Aug 2000 12:35:10 GMT
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