(This is a novel outline or film treatment, I haven’t figured out which way to go yet)
“To train men to an ideal so unwelcome to the flesh, it was necessary to take them at birth and form them by the most rigorous discipline. If the child appeared defective it was thrown from a cliff.” – Will Durant on Sparta.
Scene 1: Newark, Day, Sept. 11, 2001
A twelve year old David Hero is fleeing a street gang when he comes up to the top of a hill. He stops. So do the members of the street gang. They all stare into the distance at the smoldering tops of the World Trade Center towers. Even the hardest of the street gang members looks stunned. Hero has tears on his face. The towers begin to crumble
He feels something change in him. He can’t figure out what. He doesn’t want to kill anybody, he doesn’t hate the Arabs, but he feels the need to do something to keep this from happening again.
Scene 2: Newark, Military Park, spring, 2010
Leon Jones and Hero are standing at the foot of the great statue of war heroes in the park. Jones wants to know if Hero is serious. Hero says it’s the only way out. He doesn’t want to end up dead on these streets or stuck in prison like so many people they know – we serve, we get out, we go to college, we live normal lives any place other than here.
Look at this place. You can still see the scars of the 1967 riots.
Nobody’s got any pride any more.
Jones says, do you think the military will give you that?
Hero says, yes, and more.
I thought about being a cop, but I’ve seen the cops in this place and some of them are as bad as the gangs.
Jones asks what Hero’s grandfather is going to say about that, considering the old man was once a Black Panther.
Damn him and all his radical shit, Hero says.
“I love the guy and all, but I’m sick of hearing about how bad the world is and how we ought to be fighting to make it right, when all he does is sit in that damned project moaning about what the white man did to him. I’m not going to make the same mistake. I’m gonna work with the system, not try and blow it up. Are you with me or what?”
Jones nods and the two of them make their way to the recruiting office.
Scene 3: The Army
He and Jones arrive.
Hero got mixed reactions from his family and friends before leaving Newark. Some admired him, loved him for all the wrong reasons, seeing him as getting tough as if he had just joined a bigger street gang, one even the Bloods or the Cribs would mess with.
Hero is scared about it, too, getting
more and more nervous in the days leading up to his arrival.
Maybe it’s just another street gang after all.
But once there, things feel different, clearer, more organized, nothing like he expected.
All you have to do is follow the rules, and you get on fine.
And he proves a model soldier, not only doing everything right, but often better than anyone else
He learns how to fight and how to follow orders.
Sure, he got scared when they sent him off to Iraq. But he believed that if he did what he was told, operated within his training, he might get through it, and remarkably he did, and so did Jones. making friend with a wild white man from Detroit named Marko
These three stuck together, never
completely comfortable with the private contract soldiers who seemed to get
their kicks killing or the crazy enlisted men who killed anything that move.
For Hero and his buddies, war was a dirty job someone had to do, and they did it, but didn’t get any kicks from it.
The came back to a military base in Georgia and then set out for second tour to Afghanistan, which was even harrier and more terrifying, but they got through it unscathed, and returned to the United States where they got assigned together as trainers for troops heading off to war for the first time.
That’s when he meets Col Wilson.
Wilson is a strict, tough, and very patriotic icon of the base, a man who pushes himself as much as he does his men, and has become a cult like figure to a group of young men who model themselves after him.
In some ways, Wilson reminds Hero of the crazies he met overseas, intense, potentially explosive, yet unlike them in the sense that he was icy cold and totally professional.
None of Wilson’s followers would shoot dogs in the desert out of boredom. They wouldn’t waste valuable ammunition on a meaningless target.
Wilson and his cult are a kind of elite on and off the post, Spartan-like characters who are to ordinary soldiers like Hero, what football jocks were to ordinary students in high school.
While like Wilson’s Raiders (as they are known), Hero takes a lot of the extra training and comes into frequent contact with members of the group. They are intense and focused and they seek to be the best at everything they do, especially one of them, a Sergeant Dagget, with whom Hero has more and more contact.
Jones and Marko caution Hero not to mess with the Raiders or Dagget, saying no good can come of it.
But as things turn out, Hero and Dagget stand out as the top achievers in each training session, use of fire arms, or hand to hand.
Dagget takes an intense dislike of Hero because at times Hero beats Dagget.
“You don’t like black people much, do you, Dagget?” Hero asks
“Black and white has nothing to do with it,” Dagget says.
At which point, the unit is called up for a special assignment in Somalia.
There, Wilson’s Raiders show just how effective a killing machine they can be come, murdering with an efficiency that stuns even the ghetto-hardened Hero.
And scares him, too, the way the street gangs used to.
Hero, Jones and Marko are in support of the advance when they are ambushed. Hero takes the lead and fends off the attackers.
Back in The States, Wilson approaches Hero and invites him to become member of the Raiders.
Jones and Marko advise Hero against the move.
“Something awful happens to people who join that crew,” Marko says. “They become something inhuman.”
But this is a huge career move for Hero and he accepts.
Dagget is outraged and tells Wilson Hero has no place in their society.
Wilson tells Dagget to stand down, a good soldier always has a place with the Raiders.
Dagget pulls Hero aside later and tells him he’s a dead man.
Others in the elite unit side with Dagget, and during the intense training they do, they deliberately target Hero – attempting to hurt him, testing the limits of his endurance, and to the dismay of Dagget, Hero handles it all, challenging them to do better, inviting them to come down to his hood if they want to know what tough is.
Hero gets begrudging respect from some of the other men, which only increases Dagget’s rage.
The unit gets yet another special assignment, this time to Afghanistan.
It is a brutal encounter and they are scattered by a series of traps. So Hero is forced to take leadership of the squad which has been isolated from the rest of the unit. He manages to get his men back through enemy lines to meet up with the rest of the unit.
Dagget is beside himself as the men relay some of Hero’s exploits to Wilson.
In the middle of the night, Hero wakes to hear a faint sound outside, and he sees Dagget putting a booby trap onto the vehicle Hero and other men will take out on patrol in the morning.
When Dagget vanishes again, Hero goes out and disables the device, and in the morning, he watches Dagget’s disappointed face when the humvee starts and does not explode.
Hero knows he has to watch his back, and when he gets back to The States he tells Marko and Jones want happens.
They tell him to quit.
At this point, Hero meets up with Wilson again, and Wilson invites to his home just off base in a community where many of the Raiders live.
Hero meets Wilson’s wife and children and neighbors, and Wilson tells Hero he has a place in this community, too.
“We don’t believe in black or white, just red, white and blue,” Wilson says. “We are part of a special community, not just here, but outside nearly every military base in the county we have communities just like this.”
Wilson takes Hero downstairs to a secret room in the basement filled with weapons, a private stock of personally owned weapons that every household in every community like this must keep – active military, inactive military, private contractor, and the like. Every one of them has a room like this with a stock of weapons waiting for the time when “The Insurrection” starts.
“We are the last hope for America when those people out there try to take by force what we need to survive,” Wilson says.
“You mean the terrorists?” Hero asks.
“Not the terrorists you mean,” Wilson says. “But they’re been terrorists when they come. When all the systems fail, when healthcare fails and welfare stops, when people don’t have homes to live in or food to eat, they will rise up and try to take from us what we have, and we will be ready to stop them, to use force to protect our own. You are one of us, so we need you to join us here in our community.”
Hero says he has thought about asking a girl back home to marry him, but is a bit nervous about getting transferred and having to pick up and start over again someplace else.
“You won’t have to worry about that if you move here, out people don’t get transferred unless they request it,” Wilson says. “And we have the finest schools in the world here. And we focus their education on the right things, what they will need to survive. Our children learn patriotism and how to defend themselves. We don’t them to soccer practice, we take them to the rifle range. Our girls don’t take ballet, they take karate.”
Hero tells Wilson he’ll need a little time to think about it, and should talk to his girl back in Newark if he can get a pass to go see her.
Wilson agrees and says he’ll arrange for a pass and transportation.
Hero tells Jones and Marko, and both agree that this sounds weird to them, and that Hero should go talk to someone who can advise him better, maybe somebody back in Newark he trusted as a kid.
Jones suggests Hero go talk to The Poet, a local radical that knew Hero’s grandfather, and was part of the old movement, but has since become something of a controversial literary figure.
When he gets to Newark, Hero goes straight to the Poet’s home and lays out the tale before the Poet, who shakes his head slowly.
“I knew a time would come when America would see Wilson’s kind, I just hoped I wouldn’t live to see it in my life time,” he says. “Every savage nation in history gets this breed of beast, the Nazis, the Soviets, and other nations before them. When resources get scarce, these guys show up to keep the poor from getting their share.”
“I don’t understand,” Hero says.
“I suppose not. You can’t just look at these people in a vacuum. You have to look at the trends that go back to the 1970s. For years, the rich have been squeezing the poor, sending jobs over seas so they can’t make a living, making homes unaffordable so they live in the street, where they get ill and hungry and desperate, and after a while they get so desperate they riot, at which point, this kind rises up and kills them.”
“But why?” Hero asks.
“Because Reagan lied when he said he could make the pie bigger so everybody could have a piece,” The Poet says. “There’s only so much to go around, and the rich want it all for themselves, and they are looking for any excuse to kill off the poor just like the Nazis tried with their death camps. They call it `starving the beast.’ They start cutting off all those programs that help the poor until the poor react and then the shooting starts.”
“What do I do?” Hero asks.
“What all men have to do, pick a side.”
“How can I?”
“Your grandfather did.”
“My grandfather became a terrorist.”
“The government can call anyone they want a terrorist. The British called George Washington a terrorist and perhaps he was. But calling a man a terrorist doesn’t make him wrong.”
“I’m not going to do what my grandfather did,” Hero says.
“You can’t stay on the sidelines – not now, not after they have invited you in.”
“Are you telling me I can’t tell them `no’?” Hero asks.
“Not unless you have a gun in your hand when you do it,” the poet says.
“We’ll see about that,” Hero says and turns to leave.
“Wait,” the poet says and jots down an address on a piece of paper which he gives to Hero. “Go there if you need help. Tell them I sent you.”
Hero goes back to the base and meets with Wilson, telling Wilson he’s decided not to take up the offer.
Hero gets to his quarters to find that he’s already been reassigned back to his old unit, and when he reaches that unit, Marko and Jones say the unit has been called up for over seas duty, again – something that seems to have come out of the blue.
“We’re dead men,” Marko says. “They always kill people out there.”
Hero tells him he’s crazy.
“These are patriots, not murderers,” Hero says.
“One of them’s already tried to kill you,” Marko points out.
“That’s Dagget and he’s crazy,” Hero says.
Jones takes Marko’s side.
“These are super patriots. And maybe you haven’t heard the stories about them, but we have. We know what happens to people who betray them. They’re all crazy. Some show it more than others.”
“But you haven’t betrayed anyone,” Hero argues. “If anyone has, it’s me.”
“We’re your friends. If they come after you, they’ll come after us, too,” Marko said.
“So what do we do about it?” Hero asks.
“We don’t go,” Marko says.
“That’s desertion. We’ll wind up in federal prison.”
“That’s better than being dead,” Marko says.
“Maybe you think so,” Hero says. “But where me and Jones grew up, we’ve seen what prison does to people. I certainly have no intention of going there.”
“You play it your way, but I’m out of here,” Marko says, and leaves.
“What about you?” Hero asks Jones.
“Maybe I can talk to the Inspector General,” Jones said. “Maybe I can convince him to give me a discharge.”
Jones leaves. Hero gets ready to deploy.
Outside, Marko gets into his car and a pair of hands holding a thin wire comes across the back seat, choking him to death.
Jones walking along the sidewalk towards headquarters hears something, turns, doesn’t see anything, then hurries his step, until he is running hard. Then a car comes at him from the side running him over. The car keeps going.
A few days later, the unit begins to leave. Dagget pulls up in a humvee and calls Hero over.
“I’m really sorry to hear about your friends,” Dagget says, sounding not at all sorry.
“What are you talking about?” Hero asks, annoyed.
“You mean you haven’t heard?”
“Your two buddies are dead. Strange how they both died in some kind of accident on the same day,” Dagget says. “If I were you, I would be very careful over seas.”
Hero does not get into the troop carrier, but heads over to headquarters, where he learns that the tale is true.
He is angry when he heads towards Wilson’s office and demands to know what is going on and why his two friends were killed.
“What makes you think they were killed?” Wilson asks.
“Dagget doesn’t brag until he’s had a hand in dirty work,” Hero says, one hand fingering something in his pocket as he talked. “They were innocent people.”
“They conspired with a known terrorist,” Wilson says, jumping up in anger.
“Me?” Hero says. “How do you figure that?”
“You were supposed to go home and talk to your girl friend, instead you met with that communist poet.”
“You had me followed?” Hero says.
“We needed to be sure of who we were inviting into our group, and we found out,” Wilson says.
“The Poet is a friend of my grandfather.”
“Yes, we learned all about your terrorist family. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree with you, does it?”
“You intend to kill me?”
“You know much too much and have already told too much to the wrong people. We have to clean up this mess before that information gets out.”
“So you had my friends killed and will soon kill me.”
“And we’ll soon get the poet and his crew, too,” Wilson says.
“You ARE crazy.”
“We’re patriots,” Wilson says. “And you would betray us if we let you.”
“I’m going to the authorities.”
“That would be a foolish move since we have planted evidences suggesting that you murdered your friends. Which is, why, of course, you will take your our life out of regret.”
“When is this supposed to happen?” Hero asks, his hand growing still in his pocket.
“Right now, I’m afraid,” Wilson says as Dagget and two other of Wilson’s Raiders come into the room.
“People have seen me come into this office,” Hero says.
“Our people,” Wilson says. “They know better than to ask questions or betray us.”
A click sounds from Hero’s pocket. Wilson, Dagget and the other two react too slowly, the gas pellet striking the floor at their feet as Hero leaps through the window and flees across the lawn.
Wilson, Dagget and the others come out the door choking. Wilson stares at fleeing Hero.
“Get him,” he says.
Dagget snaps and order and the other two follow him.
Hero reaches a parking lot where he has a car waiting. He gets into it and drives out without panic, looking around and into the mirror where he sees figures rushing around in an attempt to cut him off. But he keeps the car at an even speed and then reaches a gate where he is greeted by a man from his former unit, who grins at him, waves him through the gate and off the base.
Hero drives towards the highway. When he sees the attack helicopter rising from the base, he flicks on his satellite navigation system and then speeds up a little. When the helicopters gets above him and starts to arm its weapons, Nero turns the car suddenly onto another road and racing at top speed heads into a tunnel. He immediately slams on the breaks, pulling the car to the side. On the other side is another parked car, pointed in the opposite direction. He jumps into it and drives slowly back the way he came out of the tunnel and looks back into the side mirror to see the helicopter hovering over the other side of the tunnel waiting for a car that will never emerge.
In Newark, Hero climbs out of a cab in front the brownstone where The Poet lives, but it is a smoldering ruin
Some of the neighborhood people say they saw a pack of “bad dudes” moving around the place in the dark.
“They didn’t just set a fire, man, they blew the place up.”
“Is the poet dead?”
“Who knows? But that’s what these dudes wanted.”
Hero wanders off stunned, and then remembers the paper Poet had given him with another Newark address.
He starts to go there, and becomes aware of shadows tracking him, figures shifting in the darkness like ghosts.
He begins evasive maneuvers of his own, needing no map to guide him through these streets. The scars of the old riots again appearing out of the dark like wounds of an old war, but one he realizes never really ended, a war now being resumed all these years later by a secret army determined to come up with a final solution for a people it no longer can make use of as slaves.
He eventually gets to the fortress like building deep in the ghetto where dark shapes swarm down on him bearing M-16s and ak47s, black men wearing black berets Hero hasn’t seen since the old photographs his grandfather used to show.
They ask him what he wants.
He says he thinks someone killed the poet, and that the poet sent him here.
They hurry him inside, where he is greeted by the poet himself.
“You were followed,” the poet said. “They knew you would come to me.”
“I wouldn’t have come here but I thought you were already dead,” Hero says. “They want to kill you.”
“They’ve always wanted to kill me. But now they have an excuse. But at least we now know which side you’re on.”
“You’re testing me, too?”
“We had to know,” Poet said.
“Why do there have to be sides?” Hero asks.
“Because that’s the way they want it, and until they stop wanting terrorists to use as their excuse to be killers, we will exist to fight back.”
“You can’t fight back against this crew.”
“We’re not like you’re grandfather’s panthers. We’ve trained, we’ve recruited people, too.”
“These guys are different. These are pure killing machines.”
“Robots,” the poet says. “They don’t think like human beings and they believe that is their advantage, when it really is their weakness. They have no souls. No hearts. They just have some misguided belief that they are fighting for some noble cause, when they’ve abandoned everything this country ever stood for and call it patriotism.”
The poet leads Hero to a room deep in the center of the complex which is filled with security monitors, and other equipment. Some of the screens show the silent waiting shapes of the military men outside, including Dagget.
Someone hands Hero a gun and the squad of Panthers slips out through the passages, many of them wearing similar equipment to the soldiers outside, night vision equipment, body armor, explosives.
The poet wishes them luck as they leave him behind.
Then the troop is outside.
Hero doesn’t like the feelings he is getting, but before he can warn the Panther leader, another squad of Dagget’s men spring the trap.
It is not a totally one-sided fight. Some of the panthers are well-trained, but as a group they are no match for Dagget’s pack of killing machines.
The Panthers scatter. Hero escapes, but he is separated from the others and flees through the streets. Dagget and his crew chase him.
Again, Hero knows the landscape and can keep ahead of the pack of killers, but they know their craft and are quickly adjusting to the streets so that Hero knows his advantage will soon evaporate as the squad spreads out and cuts off his avenues of escape.
Dagget calls for Hero to give up.
“You’re a dead man anyway, why not make it easier on yourself. If you give up, I promise we will make it quick and not torture you like we would some other terrorist.”
Hero wants to tell Dagget to go fuck himself, but stays silent. He decides that he can’t escape. So he has to strike back.
So he begins to hunt them, picking off the outlying men first, and working his way in, one by one, killing each then moving onto the next.
Dagget eventually figures out what Hero is doing and calls the rest of his squad in, forcing them into a group to keep Hero from isolating any more of them.
At this point, a car suddenly rushes at them out of the dark and explodes. The regrouped Panthers appear, slaughtering the remaining troop, escape for the talented Dagget, who escapes.
Hero waves off the Panthers.
“He’s mine!” he says, and begins the hunt through the streets of Newark.
The usually non pulsed Dagget is now in a panic, while Hero is cool and relentless. Dagget pulls every trick he can to shake Hero, but Hero clings to his trail and finally catches up with Dagget. They fight. Dagget is vicious, but Hero’s passion drives him on, visions of his dead buddies making him even more savage so that the fight eventually comes down to hands and feet and Dagget dies.
In a safe house elsewhere in Newark the poet meets up with Hero and the surviving Panthers.
“This won’t end here,” the poet says. “The war has started and it won’t stop until the insurrection takes place.”
“We might still be able to stop it,” Hero says.
“By stopping Wilson,” Hero said.
“You don’t understand the scope of the problem,” Poet says. “Wilson is only one small cog in a much larger war machine. Their kind infect every military base, every private contractor, and wait only for the moment when the fuse gets lit. Well we lighted the fuse tonight and it won’t end until the poor rise up and kill the masters or the masters kill the poor.”
“That’s unacceptable,” Hero says. “But if the fuse is lighted, then we have to stop it before it explodes. Wilson is the fuse. Stop him from getting to the others, and we stop the explosion.”
“Until the next time,” the poet says.
“Maybe there doesn’t have to be a next time,” Hero says. “perhaps we can expose the threat to the people and let the government put a stop to it.”
“The government won’t stop them,” Poet says. “The government is scared of them.”
“Scared of their own soldiers? But these are super patriots. I’ve heard them say they will take a bullet even for this president, and they don’t like him.”
“They’ll support the president and anyone else until that president or other people threaten them, and they’ll call him a terrorist and do what they did to the Kennedys.”
“All right, even if you’re right,” Hero said. “We have to stall this. We need time to make people aware of the danger and prepare them.”
“We can’t arm everybody,” Poet says.
“I don’t want to arm them, I don’t even want them to fight back in that way. You can win against these super patriots by resorting to killing. These guys expect that. They are too good at killing for you to ever out do them at their own game.”
“We did it tonight.”
“We were lucky. We only had to deal with a squad. The next time, they’ll level Newark to get us and it’ll make 1967 look tame.”
“So what do you propose?”
“To learn from Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King.”
“Sure, look where that got them – a bullet in the head.”
“We don’t have a choice. Those killing machines out there are waiting for an excuse to slaughter us, and we fight them on their terms, that’s what they’ll do. We have to find another way to do battle with them, something that takes them out of their element.”
“Which means we got to lie down and become slaves again?” the poet asks.
“My grandfather thought your way,” Hero says. “So did the Weather Underground, and they failed because you can’t kill them better than they can kill us. We have to put their kind out of business.”
“And how do you do that?”
“I don’t know. I’m only a soldier. You’re the brain. You come up with a plan. I’m going to buy you some time by killing Wilson.”
The scene switches to a military air field with a military car pulling up and coming to a stop before a small military passenger jet
An aide, carrying a clip board greets him,
“Everything set?” Wilson asks.
“The pilots will deliver you to Washington on schedule,” the aide says.
“Have you heard from Dagget yet?”
“Damn him, why doesn’t he ever do what he is told. I said I needed an update as soon as possible so if anything goes wrong I can exercise other options.”
“I’m sure he’ll report in soon.”
“If he doesn’t, I’m going to have to alert the FBI – and you know how I hate when they meddle around in our affairs. It is always better to clean up our own mess. Notify me as soon as you hear from Dagget.”
Wilson enters the jet, looks puzzled at the empty cabin.
“Damn it, doesn’t anybody show up on time,” he mumbles, then sits in one of the chairs and stares out the window at the jet taxies and takes off.
The air craft rises and rises and after a moment, Wilson hits the intercom to the pilot.
“Aren’t we going a little high for a short run to the Pentagon?”
He gets no answer.
“Hey you!” he shouts, realizing that the intercom is not working.
The cockpit door opens and Hero steps out holding a pistol.
“We’re flying just high enough,” Hero says.
“You! What happened to my staff.”
“If you mean the pilot, they’re back at the airport. Their vehicle broke down mysteriously. You’re personal aide got a phone call saying that you would not need them.”
“Dagget and the others?”
“Dead, I’m afraid.”
“Damn you, Hero. I should have killed you when Dagget told me to.”
“You mean before you tried to recruit me?”
“We’ve done it before, weeding out potential bad sees before they get in the way. Most of them die heroes over seas.”
“But some like my two friends don’t?”
“We couldn’t wait with them.”
“And here I thought Dagget was the only bad apple. It seems the whole barrel is rotten.”
“We’re patriots. We do what we need to do to preserve our country.”
“But what exactly are you preserving,
an empty shell?” Hero asks, “a country that starves its poor and then shoots
them when they object?”
”It’s a dog eat dog world, Hero, you should know that considering where you came from.”
“My world was like that because people like you – with basements full of weapons – wanted to keep us there. Well, that’s going end right now.”
“Killing me won’t end anything. We’re everywhere. We’ve infiltrated every military base in the county. We’ll spring to action the moment the insurrection starts.”
“What if it doesn’t start?”
“It has to. We’ll make it. We’ll starve you and deny you services until you rise up and then we’ll kill you.”
“And you call us terrorists? But I’m not interested in killing you all, just you. We need to buy time.”
“To begin teacher people about you and to train our people to deal with you.”
“You can never be as good as we are.”
“You miss my point. We don’t intend to teach our people to become mindless killing robots like you are. We’re going to teach them to be leaders, to infiltrate every corporation, every government, even every military post, to become like me and like Obama, watching you, becoming your commanders, making sure that you – like any dangerous time bomb – won’t go off.”
“So kill me already.”
“It’s not so easy as that. This plane is headed straight for the Pentagon. It won’t arrive there.”
“So we’ll die together. So much for your plan.”
Hero pulls out a parachute from under one of the seats. “I’ll have a parachute, you won’t. Homeland security will do what I won’t do. They’ll shoot your plane down. Or if you choose, you can jump. Either way, we get the time we need.”
“I’ll get you first,” Wilson screams, and makes a vicious attack that Hero only barely fends off. The pistol falls to the side. The two battle. Wilson has experience and natural savagery, but Hero has the memory of his two friends and that long ago memory of the falling Twin Towers, and he eventually beats Wilson, leaving Wilson unconscious on the floor as he takes up the parachute and leaves the plane.
He lands and looks up as a group of f-16s rush over him, after the plane. A moment later, an explosion comes.
Hero signs and makes his way down the hill to a one-lane road for the long trip back home to Newark.