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alt.showcase.94
"Fragile Rhythms"
Featuring Argus

by Robert Lee

PAGE 1 (four panels)

Panel One: A dimly-lit backroom poker game with three players Zelaski, Ricci and Richards seen in medium distance. The view is centered on Zelaski, a hefty man with a bad moustache, who is shuffling a deck of cards as he speaks.

Zaleski: C'mon, ante up! Like I was saying, the big guys are worried about Kovak. Acquava trusts him, Loman ain't so sure. And Loman's calling the shots.

Panel Two: The same scene and angle, with a slightly tighter view showing just Zaleski's face and hands,and the cards.

Zaleski: Five card stud, nuthin' wild. Loman also ain't real happy with Meisel, who's cozying up with some people that used to work for The Combine.

Panel Three: The same scene and angle, at a still tighter view, just his face.

Zaleski: So tonight, we solve our Meisel problem, and we also find out about Kovak.

Panel Four (Splash Panel): Same scene and angle, but seen from a distance. In the shadows behind Zaleski (now dealing the cards) we see Argus lurking in the shadows.

Zaleski: We take Kovak and we teach Meisel a lesson. And if Kovak doesn't have the stones for it, we do him, too. Either way, both problems get handled tonight!

Display Lettering:(bottom) Fragile Rhythms

PAGE TWO (six panels)

Panel One: Kovak sitting in a shabby-looking car, parked in a moderately disreputable neighborhood, his arm out the window, as he waits for the mobsters. Seen from slightly above and to the street side of the parked car.

Caption: I knew it had been going too good. With The Combine seeming on the verge of splintering, Loman worried about his own underlings, and my transformation into Argus, it had seemed like there was a real chance of total victory completely eliminating the Keystone City mafia.

Panel Two: The same scene, with the vantage point now higher and over the hood of Kovak's car. A second vehicle pulls up behind his and Zaleski gets out.

Caption: Now I have to abort the operation, all that momentum, completely gone. Meisel is a known murderer, but I have to trash years of work by literally dozens of agents, so he can get a fair trial for his crimes. Lovely.

Panel Three: The same scene, the camera has moved above the passenger door of Kovaks' car as Zaleskigets into it.

Caption: Even if I change into Argus and bust everybody, there's no way the mob will believe Nick Kovak was lucky enough to be the only guy who got away.

Zaleski: Hiya, Nick. The guys are gonna follow us in Ricci's car.

Kovak: OK. So where we headed?

Panel Four: As the car pulls away, we see the two men through the windshield of the car.

Zaleski: Take the expressway over to Peppermill Lane. We gotta see a guy at Wolverton Towers.

Kovak: Yeah, sure. Pretty fancy neighborhood, that. You ever gonna tell me what this is about?

Panel Five: We now see the two from a vantage point just inside the windshield.

Zaleski: Meisel lives there. He's been spending too much time with people who can't be trusted. So Mr. Loman has a Meisel problem. Right?

Kovak: If you say so.

Panel Six: A steering-wheel camera view of Zaleski. He has pulled a revolver from his coat pocket and is holding it by the barrel, offering it to Kovak.

Zaleski: I say so. I also say you are going to make Mr. Loman a happy man by solving his Meisel problem. And you will use this to do the solving.

PAGE THREE (five panels)

Panel One: View of the car from above and behind as it sits in front of Wolverton Towers. Zaleski's door is open and he has one leg out of the car. A large sedan pulls out in front of it.

Caption: Twenty-five minutes later.

Zaleski: Hey, that's Meisel's Continental. He ain't supposed to be going anywhere!

Panel Two: Same camera position as Zaleski closes the car door and Kovak begins to follow the Continental.

Zaleski: Whatever he's up to, we got to take care of this tonight! Stay on his tail, Kovak.

Panel Three: Viewed from behind the passenger seat, we see Kovak driving, the revolver awkwardly tucked into his belt. Outside the windshield, night is falling.

Caption: As we followed the big sedan out of town, I began to hope something, anything, would happen to Meisel. We were so close! If I could just buy us a couple of extra months!

Zaleski: Looks like he's heading for the Industrial Park.

Panel Four: The view is now from behind Kovak's seat. We see Zaleski looking over his shoulder out the rear window while gesturing to Kovak.

Zaleski: Slow down. We don't want to make him suspicious. Besides, Ricci's falling behind.

Kovak (off-panel): Doesn't matter -- we're not going to get much closer, anyway.

Panel Five: From the middle of the back seat, we see a wide shot of a small industrial complex, approachable only through a gate with armed guards, who are ushering the Continental through. There is a large, unmarked truck sitting beside the building closest to the gate. The fence surrounding the site is topped with razor-wire.

Zaleski (off-panel): Aww, crap!

PAGE FOUR (six panels)

Panel One:Seen from above, the two cars pulled off the road behind a row of trees, with the four men between them. The trunk of Kovak's car is open, and he is removing a duffel bag as he speaks.

Kovak: I can use these tools to get over the fence, but I'll have to go back through the woods to get out of sight of those guards. You guys can wait here in case Meisel goes out the way he came in.

Zaleski: I don't think so.

Panel Two: Kovak and Zaleski, face-to-face. Neither looks happy.

Kovak: Fine. Do you want to lose track of Meisel? Or do you want to climb through that razor-wire with me? Either way is no skin off my nose!

Zaleski: OK, go! But you better not lose track of Meisel!

Panel Three: From the rooftop we see Argus leap from a tree limb and somersault over the razor-wire atop the fence.

Caption: Six minutes later.

Argus (thinking): I've got to find a way to get rid of Meisel that doesn't force me to end the operation!

Panel Four: Same angle, only at a further distance. We see Argus jimmying open a service door atop the building.

Argus (thinking): But first I want to find out what the heck he's up to here! Ooops, motion detectors. I'd make a lousy burglar if I couldn't see the entire spectrum!

Panel Five: Argus has descended a set of metal rungs in the wall, and is now crouching on a catwalk above a loading dock. We hear voices from below, off-panel.

Lady Jade (off-panel): The demonstration will be ready in just a few moments.

Meisel (off-panel): It better! I don't like to be kept waiting!

Panel Six: We are now looking over Argus' shoulder and down into the loading dock. We see Meisel (a big man, trying to look dapper), two of his thugs (also big, not trying to look dapper), two uniformed and masked henchmen who are working on a high-tech apparatus on a pedestal in the middle of the room, and an oriental woman middle-aged and slightly heavyset -- wearing dark glasses and holding a cane. She is obviously blind. She is speaking.

Lady Jade: Do not attempt to bully Lady Jade, or my technology will find its way into other hands.

Meisel: Lady, I'm the customer here, so I'll say what I damn-well please!

PAGE FIVE (five panels)

Panel One: Lady Jade gesturing toward the apparatus.

Lady Jade: Perhaps you'll change your mind after you witness the efficiency of the Bio-Pulse Bomb!

Panel Two: Lady Jade caresses the bomb.

Lady Jade: The BioPulse is similar to the EM pulse generated by nuclear weapons, but finely tuned to disrupt only the bio-electric impulses of living organisms. All of the delicate rhythms and processes -- heartbeat, respiration, thought itself -- are stopped. Death is virtually instantaneous!

Panel Three:We see Lady Jade in the foreground talking with Meisel in the background. But she is not looking toward him she is looking up and to her left -- toward the catwalk!

Meisel: Are you saying there's a nuke in that thing?!

Lady Jade: No! The pulse is generated by a laser-detonated, shaped-charge explosion! You set the radius by modulating the charges. You could kill everyone in an office instantly, without damaging anything! People in an adjacent office would hear and see nothing!

Panel Four: Lady Jade walks toward one of her henchmen.

Lady Jade: Properly-used, you could take over an entire military installation with all of its weaponry and security systems intact!

Panel Five: Looking over Argus' shoulder, we see Lady Jade take a pistol from her henchman and aim it straight at Argus.

Lady Jade: I don't know why you can not see that man on the catwalk, but I can hear his breathing! Unless he is one of yours, I suggest we kill him!

PAGE SIX (six panels)

Panel One: Looking over Lady Jade's shoulder, we see Argus flipping over the railing from the catwalk as everybody with a firearm starts blasting at him!

Argus (thinking): Got to get to the breaker box!

Panel Two: Amidst a hail of gunfire, Argus dives, slamming his nunchakas into the breaker box and tearing it off the wall!

Panel Three: We see blackness, punctuated byswirls of red and yellow representing the thermal signatures of the combatants. The gunfire has stopped.

Argus (thinking): Blessed darkness! I'm all but invisible! Now if Meisel would just stumble into some of those live wires!

Panel Four: We see Argus using the nunchakas to flatten one of Lady Jade's henchmen.

Argus (thinking): This may not be sporting, but it gets the job done!

Panel Five: Argus punches one of Meisel's men. Off to one side, we see a crouching figure, pointing a gun at Argus.

Argus (thinking): Got to take these guys out before the emergency power supply cuts in!

Panel Six: Same view, as the crouching figure speaks, and fires! Argus is slammed backward!

Lady Jade: You should try not to breathe so heavily!

Display Lettering: BANG!

PAGE SEVEN (five panels)

Panel One: Argus lurches behind a stack of crates. His left arm is hanging at an awkward angle.

Argus (thinking): My kevlar armor kept that shot from killing me, but it feels like the impact may have busted my shoulder! I have to lay low.

Panel Two: The emergency lights come on. We see Lady Jade (holding the pistol in one hand, her cane in the other) talking with one of her henchmen.

Henchman: Meisel and his men are running. Shall I -

Lady Jade: No, there is no time.

Panel Three: Argus has found a set of rungs in the wall which lead to the catwalk. Dimly, in the background we can see him climbing, without using his left arm. In the foreground, Lady Jade is gesturing at the BioPulse Bomb.

Lady Jade: We must remove the bomb before the authorities get here! We will find other buyers!

Panel Four: Argus has reached the catwalk. Over his shoulder we watch the unmarked truck back into the loading dock. Two of Lady Jade's henchmen are preparing the bomb to be moved. Another is just getting up, rubbing his head.

Argus (thinking): I just hope it's around here, lady. 'Cause you owe me! Now, where did Meisel get to?!

Panel Five: The henchmen slam the door on the truck as Argus begins climbing back up toward the service entrance on the roof.

Argus (thinking): I should be able to spot his body heat from the rooftop!

PAGE EIGHT (four panels)

Panel One: Argus on the rooftop, looking over the edge of the building, sees Meisel and his gunmen getting into their car. One of the gunmen is helping the other, who is still groggy from getting bashed.

Meisel: C'mon, let's get outta here!

Argus (thinking): Don't be impatient Meisel -- you aren't going very far!

Panel Two: Same viewpoint, now we are looking up the road to the gate, where the Continental is leaving.

Argus (thinking): Wish I had time to try to follow Lady Jade and that bomb, but I'm scheduled to be the master of ceremonies at an assassination, and I wouldn't want 'em to start without me!

Panel Three: Argus leaps from the rooftop and vaults the razor-wire.

Argus (thinking): Have to get my Kovak duds back on. Good thing the feeling's coming back in my arm, or getting dressed could get complicated!

Panel Four: In the woods, we see Argus changing back into his Kovak garb.

Kovak (thinking): Too many unresolved issues in this life for me! Lady Jade and her fancy bomb made off before I could stop 'em, and now the sting has to end just short of it's ultimate goal. Unless I turn murderer.

PAGE NINE (six panels)

Panel One: Meisner is kneeling and handcuffed, Zaleski is standing over him with a gun. In the background, Kovak comes out of the woods, carrying his duffel bag.

Kovak: I walked five miles looking for some way through that fence! Did I miss anything?

Zaleski: Not yet! Meisner and his boys came out a few minutes ago. It's time to bring this to a big finish, Nick.

Panel Two: Same view, only now Kovak is in the foreground with Zaleski.

Kovak: I agree. Can I use your automatic?

Zaleski: Why, you lose the revolver?

Panel Three: Close-up on Kovak as he reaches in the duffel bag.

Kovak: Nah, I think I put it in here -

Panel Four: Pull back to the same angle as panel two, as Kovak pulls the nunchakas from the duffel bag and uses them to disarm Zaleski. In his left hand he holds the revolver.

Kovak: Nobody move - you're all under arrest!

Panel Five: From above, we see Kovak talking on a cell phone while holding a pistol on six kneeling captives (Meisel, Zaleski, Ricci, Richards and both of Meisel's gunmen).

Kovak: Yeah, Marty tell 'em to send a wagon, we got a big load of small-fry.

Panel Six: Close-up of Kovak on the cell phone.

Kovak: Yes, it woulda been nice to keep it going. This wasn't the grand finale we wanted. But how often do you get a perfect ending? Everything comes to an end sometime. We can live with this.

PAGE TEN (five panels)

Panel One: Kelly, behind the wheel of Kovak's car, talking on the cell phone as he drives. The window of the car is up.

Caption: EPILOGUE: The rhythms of life are many and complex and sometimes fatal.

Kovak: I'm bringing the car in now, Marty. Just a couple of things to do and I should be there within the hour.

Kovak (thinking): Once I get my Argus duds securely stashed somewhere else!

Panel Two: View from above as the car begins to cross a large bridge. Kelly is no longer speaking on the phone.

Caption: These fatal rhythms can take a man who has survived gunfire and alien attacks and end his time on-stage without warning, without apparant cause.

Kelly (singing): These are the days of miracles and wonders, this is the long-distance call….

Panel Three: Suddenly the car in front of Kovak swerves in front of him, forcing him off the bridge and through the guard rail.

Caption: A few hundred pounds of metal, an unsignalled lane change, metal fatigue in a dangerous place -- innocent elements in a tragic syncopation.

Kovak: Oh Lord!

Panel Four: The offending vehicle speeds on, as Kovak's car plummets into the river.

Caption: An injured arm, a jammed door, and a knockout blow from a rearview mirror -- such small elements ….

Panel Five: Close up on Kovak, bleeding from the head and unconscious as the car fills with water.

Caption:Can bring the rhythm of an heroic life to an unforseen and undeserved end.

End

All characters are ™ DC Comics
"alt.showcase.94" concept by Joel Ellis Rea.
This story is © 1999 by Robert Lee.


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