Ext. Basecamp, forest boundary, Ground Zero, Day.
Albertan and Kamon have set up their tent at the edge of the camp, along the dark green wall of forest. Kamon is on his laptop, writing notes. Albertan stands at a table, eyes glued to a microscope.
Nova walks towards their tent, a smile on her face. She watches Albertan work, his brow furrowed, his glasses foggy. Her vision is obstructed as Dr Glynn walks in front of her.
Ms La Flor.
Dr Glynn – can I help you with something?
Yes, as a matter of fact, I need clearance for the compact synchrotron.
That’s a sizeable instrument, Dr Glynn. Shouldn’t you have had clearance before we departed the ship?
I didn’t know I needed it until we touched down.
Well, I’ll have to speak with Dr O’valim. She’s still on the Orbitus Kaltrone. I can reach her on the radio.
If you don’t mind. It’s quite pressing.
Albertan notices Dr Glynn speaking with Nova. He looks suspicious. Dr Glynn glances back at their tent.
Is that …
Albertan looks over to Kamon. Kamon is agitated, half sitting, half standing by his table, pointing to the back of the open tent. There is a rustle in the forest wall and a pair of green eyes appear in the shadows. They blink.
Albertan pauses and takes in a sharp breath. He looks at the eyes peering back at him. A slow smile creeps over his face.
Kamon, close the front of the tent. Get your stuff.
What if someone notices?
We’ll just have to be quick.
[Anxiously looking out at camp]
Albertan, you can’t be serious.
Albertan moves to the bushes, without looking back.
Okay, well, you’re serious.
Ext. Forest, Ground Zero, Day.
The creature backs away as the two men approach. Its face resembles that of a human, though it’s covered in tufts of orange and brown fur. It stands on two legs, with long arms and a large chest, alert eyes, a small head and a powerful body. There are a few scars running along one of its arms, and it instinctively puts up a hand to the invaders in warning, but it is not aggressive. It sniffs the air in the men’s direction.
Albertan has tears in his eyes. He looks the creature up and down, squeezing his gloved hands and rubbing his face. Everything, his research, his life’s work has come to this moment.
Look at him, Kamon, look at him. The similarities. The eyes – so human. I knew it. I knew the data wouldn’t lie.
He’s on two legs.
Biomechanical adaption – see his foot arch? He’s a mammal. Five fingers, five toes. Teeth are slightly small, but he has the right shaped incisors. Maxillary and mandibular canines … he’s a meat-eater. He’ll have the genes.
Albertan reaches out a shaky hand. Behind him, he waves to get Kamon’s attention. Kamon unclips a small metal case to reveal a syringe with clear liquid. He hands it to Albertan.
Albertan stretches out one of his hands and inches forward. The animal looks to Albertan’s hand, unaware of the syringe. He reaches his own hairy hand out.
Behavioural mimicry … indicates conscious thought.
Their fingers touch and eyes meet. Albertan lets out a small breath. The creature tilts its head in curiosity.
Albertan’s face shuts down. He reaches around with his other hand and stabs the creature with the syringe. The animal whimpers and crumbles to the ground, unconscious.
DR GLYNN (O.S)
What are you doing?
Dr Glynn stands behind the men, eyes wide. Her clipboard has fallen on the dirt beside her. She reaches down with trembling hands to retrieve it, caking her blue fingernails with mud.
Kamon goes to speak, but Albertan gets in first.
Cluney. Take a moment before you decide to forfeit the greatest scientific breakthrough our kind has ever seen. What you will be witness to – nay, partake in, will revolutionise the way we view science and the world around us. We are at the doorstep of something unimaginable.
Open the door. Become the scientist we both know you crave to be.
Dr Glynn’s face is blank. Albertan shifts from one foot to the other. Sweat collects on Kamon’s forehead, as he looks between Albertan and Dr Glynn.
I know you respect what we do in research. You are an asset to our department. Imagine all the people we could help if we put some of Albertan’s theories into practice. This is more than just science. It’s bigger than us. You will see what the others won’t.
Kamon takes a step forward, but Albertan puts a hand to his chest to stop him.
Dr Glynn’s hands have stopped trembling; she holds her clipboard against her chest and stands tall. She looks to Kamon and then the animal on the ground.
Well. You’ll never pull this off without me.
I see that now.
Ext. Basecamp, forest boundary, Ground Zero, Day.
Albertan, Kamon and Dr Glynn walk through basecamp carrying a stretcher with the creature – still unconscious – wrapped in an olive-coloured tarp. Between the three of them, they manage to weave through the crowded basecamp without alerting the military.
They try to slip past Dr Rune and Dr Fallon, who are chatting beside a food buffet.
Luckily there’s enough room for Agriculture’s sample range. I was worried when they were sectioning off the site – hey you three! What have you got there?
[Calls over his shoulder]
[To Dr Rune]
Just like Albertan to find his samples within the first few hours. Lucky bastard.
Hmm. Lucky bastard.
They continue on and reach one of the Pods. Dr Glynn puts down her side of the stretcher to open the Pod door. They hear muffled sounds and voices, and the three freeze. Dr Glynn holds a finger to her lips.
Captain Pae and Lieutenant Moreau are walking behind the Pods. They stop just one step short of seeing Albertan, Kamon and Dr Glynn.
Captain. I’ve personally looked over the drone data multiple times. My team have surveyed the area and there looks to be no intelligent life thus far, save for the native insects and reptiles.
Thank you, Lieutenant.
Captain. May I speak out of term?
You don’t sound convinced.
I trust my gut, Lieutenant. And my gut is telling me that we may have prematurely landed on Ground Zero. Major Lovas has put her trust in us to complete this mission. Terra 4.0 depends on us.
We should return to camp.
Lieutenant Moreau and Captain Pae turn around the way they came and follow the dirt track back to basecamp.
CADET JEWEL-BIRD (O.S)
You need to declare that.
Cadet Jewel-Bird is standing next to Albertan, Kamon and Dr Glynn. The three jump and stare blankly back at her in response.
That giant sample you have wrapped up in the tarp. Did you want to take it back to the Orbitus Kaltrone now, or later this evening?
Now. I think now.
Do you have a pilot? Have you taken down your Research tent?
[Looks at Albertan]
No and no.
I can fly you back. I’ll just need to confirm with the Lieutenant. You need to fill out these forms first.
As she hands over some paper forms, she attempts to look under the tarp.
ALBERTAN, KAMON, DR GLYNN
Jewel-bird looks sceptical.
JB. You’ll contaminate the sample.
I’m wearing gloves.
Cadet. I have a confidentiality agreement with Major Lovas and Captain Pae for my research. By all means, go and confirm with them now, but I wouldn’t want it to seem as though you are not aware of the ins and outs of the scientific studies happening under your own nose.
Cadet Jewel-Bird is taken aback. She glares at Albertan and then Kamon, before huffing.
I’ll confirm my flight plan with Lieutenant Moreau now then.
She storms off, visibly angry.
Kamon looks over to Albertan.
Could you have gotten me in any deeper shit?
I’ll take down the tent. I’m pretty sure Nova is bringing down equipment from the mothership for me. We’d best not be seen together, unless we want suspicions to be raised. We’re in this together now, gentlemen.
Dr Glynn walks away.
I can’t believe she’s involved.
I think Dr Glynn will be an asset to our experiment.
Oh, shut up, Art.