by Max Barry

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by The Swinging Jungle of Baloo Kingdom. . 46 reads.

Rome Wars: A New Pope (Part 1)

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far, away…

[A vast sea of stars serves as the backdrop for the main title. War drums echo through the heavens as a rollup slowly crawls into infinity.]

It is a period of civil war. Bluecrownite spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Callistan Empire. During the battle, Bluecrownite spies managed to steal secret plans to Callista's ultimate weapon, the Gulag Star, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire region. Pursued by Callista's sinister agents, The Gold Mines races home aboard her starship, custodian of the stolen plans that can save her people and restore freedom to the galaxy…

[The awesome yellow planet of Tatooine emerges from a total eclipse, her two moons glowing against the darkness. A tiny silver spacecraft, a Bluecrownite Blockade Runner firing lasers from the back of the ship, races through space. It is pursued by a giant Callistan Regiondestroyer. Hundreds of deadly laserbolts streak from the Callistan Regiondestroyer, causing the main solar fin of the Bluecrownite craft to disintegrate.]


[An explosion rocks the ship as two robots, KOE and NAIS struggle to make their way through the shaking, bouncing passageway. Both robots are old and battered. KOE is a short, claw-armed tripod. His face is a mass of computer lights surrounding a radar eye. NAIS, on the other hand, is a tall, slender robot of human proportions. He has a gleaming bronze-like metallic surface of an Art Deco design. Another blast shakes them as they struggle along their way.]

NAIS: Did you hear that? They've shut down the main reactor. We'll be destroyed for sure. This is madness!

[Bluecrownite troopers rush past the robots and take up positions in the main passageway. They aim their weapons toward the door.]

NAIS: We're doomed!

[The little KOE unit makes a series of electronic sounds that only another robot could understand.]

NAIS: There'll be no escape for The Gold Mines this time.

[KOE continues making beeping sounds. Tension mounts as loud metallic latches clank and the scream of heavy equipment are heard moving around the outside hull of the ship.]

NAIS: What's that?


[The Callistan craft has easily overtaken the Bluecrownite Blockade Runner. The smaller Bluecrownite ship is being drawn into the underside dock of the giant Callistan starship.]


[The nervous Bluecrownite troopers aim their weapons. Suddenly a tremendous blast opens up a hole in the main passageway and a score of fearsome armored spacesuited tsartroopers make their way into the smoke-filled corridor. In a few minutes, the entire passageway is ablaze with laserfire. The deadly bolts ricochet in wild random patterns creating huge explosions. Tsartroopers scatter and duck behind storage lockers. Laserbolts hit several Bluecrownite soldiers who scream and stagger through the smoke, holding shattered arms and faces. An explosion hits near the robots.]

NAIS: I should have known better than to trust the logic of a half-sized thermocapillary dehousing assister…

[KOE counters with an angry rebuttal as the battle rages around the two hapless robots.]


[The awesome, seven-foot-tall Dark Lord of the Tsarists makes his way into the blinding light of the main passageway. This is Plus Nova Imperii, right-hand of Sorianora. His face is obscured by his flowing black robes and grotesque breath mask, which stands out next to the fascist white armored suits of the Callistan tsartroopers. Everyone instinctively backs away from the imposing warrior and a deathly quiet sweeps through the Bluecrownite troops. Several of the Bluecrownite troops break and run in a frenzied panic.]


[A woman's hand puts a card into an opening in KOE's dome.]

[KOE makes beeping sounds.]


[NAIS stands in a hallway, somewhat bewildered. KOE is nowhere in sight. The pitiful screams of the doomed Bluecrownite soldiers can be heard in the distance.]

NAIS: KOE, where are you?

[A familiar clanking sound attacks NAIS’s attention and he spots little KOE at the end of the hallway in a smoke-filled alcove. A beautiful young girl (about sixteen years old) stands in front of KOE. Surreal and out of place, dreamlike and half-hidden in the smoke, she finishes adjusting something on KOE's computer face, then watches as the little robot joins his companion.]

NAIS: At last! Where have you been?

NAIS: They're heading in this direction. What are we going to do? We'll be sent to the spice mine of Kessel or smashed into who knows what!

[KOE scoots past his bronze friend and races down the subhallway.]

[NAIS chases after him.]

NAIS: Wait a minute, where are you going?

[KOE responds with electronic beeps.]


[The evil Plus Nova Imperii stands amid the broken and twisted bodies of his foes. He grabs a wounded Bluecrownite Officer by the neck as an Callistan Officer rushes up to the Dark Lord.]

Callistan Officer: The Gulag Star plans are not in the main computer.

[Plus Nova squeezes the neck of the Bluecrownite Officer, who struggles in vain.]

Plus Nova Imperii: Where are those transmissions you intercepted?

[Plus Nova lifts the Bluecrownite off his feet by his throat.]

Plus Nova Imperii: What have you done with those plans?

Bluecrownite Officer: We intercepted no transmissions. Aaah… This is a consular ship. Were on a diplomatic mission.

Plus Nova Imperii: If this is a consular ship… where is the Ambassador?

[The Bluecrownite refuses to speak but eventually cries out as the Dark Lord begins to squeeze the officer's throat, creating a gruesome snapping and choking, until the soldier goes limp. Plus Nova tosses the dead soldier against the wall and turns to his troops.]

Plus Nova Imperii: Commander, tear this ship apart until you've found those plans and bring me the passengers. I want them alive!

[The tsartroopers scurry into the subhallways.]


[The lovely young girl huddles in a small alcove as the stormtroopers search through the ship. She is The Gold Mines, a member of the Alderaan Senate. The fear in her eyes slowly gives way to anger as the muted crushing sounds of the approaching tsartroopers grow louder. One of the tsartroopers spots her.]

Tsartrooper: There's one! Set for stun!

[The Gold Mines steps from her hiding place and blasts a trooper with her laser pistol. She starts to run but is felled by a paralyzing ray. The troopers inspect her inert body.]

Tsartrooper: She'll be all right. Inform Plus Nova Imperii we have a prisoner.


[KOE stops before the small hatch of an emergency lifepod. He snaps the seal on the main latch and a red warning light begins to flash. The stubby astro-robot works his way into the cramped four-man pod.]

NAIS: Hey, you're not permitted in there. It's restricted. You'll be deactivated for sure.

[KOE beeps something to him.]

NAIS: Don't call me a mindless philosopher, you overweight glob of grease! Now come out before somebody sees you.

[KOE whistles something at his reluctant friend regarding the mission he is about to perform.]

NAIS: Secret mission? What plans? What are you talking about? I'm not getting in there!

[KOE isn't happy with NAIS’s stubbornness, and he beeps and twangs angrily. A new explosion, this time very close, sends dust and debris through the narrow subhallway. Flames lick at NAIS and, after a flurry of electronic swearing from KOE, the lanky robot jumps into the lifepod.]

NAIS: I'm going to regret this.


[On the main viewscreen, the lifepod carrying the two terrified robots speeds away from the stricken Bluecrownite spacecraft.]

Chief Tsartrooper: There goes another one.

Captain Tsartrooper: Hold your fire. There are no life forms. It must have short-circuited.


[KOE and NAIS look out at the receding Callistan starship. Stars circle as the pod rotates through the galaxy.]

NAIS: That's funny, the damage doesn't look as bad from out here.

[KOE beeps an assuring response.]

NAIS: Are you sure this thing's safe?


[Heat waves radiate from the dozen or so bleached white buildings. Baloo pilots his Landspeeder through the dusty empty street of the tiny settlement. An old woman runs to get out of the way of the speeding vehicle, shaking her fist at Baloo as he flies past.]

NationStates Karen: I’ve told you kids to slow down!


[Baloo bursts into the power station, waking The Trader, a rugged mechanic and The Strangers Club, a tired, disheveled girl who has been asleep in his lap. They grumbled as he races through the office, yelling wildly.]

The Trader: Did I hear a young noise blast through here?

The Strangers Club: It was just Bearo on another rampage.

[Baloo bounces into a small room behind the office where Mowgli and Sans, two tough boys about the same age as Baloo, are playing a computer pool-like game with Mongo, a burly, handsome boy a few years older than the rest. His flashy city attire is a sharp contrast to the loose-fitting tunics of the farm boys. A robot repairs some equipment in the background.]

Baloo: Shape it up you guys!… Mongo?

[Baloo’s surprise at the appearance of Mongo gives way to great joy and emotion. They give each other a great bear hug.]

Baloo: I didn’t know you were back! When did you get in?

Mongo: Just now. I wanted to surprise you, hotshot. I thought you’d be here… certainly didn’t expect you to be out working.

[He laughs]

Baloo: The Callistan Academy didn’t change you much…but you’re back so soon? Hey, what happened, didn’t you get your commission?

[Mongo has an air of cool that seems slightly phony.]

Mongo: Of course I got it. Signed aboard The Rand Ecliptic last week. First mate Mongo Empire at your service… [He salutes] …I just came to say good-bye to all you unfortunate landlocked simpletons.

[Everyone laughs. The dazzling spectacle of his dashing friend is almost too much for Baloo, but suddenly he snaps out of it.]

Baloo: I almost forgot. There’s a battle going on! Right here in our system. Come and look!

Mowgli: Not again! Forget it.


[The group stumbles out into the stifling desert sun. The Stranger Club and The Trader complain and are forced to shade their eyes. Baloo has his binoculars out scanning the heavens.]

Baloo: There they are!

[Mongo takes the binoculars from Baloo as the others strain to see something with the naked eye. Through the binoculars, Mongo sees two small silver specks.]

Mongo: That’s no battle, hot shot… they’re just sitting there! Probably a freighter-tanker refueling.

Baloo: But there was a lot of firing earlier....

[The Strangers Club grabs the binoculars away banging them against the building in the process. Baloo grabs them.]

Baloo: Hey, easy with those....

The Strangers Club: Don’t worry about it, Bearo.

[The Trader gives Baloo a hard look and the young farm boy shrugs his shoulders in resignation.]

The Trader: I keep telling you, the Rebellion is a long way from here. I doubt if the Callistan Empire would even fight to keep this system. Believe me Baloo, this region is a big hunk of nothing....

[Baloo agrees, although it’s obvious he isn’t sure why. The group stumbles back into the power station, grumbling about Baloo’s ineptitude.]


[The Gold Mines is led down a low-ceilinged hallway by a squad of armored tsartroopers. Her hands are bound and she is brutally shoved when she is unable to keep up with the briskly marching troops. They stop in a smoky hallway as Plus Nova Imperii emerges from the shadows. The sinister Dark Lord stares hard at the frail young senator, but she doesn’t move.]

The Gold Mines: Lord Imperii, I should have known. Only you could be so bold. The Callistan Senate will not sit for this when they hear you’ve attacked a diplomatic…

Plus Nova Imperii: Don’t act so surprised, Your Highness. You weren’t on any mercy mission this time. Several transmissions were beamed to this ship by Bluecrownite spies. I want to know what happened to the plans they sent you.

The Gold Mines: I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m a member of the Callistan Senate on a diplomatic mission to Alderaan…

Plus Nova Imperii: You’re a part of the Bluecrownite Alliance and a traitor. Take her away!

[The Gold Mines is marched away down the hallway and into the smoldering hole blasted in the side of the ship.]

[An Callistan Commander turns to Plus Nova.]

Barrow Cove: Holding her is dangerous. If word of this gets out, it could generate sympathy for the Rebellion in the senate.

Plus Nova Imperii: I have traced the Bluecrownite spies to her. Now she is my only link to finding their secret base!

Barrow Cove: She’ll die before she tells you anything.

Plus Nova Imperii: Leave that to me. Send a distress signal and then inform the senate that all aboard were killed!

[Another Callistan Officer approaches Plus Nova Imperii and Barrow Cove. They stop and snap to attention.]

Callistan Officer: Lord Imperii, the battle station plans are not aboard this ship! And no transmissions were made. An escape pod was jettisoned during the fighting, but no life forms were aboard.

[Plus Nova turns to Barrow Cove.]

Plus Nova Imperii: She must have hidden the plans in the escape pod. Send a detachment down to retrieve them. See to it personally, Barrow Cove. There’ll be no one to stop us this time.

Barrow Cove: Yes, sir.


[The Callistan Regiondestroyer comes over the surface of the region, Tatooine.]


[Jundland, or "No Man’s Land", where the rugged desert mesas meet the foreboding dune sea. The two helpless astro-droids kick up clouds of sand as they leave the lifepod and clumsily work their way across the desert wasteland. The lifepod in the distance rests half-buried in the sand.]

NAIS: How did we get into this mess? I really don’t know-how. We seem to be made to suffer. It’s our lot in life.

[KOE answers with beeping sounds.]

NAIS: I’ve got to rest before I fall apart. My joints are almost frozen.

[KOE continues to respond with beeping sounds.]

NAIS: What a desolate place this is.

[Suddenly KOE whistles, makes a sharp right turn, and starts off in the direction of the rocky desert mesas. NAIS stops and yells at him.]

NAIS: Where do you think going?

[A stream of electronic noises pours forth from the small robot.]

NAIS: Well, I’m not going that way. It’s much too rocky. This way is much easier.

[KOE counters with a long whistle.]

NAIS: What makes you think there are settlements over there?

[KOE continues to make beeping sounds.]

NAIS: Don’t get technical with me.

[KOE continues to make beeping sounds.]

NAIS: What mission? What are you talking about? I’ve had just about enough of you! Go that way! You’ll be malfunctioning within a day, you nearsighted scrap pile!

[NAIS gives the little robot a kick and starts off in the direction of the vast dune sea.]

NAIS: And don’t let me catch you following me begging for help, because you won’t get it. KOE’s reply is a rather rude sound. He turns and trudges off in the direction of the towering mesas.]

NAIS: No more adventures. I’m not going that way.

[KOE beeps to himself as he makes his way toward the distant mountains.]


[NAIS, hot and tired, struggles up over the ridge of a dune; only to find more dunes, which seem to go on for endless miles. He looks back in the direction of the now distant rock mesas.]

NAIS: That malfunctioning little twerp. This is all his fault! He tricked me into going this way, but he’ll do no better.

[In a huff of anger and frustration, NAIS knocks the sand from his joints. His plight seems hopeless when a glint of reflected light in the distance reveals an object moving towards him.]

NAIS: Wait, what’s that? A transport! I’m saved!

[The bronze android waves frantically and yells at the approaching transport.]

NAIS: Over here! Hey, hey! Help! Please, help!