Melanie Anne Phillips
Travis and the Flood
(To read earlier chapters visit the
Dry Spell Table of Contents)
EXT BASE CAMP DAY
Close shot of a skull embedded in a clay outcropping. A face (DR. EVELYN KATES/KATIE) moves into frame behind the skull and peers intently at the fossil. In her mid thirties and pretty in a natural, earthy manner, Katie's intelligent eyes reflect the fire of her striking red hair. Still in close shot she raises a camel hair brush and carefully dusts off the crumbling bones with practiced grace. A FIGURE appears in the background, waits for a break in her routine, then speaks.
Katie turns her gaze to FRANK RUTLEDGE, in his late forties, who more than resembles an overweight auto mechanic except for his eyes which betray a keen and intelligent mind.
Can't it wait?
You know me better than that.
Right, Frank, right. What's the problem?
HARD CUT TO:
INT COMMAND TENT DAY
We pull back from a portable short wave system, as Katie sits down in front of it, listening to the distorted voice coming over the speaker.
Half the gear got left in the tunnel. The rest is water damaged.
Katie pushes the 'talk' button on the microphone.
What about Shannon and Peterson?
Not a clue. It's like they just took off and left everything behind.
Could they be hurt somewhere below?
No, we checked that out from one end to the other. They probably just got surprised by the water and ran for higher ground. All we found below were mummifies remains in what looks like a burial chamber.
It would've been quite a find if it hadn't gotten flooded out.
Yeah. Seems they were shooting video and left the recorder on. It'll have to be dried out, but we got the tape.
Katie darts a meaningful glance at Frank.
All right. Stay where you are. I'll send the boat for you.
Katie walks over to the planning table where a map lays unrolled. Frank joins her at the table. The map is a large copy of the one Jack and Barney were using with an obvious addition: This map shows a large dam labeled Geyser City Geothermal Plant, behind which an area is filled in with blue crayon. Several black, dated lines advance progressively back from the dam indicating how far back the water has risen. The farthest area back is labeled August 17.
Frank points to the spot, several inches from the blue.
I don't get it. The surface water shouldn't have risen that far for another two or three days.
The incoming call buzzer rings on the short wave. Frank picks it up, using the earphone so as not to disturb Katie's train of thought.
Rutledge... Hold on a minute.
Frank flips the switch from 'phones' to 'spkr'. He calls to Katie.
She breaks off from her train of thought and looks over to Kevin who pushes the talk button.
Okay. Give it to me again.
This is Latham out at P-28-Zebra. Something must be wrong on the map, were under three feet of water out here.
Katie takes the microphone from Frank.
This is Dr. Kates. Anybody hurt?
No we're okay... wet, but okay.
Was it flooded when you got there?
That's the thing of it. We were just setting up for a core sample when the water comes rushing sown the gully. We thought it might be some kind of freaky flash flood, but it just kept coming. You better check it out on that map of yours cause something's screwy someplace.
Okay, Latham. Why don't you pack it in for the day. We'll try to figure it out from here.
Right. Latham out.
Katie puts the microphone back and turns to Frank who's already back at the table.
Already got it.
She looks at the point Frank has circled. It is roughly the same distance from the, blue, just farther along the line. Her face hardens in realization.
From outside a shout calls their attention.
VOICE #2 (O.S.)
Hey! Everybody outside!
Katie and Frank exchange a questioning glance, then run for the door.
EXT BASE CAMP DAY
Katie burst into the sunlight just in time to see a torrent of water splash down a gully and into the middle of the camp. Instantly, equipment is knocked over, sample jars are crashed to the ground and then swept away by the water. Tents collapse, electronic gear shorts out. The dozen crew members in camp run in pandemonium, half trying to salvage what they can, half trying to keep from drowning.
Oh, my God.
Frank runs right into the rush of swift water grabbing sample cased, photographs, gear, and anything else he can carry. Surprisingly, Katie runs up to the edge of the water and stops, almost as if she hit a wall. Always staying on dry land, she gathers what she can, constantly making sure she stays ahead of the oncoming flow.
Suddenly, Katie remembers the skull she had been working on. The water is almost upon it. Dropping everything she was holding, she races toward the fossil, but just as she reaches it, the water runs over it, eroding the supportive clay. She could easily reach out and grab it, but instead she stands back, frantically watching as the skull breaks loose and is washed away in the depths of the rising water. For a moment, Katie just stares into the flood as if her thoughts are drowning there as well. Then, breaking free of some inner world, Katie stands and shouts to the others.
Get everything to high ground. Save the samples first.
She looks around helplessly as weeks of work get washed away.
EXT LAKE ISLAND DAY
The small island is merely a high point in the basin that has not yet become submerged. Consisting of a score of boulders in a pile, the dry area is no more than fifteen feet in diameter and possesses no life other thant he scrub pine whose roots delve deep into cracks in the rock and the mid sized bass that is swimming hungrily around the ever shrinking edge of the island looking for drowning bugs.
The fish enters a small pond, actually a miniature bay, with a narrow mouth. The feeding is good here, and the ravenous bass gorges itself.
The lake surface is slightly wind whipped, and small waves have been breaking on the shore of the island and at the edge of the pond. This time as the wave breaks to trough, the level of the pond remains constant; the water in the mouth of the entrance refusing to go down and forming something of a liquid wall.
Having completed its meal, the bass turns to exit the pond but shies away from the entrance at the last moment. Somewhat agitated, the fish makes another pass, aborting again just before reaching the narrow mouth of the pond.
Visible by the movement of pine needles bushed out of the way, the WATER sends an 'arm' out of its main body toward the fish. The bass races from side to side, finding itself in an increasingly enclosed space. Finally, with the fish cornered into a tiny sub-puddle, the WATER rushes forward to strike.
EXT POND UNDERWATER DAY
The pine needles, drifting slowly to the bottom, and other impurities are shoved aside by the clear area of WATER as it thrusts toward the bass that fills our foreground. The fish is caught, shuddering involuntarily as if hit with an electric current. Before our eyes the fish shrivels into a pruned mockery of itself as its scaly skin tightens around its little fishy bones.
EXT LAKE ISLAND DAY
The small 'wall' of water gives way and allows the pond to regain an even level. In close shot, we follow the WATER as it moves toward the open lake. The ripples pass a pictograph etched in the rock. CAMERA stops to reveal the same image of the Thunderbird that was drawn in U-35-C. As the bass floats along with the current, a hand reaches into our close frame without warning and grabs the fish from the water.
JAMES DONOVAN, bearded, bespectacled, and looking much younger than his twenty eight years lifts the fish up to his face for a closer examination. He carefully lifts the gill flap back to check for disease, but the fishes head crumbles and falls off at his touch, just like the mummified chiefs in the chamber. Donovan jumps back, startled, and nearly drops the rest of the bass. He over-compensates and squeezes too hard, poking his fingers through the brittle scales into the belly of the fish. His face distorted by the putrid scene, Donovan flips open a plastic sample bag from his belt pack and carefully seals the crumbling fish inside.
He pulls the back off a pre-printed self-stick label and as he pieces it on the bag we read: ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY - FIELD SAMPLE.
EXT GEOTHERMAL PLANT DAY
Looking much like a brand new refinery, the expansive pipelines of the Geyser City Geothermal Plant stretch across the dark lava flows like a silver spider on an inky black night. Still and all, the most outstanding feature of the facility is the massive, 700 foot dam that blocks a natural break in the lava wall, and holds back the annual flood waters that flow down from the highlands of the "Mesa of Ghosts".
The dam itself is central to the overall complex with a plethora of stainless steel tanks and buildings lining either shore. At present, the water level is well below the top of the dam and, indicated by depth markings on the side of a tower planted just behind the dam, has quite a distance to go before it reaches its intended volume. Further, scaffolding and construction equipment remain in position on and around the dam, giving the unmistakable impression that the project is just reaching completion.
A series of dynamic static shots reveal the power and size of the structure. For symbolism one shot features a wildflower growing up through a crack in a heap of concrete slag. Rack focusing through the flower, we reveal a trail of dust spearheaded by the glint of a jeep bouncing up the access road to the plant like a shot.
INT JEEP DAY
Driving like a woman possessed, Katie whips the jeep over the irregular surface with no obvious efforts on behalf of automotive safety. She speaks aloud in controlled tones that serve to focus her anger much like a meditative chant.
I'm going to get you Travis, you bastard. There isn't a sink hole deep enough I won't find you, you son of a bitch. . . .
EXT MAIN GATE DAY
The jeep approaches the main gate to the plant, labeled as such by a sign. A guard leaves his office and starts toward the gate to intercept the jeep. Katie, however, does not slow down. Comprehension dawns on the guards face just in time for him to dive out of the way as the car smashes through the gate without slowing. The guard runs for the phone in the guardhouse as the jeep darts up the road.
INT TRAVIS' OFFICE DAY
We frame a close shot looking across the top of Travis' desk through the large window in the office wall that shows us the approach to the office building. A nameplate is in the foreground is inscribed, "Gerrold Travis - Plant Supervisor". A 5x7 framed photograph shows a hunter in flannel shirt and cap with ear flaps holding a dead rabbit in one hand and a shot gun in the other. A phone resides just behind. It rings. The shot remains static as a hand reaches in, picks up the receiver and lifts it out of frame.
Travis. . . . When?
At that moment, Katie's jeep pulls into view through the window. The vehicle skids to a halt in the dirt and Katie leaps out, full of fury.
Yeah, she's here now. . . . No, I'll take care of it myself.
The phone is returned to the cradle as Katie leaves view in the window.
INT OUTER OFFICE DAY
The RECEPTIONIST jumps as the door is thrown open by Katie.
Mr. Travis is out for the day, Dr. Kates. If you want to make an appointment. . . .
Listen, you little. . . .
Just then Travis, in his early forties with the pot belly that usually grows on an outdoorsman after several years behind a desk, appears in the hall and interrupts.
It's okay, Debbie. Get yourself some coffee.
Yeah, Debbie. Get yourself some coffee.
The receptionist looks from Travis to Katie and back again, then gets up and leaves.
Something on your mind?
You've got one shot, Travis, and it better be good.
Travis indicates the room he appeared from. They walk down the hall. Katie goes in first. Travis follows, closing the door behind him.
INT TRAVIS' OFFICE DAY
Travis grabs a coffee cup and pours himself a mug adorned with a topless figure. A centerfold calendar adorns the back of the door.
Why did you close the spillway?
Don't push me, sister.
Get to the point.
Not that it's any of your business, but we hit an uncharted aquifer and had to raise the volume behind the dam to keep from developing a back flow.
Bull. You just want a little more steam for the big celebration.
Look, sweetheart, a geothermal plant is unstable at best, but we're doing something no one has done before, and there's no telling what's going to come up.
Travis winds up into what is obviously a well practiced sales pitch, gesturing at a small architect's model of the plant and its underlying geology.
We're priming our own geyser, so to speak. Capturing the runoff from desert storms, and letting it sink into the earth, charging a nearly perfect natural geothermal system that just needed a little more water.
Clean, non-polluting electric power from what used to be a destructive force. I think that's worth a little inconvenience.
Save it for the stockholders. You gave me your guarantee we'd have the rest of the week.
As long as it was feasible. It's just no longer feasible.
Look, Travis, there's five hundred years of history going down the drain out there. Five hundred years of the past we can never get back.
So who's going to miss it. A handful of scholastic misfits in a moth eaten archive?
Its our heritage, Travis; our heritage as human beings. It belongs to all of us. Even, God help us, you. Open the spillway for the rest of the week; two days even. Just enough time for us to get the most important material documented.
Listen, lady, you come busting in here, screaming your head off and demanding action like you owned the place. I wouldn't open that spillway now if you found the Dead Sea Scrolls!
And what about the twenty people I've got in the field? You didn't even give them a warning. I've still got two people who haven't reported in.
Yeah, well, I guess I just forgot.
You just forgot? Well, maybe you'll remember this!
She reaches over, grabs his hand and dumps the scalding coffee onto his crotch. He doubles over and rolls onto the floor while she storms out the door. The door slams and the centerfold calendar sways from side to side.
TO BE CONTINUED IN CHAPTER THREE:
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