Smile Fun With Captain Marvel

After writing my Captain Marvel trailer rundown I listened to some more commentary on the whole ridiculous ‘don’t tell women to smile’ thing. Among other things, apparently star Brie Larson personally responded to the ‘smiling Captain Marvel’ memes by going after the fans for being ‘sexist.’

If they’re not careful, “No Smiling” will be the film’s unofficial tagline.

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A lot of a film’s success is the attitude of the people involved, and if the lead actress feels the need to get angry at fans for poking fun at the trailer, then that’s really not a good sign. She could have played along, posted smiling pictures or herself, or said something like “man, they left out all the happy bits!” That would have caused the whole thing to be a net gain for the film and probably gotten a lot people who weren’t impressed by the trailer onboard. I’m sure someone like Dwayne Johnson or the ever graceful Gal Gadot would have done that, or at the very least have shrugged the whole thing off and gotten back to promoting their film.

In any case, I couldn’t resist having just a little more fun with the topic:

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(And for the record, my money is on the pony)

Indestructible

The irreplaceable Caroline Furlong of A Song of Joy shares music videos featuring two ear-catching song both titled ‘Indestructible.’ One of the songs I’m well familiar with and used it as the theme of one of my favorite Godzilla characters: the indomitable Anguirus, which I now present for your consideration. Enjoy!

(Apologies for poor video quality: this was before I’d ironed out the video-capture process)

Thrilling Adventure Stories Presents: The Lepus in ‘Road Work’

Author Note: The characters and setting of this story is one that I’ve been working on for years, and whipped this one up mostly as a fun means of practicing their voices and interactions. I present it for your consideration, with a request for feedback, especially as to the characters themselves. 

 

Not far from the small town of Mineral Springs, Colorado, a side-road ran down to a little wilderness beside a mountain stream. Picnickers, hikers, and young couples often came down to this little spot in fine weather to enjoy the view, the clean air, and the music of the water as it ran over its stony bed.

On one cloudy morning in August, when the weather was too hot for most people to be out there, you nevertheless would have found, had you gone down that road, a battered old camping van and two teenage boys sitting out in the oppressive heat.

One of the two, a long-limbed, gawky boy with curly brown hair and somewhat quizzical face, sat on a folding lawn chair reading under the shade of a tree. His friend, a skinny, freckled youth of average height and with eyes so dark they appeared uniformly black, stood by the side of the stream, throwing rocks across it. The stream was good fifteen feet across, and what was more he was aiming for a tree that stood an extra twenty or thirty feet back from the river’s edge. Yet the hefty stones with which he practiced more often than not soared straight past the tree, or else struck it with a crack that proclaimed they had considerably more travel time in them had they not been stopped.

“I definitely prefer this kind of environment,” said Harry Davila without looking up from his book. “I think close contact with real substances is much healthier for people than constantly dealing with manmade ones. You know; real stone, real wood, unprocessed water, that sort of thing, as opposed to metal or plastic. I suspect that’s one of the reasons cities are so full of crazy people.”

“If you say so,” said Adam Richard, weighing another stone. He sent it hurtling across the stream, where it struck the tree with a resounding crack.

“Missed,” he muttered.

“You did? What are you aiming at?” Harry asked, looking up.

“That knot in the trunk; you see it?”

Harry leaned forward, squinting across the stream.

“No.”

“Oh. Well, I can, and I’m trying to hit it,” said Adam. “I got it on my first try, but I can’t get it again.”

“It’s usually that way,” said Harry, leaning back and returning to his book. “First time is just pure instinct, then you start overthinking it and miss.”

“Hm, that’s first time I’ve been accused of overthinking anything,” said Adam. He threw another stone, which missed the tree entirely. He made an oddly high-pitched sound of frustration, then scratched his mousy brown hair irritably.

“It’s so hot,” he said. “Think I can take the wig off? There’s no one around.”

“Di’ll flip if she comes back and sees you letting your ears fly free,” Harry reminded him.

That was too true to argue with. Their friend, Diana Watson, was the conscientious one of the trio. She was also the most irritable, and though that could be fun, Adam decided it wasn’t worth it in this case. She’d gone into town for supplies, insisting on going alone as the other two had a tendency to buy a lot of junk food, but she would be back soon.

“Oh, speak of the devil,” said Adam, his nose twitching. “Here she comes!”

He grinned and leapt about ten feet high and thirty-odd long, landed behind the camper, then repeated the feat several more times, soaring through the pines until he landed beside the main road, where Diana was puffing along with three heavy bags full of groceries and other necessities.

“Hi, there,” said Adam as he landed beside her. “Need a hand?”

Diana jumped slightly at his appearance.

“What are you doing?!” she snapped in a low voice, looking around. “You’re supposed to be keeping a low profile! What if someone saw you?”

“No one around but you,” said Adam, tapping his nose. “I can smell it.”

“Okay, but what if a car happened to be passing by, and…”

Adam tapped his ears, which were hidden under convincingly human facsimiles that were part of his wig.

“What’s the good of having all the powers of a rabbit if I let young ladies carry their own groceries?” he said, relieving her of the bags.

“And what’s the good if trying to stay hidden if you go jumping around a public road?” she answered.

Adam looked at her, smiling a little. Diana had untidy gold-red hair, heavily tanned skin, turquoise eyes behind square glasses, and was wearing dirty overalls, a work shirt, and a perpetual scowl. In his seventeen years of life and their recent travels across the country, he had yet to see anyone better worth looking at.

“You know,” he said. “If we really wanted to keep a low profile, we should have sent someone less likely to attract attention into town. You know, like Valerie Blake in a bikini.”

Her eyes flashed indignantly. Talking about her beauty was one of the surest ways to annoy Diana, so Adam made a point to do it every day.

“Oh, don’t start that!” she snapped. “And who’s Valerie Blake?”

“Uh, the actress?” said Adam. “The insanely gorgeous actress? She was huge in the fifties and sixties. At least in certain strategic areas.”

Shifting the bags to one hand, he traced an hourglass with the other.

“We gotta get you cultured,” he said as they turned down the side road.

“Says the boy talking about the breast size of a woman who must be in her sixties by now.”

“Hey, once a beauty, always a beauty, as you yourself will learn one day.”

Her scowl became more pronounced.

“I don’t think that’s true at all,” she said.

“Oh, don’t talk like that!” he said with faux concern. “Things may look bad now, but I’m sure we’ll all live to a ripe old age, whatever the Brotherhood or the government tries to do.”

“That’s not what I…” she threw up her hands in exasperation. “God, you are so immature!”

“Green as a bean,” Adam agreed. “Speaking of which, did you get beans?”

“Yes,” she said. “I got everything on the list, plus a few cans of beef soup for Harry and me.”

“You know, I kind of miss meat,” said Adam sadly. “It used to taste so good, and I used to have good taste. Though I suppose I still would if anyone cared to stew me up and serve me with red wine.”

Diana, as often happened, had to take a moment to untangle his stream of ideas. She was a certified genius when it came to mechanics, to the point that she had attended MIT by the time she was sixteen, but word play was outside of her range of expertise.

“You are disgusting,” she said, though Adam had seen the corner of her mouth twitch.

“Hey, Di,” said Harry without looking up as they approached the camper. “How was town?”

“Hot,” she said. “How was doing nothing?”

“Cool,” he answered. “And I wasn’t doing nothing; I was contemplating reality. I was saying to Adam that I think places like this, with constant contact with real substances like stone and wood and so forth is really much healthier for the human soul than when you’re surrounded by artificial substances like glass and metal.”

“I don’t think it makes a difference,” she said, flopping down into a lawn chair and gratefully accepting a glass of water from him. “Fundamentally, it’s all atoms anyway.”

“Ah, but that’s not the fundamental substance,” said Harry. “It’s the stone that is the reality…”

The usual debate between Harry – who read philosophy – and Diana – who was an engineering prodigy – was this time cut short when the phone in the camper rang.

“Oh, what does he want now?” Diana sighed.

The camper had been a gift (or what he called an ‘investment in word of mouth’) by their good friend, C. Honesty Martini; a travelling salesman who seemed to have more and more unusual connections than anyone in his job ought to. The camper phone was, as far as they knew, only linked to him.

“Hey, kids!” he said over the speaker. “How’re my three favorite customers?”

“We’re doing okay, Martini,” said Adam before either of his more cynical companions could answer. “What’s up?”

“You, uh, you don’t happen to be anywhere near Lamar, Colorado, do yah?”

Adam looked at Harry.

“About two hour’s drive,” he answered. “As if you didn’t know exactly where we were.”

“Oh, now that’s hurtful! Listen, I just got word from one of my buddies in WEFUA…”

“’Wefua?’” Diana repeated dubiously.

“The official government ‘We Fouled Up Agency,’” he answered.

“That’s not a real thing,” said Harry.

“Sure it is!” said Martini. “It’s just not the real acronym, but it is more accurate and, you know, technically none of us are supposed to know about it.”

“Where have we heard that before?” said Adam.

“Well, anyway, the point is that it seems a truck carrying a, uh, certain chemical got hijacked not so long ago, and last report is they’re probably heading in your direction on the way to Colorado Springs.”

The three friends looked at each other.

“What kind of chemical?” Diana asked.

“The ‘lots of people die’ kind,” said Martini. “What I haven’t mentioned yet is that the hijackers were your old friends the Brotherhood of Alecto. I think you know what they’ll do with it.”

Adam shuddered. The Brotherhood were a conspiracy of intellectual fanatics who believed that society was doomed to collapse and that the best thing they could do was hasten its fall. Them having poison gas and heading for Colorado Springs was a recipe for disaster; one that they could blame on the government, thereby not only killing a lot of people, but fostering unrest and dissent. Exactly the kind of thing they liked best.

Harry, however, was frowning.

“Martini, are you completely sure that’s what’s going on? I mean, you’re not going to accidentally send us to attack an Army convoy, are you?”

“Now, come on!” said Martini with a hurt tone in his voice. “Kid, has Martini ever been wrong yet?”

“We have no way of knowing that,” Harry answered.

“Well, the answer’s no,” said Martini, with a trace of irritation. “So, if you’re not too busy, please go relieve the Brotherhood of that death truck before it hurts anyone?”

“And the reason you’re not going to the government with this information is…” Harry asked.

“Working on it, but you know I am just a salesman from Brooklyn; I don’t exactly have the ear of the President, kid.”

“We’ll take care of it,” said Adam. “Let you know when we’re done…”

“Or when we’re dead,” Harry put in.

“Oh, come on, Harry!” Adam said. “I was just telling Di how she’d live to a ripe old age!”

“And how would we let him know if we were dead?” Diana asked.

“Oh, trust me; there are ways,” said Harry with an evil grin.

“You can tell us about it on the way,” said Adam. “Meanwhile, let’s suit up!”

 

The scenic overlook gave a glorious view of the highway as it snaked its way back and forth up the slopes of the Rockies on its way to Colorado Springs. The camper was parked near the top of the pass, and three friends stood peering down over the miles and miles of road below. Adam and Harry were looking through binoculars, but the helmet on Diana’s ‘Daedalus Project’ included a built-in zoom function.

“I see it,” she said. “There’s the truck, and three escort Humvees; one in front, two in back.”

Adam turned his binoculars in the direction she indicated.

“Got ‘em,” he said. “Probably some pretty decent firepower in there, though I don’t suppose the Brotherhood has the manpower the Army would have; it’s probably mostly for show.”

“If they don’t have the manpower, how did they hijack it?” Harry asked.

“I suppose we’ll find that out,” said Adam. “Though, I suppose before we start kicking and punching people, we should just make doubly sure Martini isn’t wrong this time.”

“I don’t see why,” said Harry “It’s not like the government can be much angrier at us after we blew up Fort Ovid.”

“Yeah, but I’d really rather not actually be what they accuse me of being,” Adam replied. He pulled his brown cowl over the top of his face and rotated his long, furry ears. If nothing else, it felt good to get them into the fresh air. He double-checked the blunt claws on his hands and feet and thumped the ground once or twice. His ‘costume consisted of the cowl that covered the top of his face and a simple brown jumpsuit that left his hands and feet bare so as to utilize his claws.

“The Lepus is ready,” he said. “How about you, Garuda?”

Diana stood erect. The Daedalus Project consisted of an integrated system of servo-powered gauntlets of a light, strong metal, gas-jet boots of the same, the face-concealing helmet, and, most striking of all, great metal wings that sprouted from the armored back and shoulders. Beneath it she wore a form-fitting outfit of crimson leather that left her midriff bare for ventilation. All of this had been her own design and creation, utilizing technology she herself had invented.

“Garuda ready,” she said.

Harry, who wore a simple mask, such as might be found in a masquerade ball back in the nineteenth century, double-checked his wrist-communicator, of which Martini had provided all three of them for one low, low price (“Guaranteed clear sound and impossible to hack”).

“Aristo ready,” he said.

“All right; let’s go be good guys!” said Lepus. He climbed onto Garuda’s back, holding tight to the handles. She fired the gas jets in her boots, launching them into the air, where her wings carried them aloft with powerful beats. The climbed higher and higher, almost to the cloud level before Garuda banked out and began soaring in the direction of the convoy.

“Drop me off on the truck,” he said. “I’m just gonna make sure…”

Garuda nodded and began her dive. They had practiced this maneuver many times. It probably would have been suicide for a normal man, but for the Lepus, with his muscles and reaction times Enhanced by rabbit DNA, it was perfectly safe, just a little tricky to time correctly.

Garuda dove on a straight path for the truck, her brilliant mind calculating the angle of interception almost without conscious thought. Then, just as they were about thirty feet overhead, she suddenly spread her wings and swept up in a steep arc. And just at the bottom of the arc, as they passed directly over the truck, the Lepus let go of her back, turned a summersault, and landed neatly on the roof of the cab.

He didn’t waste a moment, but almost before he’d fully landed he caught the edge of the roof, swung himself onto the running board, and opened the passenger side door.

“Hi, there,” he said, leaning in and smiling at the driver, who was in army uniform. “This may sound like a strange question, but are you really with the U.S. Military?”

He had no sooner finished speaking than a long, black, hair-lined leg shot out from the man’s back and whacked him with the force of a sledgehammer. The Lepus yelled in surprise and just managed to hang onto the door, which swung outward with him clinging precariously to the edge.

“So, that’s a no, then,” he commented as he flung himself from the door to the hood just before two of the bio-mechanical spider legs reached out and tore it off.

“Lepus? What was that?” Garuda demanded. “What happened?”

“Martini’s never been wrong yet,” he answered dryly as all four of the driver’s telescoping spider legs reached out of the cab for him.

“Should you really be driving, Arachnus?” Lepus asked him conversationally as he ducked under one leg. “I mean,” he caught another and used it to swing himself over a third. “What’s you’re vision rating?” A complicated mid-air twist to avoid two at once. “Five–five–five–ten–ten?”

Arachnus’s five red eyes glared at him, but he said nothing, of course. He wasn’t a talker.

Dodging four biomechanical spider-legs, each one capable of shooting a sticky, web-like substance or impaling him straight through, was obviously a no-win scenario. Lepus sprang off the hood just as one of the legs sought to hit him with its webbing. The webbing only pinned one of the other legs to the hood, while the Lepus soared in a high arc and landed on the back of the tanker trailer itself.

Behind him, the men in the pursuing jeeps had not missed what was happening. The first jeep swerved left, and a man leaned out of the window, a rifle in hand, aiming at the Lepus.

Before he could open fire, Garuda swept down like a bolt of lightning, hit the road in front of the jeep, and swept out her wing. There was no time for the driver to even attempt to avoid it. As the jeep flew past her, the razor-sharp edge of her wing sliced into the side of the vehicle, tearing apart the tires and ripping into the undercarriage. The jeep, running suddenly on two bald tires, jerked violently left, flipped and rolled several times before crashing up against the guard rail on its side.

But even before it had begun its spin, Garuda had to fling up her wing to guard against the barrage of automatic rifle fire coming from the rear jeep as it zoomed past. She fired her gas jets, launching herself into the air, still shielding her vulnerable body with her metal wings as she turned a summersault over the cliff and out of sight, where she finally spread her wings and soared back into the air to rejoin the chase.

As she did so, Garuda saw that the men in the jeep had put away the rifle. Instead, one of them rose out of an opening in the roof carrying a belt-fed machine gun: a weapon that her wings had never had to block before, and which she doubted they would be up to. She banked hard as the man braced the bipod on the roof and opened fire.

Just as he did so, however, the Lepus suddenly landed on the roof of the jeep, caught the gun barrel and shoved it downward. As the weapon was no longer braced on his shoulder, the recoil jerked it violently back and into the man’s face. Lepus then snatched the machine gun out of his hand and chucked it onto the road in front of the jeep, which rocked as it ran over it.

Before the gunner had quite realized what had happened, the Lepus seized him by the back of his shirt, pulled him out of the jeep and tossed him onto the road. That would hurt him, but he figured the guy would survive, as they weren’t going too fast: only about forty miles an hour. This done, he hopped down the hole himself into the back seat. It was then he saw that there were two in the car; the driver and another man in the passenger seat. The latter was already drawing a pistol. As he brought it to bear, the Lepus kicked it upwards, sending the gun rebounding against the roof and probably shattering the man’s hand in the process.

“Back seat driving!” Lepus declared as he leaned forward, seized the driver’s head, and slammed it into the wheel, resulting in a quick honk of the horn and the car skidding and sliding back and forth as though trying to evade enemy fire.

“Ooh, what’s this do?” Lepus seized what he was pretty sure was the emergency break and pulled. A truly terrible sound resulted as the brakes ground against the wheels, probably doing considerable damage to both.

Meanwhile, the man in the passenger seat, though with one hand shattered had yet one more with which to fight. With this he drew a large, wicked-looking knife and stabbed at the Lepus. But the latter’s rabbit-like senses had already detected the move before the weapon had even cleared the scabbard, and it was child’s play for him to catch the attack, turn it, and thrust the blade deep into the wiring under the steering column.

The driver, though dazed, still tried to slam his elbow in the Lepus’s face. Again, he easily caught the attack, dropped it, and punched the man in the side of the head, then reversed into an elbow for the passenger seat.

“You know, I don’t have a license, but I think you really should stop this car,” he said. Then, to make sure he got the message, Lepus braced himself on the two front seats, swung his legs up, and kicked the steering column with enough force to nearly dislodge it entirely. The jeep, now completely out of control and skidding on its brakes, slid straight in the guardrails, though not with enough force to go through them.

“Told you so,” said the Lepus, and leaving the two bruised and dazed men to the care of the airbags (only the passenger side had gone off properly, due to the bent steering column), he leapt straight up through the roof and, as he had expected from hearing her approach, caught the outstretched, gauntleted hands of Garuda.

“Two cars down,” he said as he swung up onto her back.

“But neither of them the one we need,” she said. “And I don’t think crashing it is the right strategy for something carrying thirty tons of poison gas.”

“No, I see your point,” said Lepus. “Aristo, any ideas?”

“Maybe,” came his voice over the wrist communicators “How strong is that tank?”

“Pretty strong if it’s carrying chemicals,” said Garuda.

“So, what happens if you just detach it from the truck?”

She considered.

“It’ll tip over for sure, but probably won’t break. Do you know how to uncouple a truck?”

“Doubt it,” Lepus answered.

“Well, there are a lot of safety procedures we’re going to have to ignore, but basically there’s a release lever under the trailer. Unhook it and pull it out, and tractor should be released; there are also a few wires between the cab and the trailer that you should remove first, because it’s going to be unstable enough as it is without them tugging it along.”

“Lever under the trailer,” said Lepus. “Got it.”

“I’ll keep Arachnus busy while you’re at it.”

“Just be careful; you know what he can do.”

“You be careful; you’re one trying to unhook a thirty-ton trailer while it’s in motion.”

She soared over the truck, and Lepus dropped behind the cab. He saw a pair of wires connecting the cab and the trailer. Garuda said to unhook them, so he grabbed them and just pulled. Hot air blew out of one of them, sparks flew from the other. He dropped them, leaving them to bounce against the ground dangerously close to the wheels. This done, he looked under the front of the trailer and saw what was probably the release lever, though in order to reach it he had to position himself almost completely under the trailer itself, not to mention that it seemed to have to be pulled to the side. Uncomfortably aware of the racing concrete mere feet from his face, the Lepus dug the claws of his left hand into the bottom of the truck bed and reached with his right to take hold of the lever.

It absolutely refused to budge. The pressure of the thirty-ton tank being pulled at forty miles an hour up the slope of a mountain made it absolutely immovable. He tugged repeatedly, but to no avail.

As soon as she had dropped off the Lepus, Garuda landed on the hood of the truck and swept her wing through the front of the cab, shattering the windshield and slicing through the frame. She would have sliced Arachnus’s head off had he not ducked, as she had expected him to do. He came up with one leg driving straight for her side. She blocked it, and a second shot a stream of web at her face, which her other wing caught. The acetylene torch in her gauntlet blazed to life and she sliced through the sticky substance before he could pull her off the truck.

Two more legs swept out, and Garuda fired her jets to fly above them, beat her wings to flip herself over and land on the roof of the cab, which, having had the frame severed, sagged under her weight.

Arachnus sent two legs up even as she landed, catching her under her wings and tossing her back into the air. She steadied herself with a heavy beat, but streams of web shot out from both legs, snagging the wings. She fired the torches in both gauntlets and burned through the web, then banked hard to avoid another shot.

Meanwhile, Arachnus’s lower two legs twisted around the cab and stabbed at the Lepus, who had just managed to make the lever budge slightly before he was forced to release it to roll out of the way of the leg that stabbed down into the truck bed. He caught the other as it thrust at it and used it to leverage himself up, then kicked the first, leaving the end limp and broken, but that wasn’t enough to stop it from whacking him straight up into the air, where Garuda caught him under the shoulders and flew him out of range of Arachnus.

“That didn’t work,” he commented, watching as the working legs sprayed their sticky webbing over the coupling, ensuring the release lever would be even more soundly stuck in place. “But at least I cut those wires you told me to.”

“That just means the trailer has no brakes now,” she answered.

“Oh, well, that seems short-sighted,” he said in a disappointed tone as he swung up onto her back. “You mean now we can’t either uncouple it or stop it?”

“It’s not my fault!” she snapped. “That just the way these things are built!”

“Hey, guys?” said Aristo. “Just so you know, at this rate you’ll be over Colorado Springs in about five minutes, so maybe stop them sooner rather than later?”

“Yeah, we’re working on that,” said Lepus. “Sort of a two steps forward, three steps back kind of thing…”

He paused, suddenly eying the front jeep, then the truck.

“Hold on,” he said. “I think I’ve got an idea. A good one this time!”

“I told you…”

“Garuda, you uncouple the trailer; you’ve got the torches, you can just melt the darn thing, right?”

“I guess, but what about…?”

“I’ll take care of itsy-bitsy, but first drop me off in the at front car.”

“I don’t get it,” she said, putting on speed to catch up to the jeep.

“You’ll see; just wait for the signal.”

With that, he rolled off of her back and dropped onto the jeep even as she called after him, “What signal?!”

He landed square on the roof, then, hearing the commotion inside, caught the luggage rack, swung himself out of the way of the bullets tearing through the roof, and kicked through the rear passenger window.

“Hi, don’t mind me,” he said as the man in the front seat aimed a pistol at him and he batted it aside, laying open the man’s hand with his claws. Another passenger had been dazed by his entrance and Lepus quickly elbowed him to ensure he stayed that way. “I’m just picking up something…”

He pulled himself over the back seat into the trunk, where several heavy steel boxes were waiting with ammo, weapons, and so on. He began to quickly rummage through these, ignoring the shouting and scrambling men in the front of the vehicle. Hearing the driver reach for his own pistol, Lepus chucked a box of 7.62 rounds at him, hitting him square in the forehead, and resumed his search.

“Eureka!” he exclaimed, finding what he sought. He pocketed it, pulled himself back through the rear seats and leaned into the front past the dazed driver.

“Here, I know a shortcut…” he said, grabbing the wheel and spinning it sharply to the right. The jeep swerved violently and drove straight for the ditch that ran along the highway. Before it could impact, Lepus kicked open the rear door and jumped out, leaving the Brotherhood men to plow unceremoniously off the road.

Lepus hit the ground running just as the truck barreled past him. Fort miles an hour was nothing to the Lepus; he matched the truck’s speed, then passed it, his long, clawed, powerful feet tearing across the asphalt. He jumped and caught the side of the hood, then swung himself on top of it to face the driver.

Arachnus was clearly furious; his lips were parted and his glistening black mandibles were deployed. He thrust a leg at the Lepus, who ducked, then jumped the next attack, caught the upper leg, and used it to swing himself into the cab.

“Pull over; we need to check your brake lights.”

Arachnus drove another leg directly at Lepus’s face, but this time Lepus caught it, bent it, and as the sticky web squirted from the end it stuck something to the dashboard: something Lepus had just produced from his pocket.

“Cry baby, cry,” he said, as he pulled the pin out of the tear gas grenade and pulled himself up onto the roof of the cab before leaping back onto the trailer. A second later, there was bang, and the entire cab was filled with choking white smoke.

Garuda, seeing this, swung low and landed on the truck bed before the trailer.

“That was the signal?” she asked as she bent down and started work on the coupling.

“Obviously,” Lepus answered.

“And it was really that hard to just say ‘wait till the gas grenade goes off’?”

“I consider alliteration appallingly unprofessional,” Lepus answered. “Look out!”

Arachnus had left the cab and now stood over it on his lower two spider-legs. His five eyes were milky and clouded, and he seemed to be having trouble breathing, but all that just made him more enraged. His two upper legs drove down at Garuda, and Lepus jumped at them, gathering them both in his arms and swinging them out to the side of the truck as if they were vines, pulling Arachnus around with him and nearly upsetting the cyborg’s balance.

It was as he did this that the Lepus’s keen senses noticed two things. First that the steering wheel had been webbed into place. Second, that they were rapidly running out of road.

“Okay,” he said into his wrist communicator. “We’re heading for a hair-pin turn with no one at the wheel.”

“And no brakes either!” Garuda reminded him.

“Yeah, that sounds about right,” said Aristo in a resigned voice.

Before Lepus could respond or suggest a solution, Arachnus suddenly swung his legs back the opposite direction, and Lepus now found himself being flung through the air like a rock from a sling. He hit the road, rolled to his feet, and raced after the truck as fast as he could go, which was considerably faster than the truck, but not quite fast enough.

Arachnus drew both legs back, aiming at Garuda, who was furiously trying to cut the trailer free. In a moment he would either knock her off the truck, or stab her, or web her to the truck bed, any one of which would certainly result in the truck crashing and releasing the chemicals, not to mention probably kill her.

Without breaking stride, the Lepus swept a good-sized rock from the side of the road and without pausing to think or aim flung it at Arachnus. It hit him square in the face, knocking him backwards and out of sight.

Then, even as he caught up with the truck, the trailer suddenly came loose. It dropped forward onto the road, missing Garuda by feet, and sending up a shower of sparks and shattering asphalt as it skidded and turned. The Lepus sprang onto the roof, Garuda launched herself into the air, braced her feet against it and beat her wings as hard as she could, trying to slow it down, to steady it, but it was far too heavy for them to have much effect. It slowed, turned, and tipped onto its side with a crash.

Meanwhile, the truck continued to charge forward. They saw Arachnus, who had somehow managed to hold on, rising over the roof and the smoke, glaring back at them…then he seemed to realize his position and turned just in time to see himself and the truck crashed through the barrier and fly out off the cliff.

Garuda and the Lepus both let out sighs of relief as the found themselves finally standing still.

“We all safe and intact?” the Lepus asked.

Garuda scanned the tanker with her visor.

“Looks like it,” she said. “I’m not detecting any leakage.”

“That’s good to know, but I meant you.”

“Of course I’m alright,” she said with a slightly defensive air.

The Lepus smiled and turned to his communicator.

“Hey, Aristo? All clear here. Best call WEFUA and let them know their poison gas is waiting for them to pick it up.”

“I’ll try the State Troopers; they can pass the message along,” Aristo answered. “Everyone still have all their parts?”

The Lepus felt his ears.

“I do, and Garuda’s parts look as good as ever.”

“Excuse me?!”

“I meant your wings,” Lepus said.

“No, you didn’t,” said Aristo. “You guys heading back?”

“Probably best we keep an eye on it until the coppers arrive,” said Lepus. “You know, we did leave a lot of Brotherhood folk along the way, and it’d be embarrassing to do all that work and then just have them walk up and open it when our backs were turned.”

“Right. See you later,” said Aristo.

The Lepus and Garuda sat down together on top of the overturned tanker full of poison gas, resting their feet on what had been the top catwalk and enjoying the moment’s peace. Diana lifted her visor, her face shining with sweat, and Adam looked at her a moment, smiling.

“Not a bad day’s work,” he said. “Great job cutting this thing through, by the way.”

“Thanks,” she said. “And that was a good throw.”

“Wasn’t it?” he said. “I think I’ve got a gift: maybe I should try out for the Majors.”

She rolled her eyes.

“You’d have to not be a wanted fugitive for that,” she said.

“Yeah, I suppose,” he said. “Plus there’s a prejudice against rabbits.”

“What?”

“Goes way back,” he said. “See, in the nineteen twenties, the Yankees tried to field a jackrabbit as shortstop. Thing was, it always could catch the ball, but then it just sat there and chewed it. Of course, that wasn’t the reason they dropped it from the team; the real problem came when they signed Kyle “Carrottop” McGraph as Third Baseman. Turns out jackrabbits don’t quite get the ‘nickname’ thing.”

Diana’s serious façade suddenly collapsed in a fit of laughter.

“You are such an idiot!” she gasped, and her voice suddenly held a distinctly Texan twang.

Adam laughed along with her, less at his own joke than in enjoyment of seeing the way her smile illuminated her already beautiful face.

That completes my to do list, he thought. Beat the bad guys, and make Di laugh. That’s what I call a good day.

 

 

 

 

How I Would have Written ‘Black Panther’

As I’ve said before, the more I think about Black Panther the worse the writing in the film gets. As a side effect, I found myself thinking about how I might have done it instead, had I been in charge of writing it. The result was the following rough outline, which I now present to you (by the way, I don’t know how much this fits with the ‘Black Panther’ comics, but from what I’ve seen of the comics, I don’t particularly care).

black-panther-concept-art

We open on darkness, a child’s voice says “Papa, tell me a story.”

The voice of T’Chaka then begins narrating in a kindly, fatherly manner:

“Many, many years ago, a mountain fell from the sky in a blaze of fire. Its arrival was so terrible that for many years no one dared approach it. But in its fall, ten pieces of it were thrown off and scattered among the tribes. And wherever they landed, they brought strife and violence, for they were worth more than all the gold and gems in the world. Warriors fought one another like beasts for them, and all the land was in woe.

Then, one day, a great warrior, seeing the chaos, said to himself ‘I shall take these fragments back to the fallen mountain, so they may trouble us no more.’ For years he travelled the length and breadth of the land, winning each piece by defeating the ten greatest warriors in the world.

At the end of that time, he had all ten pieces and was the richest man there ever was. He could have used them to rule a mighty empire. But he kept to his vow and, taking the precious fragments, climbed to the summit of the fallen mountain.

Upon the summit, he met Basth, the Panther Goddess. She was so struck by his courage and his honesty that she said to him: “Of all the men on the earth, you are the first who has touched my heart. Therefore I shall marry you, and give you all this mountain for my dowry.”

The warrior and the goddess were wed, and founded their city about the slopes of the Fallen Mountain. The goddess taught him how to use the mountain’s bones to make tools and weapons, and by her craft she wove it into a suit of armor modeled after her beloved panther, and the ten fragments became its claws.

Thus they brought order and peace between the five tribes, and Wakanda was born.

For many, many years, the warrior and the goddess ruled over the five tribes in peace and justice. But the warrior was mortal, and so grew old and, in time, died. Basth was inconsolable with grief, and returned to the sky to mourn her lost love. But before she went she took her son and the leaders of the five tribes to the top of the mountain to give her final command.

“All this land, from the river to the white peaks, is Wakanda,” she said. “It is your forever, my children, and none shall take it from you. But I warn you: never, never seek to expand its borders beyond these limits. For your own land is enough for you, and your own treasure enough to guard. If ever you attempt to become a cruel empire and rule over your kin, this mountain, and all its treasure, will be taken back to the sky.”

Then the goddess departed, and ever since then, her descendants have ruled Wakanda and guarded its treasures, and shall do so until the sun falls.”

We now see the jungle at night. A cloaked platform is hidden among the trees, from which M’Baku, a skilled warrior and a giant gorilla of a man, is peering along what looks to be a blowpipe at a line of vehicles wending its way through the forest.

“I make five,” he says.

“Six,” comes the answer. We pan up to see the outline of the Black Panther crouched on a tree branch, watching the convoy.

Another figure in a horned mask, wearing scale armor, sits in the tree beside M’Baku. This is Eklabu. He orders M’Baku to take out the lead vehicle, but Black Panther orders them to wait until the convoy crosses the border into Wakanda.

We see from the vehicle point of view as they cross a rickety bridge over a raging river into Wakandan territory, rolling over the border gate and ignoring the signs forbidding entrance. They draw further into Wakandan territory before Black Panther orders M’Baku to take out the lead vehicle.

M’Baku affixes a small cylinder to the end of his pipe, takes aim, and blows. We then see that the ‘blow gun’ is actually a rail-gun. As soon as he puts the little stone suspended in the cylinder into motion by blowing it, it is swiftly accelerated to just below the speed of light. It hits the lead vehicle with the force of a bomb.

The convoy stops in a panic and the mercenaries get out, armed to the teeth. Then Black Panther swoops in and begins expertly disabling them. He doesn’t kill them, only rips their weapons apart and knocks them out. Eklabu appears as well, attacking from the rear. He savagely tears into the men, brutally massacring them by stabbing and slicing with his spear or simply beating them senseless with his super-human strength and agility. One of the mercenaries throws down his gun and tries to surrender. Eklabu picks him up and bashes his brains out against the side of the truck so hard that he dents the fender (we only see the resulting blood-stained impression).

Black Panther furiously orders him to stand down as Okoye, his Amazonian bodyguard and her troops appear from the bushes. Black Panther checks on the human cargo, tells them they are now safe, and orders Okoye to take them back to their homes before leaving with Eklabu.

Back in the forward base hidden among the trees, T’Challa and Eklabu both take off their helmets. T’Challa angrily rebukes him for his savagery, while Eklabu answers that the men were scum who deserved to die.

T’Challa: “Not when they are trying to surrender!”

Eklabu then angrily points to the suffering going on all around them while they sit in their borders and do nothing.

Eklabu: “Right across that river people are being slaughtered and enslaved, and we do nothing. Then they travel two miles out of their way, suddenly it matters to us.”

T’Challa says their duty is to protect Wakanda; that is the purpose of the royal family. Furthermore, once they start trying to fix other people’s problems, it will never end, and they are liable to only make things worse. We learn here that they are cousins, and that Eklabu’s father was killed during a mission that went bad during a war in the Congo.

The argument escalates, and finally Eklabu snaps “you are not king yet.”

They return to the capital, where we meet T’Challa’s mother and sister. His sister, Shuri, is a tall, extremely dignified young woman; every inch the daughter of a king. She, we learn, rules Wakanda in her brother’s absence.

Everyone treats T’Challa with immense respect bordering on fear. He carries himself as a king at every moment and his people bow reverently whenever they see him.

T’Challa next visits the armory, where he meets Zurai, their lead scientist. He is a venerable, gray haired man in charge of a scientific team. He is also grooming his rebellious daughter, Nakia, to one day take on the mantle. Nakia is a cute, sunny young woman with a great love for western culture. She also is the only one who can tease the king and get away with it, which she proceeds to do by pestering him about whether he got Iron Man or Captain America’s autograph. T’Challa takes it in stride, smiling benignly on her and humoring her. During this time, Zurai describes the Wakandan power grid, which is formed by the resonance of all the vibranium throughout the country, creating an infinite supply of energy.

As T’Challa leaves, we see Nakia gazing longingly after him, only for her father to smack her upside the head and remind her that the king will not give a thought to the likes of her. She answers “doesn’t mean I can’t give a thought to him.”

We next get another scene of T’Challa and Eklabu, in the latter’s chamber where they seem to reconcile. T’Challa tells him that he needs his support, as guarding the borders will be Eklabu’s duty, and that he is open to the possibility of taking a more active role in the world, especially after what he saw with the Avengers, but only if they can find a way that will not jeopardize Wakanda. The cousins then share a moment of levity.

The next day is the coronation, wherein T’Challa assumes the throne. This takes place at the summit of the Fallen Mountain (not in some stupid waterfall arena), where legend has it the warrior first met and wed Basth. The five tribes and the Royal family, together with certain dignitaries (including Zurai and his daughter) are assembled, and the high priest reads out King T’Chaka’s achievements before offering T’Challa the throne. He then asks whether any one wishes to dispute T’Challa’s right to be king.

To everyone’s shock, Eklabu does so. He announces that T’Chaka murdered his father, that he saw it happen as a boy, and that “twenty years with a murderer on the throne is long enough.” During his description, we see a flashback to him as a boy hiding behind a corner while T’Chaka and his father argue. Suddenly there is a gunshot, and when Eklabu emerged he found his father dead.

T’Challa is enraged and the ceremonial combat begins. The two savagely beat on each other using their superhuman speed and power, with Eklabu pouring out all the anger he’s kept bottled up for two decades against T’Challa and his father. It finally ends with T’Challa being thrown off the cliff, presumably to his death. Eklabu then assumes the throne, promising to restore the dignity of the throne.

Late that night, the distraught Nakia sneaks out of the city to try to find T’Challa’s body. She is caught by M’Baku, who turns out to have the same object. They search, but find nothing. Then, all of a sudden, T’Challa himself comes crawling out of the forest, incapacitated by a spinal injury, but alive. He wants to challenge Eklabu at once, but the others remind him that, one, the ceremony is over and he has no right to do so, and two, he is no state to try even if he could.

T’Challa thus decides to leave Wakanda to heal and plan his campaign. Nakia insists on going with him, as does M’Baku.

We cut to the palace where Eklabu finds Shuri standing by a window. He walks up to her and expresses his surprise that she remains. She comments that her place is beside the throne. When Elabu asks whether it isn’t a risk for her to remain within his reach, given his hatred of her father and brother, she answers “to be killed by you would put me in better company than to rule with you.”

His claws (he’s wearing the Black Panther suit) start to come out at that, but she then adds that he would not dare lay a hand on her. He’s surprised, then laughs that he is the king and can do what he likes.

Shuri: “And I am a princess. Do you think the people of Wakanda would stand it if you raised a hand against a member of the royal family?”

He grins. “I am the Black Panther. What could they do?”

Shuri smiles and begins describing the composition of the wall he is standing behind, before concluding “Do you know how much resistance that would provide to a rail gun aimed at your unprotected head? None at all.”

This disturbs him visibly, and she adds “A king only rules as long as his people will allow him to. Perhaps you should have thought of that before you killed my brother.”

Eklabu retreats to his chambers, where he prays and has a vision of his father. He discusses the future, and his father agrees that Wakanda will not be easily swayed to break its long isolation. Eklabu says he will give them no choice, and declares that he’ll take all of Africa before he’s done.

T’Challa, Nakia, and M’Baku flee Wakanda and end up in a neighboring nation call Buandi, where they find a ‘doctors without borders’ station to have T’Challa’s spine looked at. The doctor is amazed that he is still alive and able to move with his injury. He is reluctant to operate, and M’Baku angrily orders him to obey. The doctor protests that he might kill him, and M’Baku says that if T’Challa dies, he dies.

Doctor: “Well now I’m definitely not gonna try!”

T’Challa intervenes and assures the doctor that he will be him no grudge if anything goes wrong, ordering M’Baku to stand down.

The argument attracts the attention of Everett Ross, the CIA operative, who walks into the tent and whistles in recognition of T’Challa.

Ross: “Your highness. I’m sure there’s a reason the King of Wakanda is in an aid tent, but you don’t look in the mood to tell me.”

The doctor says he wants him to perform a spinal surgery, Ross advises him to try as “He’s pretty good at surviving.”

The doctor operates, resetting T’Challa’s spine while the king refuses morphine and grits his teeth. Nakia impulsively tries to hold his hand, but he doesn’t take hers.

The surgery completed, he lies there while his superhuman cells heal his injury, and Nakia and M’Baku tell Ross about Eklabu’s coup.

Ross: “Where I come from we have elections. They’re nowhere near as civil, but people generally walk away with intact spines.”

T’Challa asks what Ross is doing there, and Ross says that he’s interviewing survivors of the latest massacre. When the Wakandans express confusion, Ross explains that Buandi is in civil war and has been for years; the rebels prey on poor farming villages and travellers, while the government forces focus on protecting such business interests as the country has and avoid engaging with the militants if possible. This, he says, is because the rebels are armed with hi-tech weaponry.

Hearing this, T’Challa sits up, wincing, but looking fierce.

T’Challa: “What kind of weaponry?”

Ross: “Funny you should ask. You, see I’m here looking for their supplier, and I have an idea you’ve met.”

Cut to an old ivory station in the jungle. Here Ulysses Klaue has his base of operations. We see him interrogating one of his workers and accusing the man of dealing under the table. His right arm a mechanical nightmare that lives up to his name.

Klaue tells the man that, in his organization, “you’re only allowed to cheat when I say so.” The man pleads, obviously terrified of Klaue, that he’s innocent. Klaue acts surprised at hearing that.

Klaue: “Oh, innocent? Well, that changes everything. I’m sorry; I had no idea.”

He turns away, feigning distress, then suddenly whips around and fires a blue laser from his mechanical palm, blasting the man to ash.

Klaue: “I’ve got no use for innocent people in my organization.”

Klaue then goes into his chambers to look over some new weaponry. Suddenly the Black Panther drops from the ceiling. Klaue, apparently unconcerned, gives a mock bow.

Klaue: “Your royal highness. This is an honor, and so soon after your coronation too! Allow me, as one who so admires the throne of Wakanda, to express my congratulations.”

Eklabu removes his helmet and asks how he knows so much. Klaue answers that even in Wakanda there are people on the bottom of the ladder who are willing to sell what they know. Eklabu smilingly asks whether he’d be willing to give the names of these people, Klaue answers that it depends on what he’ll bid for them. Eklabu asks whether he thinks he’s there to bargain, Klaue replies that, if he weren’t, they wouldn’t be speaking.

Eklabu tells Klaue that he wants the Buandi war to spill over in to Wakanda. He wants Wakandan blood spilled on Wakandan soil. Klaue laughs that he’s buying the deaths of his own people.

Klaue: “You’re a trader in death. A killmonger.”

Eklabu answers that a little blood is necessary to wake his people out of their stupor. He tells Klaue to name his price…and to throw in the names of informants as well, as “A king needs his spies.”

Klaue laughs and pours them both a drink.

Klaue: “Is this the beginning of a beautiful friendship?”

Eklabu: “I wouldn’t count on it.”

Klaue (toasts): “Good answer.”

We cut back to T’Challa, who is talking with Ross. Ross suggests that, if T’Challa intends to retake the throne, he might consider cutting a trade deal with the US in exchange for aid. T’Challa feigns ignorance; what does he think Wakanda has to offer? Ross says he has an idea:

Ross: “I see the king of a third world country running around in the most advanced body armor I’ve ever seen, then I think about how you’re also the only place that produces the most valuable medal in the world, and suddenly I start to wonder whether Wakanda is quite so poor as it makes out.”

T’Challa: “I don’t know what you are talking about.”

Ross: (Smiles) “Alright. But if you change your mind, remember the US is pretty good at changing governments.”

M’Baku: “Pretty good at taking over governments, you mean!”

Ross: “That too.”

T’Challa says that he will not sell the honor of Wakanda for his throne.

He leaves Ross and walks into the jungle, where, out of sight of everyone, he punches a tree so hard he shatters the trunk.

Nakia: “Careful! I think that one’s endangered! Can’t start our lives in the outside world by offending the environmentalists: according to the internet they basically run the place.”

T’Challa: “Do not follow me.”

Nakia: “I am sorry. I only thought…you might not want to be alone.

T’Challa: “That is exactly what I do want. I need to think…to plan how I am going to regain my throne.”

Nakia looks troubled, then begs permission to speak.

T’Challa: “I am not king, Nakia; you do not have to beg permission.”

Nakia: “But I think I should, because you are not going to like what I have to say.”

She suggests that trying to retake the throne might make things worse: like it or not, he lost the fight and so has no real claim to it anymore. As long as Eklabu keeps the support of the tribes, T’Challa would only, at best, bring civil war to Wakanda. At worst he’d get himself killed.

She shrinks back in alarm when glares at her, but then he slumps to the ground and says that perhaps he doesn’t deserve to king anyway. If what Eklabu said was true…Nakia says it wasn’t. It couldn’t be.

T’Challa: “I’ve seen, and felt, hatred like that before. It does not come from nothing.”

He asks her to leave him, and he begins to engage in fervent prayer, communing with the spirit of his father, who appears to him in a vision. T’Challa confesses how much he misses him, and that he feels he has failed.

T’Chaka answers that he is the one who failed. T’Challa asks whether it is true he killed his own brother, and T’Chaka hesitates, which to T’Challa’s mind confirms it. The vision ends with him roaring his agony to the sky.

Suddenly, he hears gunfire coming from what Ross says is the direction of a nearby village. T’Challa draws a deep breath, pushes his own suffering down, and begins running through the forest.

Meanwhile Ross is on the phone trying to get UN troops to come and help. When he fails to get through he grabs a rifle and asks M’Baku if he’s any good in a fight. M’Baku laughs and shoulders his rail gun.

We cut to the village, where women and children are being herded to one corner while the men futilely try to fight. The militants all have vibranium armor and carry powerful energy weapons. One man is seen defending his wife and children with a farm tool, which shatters against the militant’s armor. The bad guy laughs at the blow, beats the man to the ground, and prepares to decapitate him.

T’Challa (wearing a black mask over his face), comes flying in from the trees with a noise like a panther roar, dispatches the militant with a few quick blows and relieves him of his blade and knife. The other militants turn on him, and with his new weapons he begins utterly decimating them with his speed, agility, and raw power, slashing at them like a cat with his blades.

A jeep armed with a machine gun rolls up and opens fire on T’Challa, who dodges and ducks, but can’t get close enough to attack…then it blows up with a single shot from M’Baku’s rail-gun.

Ross: “…Can I borrow that sometime?”

M’Baku: (threatening growl)

T’Challa finishes up by beating up the militant leader, but refrains from killing him.

Back in Wakanda, Eklabu, together with the leaders of the five tribes, Shuri, and the queen mother are participating in a ritual honoring Basth. Suddenly, it is interrupted when a missile lands in the midst of the circle, killing the five leaders and the queen, though Eklabu saves Shuri, who escapes injured.

As the dust settles, one of the guards says that the weapon came from outside the borders, but was of Wakandan make. Eklabu says that this proves that someone has been stealing Wakandan technology, and that their borders are no longer enough to keep them safe. One of his cronies then comes forward saying that they have intelligence that T’Challa is alive and has been seen conferring with foreigners, together with Zurai’s daughter, who knows the secrets of Wakandan tech. Zurai is furious at the accusation, but Eklabu asks if he has a better explanation for what happens. With the support of the people, he assumes full control and tells them to prepare for war to avenge this atrocity and secure Wakanda against foreign treachery.

Back at the village, T’Challa, Nakia, and M’Baku help the villagers while Ross interrogates the militants. Nakia has a moment where she tenderly cares for a little girl who has been injured in the fight, cheering her up with a folk song. T’Challa watches with admiration.

Ross appears with the news that they now have Klaue’s base, but that it’s deep in the rebel-controlled zone where the military won’t go. He suggests that the three of them might be able to mount an attack. Nakia insists on coming as well, noting that they might need her to get around Klaue’s tech. She also repairs some of the weapons recovered from the militants.

M’Baku tries to prevent Ross from taking one, noting that only Wakandans are permitted to use them.

Ross: “Well, you know us white people: not big on respecting local customs.” (picks up the weapon).

M’Baku gets angry, but T’Challa stops him, noting that they’ll need Ross’s help.

That night, we have a tense scene of the four of them infiltrating Klaue’s camp. As they approach, they realize Klaue is about to make another shipment of weapons, these worse than before: long-range emplaced rail-guns that could be mounted on vehicles or behind fortifications. These could destroy any vehicle currently in use.

T’Challa takes out his guards one-by-one with stealth, then Nakia slips in to take down his alarm system and stop the shipment, which is being delivered by drone as added security. Klaue, meanwhile, senses something wrong and starts moving toward her position. T’Challa gives the signal and M’Baku and Ross open fire, distracting him and focusing his attention on them. Nakia succeeds, then T’Challa attacks, taking out Klaue’s guards before going one-on-one with him.

Klaue is extremely dangerous with his mechanical hand, as well as suit of vibranium armor similar to what Eklabu wore in the opening. Ross and M’Baku join in, then Nakia, who distracts him long enough for T’Challa to catch him off guard and tear his mechanical arm off.

Klaue, however, seems unconcerned, cracking jokes at T’Challa’s expense for losing his throne. He also reveals Eklabu’s falseflag attack, and that he killed T’Challa’s mother as well as the five tribal leaders, and that “Killmonger” means to conquer Africa and maybe the world. He also reveals that Eklabu has blamed T’Challa for the attack and for selling Wakandan technology to the outside world, meaning he’ll be arrested and executed if he tries to return.

T’Challa is furious and ready to kill Klaue, but he then plays his final hand: he’ll give T’Challa a recording of his meeting with Killmonger in exchange for one hour’s head start. And, he says, considering Killmonger will start his war in the morning, they don’t really have time to search for it…or to go after him.

M’Baku asks what’s to prevent them from taking the deal and killing him anyway.

Klaue: “Oh, I have much too much respect for the throne of Wakanda to think you’d do that. A king would never go back on his word, would he?”

Furious, T’Challa accedes to Klaue’s deal. Klaue gives him the recording and then disappears.

They then have to decide what to do about it: T’Challa must challenge Eklabu for the throne, but he fears whether he is truly worthy of it, given the history of his family. Moreover, Nakia points out that, with the five chiefs dead, Eklabu basically runs the government alone, and that they may have a fight to even get to position where they can use the recording against him. Ross offers the support of the CIA in exchange for vibranium, but T’Challa refuses.

Ross: “Well, not to play the white savior, but Eklabu has an army. An army that you claim is the most advanced in the world, while you have yourself, a girl, and a great ape.” (M’Baku glares at him) “I mean that in the best possible way. Let us help you!”

T’Challa refuses, saying he cannot bargain for his throne with foreigners, growing angry.

T’Challa: “You don’t care about Wakanda. You are just like all the rest of your people: only after what you can get.”

Ross: “I don’t care about who sits on a chair in the most isolated country on Earth? You’re right; I don’t. Why should I? What have you people ever done that I should care? At the moment, what I’m after is some way to convince my government that stopping this war, which is claiming the lives of thousands of innocent people, is in our best interests, and if we had an ally in the region, an ally who supplies extremely valuable technology and resources, that might be a reason. But I don’t suppose that matters to you.”

T’Challa lunges at him in anger, but Nakia stops him. He then demands to be left alone.

As the others leave, Nakia becomes upset and confesses to M’Baku that she’s afraid no matter what happens: if T’Challa fails, he’ll die. If he succeeds…she doesn’t finish, but he understands and gives him a comforting bear hug.

Meanwhile T’Challa prays once more, communing with his ancestors for guidance. He has a vision in which he sees, not his father, but an upright, elderly woman (in an ideal world she’d be played by Eartha Kitt). This, it turns out, is Basth herself. T’Challa admits to her that he is uncertain what to do and whether he is even worthy to be king.

Basth: “It is not the armor that makes you the Black Panther: it is what is beneath the armor. In here.” (she places her hand over his heart) “If anyone can stop you from being a king by taking your throne or your crown or your armor, then you never were one to begin with. But I don’t believe that for a moment.”

He returns to the present and declares that, by the next sunset, he will be on the throne or in the ground of Wakanda. Nakia and M’Baku volunteer to go with them, as does Ross.

T’Challa: “I told you I don’t want help from the CIA.”

Ross: “You’re not getting it. You’re getting help from a friend.”

Back in Wakanda, Eklabu gives a speech to his army as they prepare to conquer Buandi and the neighboring regions, declaring that T’Chaka was a murderer and T’Challa is a traitor, and that because of them Wakanda has no choice but to abandon its traditions and expand to remain safe.

Afterward, Shuri catches him and tells him he is a liar; that her brother would never betray Wakanda. Eklabu asks whether you can truly know anyone, and she answers “people like you cannot.” Eklabu responds that no one will question the king who rescued their beloved princess from her traitorous brother.

Meanwhile, T’Challa and his friends are preparing to cross into Wakanda. The plan is that Nakia, together with T’Challa, will slip into the palace to broadcast Klaue’s recording, while Ross and M’Baku keep the army from leaving Wakandan territory.

Ross: “Two of us against the most advanced army in the world?”

M’Baku: “Those are the odds I’ve always dreamt of!”

T’Challa and Nakia slip quietly into the city. As they infiltrate the palace, with her hacking the security panels and him subduing guards, she asks what will happen if the army leaves Wakanda. T’Challa says that, according to the legend, Fallen Mountain will be taken back to the sky. She asks if he believes that, he says “I would rather not risk it.”

The Wakandan army begins advancing to the borders, with numerous ships, vehicles, and hundreds of soldiers. M’Baku hands Ross the rail gun to cover him while he goes and plants mines to slow them down.

M’Baku: (handing him the gun) “Twist, aim, and blow. Can you do that?”

Ross: “I think my primitive savage brain can just handle it.”

M’Baku: “You certainly have wind to spare.”

T’Challa and Nakia slip into Fallen Mountain as a back route to the palace. As they do, Nakia notices something strange about the vibranium. They pause for her to examine it, and she realizes that it’s growing unstable:

Nakia: “Large amounts of vibranium form an energy resonant network; a natural power grid.”

T’Challa: “Right, I know that.”

Nakia: “Well, as long as the vast majority remains in one place, the grid is stable, but if too much moves too far at once, it…it’ll overload.”

T’Challa: “Overload? What do you mean? How bad?”

Nakia: “Give me a second…” (she does some quick calculations, then looks up in shock) “If the army goes a mile past the river, the crater will reach the Indian Ocean.”

T’Challa (stunned) “Why haven’t we known this before?”

Nakia: “No one’s ever tried moving this much vibranium away from the mountain at once! It’s only been bits and pieces. But this…”

They look at each other, then T’Challa gets on his communicator and tells Ross and M’Baku to stop the army at all costs.

Ross: “You said to try to avoid killing anyone…”

T’Challa: “Doesn’t matter now. If they cross the border, the mountain will explode.”

Ross: “Are we talking firecracker, nuke…”

Nakia: “It’ll blow Africa in half!”

(Beat)

Ross: “Okay then,” (aims the rail gun) “No more playing nice.”

T’Challa and Nakia reach the main communication chamber, but there they are caught by Okoye and her guards. T’Challa tells her that Eklabu has betrayed them, and that he has proof. She hesitates, unsure whom to believe the Eklabu himself appears in his Black Panther garb.

Eklabu says he expected as much from T’Challa, though he didn’t expect him to try to fight the whole of Wakanda with only four people. Shuri then suddenly shows up and hits Okoye with a tazer, correcting him that it’s five.

This sparks a fight, with Shuri, with a little help from Nakia, taking on the guards with her own physical powers (as she too is a descendent of Basth) while T’Challa clashes with Eklabu. Their fight spills into the throne room, where T’Challa grabs a spear from a rack. T’Challa tries to warn Eklabu that his plan will destroy Wakanda, but Eklabu will not listen, accusing him of merely wishing to steal his glory.

T’Challa: (contemptuous) “You sit on that throne, you put on that armor, and you think that makes you a king?”

Meanwhile, M’Baku and Ross struggle to survive and keep the army too busy to move. They are pinned down and seem about to die. They clasp hands and declare it has been an honor.

Eklabu, with the Black Panther suit, has a crucial advantage and gets T’Challa on the ropes.

Eklabu: “What a pathetic king you are.”

T’Challa: “But I am a king.”

With Shuri holding off the guards, Nakia puts in the data disk and projects it onto the shield surrounding Wakanda, so that the entire population sees it. The army pauses its assault to watch. The broadcast distracts Eklabu, allowing T’Challa to get the drop on him and tear the helmet off. The fight resumes, with Eklabu enraged by the sudden overthrow of his plans. He pins T’Challa against the throne and tries to tear his throat out with his claws, which T’Challa barely holds off.

Eklabu: “If nothing else, I will kill you and your bitch sister!”

T’Challa, in a sudden burst of rage, reverses the attack, grabs Eklabu’s head, and slams it into the throne, knocking him out. He then picks up the spear and prepares to kill him, when Shuri and Nakia come in. He sees their faces, then looks at the throne, which was cracked by the impact, and throws the spear away. Okoye and her guards come in, see the scene, and bow, beseeching forgiveness. T’Challa orders them to take Eklabu into prison and remove his armor.

The next scene is T’Challa, once again wearing the Black Panther armor, standing on his balcony overlooking his people. He announces that he has returned to claim the throne and asks if any disputes his right to rule. The answer is a cheer.

T’Challa greets M’Baku and Ross, who are bruised and bloodied, but alive. Ross says he hopes Wakanda and the United States will enjoy good relations in the future. T’Challa agrees, then comments that perhaps it is time their isolation comes to an end; if they cannot expand their own borders, they can at least share their bounty. He tells M’Baku that one of the tribes (from which he hails) appears in need of a leader, and he needs a general. M’Baku grins in appreciation and bows.

T’Challa adds to Shuri that, once they have settled things here, he may be away more often than not, as there is much to be done in the surrounding countries.

T’Challa: “Perhaps it is time the Black Panther becomes a sign of hope for more than just Wakanda.”

There is then a scene of T’Challa visiting Eklabu in the dungeon. He tells Eklabu that he now knows what happened: T’Chaka didn’t kill Eklabu’s father. He caught him selling Wakandan weapons to rebels the Congo, hoping to make a better life for the people there. But when T’Chaka revealed that those same weapons were being used to commit atrocities, Eklabu’s father killed himself out of shame before his brother could stop him.

Eklabu: “He may not have pulled the trigger, but he drove him to his death.”

T’Challa: “Your father chose his own path, as have you. I hope, in time, you will think better of it.”

He leaves him and goes to watch the sunset from the top of Fallen Mountain. Nakia joins him, complaining that she’d been waiting for hours and it’s cold up there. He asks why she thought he’d come, she says because she knows how he likes to brood, and that there’s no better spot in Wakanda for it.

Nakia: “I brood up here myself sometimes. Or listen to my ipod. Actually, mostly that, but some brooding.”

There is a pause. She comments that he’s king now. He agrees.

Nakia: “It’s funny; when you were deposed, all I wanted was to help you take back the throne. Now, I almost wish you hadn’t.”

T’Challa: “Oh? Why not?”

Nakia: “Well, a king wouldn’t even look at someone like me.”

T’Challa: (surprised) “You don’t know many kings, do you?”

Nakia: “Only one. That’s more than enough for me.”

T’Challa: “The way I see it, a king can look at whoever he wants.”

He pulls her close and they kiss in front of the Wakandan sunset.