To Battle with the Big Cat

‘To Battle with the Big Cat’, a script inspired by a Rhys Owen illustration.

Pictonaut challenge screenplay effort for April 2013.

INT: COMMAND TENT ON THE URBAN FRONT, SAN FRANCISCO

General Harris Grover leans over a large fold-out desk on which sits masses of papers, several laptops and reinforced metal carrier cases – the paraphernalia of hi-tech mobile military campaigning in the field. He is a heavy-set man in his later middle ages, dressed in military fatigues. He has a commanding, dominant presence but looks weary and confused. Grover has bags under his eyes and a pained, insecure expression all over his jowls. For weeks he’s been fighting a war like none he’s ever known before, that he can’t quite understand and isn’t entirely sure he’s comfortable with.

At his side stands an impassive female field lieutenant and she’s waiting on his instructions. Grover fingers some pages and looks at a laptop screen. He picks some papers up then puts them down. He picks them up again, scrutinises them some more and puts them down again. He thumbs his chin and leans over the table tensing then fingers some different documents. He is a perfect picture of perplexed indecision.

GENERAL GROVER

Well… well, they haven’t despatched any drones in three days. No threat from the sea since we took out Alcatraz… well, I s’pose if we’re dug in and they’re keeping quiet… Okay, Ellis, just tell Brigadier Brownstone to stay frosty and await further instruction.

FIELD LIEUTENANT

Is that all, Sir?

GENERAL GROVER

[Sighing] Yep… if in a coupl’a days they haven’t made a move we’ll send in auxiliaries and force that stalemate. Our EMP tank guys are itching for action so maybe we’ll gift ’em a goodie… [Sighs again] Okay, thank you Lieutenant…

The field lieutenant salutes, picks up a few sets of files and makes for the tent exit. Grover calls after her…

GENERAL GROVER

Oh, and Lieutenant… If you’d be so good as to tell Herring out there that I’m ready to receive him and our special guest as well…

He nods, she nods and then she departs. Grover leans over, kneading his fists into the table with a forlorn sigh before doubling up with an effort, forcing a smile onto his face.

Sweeping into the tent comes Field Lieutenant Herring and, slightly behind him, Kingsley Kelvette. Herring is a slightly younger, cocksure military man who once scored the winning touchdown in a big college football game and has been carrying a smug swagger ever since. He’s dwarfed, however, by the presence of the figure following him.

Kingsley Kelvette is a tall and lean creature – an anthropomorphic leopard wearing a pristine pinstripe suit, aviator shades and a soldier’s helmet with an ironic peace sign spraypainted on the metal. He is, quite literally, the coolest cat on the streets of San Francisco or, at least, what’s left of the streets of San Francisco. A burned-out marijuana cigarette hangs out the corner of his maw and he causally saunters into the tent and right up to the desk as if he owns all of this. He does – he’s the corporate king who’s leading the whole military enterprise.

GENERAL GROVER

[Enthusiastically and breathlessly] Well, morning Herring and, ah, welcome, Sir! It’s an honour and a privilege to receive you here at our field base.

Kelvette waves his paw nonchalantly as he slides inward, brushing past Herring who fades into the background. It’s a rejection moment that occurs all too rarely in Herring’s life and the arrogant Lieutenant realises that he’s being dropped for someone with a more senior rank. Poor guy. Maybe he’ll get to take out his sulkiness on someone later…

KELVETTE

Ah, at ease general and, please, Mr Kelvette is formal enough. [Raises head and takes a sniff and a deep, satisfied breath] Matter of fact, call me Kingsley…

GENERAL GROVER

Oh, well okay Sir Kingsley… ah Mr Kelvette. Well, firstly may I congratulate you on your new manifestation…

KELVETTE

Why thank you. I like it a lot.

GENERAL GROVER

It’s quite outstanding. Terribly impressive…

KELVETTE

I hope so. The response so far has been positive… [He spits out his cigarette stub carelessly and purrs] … gratifying.

GENERAL GROVER

Well, ah… would you like a briefing? Operations update?

Kelvette starts pawing at the desk. He’s disinterested in Grover and just wants to get to playtime. Grover meanwhile is extra eager-to-please and nervously fighting for attention and some semblance of control.

GENERAL GROVER

We’re dug in down the docks and it’s quiet down there. We’ll up the ante in a coupl’a days but back over here…

KELVETTE

Ah easy, Grover. Don’t trouble yourself…

Grover is open-mouthed, left hanging. He’s waiting on Kelvette’s next move and the leopard man is now just strolling around the tent, fiddling with the bits ‘n’ pieces on the fold-out desk. It’s really drawn out – Kelvette is clearly king and the world waits on his word and bends to his will. After a while he sharpens his tie, breathes deep and turns to regard Grover.

KELVETTE

Well then, General. How ’bout it? When do we attack?

GENERAL GROVER

Attack, Sir? I mean, Mr Kingsley. Attack?

KELVETTE

Yes, General Grover. Attack.

GENERAL GROVER

Attack who?

KELVETTE

RexoCorp. Strike at ’em. Let’s shock their units around the corner. Just a click from here.

GENERAL GROVER

Well, erm, Sir. I’ve got to say that I’m surprised…

KELVETTE

Are our troops ready? Equipment ready? Good to go in an hour, say?

GENERAL GROVER

Well, erm, yes…

Kelvette lights up and his muzzle cracks a wicked smile as his aviator shades shine bright. He’s now revelling in playing his own war games.

KELVETTE

Excellent! The we are oscar mike, General… [Ironically circles his paw in the air as if he’s winding up invisible tape] … rock ‘n’ roll and have our men, women and drones ready to launch manoeuvres in, oh, forty minutes.

GENERAL GROVER

But, Kingsley! I… I…

KELVETTE

Now keep your cool, Grover. [Patronising] You’ve done just the most fantastic job so far and I wouldn’t want you to start jitterbuggin’ out on us all now…

GENERAL GROVER

No, Mr Kelvette but I must impress a few things on you…

KELVETTE

Oh, impress me General. I like to be impressed and so few people impress me these days.

Grover frowns and shakes his head.

GENERAL GROVER

Mr Kelvette, I question the wisdom of just attacking now, I mean right now. We can’t just throw ourselves at RexoCorp off the cuff…

KELVETTE

Do you not like surprises, General?

GENERAL GROVER

I…

KELVETTE

I like surprises and I’d like to surprise RexoCorp’s camp a few blocks over. They won’t like that surprise.

GENERAL GROVER

But, Mr Kingsley you can’t just do that!

KELVETTE

I can, friend, and I will. [Eyes up his claws, then looks to Grover and beckons] Come, General. It’s time to ride out, so to speak…

GENERAL GROVER

This… this is… well, Kingsley, with respect, this is insane. You can’t just come in here and make my units move into combat action on a whim!

KELVETTE

Your units? Why, General, these are my units. You are all in the employ of Kelvette Incorporated and I pay your wages and provide your generous healthcare plan. Am I right?

GENERAL GROVER

Yes, but…

KELVETTE

… And I’m running this army so, please, work with me, hey? Be the man by my side as I lead it right into the beating, bloody pumping heart of battle…

GENERAL GROVER

Lead into battle?

KELVETTE

Of course, General. I’m a dynamic leader and hands, no, paws-on kinda guy. This will be fun. Let’s go.

GENERAL GROVER

But! But you’re the head of the company! You can’t just put charge onto the front line! It’s just… it’s… it’s lunacy!

Kelvette purrs and scoffs. He straightens his tie again and somehow fumbles a fresh marijuana cigarette from his breast pocket. Taking his time, he retrieves a gold-plated Zippo lighter from the back of his helmet and sparks up his joint. He inhales and exhales with clear satisfaction. He’s in a kind of mystical self-confident mojo haze – a true spirit animal in a world of his own.

KELVETTE

Yeah… kill it. Let’s kill it, Grover. San Francisco’s mine.

The general is incredulous, fingers tensing on the table and head shaking off its hinges.

GENERAL GROVER

No no no… you can’t just come down here and drag my troops and tech into the middle of a skirmish! And you can’t lead that charge yourself! Please, Mr Kingsley, listen to me! I’m here to serve you and have been serving you here for six weeks now. In 28 years of military…

KELVETTE

[Forcefully interrupting] General, I’ve been fighting it out from day one, right from the very birth. Right from the moment I was blown out my mother’s bloody womb. I made it in this brutal world after ripping her in three and managed to make it spite of my father’s best efforts to destroy me. I took his business off him, I took his life and I’ve taken the businesses and lives of any who’ve stood in my way. General, all the wars I’ve waged make your conflicts look like kindergarten games of cowboys and Injuns…

Kelvette fixes a look on the General and sucks on his toke. He blows smoke right in Grover’s face…

KELVETTE

Nothin’ beats me, General. Nothin’. Any obstacle in my way, man, I smoke it. I rip it right out the way and climb higher, higher, higher…

GENERAL GROVER

But! But you can’t lead these troops! You are not a soldier, Sir!

KELVETTE

[Pawing face in mild frustration as he smokes] Ahhh, Grover you really are getting vexsome. [Stating forcefully, baring his sharpened teeth] Do you not see me? See me. Look upon me. I am a force of nature. I am the power animal physically manifest. I can not be stopped and I will not be stopped. Now, let me take ‘Frisco, claim my damn city and strike right at RexoCorp.

GENERAL GROVER

Mr. Kingsley, I must protest and refuse your order! This is insanity! I will not allow…

But it’s too late for Grover now and Kelvette has had enough. With a sudden turn the leopard man convulses in a seizure of supernatural wrath. Radiating red energy waves pulse out of his physical form, bombarding the tent around, battering the desk and knocking the overlooked Herring from his feet as the fabric walls billow violently. The General tries to shield himself from the shockblasts and the approaching force of his superior but it’s all futile. Kelvette rises up, seemingly larger than before and he brings great clawed paws down on the General to tear him to shreds in visceral style at rapid speed. His organs are ripped from his torso and the leopard man finishes off his voctim by scratching his horrified face right off.

A sad blood fountain gushes itself to exhaustion in the background as the leopard man recovers himself and slowly, with poise, regains his composure. He takes a few relaxing drags of his marijuana cigarette, straightens his tie and repositions his helmet.

He turns to the awestruck, dread-stricken Herring who’s stumbled back to his feet and is cowering in the corner. Kelvette flashes a grin, sharp teeth bared with vicious relish.

KELVETTE

Now, let’s get on with business…

Kelvette saunters out of the tent. Flashes of displaced power animal aura energy radiate off him and dissipate in the air. As the leopard man departs to blaze a trail of death and destruction across San Francisco the camera lingers on the loose dead fingers of General Grover, blood trickling down his limp lifeless arm…

FADE OUT

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  1. Pictonaut Screenplay Challenge for April: ‘To Battle with the Big Cat’… | ENTER... JAMES CLAYTON

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