STARCHILD III "THE LONG WAY HOME" (Screenplay Treatment)
On a planet that orbits a distant star from Earth, there is a world similar to modern day Earth. It is the planet Terra. Things are similar to what Earth might be like in a few decades. Terra is only slightly advanced over Earth's present technology. The cars are modern, but not readily identifiable as to make or model. Signs and directions are familiar, but read more like they are in a foreign language. All the people look very normal, but their dress is slightly modern. At the beginning of the story, it is not stated the this is Earth.
The scientific community is dealing with several problems at their space program center (their equivalent of Earth's NASA). A satellite, containing a nuclear power plant, has been sent to gather information about Terra's sun. Its orbit was not intended to return to Terra, but due to an error in telemetry, it is now headed back towards Terra. The scientists working on this project now believe that the satellite will soon impact the upper atmosphere of Terra. Normally, this would not be a problem as satellites burn up on re-entry, but the nuclear reactor on board the satellite will reach critical mass as it collides at its angle and speed. When it hits, it will start a nuclear burn in Terra's upper atmospheric gasses. The end result of this impact will be to create a winter so long that most of life on Terra will not be able to survive.
The story begins as a test rocket (similar to a Titan) is launched into space. On board is a device to be tested once the rocket is in space. The test will prove the workability of a new magnetic propulsion device developed by the Professor, who works for the Terra space agency in the research and development center. The device called the Fluxtron may be the answer to hyper-light speed travel. The opening scene is a slow motion close-up of the rocket being fired from the launch pad. The rocket climbs out of sight and quiet returns to the swamps around the launch pad. The sound of birds are heard and a caption on the screen reads "Spring Morning 2020".
The action then follows, via a view from a patrol helicopter of a car leaving the launch bunker and arriving at the space center headquarters. A press conference is being held at the space center to announce the first successful launching of a space craft exceeding the speed of light. After the press conference, a closed door meeting is held where the sun orbital satellite and its consequences are discussed. The Professor takes this opportunity to present the recent findings on the rocket propulsion test on the Fluxtron and its implication for future deep space travel. In doing so, he explains the Theory of Relativity in simple understandable terms.
At this same time, a new vertical take-off air/space craft has been developed. This craft is capable of transition into an extremely high altitude flight and lower planetary orbit. The craft is called the Starchild and was manufactured by the Starchild Aircraft Company which has been building aircraft on Terra for the last seventy years. Its founder, Clyde Starchild, died several years before the development of the new Starchild craft. It has been named in his honor and has been designated the S-1. The craft has been delivered to a hanger on the air base at the space center and is being readied for flight testing. The craft was not designed to be equipped with the new Fluxtron, but this will change.
One of the Professor's associates at the research center is a woman Scientist who is also a close friend. Other close friends of the Professor's are an Astronaut and the chief Engineer at the space center. After today's successful rocket launch, a cocktail party is given at the lavish home of the space center's Director. The Professor and his friends are gathered together in a corner of the room and are quietly discussing the inevitable disaster that will occur to the atmosphere caused by the nuclear chain reaction from the out of control satellite. The Wife of the Astronaut is with them, but when she sees the familiar face of a female Staff officer, leaves the group to join her. The Astronaut is unaware that the Staff officer is his wife's lesbian lover.
The Engineer's son enters the room and approaches his father. He has been drinking and embarrasses the Engineer by proclaiming that his father is to blame for his mother's early death. A friend tries to steady the son, but he stumbles backwards and crashes over a coffee table. The party pauses. The son leaves and his father starts to follow, but is told by his friends to let his son go and he will cool off. Also in attendance are several high ranking military men. One such military Officer has had many run-ins with this group of close knit scientists and has questions their loyalty. He feels the group is keeping secrets from the military and is jealous of the influence that they have in the space agency. Among the military officers he is conversing with, he remarks that this small group of space agency employees bear watching.
After many meetings over the next several days, the decision is made that the Professor, the Astronaut, the Astronaut's wife, the Scientist, the Engineer, the Engineer's son will attempt to leave Terra in the Starchild. The group now makes plans to equip the Starchild with the Fluxtron technology believing that is their only chance of escaping the pending doom of their planet. The Engineer's Son has spent all night drinking and is killed in a spectacular car crash on the way to the air base. At the last minute, the Astronaut is called to the phone in the hanger. His wife tells him on the phone that she has been assured by her father, the Director, and her close friend the Staff officer, that there is no danger from the falling satellite. She is not going with them.
It is time to depart. The Scientist remarks that she hates to leave her red sports car behind, but other than that she has no regrets. A Technician, who has worked on the Starchild is just finishing up as the group is boarding the craft. He asks the Engineer if he can have one of the empty seats and it is agreed. A Mechanic, who has also worked on the Starchild is present and is asked if he would like the remaining seat. He declines as he is going home to be with his family. A last minute attempt is made by the Staff officer to send someone to stop them. The tower refuses to authorize takeoff, but the Starchild departs.
The group of five, which we will now call the Travelers, take off in the Starchild and climb into lower planetary orbit. As the Starchild is inserted into hyper-light speed (much faster than the speed of light), the out of control satellite returns in the direction of Terra and strikes the atmosphere. A slow and ever increasing burn (the planet does not explode) envelopes Terra. On board the Starchild, the celestial navigation autopilot is set to navigate to a star (Earth's Sun) that shows signs of wobbling, This wobbling effect has been proven by astronomers to generally indicates a planetary system around a sun. The Travelers conclude this is the most logical destination and the Fluxtron is engaged.
The acceleration of the craft is a constant one G-force, but the acceleration doubles ever fraction of a second. On board the Starchild, the Travelers experience the sensation of traveling through the light speed of light. Those sensations being the red-blue light spectrum shift, the curvature of light and the distortion of time. The past, present and future of the moment are experienced simultaneously. After a predetermined period of time, which has been set into the celestial navigation system's autopilot, the Fluxtron is disengaged. The craft is now coasting in space, but steadily decelerating. The effect of the gravitational fields of distant stars and the few widely space molecules in free space are geometrically slowing the craft. If needed, the Fluxtron can be engaged behind the craft's direction of flight or left and right of the direction of flight to steer the craft.
After the Starchild is dropped out of hyper-light speed and slows, it is positioned in a high orbit around Earth. Descending into the Earth's atmosphere, the jet engines are started, enabling the Starchild to fly like an aircraft. They descend to a few hundred feet above the terrain and fly over beautiful spreading prairies and tropical forests. They discover that they have arrived on Earth during the Paleozoic Age (about 65 million BC, Earth time). Dinosaurs are grazing on the vast plains (computer graphics are used to simulate these) as the Starchild flies over the Earth at a low altitude surveying the terrain. The Travelers consider themselves fortunate that they have discovered a planet capable of sustaining plant and animal life and hopefully, human life.
The Starchild's database has recorded the flight since leaving Terra, but relative to having traveled millions of light years in just a few hours, all of the stars positions have now shifted. Also, millions of years have past back on Terra. If by some miracle, any living thing, be it plant, animal or human, had survived the atmospheric collapse, everything that had been know to the Travelers would have been gone millenniums ago. Traveling at a hundred multiples of the speed of light, the Travelers have reached Earth millions of years into the future and arrived at a planet that is presently entering the Paleozoic Age.
By applying the Laws of Relativity, which allows that one can travel forward in time, but not backwards in time, the Travelers decide once again to insert the Starchild into hyper-light speed, but into a solar orbit (a flight path similar to that of a comet). This should have the effect of moving them forward in time in relation to the time on the surface of the planet, but not cause them to stray too far from what is now known to be an inhabitable planet (Earth). When the Starchild is once again dropped out of the hyper-light speed after only a few minutes, the Travelers find themselves in orbit above Earth in about 3000 BC. The Engineer relates that there is only a limited amount of conventional fuel remaining on board the Starchild, just enough for one more flight. They know that if they engage the Fluxtron inside a planet's atmosphere, it would fry the craft and all on board. The decision is made to land the craft immediately. The Astronaut lands the craft on the flat surface of a desert which appears on the horizon. During the decent, the Travelers observe people working on a construction site of a huge stone structure. After landing, the Travelers leave the craft and walk toward the construction site, mingling in with some of the workers. At first, language is a problem, but through hand gestures and learning some of the local phrases, they are soon able to communicate.
The Travelers find that they have landed in Giza in ancient Egypt and are witnessing early construction on the Sphinx. The Travelers are taken in by a small group of friendly workers and live among them. The Technician must make minor repairs to some of the burnt wiring on the Fluxtron. This will take at least a week or more. On the tenth night of their stay, a young Egyptian girl decides to dance before the group after the evening meal. She has become fascinated with the Engineer and dances provocatively in front of him. The Engineer is mesmerized with her beauty and dancing and finds her later and takes her to bed. A young warrior, who is betrothed to the dancer finds out about the incident and kills the Engineer in a fit of jealous rage. The young girl becomes pregnant with the Engineer's child.
The Travelers decide they must leave Egypt. The Technician must now take over the copilot's navigation duties. The Professor calculates that they have one more chance to move forward in time to a more modern technological era. This next flight will require only a fraction of a second at hyper-light speed, but they will have expended all of there conventional fuel. The four prepare to leave. During the Travelers brief stay in ancient Egypt, the Technician has befriended a young orphaned Girl. The Girl was the daughter of a minor ruler in the area who lost a border war. He and his wife, the Girl's parents, were executed in front of her when she was six years old. One of the elders working on the Sphinx took her into his household. She is now age fourteen. She is treated little better than a servant girl among the elder's other children. She understands that the travelers are not gods and equates them to other royalty that she knew as a child. She asks permission to go with them on their next journey. The Travelers and the elder agree. They say their good-byes to the small band of workers and disappear into the desert and board the hidden Starchild and depart.
The Starchild is once again dropped out of the hyper-light speed and the Travelers find themselves in orbit above1950s Earth. Entering the atmosphere and descending somewhere over the eastern United State of America. The craft glides easily, while the Astronaut searches for a remote area to land. He is flying the Starchild like a space shuttle, passing through the sound barrier creating a sonic boom occurs. The sonic boom is heard by many across the New England countryside. At this particular time on Earth, many people were reporting sightings of flying saucers, so the boom and the sighting of a unique metal object were attributed to this phenomenon. The Astronaut is on a committed final approach when he sights a small grass strip outside a New England village. The Starchild is damaged on landing as it runs into trees at the end of the runway. The Travelers find themselves unharmed and pull the Starchild into an old empty hangar on the run down airport.
As the Travelers journey toward the village, from a distance they notice an old county estate and see a woman real estate Agent placing a For Sale sign on the property. The Travelers tell the Agent they are a group of foreigners who have arrived in this country to work in the scientific community. The Agent tells them the property is owned by an old WW I Flyer who lives alone and is anxious to sell as he wants to move to the Florida Keys and deep sea fish everyday. The estate includes an abandoned air strip with an old hangar on it (where they hid the Starchild). They relate to her they would like to purchase the property. The Scientist opens the doors of the old garage and finds an old, dust covered, Dusenburg Phaeton. Fondly remembering her sexy red sports car, she decides wants this classic automobile. She is told that the Dusenburg goes with the estate. The Scientist fully restores the old Dusenburg and drives it everywhere she goes (Dusty rides again).
The Travelers settle in the estate and each has their own room and are pursuing separate interests. Before the old Flyer retires, he stays for awhile with the Travelers. He and the Astronaut become good friends and the Flyer teaches the Astronaut how to fly his old biplane. The Professor and the Scientist occupy the master bedroom. One morning, she asks him when he intends to make an honest woman out of her and he replies, maybe when we go home. This is the first that she realizes the Professor is seriously considering returning to Terra. Everyone and everything they had ever know on Terra has vanished millenniums ago and it is very likely that the environment has not fully recovered.
Realizing that in order to survive, they need the currency used during this time period. The Technician uses a laser device out of the Starchild to make a set of printing plates and proceeds to make counterfeit money. After a period of time, two government Investigators come to the small nearby town to talk to the Sheriff about the counterfeit bills that seem to be originating from the area. The problem, the investigators explain, is that the bill are not poor quality, but are better than those produced at the Treasury. When the Professor gets wind of this from the sheriff, he has the Technician stop counterfeiting the money and destroy the printing plates.
The Girl is fascinated with all the new things like the electric stove and television and takes care of the household. The Technician tinkers at the airport hanger with parts from the Starchild and is building an electronic music synthesizer in his spare time. The Scientist goes to work at a small medical clinic and does gene research in her spare time. The Professor takes a lecture position at a nearby university where he mentors an astronomy Student who is his teaching assistant. Next year, when the Student graduates, he will take a position at the Arecibo Radio Observatory.
There has been a continual investigation into UFO sightings in the area for the past two years. Persons an unnamed government agency (men in black types) starts to investigate the reports that were generated from the Starchild's decent. The Astronaut encounters a young Lady attorney who works for the government agency. He is now operating the airport, selling gas, giving flight instructions and sight-seeing rides in an old Steersman biplane. He become briefly involved with the Lady agent and takes her flying in the biplane. The next morning, after they have spent the night together, she leaves before he wakes, leaving him a good-bye note. Due to the fact that she works for a clandestine agency, he is unable to find her again. She reports back to her supervisors that the suspicions of UFO activities in the airport area are a hoax. She believes that the reports were a hoax, in spite of the fact that the Starchild was in the hanger only forty feet from where she had been standing the day before.
The decision is made to abandon the New England lifestyle and move the small band (five) of Travelers to Dallas, Texas where the cover of a big city and corporate security will be a safer haven for them. The Professor has received offers to become involved in guiding several leading edge technology research and development projects. The Professor acquires major holdings in the Sytel Corporation in Fort Worth and Anaconda Electronic Research Company in Austin. An aircraft overhaul operation on Love Field also becomes one of their holdings. The Astronaut arranges to take delivery on one of the pre-production Learjet aircraft being developed in Wichita, Kansas. He intends to bring to their corporate hangar on Love Field. The plan is to fit the Learjet with the Fluxtron and equipment similar to that used on the original Starchild. The Fluxtron is not dependent on any kind on an aircraft or spacecraft to operate. It could be installed on a dumpster and it would fly at hyper-light speeds. A high altitude aircraft is used for two reasons. First, to get out of the dense atmosphere to prevent the craft's structure from overheating and secondly, to provide an environment for the persons on board.
The Lady attorney is working with two other government Agents that have now arrived in Dallas and are involved in a revived investigation of the Travelers. She once again becomes involved with the Astronaut when they meet at a well known restaurant and bar. They end up together again for the night. The Lady agent is sophisticated and elegant acting until she gets around the Astronaut, at which times she seems to turn into a babbling schoolgirl. The next morning, the Astronaut is up first. She asks him why it is that every time they meet, they wind up in bed together. He rousts her out of bed saying they need to get going that they have a lot of ground to cover today. He drags her out the door still pulling on her clothes and trying to straighten her hair. At the Love Field hanger, they take a Cessna 310 and fly to Wichita.
At the Lear factory, a prearranged meeting is held in the CEO's plush office which overlooks the aircraft ramp. In the discussion, the Astronaut explains that he cannot wait for certification of the new jet as he needs to take possession now. He hands the CEO a certified check for three million dollars. The CEO accepts the check and shakes hands, but tells the Astronaut that he still cannot release the aircraft as it has not been flight tested. The Astronaut, dragging the Lady behind, walks onto the tarmac where the Learjet is being readied for flight testing.
A Man in a white lab jacket, with a clipboard in his hand, is standing by the airstair. As the two approach, he asks them who they are. The Astronaut takes the clipboard from his hand, telling him that he is the newly hired flight test pilot. He scribbles a signature on the clipboard and hands it back to the Man. The Man is talking to someone on his two-way radio as the jet is firing up. The answer over the radio, from the CEO, is to suggest that the Man return to the factory and go to lunch. The Man, now standing by the Cessna 310 they left behind, is still stammering over the radio as the jet rolls down the runway. The Man, a trusted employee for many years, goes to the CEO's office. The CEO tell him of a dream that he had when he was first working on designing the jet. The Man is told that he would probably never see that particular jet again. It is suggested that in a few months, the aircraft be written off as our static test model.
Enroute to Florida, the Astronaut sees how high he can get the jet. At 40,000 feet, it won't climb anymore. It has to do better than this, maybe some booster rockets under the wings the Astronaut remarks. The Lady, although tagging along, is still in the dark about what is taking place. She hasn't reported to her office in two days and is quite sure she is probably in trouble for it. It is a nice day for flying and the Astronaut reminds the Lady of the time they had gone flying in to old biplane back in New England. The jet lands at an airport in Key West where they are greeted by the old Flyer. He has a seaplane, an old PBY, waiting for them. The other four Travelers are there to meet them. All board the seaplane and taxi into the water. The old Flyer is piloting the plane. The Astronaut, seated in the copilot seat, reminds the Flyer to stay low over the water, under the continental air defense radar (ADAZ) as they are not filing a flight plan.
The sun is setting over the water to the west of the island as the seaplane materializes on the horizon and lands on the water near the beach. As the plane taxis on the beach, a bullet passes through the cockpit window, narrowly missing both pilots. The Astronaut and the Technician jump from the plane and run into the bushes while bullets are kicking up the sand at their feet. They have no idea who is shooting at them. Except for the Astronomer, who will meet them in the morning at a prearranged place up the road, no one should know that they are here. The Lady attorney swears she has told no one. The Astronaut and the Technician circle around behind were the rifle fire is coming from. They jump two grungy looking men in dirty khakis. The men are rum Runners waiting on a boat. They smuggle duty free, boot leg rum in knock-off Bacardi bottles to customers in the States. It is a case of mistaken identify. The rum Runners thought that the Travelers were either the Feds or a competitor coming to raid them.
Things settle down and the Travelers join the two rum Runners at their campfire that evening for dinner and pineapple juice with rum. The two black men helpers entertain with some Reggae style music until the early morning hours when everyone passes out and falls asleep. The morning sunlight coming through the palm trees awakens them. A van up the road is honking. It is the Astronomer who has come to pick them up. The old Flyer says he will stay with the seaplane that is parked on the beach. The six Travelers make their way through the tropical bushes and to a clearing beside the road where the Astronomer is waiting. Greeting are exchanged and they get in the van.
They drive up the mountains to the Arecibo Radio Observatory where they park the van and enter the facility (an opportunity for aerial shot to music like Alpine Drive). At the Observatory, no one pays much attention to them as there are several groups of tourists visiting the site. The Professor and the Astronomer walk out to the center cone of the large array as only the weight of two people are allowed out there at a time. They are out there to realign the cone as the Earth is about to pass through the portion of the sky where Terra's solar system is located. The other five Travelers go to a recording center under the antenna to take the required readings. These new and more accurate readings will be run through a computer to determine the precise future location of Terra's sun.
The Travelers return to Love Field, Dallas. The Lady attorney, who has been privy to all that has gone on, still has no more of a clue of who these people are and what this group is working on than she did when she started. She only knows that now she is sure that they are not of any danger to anyone or society in general. She also knows that she would probably trust the Astronaut with her life. The new Learjet will be reconfigured into the Starchild II. It is pushed into the corporate hanger where work will begin on the necessary modifications. The first requirement will be to install an environmental system that is independent of the jet engine as well as to strengthen some of the bulkheads. The next modification that will be required is the addition of a solid propellant rocket under each wing. Finally, the airframe field coil and the Fluxtron which is being built at the Anaconda research center's laboratory.
The Professor and Scientist go to the Anaconda corporate offices in San Antonio to take delivery on the second generation Fluxtron. The prototype will be taken to Dallas Love Field for installation in the Starchild II. At a luncheon between the Travelers and the Anaconda corporate executives, there is discussion about new electronic devices which the Professor has designed and his plans to turn over to Anaconda. Hovering above the San Antonio Hemisphere Needle is a helicopter with a telephoto lens which is transmitting the video and the audio of the meeting back to the government agency's headquarters where the meeting is being watched on a television monitor. The audio is being furnished by a Mole in the group of executives.
Upon their return to Dallas, the Travelers begin making preparations for their departure to Terra. The Starchild II is being fitted with everything except the Fluxtron which is coming from Anaconda. So as not to arouse suspicion, the Fluxtron has been shipped FedEx routinely. The following evening, the Professor is speaking at SMU and lecturing to a group of young scientists and students. The Technician, who has completed all the work except installing the Fluxtron, is at a rock concert where he has promoted his way into performing with the rock group. When the FedEx truck arrives at Love Field hangar, the Astronaut puts out a call to the Professor and the Technician on their mobil phones. The message is that the package has arrived.
The Professor is signaled by the Scientist who is in the audience to wrap it up and come on. The Professor is leaving the meeting as he is approached by a young scientist with several questions. Reaching into his briefcase, the Professor pulls out a large handful of notes. Handing them to the young scientist, the Professor says that its all right there if you can figure it out. They jump in the Dusenburg and race through the North Dallas streets. The Scientist who is driving goes sliding onto the tarmac in front of the hangar. At the same time, a limo, with the Technician and the Girl, arrive. The Girl is now pregnant. The Technician still has his rock star outfit on and both run for the hangar. The Scientist takes one last look at her Dusenburg as she is approached by the gas boy who admires the car. Pitching the keys to the boy, she tells him that it is his, take good care of it.
The government Agents are closing in on the Travelers. The Lady attorney arrives just ahead of the other two government Agents as the Starchild II is towed out of the hangar. Night is falling and a slow drizzling rain is starting. She runs across the ramp, losing her shoes as the Travelers board the Starchild II. The aircraft starts to taxi and the airstair door is shutting. She is yelling for them to open the door. The airstair door opens, but the craft does not stop taxiing as she jumps aboard. She has decided to go with them at the last minute. She doesn't know where they are going, but has decided she is going to go with The Astronaut wherever that might be. The government Agents arrive too late to stop them from departing. As the Starchild II is cleared for takeoff. It climbs like a BOH and one of the control tower operators remarks to the other, what was that taking off. The other operator replies, oh I think its one of those things that they work on out at Hangar 51.
The six Travelers travel through space and time, returning to the planet Terra. Millions of years have elapsed since their departure from the planet. The civilization which they left behind has long since died off. The planet is at a point of development roughly equivalent to 16th century Ireland, a rural agrarian society. This poses the question of whether or not any civilization will ultimately destroy itself with technology and if it did, will it have a second chance.
Thomas Wolfe said that "you can't go home again." In scientific fact, you can never go backwards in time, only forward. When the Travelers land near a peaceful village on the planet Terra, there is a chance for a new life. Four of the group go on ahead toward the village. As the Astronaut and the Professor finish unloading some personal items from the Starchild II, they also start to walk toward the village. As they stroll up the dirt road in the beautiful blue sky valley in which they have landed, the Astronaut raises his right hand. In the palm of his right hand is a small remote control and he pushes the button on the control. In a gigantic mushroom cloud, the Starchild II and all its technology is destroyed. The last words are of the Professor who turns to the Astronaut and remarks, who was that guy who was that guy who said you can't go home again.
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