Steam in the Pipes By Phillip Aleman

2012

EXT. STREET - DAY On one of the final days of summer in a small city that’s more town than metropolis, a countless protesters are SCREAMING and YELLING in the streets. A good number of them are holding homemade signs above their heads. They are all focusing their attention towards a typical yellow school bus that is incorrectly parked in front of the entrance of a chain-link fence, acting as a make-shift blockade to a restricted area. Police officers are sprinkle the area, but the majority of them are by the bus, acting as a small buffer between the protesters and the out of place school bus. They’re doing their best to make sure matters don’t escalate. A handful of private security guards are watching from the other side of the fence. The road that slides under the fence continues into the distance. Following it leads to a large facility. In the center of the compound are two giant smokestacks that tower over everything. Neither are producing any smoke or steam. The titles "MANATO, IOWA 1976" fade in near the bottom of the screen. They hold for a moment before fading away. The commotion near the entrance of the fence is chaotic, but there seems to be some sense of order near the school bus, where the heads of the protest and the majority of the police are. They seem to have an uneasy understanding of the other. One of protester’s top coordinators, ROGER FISCHERS, age 23, leaves his circle of associates with a megaphone in hand. He climbs a ladder to the top of the school bus. From there, Roger surveys the crowd. The megaphone SCREECHES to life as he turns on the megaphone. The crowd flinches at the horrible noise. With everyone’s attention now on him, Roger begins with smug look on his face. ROGER (speaking through megaphone) Sorry about that. He waits for the crowd to laugh, but quickly realizes they are not going to. He clears his throat before continuing. ROGER (through megaphone) I just want everybody to know that we are off to great start. The mayor is on his way right now to try and shut us down! (CONTINUED)

CONTINUED:

2.

The crowd BOOS at the absent politician. ROGER (through megaphone) But we’re not gonna let him, or anyone else stop us, are we? Now, when he gets here, what is he gonna hear!? PROTESTERS Hell no, we won’t glow! ROGER (through megaphone, playfully) What was that? I couldn’t quite hear you. Would you mind speaking up? As requested, the crowd increases its volume and intensity. PROTESTERS Hell no, we won’t glow! Hell no, we won’t glow! After a few more cries on their own, he joins in with them. ROGER (through megaphone) That’s the spirit! Hell no, we won’t glow! Hell no, we won’t glow! INT. MAYOR’S LIMOUSINE - DAY The booming cheers are gone. Sheriff DAN BULLOCH, 49, is sitting next to JONATHAN RAY, 24. Neither seem to happy with their current situation. Across from them is MAYOR JAMES JOHNSON, 44. He’s clearly unhappy with where they all are. MAYOR JOHNSON Would you mind explaining to me how this happened, Bulloch? Or perhaps you would, Jonathan, hmm? The Mayor has put the fear of the Almighty into Jonathan, but Bulloch isn’t batting an eye any of it. SHERIFF BULLOCH They had the right papers. Everything checked out.

(CONTINUED)

CONTINUED:

3.

MAYOR JOHNSON Papers. That were supposedly signed by me? SHERIFF BULLOCH Correct. MAYOR JOHNSON And did you happen to see these papers, Sheriff? With your own two eyes? SHERIFF BULLOCH My deputy has assured me that your signature was on those demonstration papers. MAYOR JOHNSON Again, Dan. Did you see the papers? SHERIFF BULLOCH Not personally, no. But Carter knows your handwriting. MAYOR JOHNSON And I know that I would never give permission for a mess like this to undermine the most important breakthrough this city’s ever seen! And less than two weeks before we even turn the damn thing on. The protesters’ chants are gradually becoming audible as limousine approaches the demonstration. MAYOR JOHNSON Listen to that racket. They’ve drawn all sorts of out-of-town riffraff, drifters, and all other damned folks out here for these stupid protests. Now, do either of you have any good news for me? Sheepishly, Jonathan chimes in. JONATHAN RAY Tourism is up. Johnson relaxes, but completely. Jonathan’s words have caught his attention.

(CONTINUED)

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4.

MAYOR JOHNSON (with intrigue) Really? JONATHAN RAY Yes, sir. MAYOR JOHNSON How much? JONATHAN RAY Significantly. I’ve gotten word that almost all motels and hotels in the area are quickly reaching maximum capacity if they haven’t already. MAYOR JOHNSON Interesting. JONATHAN RAY Revenue for nearly everything is up across the board. Most shops and stores are having difficulty keeping up with demand. MAYOR JOHNSON Demand for what? JONATHAN RAY Well, pretty much everything. Sir. Johnson takes a moment to reflect. The chants of the protectors continue to grow. MAYOR JOHNSON Jonathan. After I handle the protests I want you to find out everything you can about Shipinningport’s economy. JONATHAN RAY (slightly confused) Shippingport, sir? SHERIFF BULLOCH It’s a city in Pennsylvania. JONATHAN RAY What does Pennsylvania have to do with anything?

(CONTINUED)

CONTINUED: MAYOR JOHNSON They beat us to the punch and opened a nuclear power plant much like ours four months ago. I want to know what kind of fallout I should be expecting from the public in the weeks leading up to plant completion. Sheriff Bulloch lets out a small chuckle. JONATHAN RAY Is there something funny, Sheriff? SHERIFF BULLOCH (smiling) No. Just remembered a good joke. The mayor is looking out the window, preoccupied. SHERIFF BULLOCH What are you thinking, James? MAYOR JOHNSON That my father was right, after all. There really is no such thing as bad publicity.

5.

The limo halts. Outside their windows are the protesters and the police. SHERIFF BULLOCH Oh, I don’t know I’d say that, Mayor. I think Cooper little prostitute scandal last election might disagree. MAYOR JOHNSON Only a short term defeat. Cooper’s not done, though. He’ll bounce back, sooner or later. A police officer from outside opens the door for them. Mayor Johnson steps out. EXT. STREET - NEAR THE PLANT ENTRANCE AND SCHOOL BUS BLOCKADE Jonathan and Sheriff Bulloch step out and follow the mayor as he leads them and a handful of other officers to the epicenter of the protest. Deputy Carter, already in the middle of handling the protest, spots them and rushes over to join them. (CONTINUED)

CONTINUED:

6.

With all the yelling and chanting, everyone is forced to raise their voices to a holler in order to be heard. DEPUTY CARTER I’m sorry, Sheriff, but they had all the write paperwork and everything. SHERIFF BULLOCH We’ll handle it from here, Carter, you get back to keeping things under control. And keep an eye on Brown. He’s been a little off lately. Bulloch sends Carter off with a pat on the back. SHERIFF BULLOCH Make sure everything stays peaceful! With a handful of additional officers, the reach the school bus, the epicenter of the heads of both sides are arguing off to the the Mayor nor Sheriff can fully hear their yet. limousine trio commotion. The side, but neither arguments just

On the warpath to finish this protest, the mayor marches to the bus and yells up to Roger who is still standing on top of the bus. MAYOR JOHNSON Are you in charge here? Full of himself, Roger looks down at the mayor with a smug grin. ROGER (motioning to his megaphone) What do you think? MAYOR JOHNSON That you’re a loud mouth for a more modest and far smarter man. Now, who’s responsible for all this? ALLAN (O.S.) That would be me. Mayor Johnson turns to his right. Among the mob of people and police are ALLAN GIBSON, 28, and HOWARD LORNE, 39.

(CONTINUED)

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7.

Allan extends his hand to the mayor. Johnson accepts it and shakes. Allan is warm, friendly, yet maintains an aura of professionalism. ALLAN (handshaking) It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mayor. MAYOR JOHNSON (handshaking) Thank you. Howard Lorne shares Allan’s professionalism, but not his warmth or inviting demeanor. HOWARD Howard P. Lorne, Chief Operating Engineer of the Manato Nuclear Power Plant. MAYOR JOHNSON Yes, I know. We’ve met previously. Howard continues, seemingly ignoring Mayor Johnson’s comments. HOWARD Please tell me you’re here to have these derelicts removed off plant property. Allan smiles. ALLAN I would like to point out that we are technically not on plant property. As you can see, we are all on *this* side of the fence, and therefore on public property. Allan raises a series of rolled-up papers. ALLAN Additionally, we have all the necessary paperwork for this peaceful and perfectly legal demonstration. HOWARD (with rising anger) I’m fairly certain your paperwork doesn’t include anything about denying passage to and from my (MORE) (CONTINUED)

CONTINUED:

8.

HOWARD (cont’d) plant by hijacking a school bus to use as a make-shift blockade! ALLAN We like to be creative. HOWARD (to Mayor Johnson) Plant staff hasn’t been able to get in or out since this protest began! MAYOR JOHNSON Aren’t there other entrances into the plant? HOWARD They’ve blocked off all the entrances! ALLAN And thorough. We take pride in our work. MAYOR JOHNSON Let me see your papers. Allan hands them over to the mayor. MAYOR JOHNSON A moment. Johnson steps away, leaving the bickering rivals to bring the document over for review with Jonathan Ray and Sheriff Bulloch, who are standing a few feet away. Allan sneaks a quick look at Howard who is reeling in frustration and smirks at the engineer’s current misfortune. Johnson sifts through the papers. SHERIFF BULLOCH What’s the word, James? Are they a forgery? MAYOR JOHNSON (reading over them) If they are I need to find out who signed these so I can hire him as my assistant. It’d save me a lot of time on signing.

(CONTINUED)

CONTINUED:

9.

SHERIFF BULLOCH Should I tell my men to be on the lookout for any suspicious notarizers? JONATHAN RAY This is no time for jokes, Bulloch. Johnson releases a slight SIGH of frustration, confusion, and reluctance. MAYOR JOHNSON There’s no doubt about it. This is my signature. But I’ll be damned if I can remember reading any of this, let alone signing it. SHERIFF BULLOCH So how they’d get it? MAYOR JOHNSON Hell if I know. Johnson is fixated on the papers. JONATHAN RAY Sir. If I may? MAYOR JOHNSON (still staring at the papers) Go ahead, Jonathan. JONATHAN RAY I think it’s quite possible that these forms came to you while you were overrun with immediate responsibilities, and while under great stress, you may have signed away permission for the protest in your hurry to attend to more urgent and obvious matters. Johnson lowers the papers and takes a hard look at his assistant. MAYOR JOHNSON Are you implying that I’m an irresponsible politician, Jonathan? That I don’t properly review what I actually sign and give full and legal power to?

(CONTINUED)

CONTINUED:

10.

JONATHAN RAY (cautiously) I’m saying... SHERIFF BULLOCH (interjecting) We all makes mistakes, James. Now what do we do about all this? They’re illegally denying people access to their workplace, I have to intervene. JONATHAN RAY Are you insane? These people will go wild, it’s a miracle they haven’t started rioting already! And have you even thought about the media fallout? NBC, CBS--the plant is controversial enough already, I-SHERIFF BULLOCH I know, Jonathan. I’m open to suggestions. Mayor James Johnson takes another look at the papers. After a few moments of review, he a wide grin appears on his. SHERIFF BULLOCH Something funny? MAYOR JOHNSON My father was the greatest lawyer this state ever saw. I’ll be damned if I’m going to lose an argument over semantics. The mayor marches back over to Allan and Howard. Sheriff Bulloch and Jonathan Ray follow a few steps behind. MAYOR JOHNSON Gentlemen. These papers are for June 13, 1976. ALLAN Correct. Which is today. MAYOR JOHNSON Specifically, they are for Monday, June 13, 1976. But as well know today is--

(CONTINUED)

CONTINUED: HOWARD (cutting Johnson off) --Is Tuesday.

11.

Slightly annoyed, Johnson is taken back for a slight moment. MAYOR JOHNSON Yes, Tuesday. ALLAN A small oversight. The date is right, as is everything else in there. MAYOR JOHNSON It’s still not Tuesday. Howard becomes relived. HOWARD Mayor, I speak for the entire plant when I say thank you. ALLAN You can’t be serious. I’ve never heard of a more ridiculous-The mayor cuts Allan off. Johnson’s smile is now a devilish grin. MAYOR JOHNSON Don’t either of you start thanking me just yet. Howard and Allan both appear confused. The mayor hands the papers back to Allan before walking to the bus. Next to it is a small car. Johnson climbs on top of it and uses the automobile as a stepping to stone to the bus. After scaling it, he stands face-to-face with Roger. ROGER Why did you do that? MAYOR JOHNSON (catching his breath) What? ROGER Why did you climb that car? We have a ladder. Roger points to the ladder on the other side of the bus. (CONTINUED)

CONTINUED:

12.

Johnson ignores the clarification and motions for Roger’s megaphone. MAYOR JOHNSON Just give me the megaphone. ROGER (playfully) What’s the magic word? ALLAN (yelling from the ground) Just give it to him, Roger! Roger reluctantly complies and mumbles to himself. ROGER (under his breath) Pig. Roger steps aside. Johnson smiles in genuine amusement at the weak insult. Johnson readies himself and checks the megaphone before speaking into it. MAYOR JOHNSON (speaking through the megaphone) Good day, citizens of Manato. The COMMOTION of the crowd gradually drops as they settle down to listen. MAYOR JOHNSON (through megaphone) And to our visitors, I’d like to introduce myself. I am Mayor James Johnson, and I want to begin by giving you a warm welcome to our humble city. I’d also like to thank each and every one of you for taking the time to come out here and voice your concerns. I know Manato’s new nuclear power plant has become a very polarizing issue these past few weeks as we near it’s completion, but I’m proud to see so many American citizens appreciate and use their God-given rights to express their beliefs.

(CONTINUED)

CONTINUED:

13.

A small, mixed reaction of CHEERS and BOOS come from the unsure crowd. MAYOR JOHNSON (through megaphone) Unfortunately, I must announce that we must bring this gathering to an early close today. With that, the crowd quickly makes up their minds and lashes back with an UPROAR of jeers and a series of CRIES. PROTESTERS (all different individuals yelling) I never voted for you anyway! Bring back Cooper! How much are they paying you to get rid of us!? Do we still get free shirts?! Despite the overwhelming negative reactions, Mayor Johnson remains cool. MAYOR JOHNSON (through megaphone) Quiet, please, everyone! I wish to stress that I said nothing of "canceling" the protest. Trust me when I say your voices--all of them--will be heard! A small portion of the crowd claps and cheers. MAYOR JOHNSON There is a slight problem, however, and due to circumstances entirely out of my control, including safety concerns, I am being forced to move this demonstration to Wednesday of next week. Then, every one of you can express your beliefs in a public and All-American manner! The crowd goes wild with enthusiasm. PROTESTER (among the crowd) What about the free shirts?

(CONTINUED)

CONTINUED:

14.

MAYOR JOHNSON Thank you, thank you! Now I ask that everyone leave the area in a calm and orderly fashion. I will see all of you next week when we continue this important discourse. Sensing his cue, Sheriff Bulloch takes control of the situation on the ground. SHERIFF BULLOCH Brown, Edwards, Adams, you’re on crowd control. Grab a megaphone and make sure these people don’t trample each other. Norton, Cummings, you’re in charge of traffic on 22nd and Washington. The various officers quickly move out to take their posts. Back on the school bus, the Mayor beams with great pride at Roger. With grace, the elected official hands the megaphone back to Roger. Rather than take the ladder, he once again climbs down the way he came up. Back on solid ground, he returns to his assistant Jonathan and Sheriff Bulloch. MAYOR JOHNSON And that, Bulloch, is how I beat Cooper. JONATHAN RAY That was an excellent speech, sir. MAYOR JOHNSON (to Sheriff Bulloch) Now see to it that everybody gets home safely. I don’t want to see two people so much as bump into each other. SHERIFF BULLOCH Two years in Korea and you don’t think I can handle people crossing the street? MAYOR JOHNSON I don’t want anything to upset my speech. The mayor adjusts his tie as the limousine pulls up to them. An officer opens the door and Jonathan steps in.

(CONTINUED)

CONTINUED:

15.

MAYOR JOHNSON Come by my office once you finish things up here. We’ve having an emergency meeting. Johnson enters and the officer closes the door behind the Mayor. Bulloch watches the limo drive off. Carter returns to his superior’s side. SHERIFF BULLOCH (still looking at the limo) Wasn’t that good a speech. DEPUTY CARTER I don’t know. I thought it was pretty good. The megaphone sure made him sound important. Bulloch SIGHS at Carter’s joke, unsure at the sincerity of his deputy’s comment. SHERIFF BULLOCH (to his officers) All right men, you heard ’his Highness.’ Let’s make sure nobody trips over their own two feet, c’mon! EXT. MANATO FIRE DEPARTMENT STATION 04 - DAY The fire station is two stories tall, but nothing spectacular. The garage doors are all open, revealing a max occupancy for four full-sized fire engines, although it currently houses only three. In the front lawn, an on-duty firefighter tosses a pink Frisbee for an adult Dalmatian to catch. INT. MANATO FIRE DEPARTMENT STATION 04 - REC ROOM - DAY On the second floor of Manato Fire Station 04 is the recreational room. It’s nothing fancy but has all the essentials: A (mostly) working television surrounded by a few comfortable chairs and several "it will have to do" seats, a 1970 Rock-Ola 443 Jukebox (a gift from the city’s previous mayor), a ping-pong table donated after years of service elsewhere, and a pool table of genuine quality. In the corner of the room is the signature firepole that provides the most quick and direct route into the garage.

(CONTINUED)

CONTINUED:

16.

Several pictures of the station’s crew over the years decorate the walls. One large and two smaller tables that serve a number of purpoes are placed throughout the room. One of the smaller tables has a deck of cards on it. A black rotary dial telephone rests on a desk near a window. A similarly shaped red phone is placed in the back of the room. However, instad of a rotary dial it only has a red light bulb. Two firefighters, the young and hyperactive KEN FENTON, 23, and the older BRUCE STEVENSON, 44 are playing a game of table tennis. After a brief but intene exchange, Bruce score another point. BRUCE Eight-two. His younger coworker readies himself to serve. KEN I thought it was seven-three. Bruce LAUGHS. BRUCE Does that trick ever work? Ken owns up to his poor attempt at deception. KEN (smiling) Sometimes. JERRY More like "only on Pinbacker." JERRY EASTMAN, 26, is sitting on the couch in front of the television. He is reading a copy of The Selfish Gene. JERRY I imagine the boss feels sorry for Ken. I mean, no offense man, but have you ever won a game of ping-pong? KEN Hey, it’s not my fault Fearless Leader’s such a softie. And could you put down that book and pay attention, Jerry? I work better when I know I’ve got a crowd watching.

(CONTINUED)

CONTINUED:

17.

JERRY You still think you can make a comeback? KEN I’m still swinging, aren’t I? BRUCE (to Ken) How about you try aiming your swings this time? JERRY Maybe it’s all part of Ken’s plan, Bruce. Just keep swinging until he accidentally hurls the racket at your head. Win by knock-out. KEN Yeah, yeah, Yuck it up, Jerry. We’ll see who’s laughing after this game. JERRY (reading his book) I’m pretty sure it’ll still be me. Ken resumes his serving position. KEN (to Bruce) You ready? BRUCE Punch it. With great determination, Ken serves. Bruce returns. After a few exchanges between the two, the scores becomes 9-2. Jerry, with his eyes still glued to his book, casually interjects. JERRY Game point? BRUCE Game point. KEN All right, no problem. I thrive under pressure.

(CONTINUED)

CONTINUED:

18.

TUCKER (O.S.) That’s the Ken I know. TUCKER CORTEZ, 28, ascends from below as he makes his way up the stairs to join his fellow firefighters. HERBERT, the fire station’s Dalmatian excitedly zips by Tucker to beat him up to the rec room. TUCKER Always going out swinging. The dog makes his way to Ken, who lowers himself to one knee to give Herbert an enthusiastic head scratching. KEN Oh, you believe in me, don’t ya, Herbert? Herbert BARKS. KEN That’s a good boy. Off you go. Ken rises up to both his feet as Herbert briskly strolls around the rec room before taking his usual spot underneath the pool table. He circles around once before lying down. Finished climbing the stairs, Tucker continues deeper into the rec room. TUCKER It’s a nice day outside. You two ever think about going down to the courts and play *real* tennis? KEN (in unison) Nah. BRUCE (in unison) Nah. JERRY Kind of hard to respond to a fire when you’re halfway across town. TUCKER You know what I mean. When we’re off duty. Tucker takes a seat near Jerry and the television set.

(CONTINUED)

CONTINUED:

19.

TUCKER It’s so weird out there. There’s barely anybody around. I swear, it seems like everybody’s at the protest. BRUCE Really? I didn’t think that many people would bother with the demonstration. KEN What do you mean by that? BRUCE Basically what I just said. I don’t understand what the big deal is. KEN Wait. You’re not in favor of it, are you, Bruce? BRUCE No, I am. JERRY I’m not losing any sleep over it. KEN What!? You guys can’t seriously support that thing. Like, if anything goes wrong with it... Poof. There goes the city. Or maybe half the state. Maybe even the whole Midwest! JERRY (sarcastically) Yeah, Bruce. Maybe it’ll burn a hole all the way through the Earth to China. KEN (not picking up on Jerry’s sarcasm) Exactly! BRUCE Yeah. I’m not particularly worried about any of those scenarios.

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