THE THIRD LAW
Written by Sami Jawhar
CUT TO: EXT. MARKETPLACE - DAY Vendors have put out an assortment of fruits and vegetables, and shoppers are eager to see what yesterday’s harvest has brought them. CUT TO: EXT. ALLEY - CONTINUOUS A RUNNER sprints down an alleyway, breathing heavily. CLOSE UP OF FEET RUNNING. DRUMBEATS. BACK TO: EXT. MARKETPLACE - CONTINUOUS Some shoppers are perusing the wares, some are weighing their selections on a hanging scale, and some are ringing up their orders. BACK TO: EXT. ALLEY - CONTINUOUS The runner runs down another back alley, pursued by an ominous force. RUNNER QUICKLY CUTS IN FRONT OF CAMERA. ON BACK WALL, SHADOW OF DUST CLOUD SOLIDIFYING INTO CROUCHING MAN. BACK TO: EXT. MARKETPLACE - CONTINUOUS The runner bursts out of a nearby alleyway. He’s wearing a hooded sweatshirt, hood drawn. His face is hidden. SLOW-MO SHOT OF RUNNER LOOKING LEFT AND RIGHT. CUT TO REALTIME WHEN KNIFE FLIES PAST RUNNER ON LEFT SIDE. The runner jumps back.
CUT TO KNIFE STICKING OUT OF NEARBY POST. The knife dissolves into a cloud of dust. The runner looks back over his shoulder. At the entrance to the alley, a dust cloud solidifies into the PURSUER, holding out his hand. A small dust cloud solidifies into a knife in his outstretch hand. The pursuer smiles and throws the knife. The runner dodges the knife and runs towards the crowd in the market. The runner dodges people and carts when he can, but a tall woman with a wheelbarrow full of apples forces him to slide across a nearby vegetable stand, knocking over the baskets of greens. RUNNER SLIDES ON KNEES ON MARKET STAND, BENDING BACKWARDS TO AVOID LOW-HANGING BAR FROM AWNING. CLOSE-UP SLOW-MO SHOT FROM THE SIDE OF RUNNER BARELY DUCKING THE BAR. RUNNER SPRINGS FORWARD OFF STAND, RESUMES RUNNING. The pursuer is following closely, constantly disappearing and re-materializing, throwing a knife with every opportunity. The runner dodges a knife, only to see it now heading towards a baby carriage. The runner immediately jumps forward, clutching the knife and soaring over the baby carriage. MOTHER My baby! BABY (laughs) The runner lands, rolls, and continues running, tossing aside the knife, which dissolves in mid-air. RUNNER SPRINGS FORWARD, CATCHING KNIFE. SLOW-MO: SIDE SHOT OF RUNNER ABOVE CARRIAGE. SHOT FROM PERSPECTIVE OF BABY, RUNNER SOARING OVER CARRIAGE. CLOSE-UP OF BABY, LAUGHING. SHOT FROM OTHER SIDE OF BABY CARRIAGE, RUNNER LANDS, ROLLS, RESUMES RUNNING. SHOT FROM BEHIND, RUNNER TOSSES KNIFE TO THE SIDE, KNIFE DISINTEGRATES. The runner starts to turn right when a knife flies past him on his right side. Dodging. The runner takes a quick left down an alley. CUT TO:
EXT. BACK ALLEY - CONTINUOUS The alley ends in a low wall. The runner takes two steps up the wall, ready to jump up and grab hold of the top ledge, when his eyes widen. Acting purely on instinct, the runner pushes off the wall, flipping backwards over the would-be killer knife. The knife grazes the runners face, drawing blood. The blood glints in the sunlight. RUNNER TAKES TWO STEPS UP WALL. CLOSE UP OF EYES WIDENING. RUNNER KICKS OFF WALL. SLOW-MO SHOT FROM THE SIDE OF RUNNER DOING BACK FLIP OVER INCOMING KNIFE. CLOSE-UP OF KNIFE CUTTING RUNNER’S FACE, RUNNER’S FACE REFLECTING OFF KNIFE. BLOOD GLINTS IN THE LIGHT. LENS FLARE. FADE TO: WHITE The sound of an ALARM CLOCK GOING OFF can be heard in the background. HIGH REVERB, ROLL OFF HIGHER FREQUENCIES, FADE TO NORMAL. FADE TO: INT. BEDROOM - MORNING A man is lying in bed in an average suburban bedroom, squinting from the light streaming through his open window. There is an alarm clock on the night stand next to the bed. The man shields his eyes with one arm and turns over to hit the snooze button on his alarm clock. Slumping back on the bed, the man sighs and rubs his eyes. Suddenly, he sits up in a start, eyes wide open, and throws off the blanket. He stands up, takes off his shirt, and heads into the bathroom. CUT TO: INT. KITCHEN - MOMENTS LATER A woman is in the kitchen, cooking steak and eggs. CUT TO:
INT. BEDROOM - CONTINUOUS The man steps out of the bathroom, now dressed in business attire, hair wet from the shower. He opens the closet and takes out his BRIEFCASE, opening it and peering inside before closing it again. BACK TO: INT. KITCHEN - CONTINUOUS The woman sets the table for two. The sound of HURRIED FOOTSTEPS on the stairway can be heard above the SIZZLING OF THE FRYING PAN. The woman turns her head: WOMAN Honey? I made breakfast; steak and eggs. You hungry? MAN (from the hallway, rushed) Gotta run, big presentation today. WOMAN (frustrated/urgent) Again? That’s twice this week. You sure it can’t wait? CUT TO: INT. LIVING ROOM - CONTINUOUS MAN (heading towards the door) Sorry, it’s important. All my work for the past month has been leading up to this. WOMAN (rushing to catch up with the man) Well, it’s waited a month. Can’t it wait for breakfast? The man turns around and puts his hands on his wife’s shoulders. MAN Honey, if this goes through it can help a lot of people... I can help a lot of people. Okay? (MORE) (CONTINUED)
5. CONTINUED: MAN (CONT'D) (he kisses his wife on the forehead) Now, Iâ€™ll be home in time for dinner. I love you.
WOMAN (sadly) I love you too. (beat) How about I make lasagna for dinner tonight? MAN Sounds great. (turns around to leave) WOMAN Be safe! The man steps out the front door. CUT TO: EXT. FRONT LAWN - CONTINUOUS The man quickly heads towards his car, opens the door, and gets in. MOVE TO: INT. CAR - CONTINUOUS The man sets his briefcase on the seat next to him and hesitates for a moment before unlocking it. The suitcase falls open, revealing its contents: a BLACK HOODED SWEATSHIRT and PANTS. The man (the runner) looks back at the house and sighs. After a moment, he puts the car in gear. CUT TO: EXT. FRONT LAWN - CONTINUOUS The car drives away. CUT TO:
EXT. GAS STATION PARKING LOT - MOMENTS LATER The runner pulls up to the gas station, parks the car, and gets out, carrying his briefcase. He heads into the gas station. CUT TO: INT. GAS STATION - CONTINUOUS The runner enters the gas station and heads towards the bathroom. ATTENDANT Customers only! RUNNER (turning around) Excuse me? ATTENDANT The bathroom. Customers only. RUNNER (frustrated/rushed) Listen, I need to pee. Just let me use your bathroom and I’ll be out of your hair. The runner walks towards the bathroom door and turns the doorknob: it’s locked. He pushes on the door, trying to get in. ATTENDANT (holding up the key) Looking for this? Buy something and it’s yours. The runner lowers his head and sighs. After a moment, the runner looks up, heads towards the attendant, picks up a candy bar from a shelf and sets it on the counter. The attendant rings it up. ATTENDANT (CONT’D) Three seventy-five. RUNNER Are you kidding me? ATTENDANT Three seventy-five.
RUNNER It’s just a fucking candy bar! How can a piece of chocolate cost four bucks? ATTENDANT It has nougat. Chewy, I think. Very tasty. RUNNER (frustrated) Fine, whatever. (rummages through his wallet) CLOSE-UP OF WALLET, NEARLY EMPTY. The runner takes out three dollar bills and some coins, sets them on the counter. The attendant picks them up and counts the coins. ATTENDANT You’re two cents short. RUNNER (glares at attendant, looks around, sees the penny dish, takes two) There. Now can I have the key? ATTENDANT (handing over the key) Here you go. The runner takes the key and heads towards the bathroom, unlocking the door. CUT TO: INT. BATHROOM - CONTINUOUS The runner steps inside and opens his briefcase, taking out the sweatshirt. He unbuttons his jacket. CUT TO:
INT. GAS STATION - MOMENTS LATER The runner steps out of the bathroom, now dressed in the hooded sweatshirt and pants as seen in the first sequence. He heads towards the door, tossing the key to the attendant. ATTENDANT (catches the key) You forgot your chocolate bar. The runner keeps walking, opens the door, and leaves. He gets in the car. ATTENDANT (CONT’D) (yelling) Have a nice day! (he picks up the chocolate bar, opens it, and takes a bite) Nougat. CUT TO: INT. CAR - CONTINUOUS The runner sets the briefcase on the seat next to him. It slides off the seat, bumping the glove compartment, which falls open. The runner leans over to close it, looks inside, and panics. He rummages through the glove compartment, but apparently doesn’t find what he’s looking for. RUNNER Shit! (quickly puts the car in gear) CUT TO: EXT. GAS STATION PARKING LOT - CONTINUOUS The car screeches backwards. CUT TO: INT. LIVING ROOM - MOMENTS LATER The runner unlocks the front door and enters his house.
RUNNER (heading upstairs) I’m back! Forgot my papers! (he realizes he’s wearing his hoodie and quickly takes it off, throwing it over his shoulder) (silence) Honey? (silence) CUT TO: INT. BEDROOM - CONTINUOUS The runner re-enters his bedroom and heads towards the closet before changing his mind and walking to the dresser. Opening the bottom left drawer, he pulls out a SMALL METAL CUBE and, with nowhere else to put it, puts his sweatshirt back on, sticking the cube in the front pocket. He breathes a sigh of relief. RUNNER Eve? You here? The runner heads back downstairs, searching for his wife. BACK TO: INT. LIVING ROOM - CONTINUOUS The runner arrives downstairs and heads towards the kitchen. CUT TO: INT. KITCHEN - CONTINUOUS The runner enters the kitchen. RUNNER Eve? The runner stumbles and falls to the floor. CUT TO:
EXT. NEIGHBORHOOD STREET - CONTINUOUS The pursuer is walking down a street, cleaning a bloodcovered knife. When it is clean, it vanishes. RUNNER (in the distance) NO! The pursuer looks back, summons a knife, and disintegrates. BACK TO: INT. KITCHEN - CONTINUOUS The pursuer materializes at the entrance to the kitchen. The runner jumps up and turns around. He spots the knife in the pursuer’s hand, stumbles towards the back door, and runs out. The pursuer, clearly frustrated, looks down and pauses. The pursuer looks up, looks out the back door, and then vanishes. The wife is lying dead on the floor, a knife in her chest. CLOSE-UP OF KNIFE IN WIFE, IDENTICAL TO PURSUER’S KNIVES. ANGLE ON KNIFE THE SAME AS BEFORE FLASHBACK. FADE TO: EXT. BACK ALLEY - DAY The knife hits the wall and disintegrates. The runner lands and turns around. The pursuer appears at the entrance to the alley, smiling. The runner takes off his hood, revealing his cut face. The runner closes his eyes for a moment before wiping away the blood on his face, revealing that the cut has healed. The pursuer stops smiling. PURSUER Well, that complicates things. (beat) You know I can’t let you leave. The runner looks for a way out. Finding none, he instead hides behind a nearby dumpster. The pursuer sighs, his knife vanishes, and he leans against the wall. PURSUER (CONT’D) Have you ever heard of Isaac Newton? (beat) The man was a visionary. (MORE) (CONTINUED)
11. CONTINUED: PURSUER (CONT’D) His foresight was... astonishing, if a bit limited by his time. (beat) In an age where everyone expected God to sort things out for them, Newton saw things the way they are. Most people think his greatest contribution was to science, but they’re wrong. Newton’s Laws aren’t about physics or motion; they’re about human nature. (beat) The first law: an object stays at rest or moving straight forward unless acted upon by an external force. (growing more and more excited) Do you really think that was about balls or bicycles? The Church had society by the throat and was slowly squeezing the life out of the poor and the hungry. The first law was as close to a call to arms as Newton could get without putting himself in danger. For God’s sake, Principia Mathematica is directly responsible for the Age of Enlightenment! (takes a breath) (beat) The second law: The force applied on an object is proportional to-
RUNNER Shut up! You kill my wife, you try to kill me, and now you want to give me a science lesson? There’s a long silence, towards the end of which the Pursuer’s laughter can clearly be heard. PURSUER Kill you? (continues laughing) I’m not trying to kill you. RUNNER You’ve spent the past five minutes throwing knives at me! Either you were trying to kill me or you have a very strange way of saying hello.
PURSUER (still amused) I’ve been trying to stop you, not kill you. Besides, we both know you’re too fast to be killed by a knife. That’s why they hired you. (suddenly somber) And I didn’t kill your... wife. RUNNER (enraged) Bullshit! I saw the knife in her chest; your knife. The pursuer sighs and rubs his temples with his right hand. He looks up. PURSUER (holding out his hand) Look. A knife materializes in front of the runner, floating in the air for a few seconds before disappearing again. PURSUER (CONT’D) If I had killed your wife, would I have left my knife behind? There’s a long silence. RUNNER If you didn’t kill her, then why did you chase after me? PURSUER Because of Newton’s third law: Actioni contrariam et æqualem esse reactionem. To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. You’ve set off a series of events, an explosive set of chain reactions, and I have to put a stop to it. (beat) You haven’t delivered it yet, have you? (beat) (breathes a sigh of relief, laughs) (beat) They didn’t tell you what you stole, did they? (beat) (MORE) (CONTINUED)
13. CONTINUED: PURSUER (CONT'D) (mutters) Of course not, they always keep you in the dark.
RUNNER (pulls the cube out his pocket and looks at it) What are you talking about? PURSUER Don’t pretend like you don’t know. The cube! It’s dangerous, and if they get their hands on it... (beat) It has to be destroyed. RUNNER (stepping out from behind the dumpster, enraged) Why? (sadly) Why is a piece of metal so important? PURSUER Because of what it can offer. RUNNER (enraged) Which is? What can it possibly do? PURSUER Anarchy. Complete and absolute chaos. In the wrong hands, in can tear the world to pieces. RUNNER (looking at the cube) What is this thing? What did I steal? PURSUER It’s gone by many names: the Greeks knew it as Pandora’s Box; the ancient Hebrews called it the Ark of the Covenant; the Norse thought it would lead to Ragnarok, and the Mayans predicted it would destroy the world in 2012. (growing increasingly angry) (MORE)
14. CONTINUED: PURSUER (CONT'D) For two-hundred-and-fifty years it was kept safe, hidden, away from those who would misuse it, and in one day you undo everything! And now, on top of all of that, you plan to give it to him?!
RUNNER (angry) Who? Who is he? Who are they? A van screeches to a halt behind the pursuer. The runner ducks behind the dumpster. The pursuer turns around. PURSUER Shit! The pursuer vanishes, leaving the runner alone in the alley. RUNNER (mutters, sadly) Who killed Eve? The runner peeks out from behind the dumpster. Spotting him, the DRIVER of the van calls out to the runner: DRIVER Hey, a bit jumpy, are ya? (beat) You coming? Weâ€™re late! The runner takes a deep breath before getting up. He walks towards the van. The side door opens and a THUG steps forward. THUG You got it? The runner nods, then notices a blood stain on the thugâ€™s shirt. RUNNER You okay? THUG (looks at his shirt, then back at the runner) Get in. The runner pauses for a moment before climbing in the van. The side door shuts. CUT TO:
BLACK CUT TO: INT. OFFICE - LATER The thug pulls the HOOD off the runner’s head. The runner is tied to a chair, his hands behind his back. The thug is standing next to the runner. The BOSS is standing in front of a large window across from the runner. BOSS Hook him up. JUMP CUT TO: The thug places a DEVICE on the runner’s forehead and tapes it into place. The device is three braided wires that consecutively unbraid and end in diamond shaped rubber pads. The pads are placed left to right on the runner’s forehead, and the other end of the device is plugged into an OLD LAPTOP. The boss turns around. The thug taps a few keys on the laptop and it turns on. After a few seconds, a READY screen appears on the laptop. The thug leaves the room. The boss sighs and turns around. He is carrying an open FOLDER with papers in it. He flips through some of the pages, skimming them, and then flips back to the front page. BOSS (CONT’D) (reading the paper) John Lee Anderson, age 22, born March 14th, 1988 to Brian Lee and Megan Anne Anderson. Attended Mulberry High School, average scholastic ability, afraid of clowns, one girlfriend. (closes the folder and tosses it on the desk, then looks at the runner) The runner looks confused. BOSS (CONT’D) (smiles) Oh, yes, we know a lot about you. In fact, we know everything that you do. After all, we’re the ones that gave you your memories. Too bad they’re all lies. (pauses, looks at runner) Would you like to know the truth?
The boss steps over to the laptop, rolls the table it is on in front of the runner, presses a few keys, picks up a remote, and walks back towards the window. The laptop screen flashes for a few seconds before an ACTIVE screen appears. The runner rocks backwards in his chair, in pain. A progress bar appears on the laptop screen, starting at 0%. DURING THE FOLLOWING SCENE, SHOTS FROM THE RUNNER’S PAST WILL FLASH ON SCREEN, AS IF THE DEVICE IS FORCING HIM TO REMEMBER. BOSS (CONT’D) You came to us. You had been in a car accident, your family was dead, your legs were broken. You asked us to heal you. In return, you came to work for us. (making his way towards the runner) We wiped your memory and gave you a new one. We made you fast, fast enough to heal instantaneously. We gave you a new house and a loving wife. We made your life easy, uncomplicated. All you had to do was deliver the cube. Now, where is it? (beat, yelling) Where is it? THE FLASHES END. The runner sags forward, breathing heavily. The laptop screen shows 15%. There are a few seconds of silence RUNNER What do you mean you gave me a wife? Do you mean Eve? How did you give her to me? BOSS She worked for us, a handler. She kept you fed and happy. It was all a ruse, designed to keep you from thinking too much, from questioning your orders. RUNNER But, I met her when I was a kid. She lived across the street.
BOSS Did she? Are you sure? Think back. How did you meet? RUNNER I had lost my ball in my neighbors backyard. I knocked on the door, but nobody answered. I tried to climb the fence, but I was too short. Then she came along. She broke window with a rock and climbed in. A few minutes later, she walked out the front door, holding my ball. I told her that we needed to get out of there, that we’d get in trouble. She saidBOSS It’s OK. It’s my house. The runner looks at the boss, surprised. BOSS (CONT’D) I came up with that one. One of my more creative moments. It’s false, of course. Just another fake memory. I told you, we know everything you do. Well, almost, but the device on your head will soon solve that for us. It will scan your brain, searching your memories until it finds what it’s looking for. It will be quite painful. But we can avoid all that. All you have to do is tell me where you hid the cube. The runner stays silent. BOSS (CONT’D) Fine. (presses a button on the remote) The runner rocks back in his chair again, screaming in pain. MORE FLASHES FROM THE RUNNER’S PAST APPEAR ON SCREEN. THEY ARE DISORGANIZED AND UNRELATED. AFTER A FEW SECONDS, THE FLASHES END. The runner sags forward in his chair again, breathing heavily. The computer screen shows 47%.
RUNNER I don’t know! I had it with me when I got in the van. I don’t know what happened to it. BOSS (angry) Don’t lie to me! My men searched you and found nothing. Our contacts confirm that it has been stolen, now where is it? RUNNER I swear, I don’t know. I didn’t hide it. I don’t know what happened. Maybe one of your men took it. BOSS It would be fairly evident if that were the case. You’re the only one who could have it, and you’re the only one that can make this stop. (beat) Last chance. Where is the cube? The runner stays silent. The boss presses a button on the remote. MORE FLASHES. THEN FLASHES END WITH AN IMAGE OF THE PURSUER. The runner is exhausted. The computer screen shows 74%. RUNNER Stop! I’ll tell you. It was the man with the knives. BOSS Who? RUNNER The man with the knives! (describes the pursuer) [dependant on actor] He could teleport and dissolve his knives. BOSS Ah, Agent 17. I feared he had become involved when Agent 32 failed to return-
RUNNER Wait. Agent? What do you mean Agent? (beat) He works for you? BOSS He used to, but he defected during his assignment. (pause) What did he tell you? The runner opens his mouth to talk but decides to stay silent. BOSS (CONT’D) (yelling) What did he tell you? The runner stays silent. The boss holds up the remote. RUNNER (panicking) OK! OK! Just wait. (beat) He told me not to give you the cube. He said that if I did, you would destroy the world. But, I swear I didn’t listen to him! BOSS And you did well not to. After all, he’s a killer; is it really such a stretch to imagine he’s a liar as well? I assume he lied about killing your wife? RUNNER Yeah, he(beat) How did you know about that? BOSS (laughs) Did you really think we’d let someone tasked with as critical an assignment as you were go unsupervised? We’ve been watching you ever since you left our facility five years ago. We’ve kept track of every move you’ve made since then. Well, until this morning. (MORE) (CONTINUED)
20. CONTINUED: BOSS (CONT'D) Our surveillance system dropped dead shortly after you left the house. Next thing we knew, Agent 17 had resurfaced after seven years of hiding; and before we had a chance to apprehend him, he’d disappeared again.
RUNNER Yeah, he was busy chasing me across town. BOSS You’re lucky to have escaped with your life. (beat) Would you like to know what it is that you’ve stolen? The runner pauses for a second, and then nods. The boss walks back towards the window and looks out. BOSS (CONT’D) 597 BC; Pandora, the governess of the Greek city of Kirrha finds a small, metal cube while bathing in the sea. Convinced it is a gift from Zeus, Pandora rushes to show the cube to her husband, the governor Epimetheus. Epimetheus immediately recognizes the cube as the sacred relic of Delphi. In order to avoid a war, Epimetheus begins constructing a vault to hide the cube in. However, Epimetheus’ brother Prometheus plans to ransom the cube back to the Delphians. When the Oracle of Delphi hears of this, she instructs the Amphictyonic League of Delphi to destroy Kirrha and recover the cube. The battle that ensues is now known as the First Sacred War. (beat) When the dust settled, Kirrha had been razed to the ground and the cube had vanished. Ever since then, the Amphictyonic League and the Flames of Prometheus have been warring over the cube and, thanks to you, that war is finally coming to a close.
RUNNER (after a long pause) Which side did I help? The boss turns his head to face the runner and smiles.