FADE IN:
INT. GARAGE – NIGHT
TWO IRAQI MEN, early 30s, dressed in begrimed coveralls and work boots, tinker with a nondescript white 4-door sedan.
The garage door is shut, its interior lit harshly by bare bulbs and portable lights shining where the men are working.
MUSTACHE MAN, sporting a thick full growth obscuring his upper lip, is at the driver’s side door. 9-FINGER MAN, missing his left index finger and sporting a few nasty scars on both hands, works on the trunk.
These men are constructing a moving bomb. Concealing explosives in the car’s interior.
UTHMAN, 40, jet black hair slicked back and wearing a dress shirt and slacks, smokes a cigarette on a stool next to a clean, organized workbench. He pays the men no mind.
INT. HIGH SCHOOL CLASSROOM – MORNING
MAJOR MARK THOMAS stands in front of the whiteboard, a Google Earth shot of Baghdad projected on the screen next to him.
Mid-30s, he is over six feet tall and casts an impressive shadow in his military uniform, his head shiny from a fresh crew-cut.
Animated, he enjoys talking to the thirty high-school kids in front of him.
MAJ THOMAS
It looks like we’re running out of time. Let me take one more question.
A PRETTY GIRL in the third row raises her hand and MAJ THOMAS calls on her.
PRETTY GIRL
So after this…surge or whatever, is over with, everyone can come home, right? We’ve been over there for years…
MAJ THOMAS
Counterinsurgency takes a long time.
PRETTY GIRL
Since I was in junior high.
MAJ THOMAS
But the thing to understand is that the only way for us to lose is to quit.
PRETTY GIRL
But why are we there in the first place?
MAJ THOMAS
As long as we commit ourselves to helping the Iraqi people stand on their own two feed, they’ll have a bright future.
MRS. WILLETTE, mid-50s and looking every bit like she’s been a high school social studies teacher for 30 years, stands up from behind her desk.
MRS. WILLETTE
Let’s give the Major a warm round of applause.
Polite applause, interrupted by the bell.
Mrs. Willette offers her hand to MAJ THOMAS as the students file out of the room.
REBECCA THOMAS, mid-30s, dark brown hair framing soft features, weaves through the students to join them.
MRS. WILLETTE
Thank you for coming in today.
MAJ THOMAS
I used to love it when you’d bring in a guest speaker. No homework.
MRS. WILLETTE
And thank you for making me feel old. When do you head back?
MAJ THOMAS
Tomorrow.
MRS. WILLETTE
And how much longer will you be in Baghdad?
MAJ THOMAS
A twelve month tour turned into fifteen with the surge, and I have eight left.
MRS. WILLETTE
Be careful, please. We’re praying for you.
MAJ THOMAS
Thank you Mrs. Willette.
MAJ Thomas slides an arm around Rebecca.
MAJ THOMAS
We’re going to run. Lots to do before I leave.
MRS. WILLETTE
Be safe.
Smiling, Mrs. Willette watches the pair out of the room.
INT. GARAGE – NIGHT
The two men have finished their work. 9-FINGERS closes up the trunk and puts away a portable light.
Mustache Man approaches Uthman, still smoking.
MUSTACHE MAN
It is done.
Uthman stubs out the cigarette and approaches the car, taking it all in.
He looks in the drivers window, moves around to the back and inspects under the carriage. He does the same for the passenger side and completes his inspection back at the driver’s door.
UTHMAN
Keys.
Mustache Man hands him a bare ignition key.
Uthman gets in and starts the vehicle. He flips a crude switch on the dashboard and a green light appears next to it.
UTHMAN
The number.
Mustache Man hands him a slip of paper from the pocket of his coveralls.
Uthman flips the dashboard switch again and the light goes out. He turns off the car and exits.
UTHMAN
I will pick it up in a couple days.
INT. MARK AND REBECCA’S BEDROOM – NIGHT
Rebecca and Mark enjoy the afterglow, her head on his shoulder, hand on his chest.
Mark strokes her hair and kisses her on the forehead.
REBECCA THOMAS
What you talked about today at the high school…
MAJ THOMAS
Yeah.
REBECCA THOMAS
…how much of that do you really believe?
MAJ THOMAS
Most of it. Maybe I was too optimistic, but all they hear is how horrible things are over there. They need a little hope.
REBECCA THOMAS
If we had a son and he was thinking about going over there, would you tell him to do it?
MAJ THOMAS
I’d support him if that was his decision.
REBECCA THOMAS
He’s asking you for advice.
His hand drifts under the sheet to her belly.
MAJ THOMAS
With any luck we can have that conversation in 20 years.
INT. MAYA’S BEDROOM – MORNING
Seven year old MAYA curls up on a chair next to her window, knees pressed into her chest, watching the first beams of sunlight dance over the rooftops of central Baghdad.
The unfinished Grand Mosque dominates the skyline, its three giant cranes idle. Aside from faint, tinny calls to prayer playing over loudspeakers,Baghdad is quiet this morning.
MAYA’S MOTHER opens the door and, seeing the empty bed, walks over to MAYA at the window.
MAYA’S MOTHER
It’s going to be a beautiful day my love. Come, lets get some breakfast.
Kissing Maya on the top of her head, she leaves her at the window.
EXT. BAGHDAD INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT RUNWAY, MORNING
Fuck it’s hot. MAJ Thomas walks down the ramp of a C-130 airplane and into a furnace. He passes a group of young soldiers–their first day in country–taking pictures of everything.
A YOUNG SOLDIER with bad acne tugs at his sleeve as he passes by.
YOUNG SOLDIER
Hey, can you take a…
MAJ Thomas has turned around and the soldier spots his rank, and his demeanor.
YOUNG SOLDIER
I’m sorry. I was…ah…sir, would you mind taking a picture of me and my friends?
MAJ Thomas glances at the camera, then at the group gathered near the ramp.
A SERGEANT coming from the terminal trots past him toward the gaggle of soldiers.
SERGEANT
Put those fucking cameras away and keep moving! They need this aircraft!
MAJ Thomas turns toward the passenger terminal, smiling.
His smile fades as he recognizes the sight before him near the terminal.
An ARMY CHAPLAIN, adorned in vestments and carrying a copy of the Bible, stands in front of a casket draped in the American Flag.
A HUNDRED SOLDIERS stand at attention in formation on either side of the casket, flanking it.
MAJ Thomas gives them a wide berth, studying their faces. Hardened. Jaws clenched. Red eyes. A smattering of tears.
INT. JAMAL AND A’ISHAH’S BEDROOM – MORNING
JAMAL enters the bedroom and places his AK-47 on the bed. The room is sparsely furnished but clean, a bare mirror on one wall, which he stands in front of to undress.
In his early thirties, Jamal looks easily 10 years older. the Iraqi sun and years of smoking have taken their toll.
As clothes come off, an enormous burn scar is uncovered, running from his left thigh all the way to his armpit. Jamal pulls out his Iraqi Army uniform, boots, and beret from a dresser and places them on the bed next to the AK.
A’ISAHA enters and begins to straighten up the room absentmindedly while Jamal dresses.
A’ISHAH
You should eat something before you go.
JAMAL
I’m late.
A’ISHAH
When will you be paid?
JAMAL
Tomorrow. How much do you have?
A’ISHAH
Enough to buy food.
JAMAL
I will bring some bread home.
A’ISHAH
I have enough money, you don’t have to steal from the mess hall.
Jamal ignores her, pulls his boots on.
A’ISHAH
My brother might drop by later.
JAMAL
He is in Baghdad?
A’ISHAH
He said he had a few things to do in the city.
(a beat)
He didn’t tell me anything else.
Finished dressing, Jamal grabs his beret and AK-47 and heads out of the room.
JAMAL
I will be back tomorrow.
INT. OPERATIONS CENTER – MORNING
Barely awake, MAJ Thomas walks onto the operations center floor and peers up at the multiple big screen TVs on the wall.
On one of them is map of central Baghdad, dotted with red triangles marking enemy activity. Another displays the weather–fucking hot. A third shows a feed of FOX News. A fourth shows various live video feeds from cameras surrounding the base.
Coffee in hand, he greets soldiers working at computer terminals as he walks up the stairs of this amphitheater style room. On the fourth level he turns in and sits down next to MAJ MIKE DUCK.
MAJ THOMAS
Morning Mike. It is morning right?
MAJ DUCK
Welcome back brother! You look like shit, still hung over?
MAJ THOMAS
Jet lag. It’s still last night in Texas.
MAJ DUCK
Great name for a country song.
MAJ THOMAS
(Laughs)
Yea, add something about getting drunk in a pickup truck with your dog and it’s gold. I read through my emails last night so I think I’m up to speed. What’s hot?
MAJ DUCK
The JSS got hit early this morning. Direct fire and mortars.
MAJ THOMAS
Anyone hurt?
MAJ DUCK
Chris. Took a piece of shrapnel in the shoulder.
MAJ THOMAS
Fuck me…is he alright?
MAJ DUCK
He’s fine. He got out of surgery a couple hours ago. They’re gonna to send him to Landshtuhl this afternoon.
MAJ THOMAS
He’s not coming back?
MAJ DUCK
Shrapnel took a chunk out of his shoulder, they’ll decide in Germany whether to send him back here or not.
MAJ THOMAS
Does Ginny know?
MAJ DUCK
Not sure – Chris should be able to call her today if he hasn’t already.
MAJ THOMAS
I’ll wait to tell Rebecca…anything else going on?
MAJ DUCK
There is a Haifa street project update at 08.
MAJ THOMAS
The street was looking pretty good when I left.
MAJ DUCK
Looks even better now. Businesses are starting to come back. Which leads to the job fair.
MAJ THOMAS
I saw a note on that. We’re doing it at the zoo right?
MAJ DUCK
Yep. IPR is at 10. Chris would normally call in to brief the security piece, since it’s an Iraqi responsibility. MSG Aldrich will fill in.
MAJ THOMAS
Ok.
MAJ DUCK
Oh, and the boss wants to see you.
MAJ THOMAS
How come?
EXT. MAYA’S HOUSE – MORNING
Maya’s Mother holds open the gate to her front yard, awkwardly lugging an oversized gas can.
MAYA’S MOTHER
MAYA! Come princess, we have to go.
MAYA
Coming mama.
Maya comes out of the house and puts a saucer of milk down near the front door.
MAYA
Layla! I left some water for you! I’ll be back later.
Running towards her mother she skips out the front gate and her mother closes and latches it behind her.
MAYA
Mama, I haven’t seen Layla for two days. Where did she go?
MAYA’S MOTHER
She’s ok darling, I’m sure she’ll be back soon.
The pair navigate the cluttered sidewalk. People are stirring now, beginning their daily routine, ignoring the piles of trash and rubble accumulating in the street.
MAYA
Mama, do they take cats too?
MAYA’S MOTHER
Does who take cats?
MAYA
The Sunnis. They took uncle. Do you think they took Layla too?
MAYA’S MOTHER
Why do you think the Sunnis took uncle?
MAYA
I heard you an papa talking about it.
MAYA’S MOTHER
Layla is fine. When we get back we’ll go around the neighborhood looking for her.
MAYA
Can we make signs to put up in the street?
MAYA’S MOTHER
Of course dear, that’s a wonderful idea.
Maya grabs her mother’s hand, content.
INT. COL ROBERTS’ OFFICE – MORNING
COL ROBERTS, a very distinguished man in his late 40s, puts on his boots on a chair next to his desk. He’s wearing his ACU trousers and a brown t-shirt, hair post-shower wet.
MAJ Thomas appears outside the open door but stops short of coming in, decides to come back later, and turns to go.
COL ROBERTS
Come on in Mark.
MAJ Thomas tentatively obeys.
MAJ THOMAS
I can come back later sir.
COL ROBERTS
Nonsense. Have a seat.
COL Roberts stands up and tucks his t-shirt in. MAJ Thomas finds a chair.
COL ROBERTS
You heard about Chris?
MAJ THOMAS
Yes sir.
COL ROBERTS
Just got off the phone with him. He’s going to be ok, but it doesn’t look like he’ll be coming back.
MAJ THOMAS
That’s good news sir. That he’ll be ok, I mean.
COL ROBERTS
Training and advising the Iraqis is one of the most important things we’re doing over here. I need a good man out there.
COL Roberts puts on his ACU top.
COL ROBERTS
I need you out there Mark.
MAJ THOMAS
Thank you, sir.
COL ROBERTS
It’s not all about kinetic anymore, it’s about building capacity, infrastructure, the economy. Don’t let Bahaa focus on conducting raids.
MAJ THOMAS
I won’t sir.
COL ROBERTS
The job fair is a great opportunity for that, so get up to speed. S1 is working on finding a replacement for you, as soon as he’s trained up I want you out there.
COL Roberts walks over to MAJ Thomas and extends his hand.
MAJ THOMAS
I won’t let you down sir.
COL ROBERTS
I know you won’t, son.
EXT. GAS STATION – MORNING
The entire neighborhood congregates around the gas station. Cars line up for half a mile down the street. Men and women on foot carrying gas containers filter through a pedestrian gate.
A group of vendors operate a mini-bazaar, selling food, sweets, or trinkets on the sidewalk.
Men pump gas from large tankers into underground tanks.
The unfinished columns of the Grand Mosque loom over the station, closer than they were from Maya’s bedroom.
Maya and her Mother, surrounded by a crowd of people, watch a TRAFFIC COP windmill his arms and blow a whistle, parting a sea of cars enabling them to cross the street.
MAYA’S MOTHER
(Handing MAYA some money)
Get yourself something cold to drink while I talk to your father. And stay with Yazid, don’t go wandering off again. Do you understand?
MAYA
Yes mama.
MAYA’S MOTHER
It’s very dangerous. I worry about you.
MAYA
Yes mama.
They come up on YAZID, a shopkeeper. He greets them with a broad smile and bends down to kiss Maya on the cheek.
MAYA’S MOTHER
I’ll be back in a bit.
YAZID
Take your time.
She goes off toward the entrance to the gas station.
Uthman, driving the moving bomb, pulls up to the curb next to the mini-bazaar. He takes a slow look at his surroundings before silencing the engine.
Scanning the crowd, Uthman heads over to Yazdid’s stand and buys a bottle of water.
Maya, drink in hand, bounces playfully out from behind the stand and runs into Uthman, causing her drink to drop to spill unto the sidewalk.
UTHMAN
(Bending down, comforting)
It’s ok little one.
Dejected, tears begin to form in Maya’s eyes.
UTHMAN
I should be more careful, I didn’t know there were gorgeous little girls running about. What is your name?
MAYA
Maya.
UTHMAN
(To YAZID)
I seem to have spilled Maya’s drink. Let me pay for another one.
YAZID
That’s very nice of you. Maya, come here let’s get you another one.
Maya perks up and hurries past the man then, remembering her manners, turns back around.
MAYA
Thank you.
UTHMAN
You are most welcome Maya.
The man pays Yazid for the drink and slips into the crowd and away from the gas station.
INT. ALI’S OFFICE – MORNING
The office is plush, clean, and–with two air conditioners chugging along–cool. Cigarette in hand, ALI sits at his desk listening to an elderly man on a couch to his right as Maya’s Mother walks in.
ALI
My love, you’ve arrived! Please come in.
Ali taps out the cigarette and rises from his desk.
ALI
(To the elderly man)
Sheikh Arif, my old friend, we will have to continue this another time, my apologies.
SHEIKH ARIF
Of course. Please drop by whenever you like, my door is always open.
ALI
I certainly will, thank you.
SHEIKH ARIF exits and ALI closes the door behind him.
ALI
I don’t think I could have endured another minute listening to that man.
MAYA’S MOTHER
I don’t like this. It’s too dangerous.
ALI
You are safe. Americans don’t search women.
MAYA’S MOTHER
I’m not worried about the Americans.
She places the gas can on his desk and turns abruptly to leave. Ali grabs her by the arm and turns her around.
ALI
Where’s our daughter?
MAYA’S MOTHER
She’s with Yazid. This is the last time Ali, I’ll not be your mule anymore.
Ali opens a hidden compartment in the bottom of the gas can.
ALI
You never bring her here to see me, why?
MAYA’S MOTHER
I want her to grow up thinking her father just owns a gas station.
EXT. ALLEYWAY – MORNING
Uthman pulls out a cell phone and peers around the building.
Amidst a sea of people he can barely make out the sedan he parked there minutes before. MAYA skips around the sidewalk, new drink in hand, right next to the car.
Pulling a slip of paper out of his breast pocket, he punches numbers. With one last look at the gas station, he presses his body flat against the wall and presses the send button.
INT. OPERATIONS CENTER – MORNING
MAJ Thomas sits at his station going over the particulars of the computer system with a YOUNG OFFICER–his replacement.
MAJ THOMAS
And if you click here you pull up all the AMRs sourced by Division for the day. Make sure Sergeant Jenkins…
A muted explosion shakes the room, a small, quick quake. A near daily experience, everyone in the room has felt this before.
YOUNG OFFICER
Rocket?
MAJ THOMAS
That’s a VBIED.
Standing up quickly he issues a slew of quick, stern orders.
MAJ THOMAS
S2–pan the RDISS and try to spot the smoke, get me a direction on that blast. RTO–call the battalions and see if anyone has a location. Aviation–pull the Raven from 3-82 then call division to get another one to replace it. FSO–get me the JSS on the line, find out what the Iraqis know.
Activity erupts in the once quiet room. They’re professionals. They’ve been through this before. Except for the young officer, who’s face blanches.
The RDISS camera operator finds the plume of smoke. The thing is huge. MAJ Thomas fixates on it.
MAJ THOMAS
Go to full screen on that feed.
The camera pans down to the source of the smoke. Everywhere, fire. One of the large gas tankers filling the underground tanks has erupted in flames. Blackened cars fill the street. Burning bodies.
MAJ THOMAS
Oh my God.
INT. ALI’S OFFICE – MORNING
Ali and Maya’s Mother pick themselves up off the floor carefully, covered in broken glass. Ali’s once pristine office is a shambles, glass and debris coating every surface, air conditioner akimbo in the windowpane.
Ali brushes debris from his wife’s face and hair.
ALI
Are you alright?
MAYA’S MOTHER
(Horrified)
Maya!
She turns and runs out of the office.
ALI
Wait!
EXT. ALI’S OFFICE – MORNING
Hell.
The flames are so think and hot MAYA’s mother can barely get out the door before she’s forced back inside.
She tries again, getting about a foot farther this time before Ali pulls her back inside the doorway.
Maya’s Mother struggles to break free, rage and desperation fueling her strength, but Ali holds on and they both collapse to the floor, Maya’s mother in exquisite agony.
EXT. GAS STATION – MORNING
The fire trucks arrive first. Working efficiently, they set up their hoses and start dousing the flames.
The gas tanker still produces a prodigious amount of flame, but the outskirts of the area have burned down enough to fight with water.
As the smoke clears, Iraqi soldiers flood the area. Outlines of wet, blackened bodies coalesce, frozen in their final position.
INT. JAMAL AND A’ISHAH’S KITCHEN – AFTERNOON
A’ishah pulls a large round pan out of the oven and places it on top of the stove. She takes a finger and presses on the fish splayed open on the pan.
Uthman appears in the doorway and contemplates her.
UTHMAN
Hello sister.
A’ishah whirls around.
A’ISHAH
Uthman! You scared me! What are you doing here?
Her face warms and she gives him a hug.
UTHMAN
Work. I was going to call but decided to surprise you.
A’ishah turns back to the fish, taking it from the stove.
A’ISHAH
Get yourself something to drink. Jamal is on his way. I’m setting the table now.
Uthman doesn’t move from the doorway.
A’ISHAH
He doesn’t know. We are blood, I will not betray you.
She gives him a peck on the cheek and brushes past him into the dining room.
INT. ALI’S LIVING ROOM – AFTERNOON
Grey hair and smoke and tea.
Ali sits in a leather chair at one end of the room. A dozen paunchy, middle aged men, balding or greying or both, sit in a U shape around him. Half smoke, half drink tea, a few do both.
Amidst the murmur of crosstalk, the voice of a relatively younger man rises above the others.
HASSAN
We must continue our attacks on the Americans. We must keep up the pressure.
Ali, silent until now, springs to life.
ALI
No.
The room quiets. Heads turn towards Ali. It’s as if the Godfather has spoken.
ALI
Attacks against Americans will cease for the time being.
HASSAN
But our friends in the East, they will not…
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