Adaption of Orson Scott Card's classic Ender's Game as an animated short.
DISCLAIMER: I absolutely do not have the rights to Ender's Game, this is purely a writing exercise. Would love any feedback/thoughts/etc. Thank you for reading
Title: DRAGON ARMY
Credit: by Michael Reagan
Author: adapted to animated short from ENDER'S GAME by Orson Scott Card
Draft date: 14.10.2017
INT. MAJOR ANDERSON'S OFFICE
MAJOR ANDERSON, 45, tall, bald, black man in his full, well pressed, military uniform sits in his office. He is a very serious and stern military officer with a no-nonsense, chain-of-command attitude. He looks at a screen projected on his desk suspended a few inches in front of his face. No visible hardware.
Text appears on screen - HOURS: 1220
Behind M. ANDERSON, about a dozen or so computer monitors project videos and/or figures and statistics on the screens
INT. COLONEL GRAFF'S OFFICE
He's speaking with COLONEL GRAFF, a fat, white, balding, dark-haired man in his early 50s wearing his military uniform, a bit baggy and wrinkled. He gives the impression of an officer tired and wary of having to be an officer, but he has too much dedication to the cause to let it go. He's speaking into a similar screen but from his quarters on his bed. He looks tired as he peers into his vid-link.
There's no time to wait
Anderson stares at one of his monitors on the wall. It shows a child's face in a space helmet.
We cut to a CU shot of ENDER, 9, small for his age, his head encased in a space helmet, eyes looking very determined as he seems to fly through the air, effortlessly.
We've been pushing the boy pretty hard. Are we sure he won't break?
If he does, it will be too late to train another
As the camera zooms out, we see ENDER dressed in his full body FLASH SUIT, a puffy space suit similar to one an astronaut might wear, only his is made for a child and has an insignia of a Phoenix on his right shoulder. He is carrying his two ft long FLASH GUN with both hands. We see a group of eight boys and two girls in flash suits and guns flying behind him.
Even with all these students? I know there's one (or two-)
They're not Ender. No one else has his ability, his mind. Nobody comes close. It has to be Ender
While still flying through the air, ENDER fires his gun at a kid who instantly freezes stiff. He kicks the kid now drifting in his way and lands deftly on a wooden looking surface, stopping his momentum. The other children arrive shortly after. ENDER, an incredibly gifted student with that natural leadership ability takes in his surroundings.
We can now see that
INT. WE ARE IN THE BATTLEROOM, A DIMLY LIT CUBE SHAPED ROOM ABOUT 40 FEET LONG.
*The effect of gravity is nullified in the Battleroom*. It is entirely empty except for two things: STARS, floating wooden boxes ranging from three to six feet in length, and 80 children in Flash Suits flying and dancing across the room. They move in a chaotic poetry that is reminiscent of a game of capture the flag in three dimensions.
(audibly addressing his group of ten, after GRAFF'S last line)
The enemy's gate is well protected, but we can crack their formation. (looking at one boy) Banshee, take your screamers down off the north wall - their star is vulnerable. I'll take the rest west and take out the edge of the formation. We'll meet with the main force while you take the ground floor from under them Bansh. GO!
His group splits into two, flying in different directions.
Making it all the more important that we ensure his mental health maintains. If we push him too far, too fast, (he might not)
We HEAR screams from the battle. First from the SCREAMERS, like a battlecry. Then, mixed in with the battlecry, the chaotic screams and yells of the opponent. It seems clear that the battle reached a turning point.
We cut back to
INT. GRAFF IN HIS OFFICE.
Too far? Too fast? Major Anderson, the thing that keeps me up at night is that we're too slow, to cautious. We've only got one shot at this. You've read the most recent report from the Admiral just like me. I doubt we have 6 months before he has to ship off.
But the way you had me stack those games. We've never does this to the game before, not any student has-
Colonel. With all due respect, what if it is too much? He's only-
(matching his volume)
Only what? A child?
INT. CUT BACK TO ENDER PRESIDING OVER A VICTORY IN BATTLE.
The opposing soldiers, with the insignia of a vicious looking rat on their uniforms, are all frozen stiff, drifting through the air. PETRA, a tall, 11 year old girl with stripes above her Phoenix insignia guides the helmets of four soldiers into slots along the four corners of the enemy's GATE, a forcefield protected opening in the middle of a wall. The forcefield disappears. She gives ENDER a push through the forcefield and laughs.
You and I both know better. If he 'can't handle it,' then we're all dead. We have one last chance to get the Buggers before their next offensive, and it has to be Ender. If this is too 'hard' for him now, then he's not prepared and neither is humanity.
INT. CUT BACK TO GRAFF
Remember Major, he may only be an eight year old boy-
-(but he's) also the next commander of the Allied Human Forces and the International Fleet. If we don't test him to his limits, then you and I can sign humanity's death warrant here and now. The only reason we are alive today is because a brilliant man saved all our lives in the last invasion. But Mazer Rackham isn't here to save us again. We're at the doorstep of identifying our next great leader mere weeks before we need him to lead, and you're worried we're moving too fast? That he's too young? Ender is our only hope. Send him to me at once.
GRAFF logs out of the vid-link
INT. ANTECHAMBER OUTSIDE OFFICE
A small boy, ENDER, 9, with short neat dark hair, dressed in a military uniform with the emblem of a phoenix rising from fire on his right shoulder is sitting in a holding room outside a closed door with a SECRETARY at desk beside the door. Although he is a child, he's always seems to comprehend more than the smartest adult in the room, but lets on little.
He will see you now
ENDER walks through the door
INT. COLONEL GRAFF'S OFFICE
to see COLONEL GRAFF in fill military regalia, the emblem on his shoulder depicting the letters IFBS imposed over a space station, sitting in his cushy looking chair surrounded by several monitors.
Thank you for seeing me on such short notice
Let's have a walk
Together they walk out of the room along
INT. BATTLE SCHOOL CORRIDORS
(As if he's repeating a well-rehearsed speech)
As you know, the International Fleet built this Battle School 11 years ago with the purpose of identifying and training best and brightest children humanity has to offer.
After all, it was human ingenuity alone that saved humanity from the brink of annihilation during the first war with the Formics over 70 years ago. Were it not for Mazer Rackham's genius and bravery, we'd all be Bugger meat today. And that's why you're here. That's why you're all here. When the Buggers come next, we need our leaders to be present and ready.
I choose to remind newly minted commanders of this basic mission of Battle School because sometimes the game can cloud one's perspective of why we're here. The game becomes an end to itself. The reason we're here. Don't lose that perspective. Commander.
They walk along a couple corridors and
INT. ENDER'S NEW QUARTERS
A small room with a bed, desk, computer, and a curtain shrouding a changing room/closet .
Yes, you are being promoted to the post of Commander. Congratulations! These are your new private quarter. Step onto the platform behind the curtain, the APT will have you fitted for your new uniform
ENDER goes beyond the curtain and into the closet area, steps onto the metal platform complete with three metal walls with the logo 'APT: Automated Personal Tailor' etched on it. A glowing horizontal plane of yellow laser scans up and down his body quickly - magic happens - and he's in his new uniform. It has a Dragon insignia on the right shoulder. ENDER looks at the insignia-
I've never heard of Dragon Army
We discontinued Dragon Army 4 years ago, before you arrived at Battle School. There was a superstition about it. No Dragon Army won 1/3 of its games in the history of the school.
Why are you reviving it now?
We had a lot of extra uniforms. (pause)
(cont., finally sounding engaged)
We're doing something unusual with Dragon Army, I hope you don't mind. We've assembled a new army by advancing the equivalent of an entire launch course early. I think you'll be pleased with the quality of your soldiers. I hope you are, because we're forbidding you to transfer any of them.
What if I can't get along with a boy?
Get along with him. We expect you to excel as you always have, Ender. I suggest you try on you're new battlesuit, you're army is already waiting for you in the Battleroom.
INT. CORRIDOR OUTSIDE BATTLEROOM
ENDER is in a steel corridor leading to a square opening with 4 handholds running alongside each side of the opening.
He is now in his new FLASH SUIT, with his new FLASH GUN on his hip.
ENDER walks up to the opening (Gate) slowly, takes a breath, grabs the right side handhold, yanks it and launches himself into
ENDER reorients his body feet first as he's now flying through an empty cube-shaped roo. ENDER continues floating through the air at the same speed and direction he had when he jumped through the gate until he lands at the opposite side of the room, deftly bracing his impact as he comes to a crouch and grabs a handhold on the wall to steady himself. He's next to another square opening (gate).
ENDER turns around to see his new army, 40 (mostly) boys ages 6-8, lined along a perpendicular wall, each small and floating clumsily, holding onto handholds in their oversized battle suits.
ENDER launches himself towards his army, orienting his body so his body seemed upside-down to his army. He approaches a soldier face to face, but upside-down.
(using his most authoritative voice)
Why are you upside-down solder?
(M.S. of ENDER and SOLDIER 1, face to face)
Some of the army start to shift uncomfortably
(to his entire army)
The shifting stops
Why are you soldiers upside-down? (pause)
Sir, this is the direction we were coming out of the gate.
(to entire army)
Well, what difference does that make? Who cares about the gravity in the corridor? Are we going to fight in the corridor?
A FEW SOLDIERS
Is there any gravity here?
A FEW MORE SOLDIERS
From now on, you forget about the gravity outside these doors. It doesn't exist while we're in here. Got it? The old gravity is gone. Erased. Do you understand?
THE ENTIRE ARMY
Remember, the enemy's gate is *down*. Orient your feet towards their gate. Up is our gate. The North wall is that (points at the opposite wall), the East wall is there (pointing), and the West wall is - which way?
That's about what I expected. The only process you've masted is that of elimination. Now everyone, launch and form up at the ceiling. Right now. MOVE!
About 2/3 of the soldiers launch to the wall directly across from them, the wall ENDER labeled North. The rest catch themselves and launch towards the wall ENDER labeled as 'Up', the wall with the gate they arrived from. The smallest boy, BEAN, 6, is the first to arrive at the correct wall.
ENDER floats toward the new ceiling
(pointing at BEAN)
You! Which way is down?
Toward the enemy gate
ENDER takes a small, mechanized box from his left hip, called a HOOK, which allows him to float toward BEAN
This soldier's name is Bean
Get that for size or for brains?
There's some laughter. Those that flew the wrong way have found their way toward the ceiling. ENDER addresses the whole army now, a little louder.
You're right onto things, Bean. Now listen to me because this is important. From the looks of it, this is the first assignment for many of you, and you might not know what to expect when our first battle comes. I understand that. It will test you. `Over the coming weeks and months you will learn how your body and mind react to stress and danger. I'll tell you one thing to be ready for though. Nobody gets through that door without a good chance of hit. The entire battle can take shape in the first 10 seconds. You have to be ready from GO! YOU FIVE, AT THE END! MOVE!
ENDER points at FIVE BOYS - they are confused, and motionless. ENDER pulls out the gun on his hip and fires. Quickly, their suits go rigid, frozen solid. They don't move.
Next five, MOVE!
THE NEXT FIVE BOYS at the end launch themselves off the wall and fly through the air. ENDER aims with determination and, one by one, he quickly zaps all 5. They each continue floating through the air at the same speed and direction, their bodies stiff, motionless. ENDER points to the first FIVE BOYS
Look at these so-called soldiers. Their commander ordered them to move. Now, not only are they frozen, they're frozen right here! Now they're in the way, while the others are plugging up enemy lanes, blocking their vision. Understand?
Yes sir. In combat, movement is critical. When you stay static it can clog up the whole army's operation and versatility, but when you're in constant motion, you can cause chaos in the enemy ranks
Excellent. At least I have one soldier who can figure things out. And, as Bean suggested, movement will be the topic of our first practice. We're going back to basics boys. Launches and landings. (louder) Everyone, launch to the North wall and push off toward the South corner on the ground. MOVE!
This time, everyone launches to the correct wall, albeit some still very clumsily, but some deftly. About 2/3 land at the correct wall with the rest having to adjust from poor angles taken, using the handholds to guide their movement painfully slowly alongside their fellow soldiers.
Very good. We're getting somewhere. We know where the enemy's gate is
ENDER flips off the wall, tucks his knees into his chest so his legs cover his body
Now shoot me!
ENDER Starts flashing the boys. They fire back. Their first on-target shot hits ENDER in his shin, freezing only his legs so they stiffen in front of his chest, protecting his body. ENDER continues flashing the soldiers in his army, laughing.
The boys start shouting. Laughing. Chaos. Some of his soldiers launch off the wall and get around him. ENDER torques his body this way and that, freezing a handful more flying soldiers along with the easy pickings lined up on the wall before someone gets behind him and freezes him in the back.
With only his left arm free, he finds the hook on his him, presses a button that thaws his entire army.
DRAGON ARMY lines up quickly along the south floor handhold
Where are you standing?
Which way is that?
And which way to the enemy's gate?
(loudly in unison)
And what is our attack position?
Some confusion. A few boys start to try and describe it until BEAN flips himself off the wall and tucks his legs in his chest.
Is Bean the only one who knows how?
All 40 boys respond by following Bean's lead. They fire at each other. Yelling. Laughing. Chaos. These young soldiers revert to the boys they appear to be. ENDER smiles to himself, and joins in on the fun.
INT. BATTLEROOM (SAME)
ENDER has DRAGON ARMY assembled along a wall, addressing them
Thanks to Bean (cut to M.C.U. of BEAN), We all know how essential movement is to combat. Therefore we know how critical your legs are in your ability to execute combat maneuvers. So how can we reconcile flashing our own legs and disabling ourselves *before* engaging in combat? We have to be able to remain mobile or we're sitting ducks out there. How can we maintain our mobility in our attack position with frozen legs? (pointing at SOLDIER 2) YOU, Soldier!
I've never tried it but maybe lining your back against the wall, going double over, swing your shoulders over your hips and the soles of your boots hit the wall and launch your body.
I'm Tom, sir
You're absolutely right, Tom. Watch me
ENDER lines his back against the wall, does as Tom described, only he adds a torque into his body off the wall and starts spinning after his launch. He spins 3 rotations, flashing one boy with each rotation before his torque slows to a stop. ENDER addresses his army
This is what we'll master today. It won't be easy, but you'll find tone and muscles that you didn't know existed. Now, start practicing.
Aren't you gonna assign lanes?
Hell no! I want chaos. Bump into each other. Figure it out. This game is about chaos. Embrace it.
Ender thaws the frozen soldiers.
Montage scene of boys practicing movements - launches, landings, moving with frozen legs, some adding torque. ENDER patiently tutors some soldiers one on one to master various techniques.
Cut to ENDER addressing DRAGON ARMY one final time before the first practice ends. The army looks tired, but proud of themselves and what they accomplished on day 1. Ender is pleased too, but tempers himself.
You all did well today, but we have a long way to go in a short amount of time. Every other army is bigger, stronger, more experienced, and more skilled than you. They've been working together longer than most of you have been potty trained. The teachers are testing us. *WE ALL KNOW THE STAKES OF THIS GAME* and the importance of a quality performance. *Don't ice out of here*. I wouldn't be surprised if they threw us into battle without the 3 months new commanders generally have to train their army. We might only have a few weeks before our first game
Murmurs and whispers spread amongst DRAGON ARMY
This is our task. We have no choice except whether we run from it or meet it. I *do not* intend on running from this challenge. I ask you now to join me. (pause) Too much is at stake. ARE YOU READY DRAGON ARMY?
(loudly, in unison, as a war cry)
AAA-HOOOO AAA-HOOOO AAAAA-HOOOOOOO!
Will you learn to fight with me? Will you follow me, DRAGON ARMY?
AAA-HOOOO AAA-HOOOO AAAAA-HOOOOOOO!
Great practice this morning soldiers. Our evening practice is scheduled for 1815 hours. Take a shower, eat breakfast, tend to your studies, get some rest if you need it, and we'll be back again in 8 hours. I will stay behind for any soldier looking for extra practice with what we did this morning. You're free to leave.
INT. MAJOR ANDERSON'S OFFICE (SAME)
Digital clock on screen reads: HOURS: 0143
MAJOR ANDERSON and COLONEL GRAFF are in another vid-link exchange.
Let me understand this Colonel. Not only are we accelerating his training more than 10 fold, but he is to lead an army of 6,7, and 8 year olds, half of whom have had no formal battle room training before today? The other half are rejects from other armies or never even picked up after their launch in the first place? You saw the videos of that practice. Most of these boys don't know how to fly, let alone shoot. And on top of that, his battle schedule is absurd. Battles *every day*? Even the most rigorous schedules call for battles once or twice a week at the most.
INT. GRAFF'S QUARTERS
COLONEL GRAFF's bed quarters are small, unadorned, and dimly lit. He's wearing his baggy military pants and a plain white T. He's lying in his bed, leaning over to view the vid-link on his desk.
We have orders Major. Our time is running out, as if you should need reminding. We need to test Ender under extreme duress. Remember, you will be handing the keys to the greatest fleet in human history to a nine year old. We better be certain he can handle that. And yes, Major, I did see the video of the practice. I think we should prepare for something special.
But why did we have to cripple him with such an incompetent army? Like you said, he'll be commanding a great force, the best humanity's ever assembled. His pilots will be the best we have to offer. But in his training we stick him with news he can't trust to execute basic maneuvers. I don't see the logic.
My intention was to give Ender an army of soldiers who will follow his orders. I was worried that if he had older soldiers with more experience than he, they might be resentful being subordinate to the young commander. Also, this crew is not tainted by the bad habits of lesser commanders.
They're not tainted with good ones either
Ender gives them those.
What happens if he loses a battle?
Major Anderson (pause). Every soldier at this school is brilliant. You don't make it here if you're not. But [[Ender]] needs to be head and shoulders above the rest or he can't lead. If another army beats him, hell, if another army gets too close... (pause) If he is less than god-like... The Admiral will scrap this plan. Ender will never touch the controls of the International Fleet. He needs to win to lead. We need him to win.
Well then... I hope Ender teaches these kids some good habits before it's too late.
Me too Anderson. I need sleep, and so do you. Goodnight, Anderson.
GRAFF turns off the vid-link and the light on his desk, and shuffles to bed.