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Who Monitors the Birds?
Space: Above and Beyond, episode 12 (1.12)
Last Modified: 28 Jun 2006 13:30:03
Cooper is offered an opportunity to cut short his sentence to the military by volunteering for a dangerous commando mission against the aliens. In so doing, details of his troubled past are revealed.
On a mysterious planet with two moons, Cooper and Major JACK COLQUITT assassinate a high level Chig officer from their hidden sniper nest. After confirming the kills, Cooper and Colquitt consult a hand-held electronic device. It reads:
"Extraction at 208884. 00.43"
With this information, Cooper prepares to follow Colquitt into the woods... but they're attacked! Colquitt is killed! Cooper "rabbit runs" from the scene, but is grazed in the head! He goes down! The last vision Cooper sees before losing consciousness are three Chigs proceeding towards their position...
Cooper remains unconscious as the Chig soldiers advance on the downed Major Colquitt. An Alien fires an insurance shot into Colquitt! Hawkes wakes up! He can only watch as the Aliens butcher Colquitt into tiny pieces with a horrible-looking machete. He carefully reaches for his rifle and when the Aliens finish with Colquitt and advance on him, Hawkes leaps to his feet and blasts two Chigs before his rifle jams. He removes his trusty K-bar field knife and dispatches the third: quickly and quietly. The melee over, Cooper looks down at his partner and finds his dogtags:
"COLQUITT. JOHN R. MAJOR"
This image takes Cooper into a flashback...
He's back on the U.S.S Saratoga, using the ship's firing range with Shane and Nathan. To the side, decorated with several sharpshooter ribbons is Major Colquitt. He watches intently as Cooper consistently hits the bulls-eye. Colquitt turns his attention from Hawkes' impressive shooting... to Hawkes himself.
Back on the planet, Cooper has buried Colquitt in a shallow grave. He places all of Colquitt's equipment, including his rifle, into the grave. Cooper finds Colquitt's satellite communications box and types in:
ENEMY ENCOUNTER. 1 CASUALTY. REQUEST NEW EXTRACTION #'S
To which the reply is:
EXTRACTION AT 201881. 02:15
Cooper navigates toward the new extraction point, then looks at his watch: It's 1:58. He has some time to kill... Suddenly gunfire explodes all around him! His gear comes loose and he loses his flat black box - his link to rescue! Six Alien soldiers descend upon his position, firing! He looks to the lake, thinking. Hawkes makes up his mind and takes a flying leap - into the water! As he ducks under the surface, evading Chig bullets, we flashback to ...
An In Vitro birthing facility, the year is 2057. Hawkes' birth. He slides out of a recently depleted tank of amniotic fluid onto a cutting table of sorts. The In Vitro facility is not a warm, cheery place... As the "doctors" cut the umbilical cord that attaches to the back of his neck...
Hawkes screams for a breath! We're back in the present and Cooper springs from the water and gasps for air. He's ringed by explosions. The Chigs are searching for him... He finds a foxhole but his gun is wet. It's useless. Suddenly, Cooper spots a WOMAN on the ridge. She simply stares down at Cooper and the dire predicament he's in. Cooper shakes off the image, then looks up at her again... She's gone!
Cooper hides in the foxhole as the Chigs continue to "walk in" their artillery toward him. With each explosion, Cooper realizes he must make a run for it... He goes! Hawkes runs through a clearing, gunshots and artillery fire strobing around him. The strobing evokes another memory for Hawkes...
Hawkes sits with twenty other In Vitros in a run down classroom. A strobing projector displays propaganda on the wall like:
"To be monitored is to be free."
"America loves you. This is why you are monitored."
Cooper, along with his classmates, accept all of this as truth...
Cooper has reached a rocky area, and he hides from an approaching Chig soldier. He looks to his hand and remembers back to his training. He jumps the Chig soldier, twists his neck and kills him! Cooper tries to use the enemy's weapon but can't seem to get it right. He even tries on the Chig's helmet! As the enemy closes in on the defenseless Cooper, he looks down to the Chig rifle. It sparks an idea...
Cooper digs up Colquitt's rifle, now he's ready to fight. As Cooper reads Colquitt's name from the side of the barrel, he flashes back to the Saratoga...
Cooper sits in the interrogation room as Colquitt paces behind him. The Major explains to Cooper that since he's the best shooter on the Saratoga, he's most qualified to accompany Colquitt on his assassination mission. He offers Cooper an honorable discharge certificate in exchange for his help.
"I know a judge sentenced you to the Marines," says Colquitt. "That's the ticket. "Go on this mission... and the Old Man'll sign it."
The catch, however, is that Cooper will not be able to tell the 58th, his friends, that he's on a mission. If he dies on the planet, they'll never know what happened to him. The temptation of honorable discharge is too great. He accepts the mission.
As Cooper hovers over Colquitt's grave, he sways from the head injury he received earlier. Once again, the Whore of Death appears. She beckons Cooper to come to her, teasing him sexually. Cooper responds until he sees her face: the skin of a white worm with orange eyes. Cooper recoils with terror and runs away!
He runs into the woods, checking over his shoulder to see if the Whore of Death is behind him when... he sees a flashlight turn on in the distance and hits the deck! Cooper peers through his rifle barrel telescope to see a pair of Alien sentries examining the area. One of them has found the satellite communications box: Cooper's only means of returning to the Saratoga. He shoots them both dead with his sniper accuracy. He crawls forward and retrieves the flat black box. As before, he punches commands into it then examines the read-out:
"No Response. Satellite Out of Range."
This doesn't bode well for Cooper...
Morning. Hawkes hasn't moved a muscle all night. He checks his satellite box. No luck. As the loneliness sinks in, Hawkes thinks back to the recent past and how he stole away into the night (like the Baltimore Colts) from the Wild Cards, his friends. He holds a look on Shane in particular. He doesn't know how to say good-bye to her.
A CAW from a pterodactyl, an indigenous life form of this strange planet, snaps Cooper out of his trance. He watches it fly overhead, the memory takes him back to...
The In Vitro facility. From behind the bars of his dorm room window, Cooper watches a bird fly. His expression reads fascination, then shifts as something very troubling occurs to him.
Later, in the In Vitro classroom, Cooper raises his hand during a lesson. The Monitors are not pleased with this unorthodox act. Cooper asks a question:
"Monitor? Who... who monitors the birds?"
The Monitor answers:
"I monitor the birds."
To which Cooper answers:
"Who... who monitors... you?"
The Monitors exchange looks. Cooper is going to be a problem...
A Chig soldier STEPS in front of Cooper! Cooper snaps out of his flashback! The Alien, though, is unaware of the Marine's hidden position. It walks off toward the woods. Cooper raises his rifle, ready to blast the Alien. The Chig, a wandering foot soldier, takes a moment to look up at the pterodactyl. Cooper hesitates. The Chig is watching the bird in the same way Cooper was earlier; he can't bear to shoot him and lets him move off. He squeezes his eyes shut and flashes back to the past...
In his In Vitro dorm room, Cooper receives an anonymous note warning him that it has been overheard that he has been deemed "defective" and that he will be "erased." Later that night, a Monitor brings Cooper into the Birthing Room. They've "monitored" the onset of a head cold... The Monitor pulls a knife on Cooper! Cooper reacts! He kills the Monitor with his bare hands, swipes his pass card, then escapes into the harsh city.
Cooper wakes up from his flashback to find the Whore of Death sitting only inches away from him. She shows Cooper that six Chig soldiers are approaching his position from the front... and six more are approaching from behind. Cooper's doomed. The Whore of Death smiles...
With twelve soldiers advancing upon his position, Cooper readies his rifle to "semi-auto" position and prepares a smart grenade. He leaps out from cover and takes on the Chigs! He manages to elude all but two when his rifle jams! He makes a break for it, running for cover from the weapons fire erupting all around him. He turns a corner to find... a lone Chig. Cooper knocks his weapon away, but before they can get into it, a mortar shell sends them both flying into a dry river bed. As they both recover, Cooper removes his K-bar knife and prepares to make quick work of the Alien. The Alien throws up its hands: "Please don't kill me." Cooper hesitates, then resheathes his knife. The Alien and Cooper exchange mementos before going their separate ways to rejoin the fray.
Cooper runs through a stream bed, then stops to administer the last of his medication. He's on his last legs. As Cooper examines his surroundings (which include a small, eight foot pool of water) an idea comes to him...
A few moments later, we see three Chig foot soldiers tracking Cooper, one of which smells the repugnant human blood on a stray piece of Cooper's leftover gauze: "The Human is near."
Indeed, Cooper is hunched behind a sapling waiting for the point Alien to come closer... closer... The Chig trips a trigger branch and the K-bar swings and nails it in the chest! Gas escapes! Cooper pulls the remaining two Chigs into the pool of water! In the water he pulls one Chig's helmet off, killing it instantly. The last Chig pulls its way out of the water and fights hand-to-hand with Cooper. Cooper kills it! After taking a breath, Cooper notices that the last Chig he killed was the same Alien with whom he swamped mementos. Cooper is saddened.
Later that evening, Cooper sits among the dead. The Whore of Death approaches him - she points out a pair of Alien troop transports preparing to land - another nail in Cooper's coffin. She offers a hand to him - come with me. He reaches out to take it, resigned. Suddenly, the satellite communications box comes to life:
"Extraction @ 205643. 18:42"
Cooper has a new lease on life! He struggles to pull away from the Whore of Death but she fights him! He struggles with her, finally beating her off... She leans in one last time:
"Until we meet again," she says in an unnatural voice.
Hawkes moves through the woods without regard for his safety. He's numb. He returns to the spot where he and Colquitt cached equipment earlier.
A few moments later, we see Hawkes in the scuba gear we saw him wearing in the teaser, preparing to enter the water. Before he descends, he holds the "Honorable discharge" document. He looks at it for a few beats, then tears it up. He moves into the lake and then dips below the surface, disappearing.
By Sarah Stegall on 08 Jul 2003 08:20:35
Sometimes the simplest tales are the most revealing. In Friday night's episode of "Space: Above and Beyond", no complicated plots are needed to tell a beautiful, simple and elegant story about war and maturity and faith. The latest story from Executive Producers and creators Glen Morgan and James Wong, "Who Monitors the Birds?
", is an artistic and technical tour de force, which uses its lack
of dialogue to allow the inarticulate and taciturn Cooper Hawkes to express the most fundamental...
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