Warren Murphy: The Final Reel

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    The Final Reel
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LIGHTS! CAMERA! ARMAGEDDON! Sultan Oman of Ebla is dying - and he plans to take the Great Satan with him by hitting America right in its nerve center: Hollywood. So he buys a failing movie studio and dispatches the Mideast's top lethal terrorist to hire Tinseltown's most clueless producers to create the greatest battle epic ever.  Thing is, the army of extras are real, the guns are loaded and the California freeway is jammed with camels and tanks. On the other side of the world, Omay is poised to light the powder keg that will spell disaster. The Destroyer races to save Hollywood, not for the sake of the free world, but because Chiun has just penned his screenplaym and nothing - especially not a madman - is about to keep him from the glory of an Oscar.

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Destroyer 116: The Final Reel

By Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir


"What does it mean 'does not fit our needs at the present time'?" This did Chiun, Reigning Master of the House of Sinanju, the sun source of all the lesser martial arts, ask of his pupil one sunny spring afternoon.

Chiun was an old Asian with walnut skin. His youthful hazel eyes were crimped in concentration at their leather vellum edges. A frown creased the parchment skin of his brow, casting an unhappy shadow across his weathered countenance as he examined the sheet of paper held in his aged hand.

"Give it here," said his pupil, Remo Williams. Taking the paper from Chiun, the much younger man scanned the few lines on the crisp sheet. He chewed languidly at his bowl of cold steamed rice as he read.

"It's a form letter," Remo said finally. "You've been rejected for something called Trials of an Assassin. Have you been writing novels behind my back again?"

Chiun snatched the paper back, face angry. "None of your business," he sniffed hotly. And, turning on a sandaled heel, he skulked off to a dark corner of their home.

"I HAVE A FRIEND," the Master said later that evening.

"No, you don't," Remo pointed out absently. He was trying to watch Nick at Nite.

"Silence, insolent one!" Chiun snapped. "This friend of mine is a budding writer."

"Sounds familiar."

"What would his best route be to seeing his words brought to life?"

"You mean aside from the Dr. Frankenstein route of throwing his manuscript out in the middle of a lightning storm?"

"Visigoth! I do not know why my friend would waste breath-nay, the best years of his life-on a vicious-tongued ingrate like you!"

Remo held up his hands. "I'm sorry," he apologized quickly. "This isn't exactly my field, Little Father."

"My friend is desperate. He would beg assistance from a lowly ox or ass if one could be found. With no farms in the area, you were his only alternative."

"I'm flattered," Remo said dryly. "So, what kind of a book did this friend of yours write?"

Chiun stood more erect, pushing back his bony shoulders. His crimson silk kimono responded to the motion, puffing out proudly at the chest. With a bright orange beak he could have been mistaken for an oversize cardinal.

"It is not a novel. This, my friend has tried in the past to no avail. He has written a screenplay detailing the travails of his life. It is an epic."

"I'm sure," Remo said thinly. "Is this the same friend who dabbled in movies a couple of times years ago?"

"I do not know the friend to which you refer," the old Korean answered vaguely. "I have so many. In any case the past ignorance of Hollywood is irrelevant. I need to know what my friend can do now."

Remo sighed. He had an assignment tonight and had planned on relaxing for a little while first. Turning away from the television, Remo stood and stretched out his hands as wide as they could go. He resembled a human T.

"This is wit, humor, originality and intelligence," he explained. He wiggled the tips of his index and middle fingers on his left hand. "This is complete, absolute, utter crap." He wiggled the corresponding fingers on the opposite hand. "Everything in between this and this," he said, wiggling the fingers on both hands, "gets produced in Hollywood. Nine times out of ten this stuff will get produced, too." He waved his right hand at Chiun before sitting back down.

Chiun's frown deepened. "So you are saying that my screenplay is too good for the idiots in Hollywood."

"I thought we were talking about a friend of yours," Remo said slyly.

"Oh, grow up, Remo," Chiun retorted. "I would be embarrassed to bring friends home with you always hanging around."

Chiun produced a feathered quill and a sheet of parchment from the voluminous sleeves of his kimono. Scissoring his legs beneath him, he sank to the floor in a delicate lotus position. He began jotting down hasty notes.

"How do I see to it that my movie is no longer too good for Hollywood?" the Master of Sinanju asked.

Remo gave up completely any hope of seeing the end of the I Love Lucy rerun he'd been watching. He shut off the television with the remote control before sinking down before his teacher.

"With most movies these days they come up with a few large effects sequences and then tailor a sort of story around them," Remo explained.

Chiun scribbled a few more notes. The feathered end of his quill danced merrily. He looked up from his parchment.

"Effects?" he asked.

"Explosions, helicopter chases, radioactive dinosaurs stomping around Midtown Manhattan. That sort of thing."

"But do not those things descend from the story?"

"You'd think that, wouldn't you?" Remo said. "But as far as I can tell, you'd be wrong. No. Effects first, story second. If the effects are big and loud enough, you can sometimes get away with no story at all. Like Armageddon."

"Amazing." Chiun shook his head. He scratched a few more lines on his parchment.

"Michelle Pfeiffer in a cat suit," Remo said suddenly.

"What?" the Master of Sinanju asked, looking up.

"Batman Returns," Remo explained. "The only thing it had going for it was Michelle Pfeiffer in a skintight cat suit."

"Pornography," Chiun insisted.

"Great box office," Remo replied. "At least until people found out that there was nothing else there."

"But were there not explosions?" Chiun asked, confused.

"Yeah, but the movie was dark and unpleasant. People like their violence to be uplifting."

"Uplifting," Chiun echoed, jotting down the word. "So in order for my screenplay to be successful, I need explosions, dinosaurs and half-naked white women?"

"And a happy ending," Remo added.

"Yes, yes, yes." Chiun waved a dismissive hand. "Uplifting pabulum. You have said this already." Gathering up his things, he rose to go.

Remo hesitated an instant before speaking once more. "That's assuming your movie was too good to begin with," he offered to Chiun's departing back. "It might have been something else." He added this last thought vaguely.

Chiun paused in the doorway. He turned very slowly.

"What else could it be?" he demanded.

Remo delayed answering for a moment. He didn't want to come right out and accuse Chiun of writing a bad screenplay.

"I dunno," Remo hedged with a tiny shrug. "Something I didn't think of."

"What you do not think of could fill volumes," the Master of Sinanju responded in a deeply superior tone. With that he flounced from the room.

"See if I come to your premiere," Remo grumbled.

And, rising with silent fluidity from the carpet, he left for his assignment.

Chapter 1

Everyone was armed.

A forest of slender black barrels aimed skyward-rigid testaments to proud Islamic defiance. The choppy fire of old Russian AK-47s rattled occasionally through the hot desert air. Bursts of bright orange fire erupted in angry spurts, followed immediately by exuberant cheers from the teeming, sweating, jubilant mass of humanity.

Far above Rebellion Square, on the balcony of the Great Sultan's Palace, Sultan Omay sin-Khalam watched the activity far below through weary eyes.

Catching sight of the sultan, a few men raised their weapons in a frenzied, sloppy salute. A whole section of the crowd turned to their leader as the ripple traveled outward. Guns were lifted in salute before the exuberance of the crowd finally collapsed into gunfire and whooping shouts. Even as the sudden frenzy of celebration was dying down in one part of the crowd, the cry was being taken up by another.

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