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Old School Bus Magic

A Pilot Episode

By Brynne NelsonPublished 6 months ago 16 min read
2

scene 1

OVER BLACK

VALERIE (V.O.)

Ms. Frizzle to Bus! Ms. Frizzle to Bus! Over!

FADE IN

In outer space, we move past the Earth to the edge of the solar system. A damaged-looking, rectangular-ish red starship is being piloted by a shadowy figure.

VALERIE (V.O.)

Ms. Frizzle to class! Ms. Frizzle to class! Over!

LINCOLN PSYCHIATRIC FACILITY AND REHABILITATION CENTER - A LIGHT-COLORED ROOM WITH MINIMAL DECOR; CAMERA CUTS CLOSE TO BOTH ITEMS AND FACES AT THE BEGINNING; AS THE SCENE PROGRESSES, IT TAKES WIDER SHOTS. - EARLY AFTERNOON

FADE IN ON A CUP FULL OF PILLS IN A WOMAN’S (DR. NEEVA) HAND. CUT TO VALERIE’S FACE.

(Two women are sitting, facing each other. One, an Indian woman in her mid 30s, is wearing a lab coat over a pretty, but professional, dress in muted tones. DR. NEEVA. Her hair and makeup are perfect, and she is holding the plastic pill cup. Her posture is stiff.)

(The other woman, in her early forties, is Caucasian, freckled, and wearing a simple, clean, white A-line dress. VALERIE FRIZZLE. Valerie’s frizzy red hair (with a few streaks of gray) is pulled into a tight braid, although a couple of stubborn curls have come loose. Despite sitting on a chair, she has her legs crossed in a tailor’s seat. She glances repeatedly at the cup in the first woman’s hand.)

VALERIE

…And all Arnold had was a cold; I never said so, not to the kids, but I… believed… Well, Dr. Neeva, I believed that the Bus saved him.

DR. NEEVA

Saved him?

VALERIE

From a horrible, gruesome death. Imagine being exposed to the atmosphere of Pluto. Or, the lack of atmosphere, if you’re feeling technical.

DR. NEEVA

Mmm. We should explore that dire severity in our next session. For now… how did you feel, when he survived?

VALERIE

Relieved. Grateful, I suppose. And a bit surprised.

DR. NEEVA

Surprised?

VALERIE

Well, before then, the Bus had never—that is, I’d never imagined that the Bus could directly affect someone’s physiology, except mine.

DR. NEEVA

Why do you suppose that is

VALERIE

Well… I don’t know. I guess in my mind, the Bus is—was—well, it was mine.

DR. NEEVA

Yours?

VALERIE

More than that, actually. It was mine in the way that my hands are mine. The Bus and I were sort of… one.

(Dr. Neeva offers Valerie a tissue, which she uses to dab her eyes.)

DR. NEEVA

You’re doing very well today, Valerie. Self-regulating. That’s good.

How did you feel when you returned to reality?

VALERIE

I don’t remember, exactly. It was like all of the other delusions. I didn’t feel as though I’d woken up at all; I just went back to teaching.Dr. Neeva puts a hand on Valerie’s arm.)

DR. NEEVA

Remember, Valerie, the teaching memories were real. You were a third-grade teacher for two years. It’s the...adventures… that were imagined. Even at your sanity evaluation, your old students spoke well of your character, but denied the—magic.

VALERIE

I know.

(Dr. Neeva checks her watch.)

DR. NEEVA

I think we’ve made excellent progress today. Here, time to take these.

(Dr. Neeva grabs a water bottle and gives Ms. Frizzle the cup and water. Ms. Frizzle pours the several pills into her hand and swallows them with the water. Dr. Neeva watches closely.)

VALERIE

Thank you, Doctor Neeva.

DR. NEEVA

Of course. Have a nice rest of your day, Ms. Frizzle.

Scene 2

RALPHIE is sitting at an office desk, rubbing his eyes. He picks up a file, flipping through it.

MAEVE, via intercom

Mr. Tenelli, Sarah is here to see you.

RALPHIE

Send her in, Maeve. Thank you.

SARAH enters. Dark-haired and -eyed, she is a curvy beauty. She smiles at Ralphie, then sits on a corner of his desk, running a hand through his hair.

SARAH

You seem tired, Ralph.

RALPHIE

Don’t I always?

Sarah

Hmm. Yes. But usually you still kiss me when I come in.

RALPHIE

Sorry.

(Kiss)

SARAH

Tell me about it?

RALPHIE

Wish I could. It’s… a patient. Of a colleague’s. She’s not… well, she’s progressing in a direction I don’t like.

SARAH

I’m sorry.

RALPHIE

Thanks.

( He livens up a bit. )

Why the drop-by in the middle of the day? Not that I’m complaining.

SARAH

It’s 6:00, Ralph. Dinner time. Did you forget?

(Ralphie facepalms)

RALPHIE

No, I remembered our date. Just didn’t realize how late it was. Sorry, sweets—let me pack up.

SARAH

No problem. I’ll find something to do.

RALPHIE

Stay out of that file!

(Sarah looks down and realizes her fingers are touching the file Ralphie was reading.)

RALPHIE

I’m sorry; I know better. You’re good, sweets. This case just has me a bit on edge.

SARAH

I get it. I do.

(Ralphie finishes packing up his things.)

RALPHIE

You’re the best.

(Kiss, longer this time.)

SARAH

I know. Let’s roll.

The two leave, and the camera shifts to show the name on the file is V. Frizzle.

Scene 3

A large tech laboratory/office. It is clearly used not only to work, but often to sleep. There is a pile of dirty clothes mostly hidden in the corner, and the room is otherwise in various states of disarray, including a half-finished and extraordinary painting; several computers are running what seem to be advanced algorithms and projections; other screens show various space-related images. Two men and one woman are crowded around the iPad one of the men is holding. The woman (KEESHA) has a grim expression. The man not holding the iPad (TIMOTHY) is much more obviously frightened, and his hands are shaking.

TIMOTHY

Aliens. You’re sure it’s aliens?

KEESHA

That, or a computer with intelligence. We sent out a series of mathematical equations, and images representing simple ethical dilemmas. They sent a signal back with solutions to both. Whatever is out there, it’s intelligent, aware of us, and…it has a conscience.

TIMOTHY

I suppose that’s a good thing.

KEESHA

Maybe. Some of the ethics responses were… unexpected. To say the least, they think outside of our box.

TIMOTHY

How do you mean?

KEESHA

… Here. On the concept of doctor-assisted suicide—

TIMOTHY

That’s “simple”?

KEESHA

I guess simple is the wrong word. More like universal.

TIMOTHY

Okay, so what was their response? For or against?

KEESHA

They sent back a list of cures to diseases that we don’t have. Some seem impossible; the department is having medicos look over them all now.

TIMOTHY

So their answer was… cure the patient? I wouldn’t call that unethical. Though it does imply a level of advancement beyond… well. They’re space travelers. So who knows?

DANIEL

It doesn’t seem to be an invasion fleet, at least, sir. There’s only one ship, and it’s not large enough to hold more than five or six people–uh–aliens.

KEESHA

That’s assuming that the aliens are our size.

DANIEL

I hadn’t thought of that.

TIMOTHY

What about weapons? Could they attack? If they did, how much trouble might we be facing?

DANIEL

Unfortunately, their weapons—from what we’ve been able to monitor—are incredibly destructive. They blasted their way through a dense asteroid field on their way here, rather than going around. They didn’t seem to be worried about running out of ammunition or power, and those asteroids were reduced to dust. If they turned that firepower against us, we might…

TIMOTHY

We might end up as dust as well.

DANIEL

Yes, sir.

KEESHA

It’s a concern, but not one I see a way to confront.

(There is a pause)

TIMOTHY

Daniel, could you give Miss Franklin and myself a moment alone? There’s something we need to discuss, and it’s above your clearance level. Sorry.

DANIEL

Of course, Sir.

Daniel leaves the room. Timothy watches to make sure that the door has latched.

TIMOTHY

Keesha…

KEESHA

No, Tim. Don’t go there. Keesha turns to a computer screen.

TIMOTHY

Come on, Keesh. It’s the obvious solution.

KEESHA

It’s not a solution at all! That bridge is fried. Burned. Ash.

TIMOTHY

And whose fault is that?

(Keesha turns angrily .)

TIMOTHY

I’m sorry; that was low.

KEESHA

Damn right it was low. You think I don’t feel bad? Keesha turns away again.

TIMOTHY

Keesh—Keesha. Really. I’m sorry.

(Timothy hugs Keesha from the side, and she steps in closer. After a moment, they break apart somewhat awkwardly.)

TIMOTHY

What are we going to do, then?

KEESHA

About the aliens?

TIMOTHY

They’re kind of a big deal. Earth is nowhere near the kind of tech that could get us out to meet them. To date, we know of one vessel going that far. One.

KEESHA

But… how? Do we even know what happened to it?

TIMOTHY

Well, I don’t, but I’d bet that there are others who would give us a hand. I have the whole class’s contact info, down to background checks.

KEESHA

You do?

TIMOTHY

Just as a precaution, I swear. I figured someone needed to keep track of us all. We just need to get ahold of them.

KEESHA

Well, not just. We also need a plan, a way to get the Bus working—assuming we can find it—and probably a lot of money. And… well, eventually, we’ll need a driver.

TIMOTHY

That’s true. We may even need government support to manage that whole list.

(Keesha considers)

KEESHA

So… call Pheobe first?

TIMOTHY

Call Pheobe first.

Scene 4

A small government office; other than an iguana sitting on the desk, the office is immaculate. A Caucasian young woman with auburn hair is sitting behind the desk, typing something. Her phone chimes; she puts her finger on a button on the phone.

PHOEBE

What is it, Rachelle?

RACHELLE (Over intercom)

You have a phone call, Miss Terese.

PHOEBE

Put it through.

(Pheobe picks up the phone.)

PHOEBE

Hello, this is Pheobe Terese of the FBI speaking.

(Scene cuts back and forth between conversationalists.)

TIMOTHY

Pheobe, it’s me.

PHOEBE

Forgive me–who is this?

TIMOTHY

Oh. It’s Timothy Wright. From third grade?

PHOEBE

Oh! Of course; I’m sorry. It’s been too long since we’ve talked, I didn’t recognize your voice. Well, hit me with your clearance code.

TIMOTHY

Uh… 74-beta-Jim-6.

PHOEBE (clicking around on computer.):

Okay.

What can the Department of Extraterrestrials and Mutated Humans do for your branch of NASA today?

TIMOTHY

Actually, I think it’s NASA that can do something for you. Is this line secure?

(Phoebe shakes her head.)

PHOEBE

Tim, it’s the frickin’ Department of Extraterrestrials and Mutated Humans. The janitor’s phone is a secure line. I assume it’s safe on your end?

TIMOTHY

Well, I didn’t borrow the janitor’s phone, so I can’t be certain, but yes.

(Awkward pause)

TIMOTHY

Pheobe, that was a joke. Of course I’m using a secured line.

PHOEBE

Alright, I’m sorry. That was funny; I just don’t feel great this morning. What’s going on? I assume this isn’t about reminiscing.

TIMOTHY

Not… exactly.

PHOEBE

Tim—I thought we agreed—

TIMOTHY

I can’t explain everything over the phone, no matter how the line is encrypted. But it comes to this: we’ve found out about an emergency, and we need help. Friz level help. There’s no one else who can save, well… the planet.

PHOEBE

…The planet?

TIMOTHY

Mankind too, obviously.

PHOEBE

Right. Naturally.

(Pause)

You know how I felt putting her into that place, Timothy. Keesha—and you—and the rest of the old class pressured me into testifying that she was wacko. And now you need her, so–what? You want me to pull some judge’s strings? Get her out just so you can use her and throw her right back into that hellhole?

TIMOTHY

It’s not a–

PHOEBE

No, Timothy. No. That poor woman has been through enough. I’m looking at Liz this minute and I can tell, even she thinks you’re being cruel. Leave the Friz alone.

TIMOTHY

Pheobe, it’s not what you–

PHOEBE

Goodbye, Tim.

KEESHA (grabbing the phone)

Pheobe? It’s Keesha. Listen. This isn’t about Ms. Frizzle, or even personal freedom. This is about saving humanity as a whole. Even she would be willing to make that sacrifice. I’d bet on it.

PHOEBE

Find. Another. Way.

KEESHA

There is no other way! Look—she’s in a government-run facility. You work for the government. We need the Bus’ magic, and the supernatural is how you make your living! We need Ms. Frizzle, and we need the Bus. Now, can you help us with that?

(Pause)

PHOEBE

You suck. And tell Timothy he’s a jerk.

KEESHA

Not gonna do that.

TIMOTHY

(shouted)

I heard you, Pheobe; thanks so much.

PHOEBE

I wasn’t serious about blackmailing a judge into getting Ms. Frizzle out; that could probably get us all kinds of prison time. But–

(There is a pause while Pheobe drums her fingers on her desk, staring at Liz.)

KEESHA

But what, Pheobe?

PHOEBE

But I think there’s a way we can do it. If we get everyone.

KEESHA

Good ol’ third grade working together?

PHOEBE

Just because you say it like it’s stupid doesn’t mean it is.

TIMOTHY

(taking the phone back)

I’ll take care of it. I’ll get everyone together. Thank you, Phoebe.

KEESHA

(snatching the phone back again)

What about the Bus? Do you know where it is?

PHOEBE

Not off-hand, but I’ll poke around in the mean time. Do you think we can get it going if I find it?

TIMOTHY

No, we need the Friz to make the Bus work. But maybe there is someone we know who could help us get word to her, get some advice, at least.

(Keesha considers)

KEESHA

Tell me you don’t mean Ralphie.

TIMOTHY

He can casually stroll into a psychiatric facility. He'll talk to you, unlike Arnold. And he happens to be aware of our particular history. It has to be Ralphie. We need him.

PHEOBE

Easy for you to say.

TIMOTHY

Look, ladies, I know Ralphie can be tough–

KEESHA

That’s putting it mildly.

TIMOTHY

But Ralphie owes it to the Friz as much as any of us do. And besides, what harm could it do to call? I’m getting everyone together. Everyone. Including Raphie.

Scene 4

A conference room with a medium-large table. Eight people, all about the same age (roughly 25,) are seated around it. They share uncomfortable looks; ARNOLD glares openly at Keesha. A shortish brunette man (RALPHIE) stands and adjusts his tie slightly.

RALPHIE

Alright, everybody. I guess it’s good to see you all again. I’ve gathered you all here to talk about… whatever Pheobe wants to tell everybody.

(He ruffles Phoebe’s hair, and she pushes him away.)

PHOEBE

Thanks, Ralphie.

(She stands and gives him a withering look. )

I think you mean Tim gathered us all, but it’s nice to see you’re still taking credit wherever you can find it.

(She turns to face the table.)

It is good to see you all. But that’s not what’s important.

(Pheobe stands up straighter,acting more professionally.)

What I’m about to reveal to you all is highly classified by both NASA and the Department for Extraterrestrials and Mutated Humans–

RALPHIE

There’s an alien-slash-mutant group in government?

PHOEBE

Shut up, Ralphie. It’s a Department for dealing with aliens and mutated humans. I’ve been working there for several years. Recently Timothy and Keesha, who both work for NASA, approached me with a problem. We’ve discussed it, and we feel strongly that the only way–

DOROTHY ANN

I think we’re all smart enough to guess, Pheobe. Earth is coming under alien attack, isn’t it?

(Muttering around the table ensues)

KEESHA

Don’t panic; we don’t actually know that there’s an attack pending. We’re only about 80 percent sure that it’s even aliens that are coming, and their intent—if it is aliens—is still unknown. They could be coming to help us. They could go straight past Earth. There are a million different—

CARLOS

Don’t give us the party line, Keesha. We wouldn’t be here, discussing this, if you weren’t convinced. I don’t know about the rest of you, but Internet stars? We don’t have particularly high clearance levels with the government.

WANDA

And if you’re worried about alien attack, since you know the same things we know about what’s possible in this world, you want to go meet them. You want to use the Bus.

PHOEBE

Well–

ARNOLD

But we can’t fly the Bus, can we? Ms. Frizzle is the only option for a pilot. You want to pull her out of the asylum. Do you have any idea what that will do to her?

RALPHIE

Hold on, now, Pheobe. Not only do I agree with Arnold—Ms. Frizzle’s psyche may not, in my professional opinion, be able to handle being confronted with the real truth after her treatments, but what’s more, I’ve been to that institution. I tried to visit the Friz. It’s government operated­—something I’d love to get more info on, by the way, Phoebe—and on a total lockdown. It’s practically a really fancy prison with a lot of pills and loonies inside. How do you propose to get her out?

ARNOLD

Ralphie! Ms. Frizzle is NOT a “loony.”

PHOEBE

Arnold, relax. Ralphie knows.

(Phoebe glares at Ralphie.)

KEESHA

Though it wouldn’t hurt you to show her some respect, Ralphie.

RALPHIE

As if you’ve shown her any?

TIMOTHY

Keesh! Ralphie! Everybody. Shut up.

(There is an awkward silence as they all avoid each other’s eyes.)

RALPHIE

The point is, how do you expect to get the Friz out of that oh-so-suspicious lockdown?

TIMOTHY

We’ve been working on about that; Pheobe’s reached out to friends in other government offices. They’re being very tight-lipped about the Friz, and even more tight-doored, if that’s a thing. For some reason, they don’t want to let her go.

DOROTHY ANN

So what do we do?

CARLOS

Oh! I see it now. We’re your team. You want to bust her out. It’s a jailbreak. A world-saving, government-opposed jailbreak.

PHOEBE

Yes, Carlos. More or less. We’re considering a… “jailbreak”... as a last resort. We’re here to discuss other ways to get her out of the asylum.

ARNOLD

But Pheobe, Ms. Frizzle’s mind is… delicate. I know you’ve all left her to rot–

(Arnold glares around the table)

But I’ve been to see her. I’ve talked with her. She thanked me for all of us having her “treated.” For “taking care” of her. It nearly made me sick. And now you people want to sacrifice her to the aliens?

TIMOTHY

Arnold. No one is sacrificing the Friz.

RALPHIE

I don’t know about that, Tim. I’ve read evaluations of her progress.

PHOEBE

How in the world did you get those?

RALPHIE

No comment, Pheebs, so don’t worry your pretty little head about it. The point is, she seems to genuinely believe that the Bus and everything that happened on it was a bunch of hallucinations. I honestly don’t know what she would do if she was confronted with the truth–or, really, what it would do to her. We might not be sacrificing her to the aliens, but we would probably be sacrificing her mind.

KEESHA

I still say she’d be willing to make that trade. Her mind for humanity’s safety.

DOROTHY ANN

I don’t know, Keesha. Ms. Frizzle is her mind. According to my research, she’s an actual genius. We can’t rip that away from her.

WANDA

Unless we already have.

ARNOLD

That’s a real possibility.

(Pause)

CARLOS

I mean… do we have any other choices? Other options?

TIMOTHY

I don’t think so. We need help, and we need it now. There’s not time to root around and search for some magical solution—er, some other magical solution. We’ve got a matter of weeks at most until aliens of unknown origin and intent are at our doorstep. We need the Bus. We need the Friz.

Fade to black, then stars appear and the screen fills with an image of outer space. The red starship flashes a light from inside, and a crackling, static-esque sound plays.

VOICEOVER (INCLUDES CHILDREN’S VOICES)

Is this the Magic School Bus? Is this the Magic School Bus?

The words echo and overlap, getting louder. Finally, the sound cuts out and the screen goes to black.

Sci FiFan Fiction
2

About the Creator

Brynne Nelson

I'm a writer. I'm a wife and a mom. I'm a human.

Reader insights

Outstanding

Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insight

  1. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

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Comments (2)

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  • MecAsaf6 months ago

    Fantastic work

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