Ouroboros, Part I

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00-01_icon.gif 00-03_icon.gif 00-04_icon.gif brian_icon.gif cardinal_icon.gif df_cardinal2_icon.gif cash_icon.gif elisabeth_icon.gif howard_icon.gif mary-anne2_icon.gif nicole_icon.gif peyton2_icon.gif ryans3_icon.gif

Scene Title Ouroboros, Part I
Synopsis The past is prologue.
Date November 8, 2011

«WARNING: CRITICAL POWER FAILURE.»

Klaxons blare, echoing down the dark corridor lit only by flickering lights and showering sparks from ruptured electrical conduits. Water sprays from a shattered coolant pipe, sprinkling down on the floor below. Blood drops into the water, swirling crimson in the dark, ripples cast outward, lapping on concrete shores.

«CORE TEMPERATURE AT CRITICAL, BEGIN EMERGENCY EVACUATION»

Rivulets of red soak between bloodied fingers, pain lances through a dislocated knee, flesh is still oily from the residue of the gas clinging to his hair and in his eyes and nose, depriving him of freedom from corporeal restrictions. Hobbling down the curving access corridor, there is a low, throbbing hum coming from the two foot diameter metal conduit running the length of the hall, cracked on one seam and spewing a white gas backlit by blue radiation.

«PARTICLE ACCELERATOR CHAMBER COMPROMISED, BEGINNING EMERGENCY REACTOR PURGE.»

The matte black of Horizon armor conceals the blood seeping into kevlar and dripping off of carbon-fiber plates just below rib level, soaking up blood that pressure of a hand alone can do nothing to stop the flow of. Murky, near blinded eyes stare blearily down the dark corridor, and every flash of light from the electrical conduits is like a blinding light shone directly into the injured man's eyes. He arrests his movement, coming to a large machine at the split conduit that contains a pair of electricity switches and a pressure release valve. One handed, the injured man in the demolished Horizon armor struggles to release the valve, clenching his jaws against the agony, wrenching his eyes shut as it squeaks forward inch by inch.

«CORE TEMPERATURE AT CRITICAL, BEGIN EMERGENCY EVACUATION»

As the valve releases, he turns, reaching for a lever to throw that turns a red light green. Immediately, there is a sudden rumbling sound and a low, harmonic humming as the particle accelerator's ring begins to power up manually. Breathing in wheezing, wet breaths, the injured man's face is illuminated by the energy passing through the accelerator ring and the crackling explosion of electricity from the broken seal. Richard Cardinal is where he was always going to end up, bloodied and in a particle-accelerator tunnel, attempting to stave off the end of the world. This time, though, he's effectively blind. But even blinded, he's far from helpless.

«WARNING, MANUAL OVERRIDE INITIATED.»

Gasping out a rasp of a laugh, Cardinal turns towards a nearby pair of metal stairs that leads up out of the access corridor. His footfalls clank against the shaky frame, broken hydraulics from his suit clattering off with each step, bringing him up through a bulk-head door that creaks noisily, opening into a colossal domed chamber. Blue light throbs and hums, flashing from between three metallic rings spinning at different speeds and different angles around a large central machine bathed in light. Lasers sputter and spark, blasted apart by some sort of kinetic force, the same ones that have cracked the metal rings, causing them to wobble.

«CORE TEMPERATURE NEARING MELTDOWN, ALL PERSONNEL MUST EVACUATE IMMEDIATELY.»

Over the howl of the alarm, illuminated by the arcs of electricity passing off of the machine, Cardinal looks like a man pushed to his absolute limits. He limps ahead from the stairwell, stepping over the twisted and broken carcass of a mechanical animal, its legs twisted and bent, head demolished into separate pieces of metal that all look to have vibrated loose, bolts and screws scattered on the floor.

«WARNING, PARTICLE ACCELERATOR RING INTEGRITY COMPROMISED.»

Stopping at a computer terminal, Cardinal's attention turns to flickering screens. One of which displays a computer rendered diagram of the sun, spreading out an intense wave of colored bands from its surface. A small, blue-green dot on the diagram looks to be bombarded by the bands of energy. Bloody fingers leave red fingerprints on a number pad as a password it typed in to the machine: 103175

«CORE TEMPERATURE NEARING MELTDOWN, ALL PERSONNEL MUST EVACUATE IMMEDIATELY»

Blood trickles from the corner of Richard's mouth as he taps the execute key, and a long string of numerical entries begin scrolling down one of the other screens. A sound of scraping metal has Richard jerking around, wincing from twisting the injury at his side. In the doorway of the chamber, through a haze of steam from the temperature differences inside and outside, a silhouette of a man is backlit by the red emergency lighting in the exterior corridor.

«CORE MELTDOWN IMMINENT»

Tall, lean, dressed in a padded arctic survival suit, the intruder's black silhouette is almost as dark as Cardinal's own when he turns to living shadow. An arc of red lightning snaps off of the bundled man's hand, crackling down to the floor and casting him in crimson shades. The machine wobbles, rings spinning rapidly and arcs of electricity blasting off to strike metal nodes around the walls of the room. Spitting up blood and slouching back against the computer terminal, Richard Cardinal's lips draw back from pink teeth into a feral smile.

«CORE MELTDOWN IMMINENT»

"You almost had me."


35 Minutes Earlier

Mount Natazhat, Alaska


"What the fuck are those?" Perched atop a rocky outcropping surrounded by a field of snow as far as the eye can see, Howard Phillips looks out of place in his olive-drab jacket and no shirt worn beneath. Waves of steam radiate up off of his body, and the air around him is palpably warm. Howard's focus, however, isn't on the concrete building in the crater valley below the ridgeline, but the recently constructed concrete obelisks surrounding its perimeter. A look is offered to Ryans, who inspects the site with a pair of digital binoculars. Ryans shakes his head, brows furrowed, handing the binoculars off to Howard. "Those weren't there in our time…"

"I don't see any external security," Ryans assesses the others gathered around him on the freezing hillside, all swaddled in winter gear. A pointed look is delivered to Nicole, one he can't help but give, before he returns his attention to the others. "There's a CH47 Chinook helicopter on the pad outside, that could be a good backup plan out if…" Ryans glances over his shoulder to the heavily-bundled form of Mary-Anne Stack, hunched by Howard for warmth. "If Miss Stack doesn't want to go into harm's way."

Two of the Brians, each with a pair of binoculars of their own, survey the area surrounding the Mount Natazhat facility. "No communication equipment, no antennas, no satellite dishes. Everything's gotta be done by hardwire." He hands one pair of the binoculars off to Liz, who looks across the snowy field. "I'm estimating it's about a quarter mile between the ridge and the facility. Those obelisks might be the beginning of some kind of super-structure, I don't see anything else around them. But they've got new scaffolding, construction equipment everywhere. They're building them for…" He shrugs, helplessly.

"No good," Cardinal chimes in, the whirring hydraulic hiss of his Horizon armor sounding worse for wear in the cold. "We've gotta get in there. The place is pretty big, and thanks to the kids," he eyes Howard, then Kasha and JJ, "we've got a distinct advantage. We'll split up into the designated teams, and follow the plan." He tugs his balaclava down, covering his windblown and cold face. Kasha stands unaffected by the cold, her visible skin no longer flesh, but bare stone. She nods, affirmatively, before turning her attention to JJ, who nods back to her in return.

"Central core is going to be a nightmare to get into," Howard admits, squinting at the obelisks again. "We have the manpower to blow through the security doors, but not the time. The longer we're in there the more likely it is we're all dead. We need to disarm three separate security consoles before we can get inside. After that," he slaps a fist into his palm with a brief shower of sparks. "Night, Night." Koshka rests a hand on Howard's shoulder, squeezing gently with a stony hand, then lets her hand lower reluctantly.

"Alright then. You know your orders." Ryans looks up to Mary-Anne. "Let's start moving people inside, two by two. No need to push yourself." Mary-Anne nods, reaching out for two of the Brians. Her hand grips on their shoulders. "I'll be right back," Mary-Anne notes, and with a rush of air and a whirl of snow she and two Brians are gone. Ryans turns, looking to the Natazhat compound, when something horrible happens.

Mary-Anne and both Brians manifest between two of the obelisks, hundreds of feet off-target from where they were supposed to arrive. All three of them begin to convulse, stagger, and then in a shower of red on white, all three explode as though they had struck a land-mine. There's a spray of body parts and shredded clothes that litters the snow for a hundred feet in every direction. The remaining Brian clutches his head and lets out a howl of confusion and pain as the experience travels like a shockwave through his senses.

"Oh my fucking God!" Lucille screams, hands clasping over her mouth.


Meanwhile

Mount Natazhat Complex, Command Room


Exhaling a breath she'd been holding in, Peyton Whitney slowly flutters her eyes open. The high-backed swiveling chair she sits in pivots with a turn of the joystick at her right hand. It turns towards the darkly-dressed form of Richard Cardinal, wearing the face of Tyler Case. "The pylons held," Peyton says with a hitch in her voice. Her eyes adjust to the security center's dim lighting, and Cardinal moves forward to lay a hand on her shoulder, giving a gentle squeeze.

"They'll find a way in soon enough," Cardinal admits, looking to the more mundane security monitors in Peyton's hub. "You did good," he urges, squeezing her shoulder again and ignoring the tears welling up at the corners of her eyes. Walking over to a microphone coming out of the console, Cardinal presses the talk button. "Facility security, we have an impending intruder breach on the southwest corner between pylons 3 and 4. Prep automated defenses for release," Cardinal looks to the monitors. "Harper, get your squad ready to greet them if they get past the killing field." There's a look back to Peyton, and Cardinal momentarily sees her wiping at the corner of her eyes.

"Maddox, Prep Bishop and Nichols. We're doing it now."


Meanwhile

Mount Natazhat Complex, Maintenance Bay


«You heard the man! Wind up and ready!» Harper's voice crackles out of the helmet of his advanced Horizon armor. In the expansive hangar bay that contains all of the snow vehicles of Mount Natazhat, roughly two-hundred armed and armored security forces stand at the ready. Impromptu barricades are being erected, crates toppled over, vehicles ducked behind. Automatic rifles are locked and loaded, and technicians are pulling the canvas tarps off of massive treaded machines the likes of which have never even been used before, the flights of fancy of Warren Ray's maddest dreams.

One of the machines hums to life, a tank-treaded weapons platform with four miniguns attached to articulated arms. It rolls forward, letting out a mechanical scream, a purely fear inducing affectation that Warren believed was essential. They're scarier if they scream, he'd suggested. Judging from the way Harper backs away from the assault drone, Warren wasn't off-base. Two more tarps are pulled back, and technicians boot up four lion-sized quadrupedal drones with nothing more than four-barreled assault rifles for heads and wide, splayed feet for moving in the snow. Other machines begin whining and powering up, the sounds are unbelievable.

Olivia Roland approaches the security team, the 00-03 stenciled on her armor faded and scratched. «Brace for the cold!» Olivia shouts, pulling a lever beside the maintenance bay blast doors. She looks back at Harper as the massive doors behind to open, letting in blinding snow and howling wind. Orange lights flashbrightly, an alarm klaxon blares that the blast doors are opening. Harper looks to the technicians, watching more machines spring to life with horrible articulation and intent.

«Launch,» Harper orders, and the machines begin to move forward. The quadrupedal hunters first, sprinting ahead and leaping out of the still opening door ahead of the massive sentry drones with their multi-barreled miniguns. Flying AETOS drones alight and zip out afterward, and Harper braces. He closes his eyes, extending his senses outward, becoming the front line of intelligence for the oncoming horde.

The dogs of war were unleashed.


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