The 23rd Psalm

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Also Featuring:

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Scene Title The 23rd Psalm
Synopsis It began with a sound of thunder…
Date May, 1961

«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.»

White wool soaks dark red below rib level, sopping up the 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 white jacket 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 a weathered, exhausted old man, too much gray in his hair and beard, effectively blind. But 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, bringing him up thorugh 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. The only bright reflection gleams from the curving blade of a sword held point-down to the ground in one hand. 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."


Coyote Sands Relocation Center

May, 1961


A sound of thunder rolls in the starless skies.

Gunfire is a terrible sound, it carries across the open expanse of dusty desert that spills out from the foot of the mountains. Between elevated wooden lodges, screams erupt between the noise of gunfire. Blood soaks into the sand where a man in a plaid shirt lays on his back, bullet holes torn through his chest, glasses crooked on his blood-spattered face, eyes open and glassy as they peer upwards at the lightning flashing through the clouds.

Beneath one of those elevated lodges, a tiny young girl lays on her stomach in the dirt. Blood from her father is still tacky and warm across the right side of her face, some droplets smudges where tears have made them run. Dark, chocolate brown eyes watch her father's lifeless body where he lays, and not much further away where a man in a soldier's uniform lays dead as well, a burning hole in the middle of his chest from a direct lightning strike, clothing blown apart on his body in charred strips.

Wind picks up, wind and sudden snow flurries, a pop of electricity as lights on the cabins blow when a stroke of lightning hits a nearby power line. All Alice Shaw can see are booted feet running along the packed earth walkways. Trembling hands cover her ears, eyes wrenching shut and lips pressed together tightly. "Say goodnight, Alice. Say goodnight, Alice. Say goodnight, Alice." The mantra is whispered as she struggles to block out the terrible sounds. As if hearing her wishes, thunder rolls like a beat of war drums above, drowning out the pop of gunfire.

The sudden, terrifying sensation of a hand wound around one of her ankles has Alice shrieking as she's dragged out from beneath the building. Her fingers curl into the dirt, eyes grow wide and a shriek spills from her lips. The young girl turns, writhes, kicks and claws at the ground to try and save herself as a pair of soldiers haul her out from beneath the building.

One of them lets go of her leg, unholstering his sidearm from his belt, cocking it back and aiming the revolver down towards Alice. Fear fills her eyes and the sky flashes bright with a peal of thunder and lightning, followed by a stroke of white-hot light lancing down from the heavens, striking the gun-toting soldier in the top of the head, flash-frying his eyes and burning a hole through his helmet and hair. His skin boils on the inside, smoke expels out his mouth and he flies backwards onto the ground, legs and arms convulsing involuntarily.

The soldier not hit is recoiling, even as Alice draws her legs up beneath herself. He swings his rifle from over his shoulder, pulls the bolt back and chambers a round with a snap-clack. As he levels the rifle up and trains it on Alice, another soldier tackles her from out of nowhere, and the rifle goes off, followed by a puff of red from the middle of his back before he crumples to the ground with his arms around the girl.

Blood spills from the blonde soldier's mouth, and Alice continues to wail like a banshee with his dead weight atop her. Blood soaks into her clothes as she tries to push him off, but his body pins her to the dirt. The rifle-armed soldier chambers another round, ejecting a smoking shell out of the side of his bolt-action rifle as he stalks forward. Closing in on Alice, his lips curl back into a snarl and he levels the rifle down towards her.

Only to have the soldier he'd shot stand up again.

Confusion gives way to hesitation, and hesitation gives way to death. A broken piece of glass from a blown out window finds its way into the rifleman's throat, torn across the front of his neck in a jagged line by the soldier he thought he'd gunned down. Blue eyes stare piercingly from the attacker, from Alice's liberator.

When the rifleman falls down to the ground, grasping at his cut throat, gapsing wetly for air and choking on his own blood, the soldier turns slowly to look back at Alice. He pulls open the front of his button down uniform, checking his chest where a bullet hole goes straight through him. One thumb wipes over the exit hole, smearing blood over perfectly smooth and undamaged skin. Alice's wide eyes stare up vacantly at the soldier, at his nametag: MONROE, A..

"You and I," the blonde soldier states as he offers a hand out to Alice, "we should be getting out of— " Alice lets out a sudden scream, scrambling back on her hands and heels, twisting until she can get up onto her feet and start to run again. "Wait!" He cries, holding out a hand after her. "Bugger, why isn't this ever easy?" Ducking down to grab the dead soldier's rifle, Adam Monroe stares into his dying eyes, even as fingers wind into Adam's sleeve, begging for help with gurgling breaths.

"Sorry chap," Adam murmurs, tugging the gun away, "that's how it works." Rising to his feet, leaving the soldier bleeding to death on the ground and drowning in his own blood, Adam charges after Alice's scrambling form. The young girl dives beneath another one of the barracks, even as another stroke of lightning hits the chain link fence on the outside of the camp.

"You can't stay here!" Adam calls out to the girl, turning to look towards the sounds of an approaching jeep drawing closer, headlights shining brightly. "They're going to kill you! You're like me, I want to help!" Trying ot be heard over the storm, Adam offers out his hand to Alice, fingers splayed and blue eyes wide.

"My sister told me to wait! She said she'd be right back! I'm not going anywhere!" Alice's shrill voice fills the night, a shrieking cry of fear and overwrought emotional duress. Adam partly hears Alice over the rolling thunder, as he turns to face the jeep barreling down on his location, one soldier driving and another standing up and holding on to the roll cage, looking for residents to pick off as they drive.

"Hey!" Adam calls out, stepping into the road and away from where Alice is hiding, waving one hand to try and flag down the soldiers. "C'mon stop— don't leave me here!" The Jeep's headlight's flash and it begins to roll to a halt, just as another flash of lightning pierces the sky, followed by a tremendous explosion as a bolt of lightning drops like a lance from the sky, hitting the Jeep and causing a cache of explosives in the back to detonate.

The vehicle explodes into a bright fireball, launched up off of its burning wheels, flipping end over end through the air as Adam is blown clear off of his feet, through a doorway of one of the cabins. The Jeep crashes down on its roof, sending metal shrapnel and flames billowing out along with thick, choking smoke. Alice curls up into a ball beneath the lodge, whimpering breathlessly, wide-eyed and terrified.

Through the burning wreckage, Alice can see a figure moving, staggering through the smoke and flames. He comes out from behind one of the lodges, bloodied and clutching one side where his hand is soaked as red as the wound. A white, wool jacket is marred with soot, dirt and blood. His clothing in in dusty, cut tatters, tiny cuts and scrapes across his face.

Swaying as he walks, Richard Cardinal looks wide-eyed and dazed around the camp. His shoes scuff across the dusty ground, breathing uneven and hands trembling. He stops, right near where Alice is cowering beneath the lodge, resting his shoulder up against the wooden wall, trying to catch his wet, rasping breath.

Alerted by the explosion, two soldiers come into view as rain begins to patter down across the desert from the supernatural storm brewing in the skies above Coyote Sands. One raises a handgun, training it on Cardinal's slouched form. "You! Stop!" He's not dressed like one of the relocated residents, but with a wide myriad of abilities there's no way to tell things like that on the surface.

Dawning realization for Richard begins to sink in, and as Cardinal leans away from the wall, Alice's eyes grow wide and fearful. Warnings quickly become gunfire, and in the same instant that the soldiers open fire on Richard, he explodes into a swirling storm of roiling shadows in long, slivered strips. Unsure that it had even been long enough since exposure to the negation gas, Richard is pleased to find the bullets passing through his insubstantial form.

Like a swarm of birds, the shreds of shadow swarm across the camp, towards the flash and pop of gunfire and the panicked scream of soldiers. As the wave of shadow washes over them, they are engulfed by the darkness, their bodies beginning to dissolve into swirling wisps of smoky blackness, their screaming cries becoming more and more terrified as they are dissolved into nothingness. Wen the storm of darkness rolls past them, there is just swirling wisps of black in the air where the soldiers were and nothing more.

The raging cloud of shadows continues on away from the camp, a dust-storm of inky darkness that soon disappears from sight. Exhaling shuddering breaths, Alice curls down closer to the ground, covering her mouth with her hands, trying to hide in the dirt beneath the building. The monster, the shadow, will be a haunting memory for years to come.

One of many.


Two Days Later…

Lila Mae's Diner

Yuma County, Arizona


"Hello my amnesiac friend," is the kind of greeting that is expected out of someone like Adam Monroe.

The bell chimes on the door to the diner on swinging closed, and standing in the pale morning sunlight, Adam Monroe looks like he'd been run through a wringer. Bullet holes riddle his blood-stained uniform, blonde hair is tousled and sandy grit is clinging to everything. Waving one hand towards the kitchen, the blonde soldier circles around a table, boots clomping on the floor as he heads towards the counter across from the kitchen.

"You remember that storm last night?" Adam's so-called amnesiac friend admits, turning to look over his shoulder from the stove. Ernie Crum is an exhausted, put-upon looking man. Stocky in build, frown always sagging down the corners of his mouth. "I thought it was gonna' tear the roof off my house." There's a snorted laugh as the cook glances back to the hash brown frying in the skillet, then fully turns about to face Adam.

"Storm, eh? You really are clueless, aren't you?" Leaning forward against the counter, Adam crosses his arms and tilts his head to the side, looking up to Ernie with an expectant expression. When Ernie finally sees the condition of Adam's uniform, concern crosses his face immediately, dark brows lifted and lips parting with wordless shock.

Adam plucks at the collar of the olive-drab uniform, then pokes a finger through one of the holes. "…Same old story," Adam dismisses with a furrow of his brows, pushing away from the counter and looking down to the tiled floor underfoot. "Just wanted to say my goodbyes before headin' off into the sunset," Adam explains as he turns his back on the bewildered cook. "Be seeing you, Ernie ol' chap."

It takes Ernie a moment to parse what's going on, and sweeping the white hat off of his head, he steps around from the counter and hustles after Adam. "Hey— Adam, wait. Where— where're you going? I don't— you cant just leave me here!" A slap of one of Ernie's hands on Adam's shoulder elicits an askance look down, then up with cold, blue eyes to the old cook.

"I can, chap." Adam admits with a roll of his shoulder, shrugging Ernie's hand off. "An' I will. You're on your own now, friend. I have a feelin' that we all are." As Adam steps away to the diner door, Ernie's hand starts to fall down to his side, fingers curling against his palm and brows creasing together as wrinkles furrow across his forehead.

As Adam pushes the diner door open, another man is making his way in from the outside. Brown slacks and a plaid shirt cover a bruised body, stiff in the way he walks. Murky eyes offer a crooked, surprised look only after Adam passes by with a personable nod. Stopping in the doorway of the diner, Richard Cardinal stares vacantly out at the back of Adam Monroe's treating form, headed towards the rising sun cresting the eastern mountains.

A snorted laugh escapes Cardinal, and as he turns to see Ernie standing there in the middle of the diner, one brow lifts in curiosity. Ernie looks up from the floor, lips pursing together and shoulders slouching forward as he wrings his hat together between his hands, then looks up to Cardinal.

"Welcome to Lilah May's diner, name's Ernie… Take a seat an' I'll get you somethin'." Cardinal's murky eyes settle down on the embroidery on Ernie's apron after the greeting, spotting the caligraphed spelling of CRUM in large, blue lettering. A spluttered laugh escapes Richard, a smile spreads across his lips, and as uncontrollable laughter starts to bubble up, one of Cardinal's hands braces against his injured side.

"Ernie Crum," Cardinal rasps between fits of laughter, head shaking slowly as his smile turns to something more rueful, more understanding.

"Edward, you bastard."


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