The Seed

Participants:

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Scene Title The Seed
Synopsis In the frozen wastes of Antarctica one expedition finds the unimaginable.
Date December 16, 2019

The sky shimmers with curtains of shimmering green light. These scintillating waves of illumination tinge to vibrant pink and blue at the end, looking like the great and layered hem of God’s robe descending down on the Earth.

The sky is cast in an eternal twilight, with the sky overhead a deep shade of blue-gray and the horizon cast in fiery shades of pink and orange. Shadows are long here, stretching out across the seemingly infinite expanse of Antarctic ice. All that mars this pristine white surface are a pair of footprints that begin out of nowhere, as if the people who left them manifested from thin air.

The footprints track along the windswept ridge at the crest of a rough, rocky escarpment. An ice-encrusted satellite dish looms overhead, it's massive white dish pointed skyward toward the shimmering auroral display. Small red lights flash on the massive satellite dish, blinking in slow but steady rhythm to say that despite the snow and ice this massive artifice still serves some opaque function.

One of the figures walking through the snow has stopped in his tracks, squinting behind horn-rimmed glasses up at the satellite dish. He is not dressed for the cold in his navy blue suit and plum button-down shirt. He doesn't even seem to feel the cold as he scans the horizon, turning to look at someone who is bundled up against the cold.

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Up ahead a right figure wrapped in a tan, fur trimmed jacket and boots holds her arms outstretched. Mitten-covered hands face palms up toward the sky. She is heedless in her approach of a barren, windswept valley full of snow and ice on the other side of the ridge. Making a sound in the back of his throat, Noah Bennet makes crunching footfalls through the snow that don't line up where his body is. Each footprint is offset by a few feet to his right, as if he were little more than a figment. Which, he is.

“No one is here,” the hooded girl says softly, staring up at the sky and the aurora. Bennet furrows his brows and exhales a sigh as he turns around and looks back down the path they’d come from, then as he turns to look back to the girl his body begins to dissolve into so much light and energy, dissipating like a heat mirage. The girl turns, looking back with a smile.

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“Come watch.”


Three Months Later

Utsteinen Nunatak
Queen Maud Land
Antarctica

December 17th
2:13 am Local Time


The wind howls, cutting like knives through even the thickest jacket. Each gust steals breath away, each howl screams you are not welcome here.

Just like the seed

The snow blows with such intensity that it is like fog, swirling around and obscuring vision, driven by the most bitter cold and biting chill on Earth. A quarter mile from the Colobanth station, a line of wayward souls look like brightly-colored specks in their orange-hued Arctic survival jackets, ascending the steep face of a rocky escarpment blasted with ice.

I don't know where to go

It's hard to tell who is who out on the ice. Each person wears near identical garments from the station, specialized long-distance Arctic survival wear with thick fabric masks, snow goggles, and layers of gloves. The ascent up the escarpment would be hard under any conditions, but under these it is practically impossible.

Through dirt and shadow, I grow

How much further!?” Michelle Cardinal screams over the wind, eliciting a look back from the bundled figure of Tyler Case at the front of the line beside Devon Clendaniel. Tyler cups a hand to his ear, indicating he can't hear her, and Michelle doesn't repeat herself. Sometimes it's better not knowing.

I'm reaching light through the struggle

His head twisting back is a reaction to the sound that cuts through the wind behind him. Yelling, screaming in this case, usually means something bad is happening. But all Devon finds is the snow-swept landscape and members of the expedition straggling out behind himself and the Tyler he finds himself in company with. Whatever Michelle had said was carried away on the blowing air before he could decipher it.

Just like the seed

Dana Carrington slips for a moment, her boot scuffing against an ice covered rock. But she reaches back and grabs a hold of Robyn behind her and exhales a sharp breath, a puff of steam briefly blasting through her mask before the wind sweeps it away. “Thanks,” Dana breathlessly says over the howl of the wind before turning back to the rocky path ahead.

I'm chasing the wonder

"No problem." Robyn's voice is distant, distracted as they make their way through the whipping wind and snow. There hasn't been much of anything from her ever since they set off from Colobanth. Still, she keeps close to Dana, and even after the other woman is well situated on, she doesn't drift far from her.

I unravel myself

Toward the back of the group, Michelle sticks close to Geneva, her brows knit together in unseen worry behind her thick facemask. “You're doing amazing,” Michelle offers only as loud as needed over the wind, offering a hand out to help Geneva steady herself on the climb up to the next ledge. “When I was your age, I would've been scared out of my mind right now.” Geneva may not be a child, but to Michelle there's little distinction. She chose to be back here to keep an eye on her. To keep her safe.

All in slow motion

Through the rubbery thickness of her goggles, Geneva can't help but cast a doubtful stare at Michelle, even as she places a thickly gloved hand onto Michelle's own. Uhhhhhh. Thanks? Nevertheless, the motion is duly if awkwardly appreciated, moreso as she successfully solidifies her footing with the help. From some small scrap of instinct that she doesn't want to admit to anyone, maybe something literally as simple as cleaving to the nearest port of shelter in this storm, she has been sticking close to the older woman, too.

You cannot eat money, oh no

Pointing through the blinding snow up ahead, Tyler #3 — as detailed by the large “3” made from strips of duct tape on the back of his jacket — indicates to Devon where to take the group, then falls back and waits for Richard to catch up to him. “We’re close to the summit, we should be able to see the lights from the satellite dish soon!

You cannot eat money, oh no

There was a time that Richard could climb buildings like he was born to it. That, however, was before his ability - and before he took on a cushy job as Chief Executive Officer. He’s not out of shape, but he’s not as in shape as he once was. He works his way up the hill with the others, keeping his head down - a lean in to listen to Tyler’s words, and he offers the man a thumb’s up. Hopefully that means they’ll be out of this damnable weather soon.

When the last tree has fallen

The escarpment is only one hundred and fifty feet tall, but the ascent feels like it takes a lifetime. Every treacherous step up the hill shows signs of what was once here: collapsed metal scaffolding and stairs, evidence of a larger complex of small maintenance shelters on stilts that once sat in the escarpment’s slope. But now these corrugated metal buildings are buried by more than a decade of snow since their collapse, along with any easy means of egress to the satellite dish.

And the rivers are poisoned

Broken wreckage of snowmobiles and tractored trucks are wedges between larger ravines in the escarpment, twisted metal and shattered glass frozen in thick layers of snow and ice. They look a generation or two old, like vehicles that would have been used to cross the ice as far back as the 1980s. Now they're entombed in Antarctica, a forgotten memory of what once was here in the Company's heyday.

You cannot eat money, oh no

Devon is the first to reach the top of the escarpment, where the wind drives at a steady thirty miles per hour. The gusts kick up ice and snow blowing so fierce that the conditions are near whiteout. In the distance, a dark silhouette looks high overhead, a massive satellite dish set up on a higher hill, the bowl of which must be at least two hundred feet across. What little Devon can see of it is crusted in sheets of ice that hang down like curtains off of the frame. Yet still, red lights around the edge of the dish slowly blink in a steady, tireless rhythm.

You cannot eat money, oh no

The red blinking lights are like a beacon, a signpost that stands out in a world that’s become otherwise devoid of color. Devon focuses on those marks in the distance, the only thing he can distinguish in the blanket of snow and ice and wind. It’s safe to assume that there’s still a long way to go, judging the distance to the satellite is near impossible in present conditions. He takes a moment to catch his breath and stretch out the tension from the long march, then turns to offer hands to Tyler, Richard, and the others coming up behind him.

You cannot eat money, oh no

Tyler pulls himself up over the escarpment edge, reaching down to grab Richard’s hand and help haul him up. Wordlessly, Tyler points to the flashing lights of the satellite dish, but then motions ahead instead. Whatever weird things he wants to show everyone, it's straight ahead across the mostly flat plain of ice and snow atop the escarpment. In the direction the howling wind blows from.

When the last tree has fallen

Richard reaches a hand up to grasp Tyler’s own as he reaches down, and he hauls himself up to the edge of the escarpment— gazing out over the ruins of what was once a scientific outpost, of tools and secrets lost to the elements. The satellite dish gets a wrinkle of his brow, and he mutters against the muffling fabric of his balaclava, “That’s awfully big for satellites…” Turning to help the others up as well, before they continue on.

And the rivers are poisoned

The ruined equipment just drives home the fact that this place is a shell of what Robyn had hoped to find here. Something long forgotten by the Company, by the people who once were stationed here, by the world at large, and by time itself. Robyn’s gaze lingers on it long enough that it takes Dana to shake her out of her haze atop the escarpment.

You cannot eat money, oh no

Dana makes a squeak of effort mercifully unheard over the howling wind as Robyn helps pull her up from the last ledge into level ground. Dana nearly collapses, breathing heavily and resting her hands on her knees, doubled over long enough to catch her breath before she looks up at the satellite dish, barely visible in the wind-driven snow. “Holy shit,” she exclaims, “that thing is massive!

Oh no

Ever the master at being subtle, Geneva lets out her own extremely low-pitched version of a grunt from the exertion of heaving herself all the way up onto that ledge— one that is vigorous enough to become a faintly audible blip over the wind. At least she doesn't go almost bowling over like Dana does, though. As soon as she's up, she surveys the dish in her own darkly tempestuous way, letting the red twinkling lights and immense outline of it gingerly blur into one single, curious haze in her thoughts.

Suffocate me

Michelle brings up the rear of the group, using an ice axe to anchor herself to the edge of the escarpment before pulling herself up the rest of the way, sliding the handle of the axe through a loop on her belt before moving in to stand beside Geneva. When Chel sees the satellite dish, especially one of that size, she can't help but shake her head. “That's not for tracking satellites!” Chel shouts over the wind. “That's a solar observation satellite! It's used for monitoring solar activity!

So my tears can be rain

Devon starts forward once Michelle has joined the party. His eyes keep on the satellite, using it as a landmark to supplement Tyler’s directions. “Why would they need to track solar activity?” He wonders out loud, voice naturally yelling to carry over the wind. He casts a glance to the side, over his shoulder to Tyler then further back to Richard.

I will water the ground where I stand

I don’t know,” Richard calls back, his voice a dim echo against the howling winds here, one hand lifting to shield himself from a particularly unpleasant gust, “Maybe they knew something about our tie to the sun that we don’t!

So the flowers can grow back again

Tyler glances up at the satellite dish, looks at Richard and shrugs helplessly, then starts to walk ahead to keep pace with Devon. “We’re almost there! Just up ahead! There used to be a big aurora out here, covered most of this stretch of the ice for as far as you can see! One day, back in September, it just— vanished!

'Cause just like the seed

"Wait!" Robyn looks up a bit as she walks. There's no ginger step, no heed paid to the conditions, not really. Still on some form of autopilot, it's this that finally snaps her out of whatever haze she has been in. "Solar observation? That—" Thoughts of what Rue told her, of what Renautas showed her bubbled up in her mind, bring her back to her mother. She wrinkles her nose beneath her mask, training her eyes ahead. "What the hell," she mutters, almost certainly unheard over the wind.

Everything wants to live

Michelle watches the satellite dish as she moves to follow Tyler, her pace picking up the closer they get to their final destination and the safer the environment seems for Geneva. She passes by Robyn and Dana at her pace, one hand raised to shield her face from the driving wind, marching needlessly ahead against the endless push of howling wind.

We are burning our fingers

What the hell is more or less what Geneva is thinking too, though more because any scientific ramifications of tracking solar activity out here in this arctic wasteland are even more lost on her than on the others. Instead, she pours all of her active concentration into fighting against the weather, screwing up her face against the newest spiteful flurry of wind that nearly thrusts her backwards. That remains the case, at least, until she picks up on Tyler's next remark—

But we learn and forgive

After the aurora stopped the weather got really weird!” Tyler continues, shouting over the howling wind. “I've been out here for years and I'd never heard thunder before, but then all of the sudden I could hear it rumbling from over the ridge! So I came all the way out here, you know, because it was something t’do!

You cannot eat money, oh no

It’s pretty rare,” Devon replies to Tyler, “but it can happen!” He hunches against a gust of wind, refusing the urge to check behind on the rest of the group. “Maybe it was an avalanche!” Hopefully, if it was, wherever this path is headed has stabilized.

You cannot eat money, oh no

An aurora?,” Richard calls back over the wind’s shrieking call, body hunched forward as he pushes step by step against the winds, “It may’ve been a massive overlay… the atmosphere’s thinner down here, I think? Maybe that has something to do with it…” If tonation could be determined out here, there’s worry in his voice now. Who knows what may have come through?

When the last tree has fallen

Michelle catches up to Richard, grabbing at the sleeve of his jacket just so he knows she's there. She offers one last look at the satellite dish as they pass it, then scrubs ice off of her goggles, trying to see the mostly level path winding between frozen rock outcroppings. The wind has somehow gotten stronger, so much that it pushes Michelle back in a way that the hand at Richard’s sleeve is more for her balance than anything.

And the rivers are poisoned

Dana looks over to Robyn, her wide eyes only just barely visible behind the orange-tinted lenses of her snow goggles. She hunkers close to Robyn to help fend off the wind together, clasping her hands together and trembling from the freezing cold wind that cuts through their clothes, even though they're designed for this climate.

You cannot eat money, oh no

As Dana brings herself closer, Robyn pulls her in — a little awkward, but they both could use the warmth right now. And for once, there's no line of joke on the tip of her tongue about it. "This reminds me of the Oh-Ten snowstorm, but on overdrive! It's definitely not natural, but at least that had a person behind it!" This is a complete fucking mystery to her, just like it was to the Tylers.

You cannot eat money, oh no

Big fucking overlay is the option that Geneva is inclined towards as well, if only because she has a very hard time believing that anything ever occurs normally in her life anymore. Unnatural is easier for her to believe than natural at this point, and she expresses that frustration via a rough, deeply expectant exhale directly into the freezing face of the wind— which seems to be picking up now? Fucking Christ on a Christmas tree

You cannot eat money, oh no

Up ahead there is a roaring haze of impenetrable white, the wind so strong it nearly bowls a man Tyler’s size over. “Don't worry! Just keep moving!” Tyler screams before plunging into the blinding whiteout of snow, disappearing from sight. Devon, just a little more than arm’s reach from Tyler can't see him, can't even see the satellite dish anymore. Can't even see the last people in the line.

When the last tree has fallen

But Devon is the first through the wall of blinding snow and wind, followed shortly thereafter by Richard and Michelle, then Robyn and Dana, and finally Geneva. The interior of the whiteout is deafening, a howl of sixty mile an hour wind that seems noticeably less biting than before. Though the odds of that being hypothermia setting in feel terrifyingly real. It's the distant rumble of thunder that truly is distressing as it peals through the snow with distant strobing of lightning.

And the rivers are poisoned

Geneva is the last through the wind, the last to reach the other side of the gale force and settle her eyes on what Tyler has felt was so important they see with their own eyes. But when she reaches the other side of the snow, Geneva’s heart skips a beat as she feels warm, humid air on her cheeks and sees

You cannot eat money, oh no

Green.

Oh no

On the other edge of the escarpment the Antarctic landscape drips down into a small valley less than a mile across. There is no snow here, no ice, save for what caps the rocky peaks surrounding the bowl valley. Everything below the north face of the escarpment is green, vibrantly green. A forest of trees fills the valley, shrouded in mist. The sudden difference in temperature melts the adjacent snow, creates spectacular waterfalls that flow down into the valley and shimmer in rainbow prism under the sun that will not set.

Feed me sunlight, feed me air

Michelle strips off her balaclava, pulls back her hood and gasps as she takes in the sight. Birds fly between the trees, call out alongside insects that chirp with the intense heat of summertime. Tears well up in Michelle’s eyes, her voice is lost, and as she stares up to the sky she sees nothing more than a spiral of auroral lights with the sun at its center.

In a place where nothing matters

Tyler pulls off his mask as well, looking somewhat guilty for not having told them what to expect. He looks back out to the primeval, forested valley and slowly shakes his head, running a hand through his hair. “This wasn't here in August…” Tyler explains in a hushed tone of voice, a distant rumble of thunder punctuating his sentence. “Someone made this.”

Feed me truth and feed me prayer (dancing around a shooting star)

The sudden relief from the pressure of wind and blowing snow causes Devon to stagger a step before he catches himself. His head comes up and he straightens slowly as the sight of lush forest and green things, living things fills his vision. His hands claw the goggles and mask from his face, shove back his hood, a mix of disbelief and awe written throughout his expression. No sign of an avalanche, but…

His eyes lift skyward at the sound of thunder. He half expects to see lightning as well. “Who,” he asks, tone hushed. “And for what purpose?”

And every cell remembers

Just through the wall of howling wind and battering snow, Richard nearly stumbles from the sudden relief of it. His hands come up, fumbling and lifting to remove his balaclava and hood as well, dropping down to his sides as he stares over the escarpment for long moments. For once in the man’s life, struck completely dumb by the sight before him, without even a sarcastic comment or quip to make.

He takes one step forward from beside his mother, unsteady, and then he drops down to his knees upon the ground. "They will say, 'This desolate land has become like the garden of Eden; and the waste, desolate and ruined cities are fortified and inhabited’,” he breathes out, one hand raising to grip the chain hung around his neck, dark eyes staring through darker lenses upon this impossible oasis of green that’s blossomed beneath a false sun in the heart of snowy desolation.

Feed me sunlight, feed me air (that have taken us this far)

Dana is at a loss for words. She's been unable to say anything, to speak, to even so much as breathe in the face of what is here. Belatedly pulling off her mask, Dana just lets it fall to the ground with her binoculars. She looks at the flora and fauna, the massive and ancient looking trees making up that pristine and untouched forest. Shakily, tears in her eyes, she looks over at Robyn and manages to say, “W-we’re— gonna— n-need to get Geneva a non-disclosure agreement.”

I see images of killer whales

Robyn joins the others in pulling off her mask and hood, a hand raising over her mouth. While what she sees is far less vibrant, and despite the spiralling light being almost painful to look at even with her contacts in, she still holds a sense of almost childlike wonderment and awe at what she sees before them. Maybe less for the incredibleness of the scene itself, and more for the impossibility of it. Either way, she's stricken silent once more, eyes scanning this almost alien horizon. All she offers to Dana is a shallow nod.

Feed me truth and feed me prayers (sleeping in a desert trail)

There is a sudden flat-sounding laugh from Geneva, mostly for the purpose of trying to express the immense extent of her own disbelief and failing at it. Her own headgear is already off, revealing messy straggles of hair that had come dislodged around the bun high on her head, which she promptly makes even worse by running a hand over. "What kind of poetic cosmic joke is this? Jesus— what. How?"

Dreaming of a parallel world where nothing ever hurts

The Tempest,” Michelle whispers to herself, wide-eyed as she studies the stationary weather pattern enclosing this miraculous landscape. Swallowing down a lump in her throat she says louder, “A— a weather manipulator could have done… s-some of this, but— but I… I don't…” She doesn't understand who, or what, could have this much power.

Dreaming of a parallel world where nothing ever hurts

Tyler steps to the edge of the north escarpment, looking out over the hidden forest. His brows pinch together and he looks back at everyone else. “Yeah it's uh…” he scratches at the back of his head, “you've gotta see it to believe it. And— I still don't.”

You cannot eat money, oh no

This forested valley is a pristine place, there are no signs of buildings, no wreckage of the Company’s last exploits, no ruins of civilization of any kind. The air here is fresh in a way that is intoxicating, crisp, carrying the scent of moss and grass and unspoiled nature. Flowers grow all along the escarpment edge, exotic looking orange blossoms with five petals filled with a rich red toward the middle. Long yellow stamens extend up from the middle of the flowers and their pollen smells hopelessly sweet.

You cannot eat money, oh no

Under the shimmering curtain of the aurora this feels like something out of a fairytale, a hidden world tucked away since the dawn of time. Except it is only three months old, thriving within a frozen wasteland on the bottom of the earth and there is no one, no sign, no simple indication of where it came from. It is like god reached out, press a thumb into the earth, and said let there be life.

When the last tree has fallen

And so there is

And the rivers are poisoned

From the red-feathered and green-tailed birds

You cannot eat money, oh no

to the chirping insects and neon green butterflies

You cannot eat money, oh no

to every unrecognizable species of plant growing in a land anathemic to life.

You cannot eat money, oh no

While Tyler continues to try to explain, while the others gather at the edge of the escarpment, Devon begins making his way down. Like a bee drawn to flora, the smells and sights of an unblemished forest pull at him. No explanation is offered, no backward glance. He pauses once to liberate himself of his pack and equipment, then a second time to shrug out of his jacket, to drop gloves and hat and other articles designed for traversing the Antarctic climate. Such layers aren't needed in this land of green and living things.

When the last tree has fallen

"Is it strange I want to… stay a bit?" It's a bit of a weird question, but the way Robyn's eyes almost seem to sparkle make it seem like a serious one. "It's so… peaceful." The answer of course is not, and the aurora's presence brings a sense of dread bubbling up in the back of her mind despite that feeling. She swears she can almost her their whispers for a moment, remnants of another world as she stares at it. Closing her eyes, she sucks in a deep breath. Pushes it out. No matter what, this wasn't something she would forget any time soon.

And the rivers are poisoned

"Fuck, yes. Oh my god, yes. Let's explore this shit." There is a brief glimpse of a sparkle in Geneva's stormy-blue eyes, too, though hers is wilder than Robyn’s, carrying glints of her previous laugh. It would be one opportunity in a lifetime. One singular experience in a lifetime, no matter what followed, or even didn’t follow, from this point. She casts her gaze over towards Richard, expectant. “Yeah? Please say we can.”

You cannot eat money, oh no

“No. No, we can’t, we’re…” Richard pushes himself shakily up to his feet after a long moment, one hand motioning frantically over towards Devon and Geneva, “We’re not equipped for a biological survey, everything here could be lethal to human life for all we know. Dev! Don’t touch anything!”

His gaze lifts up to the false sun hanging over the land, to the swirling aurora in its many colours. Only one entity could have done this, he knows in his heart of hearts.

“We need— to get back to base, and prep to head back with our rescuees… and get things ready to convert Colobanth into a scientific outpost again.”

“We need… we need answers.”

Oh no


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