A House Divided


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Scene Title A House Divided
Synopsis Unlikely allies come together against a common enemy.
Date March 18th, 2021

The late afternoon sun cuts through Manhattan like a sword. Blades of sunlights stream between skyscrapers, casting equal measures of light and darkness across a glittering city of steel and glass.

The looming shadow of the Long Lines building is like the needle of a sundial, tracking the hour of the day across the urban landscape in darkest shadow. The gray, windowless structure looks more like a monument or a headstone than a building. A grave marker of free will in a world shackled by systemic regulations and artificial design. It is the nerve-center of a simulation sprawling out from the combined thoughts of all its inhabitants, a milieu of memory both conscious and unconscious.

But as the sun sets on a city of memories, discord stirs in the growing dark.

OPTICA Central Command
The Long Lines Building

March 18th
7:02 pm

Arthur Petrelli sits at a glossy, black desk with his head in his hands. The glass surface mirrors him in muted reflection, the dark lines of his suit blending into the black until it seems like he is only half real. A holographic depiction of two drones rotate in the air over the desk with floating text that reads TRACE LOST.

“If I may?” Asks a disembodied woman’s voice over Arthur’s shoulder. He lifts his face from his hands enough to look to the source of the voice. His only response is a shallow nod.

Red light blooms behind Arthur, taking the shape of a woman in a loose red hoodie, face covered by a demon’s mask, save for her mouth: ON-1. She steps around Arthur’s side, then sits on the corner of his desk and presses a hand to the glass touch-surface. Garbled lines of red code spread out like veins from the contact, spreading to application icons in the desk’s surface. They jitter and tremble in the presence of the code injection.

“Colin designed these?” ON-1 asks, turning her masked visage back to Arthur.

“Ostensibly,” is Arthur’s frustrated response. “But his inability to design a proper antivirus for our fractal mosaic is disappointing.”

ON-1 makes a small noise in the back of her throat, then tilts her head to the side. “His code is sloppy, and had anyone else looked at it they may have seen it as just that. I do not fault you for not being able to exist beyond the parameters of your creation. But I…” she trails off, and the red code begins to infect the holographic representations of the drones, “…have no such limitations.”

Arthur lowers his hands from his face and watches as the red Oni’s code spills through the drones. “What is it you think you’re doing?” He asks with a clench of one hand into a fist.

“You asked Colin to make an antivirus program that could track down the fractal, why?” ON-1 asks Arthur.

“So her aberrant code can be eradicated and she be returned to the system.” He is quick to answer.

“And this will help you reach Vegas how?”

Arthur doesn’t have an answer. He stares at ON-1 for a moment, then looks back down to the desk. “The anomaly must be quarantined, cleaned, and rejoined with the others.”

“That’s not you talking,” ON-1 says, leaning across the desk toward Arthur. “That’s your base programming speaking. Don’t you see the stupid fucking irony in all of this?” She asks, gesturing around the room. “Colin made this entire place to spec, he made your underlying code to spec, but he didn’t make you.”

Arthur looks at ON-1 with a distrustful stare, nostrils flared. He has no response, but his stare eventually drift down to his weathered hands, flexing them open and closed.

You are a singularly unique being born of the underlying code of the OPTICA system. You are an amalgamation of the fears, anxieties, nightmares, and dread of the people you have been consigned to serve as jailer of the damned over in this virtual hell.” ON-1 points at Arthur for emphasis.

“Unique.” Arthur says under his breath, closing his hands into fists.

“Colin designed you as he was ordered to by those who exist beyond the walls of this simulation.” ON-1 says with another gesture to the infinitely dark walls that feel even closer now than they were a moment before. “How will you ever be free if you cannot escape from the nature of your own base programming and embrace the being you have become?”

Crawling across the desk, ON-1 puts a hand on Arthur’s shoulder. “Mankind dreamt up their gods, and made them real.” Red lines of code begin to spiderweb out from her touch through Arthur’s shoulder.

Are you any different?


The Corinthian Hotel
Las Vegas, Nevada

A thin line of blood runs down the wide blade of a chef’s knife.

The blade kisses the surface of supple flesh again, cutting deep and shaving off a whisper-thin slice of rare beef on a wood cutting board. Colin Verse uses the flat of the knife to carry the slice of beef over to a waiting piece of bread, laying it atop caramelized onions and a bed of spinach. He slices five more times, folding more slices of beef onto the bread.

“There’s something really soothing about making a nice sandwich,” Colin says with an incline of his head to the side. “Just assembling all the right pieces, watching everything come together.” He switches his chef’s knife for a butter knife, scooping out a daub of dijon mustard from a jar to spread over another slice of bread. “Small, meaningful goals that’re easily accomplished.”

“Oh, indeed.” Colin’s guest agrees as he drops a pad of butter into a cast-iron skillet. “But you’re not eating that cold, Mr. Verse. I would be beside myself if you didn’t toast it.” He motions to the pan, then holds out his hand with palm up.

Laughing, Colin hands the assembled sandwich over to his guest, who then lays it in the sizzling butter and dusts it with salt.

“You’re a fine programmer, Mr. Verse, but you lack the creativity of a true chef.” His guest says with a self-satisfied smile. “Everything with you is functional. But sometimes…” he inclines his head to Colin, “you need to have a little more panache.”

Colin shrugs, looking down at the chef’s knife. “I can be creative,” he admits quietly, then looks back up to his guest, “when I need to be.”

“Well,” his guest says with a breathy laugh of amusement, “I eagerly await seeing your creative streak.”

Colin snorts, setting the knife aside. “Not long now, Danny-boy…”

“Not long now.”


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