Arkfall, Part V


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Scene Title Arkfall, Part V
Synopsis When one future is destroyed, another rises from its ashes.
Date November 8, 2011

The Commonwealth Arcology

“Once, I had a dream…”

Security lighting washes the colors out of paintings in a starkly dressed art gallery. Each painting is given space to breathe, to allow the viewer to reflect on the art represented therein. Some are unique, others are reproductions based on unavailable copies.

One depicts a brain floating in a jar, the plaque below it reads B037 — Thomas Redhouse

Another depicts a nightmarish machine with lashing tendrils for a mouth, and the plaque below it reads Creature — Trevor Teasdale

A third painting depicts a round porthole window, through which is viewed the curvature of the earth from space, and a streak of fire falling down towards the planet, twinkling stars in the dark void.

the plaque below reads Shooting Star — Thomas Redhouse.

A fourth frame is empty, sitting on the floor with its painting cut out.

Simon Broome stands before a fifth and final painting with a landscape portrait orientation. It depicts the Manhattan skyline as viewed from the Deveaux Building rooftop, but the landscape view is cut into five different perspectives. Below, the plaque reads Divisions — Isaac Mendez.

“But now that dream is gone from me,” Simon murmurs as he closes his eyes, feeling a rumble building in the floor.

The Commonwealth Arcology

B-Ring, Unfinished Wing


Jolene screams as she's thrown off of her feet and onto the ground. A hulking behemoth of steel and carbon-fiber plating rears up on its hind legs, dropping down with a slam on the concrete floor beneath. As its jaws open,four rotary grinding blades extend from within — tools designed to cut concrete and steel — and begin spinning.

Jolene scrambles back on hands and heels, eyes wide as the beast approaches. Behind it's bulk, Gillian Childs stands cut off not only from her own daughter, but from the exit.

Fuck! Fuck, no! No!” Jolene screams, staring into the machine's gleaming red eyes.

It had to be robots.

Gillian could go her entire life without seeing another robot and she would be perfectly happy with her life. She fought them in Argentina, that had been enough for her lifetime, but now a beast of metal and whirling mechanics stands between her and her daughter. And she doesn’t even remember where she dropped her rifle. Probably when the first grenade went off. She still feels the power coursing through her, eyes still dilated and energy wrapped inside her in ways she could never fully explain if she tried. Though she doesn’t think even red lightning, if she could do it again, would do anything against a machine.

She may be without her rifle, but she’d always had a small handgun with her, a revolver. It didn’t have many shots and she hadn’t intended to use it if she could avoid it, but now she pulls it out and shoots at the metal bear’s legs, trying to draw it’s attention away from probably one of the few people on this planet she would die to protect. She already lost her daughter once today, she won’t want do it again.

“Go!” she yells at her daughter, aware that the exit is on the other side and that there’s little she can do to get past the beast.

The handgun rounds ricochet off of the beast’s back. It turns, red eyes glowing in the dark before tearing up on its hind legs and lunging at Gillian. She throws herself backwards, landing down hard on the concrete. A noise escapes her, elbows scraped, gun still up. The machine lurches forward, lets out a tremendous sound as blood drips from its rotary saw jaws.

No!” They all came back to save someone. Each and every child of a future that never will be, each child never to be born, came back to change the past. Jolene throws herself at the creature, slams bare, powerless hands against its rear.

The creature looks over its shoulder, screeches in the way bears can't, and then rears back and kicks Jolene back as hard as it can. She rolls head over heels, tumbles across the floor and skids to a stop. Finally, the machine turns back to Gillian and screeches again.

“No, no, no!” Jolene screams, pushing up one one arm, claw marks raked across her chest that can't regenerate now. She can see the fear in Gillian’s eyes, hears the blaring of the alarms, feels dread building up with terror and panic.

The last thing Gillian sees is the beast bearing down on her with its rotary saw jaws. No pain, no blood, just darkness. Then, peace.

Some time later, in the dim light of a street lamp, the city of Cambridge screams. A light, misting rain is falling from the sky. It's cool on bare skin, and someone is sobbing over the distant sounds of screams and gunfire.

When Gillian Childs opens her eyes again, the world is still there. She is outside of the arcology, laying in an alley below a yellowed street lamp. Jolene’s arms are wrapped around her, and she can see her daughter’s face streaked with dried blood and rainwater. In the distance, gunfire is popping and people are screaming.

Mom?” Jolene rasps out, hoarse from crying. She brushes a lock of Gillian’s hair from her face. Her fingertips are warm to the touch. There is no pain, no injury. Gillian is alive and so is her daughter… but she can't connect the events she last remembers with this moment. There's no through-line.

But there is another pair of eyes. Sitting beside Gillian and Jolene, a dark-haired young girl not even yet in her teens. She wears a simple gray dress damp from the rain, bare feet dirty. She reaches up, smiling innocently, with a hand pressing to Gillian’s cheek with a soft pin-prickling tingle of her fingertips.

Jolene looks down at Gillian, hands trembling, and she presses her face down into her mother’s hair and sobs openly. Gillian is too weak yet to move, and in the dark another figure stands just out of the light. “Thank you,” Jolene rasps, and the mysterious woman shakes her head silently.

She looks down with dark eyes to the child, then to the darkness of the city beyond them. “Life is precious” the stranger explains, stepping into the light of the street lamp. Her dark hair is matted down by the rain, stuck to her cheeks and beads on her heavy woolen coat.

“Joy?” The dark-haired child rises from Gillian’s side and turns to the older woman. Joy smiles, wearily, and shakes her head. “They’ll need you,” she explains in a small voice, walking over to take a knee beside the child’s side, hand gently brushing her cheek.

“Who— who are you?” Jolene asks in a stammering voice, arms tightly wrapped around Gillian, protectively. Joy’s eyes close, and she rises to stand slowly. Then, looking down to the ground her brows furrow and she looks back to Jolene.

“I am a friend,” is her best answer. “And this, is Nathalie. She was a prisoner of the doctors,” Joy explains, “please, take care of her.”

Also Featuring:

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It doesn't answer Jolene’s question, and she brushes a hand over her mother’s cheek, as if weighing the value of pressing the situation, or leaving it lie. Jolene looks at Nathalie, then Joy. “Thank you.”

Joy smiles, faintly. “Be safe.” Then, her body slips into darkness as she becomes little more than a living shadow. Gillian has seen Cardinal’s ability before, so has Jolene, and it's one he and Joy appear to share. The woman slithers away into the dark of the alley, and Jolene squeezes her mother tighter.

Gillian, only now truly aware enough to move, feels heavy and lethargic. Nathalie steps over, smiling, and takes a knee by Gillian’s side and holds her hand.

It takes far, far too long for Gillian to realize what’s happening. She could have sworn she died, or something, but from the way she’s breathing and everything, she’s not even remembering that correctly. “What— “ she gasps as it seems she can finally move enough to speak, feeling the way he daughter holds her. “Happened?” Besides the fact she thinks the drug wore off and she’s no longer feeling quite as high as she’d been what seemed like a moment ago.

It certainly seemed like a lot happened.

When did it get dark outside? When did the chaos of the underground facility spill over into other places? Who the hell are these people? So many questions she’d like to ask. It doesn’t quite get there, though, because she remembers seeing that thing kick her daughter and she’s shifting to get a good look at the young woman. “Are you okay?”

Before her daughter can really answer, her eyes shift to the other girl present, the one who didn’t slink off into the darkness. And the one smiling and holding her hand. She’s still processing what happened after her eyes opened, but she does remember the names. “Thank you.” She hadn’t recovered enough to speak to the other one, but she makes an assumption this girl also has something to do with the fact that both her and her daughter are not dead under the jaws of a robot.

“I'm fine,” Lene whispers into Gillian’s hair, “we’re fine.” There's a fearful tremor in her voice, one that speaks of things very much not being fine. But it isn't about injuries. It isn't about wounds. “We’re— we’re a few blocks away from what used to be MIT.”

Jolene exhales a ragged breath. “It all went up. She— that woman, Joy saved us. I think she was one of the Institute’s prisoners. She's—” Jolene squeezes Gillian harder. Then, looking up to Nathalie, she manages a weary smile.

“Hey,” Jolene whispers, brushing a wet lock of hair from the girl’s face. “Hey it's ok. We’re— we’re gonna get out of this together, ok?” Nathalie stares vacantly at Gillian, not really listening to Jolene.

“You're welcome,” Nathalie much belatedly says in a soft but fearless voice. The girl looks to be in shock.

With Jolene’s help, Gillian is tugged to her feet. Jolene keeps an arm around her mother’s shoulder, but stares at Nathalie uncertainty. Then, swallowing a nervous breath she whispers to her mother. “It's been hours. There's riots, the military are— we've gotta get out of the city.”

But Jolene’s tone is an unvoiced question: where do we go?

“I’ll thank her too if I see her again,” Gillian mutters, looking into the darkness. There’s no more woman there, but she will put it away in her memory. Hopefully that time won’t be lost like whatever happened between the snapping jaws of death and— this. “We’ll get out of this,” she adds in her raspy voice, even more raspy than normal, honestly. “Together.”

She had some cash in her pockets, just in case. Hopefully enough to matter, to get them there, since they’ve definitely missed the extraction by the Ferry if it’s been hours. Far too many hours. They’ll find a way. If only she knew where all the Brians were, she would go to the closest one, but there would be one on the island. They just have to make it to the point where the boats meet.

With her arm around her daughter, she offers her free hand to the other girl. “We’re going to go home.” The island might be the closest thing to home right now.

“We’ll make sure you’re okay, Nathalie.”

Wordlessly, Nathalie reaches up and takes Gillian’s hand. The small girl squeezes Gillian’s fingers, watching her intently. She continues to say nothing, but the faint tremor of her hand indicates her nervousness and the undercurrent of her fear.

Lene follows alongside her mother, listening to the sound of machine gun fire, screams, and chaos in the dark. Gillian can tell that Jolene isn't telling her something, but whatever it is can wait, there'll be time enough to talk in hushed tones about whatever happened.

For now, it's just the three of them, and the night to guide their way.

The Commonwealth Institute

Ground Level

Alarm klaxons blare, and as the elevator doors open there is chaos beyond. The once-pristine and minimalist decor of the Commonwealth Institute is thrown into disarray. Lights spark and sputter, a desk nearby is toppled over, windows are shattered.

“We— are so the last ones getting off the ride,” Tyler notes with wide-eyed uncertainty as he walks into the central lobby of the Institute with a blood-covered axe over his shoulder. Outside the complex there are screams of confusion, car horns blaring, sirens.

“We need to get out of here,” Libby urges at the spud of sirens, looking back to Eve as she exits the elevator. “This— this whole place is gonna— ”

Tyler makes a plosive gesture with his fingers and a kpssh noise with his mouth.

“That just means we had the most fun Angel Face.” Comes a reply from Eve as the door opens and she walks out briskly following the Cases her Desert Eagle held over her shoulder. The woman’s pale face covered in blood, brain matter and all manner of things. Thick midnight hair loosened from its bun and messy.

 A quick peek behind her at the elevator with a worried look the oracle bites at one of her nail beds. “Gilly… Chicken…” but there isn't any time to stop they have to get out of here. Chicken is more than capable of taking care of her mother, right? Eerie gray eyes peek towards the siblings as she smacks the side of her head and closes her eyes.

Focus Sister you've got packages to deliver.

Clutching her messenger bag with her reclaimed painting and Snickers bar. A multitude of other objects clink around inside, the alarms no longer bothering Eve because of the constant explosions that she and the others just encountered.

“Big Boom.” She agrees.

Taking a moment to catch her racing thoughts she looks towards the exit and nods at Libby and Tyler.

“Well lady and gent I think our work here is done. We have closed the show, the last ticket was sold, the fat lady has sung and my feet are killing me.” A blink, “We might have to break some laws to get out of state safely,” A dark grin crosses the terrorist’s lips. Who knows what Eve’s definition of safety is.

Is she always like this?” Libby quietly asks Tyler as they’re leaving the abandoned Commonwealth Institute facility. Tyler glances over at Eve, leaning in to whisper briefly to his sister.

I’m not sure I actually remember who she is, I think I got her confused with Cat.” Tyler offers with a wide smile, prompting Libby to cover her face with one hand. “Oh— oh Eve!” Tyler changes gears as they’re coming out the demolished front doors into the mostly vacant parking lot. “Hey, so, uh— we really appreciate you getting us out of that, uh, whatever the hell that all really was.”

The distant cry of sirens brings an anxious look to Libby and she hastily interjects, grabbing Tyler’s arm and hastily dragging him across the parking lot, with Eve following along. “What’s the plan?” Libby asks, dark eyes squared on Eve. Tyler grimaces, regretting Libby’s posing of that question.

“Dick from the future took your Angel face. Then he decided to try to make the future a ‘better place’. My friends have most likely deposed of him by now.” No offering as to who, what or where really the oracle strides ahead into the parking lot and she surveys the area. “I use to live here… Simon brought me when I was sick. They took most of my memories though… and the paintings from my visions…” a confused expression crosses Eve’s face. “They experimented and hurt people…”

Shaking her head furiously again she stomps forward towards a bunch of cars still parked and she gives Libby and Tyler a impish grin. “Lucky for you two daddy taught his girl a thing or sixty about cars.” As Eve looks back and forth deciding what car to pick before walking forward.

“Once we have wheels then we get to higher ground. This place is about to get flooded” er… “Where ya wanna go? To see the non dick Dick? Cardinal would happy to see you I bet. Or to Mexico? I heard it's real wild and fun there.” She reaches into her bag and pulls out a simple knife. Trying different car doors because she would rather not have to break a window.

Coming upon a black sedan Eve Mas’ eyes light up as the door opens and she barrels in. Immediately working on hot wiring the car.

 “Seeing as you both made it out alive I have a confession.”

“Doc… it's my fault. I'm sorry.”

“But everything worked out so!”

snip snip

crackle crackle


Tyler and Libby share concerned looks to one another, and as Libby’s about to say something Tyler gently lays a hand on her shoulder and goes over to where Eve is crawling out from under the driver’s side console. “Ok, Eve. Uh,” Tyler looks over at Libby, then back again. “Libby’s gonna drive, because neither of us are sure if you’ve been drinking or not.” He smiles, friendly, and rests a hand on Eve’s shoulder

“Worcester,” Libby decides. “We drive together as far as Worcester, then Ty and I are out.” Her voice is decidedly tense, the shock of what happened — where they just were — is finally wearing off and she’s starting to crack

Diplomatically, Tyler eases back. “Look uh, Cardinal’s great and all, but the last time we got smuggled out of somewhere with his help we wound up at the Institute. So,” Tyler grimaces, “He’s a bud and all, but we’re gonna take our chances on our— “

There is no fucking time to talk about this!” Libby screams and shoves Tyler back, pushing Eve out of the way as she climbs into the driver’s seat. “Tyler, get in the fucking car!” Libby emphasizes all of those points by slamming her hands on the steering wheel. Tyler doesn’t even— argue— really, because the ground is starting to vibrate underfoot. He hops in to the rear driver’s side seat.

“Okay Deb if you wanna get off the night bus a few stops early I can’t stop you, even though this isn't much of a night bus. My apologies.” As she peeks from under the console at the two. As Tyler puts his hand on her shoulder she smiles, “Don't drink and drive silly.” But smoking and driving is another thing altogether.

“Well your logic for not going back to Richard is… sounds pretty spot on Angel Face. I mean whether he means too or not he really jus- Hey! Debbie cool it!” Eve is shoved out of the way and she falls into the passenger seat with a thud.

“Sure Debbie be my fucking guest and drive, my feet could use a rest,” she slouches in the seat and props her tired feet on the dash. A look is given to Tyler as the car starts.

“Is she always like this?”

“I just traveled all the way up here in the cold, fought some zombies, made a boom and then got separated from my best friend and her daughter from the future and end up rescuing,” (But did she?) “And stuck with the two most unlucky sons of bitches to walk the planet but yell at me!” Eve bangs her hand on her knees with a cackle.

“It's Libby,” the aforementioned screams as she slams on the gas, mounting the parking median ahead, crashing onto the sidewalk and then peeling out onto the street trailing a rattling leftover of a muffler behind the car. Tyler shoots Eve a look that is half shrug, half helpless pantomime.

The car swerved into the street, sideswiping an ambulance headed toward MIT. Libby screams, then jerks the wheel away and diverts around an oncoming car before cutting into the right lane, then mounting that sidewalk and laying on the horn. Onlookers who'd gathered because of the alarms and screams from the Institute dive out of the way of the car.

“Libby, Libby, Libby, Sis, Libby,” Tyler repeats, hastily fumbling with a seat belt. “Drive— drive careful, please, we didn't escape there to — ”

Ty I love you but shut the fuck up!” Libby screams, tears rolling down her face as she clips a street side vendor cart, swerving across the sidewalk, then cutting ahead of slower moving traffic onto the road. Before anyone can say anything else, there's a rumble and the entire car shakes.

Screams erupt in the car as the street buckles and fire hydrants explode from their moorings, spraying water into the air. Manhole covers blast up a few feet from the pavement and steam issues out of storm drains. Tyler turns around, looking out the back window. “Oh my fuck, oh my heck! Drive, DRIVE!

Behind the car, there are explosions in the air. Drones crashing down into the street and pops of gunfire. But then the street wobbles again, and buildings in the distance begin to crumble downward. Tyler’s screaming turns absolutely incoherent as he blindly slaps the back of Libby’s seat. “Oh my god, oh my god!

As the car jumps and starts across the road skidding Eve hops forward. Was she sleeping?!? “Who-what's the cat bean doing?” She murmurs as she rubs her eyes. “Sorry I was sleepy- DEB-LIBDEB WATCH THE ROAD!” The darker haired woman looks over to Tyler’s sister.

Eve would never drive so recklessly who is this lady?

Grumbling something about how crazy people drive better than supposed sane people Eve digs into her bag procuring her metallic cigarette case she withdraws the cylinder and fishes a lighter out of her bag. “Just stare straight and push the gas. It's really quite simple Debbie,” her body sways and jerks along with the car but she's almost oblivious to the horror going on around her, a flick of the lighter and her joint is lit the smell of cannabis filing the car. Eve cracks the window as smoke wafts and swirls around her face. “I think we could all use a little medication sedation.”

She tries to make an O ring but fails and man Debbie is not driving any better and now Angel Face is screaming about… as the soothsayer turns her head to offer Tyler a hit so he calms the fuck down Eve sees the destruction behind them and the pavement is wobbling?? as well as the car. She takes a long drag of her joint and blows it out the cracked window lips pressed against the glass. Rolling the window down her face falls through the hole it provides and her eyes widen.


One by one the buildings of the MIT campus begin to collapse down into themselves. A rolling cloud of dust and debris explodes up in their wake and screaming pedestrians are scrambling into the street. Everyone in the car is screaming and a cloud of black dust is rolling through the streets, soon enveloping the car.

Foot on the gas as hard as she can, Libby plows through a stop sign, snapping it off and sending it crashing into the windshield. Helicopters are flying overhead towards MIT, drones are streaking through the air. What had they done?

Distracted by the collapsing apocalypse in the rear view, Libby doesn't notice a group of fleeing pedestrians until it is too late. She jerks the wheel to the left, swerves through oncoming traffic and then onto another sidewalk and straight through the guard rail of an overpass.

Everyone in the car is screaming.

Muffled voices come through the darkness later. Eve has fleeting recollections of being dragged out of a car, but she doesn't remember the collision in the underpass. She recalls someone saying her name, muffled voices, panicked shouting, then darkness.

Eve wakes up in a triage hospital on a cot in a white tent with other injured people. Plain-clothes doctors are tending to injuries. An IV is plugged into her arm, a plastic bag of blood hanging from the IV stand. Tyler and Libby are nowhere to be seen.

As Eve starts to become more aware of her surroundings, she realizes her clothes are covered in more blood than she remembers. There's tears and cuts where there weren't before. A doctor, on seeing her moving, yelps in shock.

“Oh— my god. Oh my god she's— Craig! Craig the Jane Doe is— “ The female doctor, stunned by Eve’s awakening, comes rushing over and lays a hand on her shoulder gently. “No, sweetie, no you're— ”

The doctor stares, blankly. Her gloved hand moves down to Eve’s side. Her fingers touch bare skin, feel for something, then pull away. Her dark eyes wander to the IV bag, brows furrowed. “Who— who hooked— ”

A male doctor, sleeves of his cardigan rolled up and blood stains on his hands comes walking over, wiping tears from his eyes. “Emily we lost the— “ he sees her with Eve. “Oh my god.” The doctor hurried over, looking at Eve wide-eyed.

“Her wound is gone,” Emily states in shock. “I checked her for a pulse four times. She was dead, Craig. You called her.”

Craig takes a step back from Eve’s cot. “She's got to be SLC-Expressive. A— regenerator or— “ Craig looks at the blood bag, then to Emily.

“It wasn't me.” Emily states flatly. Craig looks down to Eve, taking a knee beside her cot.
“Ok, you're safe. Ok, we’re going to call someone from the DoEA to take care of you. What's your ability, can you tell me? Are you going to be ok?”

Eve was not prepared for this.

There's a pounding in her head and boy does it hurt. “I… what?” Eve can barely get the words out of her mouth, lips not working very well. Her vision spins and she closes her eyes as she hears the words dead and calling a death time in reference to her. Placing a hand on her face she swings her head towards Emily but that makes her almost want to vomit. Throwing her hand down to steady herself on the cot.

Eyes blink repeatedly as she tries to make sense of what's being yelled at her (it just seems like they are yelling) “What?”

“Wherewhere am I? An-Tyler? Debb-DebbLibby?” She's so confused and confusion isn't something that she's really new too but this. She can't for the life of her remember what happened. “What happened??” The dizziness makes her close her eyes again.

“She's still in shock,” Emily explains concernedly. “Miss, I don't know who those people are. Someone brought you here with severe injuries, I didn't get names. They said you'd been in a car accident…” Emily looks over at Craig, who nods to her to keep things going there and heads back deeper into the triage tent to the sound of screaming.

“You— we thought you were dead. You didn't have an identification card on you, we didn't know what ability you had. You— you do have an ability, right? Do you know what year it is?”

As she shakily asks those questions, Emily goes over to check the IV. She pulls the bag down, looks at the blood. “This isn't…” she fishes around for the IV tube as finds its disconnected. Instead of being connected to the blood bag it's connected to another IV shunt, like what would be used during a blood transfer.

Emily looks at Eve anxiously, without explanation of these events. “Sweetie, what's your name?”

She still can't get a grasp on the situation at hand, not totally. Her hands grip the cot until her knuckles turn white. “Dude or lady?” Eve stammers out to Emily. Her eyes widen as she sees Emily reach up and check the IV. “Where?” She squints her eyes.

“2011.” Is said softly and she hangs her head. The question about an ability makes her stiffen as she registers it. “I… I have an ability?”

She reaches out and grips Emily’s arm. “WHERE?” a ragged moan escapes the raven haired woman.
“My name…” she closes her eyes dipping her head into her chest, “Selene. Selene Norwell.” Her go to fake name since the PARIAH days. “Please…”

The doctor jumps when Eve raises her voice. Fear is evident in her eyes, The Evolved frighten her. But Eve’s grasp on Emily’s arm is adamant at the moment. She swallows a lump in her throat, looks around for anyone to call for help and finds nothing.

“A— a man.” Emily stammers, “av— average height, blonde, British accent.” The doctor struggles to form words, even as they're revealing something else to Eve. “I— I didn't get his name. He— I think he left when— “ she isn't sure how to finish that sentence.

But a blonde, British man? It couldn't be.

“He… blonde?” Eve's voice soft as she breathes heavily and she raises an eyebrow and leans in closer to Emily her teeth bared. “You think… he left… when?” her mind reeling as she slowly puts a face to the man she has in her mind. She hadn't seen him… in years. “When I died?” She says for Emily and her head spins again as she tries to swing her legs over the cot.

“It can't be…” she whispers to herself despite her words being spoken in front of the other woman. Her gaze gets a faraway look. “Which way did he go?” She tries to stagger to her feet. He couldn't have gone far. Could he? She has no way of knowing how long she has been out but she is hoping. “How long ago did he leave?”

“How long?” her tone hardens as she comes back to reality. The sirens in the distance but still feeling so very close and loud. There must be a thousand cop cars milling around.

Emily is startled, backing away from Eve. “I— I don't know. Miss— Miss Norwell? You can't— “ but Eve’s already up and moving. Emily does t know anything, didn't see anything, and it's too late for that now. Eve was right, though. There's police everywhere, sirens and gunshots, screams.

“Miss Norwell!” As Eve pushes her way out of the triage tent, Cambridge is on fire. The sun is nearly set, and there are hundreds of injured laying in a makeshift triage center surrounded by Hum-Vees and ambulances. But there's no perimeter, there's no cops in the immediate vicinity. Whatever War is happening in the city, it has their attention.

Emily does not give pursuit, thankful to have her life at a time like this. Wide-eyed and heart racing, Eve Mas disappears into the night.

Into the screams, and into the fire.

The Commonwealth Arcology

B-Ring, Research Archive

Rows and rows of computers are frosted with glittering ice. Flashing security lights reflect off of these frozen surfaces, make everything seem like a luminous winter wonderland. Most of the computers are riddled with bullet holes, destroyed by gunfire that once flooded this facility.

Now there are only spent shell-casings on the floor. Discarded guns and dead bodies. Those not fortunate enough to escape, but fortunate enough to die before the reactor melts down and they're entombed here.

But there is one computer on. One flickering screen depicting a dossier of an older Asian man with downturned lips and a serious furrow in his brows. Cong, Bao-Wei it reads at the top of the photo. The Deceased below shows that even the Institute had blind spots. Some more willful than others.

The monster of ice and frost hunched over this mainframe console bears little resemblance to the good doctor now. But many people have changed.

It was a quiet walk to the archives.

Whatever had been going on in B-Ring is, for the most part, over with. Bullets riddle the walls, bodies litter the floors, labs and offices and any room without a lock is turned inside out. Once in a while, there is the sound of a scream in the distance, and the pitter-patter of bullets. Eventually things fall silent again, and Bao-Wei finds his route unimpeded.

More handsome now than I used to be, hm?” He is a Eureka, after all. Next to the console he has hunkered in front of, there lies a pair of lab techs, full of bullet holes. One has a twisted arm. He asides to them as if they weren’t lying in pools of icy blood, thumb and foreclaw whisking at the length of craggy, bristly chin. “I can’t say that I am disappointed that they missed me…

Tak-tak-tak. Delicately curved claws press at the keys in search, the cold around his frame consolidated to his core; the rest of him slickens in a layer of red-tinted water, and detritus that he has picked up in his course drops from his hide as his core hardens. The alarms around him do not seem to deter whatever he is up to, though he has an awareness of needing to be timely. He doesn’t want to find out what happens, despite curiosity.

After a moment of inquiries into the system, he produces the stolen identification from Simon Broome’s doppelganger, prying this and a thumb drive from a splinter of wet ice in his chest.

Simon Broome’s credentials still hold considerable weight here, and his unrestricted access is without change. Bao-Wei is easily able to access the Institute’s mainframe, navigating the familiar archive structure from when he was an employee. The folder marked Advent is copied quickly, along with folders marked Refrain Research, Sheridan’s Archive, and Solar Radiation and the Suresh Linkage Complex.

As the files transfer, a network alert pops up in the corner of the screen. A tiny, animated doctor with a clip board appears with a word bubble above his head. We appear to be experiencing a reactor meltdown. There are {6} minutes remaining until failsafe protocols are engaged. Please exit in an orderly fashion.

Six minutes may not enough time to get back to the sewers, and may only just be enough time to get to the surface. As the file transfer completes, Bao-Wei weighs the options for his escape.

The transfer is quick, thanks to the Institute’s own contentedness with their archivals and security. Then again, there is no way they could have accounted for this. One clawed foot taps dully against tile below as the files move over. He uses Simon’s credentials to delete the Institute’s copy where he can reach it. Backups aside, he is at least making sure his work is his own. Greed, hubris, a mixture of the two.

Bao-Wei’s golden eye swivels downward at the tiny reminder, cartoonish and out of place between the klaxons and the click of the drive as he removes it, and seals it away once more.

I always despised that thing.” His voice rumbles to nothing as he steps back from the console, turning and leaving a sheath of ice in his wake, crawling its way over the rest of the screens. The monitor he has left behind cracks down the middle, skewing the kind little face of the animated doctor into an array of broken pixels.

Time moves somewhat slow, even in haste; Bao-Wei considers his trip from the lower levels, then the memories of having visited the Arcology complex; they balance out on scales in his head. He can’t get back to the sewers the way he came. Perhaps the plumbing? No.

Looks like it’s the front door.

Lovely…” Bao-Wei grumbles as he buckles down against the floor and lurches forward on all fours, making his way to the nearest elevator to punch his way into the shafts.

The metal doors peel back like the ripe flesh of an orange under the doctor’s might. He steps into the unoccupied elevator, squeezes his bulk within and then bursts through the top opening. Metal here, too, bends and tears with ease. As the monster hauls himself to the roof of the elevator, he reaches up again, claws driving into concrete and anchoring in place. Then, lifting himself up, he freezes to the ambient moisture in the concrete. Arms snap off and then regrow again, reaching up, and this process of breaking and regrowing limbs allows Bao-Wei to gallop up the side of the elevator shaft.

Four floors up, Bao-Wei bursts through an elevator door arriving in the lowest level of A-Ring. There is no screaming here now, no gunfire. Doors lay wide open and prisoners released from their cells. There are just bloody footprints on white tile, smoldering remnants of an underground park, flickering ceiling lights that once fluoresced with artificial sunlight. Now it is a tomb, or will soon be.

As Bao-Wei makes his way through the foyer, to the sole elevator that accesses the surface level of the Institute, he hears something. Footsteps. A trio of black-clad men in paramilitary body armor with gas masks on and matte assault rifles emerge from a ground-floor room. They all stop when they see Bao-Wei, raise their rifles tensely and—

Tíngzhǐ,” comes a voice from behind the soldiers. Their guns lower, and two part to allow a fifth figure to walk in. He is immediately familiar to Bao-Wei, one is a slender Chinese man with a shaved head in an ink black suit. His heavily creased face is familiar in the way enemies’ faces can be.

«The Demon of the Hudson River,» Wenzhuo Zhao of the Ghost Shadow proclaims, one brow raised and creases lining his forehead. «I heard rumors that Chang’s doctor survived. But to see you in the flesh…» Zhao inclines his head to the side. «So to speak.»

“Well, this is a funny little bit of Kismet,” comes in English from behind Zhao. The final man to emerge into the lobby is likewise dapper dressed, but more Eurotrash than Triad. He is also, notably carrying a small brown puppy in one arm and contentedly scratching the dog behind one ear. He cracks a fond smile. “Bao-Wei, old chap. Did you get taller?”

The other figure, is Adam Monroe.

Also Featuring:

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The trio of semi-familiar shapes is the first to see him, and he sees them as they turn the corridor into the entryway. Golden eye fixed on them, Bao-Wei is about to disregard them entirely—

Zhao.” Neither shock nor surprise, but a verbal confirmation of what his eye sees. Perhaps a greeting, of a fashion. Alarms ring against the walls and echo off of the ice that the doctor has trailed from below. “«Is that what they call me now? Or just you?»” The creature huffs, the bellows of his chest spilling forth a cloud of cold. Unfortunately, there is little time for manners, and little time to commiserate over old rivalries while the Cambridge Arcology threatens to devour them all regardless of post. The second man to edge from the cover of the three guards draws a far, far more curious eye.

I did. Kind of you to notice.” One arm lifts, the weight of it pendulous as he raises a claw towards Zhao, and lets the limb drop, sway to his side. “Keep out of my business, Zhao. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have anywhere else to be. I suggest you do the same…” Doctor Cong’s booming voice adopts a gravel, a growl that slowly crackles into a misshapen, open-mawed laugh as he snarls and turns for the door.

There is no time for banter.

Bao,” Adam calls back. “We've got a faster exit. If you're interested in… say, resetting the table?” Adam raises one brow slowly, looking to Zhao and then back to the frozen doctor.

“You're a brilliant mind. It'd be a shame for that to go to waste in a big drafty castle or whoever it is you're haunting these days.” But then, Adam steps closer to Zhao. “Time’s ticking, though. A simple yes or no will suffice.”

Bao-Wei’s head rolls to the side as if inconvenienced, golden eye sharpening on the slim white man as he calls out, produces something enticing even to the river monster. The dark pupil in his gaze contracts, a pinpoint on Adam’s frame, then Zhao’s.

Resetting the table?” What is he on about? A fresh hiss moves through jagged teeth. No castle. Only tunnels. Always tunnels. A river, or two.

Outside there is bound to be chaos. Eyes, ears, a thousand reasons to avoid setting foot. Inside there is a reactor, minutes from its end. Neither option seems keen, though one is considerably more deadly than the other.

The drive encased in his chest seems to weigh there, a pressure on phantom nerves.

He did come all this way, and for what?

Fine. Yes.

Adam’s expression slips to one of feline pride, and he nods to one of Zhao’s masked soldiers who shoulders his rifle and steps up between Bao-Wei and Adam’s group. “You won't regret this, Bao-Wei. We all have to be survivors now, because a great storm is coming…”

The masked soldier holds hands out to either side and concentrates. It's a slow — agonizingly slowly — rippling and distortion that swirls around their body. Adam is delighted, though, this slowly wound power gives him time to add a proper denouement to this chapter in all their lives.

“…a storm of change.”

Suddenly Adam, Zhao, Bao-Wei, and the entire paramilitary team fold in on themselves like a fun house mirror’s reflection just moments before a shockwave of explosions rock through the arcology. As they disappear from sight, thousands of pounds of concrete and steel fall as failsafe charges demolish the arcology’s rings, sending layer after layer crushing down on one-another, burying the reactor.

And for a Bao-Wei Cong, the storm of change begins here.

Commonwealth Arcology


Eyes closed, Simon Broome can feel the ground shaking underfoot. Gone are the sounds of conflict, the sounds of chaos. Just the blare of the klaxons against halls that once held infinite promise. In his mind’s eye he sees the face of his mother, of his friend Richard before the madness overtook him, of Edward Ray, of his son, of his late wife, of all the people he failed to protect and the future he failed to actualize.

With one deep breath, Simon Broome turns his ability on himself. Drawing his own mind into a phantasmal psychic mindscape so that he may visit with all of those ghosts of memory one last time.

Then there are no klaxons, no failsafe charges detonating, no living reactors melting down. There is just peace, and old friends, and the ghost of a future that could never be. He goes quietly to his death, and the road ahead is not one any can predict.

The future is limitless.

Terrifying with potential.

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