Before The Dawn


bf_cardinal_icon.gif magnes_icon2.gif

Scene Title Before the Dawn
Synopsis Magnes finds himself hoping for a shadow of a chance…
Date November 19, 2014

When April Silver was sent away to prison, it was not alone.

Her shadow held a secret greater than any Company record, one that would learn more about the world he lives in than he'd ever intended and perhaps more than he ever should. From Manhattan, a shadow wound up far behind the emerald tower of Pinehearst, to the dusty wastes of western Utah, where sandstorms and brownouts blow across flat plains, where national parks sprawl across thousands of miles of open range.

Where the darkest secret in America was built.

Moab Federal Penitentiary

Moab, Utah

November 19, 2014

9:16 am local time

Above ground, there is little remarkable about the Moab Federal Penitentiary. It is a walled compound surrounded by concrete barricades, razor wire fences, and guard towers. On paper, it houses convicted terrorists and other dangerous criminals. But that's only a partial truth.

Below the surface, Moab is the personal prison of the Pinehearst Company, where the enemies of Arthur Petrelli who are too valuable or impossible to kill are sent to wither away. April Silver was sequestered in Red Level along with other “high-threat” inmates.

Norman White likes to read religious literature when he's given the opportunity to. He's been in Moab the longest, a gentle giant of a man who claims to hear the word of god, trapped away in a ten by ten concrete cell. He quotes scripture, and is fond of passages from Ezekiel.

John Doe is an amnesiac, broken and soft-spoken, a shell of a man who does not even know his own name. He paces his cell, talking to himself and sometimes singing old Beach Boys songs by heart, one of the few things he can remember about his past life. In his sleep he calls out for someone named Libby, and he doesn't know who she is.

Eric Doyle used to be a part of the prison’s security, until he wore out his welcome. Now the former puppeteer spends his time hunched in his cell, vacantly staring at a dark spot on his cell wall, softly humming to himself between periods of fitful sobbing.

Allen Rickham could have been President, but fate intervened. His metal countenance and steely demeanor are forever locked within a body of iron as resolute as his silence and patience. The electrified walls of his cell keep him as a statue, standing motionless with head bowed, like an icon of justice waiting to be released.

Nathan Petrelli was the President, and by all accounts he was a prisoner here until an unpublicized jail break in January of 2012. A handful of others escaped with Nathan, successfully busted their way out of the darkest prison, leaving the others behind.

Edward Ray doesn't talk, on account of his broken jaw that's wired shut and his severe head injury affecting his cognition. He spends most of his time in a medicated coma, under watch of a half dozen different guards on a rotating shift. He's restrained at all times, heavily sedated, feared.

The newest arrival came just twelve hours ago on a gurney, moved unconscious into a cell that belonged to one of the escapees. He's the face the shadow doesn't know yet, little more than just a hospitalized young man. But Arthur Petrelli came to see this one personally. Came to ensure he remained locked up forever.

“I'm not the man you were told about,” is the last thing Arthur says as he shuts the new arrival’s cell door, motioning with his hand to telekinetically engage the magnetic lock. Turning to the guard, Arthur motions to the door. “If he so much as sneezes outside of his cell, I want to be notified immediately. Don't kill him, or I'll kill you.”

The guard believes it, and will comply.

Two years. It’s been two years since the shadow slipped into this, the most well-protected and secretive penitentiary in the world, and Richard Cardinal hasn’t left any more than the prisoners have.

In his own way, perhaps he is a prisoner, if of his own choosing.

He hasn’t spoken a word since he arrived, but he long ago became comfortable with silence; despite that, he feels as if he knows every inmate here, and every guard as well. He’s listened to Norman’s religious recitals — it reminds him of church, when he attended. He’s heard Eric’s weeping, he’s listened to the guards gossiping about Edward Ray, he’s seen the almost-President like a statue of iron waiting to be released.

Well, he hasn’t been completely silent, if one were telling the truth. Sometimes, at night, he’s hummed old Beach Boys tunes to John in his sleep. He feels sorry for a man not only imprisoned, but robbed of his own mind and memories.

The guards, he’s learned their routes, heard them talk about their families or what they’re doing over the weekend. Living vicariously through those who still live.

A ghost unseen haunting Moab. Even the prisoners here deserve to have someone who knows they exist, he tells himself, even if they don’t know he’s here.

Today, though? The arrival of Arthur Petrelli fills him with a thrill of fear as he watches from as far as he’s comfortable with, wary that the man might have some ability that could detect him. It’s not until long after the head of Pinehearst has left that the shadow moves in, a subtle wisp of darkness creeping along corners before sliding under a door that’s magnetically locked — but not airtight.

Magnes starts to sit up again, tugging at the cuff keeping him stuck to the bed. Then he looks over at the IV, considering what must be in that.

"There's a few things to consider…" he says as he begins to think out loud, looking up at the IV. "Arthur stole my ability, or I'm being negated…" He considers both options, then starts trying to lean over to the IV, trying to bite at it with his mouth, but he's not even sure if he can bend that far.

"There has to be a way out…" He considers his options, laying his head back, staring up at the ceiling. "Not everyone's abilities should be gone in this place, if I'm where I think I am. And if I've disappeared…"

He doesn't finish that thought, he instead starts trying to bite at his IV again, with the intent to try and pull it out.

As teeth try and dig into the intravenous tube, the shadow— who’s been watching the man for a little while bemused at his presence, remembering meeting him (or so he thinks)— whispers a low, sussurant voice beneath Magnes’s head.

“I really wouldn’t do that, if I were you…” …were you…

A hauntingly familiar echo, even with years between the last time he’d heard it.

“Let me guess. You decided to play superhero after all…?” …superhero…

Magnes looks around at the familiar voice, narrowing his eyes. "Cardinal?" he suddenly asks, not bothering to look around anymore, figuring he knows exactly why he can't see the man. "I don't know why you're here, but I need to get out. I'm guessing that you've met me before. I don't know what our relationship was like, we can figure that out later, but I need you to turn me into a shadow so that I can get out of this."

"With your ability…" He considers this, the implications, the things that they could do all at once. "We could start a full scale jailbreak, get anyone out of here who shouldn't be here, and then I can figure out how the hell I plan to deal with Arthur."

But then, he suddenly groans, rolling his eyes. "Let me guess, you haven't figured out how to turn people and other things into shadows yet."

Either way, he dismisses the thought. "Listen, you figure that out, and how to do this jailbreak, and I'll tell you about your mother. Seems like a fair trade."

There’s a long silence from the unseen shadows.

Just when it seems that perhaps the tenebrous ghost has departed, there’s a low murmur in the imprisoned man’s ear, “How do you know my name…? I never told you…” …told you…

The shadows stir just out of view, trying to keep away from the watchful eye of any cameras despite their sudden consternation. “I can’t… do what you want me to, I don’t have that sort of ability… and my mother’s dead.” …dead…

“What the hell are you going on about?” …about…

Footsteps pass the steel door outside and continue down the hall, and a bit of the conversation filters through from under the door. “Can you believe he just showed up like that, in person?”

“I almost shit my pants, I thought we were all fired.”

“Hah, yeah. Me too. Hey, do you know when the next long rotation is? The schedule isn't posted on the sharepoint anymore…”

Then the footsteps fade, and the shadow and wanderer are alone with each other again.

"Your ability can do that. At the very least, I'm sure you can figure out how to turn these cuffs into shadow so that I can get out of them. I'm from another world, I'm not whatever Magnes you met. I assume the drunk one, though I hear he's getting sober." Magnes doesn't sound like he has time to mince words. The time for tact is long gone.

"Your name is Richard Cardinal, I'm pretty sure you're in your thirties but I've never been too sure, your mother is Michelle LeRoux aka Michelle Cardinal, your father is David Cardinal, and you were in an orphanage with Isabelle Ashford." he lists information he's fairly sure should interest any Cardinal, then tugs at his cuff. "I know all of this for a variety of reasons, the least of which being that I knew you in another world."

"I'm here because Arthur Petrelli is using your mother's research to do god knows what with traveling to alternate Earths. This is the third Earth I've been to so far, you're my third Cardinal. You're usually my best bet for getting out of a horrible mess." He stares hard at his cuff, then looks around for the shadow again. "I'll give you time to go practice turning objects into shadows, and then I'll tell you more."

There’s another silence that lasts long after the guards’ steps depart from the door.

“…that doesn’t sound good,” is a low, thoughtful murmur from the shadow, “If they stopped the schedule… wait, what?”

Another pause, “Are you— have you been talking to Isabelle? Alternate— you’ve lost it, haven’t you? They locked you up because you’ve gone completely and utterly mental…” …mental…

“Even if I got you out of your cuffs and this table… which I can’t… you’re still negated, like most of the other people in this hole,” Cardinal whispers, “There’s a magnetic lock on that door. All I’d be doing is helping you pace back and forth in this cell…” …cell…

"For all I know, you could have been Wu-Long. But I know your voice." Magnes points out, then stares up at the IV, figuring that might be why he's negated.

So maybe Arthur didn't steal it.

"The primary component of my ability is belief. I have to believe that my ability can do what it does in order to do it. I'm telling you this because I'm trusting you." He takes a deep sigh, trying to just sort of… be patient. "I need you to figure out how to turn things into shadow. You can do it, I know for a fact that you can do it, you've just never tried it before. And your lack of belief that you can do it is only going to make it even more difficult to learn."

He nods to the IV. "Here's the plan. You figure out how to turn things into shadow, then when the next dose of this IV comes, you turn that into shadow, we let my ability come back, and then I need you to start releasing people with your newfound ability trick. A door should be nothing, weren't you a thief? You should be able to find a trick to all of this."

"I'm getting out of here, I'm getting the other prisoners out of here, and then I'm going to stop Arthur and get the hell out of this universe." Raising a hand, which causes the cuff to hit the rail again, he says, "Your mother was a hypercognitive. You can figure this out. I don't know what your deal is in this universe, but it's time to pull up your pants because we're fucking shit up as soon as you do."

“If… what you’re saying about my ability is true, I… could do that,” Cardinal murmurs thoughtfully, uncertainly, “I’m not sure if it would work, you’re… being watched very closely…” …closely…

There’s another long silence from the shadowmorph.

“I’ll be back.” …back…

Then the shadow’s slipping from the cell. He’ll experiment with this ‘aspect of his power’ later. He’d just heard the guards commenting on something that left him very worried indeed, and he’s going to go spy on the other security forces and see what they’re talking about.

There’s only one reason he could think of not to have a guard rotation planned… he could be wrong. It could be an administrative error. He hopes he’s wrong.

Red Level is a cross of hallways with an outer hall accessible by a pair of freight elevators. The security on Edward Ray’s room seems to be present as always, but Cardinal can hear echoing voices from down the hall toward the west elevator. There, the two guards who had been present earlier are standing with a uniformed member of the US military and a man in a sleek black suit.

“…need everyone up on Green Level too. This month’s rotation is cancelled, and we’ll be moving the prisoners to a new secure facility. Get the guards down here and head up to the courtyard for a mandatory meeting, then we’ll discuss forward schedules.” The man in the suit, an agent of the Unity Enforcement Office, motions back to the other halls. The soldier with him stands silently, hands folded behind his back.

The guards who gathered here offer a nod to the man in the suit, then turn and begin to head back to where they'd come from.

This doesn’t make sense, Cardinal thinks to himself as the guards depart, a certain suspicion curling in the shadow’s heart. The facility is state of the art, and some of the inmates would be nearly impossible to move without herculean effort and risk. It doesn’t make sense to move them to a new facility, unless…

…unless that wasn’t what they were doing at all.

The shadow waits for the UEO agent and the soldier to move away, so as to tail them and find out just what they’re really doing here.

They return to the elevator, unaware of the spy in their midst. The soldier moves to lean back against the freight elevator wall, while the agent clicks the ground floor button. “Once they're in the courtyard,” the agent informs the soldier, “lock them in and open fire. I don't want a single scrap of evidence making it out of this place.”

Adjusting his tie, the agent looks down to the floor. “Then have your men go cell by cell, I want to make sure nobody walks away from this.” The agent then retrieved a phone from inside of his jacket pocket and flips open the receiver, dialing a number from memory.

As the elevator reaches the ground floor and the doors open, the agent steps out into the hall where prison guards are still working. “Hey, yeah it's me. Petrelli came by this morning and dropped off a new prisoner. He's not on the manifest, what do you want me to do?” Dark brows furrow, and the agent clicks his tongue. “Alright, can do.”

Then, pivoting to the soldier following him he motions with a wag of one finger. “Change of plans, we’re gonna delay for 48 hours while we figure out who was just transported and why. Stay on-site, I'm going to make a couple calls.” The agent then puts his phone away and retrieved a pair of aviator sunglasses from the inner pocket, pushing them up the bridge of his nose with one finger.

“Yes Mr. Epstein,” the soldier affirms, turning back to the elevator to go down to Red Level again.


If they could see the shadow, if he still had a face, they’d be able to see the horror in Richard Cardinal’s eyes as his suspicions — and fears — are proven true. It was the first worry that stirred in him when he overheard the words of the guards.

Epstein. The name remembered even as the shadow slithers away to find a storage room, to find some small objects and experiment to see if he can make things appear and disappear as the strange man restrained in his cell claims he could.

And then the prisoners are going to need a miracle to get out of here.

Fortunately, Cardinal knows where a man of God might be found in these walls.

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