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Scene Title Break(on)through
Synopsis Cassandra Bauman stares into the abyss to find the secrets of the Looking Glass.
Date January 2015 — July 2017

”Edward, I swear to God if you keep picking up things I’ve just put down…”

Michelle Cardinal is normally a patient woman, but today Edward has become too nosy for his own good. The overhead fluorescent lights do nothing for the small, pale man’s complexion and only further emphasize his large blue eyes. Sheepishly, Edward sets down a piece of recently soldered circuit board and turns his attention over to an aluminum ring wrapped in copper wire and some partly bent copper pipes.

”So the coolant rods,” Edward says, about to reach for them but catches Michelle’s piercing side-eye and recoils slowly. “Those, in the new design, you’re going to coil them around the new aperture?”

As she finishes screwing a motherboard to mounts in a metal case, Michelle nods to Edward’s inquiry. “Yeah, I wasn’t getting enough surface contact with the linear pipes. So I’m thinking I can have the coolant pipes double for the copper conductors. They’ll be magnetized, but it should help the aperture stay both cool and charged while the micro-accelerator runs.”

Exhaling a shaky breath, Edward runs his hands over the top of his head, smoothing his receding hair down. “Okay, that makes sense. And the new aperture,” he looks over to a chalkboard where a circular design is crossed out in place of a triangular one, “is shaped like that why? I mean, how are you going to spin the atoms around a triangle?” Blue eyes swiftly maneuver from the board to Michelle, who has started assembling another circuit board.

”It’s a triangle externally,” Michelle answers in opaque fashion. But as she notices Edward’s brows still raising, she slowly stands up and sets the circuit board down. Moving over to the chalkboard, she draws a triangle, but at each corner she makes a circular loop. “See?” She underlines the shape. “It’s not really a triangle. It’s three loops and three straightaways. It allows for a three times as many revolutions and allows us to speed up the particles over a shorter distance.”

Edward’s eyes widen and he slowly rises from his seat, brows furrowed and lips parted. “But,” one eye narrows, “that’s…” Slowly, he looks from the crude diagram to Michelle, shaking his head. “That’s… brilliant.

Geopoint Scientific Enclosure

Reef Biodome

Just Outside Boulder, Colorado

January 15th, 2015

It’s been a long time coming, significant breakthrough, but Cassandra Baumann may have finally started to crack the development of the Looking Glass project wide open. Scattered personal effects belonging to Michelle Cardinal, recovered from Company vaults and archives now belonging to Pinehearst have proven invaluable. Michelle’s reading glasses, taken from a police evidence locker in Kansas following her autopsy proved to be the first big opening after months of dead ends and false leads.

Seated cross-legged atop a sandbar, surrounded by artificial waves and a man-made coral reef below crystal clear water, Cassandra has found the varying geological biomes of the Geopoint Enclosure more suited to her ability’s meditative isolation than the stuffy labs and musty archives ever were. Here, under a geodesic dome of hexagonal tiles and real sunlight, she basks in a simulated tropical environment of warm, humid air when snow flurries outside in the Colorado winter.

Across the water, standing on an opposite shore, Erica Kravid watches with a notably pensive expression.

The darkness of winter in Colorado is the last place a sensible swimsuit would be appropriate, but that is the outfit chosen for this particular moment. Comfort, Cassie has learned, is important to help tease out the memories from objects, and Erika Kravid has been nothing but accommodating. Sitting with her notepad to her right, the object of note in her left hand, Cassie takes notes in a simple shorthand as the objects tell their tales. All is recorded on her pad no matter how insignificant it seems. This usually leads to scientists being brought in for meetings on top of meetings, to view particular moments, write reports, talk over what was seen, and run experiments. Day by day, hour by hour, slowly the secrets are brought forth, wrested from the glacier of the past that they are trapped in with the axe of Cassie’s ability.

Speaking of axes and biting cold, Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining was filmed at a location nearby many, many winters ago. And much like the Overlook Hotel, the Geopoint was constantly locked in the teeth of various blizzards during the winter for the duration of the cold season from October to May. Cold and snow is a thing this state is known for at the higher altitudes, but here in the biodome, things are very very different. Like enormous hen’s eggs, the domes’ warmth radiates out, melting the snow for several yards around them, giving the patrols a place to drive and providing meltwater, sluicing it off to be used for the biodome’s internal needs before the rest is piped downhill to refreeze over a icy plain.

Much like the Shining, here at Geopoint, an insanity is has taken root, veiled in the trappings of science, research, and ‘the greater good.’

And Cassandra is the lynchpin of it all.

Kravid’s first sign of anything exciting being discovered is when Cassie straightens from her lotus position, her pencil flying over the page as she writes down exactly what was said before sketching the triangular cooling array with the circles at each corner. Copper tubes were theorized to be used for conducting and cooling the entire array, the loops multiplying the cooling by at least three times for the same space.

Once finished, Cassie reaches up and removes her blindfold, squinting in the sunlight before her gaze snaps to Kravid. “I think I found something. You’ll want to see this.” She says, holding up her page.

It's a winding path that Kravid has to take to reach Cassandra, slowly moving across sandbars nearly flush with the water level. Schools of tropical fish dart in and out of the deeper waters and call the man-made reefs home. The simulated sunlight shining from lights at the axis points of the dome contrast that slate gray sky beyond and make it forgettable.

“I've been getting some… increasingly irate calls from management,” Erica admits as she threads one lock of chestnut hair behind one ear, hiding streaks of gray and a scar behind her ear. “I'm interested in anything you might have to share.” Her attention goes down to the twisted pair of old, battered reading glasses that Cassandra holds, then back up to make steady eye contact.

In the last year of research, Cassandra has gotten to know Edward and Michelle almost better than they knew each other. Each tidbit of information, gleaned from seemingly insignificant objects, moved Looking Glass closer and closer to its goal. So it's no wonder that she's a little excited.

“Ed and Michelle were talking,” Cassie turns to read after providing context, flipping back a page to better reference her notes.. “Michelle had come up with a new configuration for the cooling. Magnetized copper loops in a triangle configuration. Similar to the sketches on that napkin that we found several months back. Edward called it brilliant, Ms. Kravid. He never says that unless it really was.” More flipping of the legal pad leaves leads to a timeline, hastily written. “What I saw happened… summer, it looked like. A few months the before the initial incursion.” Cassie looks up. “She said it would allow the particles to speed up three times faster and get three times the revolutions thanks to the loops, Ms. Kravid. It looked something like this.” She reveals the sketch, a crude copy of what was written on the chalkboard but enough to show the tight turns of the loops on the corners of the triangle.

Reaching down for the notepad, Kravid furrows her brows and examines the sketch of the triangle with small loops at each corner. Her eyes shut, breathing deep and then exhaling as much back. When her eyes open, she's looking past the notebook to Cassandra.

“You may have just solved our energy problems,” Kravid explains with a raise of one brow. She returns the notebook, then retrieves a plastic bag from inside of her jacket containing the blackened remains of a human jawbone.

“Why don't you see what Doctor Schwenkman has to add?”

Geopoint Scientific Enclosure

Looking Glass Chamber

Just Outside Boulder, Colorado

May 16th, 2015

A pair of metal doors slide open, revealing the ceramic tiled floor and walls of the Looking Glass chamber. The facility is a sleek, black chamber designed to redirect heat away from the rest of the building. It is barren, save for a metal ramp at the back of the room leading up to a ten foot high frame of triangular metal ringed with gold-plated copper tubing frosted over from the chill of the coolant within. Spools of wife's and cables extend from the frame, moving to banks of wheeled computer terminals.

“I thought you might like to see this,” Kravid states as she moves through the doorway with Cassandra at her side. “We’re at the point where we can modulate the gate frequencies to achieve visible aperture into another world. The test firings have gone well, and we’re looking to transmit something to the other side now.”

Ahead of them, a team of scientists is wheeling what looks like a large laser assembly in front of the Looking Glass, power and data cables running from it to the computers.

“We’re still not at the stage where we can move solid matter from one side to the other,” Kravid notes with a motion to the triangular gate, “but we can transmit non-solid material.” Though she gives no immediate example of what they're trying to actually accomplish today.

During the Manhattan Project, there was a collection of scientists known as the Critical Assembly Group. These scientists were responsible for the manufacture of the component of the first atomic bomb that, when combined in such a way, would achieve critical mass and become more likely to undergo fission or, to put it more simply, they were responsible for the nuclear part of the nuclear bomb. The experiments that they performed with the fourteen pound core of plutonium were colloquially referred to as ‘Tickling the Dragon’s tail,’ since the slightest mistake could cause a critical event that would irradiate anyone unlucky enough to be standing in the same room, fatally if they were standing close enough. Two critical events happened before the experiments were restricted to personnel wearing protective garb, resulting in the deaths of two of the physicists and the irradiation of almost ten more.

This experiment is quite like that in Cassie’s eyes. The dragon, festooned in frost-covered jewelry, surrounded by finery, sits there, innocuous, waiting to be pushed in the wrong way by the foolish mortals seeking its secrets. She’s only been in this room a handful of times at best, even though the office and storage depot that she’s been given for her work is on the outside edge of the compound very near the entrance that everyone uses to get into this space. The tiles on the wall remind her of the bottom of the space shuttle, the polished black able to withstand extreme temperatures without transferring it to the substrate behind, protecting the dome from whatever extreme temperature events may occur inside this room. Brought from her office on an inauspicious Saturday, she’s dressed in her hiking gear - apparently Saturday is Cassie goes outside time, but when Kravid calls, Cassie goes.

“It’s different, seeing the thing that I’ve only seen in memories sitting there in real life.” Cassie says softly, looking to Kravid, then around the room before hesitantly approaching the triangular aperture, peering at it curiously before making a wide circle around it, being careful to not step on or trip over any cables as she does so. There’s a sneaking suspicion that Kravid is just wanting to show off a little - giving her a taste of the expected end goal that she’s been working toward for so long. Cassie stops, re-taking her spot next to Kravid as the laser is put into place in front.

She glances over, one brow arching. “Matter can’t be sent through yet.” Restate the Problem, then extrapolate solutions. A common tactic for her research. “Energy and Plasma can, I take it? What was seen when Looking Glass was turned on?”

She’s taking all the mental notes she can…

As the technicians begin final preparations of the laser assembly, others checking diagnostic readouts on the monitors, Kravid finally turns her attention away from the nascent gateway. “We saw Geopoint,” she notes with a raise of one brow into the air. “We don't have the attunement perfect yet, but we saw a Geopoint facility, but it appears to be several years abandoned. Our visual assessment from the other side indicates that backup generators are still running and we were able to pick up wireless signals coming through the aperture.”

Kravid flashes a smile and untucked a tablet from below her arm, pulling up a screen that has a waveform at the top and a series of text-based data below. Handing it off to Cassandra, Kravid seems to be a prideful as a peacock in the moment.

“It's security data, from an outdated Pinehearst security hub. The wireless network on the other side is operational and we could get… mostly intact data from it.” Kravid points to a date on the tablet, indicating July 23, 2009. “That was the last date of activity on the server. The data we were able to retrieve matches our historic data from this facility bit for bit, except that it appears to have been abandoned, for reasons unknown, six years ago. Security feeds show no internal activity.”

The doors behind Kravid and Cassandra open again, and a technician in a clean suit emerges carrying a large rectangular metal case with ports on the bottom that could be connected to multiple eSATA cables.

Despite being a potential world-ending device, it is unprecedented to be able to retrieve data from an alternate universe and, rightfully so, Kravid should be proud of herself. It’s amazing what unlimited funds and a will to succeed will get you in life. :Looking glass is proof of that. Cassandra takes the offered tablet and scrolls through the data, picking out dates, locations - by coordinates around Geopoint that she’s learned by virtue of being there and exploring - and the occasional alarms spelled out in plain black and white.

The logs are surprisingly accurate, when you know what to keep an eye out for - specific changes going as far back as they can show system wide failures across multiple levels that tend to cascade until a kind of harmony is reached, with the geothermic backup generators providing just enough power to keep the cameras and servers running while cutting down on the draw that dead or dying systems would cause. It’s actually quite ingenious, the way the security and backup systems were designed. It was almost like someone was pulling the levers and flicking the switches, even if there’s not a soul around for miles and miles, according to the logs.

“That’s amazing. You can get data from a wireless network.” She looks up toward the aperture as the man with the rectangular metal case comes in, swiveling her attention to Kravid, eyes wide. “Is there still an internet connection online? Can we find out what happened there and why this place is abandoned? Pinehearst wouldn’t leave Geopoint there to rot unless something major went on. These logs…” She taps the tablet. “It doesn’t go far enough back to say what, but the failures on the systems are everywhere. Cameras down, backups failing and then nothing. Like a dead world….” Then, she turns her attention back to the man with the case and the clean suit. “Trying to glean a little more data? How’s it work?”

“It's a intranet, unfortunately, no uplink to the outside world. The system logs all seem normal until 09, and then it's like the staff just abandoned the facility. But,” Erica threads a dark lock of hair around one finger. “We’re hoping to replicate an experiment from Mount Natazhat that solves that problem. Honestly, the scientists there were almost as close as we are. They just didn't realize what they were on to.”

At that revelation, Kravid motions to the laser array. “In Natazhat they were experimenting with quantum entanglement, trying to create a quantum computing network, and had some marginal success on it. My…” she chooses her words carefully, “protege, there, was utilizing technology not entirely dissimilar to the Looking Glass. We even had a technopath…” her brows raise, “unwilling, but an asset.”

“It went by the name Rebel. A gestalt of three technopaths that somehow survived outside of their bodies as beings of digital consciousness. We’d trapped it in 2010 and the Natazhat experiments were to see what happened when such an entity is… stretched into superposition, entangled on a quantum level.” Nearby, technicians have finished installing the laser array and attaching the massive portable server to its back.

That contains a recently acquired technopath asset who we were able to artificially extract from her body and place her mind here in the storehouse.” Kravid motions to the solid state drive plugged into the array. “It goes by the name ON-1. We’re going to transmit it through the aperture to the other side and set it about the systems. Hopefully,” Kravid bobs her head from side to side, “ideally it will be able to find a way out of the Geopoint facility to give us more data.”

Kravid’s eyes narrow as she considers the gate. “We have the frequency for one world, the presumed point of origin of the interlopers who have invaded our world, thanks to the research done by the late Doctor Schwenkman’s team. But we don't want to risk their discovering our research, so we're using a variant frequency to test these other, smaller transfers. We don't her know much about what this parallel world is like.”

So much for that, but it seems Cassie was on the same train of thought. Getting an outside connection at Geopoint, now, is fairly complicated, requiring the user to jump through multiple secured networks, VPN’s, and a flaky satellite connection that, on a good day, will let a person stream a Youtube video in standard definition. And don’t even think about using your cell phone to get online here. With no towers for miles, combined with the altitude, getting a single bar - enough for a call - necessitates heading to the top of the largest dome where a few cell boosters have been set up to give basic connectivity (and monitoring) for anyone wanting to call home.

A lot of the meaning of the terms Kravid uses goes over Cassie’s head. Sure, she’s familiar with some of the terms since she’s been working with it for the past few years, but recognition isn’t entirely inclusive of understanding. The mention that the technopath at Natazhat was unwilling and experimented on is disturbing but she shows no outward sign of such things, making herself busy watching the case’s attachment to the laser and scrolling through the logs, trying to see if anything there in the headers shows who logged in to get this data, or where it came from.

“Just a copy of the technopath. Right?” She sounds a little wary as the clamps are buckled, the focusing lense of the laser bouncing a little in its mounts as the chassis is attached. “If we have a technopath working with us here, in there….” Cassie inclines her head toward the case. “There is certainly a non-zero chance that there might be a technopath running around in the systems there, too. It would explain why everything shut down so orderly due to the damage and….what could only be the collapse of dome 4’s outer shell to cause this batch of failures here….” She touches a massive bank of failures all in the same sector, according to the log. It’s where the rainforest biosphere is. Cassie feels a little sad at the thought of that all being crushed under the weight of a falling biodome before being snuffed out by the frigid climate.

“You’ll be able to get ON-1 back, though, right? This is just a copy or something, isn’t it? You were able to retrieve these logs, I’m guessing through a wireless signal of some kind. Is the signal strong enough for us to get ON-1 back, and can we leave the gate open long enough to transfer….” Jesus, how many hard drives are in there? Terabytes at least of high-speed solid-state storage. “All of that?”

Or is this a one way trip?

“We won't know until we try,” Kravid says with a raise of her brows, turning to the team that awaits her orders. She says nothing to confirm or deny this technopath is a copy, of such a thing is even possible. Raising one hand, Kravid gives the technicians what they've been waiting for: “Open it!

There is no dramatic lever to pull, no fanfare, just the click of two keys on a noisy keyboard and then the Looking Glass does all of the rest. There's a bright flare of electricity that explodes around the triangular frame, arcing from the conductive coils to the wall and floor. In the middle of the triangle, a shimmering distortion of bent light begins to form like the rippling surface of water.

Reality bends like fabric, twisting into a spiral and warping into a swirling funnel of bent illumination that turns to an infinitely dark singularity at a narrow locus in the middle of the triangle. Air is sucked out of the room, papers fly off of clipboards and are incinerated the moment they reach the threshold.

“Starting particle accelerator!” A technician shouts, tapping two more keys as an electric whine fills the howling wind sucking toward the singularity. Lightning bends inward, swallowed toward the middle of the gate and drawn in by the minuscule event horizon. But as the particle accelerators fire up, these coils of electricity flash with heat and steam that, too, is sucked into the perimeter of the gate.

As the particles spin around the three-loop accelerator, the singularity is drawn out, broadened and flattened like a rolled out ball of dough. At its center an aperture becomes visible, a four inch wide peep hole surrounded by a tattered edge of infinite blackness, like looking into a room through a narrow and infinitely black tube.

“Do it!” Kravid shouts, just as a mirrored view of the same room they're standing in — sans heat shielding and the Looking Glass technology — comes into focus. Technicians at the laser click a pair of buttons, and the laser charges up with a crackling whine, then begins firing a steady stream of light through the opening at the middle of the singularity, where the other world’s Geopoint is visible.

“Data transfer started, we have uplink to the server. Transfer at 7%.” A technician confirms, and Kravid’s smile spreads from ear to ear.

There’s a second or two when Cassandra considers speaking up. Whoever ON-1 was surely was made aware of the danger of what’s going on, surely there was another way to get this information. And if ON-1 didn’t choose to be in this position….well, it’s like boxing, isn’t it? If there’s not consent on both sides, someone’s committing a crime. Millions of objections come to the fore but Cassandra does not speak any of them. Doing so would be counterproductive to maintaining a low profile and, besides, wouldn’t cause any difference in what was about to happen. She braces herself as best she can, looking a little worried as the Looking Glass is brought to life with her in the room along with everyone else. .

Large yellow markings on the floor indicate the safe zones - any closer and there’s a chance that the strength of the singularity will pull unaware people into it, causing messy disassembly at a molecular level or, more likely, loss of a limb to the singularity and a gory cleanup that will shut the department down for days. Both of which are clearly unacceptable in Kravid’s eyes. Loss of personnel - willing or otherwise - is insignificant compared to the loss of time.

Data transfer at the speed of light. Seven percent of what needs to be sent has been sent into the other Geopoint. Cassie holds her breath. The noise of Looking Glass, the wind whipping around, the papers disintegrating in the inky blackness surrounding the makes conversation impossible. She can only hope that whatever is happening will succeed. That the gate will remain open long enough for ON-1 to arrive in one piece. That all this is for something, because from her view, right now it’s starting to become a lot of something for seemingly nothing at all.

Fifteen percent!” A tech shouts over the noise, looking up from the makeshift computer banks to the portal. If Pinehearst had the proper time and facilities these rooms would be separated, but they didn't, and they aren't. All of this screams rush job, from the top to the bottom.

Thirty percent!” Another milestone called out, though after this one there is a fluctuation in the iris as the aperture flickers. The lights in the room, likewise, flicker violently. “That— it was just a power surge. We’re holding!”

A moment later, a massive shower of sparks erupts from the coils around the Looking Glass and sprays coolant in the wall. A billowing cloud of electricity-lot fog blossoms into the room from the piping, and the power flickers again. “Sixty percent! I don't think— ”

Then there's a loud, electrical snap that throws the room into darkness except for red emergency lighting. The fog clings to the floor and rises up in red-tinted clouds. The gate has gone dark, all power lost to all systems. The technicians back away from their consoles, looking around.

“I— I think we blew something major,” one technician says in disbelief, looking around the room. “We… we’re… we lost ON-1.”

Kravid reaches up and pinches the bridge of her nose, lit by crimson and bathed in shadow. With a resigned sigh she shakes her head.

“We need more power.”

Geopoint Scientific Enclosure

Cassandra’s Quarters

September 13, 2015

6:03 am local time

Yesterday, the world was flipped upside down for Pinehearst. Footage from the Moab Federal Penitentiary is all over the news, and word of what happened reached even as far as Geopoint. But the uncertainty of yesterday has transitioned into the cold certainty of tomorrow.

A rapid-fire series of pounding knocks on Cassandra’s door rouses her from sleep. “Miss Bauman, it's Goodman,” the facility’s security chief and Arthur’s liaison, “we need to talk.”

The events of the previous evening did cause a commotion in Geopoint. It was a culmination of things with Cassandra, that started making this place feel more constricting. Uneasy. It started with the loss of ON-1 at Looking Glass a few months prior and the callousness that Kravid showed. It wasn’t sadness at the loss of a potentially priceless technopath, but more of an ‘ah well, them’s the breaks’ sort of feeling that she got from the other woman. Cassie realized she’d be moving quite quickly into the ‘disposable’ category once her work was done. Still, it was her job, so she continued researching the past and Looking Glass, finding little tweaks that could be made, here and there, to increase efficiency, to decrease power consumption, and even to widen the gateway by more than a few inches thanks to a slight change in the geometry of the cooling array and the shape of the triangle.

Oddly, a day or so after the loss of ON-1, Cassie requested the briefcase-sized server case to be brought to her lab once all was said and done. The researchers who had ON-1 previously didn’t need the case anymore, since the technopath, in their view, was gone. But still, in Cassie’s view, something needed to be done. In her free time, she replaced burned out parts, cleaned out dust, and did all the things she could to make the system whole again. She left the disks alone, though, since any chance of recovery would be less if she got things out of order. She even got one of the guys in maintenance to bring up one of the replacement server cases that she could cannibalize for the backplanes and other parts to see if anything was left of the technopath. An experiment of her own. She was told it was futile, but someone needed to try.

ON-1 deserved that much.

After all, it’s not every day that you discover that the company you work for is a bad guy and is in league with another bad guy and….when did the United States Government turn into the bad guy? Most research for the day was paused while people tried to figure out what to do and, more importantly, if they would be targets in the inevitable investigations that were coming. Cassie slept after a long hike outside the dome’s edge, dressed in her winter clothes since the world outside the domes change with great regularity, her dreams waking her in a cold sweat a few times in the quiet hours of the morning.

“I’m up, I’m up…” comes a voice from inside the room, a crash as a chair topples over and then a hiss as the door’s hydraulics open, a bleary-eyed cassandra peering out at Goodman, dressed in her pajamas. “Give me five minutes to get dressed and….” she waves a hand. “Jesus Christ, Goodman…what’s going on that you had to snag me at six in the morning?” She mutters in french under her breath, swearing, as she starts to dress with the door open - living in these confined spaces has made modesty a privilege, not a right.

Goodman’s silhouette in the doorway is slim and sharp, high cheekbones accented by overhead lighting, dark eyes in deep sockets making him look particularly cadaverous. His attention moves respectfully to the floor as he steps in. As a former soldier he's shared similar spaces, but time out of the field has given him a level of compassion for modesty he once lacked.

“I'm sorry about this, Miss Baumann.” Goodman’s words are accompanied by a pair of Geopoint security officers stepping into the room, hands on their holstered sidearms. They don't move much further than the doorway, and it's only then that Roger reveals the body ankle bracelet in his right hand.

“Given what's happened, politically, we are now operating under restrictive security measures. No one is to come in or out of the Geopoint facility, for the indefinite future. As you don't have a full Pinehearst security clearance, we’re going to need you to put on this ankle monitor so that we can accurately track your whereabouts at any time.”

Goodman holds it out, affording Cassandra at least the dignity of attaching it herself. “You will not be making any trips back to New York — or anywhere else for that matter — until otherwise noted.” Cassandra’s consent in this matter is not raised, or even acknowledged. After what happened to ON-1, perhaps she shouldn't be surprised.

Not an employee. An asset. To be tracked. The chair that was knocked over in the haste in getting to the door is straightened, Cassandra sitting down in it, still in her pajama pants, her dress shirt half-buttoned up, crossing one leg over the other with a frown.

“I know, Goodman. Clearance is everything. I mean, I’ve only been here ten months. Figured the clearance would come in by now. I mean, I was expecting a lockdown after all the stuff that went on but not anything so…restrictive.” She leans to peer around Goodman at the soldiers with the guns flanking her door, then looks to Goodman. “Don’t worry. You’re doing your job. Just following orders. I don’t blame you, but are they really necessary?” There’s a gesture to the armed guards in the hall. “I mean, I play cards with Johnson on the right. First Tuesday of the month. Bringing them is a good show of strength but hey, asking works just as well.”

Someone is scared and rightly so, sending Goodman to track her and everyone else in the facility as a precaution leads Cassie to believe that things are getting very, very hot around here. It was Kravid, without a doubt. Cassandra sighs as she reaches over to pull her hiking boots out from under the desk. There’s a easy, practiced motion as she slides one on her left foot and laces it up, standing before holding out her hand, motioning for the tracker. She fully intends to put it on but in a place where she can still wear her boots. The one bit of freedom she has left are her hikes around the exterior of the domes and if she can’t get to New York, at least they may let her outside the dome to walk while she’s being tracked.

“There won't be much time for cards anymore, I'm afraid.” Goodman motions to the tracker as he watches her put on the boots. “Effective immediately you're restricted to your quarters, Lab C,” one of the smaller labs adjacent to the Looking Glass chamber, “and the five biome domes up top. Any work on Looking Glass will be done with supervision. You're to wear the anklet at all times. It's waterproof, and loose, so you can shower with it.”

Goodman looks to one of the security team who awkwardly steps into the room and takes Cassandra’s research assistant badge and replaces it with a nondescript red-colored security card. He then moves back to the doorway, pocketing the old badge.

“I'm sorry,” Goodman affords with an incline of his head into a slow nod. “But these orders come directly from Mr. Petrelli.”

“Of course.” Cassandra looks to her room, then back to Goodman with a sigh, glancing at the clock on the wall, the baleful green indicating 6:30am. “I just hope coffee is in steady supply. Might be a mutiny without that stuff. Now, if there’s nothing else, I've got to go on shift in about two hours. In lab C.” Where ON-1 is stored, powered on with an old CRT and a network cable plugged in on the off chance something - anything - happens. The card is taken and turned over, examined closely before it's clipped to her lab coat.

“Any significance to the color, or should I just let my paranoia run wild?” There would normally be a teasing tone to that, but it right now, looking out of the bars of her prison, she doesn't feel very playful.

“Temporary employee,” Goodman indicates in a level tone, and nothing more.

Cassandra is left to consider just what temporary means.

Geopoint Scientific Enclosure

Mess Hall

May 8, 2016

7:07 am

The intervening eight months were the worst they'd ever been. Paranoia, constant observation, and threats of indefinite detention and violence for even the slightest mis-steps. The motivating force to get Looking Glass fully operational went from a sense of exploration and wonder to something less clear, something opaque and unknowable driven by a much more crystallized emotion: fear.

“It is 7:00 am, this is information management.” Erica Kravid stands at the head of the mess hall where all of Looking Glass' researchers have been gathered; some seventy-six scientists and thirty engineers. Twelve security team members have gathered around the periphery and Kravid is flanked by Roger Goodman and a sullen, exhausted-looking Stephen Canfield.

“We received word the morning that the Justice Department has seized all of Pinehearst’s holdings and finances.” A murmur of voices spreads through the mess hall at Kravid’s revelation. “Arthur Petrelli has been absent for several weeks now, and we are left with an inherited chain of command. This facility is now directly in control of Pinehearst’s global partner, the Renautas corporation and by extension I now possess full administrative command of the facility.”

“This will be business as usual,” Kravid indicates with brows furrowed. “Insubordination will be met with extreme discipline. Right now we are effectively enemies of the state, and getting the Looking Glass operational is our solitary hope to avoid the noose the US Government has placed around all our necks.”

To Cassandra, this is the other shoe dropping. For months she's labored on Looking Glass and the intricacies of the past that hide its secrets, with infinitely more dead ends than not. In her spare time, trying to get ON-1 responsive has felt like a fool’s errand, but it has kept her sane. This, though, feels like the beginning of the end.

For the first few weeks, work continued as planned, with several updates and tweaks being put into play that increased efficiency. The massive power requirements that Looking Glass required to open a window were staggering and were still a major obstacle. There were some hints that she was able to sniff out using things that had relatively little contact with either of the targets - a lunch menu, of all things, with concentric rings left by a water glass gave Michelle an idea, for example - but progress was starting to slow. Without the ability to leave the domes, there was little that Cassandra could do but work, write in her journal, and work on ON-1 as best she could.

With the seeming loss of the technopath, most of the scientists involved with that project were transferred out to other locations, leaving their lab and equipment relatively alone. That was a valuable source for replacement parts, hard drives that were used in previous versions of ON-1’s case, and volumes of data that would take a long time for Cassandra to fully understand. She made it a point to never look back, to see what occurred to put ON-1 into that box, but the notes that she found gave her ideas of what they did, and that was entirely enough.

Looking glass could be spun up almost weekly now on a consistent basis when power consumption allowed it as the months passed. After that first encounter with the gate, Cassandra found herself watching the skies above whenever she could as Looking Glass was brought online, wishing she were anywhere but here, away from the solitude of the domes. She wishes she was home, in New York, with Elisabeth and Rory. She hoped they were doing okay. Her last communication, before her phone was taken, was supposed to be to them, but turned out it went to a wrong number in New York. A closed deli, according to the voicemail on the phone. She did leave a message. “I’m sorry to bother you. This is Cassandra Baumann from Colorado. I think I have a wrong number.” And she hung up.

Her spare phone was taken shortly after for Security’s sake.

The rest of her time was spent in her quarters, in the lab working on ON-1, hiking around the perimeters of the domes, or in the lab working on Looking Glass research. There wasn’t much in between time. Food, thankfully, wasn’t in short supply, or coffee, but news from the outside world was sanitized - limited extremely to things outside of the united states at best. BBC News World Service got a sentence through once before the delay kicked in due to a World Cup game ending early. At least they had a large DVD and game collection as well as a library stocked with books to pass the time. She did have her hiking pack set up, though, and managed to keep it from being taken by security. They knew she had it - they just didn’t take it as it wasn’t that big of a deal. It’s not like she was going to go anywhere, being tracked as she was.

Hiking beneath the domes required things like water and food if she went far enough from the central passage, and even then, she spent a while near the edge, watching the world separated by foot-thick plexiglass. A few times near the beginning, with a security detail, she was allowed outside, in the fresh air, to hike and see the sun, putting miles on her boots with two security guards along for the trip, going as far as the lake opposite the domes, looking down on them shimmering in the setting sun before reluctantly heading back.

A clandestine network of bartering and favors sprung up beneath the domes. With food and water relatively plentiful and toiletry items - shampoo, soap, toothpaste and the like - arriving intermittently, it was easy to run out before the next shipment came in so the careful and clever people started offering services or items from their stores. Repair of electronics in some cases, sexual favors in one case that was pointedly overlooked, and in Cassie’s case, replaying of memories from objects, so people could relive the past in order to break the monotony or see their families. One object she had with her - a mardi gras necklace - was especially popular, since it could make the claustrophobia of the domes seem like the openness of the square in New Orleans.

Weeks transitioned into months until that fateful September morning. Cassandra found herself with her cup of extra-strong coffee, leaning against a support column, pinching her brow with her one free hand as Kravid talked about their dire situation. ‘Enemies of the State’ was murmured in response to Kravid from one of the scientists nearby, getting a glance from a few others, Cassandra straightening, smoothing out her lab coat and glancing at the gathered scientists, studying their badges as she had over the past few months. Temporary Employees have red, but the little voice in the back of her head was trying to count the number of red badges, as well as who carried them.

It’s not like she wanted to walk around with a target on her chest, but it seems that’s exactly what she’s doing now. Numbly, Cassandra nodded to the proclamation, listening to the words of discontent rising around her. “Our hope, or your only hope?” She closes her eyes, leaning back against the column. “They’ll be coming eventually.” She said to no-one in particular. “Hopefully to save us.” Cassandra doubted that as she murmured it to herself, sipping at her coffee before going back to work.

Kravid isn't amused by the glib tone. “The US government has put us all in the same basket, disposable assets. We’re an embarrassing mark that could cost Senators their jobs or their lives if we talk. There is no one coming to rescue is But ourselves.”

“We have two options,” Kravid posits, “we can get the Looking Glass operational and flee through it, or we can present it and our team as an invaluable asset to whatever administration remains by the time they find out about this place.” Which implies the government doesn't know yet. “It is in all your best interests to ensure that we have a working model. For all our sakes.”

During the conversation, all Cassandra sees is a sea of red. Everyone gathered here is a contract technician or lab support, people that once came and went on six month rotations. Only the temporary employees are being given these notices, and there's no sign of the Breach team that Goodman and Canfield run, nor the lab techs that are working on the advanced body armor they've been testing. They're partitioning contact and information.

“Shifts will remain as scheduled, work will commence within the hour. The world is changing around us and we no longer have the beneficence of Pinehearst to shield us from the effects of change. The only people we can count on now, is each other.” Cassandra is left to wonder if Kravid practiced that speech in the mirror before giving it.

She almost certainly practiced the speech. Off-the-cuff remarks, when they come from Kravid, seem to be just that. The speech Kravid gave Cassandra all those months ago, when she convinced the postcog to actually help out on Looking Glass and its reconstruction was almost certainly practiced several times in front of a mirror. It sounded good, the words had the right punch, it was inspiring, and probably most important of all, it was convincing. This most recent speech was given out of necessity, communicating exactly what needed to be said in exactly the way it needed to be said, with a show of force flanking her on either side to show that she meant business. Despite that, observers, used to the way things normally look, could probably make out nervousness in the woman’s posture. Tension, coiled tight. Fear, even. Cassandra, as one of the temporary staff, can only shake her head as the contract technicians and lab support start to trudge off to their particular places in the dome. The goal, elusive beforehand, now seems to have a horrible finale quickly approaching. She re-fills her coffee and makes her way to her lab where, after all this time, ON-1 still sits quietly, humming to itself, drawing power from the main grid. Sitting next to it is a fully-charged battery pack from some project elsewhere in the dome installed in a vest-like carrier, allowing the case to run without access to the main power while carried. Sure, it would be limited in scope, but like the coin batteries on motherboards, it would keep continuity of memory.

The space bar is hit on the keyboard plugged in, to see if anything comes up. The monitor power led flashes from amber to green. Nothing so far.

Cassandra sits on her stool in front of ON-1’s screen and holds her head in her hands. Options are increasingly shrinking. As of now, it seems there are two choices. Two poor choices, to tell the truth. Complete Looking Glass as a gift to placate the Government, or complete Looking Glass to flee for their lives to an unknown reality. Assuming she'll be allowed to go. Both of these are not something that Cassie could have foreseen. Perhaps there’s a third choice. Escape, away from here. Somehow.

Pity she’s not a precognitive, otherwise she’d know if this line of thought would be successful.

Or perhaps, they’re just as blind.

Geopoint Scientific Enclosure

Cassandra’s Quarters

June 13, 2017

5:14 am local time

It burns like an unblinking eye, a triangular shape of light just three feet across on a side. Within the bounds of its form, swirls a spot of blackness so infinite it swallows up the electrical glow and pulls it to the edges, creating a ring of azure neon. But in the heart of that blackness, like a pupil, is a window into another world… that has become a door.

Edward! Edward we have to turn it off!” Richard Schwenkman screams, air being pushed out of the light, out of the fissure between space and time. Paperwork blows across the basement lab on a college campus. Edward Ray stands frozen nearby, looking to paperwork blowing through the opening, coming from inside the rift. Documents, photographs, a coffee cup.

There is a crackling flash of light, a superimposition of the basement room over itself in rainbow hues, like a reflection in a soap bubble. A mournful scream echoes from within the glowing triangular rift, and Edward watches wide-eyed as there is a screaming infant writhing around on the nearby table after the flash of light, a shimmering aurora of color wavering off of its body.

”Oh my God,” Edward exhales the words again, “Oh my God.

«Security Alert. Code Black. Security Alert. Code Black»

The sound of an automated alarm jolts Cassandra up from a dream, her mind reeling and the people and places seen within not something she had witnessed from an artifact or an item, but felt as though she was tapping into her ability while she slept. Blood runs out of one nostril, pounds in her ears, and is smudged across her pillow case. Her heart is pounding in her chest.

«Security Alert. Code Black. Security Alert. Code Black»

The words code black finally register. Code Black: Perimeter breach, hostile incursion.

The day that Kravid was warning everyone about seems to have come. The Government, or parties acting on its behalf, finally discovered Geopoint and decided to deal with the problem directly. In the year since Geopoint went dark, no-one went in or out, things went on fairly normally - or, as normal as it could be trapped inside a giant geodesic dome in the middle of a Colorado plateau. How they were discovered, how it took so long to be discovered, and what would become of them all would be something for the historians to discuss later. There are more pressing things to deal with now.

Once the cacophony of noise from the wall mounted speaker drags Cassie out of her slumber, it takes less than a second for it to register that things are very, very wrong. Bloody nose and pounding headache notwithstanding, the weekly safety drills - drills that never happened at this time of day - dictated that a call of Code Black signaled or the residents of the domel to get to safety with whatever supplies could be carried. Scrambling from her bed, Cassandra started doing the mental math as she threw on her hiking gear. The outer dome was multiple feet thick - it was probably breached by some kind of shaped charge since the airlock was hardened steel. That probably was the cause of the initial alarm, assuming the guards outside the dome didn’t manage to call it in first. The inner dome with the elevator shafts leading down to the research areas and control rooms was located at the center of the main dome and, depending on which direction the assault came from and whether or not the attackers were on foot or had vehicles…well, it could be up to five minutes before the reach the inner dome.

It’s Cassie’s plan to not be there to greet them.

Dressed with her boots on, Cassie goes to the corridor and listens for things, like gunfire, explosions, pounding of boots, screams… anything that might give her a clue of what to expect but the alarm is too loud for her to make anything out. Her first goal is to get to her lab and grab necessary things - specifically ON-1 and her hiking pack, full of camping and survival gear, food, and the like. Second goal - elevator shaft. Up to the command center and hopefully past the armed assailants.

Yes, it's just as insane in her head as it sounds.

Taking a deep breath, She stands near the wall closest to the door and hits the actuator, out of potential lines of fire.

The door to her quarters opens into the hallway with a hiss of hydraulics.

The hallway is suddenly flush with activity. Six security team members in flak jackets and armed with assault rifles rush toward the elevator, radios crackling about an unconfirmed number of Evolved hostiles. As the elevator door opens, Cassandra catches sight of another security officer slouched in the elevator, blood splattered on the wall behind him, and a satchel charge strapped to his—


The resulting explosion throws Cassandra off of her feet and sends her skidding back across the floor. She unconscious for what feels like a second or two, long enough for the smoke to partially fill the hallway. Embers dance in the air, flames fill the demolished elevator. The security officers that were en-route were too close, and their smoking remains are scattered back toward the elevator. A single shredded boot lays by Cassandra’s head, empty and lost.

Ears ringing and equilibrium thrown off, Cassandra can now hear the thump of automatic weapons fire through the elevator shaft, distant screaming and shouting. Up does not seem like a safe option anymore, but she's backed into a corner down here. There is only one way
in and out of the labs, a choke point of one elevator and two sets of stairs, all emptying out either inside of or adjacent to the command room.

The labs down here have all locked under the code black, and her keycard will only permit access to two places — Lab C where her research notes and the solid state drive containing what remains of ON-1’s fragmented code are held, and the Looking Glass containment chamber. There's a security substation at Looking Glass that might be of some safety, but the exits…

Looking Glass still hasn't been successfully tested with a human subject. Apples, mice, insects, sure. But even those had to be sealed within specially-designed cases that protect against the intense heat and gravitational friction of the aperture. The same nanomaterials they're making the Breach armor out of, which… a prototype of exists in the security substation.

Perhaps there is an exit. Or a quick death.

One or the other.

The close proximity to the elevator used to be a selling point for this room. Being able to hit the elevators quickly when it was time to head back to civilization after a rotation, or just being able to know when something was going on by the sound of people coming and going was something people craved. For the bartering system, you could just set up in your doorway and have a massive number of customers with little effort. In fact, being so close meant you could set your watch by the traffic in the halls. Five minutes before a shift started, crowds streamed through the corridors leading to the elevators, and five after there was nothing but air waiting its turn. Now, though, being close to the elevator and the potential for assault meant that most people were running away, except for the people paid enough to stand there and try to repel hostiles.

The elevator doors opening registered, as did the fallen guard in the car. One of the guards screamed “BOMB!” just in time for Cassie to pivot on the ball of her foot to try and run away, just as the explosion knocked her off her feet and sent her skipping down the hall like a tossed stone, landing in a heap near a wall, finally coming to consciousness with her ass in the air and her face buried in a discarded pile of towels. The horror of the smoking foot next to her doesn’t register, nor does the smell, but muted thud that rocks the floor as the elevator car drops to the bottom of the shaft and the ringing in her ears does. Thankfully, the six force diffusers and the open doors between her and the explosion blunted the force enough to allow Cassie to escape relatively unharmed. She pushes herself to her feet, does the pocket check dance to make sure all her things are there, grabs her ID card and starts to run, trying to put as much distance between her and the elevators that she possibly can.

With the main elevator destroyed, there is nothing to prevent access to a direct line into the heart of Looking Glass, and god help anyone who’s caught in between the aggressors and their goal.

Coughing, wiping the blood from her face with the back of her hand, Cassie runs. Down one hall and then another, to the heavy airlocks separating Looking Glass and the other research projects from the rest of the complex. She frantically slaps her card against the RFID reader, smashes her thumb against the biometric reader and, mercifully, the light changes from red to green, the doors opening with a heavy clunk of hydraulics cycling, the door finally sinking into the wall with hiss. Quickly, Cassie leaps inside, swiping her card a second time to activate the console, pressing the door close button as the checkpoint airlock seals shut around her. There's a moment of pressure change, an air filtration quarantine intended primarily for when “off world” teams would return, but that's never been out into practice. As the door ahead slide open, it brings her closer to Looking Glass.

Whether or not salvation or damnation wait at the end of this day is still left to be discovered. For now, Cassie is doing what she can to stay alive.

Beyond the inner airlock, Cassandra finds the inner security checkpoint vacant. Monitors are on, showing fighting elsewhere in the facility at the command center. The Breach team looks to be topside, judging from the multiple figures in matte black armor and helmets fighting off…

…fighting off…

Leaning close to the screen, Cassandra is shown a monochromatic display that sinks her heart. She recognizes the woman among the attackers from the news — 2009 or 10, she figures,, testimony against surviving members of the Vanguard by one of their own — Eileen Ruskin, or as the Vanguard called her, Munin.

Worse, on one of the other monitors she sees a tall and broad-shouldered man with a buzzed scalp carrying a rifle in one hand and a child in the other, not as a human shield or anything so macabre, but protectively and possessively hauling her with him like a delicate prisoner.

With a swipe of her badge, Cassandra is able to open the inner doors to the Looking Glass, and as those heavy blast doors slide open, her attention turns to the prototype Breach suit sitting on a rack nearby. It is a flexible nanomaterial fabric sheathed in hexagonal plates of carbon fiber designed to repel heat and friction. The helmet it comes with is as no-frills as the suit, it isn't a combat model like the Breach team’s, but equally as adjustable to size thanks to a modulated biometric sensor on the wrist that seals the suit to the wearer’s build.

Beyond that, an emergency comm system, a classic red phone with capability to reach any outside line via satellite. Through the blast doors at her back she can hear more gunfire. The fighting is getting closer.

Safe for the moment, Cassandra makes sure the door is closed behind her as well as it could be. With a concerted effort a team should be able to breach it - even easier if Evolved troops are involved - but there’s enough resistance upstairs to give her a moment to breathe and plan out the next steps for her survival. First, her things. ON-1 is attached to its battery pack and disconnected from the main, carried to the security depot along with the backpack containing her hiking stuff. Stuffed inside the backpack along with her things are paper copies of her research notes and a thumb drive with more. Everything that she’s discovered relevant to Looking Glass’s operation over the past years has been meticulously recorded inside a hard-covered notebook along with sketches and the like. If someone was handed this and had the right knowledge and equipment, they could conceivably replicate Looking Glass given enough time.

With where she’s going, this information might be the only way back. Assuming she survives the trip.

The Breach suit is given a quick once-over. Off go her boots, into her backpack. The tracking beacon around her ankle is sliced off with a box cutter, the whole array tossed into the corner, away from her as she stands, smoothing down her Her things and ON-1 are tossed into large fireproof duffel bags, zipped closed and wrapped around themselves, sealed closed with quick pushes on each end, staged just outside of the yellow ‘danger’ line behind one of the blast walls surrounding the currently inactive Looking Glass. The thumb drive is hung on it’s cord around her neck, inside the suit.

“This is a bad idea…” she clenches her eyes shut, rubbing them for a second before pulling on the form-fitting suit undersuit and gloves, little adjustments pulling it tight as the biometric reader on her wrist takes measurements. It takes a little bit of smoothing for her to get it situated properly before she steps into the heavier main suit sideways, the buckles on the side clicking into place on sockets placed strategically on the undersuit, the hexagonal plates interlocking around her body, leaving the helmet to be pulled on.

The red phone mounted to the wall gets a second glance as she readies herself, the boots of the suit locking around her feet, weighing her down. Probably wouldn’t stop a bullet but hey, better than being incinerated instantly when trying to use the gate for the first time. The consoles are on - apparently ready for a test that was scheduled at nine this morning with the coolant already circulating - a test that probably won’t happen anytime soon. The data is already set with the coordinates of whatever superstring they had discovered - the same they had been working on for the longest time. Situating herself in front of the console, the chair is kicked to the side as she starts to type.

Geopoint Scientific Center [Version 10.0.16299.547]
© 2017 Pinehearst Corporation. All rights reserved.
L:\> initiate LookingGlass
LookingGlass> List Gateway…done!
LookingGlass> Select Gateway #1…done!
LookingGlass> Initialize Gateway…done!
LookingGlass> Gateway Initializing…10%…20%…

The sound of generators starting and capacitors charging start to fill the room. Cassandra steps back and watches as the gate starts to power up. She’s watched it enough to know that it’ll take a little time to get going. Nothing to do now but wait. She bites her lip and looks to the red phone again, yanking the handset from the wall. Thankfully, there’s a dial tone.

“Oh God, God…” She stares at the mouthpiece, dumbfounded, then quickly dials the nine-digit number that she memorized over and over again, the wrong number for the deli she called more than a year prior.

The phone rings three times and then goes directly to voicemail, Cassie watching the monitors again to try and get an idea of how much time she has.

“Thank you for calling Harrison’s Deli.” a man’s voice says. “Please leave a name and number and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can. Thanks!

“This is Cassandra Baumann.” She takes a breath and clears her mind before she speaks, clearly. “I am located at the Geopoint Scientific Enclosure outside of Boulder, Colorado. It is June 13, about six AM. We are being attacked by multiple evolved assailants. There are multiple casualties among the staff and security personnel. I recognize one as a woman the Vanguard called Eileen Ruskin, or Munin. Another man, tall and broad with short buzzed hair, is carrying a dark-haired child in one arm. I don’t know who she is, but she looks important.” She looks to the airlock, the sounds of fighting getting closer. “Liz..I’m trapped. They’ve taken out the elevators and they’re coming to kill us all and destroy Looking Glass. I don’t know why. I’ve seen guards blown up, and the sound of gunfire is getting closer. I’m….”

A electronic speaker in the background echoes in the chamber, tinny. «Fifty percent power. Ramping up.» before secondary generators kick on.

“Th…there’s not much time, Liz. I’ve got to try and escape here through Looking Glass. It’s what they’ve been trying to do for the past year. It’s insane, I know, but it’s the only way I’ve got out that doesn’t have me carried out on my back in a body bag. They’ve sacrificed lives to this thing, Liz. They sacrificed a technopath called ON-1. I’ve been working on her system for more than a year and I’m taking her hardware with me to see if there’s anything left of her in the world we’re going to. It’s crazy, Liz…The higher-up people were planning on offering Looking Glass and us to the government to save their skins. To hell with the rest of us.”

The speaker behind her talks again. «Power at Eighty percent. Please move behind the yellow lines.» Cassandra takes a deep breath that can be heard over the phone.

“Please, Liz, if you can, tell my parents I love them so much and will try and get back to them somehow. Tell Rory that I love her and I’m sorry I missed her birthday. We’ll have to take her to the aquarium in New Orleans some other time. Tell Felix I wish we could have talked more about his grandfather….” She’s starting to cry - this isn’t good. “I’m scared, Liz. I’m so scared….”

There’s a beep from the console, the white text on black background offering this simple line.

LookingGlass> …80%…90%…100%…done!
LookingGlass> Gateway Charged. Ready to Rock and Roll.
LookingGlass> Open Gateway (y/n?)
LookingGlass> _

With a shuddering sob, Cassandra finishes her message. “It’s time, Liz. I’ve got to go. I love you. Goodbye.” The phone is placed down on the counter, not hung up, the woman stepping away to pull the helmet on, locking it in place around her neck with a twist before stepping to the side, stepping to the side to push the Y key on the keyboard and hit enter.

On the keystroke there is a high-pitched whining sound as the particle accelerator begins operation. Behind Cassandra, an electrical charge rises in the air, and a wind starts to blow through the facility. Blue light crackles and flashes as electricity starts to arc over the gold-plated copper coolant rings. The ground vibrates, electricity arcs wildly from the triangular frame to the floor and walls.

At the center of the ten foot tall, triangular gate frame a spiral of light begins to form. A scintillating horizontal curtain of green-blue light like an aurora borealis that then is swallowed by an infinite darkness as the space within the frame collapses into a singularity.

«Caution! Reactor overload detected!»

The power systems hadn't been optimized for this size of an aperture within the gate, one large enough to safely send a person through. The ceiling lights flicker, but the darkness at the center of the frame begins to spread into a flat disc that consumes electricity and light at its edges. It is an event horizon, consuming and bending all light, disorienting to even view.

«Caution! Power surge detected.»

A shower of sparks explodes from the ceiling lights as bulbs rupture. The center of the singularity begins to visible dimple and then open like an iris. Within, the view of another Geopoint comes into view, and the iris continues to widen, ringed in a swirling cyclone of black and the bent light of electricity.

There is a sheen to the middle of the gateway, not quite watery, more like imperfect glass. The air is calm and still now, and the gate is as steady as it will ever be.

«Caution! Power unstable.»

But not for long.

It’s now or never, isn’t it? She’s only watched the gate open a few times beforehand, and those were barely the size of a standard door. This much larger aperture, built in a hurry to give the people in Looking Glass a way out, was only completed a few days prior and barely got through the initial round of testing. The fact that it’s working is a testament to the hard work that went on here for so many years. The fact that it’s holding steady - relatively - is due to luck, random chance, or fate.

Cassandra looks back at the computer, then moves to gather her bags, slinging both over their own shoulder. Even through the suit she feels the tug of the gateway, the helmet’s readout indicating temperature, pressure, decibel level outside, heart rate and blood pressure of the occupant….

This was a tester suit, after all.

Cassandra moves to stand at the edge of the abyss, looking into the world beyond.

Forty square feet stand between her and the outside world.

“Don’t fear the unknown…” A mantra of sorts. She takes a deep breath and looks to the monitors again, shouting, hopefully loud enough for the still-recording voicemail to hear. “It’s time to go where no-one’s been before!” Cassandra takes two big steps back and runs towards the portal, leaping, diving through…

Because the black hole is so massive and spinning so fast, it warps spacetime around it. The singularity of the Looking Glass’ aperture is a microcosm if that cos I'd force. While devising his general theory of relativity, Einstein combined the three dimensions of space and the one dimension of time into a single useful concept he called spacetime, and it is the distortion of this fundamental fabric that Cassandra approaches.

Time is a strange thing, as evidenced by those with the ability to hasten, slow, or arrest it entirely. Those who can move between its flow. As Cassandra approaches the aperture of the Looking Glass time feels as though it slows down. Every moment feels as though an eternity is passing, every breath lasts forever. She can feel her heart beating in her chest, heat the muffled sound of each inhale and exhale against the helmet’s tactical visor.

Within arm's reach of the singularity, electricity leaps from the frame and strikes conductive nodes on the suit, this in turn is conducted across the hexagonal plates layered over the suit. Electricity crackles over her body and an electromagnetic aurora rises off of her silhouette.

As she comes within a breath of the aperture, as her leaping bound takes her to its glassy surface, she can hear something, much like her own breath. But someone— something— breathing inside of her helmet.

Then, just as she touches the surface of the aperture, as the light becomes bent so much that it is impossible to see, she sees a reflection in her own visor. Her face. Her breath.

The world becomes nothing but streams of rippling sound and vibrating light. Color, form, and mass have no meaning. All things are equal. Everything and nothing exists at the same moment in time, superimposed over each other. Her heart stops for eternity.

In the reflection, her eyes—

are gold.

Geopoint Scientific Enclosure

Just Outside Boulder, Colorado

June 13, 2017

There is an explosion of light and sound, electricity and fire born of nothingness. Cassandra is birthed into the world is flames. The momentum of her leap is tripled, and she is fired from nothing like a missile, crashing to the ground and rolling to a stop as the flames gutter and swiftly burn out from the violent motion.

Her suit lays in pieces in the path around her, tiles torn off by shearing force, black scorch marks up each tile, fabric shredded. Her backpack is a charred, blackened lump left smoldering on the floor in a dozen pieces. The solid-state hard drive containing what was left of ON-1 likewise demolished and shredded by the transfer.

Her heart skips a beat, flutters arrhythmically, and her vision blurs. Smoke rises off of her body, exposed skin where the suit tore apart on entry through the aperture is reddened and blistered by the flames; tender but fine enough.

All around Cassandra, the room that became the Looking Glass chamber looks abandoned. A few pieces of burned fruit rest nearby, a charred goat skeleton, blackened husks of mice, a melted camera. Behind her, on the wall, a black scorch mark in the perfect silhouette of a triangle is still smoking.

There is no Looking Glass here. Because it was never made here.

The realization hits her.

She has no idea where here is.

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