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Also Featuring:

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Scene Title Conspiracy
Synopsis One is a coincidence, two is a pattern, three is a…
Date July 20, 2021

City lights provide a distant glow on the horizon on a lonely stretch of road twenty miles north of Manhattan.

Time, flowing like a river

A misting rain dapples the windshield of of a '71 Lincoln Towncar. It's pitch black in the interior, save for the glow of the stereo dial. The rain makes soft pattering sounds on the roof, adding a layer of white noise behind the softly playing music.

Time, beckoning me

Alphonse Baumann watches the road ahead, chewing intently on the tattered end of a long-gone lollipop stick. It's a poor replacement for a pack of cigarettes, but he'd made a promise to quit. Instead of sucking in a lungful of nicotine when he needs it most, he gnashes a paper stick back and forth between his front teeth. Soon, up the road, headlights wind around a corner. Alphonse plucks the stick from his mouth and throws it in the ash tray with several other mangled little nubs, sitting up straight in the driver's seat.

Who knows when

The car rolls to a stop alongside Alphonse's parked vehicle, idling for a moment before turning off its headlights and engine. With a soft sigh, Alphonse opens the driver's side door and steps out into the misting rain, squinting against the darkness as he hears someone getting out of the other vehicle. Alphonse remains by the open door, hand firmly wound around the grip of a snub-nosed revolver in his coat pocket. He can barely make out the other man's features as he approaches, until the other man's face illuminates with the flare of a match shielded by two hands. The crackle of burning paper. The aroma of a freshly-lit cigarette.

We shall meet again, if ever

The man wears an eyepatch.

But time keeps flowing

"Smoke?" Marcus Raith offers a half-finished pack out to Alphonse, who holds up one hand in a vaguely tense, apologetic gesture. Marcus shrugs, palming the pack back into his leather jacket. "You can ease off the gun," Marcus notes, glancing down to the hand Alphonse didn't gesture with, jammed in a pocket. Grimacing, Alphonse does as suggested, then withdraws his hand.

Like a river to the sea

"I didn't expect you to be here, to be honest." Marcus notes, cigarette bobbing up and down between his lips as he talks. "The Company did its damnedest to make sure everyone like me got put in the ground and forgotten, so I was skeptical when you agreed to have this chat."

Goodbye my love

"The Company has made… a number of grave mistakes and mis-steps." Alphonse admits with hesitance, as if afraid someone will overhear him. "I'm not the only dissenter among their ranks."

Maybe for forever

Marcus smiles, then takes a slow drag off of his cigarette. "I know." There's nothing but confidence in his reply. He relaxes, letting a cloud of smoke slowly drift out of his mouth. "But I'm here to discuss you."

Goodbye my love

"Your assistant said a lot of things. Stuff too good to be true." Alphonse explains, intoxicated by the sting of cigarette smoke hitting his nostrils.

The tide waits for me

"You don't want her to hear you call her that." Marcus warns, and Alphonse tries to bullishly slip past his faux-pas.

Who knows when

"Can you do it?" Alphonse asks, watching the glow of Marcus' cigarette move in the dark. "Can you offer an alternative? Because the way the world was heading under the OSI—"

We shall meet again, if ever

"And which way was that?" Marcus asks. The ember on his cigarette glows brightly. Alphonse doesn't clarify, and Marcus exhales another lungful of smoke at Alphonse. "You wouldn't know it from standing here, but there's trees on either side of the road. Too dark to spot them, but it doesn't mean they're not there. Plans are a lot like that, Mr. Baumann."

But time keeps flowing

Alphonse scoffs. "You're saying they couldn't see the forest for the fucking trees?"

Like a river (on and on)

"I'm saying they didn't care to." Marcus is quick to counter. "I'm saying Charles Deveaux, Arthur Petrelli, and all those other heavy-hitters in your little club didn't want to relinquish control. It doesn't matter if their plan is better. Hell, it doesn't matter if it's worse. It matters that they are the ones calling the shots."

To the sea, to the sea

"And how're you any different?" Alphonse asks.

'Til it's gone forever

"Hop in my car and you'll find out." Marcus suggests, opening the passenger side door. "Just one question, though."

Gone forever

"What's that?" Alphonse asks.

Gone forevermore

"Do you speak Arabic?"

Forty Years Later

Signal Hills
Yellowstone National Park


July 20th

7:17 pm

The sun hasn't quite set yet. It's cresting the western peaks, casting long shadows over a bustling camp of camouflaged tents and mechanized armor. The largest of the tents is set in the shadow of tall, tense pines. Harsh electrical lighting spills from within the tent, along with agitated voices.

"I saw nine of them rolling up a stretch of I-90. They might as well be within spitting distance!" Camilla Ball points at a faded map of Wyoming torn from an old road atlas. She traces her finger along Interstate 90, running west to east more than a hundred miles to the north near Butte, Montana. "They're going to get hung up at Three Forks if they try and go east. We can hit them and—"

"No." Gregory Farkas doesn't even let Camilla finish her sentence. He is far removed from the psychiatrist he was pretending to be for years. His olive-drab jacket is zipped up to the black and white kiffiyeh worn around his neck. "I don't care if the reanimated corpse of President Mitchell is leading their column, we're not striking."

"Why not!?" Camilla slams her hand on the table. "We've been sitting here for months with our thumbs up our asses! You weren't there in Providence! You didn't see what they did!" Camilla only quiets when a gentle hand is laid on her shoulder. Greg's sister Sofia offers Camilla a warm, patient smile, which defuses the girl's anger.

"We have specific instructions." Sophia says softly. "Ones that protect all of us."

"And how are we supposed to protect them?" Camilla pleads, gesturing broadly to the map. "You think Pure Earth is just going to roll through Bozeman and not do anything? The ICNT still has representatives there! They'll fucking kill everyone!" Sophia glances past Camilla to Greg, one brow raised in challenge.

"The ICNT?" Sophia asks.

"The Tribes." Camilla searches Sophia's eyes, then looks back at Greg. "I heard Pierre talking about it. When he went up to trade. They're all like us." She looks back and forth between Sophia and Greg. "They'll die before they let Pure Earth pass through."

Sophia's expression changes, a brief shift of concern that Greg sees in an instant. "We have instructions. We can't risk—"

Greg cuts himself off when one of his officers ducks into the tent with a new arrival. Alphonse Baumann steps into the tent to the assessing stare of the three locked mid-debate. He removes his hat and holds it against his chest while the officer walks over to Greg. They exchange a brief, terse conversation and the officer leaves with Baumann staying behind.

"I'm sorry to interrupt." Alphonse says, setting his hat down on the table. "Is she cleared?" He glances at Camilla and Sophia briefly shakes her head.

"We're not done, I promise." Sophia says to Camilla, putting a comforting hand on her shoulder again. "When we're done here, okay?" She glances at Alphonse before looking back at Camilla. The young woman sighs, watching Alphonse suspiciously one her way out of the tent. She knows this protocol, at least. The officer outside makes sure she doesn't loiter.

"Again, my apologies, but the situation has changed." Alphonse explains, stepping to the table. "I wouldn't have come here if it wasn't absolutely necessary."

"What the hell is going on out there, Alphonse?" Greg tries to keep his voice low, but his frustration bleeds through clearly. "The radio's been silent for a week. We sent some people down into the town to trade for supplies and we're hearing there's a war going on in Iraq? Tell me we didn't get left on the fucking bench."

Alphonse shakes his head, glancing at Sophia, then down to his hat. "There was a nuclear strike on a central Mazdak facility in northern Iraq. I don't know much right now, information is spotty. US Intelligence doesn't think it's a missile, that's… about as much as we know." He spreads his gloved hands, shaking his head. "Based on what has been forwarded to me, much of Mazdak's foreign leadership was killed in the attack. It's expected that opposition powers will use this opportunity to force Iraq to the table or push past their borders. The timing is…" He glances at the map Greg, Sophia, and Camilla had been arguing over.

"It can't be a coincidence." Sophia says with wide eyes and a shake of her head. "Jesus Christ, Greg, it's starting."

Greg scrubs at his bearded mouth and nods, then slowly lifts his glasses so he can rub at his eyes. "And you got this intelligence from…" He looks at Alphonse.

"Nabu himself." Alphonse explains. "He is currently in a secure location, but coded transmissions were sent on approved channels. We've entered a state of operation known called Midnight Eclipse. Each independent cell is now to determine their own best course of action."

Greg looks back at the map, then Sophia. A silent tension hangs in the air.

"He was here, you know." Greg says with a gesture to the tent. Alphonse furrows his brows, head tilting to the side. "Uluru."

The name causes Alphonse's back to stiffen, but he can't figure out why. There's a subconscious panic response at the name, but it passes. He doesn't even remember it.

"The Divine blessed your camp?" Alphonse isn't convinced.

"You really didn't know?" Sophia asks, shooting a quick look to Greg.

"No. Last I heard the divine vessel was in Iraq. He—" Alphonse glances at the maps on the table, noticing a red circle around a town in Idaho. "What happened?"

"He borrowed a woman." Greg explains, circling around the table. "February Lancaster." The name means nothing to Alphonse. "We cleared out some government operation at that site, took her to that location." He points out the circle on the map he knows Alphonse saw. "And he… did something. I don't know for sure. Used some kind of ability and she was gone. He didn't even come back."

Alphonse's brows furrow, eyes tracking back and forth as he tries to make sense of the map. Of Uluru's presence here. "He hasn't been seen since the bombing," Alphonse admits. "We don't know what that means."

"So we're free to move?" Greg checks again, gesturing at the maps. "If we see an opportunity…"

"Strike." Alphonse affirms. "That was the one piece of intelligence that was clear." He looks to Greg, Sophia, then gestures to the map. "We are no longer in a state of holding…"

"…the war has started."


Somewhere Off I-90


A column of nine Zhizhu-7 walking tanks sit idle on the side of the highway, draped in aerial camouflage netting. A dozen trucks line the road behind the ZZ-7's, along with several armored personnel carriers, and two restored M60 tanks. Well over two hundred soldiers from a mixture of paramilitary organizations are gathered off the road, setting up tents and sniper placements. A handful of repurposed war machines—Praxis Heavy Qings—patrol the perimeter of the camp, scanning the treeline and the road.

Percy and Aubree Finch stand among the soldiers, watching members from their small militia setting up tents and digging latrines. The sun hangs low on the horizon, casting long shadows over them both.

"You think these kids are ready to run this show by themselves?" Aubree asks, crossing her arms over her chest. Percy looks back at them, watching two teenagers struggling to pry a rock out of the ground where they're digging the latrine, rather than dig around it.

"Yyyyeah, sure. I mean what's the worst that could happen?" Percy flashes his wife a smile and she gently punches him in the arm. "They're not alone, look around you! This is the big times, Bree. We've got armor, those robots," he points at one of the Qing standing still nearby. He can tell she isn't amused by his lackadaisical approach. "Look," he steps in closer to her, "these boys know what's at stake. We got a whole bigger chain of command, and more on the way. They'll take care of this. They're in good hands. We've gotta handle the home front." He gestures between them. "We gotta go rescue our baby girl."

Aubree nods, adjusting the brim of her camouflage trucker hat as she does. "You think she's okay? Think the boys are safe out there too?"

Percy flashes her another smile, then pulls her in and kisses her on top of the head. "Eugene? C'mon, he'll outlast the tanks. And Zach's with him. They're gonna be fine. Eloise is gonna be fine."

The sound of an approaching aircraft ends the conversation. A low-flying military helicopter coming from the north. The Qing drones are already on it, pivoting toward the noise and readying to fire, but holding for a command. Percy nods to Aubree and the two jog with several other higher-ranked militia fighters to where the helicopter is landing in a clearing while a few other soldiers issue verbal orders to the Qing to stand down. As the helicopter lands, its side door opens revealing a pair of heavily armed soldiers in advanced ferromagnetic body armor. They step out of the helicopter, making way for a blonde man with a crooked smile and a cybernetic arm holding a cigarette.

"Ooh-wee! You kids sure got yourselves some firepower don'tcha!" The last rays of sunlight reflect off the blonde soldier's red-lensed sunglasses. "Lieutenant James Temple reporting for doo-tay!" He feigns a salute and the two soldiers at his side step away while a third inside the helicopter starts winding down the engine. "Sorry for the flash entrance but I heard you kids needed a bird. Been holding on to this one since Utah."

A blonde woman in black fatigues is quick to close in on Temple. "Do you have any fucking idea how much visibility you just raised?!" She barks at him, getting right in Temple's face. Temple's officers start to move forward, but he raises his cybernetic hand to back them off.

"Ma'am," Temple says with a raise of his brows over the frames of his sunglasses, "there ain't nobody around for miles." He affects that Texas swagger, as much a lie as his name is. "Call came in, fire-front is clear. Insertion team moved. I've got orders from up high." He motions with his raised hand to paperwork tucked into his body armor. "If you wanna search me for it."

The blonde snatches the papers from Temple, only glancing at them. "You should've radioed ahead."

Temple clicks his tongue and shakes his head. "Too risky with them Slice motherfuckers. Never know when one's listening to the AM/FM y'know?" Temple tilts his head to the side. "They are unpredictable, ain't that right?"

The blonde woman tenses, recognizing that she's been made. Not just for her rank and position but who she was within the structures of Humanis First. Her eyes cast to the side, hearing Aubree and Percy approaching. "Temple?" Percy says in disbelief on approach. "Jesus Christ I thought you died in fucking Manhattan."

Temple lowers his hands, smiling. He finally brings his cigarette back up to his lips. "No sir-ee. Just been keeping a low-down with administration. Saw which way the winds of change were blowing and decided not to trust the ol' Georgia Peach and her desert fortress. Good thing, too."

Percy steps up and throws his arms around Temple, drawing him in to a quick hug. "Look at that fucking thing," Percy says on stepping back, noticing Temple's arm.

"Long story," Temple says with a crooked smile. "You gonna introduce me to your C.O.?" He motions with his cigarette to the blonde who was starting to turn away, but Aubree is quick to speak up.

"That's Commander Tanner." Aubree says firmly, and the blonde hides her grimace as she looks back at Temple.

"Commander Samantha Tanner."


Forty Years Earlier

Twenty Miles North of Manhattan

August 16th

A black Mercedes winds down a stretch of suburban roads, far from the city lights. The roads are dark and there are few other vehicles on them.

"…I don't get it." Alphonse admits after several long moments of silence, glancing over to look at Marcus in the driver's seat. "How does all that fucking chaos benefit anyone?"

Marcus smiles, briefly glancing in the rear view mirror. "In the forties, the OSS—predecessor of today's modern spy agencies—developed a playbook for how to destabilize Axis nations. The intention was to build a system where people who weren't even read in to the conflict could become agents. Social engineering back before that term was defined." He snubs out his cigarette in the ash tray while talking. "Flash-forward, and we've found ways to use it to topple nations and insert ourselves into the wake of that kind of collapse. South America, Korea, you know, wherever."

Alphonse looks away from Marcus, to the road extending past the headlights into darkness. "I get the structure I just… I don't understand the purpose."

"You asked me if I had an alternative to the Company. I do." Marcus drums two fingers on the steering wheel. "The Company wants to operate discreetly, from the shadows. Forever. And they're doing a good job of it, they've practically lobotomized the US government and now they're moving into the UK and Japan. Soon there'll be a little, unobtrusive paper company in every country, keeping tabs on folks like me and you." Marcus shrugs with one shoulder. "The way I see it… we could have it better."

"With you in charge?"

"No," Marcus laughs. "God, no. I'm not a leader, I'm an orchestrator. But there has to be a system in place for a leader to thrive. The world is chaotic, full of conflicting powers. Consolidation is the key everyone is missing. A shift of power requiring collapse and a rise from the ashes. We did it in Germany after the war, carved that country up like a Thanksgiving turkey. Now, imagine that concept on a global scale, with real power behind it."

Alphonse looks down at his lap, fighting a conflicting sensation of shame and intrigue. "So you find all the bad actors, and rather than quietly prune them…"

"I let them do the work for me." Marcus says with a lopsided smile. "And while they're active, they execute useful operations. But eventually, when the plan is laid bare, then comes the hard part. The messy part before the end. Like childbirth, you know? It's bloody, it's painful, but something miraculous is born from it."

Once more Alphonse looks to the road vanishing into the darkness ahead. "War."

"War guided by something no army in the world has ever had." Marcus interjects. "Prognostication. The group I want to put you with, this fringe religious cult of Specials? Their leaders are future-seers. Gifted. They dodged a Company kill squad with my help, and I think they could be the key to this. Them, and conscientious objectors like yourself, who can build something real with their power and influence. Build inroads. Set the stage for the great equalizer." Marcus agrees. "But not just any war…" He shakes his head.

"But a war to end all wars."

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