Forward The Institute

Participants:

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Scene Title Forward the Institute
Synopsis Remembering where it all began, two old friends discover where it will end.
Date November 19, 2010

«Core temperature is stable at minus thirty-four Celsius.»

Frost bristles from the walls and ceiling, feathery white ice that has grown from frozen condensation on metal at a temperature well below zero. Standing in the vaulted, cavernous room beneath humming pipes crusted over from the cold, two men watch a pair of tall metal doors bordered by lines of black and yellow hatch marks, a warning to stand clear.

«CTC chamber sealed. Energy levels are normal.»

Yellow lights flash beside the door as the voice echoes through the chamber. Standing in observation of the doors, both men are bundled from head to toe in heavy arctic survival clothing. Their fur-trimmed hoods shroud their heads, thickly layered gloves protect their hands, and their breath escapes as exhalations of steam. Neither of them can manage words, and while they aren't expecting miracles here today there is a measure of hope involved. The two ideas not mutually exclusive.

«Engaging laser rings.»

Behind those steel doors, a mighty storm brews. A whirring of mechanical parts thrumming like the slow pass of helicopter blades overhead, building in tempo in a steadily accelerating rhythm. Lights flicker in the frosted-over chamber, and from his point of observation in the middle of the room, Doctor Simon Broome stares wide-eyed at those doors, as if he could see through them into whatever mystery was taking place beyond them. The mind's eye is a magical thing, full of wonder, imagination can sometimes parallel reality.

«Laser rings at full oscillation. Evacuating air.»

A pressurized hiss explodes beyond the steel doors, a rush of air being sucked out of a colossal space. At Doctor Broome's side, Richard Cardinal turns his borrowed visage towards his old friend, brows furrowed and unfamiliar eyes considering Simon's pitch black stare. "It's hard not to feel a sense of deja vu," Cardinal admits with a steady voice, raised over the noise of the machinery operating in the other room. Simon's response is a slowly raised brow, this isn't familiar for him.

«Laser speed normalized in vacuum, oscillation at maximum. Increasing power output to fifty percent.»

As the lights in the frozen facility flicker further, Simon's brows furrow. But Cardinal's smile only grows in Simon's uncertainty, and by the time the man having stolen Tyler Case's face looks back to the doors, listening to the progress of the experiment crackling over the radios his eyes have gone distant. "Can you believe how far we've come, Simon?" It's a rhetorical question. "Fifty years, next year…" he breathily espouses the length of time of their collaboration as the lights gutter rapidly overhead.

«Laser intensity at fifty percent and holding.»

"We're so close…"


49 Years Earlier…

Costa Verde, California

April 8th, 1962


No one came.

Sunlight spills through the tall, curtained windows of the funeral parlor. Standing beside a closed coffin, a man in sleek black rests his hand on the polished white surface, his palm brushing slowly left to right across his own reflection. Silence hangs in the parlor, rows of folding chairs left empty behind him. No one came, and this isn't entirely a surprise.

Breathing in deeply before exhaling the breath as a shuddering sigh, Simon Broome looks at his reflection with worry. As his fingers curl towards his palm, nails soon bite into soft flesh and jaw muscles tense in a grimace. Swallowing tightly, Simon looks away, eyes falling shut and brows tensely furrowed as he turns to step away from the coffin, only to grind to a halt in mid-stride, finding himself not as alone as he once imagined.

"I'm… sorry for your loss." The stranger lingers in the threshold, halfway between one room and another. His suit is well cut, a light tan shade with undershirt crisp and white, tie a stark black against it all. He's old— older than Simon is by at least a decade, probably more. His hair, short as it is, has clearly gone gray all over, save for irregular dark patches at the top. Wrinkles crease his face like worn leather, dark circles hang around tired eyes muted by the milky coloration of partial cataracts.

Simon's anxiety is palpable, a sense of nervousness that runs like a tremor through him. Blinking back confusion, the younger man swallows down his first words, only managing the next once the stranger makes his advance into the room. "Were…" No, that's not the right beginning. "How did you know my mother?"

"I didn't," the stranger admits on his way in, one hand tucked into the pockets of his slacks. "I'm… actually here for you, Simon. But I am sorry, sorry for your loss… and I'm sorry that I couldn't stop what happened in time." Those words cause Simon's heart to skip a beat in his chest, jaw stiffening as he watches the stranger offer out his hand, to introduce himself. To make the shift from stranger to what will, eventually, be friendship.

"My name is Richard Cardinal, and I'm here to change your future." Glassy, cataract clouded eyes stare out at Simon's darker, clearer ones. He doesn't take the offered hand, instead takes on a look of indignation and frustration, his lips sagging down into a frown, brows furrowing and nose rankling as if he smelled something terrible.

Simon's hand eventually does raise, but not to meet Cardinal's; rather, it is to point to the doorway behind him. "I do not know you, Mister Cardinal, and I would suggest that you kindly leave." Brown eyes stare a challenge at Richard, deep pits of void that seem to — for a moment — draw Richard into them. "Now."

A hand offered out soon changes posture, and Richard is showing his palms in the universal sign of meaning no harm. "Simon, calm down… I'm a friend, or— I can be. I know what happened to your mother, I know you didn't mean for it to, and I know you're horrified that this might be related to what your father Otto did in Germany during the— "

"That man was not my father!" Simon's voice rings off of the chapel walls, jaw clenched and one hand swung out wildly at his side. "I am no more his son than I am a Nazi." The words are growled out, gravelly and coarse. Simon's temper flares as he strides challengingly towards Cardinal, several inches taller and many years younger. "Leave."

As Simon approaches, Cardinal's brows furrow and clouded eyes narrow. "What are you going to do if I don't?" It's a gamble, like much of all of this to Cardinal, but if Simon Broome kills him here and now is a risk he has to take in order to break through to him. Simon's response is quickly reaching up with strong hands, grasping Richard by the lapels of his suit and forcing him backwards towards the chapel door.

Right up until the moment that Simon is holding naught by wisps of smoke between his fingers.

Richard's body discorporates into living shadow that slips like smoke between Simon's grasping hands. It pools like ink over his body, slides across the floor between Simon's legs and has him springing backwards as if it were fire, eyes wide and heart pounding in his chest. As Richard slowly rises from the pool of shadow as if ascending from some impossibly murky depths, he keeps one brow raised in challenge.

"Your father was a madman," Cardinal intones, "but he wasn't insane."

Stricken with disbelief, Simon loses his footing as he stumbles backwards over his own two feet, collapsing to the floor on his backside, one hand down on the carpet to support his weight and keep him in a seated position, the other hand held out in warding fashion, as if trying to banish some evil spirit.

"What— " is rasped out from between Simon's lips in hoarse whisper, "what are you?"

"Your father called them the √úbermensch— Supermen." Cardinal scoffs at the notion. "In my time, they're known as the Evolved." Slowly, Richard's approach brings him back towards Simon, and once again a hand is offered out in friendship, this time down to a man who has fallen not only literally, but figuratively as well. Fallen from the path that destiny would see him on, fallen into the shadow of doubt. "I'm just like you."

It feels like an eternity that Simon is there, staring up at Cardinal's offered hand. Broome can feel his heart pounding in his chest, not out of anger or rage, now, but out of excitement and fascination. Out of a primal sense of curiosity that is the backbone of human nature, parallel with the desire to destroy what is discovered.

When he does finally take Cardinal's patiently offered hand, the old man shows visible strain to help Simon to his feet, one extra hand clasped at the younger man's elbow once he's on his feet. "Simon, you and I have a great deal to talk about. Suffice to say, where I come from you and I have already met. We're old friends, and I mourned your passing. I've come back… back to change things, set things right."

The notions bounce off of Simon Broome's suspension of disbelief like insects off of a car's windshield. As he grips Cardinal's hand, he's trying to listen, trying to fathom all the things he just bore witness to. "I know that you feel responsible for your mother's death, but I can tell you Simon that what happened was an accident. You're special, Simon, more than you could ever realize just yet. I'm… i'm here because I want to save you, because I want to prove to you that I am your friend… and because…"

Cardinal's lips creep up into a hesitant smile.

"Because you and I are going to save the world."


49 Years Later…

Mount Natazhat, Alaska

November 19, 2010


«Increasing power output to seventy-five percent.»

"What was it you told me about that day, Richard, that the fiction of Isaac Asimov could one day be proven a reality?" Simon's weathered face sags like worn leather, his dark eyes wearily tired as he considers the doors ahead of him. "Time travel, robotics, psychohistory…" Turning to regard Cardinal at his side, Simon views the now younger men through the fringe of his fur-trimmed hood.

«Power output stable, continuing to maximum output.»

Cardinal is silent, at least initially, as the lights overhead flicker rapidly once more, browning out for a bare moment against the strain of the electrical grid. "Nakamura, Steel, Ray…" is Cardinal's response to the notions of each future science, returning the look to Simon with a smile. "What modern science cannot provide, the innovation of our own kind can. Allowing us to push beyond the limitations of our own technological advancement to that of future era, with proper guidance."

«Power levels at one hundred percent and holding!»

Richard's borrowed eyes flick back to those steel doors, lips parted in eager anticipation. "Imagine the possibilities, Simon, of being able to send electronic communications backwards through time, an emergency broadcast system foretelling each and every cataclysmic event that could halt the progress of humanity. To know with absolute certainty when to duck our heads, and rise the survivors…"

«Electrical grid is fluctuating, Doctor Pine is holding stable, I think— wait his vitals are spiking.»

Simon's expression shifts to one of worry, brows tensed as he watches the door. Cardinal, however, seems unsurprised by this turn of events. "I'm not saying that the Vanguard had the right idea," he clarifies on turning to look to the doors as well as an alarm klaxon begins to croak noisily through the facility. "But every visionary is seen as a madman in their time…" his chin tilts up, regarding the door as if in challenge. "Noah didn't try to stop the flood."

«Critical power failure, Doctor Pine's vitals have flatlined!»

Simon's back stiffens, his lips part and brows raise slowly. Drawing in a steady breath, he furrows his brows, watching with nervous anxiety the experiment spiral out of control while Richard continues to discuss his plans like a daydreaming soothsayer. "Noah built an ark, because God told him to."

«Termination protocol in effect! I need a medical team in here immediately!»

There's a loud grinding noise as ice sloughs off of the doors as they begin to move. A whirring groan of hydraulics and gears as the two massive steel plates begin to part, revealing an intermittently lit chamber of flickering red beams of laser light illuminated through drifting waves of freezing fog. Hustling past Cardinal and Broome, white-clad medical personnel in arctic survival gear charge up the concrete ramp towards the door, electricity sparking inside the chamber they approach.

"Imagine if we could be the voice of God, calling back to Noah through time." Cardinal's brows raise slowly. "We could be the road sign ahead, warning of approaching danger. What, then," Cardinal begins as he turns from the spectacle ahead to Simon, "would differ us from God himself? The ability to create life was taken by science, and all the powers attributed to the divine beings, save for the benevolent guidance of his children."

Simon's throat tightens as he watches through the dim lighting, the medical team withdrawing a figure from in the room, the sound of cables being disconnected, electrical discharge and smoke issuing out through the parted doors. Two more medical members rush into the room carrying a backboard underarm.

Both men are silent as someone is loaded on to the backboard, laid out on their side by necessity and hauled out of the chamber. By the time he enters the light of the larger room where Simon and Cardinal wait, the man the medical team is trying to rescue is clearly dead. His body is charred black, flesh crisped and carbonized to bone. Arcs of electricity still snap and pop over his body as he's moved, mostly along a series of thin metallic rods with connection plugs on the end that bristle outward from his spine like hedgehog quills.

Simon's chest grows tight, his heart rises up into his throat, and as he turns to look back at Cardinal his answer on what differs them from God is a simple one, "Infinite wisdom."

Touche is written across Cardinal's face as he watches the still-smoking corpse of Doctor Pine being evacuated from the CTC chamber and through the frozen corridor. He is silent, now, on the topic of Gods and men and the line dividing them. Instead, when he looks back to his old friend, Richard's head slowly shakes in unfortunate disappointment.

"I was right," Cardinal insists in a hushed tone of voice, and Simon looks away to the smoke-filled chamber beyond the doors.

"We're going to need Elle Bishop."


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