Go Ask Alice


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Scene Title Go Ask Alice
Synopsis And if you go chasing rabbits, and you know you're going to fall
Date November 25, 2014

It’s hard to imagine how it wound up like this.

Colorado is a beautiful state, especially when viewed from the air. Rambling hills of green move like waveforms across the earth, dotted with towns and cities that dare not reach as high into the sky as those in New York. But to the west, the waves themselves dare grasp higher, with mountains lifting up into jagged knives that jut threateningly at the sky. From her seat, Cassandra Baumann has a birds-eye view of Boulder, Colorado disappearing behind her, giving way to steep ridges and foothills snaked with hiking trails and pine forests, moving toward the reaching grasp of the Colorado Rockies.

Unable to hear anything over the roar of helicopter rotors, Cassandra’s ears are protected from the noise by a pair of enormous headphones, through which she can speak with the chopper’s pilot. To think that yesterday she was in New York, attending college and preparing for winter break, and now after a flight halfway across the country, she is being whisked over the Rockies in a private helicopter. She’d always been told Pinehearst would come calling for her one day.

She just never expected it would be so soon.

«We’re almost there. Keep looking out your right, you’ll see it once we clear the peak.»

The snow-dusted peak of a brown and barren mountain passes close enough to the right side of the helicopter that Cassandra feels like she could reach out and touch it. Soon after, as her eyes follow the western slope of the mountain face, an otherworldly sight comes into view. Five domes of hexagonal tiles, linked together like an enormous flower, just up from the base of the mountain beside a mirror-still lake. The domes are lit from within with a warm amber light, otherwise opaque to what could be contained within.

«Coming in for a landing.»

The helicopter slows its approach, descending toward a concrete landing pad outside of the domes. They are enormous, seemingly growing larger as she comes in for the landing. The central dome is the smallest, but the outer ones each have sixty, perhaps seventy foot high peaks. The domes are connected by cylindrical tunnels, almost like an undersea facility from a science-fiction novel, except that it is built at the base of a mountain.

Once the helicopter settles on the pad, Cassandra can see three people approaching along a dusty road between the helipad and the domes, shielding their eyes from the dust the helicopter kicks up. One of the men, in a sleek black suit, slides the helicopter door open and offers a hand out to Cassandra both in greeting, and to safely escort her out.

Geopoint Scientific Enclosure

Outside Boulder, Colorado

November 25, 2014

As the man in the suit helps Cassandra out of the helicopter, she can see dark-haired woman in a blue blazer and skirt standing far behind him with one hand shielding her eyes from the dust, a security officer in black garb and body armor standing just behind her, carefully holding an assault rifle at his chest, barrel angled down toward the ground.

Welcome to Geopoint!” he shouts over the roar of the helicopter.

Winter break was an anticipated time for just about every person - student, faculty, and staff - at the university. With no students, the staff could get things done, catch up on work, or just relax, and the faculty, with no students to teach, could just enjoy the break between semesters. Cassie’s plans were to remain in New York for the season, heading down to Louisiana a little before Christmas to spend time with her family before heading back up for the New Year’s celebration. Spending time with her friends overlooking the harbor while fireworks lit up the night sky in celebration of the New Year was a cherished tradition she had established with Elisabeth and Rory.

Watching a toddler react to giant explosions in the sky was a thing that she caught on video with her phone. Something to watch to brighten her day.

On her arrival at the Pinehearst main offices yesterday, Cassie was taken to a meeting room, handed an itinerary for a flight leaving later that evening and bundled into a chauffeured car to her apartment to pack her things before being whisked away to the airport.

It was all very exciting.

Cassie barely had time to send a couple of emails on the trip to the airport - off on a business trip, back as soon as I can be - with no real indication on where she was going before her electronics were turned off during the taxi and takeoff. Now, the next day, Cassie finds herself perched inside a gigantic helicopter, bundled up in a thick coat with too-large headphones protecting her ears from the rhythmic thumping of the rotors overhead, leaning to look out of the plexiglass window as the domes grow larger and larger as the helicopter descends, landing with the barest of thumps on the concrete pad, the whine of the engines slowing as she hangs her headphones on their little peg, puts on her sunglasses, and steps out into the maelstrom when the door opens.

Thank you!” She takes the offered hand and steps out, shouldering her messenger bag, the other hand going up to clamp her hat down on her head in an effort to keep the rotor’s wash from sending it tumbling into the distance or tangling her hair in an impossible snarl. “Let’s try to get somewhere we can talk properly, without yelling!” She grins at the man before starting to move away from the helicopter’s turbulence. Cassie straightens once the sound of the blades whirling overhead is behind her,the young woman turning to watch the helicopter for a brief second before turning to gaze at the domes looming in the distance, like a giant’s discarded toys. She then jumps, realizing that she’s being left behind and joggins to catch up, slowing to match her pace with the escort.

The man with the assault rifle is looked at from behind her sunglasses. The type of gun she has no idea. Big and black and ominous-looking, certainly, and perhaps something she’s seen in a movie before. Nothing she’ll need to worry about, though. Right?

“Hello.” Cassandra says when they reach the woman and her guard. “I’m Cassie Baumann, but I’m sure you’re already aware of that.” She gives the pair a brilliant smile.

“Erica Kravid,” the woman just outside of the roar of the helicopter introduces, reaching out to shake Cassandra’s hand. The escort slips behind Cassandra, quiet and observant to their surroundings, while the guard behind Kravid begins to head back toward the airlock opening of the facility. “I’ve read your profile, and I’m eager to see how you can help us with our project, Ms. Baumann.”

Kravid motions for Cassandra to walk with her, and the two, flanked by security, begin the approach to the facility entrance. “I’m sorry about all of the cloak and dagger pomp surrounding this placement,” she explains with a raise of one brow and a quick glance to Cassandra, “but in light of recent terrorist attacks against Pinehearst holdings, we’ve had to move some of our more sensitive operations underground.” A faint smile creeps at one corner of Kravid’s mouth. “Literally, in this case.”

As they draw near to the airlock-like entrance of the nearest dome, the lead security detail approaches an exterior keypad and enters in a numeric code, eliciting a grinding of metal as the sliding doors part to reveal a quarantine-like chamber beyond that he quickly hustles into ahead of Cassandra, Kravid, and the rear security escort. “Geopoint,” Kravid explains with a motion to the domes, “is an extraterrestrial habitat experiment Pinehearst has been working on for several years. It’s early-stages work to construct self-sustainable habitats necessary for the exploration of and colonization of other worlds.” As they enter the airlock, Kravid turns to look back at Cassandra.

“But we run a covert research facility below this place,” is Kravid’s way of clarifying Cassandra’s position. “We don’t need your help getting to the stars, but for something that’s a bit more of a lateral move, scientifically-speaking.”

Cassie’s grip is firm through the gloves - a good handshake was a skill learned through many, many different meetings, interviews, and conferences that led up to this. “Anything I can do to help, I will.” she says, truthfully. “I wasn’t very familiar with the work that was going on in the destroyed labs - just office gossip, really - but it’ll be interesting to learn what is going on out here.” She falls into pace alongside Erica, standing just behind her right shoulder, her backpack slung over both shoulders, stocked with whatever she thought she might need for this trip - and her textbooks - if she would ever have a chance to study. As they draw nearer, the domes loom overhead, thick lexan panels bolted together, a faint glow coming from within like a glowing coal, the airlock gaping like a cavern’s mouth.

After stepping inside, Cassie makes her way through to the airlock, standing to the side of the entrance, letting her observe as the door starts to swing closed. “The pamphlets in the lobby of the Pinehearst Building, bragging about ‘Going to the Stars!’ didn’t mention anything covert with Geopoint. I think it was just referred to as the Colorado high altitude research base…like you said. Still…” She shrugs. “It would defeat the purpose of being covert if you went and advertised it, wouldn’t it?”

After the door is closed, she looks the woman and her two escorts over, removing her gloves carefully and tucking them into the pockets of her jacket. “I’ll do my best, Ms. Kravid. You’ve read my dossier, so you know what I can do.”

The airlock door shuts the four in the room, hermetically sealing before it begins swapping out the exterior oxygen for that of the interior dome. Kravid paces the floor, her hair toussling from the sudden change in air pressure and breeze blowing through the chamber. “On November 8th, 2011 there was a quantum-level phenomenon that swept through parts of the United States. If you’re familiar with the concepts of string theory, you’ll see where this is going.” Kravid looks to the meter, showing 50% oxygen displacement. “Half of a MBTA bus came through a rift in dimensions, all passengers dead from the transition. Over the last few years, Pinehearst has been researching this event and what it means for the future of human civilization.”

When the meter reaches 100%, the secondary doors open up, revealing a windswept desert landscape under a high dome of hexagonal tiles. A rocky path winds through the desert between the shifting dunes, and Kravid begins to lead the way. “I know this sound like the realm of science fiction, but…” she glances back at the postcognitive, “we live in a science fiction universe.” Once all four have exited the airlock chamber, the doors close behind them automatically.

“Pinehearst is at the forefront of this research, working to develop a means to protect our home from… what we’ve come to believe are interdimensional incursions.” Kravid pauses on the path, looking at Cassandra again. “The precursor to an invasion from another Earth, not wholly dissimilar from our own… but ideologically opposed.”

Cassie’s brow wrinkles at the assertion of a bus - or half of one, really - made a transition from one dimension to another, and very nearly voices a statement of disbelief before Kravid mentions the whole ‘living in a science fiction universe’ thing. It’s really hard to argue the point when Cassie herself is a product of that science fiction world. She unzips her jacket as the warmer air from the inside of the dome starts to fill the airlock, her hair whirling around almost as much as it did from the rotor wash from the helicopter.

“I’m not really familiar with String theory on more than a basic level. Particles are made up of one dimensional objects called strings that interact with each other across space, basically. Nothing really scientifically proven other than an interesting thought….” She trails off, Cassie’s eyes widening as a dessicated wasteland of dunes appears beneath the dome. She spares Kravid a glance as she follows along behind, trying to figure out why here, of all places, a desert is the thing to do? There has to be some reason for it. That doesn’t matter now…the heart of the matter is coming into focus.

“So…wait.” Cassie stops when Kravid stops. “I don’t mean to sound ignorant, but I tend to ask a lot of questions when I’m trying to wrap my head around things. How is half an MBTA bus filled with people from another dimension a precursor to an invasion? Was it a failed experiment to see if they could send people across, or people in the wrong place at the wrong time and, whoops, they’re now here? Was that just a confirmation for us that such a thing is possible? And have there been more incursions besides the bus that you know of?” She straightens a little. “Or is that what I’m here for? To find that out?”

“The invasion already started,” is Kravid’s grim response. “In 2012 an unknown number of trespassers from another reality slipped through into our world. We had developed a device to detect new incursions following what we saw in 2011. Within a week of the satellite’s deployment, we received a positive ping.” As she talks, Kravid leads Cassandra through the winding path between dunes. “Someone on our side was waiting for them and was able to whisk them away. That rooftop we had you investigate? That was their arrival point.”

Kravid looks at the security detail, briefly, then back to Cassandra as she walks. “We've since determined that the means by which they travel created a disruption in the impressions you sense in objects and places. Energetic particles that scramble your readings. These interlopers have already spread out, hiding among our own people. Senior management fears that they'll attempt to replace their alternates.”

Kravid furrows her brows, looking troubled. “We have confirmation that they are in league with Kaito Nakamura and his terrorist son Hiro, and may have been responsible for the death of Arthur Petrelli in their own world. It sounds like a blood vendetta.” Finally, they reach the other side of the desert dome and come to another airlock. The lead security escort goes about opening that one.

“I know this is a lot to digest,” Kravid indicates with a crease of her brows. “It was hard for me to understand too.”

The door in the distance rises into view, Cassandra nodding as Kravid tells her tale. “It’s lucky that the satellite was online when they arrived. Does it give any sort of idea of how many came through on the incursion, or is it just a ping when one happens, no matter the size?” she fully realizes that Kravid may not know or may not be able to give this answer, but she’s wondering out how precise the detection is.

“I still remember that moment on the rooftop. That stuff I was given to… I don’t know…extend my range and power, as it were, made my teeth itch and felt like my head expand to five times what it was.” It wasn’t pleasant, to say the least. “It was like drinking from a firehose of the past, all at once, crashing into me.” Cassandra rubs her arms as they walk, remembering the sensation. “I hope that you’re not going to ask me to use that substance again. I think once is plenty to get the idea that I don’t like it.”

“A blood vendetta…” Cassandra frowns as the guard inputs the code to open the secondary airlock. “How can they hate Arthur so much that they’d go to an alternate timeline to kill him?” She gives a shake of her head and waves her hand. “Nevermind…” She looks to Kravid, then back over the wasteland behind them. “It is a lot to take in, but my job is to do the job you give me and let the people that need the information do what they need to do.” She inclines her head toward the door that’s just now opening. “I guess what you’ve got me here to investigate is in there, somewhere? And when can I know what I’m going to work on?”

She sounds anxious to find out why she was brought to a desert in the middle of a Colorado mountain range.

As the security team brings Cassandra and Kravid through another airlock, Kravid answers the understandable deluge of questions to the best of her ability. “We don’t know how many of them came through, but estimates are in the dozens. We may never know the full extent of the damage they’ve already done, but we’re hoping to have a second satellite online within a few years that can help pinpoint their numbers and locations.”

The doors shut behind them, and the air-exchange process begins again. “The drug you were given,” Kravid recalls mention of that, “is amphodynamine. Colloquially known as Amp. It’s a recently-developed pharmaceutical augmentation drug, capable of boosting an Evolved person’s ability by targeting…” she dithers, waving a hand in the air. “It makes you more powerful, though in large doses over long periods of time it can have addictive properties. Though I suppose power itself is addicting, isn’t it?”

When the airlock cycle is complete, the inner doors open to reveal a command center. Stairs lead up to a ring platform with computer consoles monitoring each of the multiple bio-domes while a security team stands watch at an elevator. “As for what you’re working on…” Kravid raises her brows and looks at Cassandra, walking through the security room to the elevator, “we’ve been working tirelessly for several years on this.”

Kravid pauses at the door and turns, watching Cassandra for a moment. “Back in 2011 I was the chief researcher at a facility on Mount Natazhat in Alaska. There, we were researching quantum entanglement and the properties of an old Company archived project called LookingGlass, a technological machine meant to serve as a window into other periods of time. Imagine, being able to see the great pyramids built, or watch the signing of the Declaration of Independence.”

“That was our ideal, but things went… awry.” Looking to the elevator, Kravid furrows her brows. “The facility was destroyed in a catastrophic event, the one that sent the bus from one dimension to another. We believe there may have been a parallel disaster on another world’s Mount Natazhat that rippled into our own. The entire facility was lost, everyone who worked there with it…” Kravid’s brows furrow, something going unsaid as she presses the call button for the elevator.

“Since then, we’ve been refining the machine, attempting to change its original purpose from a window into a door.” Kravid turns, arms crossed over her chest, and regards Cassandra with a thoughtful look. “Our hangup is that we’ve faced two setbacks. Firstly, the original creator of the LookingGlass that the Company kept records on, died in 1982. Second, the only other individuals who knew how the device was constructed died in the explosion at Pinehearst Tower.” The elevator chimes, and the doors slowly swing open.

Kravid steps in, toward the back of the elevator. This time, no security detail follows them. “Your ability allows you to glean information off of objects, and we have some theories on how that works. My interest in you, here, is to help us complete this machine so that we can better understand the nature of worlds beyond our own. So that we can build a door to them, and truly know whether or not they possess an extant threat to our own.”

“What I’m asking of you,” Kravid notes with a faint smile, “is to help us build this generation’s lunar lander, so that we can make history.”

As they walk, Cassandra contemplates the answers that are given, filing them away for later digestion. Dozens of people came through with Liz - she knows of three of them, which means many, many more might have come through as well And amphodynamine boosts abilities and is addicting in large doses - either physically or psychologically due to the allure of power. Something like Amp, she’s a little afraid of. She could see herself needing to have that rush of power - being able to see that much further and faster and intensely. Probably best to leave that bear unpoked.

As the door closes behind them and the air cycles again, Cassie looks a little surprised. Two separate airlocks? Cassie looks up at the vents as the air starts to exchange again, keeping whatever’s inside separate from the outside, which itself is separated from the outside by thick geodesic domes. “This is impressive, the security and quarantine you have for this place…necessary too, I guess.” It makes her wonder what they’re trying to keep in, or away, from this place.

Hesitantly, the younger woman steps out into the control room. It reminds her of the schoolbook pictures of Mission Control from NASA or NORAD from the old movie War Games. Banks of screens, each displaying their own important data points, manned by technicians dutifully monitoring what may be going wrong, or right, in their area of expertise. She steps out into the little observation platform just outside of the airlock and looks over what she can see, turning when Kravid starts her explanation of what Looking Glass was for. She bobs her head in assent. “I can imagine what it is like - probably better than most.” The fact that she’s talking about such things openly here leads her to believe that she can talk openly about it, too.

Cassie follows around the outer ring to the elevator, stepping inside once the doors open noiselessly, turning to face the entrance with her back to the wall. “That’s terrible…all those people lost, all that work destroyed….” And Kravid made it out to try again, surviving the destruction of a facility. “Let’s see if I can help you get it all back on track.”

Now they’re getting to the meat of the matter - what she’s going to be doing. With the loss of the original creator in the 1980’s, things might be a little more difficult. Kravid can almost see the wheels turning in Cassie’s head as the brown-haired woman gets a thoughtful expression, tapping her right fingertip against pursed lips. “As long as you have something she worked on - notes, equipment…even a lab coat or something, I should be able to get some kind of impression from it. The same with the lab at Pinehearst tower. My control has gotten a lot better thanks to the training you guys have been putting me through.”

Good enough to pause a scene and take down notes from exposed pages good.

The intent of the experiment makes the whole thing sound benign. It’s not - she knows that much, but she doesn’t outwardly show it. “So we’ll just watch them and then…visit, to determine their intent. See what truth we can learn.” It all sounds very reasonable, the elevator humming as they descend through multiple levels of the complex. “I just hope they’re as enlightened as we are in the manner of the evolved.” Then, something hits her and she looks over. “Will I be working exclusively here? In Colorado? Or will I be going back and forth from here to New York? I have classes, a lease, and a life in the city.”

She’d like to keep up with that.

“Due to the classified nature of this assignment,” Kravid notes as the elevator slows to a halt, “I’ll need you here indefinitely. I’ve arranged for a transfer of your classes to the University of Colorado, you should have an email waiting for you with the specifics. Likewise, I’ve put together a private residence for you in the city center. You’ll be living in the city and commuting daily while we work to get this project on schedule.”

As the elevator doors slide open, nothing is said of the real plan once the device is able to be utilized. Kravid sidesteps all discussion of it, reaching up to slowly scratch at a scar behind her right ear, then adjusts her stud earring and looks to Cassandra. “We’ll be monitoring your phone calls, emails, you understand. Given everything that’s happening, we can’t be too careful. If the terrorists get wind of your involvement, you and your family could become a target.”

Stepping out into the concrete-walled hall, Erica looks back to Cassandra and motions for her to follow, ignoring four other branching corridors to make for one directly ahead of the elevator doors. “To that point, I’ve assigned a security detail for your parents in Louisiana, round the clock. Mr. Petrelli isn’t interested in you or your loved ones suffering any splashback from the current uptick in violence.”

As she walks down the hall with Cassandra, they pass several closed doors marked with tantalizing identification plaques: Examination Room, Cold Storage, Virology. Given that everything Kravid was talking about sounded like mechanical science, it’s surprising to see organic science located side-by-side. “As for the project itself, very little that belonged to the original brainchild of the Looking Glass still exists. The Company redacted — aggressively — her entire existence. That said, her protege Richard Schwenkman left a much larger footprint. We have fragments of the original gate from the Tower lab as well, which should help move things along nicely.”

It wasn’t an expected thing, at all, to be plucked out of New York and taken to the wilderness of Colorado, then told that she’d be working from here. Add in the monitoring of her communications and her parents being watched by a security team, and it starts getting a little freaky. She’s not showing it, though. She’s doing rather well to keep her cool, even as the elevator slows and the pair start down the hall with the various labelled doors, each with its own tantalizing label, she starts to speak. “Sure, that’s fine. As soon as I can, I’d like to let some friends know I’m out west working so they won’t worried that i’ve gotten kidnapped or something. And if I can get back to New York, I’d like a chance to pack my apartment up and grab a few things.” She offers up that disarming grin of hers.

Not much still existing from the original person will make it more difficult, but with Richard Schwenkman’s things, it should be enough to at least get her started. “Well, all I can do is start and see what comes out of it. A timeline of when things actually happened would help immensely, since having a date to look for is much easier than sifting through everything that happened relating to an object.” She pauses, lingering in front of the Virology door. “I feel I should state this for the record. It’s….it’s not going to be a fast process. At all. Everything I see will have to be recorded by hand since my ability doesn’t work on camera or recording device, and even then, we’ll have to transcribe and collate volumes of data. It’s like starting on chapter twelve of a thirteen chapter book and working backwards to see what the author was thinking while writing it. I’ll need a note taker or two, to help get all that we can get.”

“Whatever you need,” Kravid states as she moves down the hall, stopping at a reinforced blast door guarded by two armed security personnel. Kravid places her hand on a digital palm reader that scans her palm print, unlocking the doors and starting the slow process of opening them. “You aren’t the only specialist we have working on this, but you are one of the best options we have. I’ll see that you get whatever you need, and in a couple of days we’ll escort you back to New York so you can pick up a few things to make your stay here more comfortable. I’ll be sure you have a security detail while traveling, too.”

As the doors open, an enormous chevron-shaped chamber is revealed to Cassandra. Heat-resistant plating is mounted on the wall in scaled black tiling. Every surface feels slightly reflective, and a team of technicians in environmentally-sealed suits are welding a gigantic triangular frame together on a platform by the back wall. Exposed cables and conduits sprawl across the floor, and technicians stand at portable banks of computers.

“Welcome to the most ambitious scientific project in the last generation, Cassandra.” Kravid stands with her back to the door, chin tilted up and brows furrowed.

“Welcome to Project LookingGlass.”

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