Scene Title ICE-NINE, Part I
Synopsis The end is coming.
Date September 29, 2020

An electric buzz emits from a box on a concrete wall and all the lights mounted in the ceiling flicker.

The box stops buzzing, the lights go back to normal and the moths circling around them return.

A scuffed metal door with a faded coat of red paint clicks with the disengagement of an automatic lock. It opens a moment after, and a man in a dark suit slowly enters from a lightless corridor.

Agent Gates stares vacantly ahead, a rectangular badge of black metal clipped to the lapel of his suit reflects an oil-sheen of chromatic colors under the fluorescent lighting.

Gates closes the door behind himself, then pauses and looks at his shoulder. There’s a drop of moisture soaking into the fabric, and Gates looks up at the ceiling where a rivulet of water follows a hairline crack in the concrete, collecting into a droplet. He stands there, transfixed as the droplet grows larger, wobbles, and eventually falls and lands in precisely the same spot on his shoulder.

Only then does Gates step away from the door.

Geographic Region Redacted

Seotember 29th
7:01 pm

An unlit room is suddenly flooded with light with the touch of a single switch. The ten by ten concrete-walled room comes into sharp focus as rows of ceiling-mounted fluorescent lights come on row-by-row until barely a shadow is cast in the room. All that furnishes the space is a single gray fabric-covered armchair with a low back, Swedish in design, and a large console-style CRT television with a mantle clock sitting atop it on a lace doily. The clock has no hands on it, save for the second hand, which tracks around at a normal pace.

Agent Gates steps away from the shut door, with its water-streaked metal surface contrasting sharply with the sterile quality of the space. His footsteps echo across the concrete floor until he comes up beside the chair. Agent Gates looks from the chair to the television and back again, then slowly walks in a clockwise circle around the chair with his hand on the back. When he completes the revolution, he discovers that there was an end table beside the chair the whole time with a red rotary phone sitting atop it along with a boxy TV remote and a glass of scotch on a cocktail napkin. Gates smiles, then settles down comfortably in the chair.

Picking up the remote, which only has one button, Gates turns on the television to static. He then sets the remote down, picks up his drink and takes a sip from it, then glances sidelong at the napkin. Under his glass, framed in by the ring of condensation on the paper, is a phone number scrawled in smudged ballpoint: (516) 261-2342. Gates sets down his drink beside the napkin, then picks up the phone and dials the number one turn of the rotary dial at a time.

The line rings, and Gates turns his attention to the static on the television. "Gates here," he says into the receiver when someone on the other line picks up.

«Are you available for a quick case review?» A distorted voice on the other end of the line asks.

"Yes, I'm in my office," Gates says back with a quick glance to the television. "What do you have for me?"

The television pops from static to show a satellite image of the Asian continent and a spiral-shaped aurora forming over a time lapse. Gates sits up straight. "When was this?"

«Ten hours ago.»

As Gates continues to watch, the aurora grows in size until a black sphere forms at its center, is ringed by a corona of light, and then a massive flash of light burns the clouds away and disperses the aurora. Gates covers his mouth with one hand and falls back in his chair. Slowly he moves the hand across his cheek and up over his brow, then through his hair.

«We don't have an estimate on the damage yet. It's still an active incident. The flash of light had the energy of a 50 megaton nuclear explosion.»

"What…" Gates starts to say, but he's at a loss. "What are— what are we doing about it?" He continues to watch the television showing the time lapse, watching clouds spiral away from that region of Tibet. The spreading orange glow on the night side of Earth keeps Gates' eyes locked on the screen.

«We've reached out to the Chinese government. They haven't made any attempt at contact yet. We'll want agents on site to assess the situation, but we have to wait until things normalize.»

Gates blinks several times and then sputters, "Normalize?" He shifts an accusatory look at the phone. "How do we normalize after something like that?"

«Gates.» The voice on the other line firmly calls.

Agent Gates tenses, closes his eyes and takes a breath and then says, "What do you need me to do?"

«For now, stay ready. We need to continue to investigate this situation. Since Detroit the number of these kind of events have been escalating. Santa Fe, Oswego, Boulder City, Plumstead Township, Twin Falls.»

"You think this will precipitate more?" Gates asks, looking away from the television.

«We don't know what we don't know.»

"Right." Gates says, breathing in deeply through his nose. "I'll get on it."

«Consider this an Ice-Nine protocol,» the voice on the phone says. Gates' back tenses at the term, even if just for a moment of fearful vulnerability.

"I'll get right on it, sir." Gates replies.

«Thank you.» The voice on the other end of the line says as the phone goes dead. Gates stands from his chair, setting the receiver back down on the hook. He draws in a slow breath through his nose, then circles around the front of the chair and walks back to the metal door and grips the handle. He closes his eyes, feels a droplet of water hitting him on the shoulder. He turns, looks down to the spot of moisture soaking into the fabric and shuts the door.

There is a single word painted on the door, crisp lines of black on red. As much a description as a warning.


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