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Scene Title Oubliette
Synopsis n; a secret dungeon with access only through a trapdoor in its ceiling.
Date July 18th, 2021

It is still dark when a helicopter touches down on a desolate field twenty-seven miles west of the Safe Zone. The city skyline isn't even a smudge of light on the horizon and the smell of wildfire smoke still clings to the damp air this far west. As the unmarked helicopter touches down, a broad-shouldered man in a three-piece suit with a long, brown overcoat steps out, ducking reflexively under the roar of the rotors. Three masked men in full tactical gear step out behind him, fanning out to secure the landing site, their sightlines fixed on distant treelines and the lone, dirt road winding up to this field.

The man in the overcoat checks his watch and glances up to the road, spotting headlights coming through the treeline a moment later. A single old-model SUV from before the war rolls up the road, paint chipped and pockmarked with rusted bullet holes. The windows are chipped, but still tinted dark. As the vehicle comes to a stop, the man in the overcoat steps toward the vehicle, greeting Marcus Raith as he emerges from the driver's seat. Raith is immediately relieved when he sees who has come to greet him.

"Sorry for the short notice," Raith says, clapping the taller man on his steely bicep.

"It's what I'm here for, Sir. I'd like to request a SITREP." The dutiful man in the overcoat offers, escorting Marcus to the helicopter. The strike team that had emerged with him sets about placing an incendiary device inside the vehicle. The trio breaks away as the car explodes into a plume of seething white flames and a shower of sparks. Neither Marcus nor his new escort even so much as look back at the fireworks as they enter the helicopter and pull on headsets to talk over the engine noise.

None of the strike team re-enters the aircraft and instead disappear into the wilderness as the helicopter starts to take off.

«As of last week we entered Midnight Eclipse. We've still not identified the nature of the security breach, but suffice to say the OEI may be compromised. Until I can ascertain the situation I won't be returning to Manhattan.» Marcus explains, settling in to a bench seat across from the man in the overcoat while they chat over local, wired comms.

«And the Iraq situation?» The man in the overcoat asks. It's his highest priority at the moment.

«Mazdak is effectively annihilated. It's only going to be a matter of weeks before Turkey and other adjacent nations realize the country is in disarray and strikes. The single largest SLC-Expressive military superpower is about to be wiped off the face of the Earth. The entire timetable has to change.» Marcus explains, leaning forward as he emphatically gestures to the man across from him. «As far as I know nearly all of Mazdak's entire leadership was killed in the attack, I have assets on the field trying to make a better count of the dead. Every asset we had there is effectively scuttled.»

«I take it this wasn't a conventional nuclear incident.»

«Everything is pointing to the Entity.» Marcus says with a click of resentment on his tongue. «Satellite feeds show a new anomaly has formed in the Zagros Mountains on the border of Turkey. It's just like what happened in Lhasa, except there's no operational security in the field.»

The man in the overcoat scrubs a hand at his mouth, fingers smoothing down his thick mustache. «What's the play?» He asks.

«Regroup, reassess, reactivate.» Marcus says succinctly. «Dominos are falling fast right now, everyone who is dependent on us for tactical assessments are going to be looking with fear in their eyes. We cannot be afraid back. Once my field team delivers an assessment of the situation on the ground in Iraq, we move up every available timetable to ASAP. We can't sit in a holding pattern anymore.»

The man in the overcoat nods, glancing at the pilot and back again. «We're not headed west?» he asks Marcus.

«Nothing in KC is safe enough. Nothing in the west is going to be long-term viable. The OEI will handle the flare, they don't need me managing that. We have more complicated things to manage.» Marcus says, sounding distracted.

«Then where are we headed?»

Marcus smiles. «That's need to know. And you'll know when we get there.»

Ten Years Earlier…

The world has gone deathly silent, save for the distant sound of terrified screams. There is no noise anywhere, no sound of the city. Not a single car drives on the street, no traffic lights light up, no neon signs flash in the late afternoon sun. Shadows are long, sweeping across the streets, and fighter jets roar overhead. The City of New York is a lightless tomb tonight, in the face of a second sun's birth.

Hurrying across the street, a man in a blood-stained white button-downs shirt, dust-caked slacks, and ratty suspenders looks up at the sky, watching the jets streak past. He pulls out his cell phone, but nothing happens when he opens it. No power, no lights, nothing. "What the fuck?" He mumbles to himself, then fishes around in his pockets, pulling out a wallet. He flips through the documents inside, squinting at insurance cards, punch cards for coffee, and a California driver's license.

Thomas Moritari.

Thomas blinks at the ID card, clenches his eyes shut and reels against a dreamlike sense of euphoria and vertigo, like waking up from a dream into a nightmare. Distant sirens are the first signs of life that are not screams of confusion. But even those are far away. Thomas recognizes the buildings around him, like silhouettes plucked from a half-remembered dream. The eviscerated ghost of Midtown Manhattan, skyscrapers rendered down to steel frames by atomic fire years past. The construction cranes looming overhead are at once new and different to him. Blue and white signage announces MAXWELL INDUSTRIES GROUNDBREAKING CEREMONY, NOVEMBER 8TH 2011.

"Two thousand eleven?" Thomas hears himself say in disbelief. His mind reels against the pressure of memories that are both his and not his, like he had been a passenger inside his own body for—he can't remember how long. Checking his phone again, Thomas is given pause. He remembers something, a flash of light in the sky, blindingly bright. A pulse that spread out from the explosion, blew out every electrical device like a candle flame. An EMP, he rationalizes.

Thomas shifts his weight back, nearly collapses against a derelict building. He can't remember why he was in Midtown, what he was doing there, but the other ID card in his wallet—DEPARTMENT OF EVOLVED AFFAIRS—feels hauntingly familiar. It's in that moment Thomas hears the only thing other than himself that sounds nearby.

A raspy voice in an alley, calling for help.

Ten Years Later

Somewhere in Virginia

July 18th, 2021
10:12 am


Marcus Raith glances over at the man standing next to him. Shedding his overcoat, the agent offers a distracted nod and scans the back yard of a crumbling residential building surrounded by war-torn and abandoned houses in a ghost town of a neighborhood just outside of the ruins of Washington DC. "This is a joke, right?" The agent asks, looking up at the home's collapsed roof. Marcus smiles, stepping around the side of the house with a come hither gesture to the agent, who follows after a moment of hesitation.

Marcus leads him to a simple basement bulkhead that descends down into a lightless cellar, one Marcus illuminates with a sphere of conjured green light in one hand. The agent is unsurprised by the display, instead choosing to duck far below the cobwebs, should the basement's eight-legged residents still be home. The basement is small, dusty, filled with the detritus of a family's life. The agent notices quickly that the footprint is too small for the whole house. He keeps his curiosity silent as Marcus moves a workbench aside, revealing a trap door in the floor.

"Is this a literal oubliette?" The Agent asks, motioning down to the trap door. "Because if so this is a little too on the nose."

Marcus opens the hatch as an answer, and descends the metal-runged ladder without hesitation. The agent exhales an off-put sigh and rolls his eyes, but follows right after Marcus without any further consternation. The descent takes roughly thirty feet in a concrete shaft leading down to a ten by ten concrete box of a room with a reinforced steel door and a mechanical lock. Marcus fumbles with the lock for just a moment, rotating the knob on the front of the door like a high school locker until the combination is entered and he can step in. Power comes on when the door opens, lighting up a modest sized operations bunker with some outdated computers dating back to the 1970s and radio equipment that may be even older.

"Well, it's not Cheyenne Mountain." The agent says with an appreciative smile as he ducks in through the doorway. "This some Cold War fallout shelter?"

"Something like that." Marcus says, brushing a decade of dust off of one of the desks. "Different war, different era. But sometimes you need to go low-tech to avoid the scrutiny of the high-tech."

The agent notices newspapers on one of the desks, both of them from the same day.

November 8th, 2011.

"Does any of this still work?" The agent asks, leaving clean spots where his fingers touch a dusty monitor while Marcus goes about powering up the radios. They squeal and squawk, and he turns them off, brows raised in smug appreciation of old technology. "You get this at Spooks R Us or something?" The agent asks, his smile growing.

"Would you believe me if I told you it was Radio Shack?" Marcus notes with a smile, pushing out a wheeled office chair to sit in. "Until things blow over, this is going to be our nerve center."

"And you don't think anyone's going to come looking for us here? You know, gold-eyed and omnicidal?" The agent wonders, one brow raised in challenge.

"If it wanted to kill us—if it knew to kill us—it already would have." Is Marcus' cold reassurance. "And no, we're not going to sit anywhere. I am, and you're going to do the legwork I need in the field. You're my eyes and ears now."

The agent looks around, then back to Marcus. "Why show me all of this if I'm not going to work here? Wouldn't it be more operationally secure if I didn't—"

"It's a show of trust, Agent Oubliette."

The agent blanches a bit at the assertion, looking around the room one more time before fixing Marcus with a steady stare. "Why me?"

Marcus spreads his hands. "You spent years of your life beholden to a psychic parasite that was using your body to extend its own life. I think you, of all people, are personally qualified to understand the level of threat something like the Entity represents. Robert Sauniere may be gone, but the scars he left in your life are long and deep enough for me to know you get what's at stake. Don't you?"

Agent Oubliette stands in silence, jaw flexing, hands clasped tight around the back of an empty chair. He nods in that silence, a solemn and understanding expression. This fight is a personal one.

"What do I need to do?" He asks.

"Tom, I was just waiting for you to ask."


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