Ouroboros, Part 0


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Also Featuring:

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Scene Title Ouroboros, Part 0
Synopsis "The way back is closed."
Date November 8, 2011

A dark, concrete lab is filled with the shrouded silhouettes of outdated computer equipment. Drop cloths covering the equipment are yellowed from the passage of time and thick with dust. A cloud of it lingers in the air from a recently removed covering over an old IBM desktop which no longer powers up.

Shadows are burned into the concrete at one wall, like the blast shadows of Hiroshima. This place is a tomb of decades-old electronics, devoid of life save for one tortured soul. Richard Cardinal sits at the old desk, chair protesting with a creak. He runs a hand over a face that is not his own, and looks at the dead computer as if it might offer him some answers. But the enigma eludes him.

The equations filling stacks of paper notepads on the desk are far beyond his understanding, beyond the understanding of most of the scientists he’s employed. Sighing, Richard removes a plastic tape recorder from his coat pocket and turns it on, then places it on the desk.

“I don’t even know anymore,” he says, rubbing his face with his hands. “I don't understand what the Company found here. What they'd go through such lengths to hide. I sent the hardware to the Arcology, Kravid’s team can take it apart. What was my mother doing? What did she find that scared them so much?”

Richard looks at the shadows burned into the walls again. “I've wasted a month here. For nothing.” He stands, rests his hand on the recorder but doesn’t stop it. “I'm just running out the clock, it feels like. Less than a year to go now. Once we hit that threshold… the day prophecy dies…”

Richard’s hand comes away and he cannot help but be transfixed by the shadows on the wall again. He feels like he is trapped in Plato’s cave, grasping at straws of truth without having the frame of reference to comprehend it even if he saw it.

“I can't keep doing this.” Richard whispers, reaching for the recorder again.

“I’m so tired.”


Eight Months Later

Mount Natazhat Complex
Near Yukon Territory

November 8th

2:37 pm

“US CentCom confirmed a low-yield thermonuclear explosion over Manhattan.” Olivia Roland’s voice does not crack at the invocation of the sum of all fears. She does not break her steady stride down the cold, concrete-walled hallway beside the man she has chosen to walk into hell with.

Richard Cardinal keeps his eyes ahead, even if his heart twists. “Casualties?”

“Unknown.” Roland says with a shake of her head, two fingers pressed to her earpiece. “At least one Evolved flew up into the sky over the DHS detention center in the financial district and exploded in a low-yield air burst. It didn’t cause much structural damage, but the EMP has blacked out all of Manhattan and most of Queens.”

Fucking Peter,” Richard hisses, throwing open a pair of double doors into an armory where a tall, lean man is stepping into a suit of hydraulic-assisted power armor. “Eldridge, where are we at?” Richard barks at him as soon as he barges into the room.

“The Ark was already on lockdown, outside communications are cut.” Eldridge explains, flexing the suit’s articulated gauntlets, refamiliarizing himself with the limits of its mobility. “We’re in a holding pattern on your orders, sir.”

Richard moves briskly to a nearly identical suit of armor, opening up a laptop it is connected to on an adjacent desk. He boots up the armor’s internal systems, glancing over his shoulder at Eldridge. “It’s them.”


“The kids,” Richard hisses, rapidly typing in a bootup sequence before stepping over to the armor. “They’ve fucked up the flow of events, none of this was supposed to happen. We need all of our failsafes on standby. Eldridge, get the Guillotine protocol spun up. If our operation collapses I don’t want a fucking molecule of our work falling into the wrong hands.”

Eldridge nods, but waits to be dismissed. Richard does so with a small wave as he steps into his awaiting armor, letting it close around him. “Roland,” he says as the armor begins fastening around his body, “go to the lab and prep the team to spin up the Mallet Device. We can’t wait.”

Roland nods sharply and turns for the door, walking straight into Damian’s broad-shouldered frame as she does. He sidesteps her, and the two share a brief and scrutinizing look with one-another before he continues into the room. Eldridge walks past him, briefly stopping once he does to confirm that Richard is okay being left alone with Damian. The curt nod Richard gives is all Eldridge needs.

“They respect you.” Damian says after Eldridge leaves.

“You picked a bad day to come here.” Richard opines, stepping out of the docking station for the armor with a whirr of hydraulics, now standing a head taller than Damian. “Eldridge is leaving soon, you should go with him.”

“You’ll want to see this first.” Damian insists, removing a computer printout from his jacket. He hands it to Richard who skims the gibberish, brows furrowed. “It’s the full genetic sequencing from Project Eclipse.” Damian explains.

Richard looks up over the paper. “This is irrelevant. History doesn’t matter anymore, those fucking kids ruined everything, the timeline is already changed. We…” he hesitates, turning something over in his mind he hadn’t considered. He scans the paper again.

Damian does not wait for Richard to finish his revelation.

“What are you about to do?” Damian asks in the way that Richard knows is rhetorical. He answers regardless.

“The message in a bottle. Back to me in 1961. Start over again.” Richard locks eyes with Damian and steps closer to him. “Why?

Damian reaches up and taps the paper again, not breaking eye contact. Squinting, Richard looks back down at the document, scanning it again. His lips part, mouthing words, considering.

“Wait.” Richard whispers. “Is—” He glances back to the paper.

Damian nods, knowingly. “We missed it the first time. We got so focused on looking at the forest that we forgot to pay attention to the trees. The myth of the Dragon wasn’t what we thought it was.”

Richard’s mind spins with the revelation, so much so that he has to lean against the wall to support himself. His chest rises and falls in hyperventilating breaths beneath the frame of his powered armor. “Fuck!” Richard shouts, crumpling the paper in one hand with a hiss of servos and hydraulics. “Do we know who—”

A klaxon cuts him off as emergency lights flare to life.

«Security breach! All security personnel to the maintenance bay!»

They’re here.” Richard hisses, dropping the paper at his feet. “Find Eldridge, get out of here.” But as Richard pushes past Damian, the mind-manipulator places a hand on Richard’s armored bicep.

What are you going to do?” Damian demands to know and Richard pauses, glaring down at Damian.

Richard’s answer comes with a jerk of his arm out of Damian’s grasp.


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