The Devil's Hands



Also Featuring:


Scene Title The Devil's Hands
Synopsis Time is not a line.
Date May 7, 2012


Klaxons blare, echoing down the dark corridor lit only by flickering lights and showering sparks from ruptured electrical conduits. Water sprays from a shattered coolant pipe, sprinkling down on the floor below. Blood drops into the water, swirling crimson in the dark, ripples cast outward, lapping on concrete shores.


Rivulets of red soak between bloodied fingers, pain lances through a dislocated knee, flesh is still oily from the residue of the gas clinging to his hair and in his eyes and nose, depriving him of freedom from corporeal restrictions. Hobbling down the curving access corridor, there is a low, throbbing hum coming from the two foot diameter metal conduit running the length of the hall, cracked on one seam and spewing a white gas backlit by blue radiation.


White wool soaks dark red below rib level, sopping up the blood that pressure of a hand alone can do nothing to stop the flow of. Murky, near blinded eyes stare blearily down the dark corridor, and every flash of light from the electrical conduits is like a blinding light shone directly into the injured man's eyes. He arrests his movement, coming to a large machine at the split conduit that contains a pair of electricity switches and a pressure release valve. One handed, the injured man in the white jacket struggles to release the valve, clenching his jaws against the agony, wrenching his eyes shut as it squeaks forward inch by inch.


As the valve releases, he turns, reaching for a lever to throw that turns a red light green. Immediately, there is a sudden rumbling sound and a low, harmonic humming as the particle accelerator's ring begins to power up manually. Breathing in wheezing, wet breaths, the injured man's face is illuminated by the energy passing through the accelerator ring and the crackling explosion of electricity from the broken seal. Richard Cardinal a beaten man, and he realizes it now, but even a dying animal can still be a threat.


Gasping out a rasp of a laugh, Cardinal turns towards a nearby pair of metal stairs that leads up out of the access corridor. His footfalls clank against the shaky frame, bringing him up thorugh a bulk-head door that creaks noisily, opening into a colossal domed chamber. BLue light throbs and hums, flashing from between three metallic rings spinning at different speeds and different angles around a large central machine bathed in light. Lasers sputter and spark, blasted apart by some sort of kinetic force, the same ones that have cracked the metal rings, causing them to wobble.


Over the howl of the alarm, illuminated by the arcs of electricity passing off of the machine, Cardinal looks like a man pushed to his absolute limits. He limps ahead from the stairwell, stepping over the twisted and broken carcass of a mechanical animal, its legs twisted and bent, head demolished into separate pieces of metal that all look to have vibrated loose, bolts and screws scattered on the floor.


Stopping at a computer terminal, Cardinal's attention turns to flickering screens. One of which displays a computer rendered diagram of the sun, spreading out an intense wave of colored bands from its surface. A small, blue-green dot on the diagram looks to be bombarded by the bands of energy. Bloody fingers leave red fingerprints on a number pad as he types a password into the machine: 103175.


Blood trickles from the corner of Richard's mouth as he taps the execute key, and a long string of numerical entries begin scrolling down one of the other screens. A sound of scraping metal has Richard jerking around, wincing from twisting the injury at his side. In the doorway of the chamber, through a haze of steam from the temperature differences inside and outside, a silhouette of a man is backlit by the red emergency lighting in the exterior corridor.


Tall, lean, dressed in a sleek business suit, the intruder's black silhouette is almost as dark as Cardinal's own when he turns to living shadow. The only bright reflection gleams from the barrel of a gun aimed directly at Richard. The machine wobbles, rings spinning rapidly and arcs of electricity blasting off to strike metal nodes around the walls of the room. Spitting up blood and slouching back against the computer terminal, Richard Cardinal's lips draw back from pink teeth into a feral smile.


"You almost had me."

The Commonwealth Institute

Commonwealth Arcology

Cambridge, MA

May 5, 2012

Thirty Minutes Earlier

"Director Cardinal?" The administrative assistant's voice is barely audible over the sound of construction equipment. An electric forklift rolls past, whirring as it carries a thousand pounds of steel plating. Cardinal pauses, turning to look over his shoulder as the tablet held out to him. "I need your signature on the construction expansion form, DoEA is also requesting full schematics of the arcology because of the new budget proposal."

Exhaling a deep sigh, Cardinal takes the tablet and signs his name with the tip of his finger on a blank line beside an X. "You can tell the DoEA that it's proprietary information and they can go through our attorneys, that should…" he furrows his brows, looking around at the construction equipment. "That should buy us some time." The assistant nods, clicking a button on the table before offering a nod and stepping away. As he does, Richard draws in a slow and calming breath right before his phone vibrates noisily in his pocket.

On retrieval, the front screen displays Just Answer. Slowly raising one brow, Richard squints one eye closed. "Okay, that's a good trick, because I don't get service down here. Who is this?"

«An old ghost.»

The sound of tripartate voices on the other end of the phone has Cardinal recoiling, hugging the phone to his ear as he hastily starts moving down the corridor. "Rebel?" His eyes flick from side to side, trying to suss out the possibilities. "How— how? You're— you were destroyed?" As he hustles down the hall, there is silence on the other end of the line. Ducking in through an open door to an unfinished office, Cardinal plugs one ear with a finger to drown out the construction sounds. "Rebel?"

«There is no time to explain. They are coming for you.»

The warning has Cardinal's back straightening, eyes wide and stare fired over his shoulder to the open door. "When, who, how many?" He quickly rattles off.

«DoEA. They are aware of your true intentions. A strike team has already assembled, 100 officers. They have machines, inaccessible to me. Six minutes until they engage. Give or take.»

"Fuck!" Cardinal wheels around, rushing out of the door and breaking into a sprint down the hall. "Delay them! Now!" There's no time to ask why Rebel is helping, why a technopathic consciousness destroyed years ago is suddenly back from the dead, why suddenly Rebel speaks in singularities instead of pluralities. There's too much to worry about, too many lives at stake.

«They are moving across the country, consolidation of power. A Night of Long Knives.»

That reference has Cardinal skidding to a stop, brows furrowed, stunned. He stammers a half-word into the phone, then asks more clearly. "Elisabeth?" There's no answer for a moment, and then:

«They intend to kill her. I cannot find her at present.»

He's stopped entirely now, and Cardinal turns to look back over his shoulder toward the elevators. "What… what can you do?" Is a hopeless question to ask, and Richard can feel his fingers growing slack around the phone.

«That is up to you. What response do you feel is appropriate?»

Throat tight, Cardinal stares vacantly at the elevator doors. He remembers what he'd seen on the video footage recovered from the Mallet Device, the data that was contained on their computers, a road map of the future. This wasn't supposed to be the next fork in the road, things had already changed, things were irrevocably off course.

«Three minutes.»

"Do whatever it takes." Richard finally spits into the phone, then clicks end call and tucks it into his pocket. He exhales a shuddering, exasperated breath, and then begins running toward the elevator. He knew what was coming, what terror would befall each and every person that was here, that had trusted him, that had hoped in him. He wasn't ready yet.

He just needed more time.


"Exactly what is that supposed to mean?"


Stepping into the light of the machine, Jason Pierce's features look hollow and gaunt, deep shadows around his sunken eyes ringed with dark circles. He motions with the gun for Cardinal to move away from the console, briefly looking up at the spinning rings. "What did you do?" To Pierce's question, Cardinal responds by spreading his lips and revealing a pink-toothed smile, stained with his own blood.


"Jesus fucking Christ, Richard. You just had to push them. You just had to keep at it." Jason steps over a body on the floor, shoes slipping slightly in the dark blood. "They would've ignored you if you didn't keep reaching up and poking them in the fucking eye. Did you think they wouldn't notice the defects you worked into the Gen-1's?" He motions with the gun again, and Richard doesn't move.


"Tell me what you did." Pierce demands, looking up at the sparking rings of the machine again. "What the fuck is this? Some kind of weapon?" That elicits a ragged laugh from Cardinal, who slouches down and slumps onto the floor, one hand over the bleeding gunshot wound at his stomach. "Richard." Pierce urges, taking another step closer and aiming the gun down at him.


Richard's eyes stare up, half-lidded and tired. "I called for help," he says with a ragged laugh. Pierce doesn't find it funny, and rolls his eyes and lowers the gun, taking a step away and circling back toward the door, then comes back around toward Richard again, gun aimed down at him once more.


"Don't make me shoot you," Pierce says with a crease of his brows. He means it literally, he doesn't want to be the person who kills him. Over the last year, they'd become good colleagues, had a sensible working partnership. But Pierce only got so far out from under Uncle Sam's wing. Not far enough. There wasn't enough time. There never is.


Pierce can hear footsteps coming from down the hall, the sound of hydraulics and pistons, mechanical growls. He looks over his shoulder briefly, then back to Cardinal. He knows they won't kill him here, that they'll keep him as a prisoner and pull any scrap of information they can out of his head. Richard knows that too.


Which is why he reaches into his jacket for his revolver.


Which is why Pierce shoots him in the head.


Which is why nothing can ever be the same again.


Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License