The King Of Swords



Also Featuring:

past-wf_cardinal_icon.gif sage_icon.gif

Scene Title The King of Swords
Synopsis Upright: Mental clarity, intellectual power, authority, truth // Reversed: Quiet power, inner truth, misuse of power, manipulation
Date June 20, 2021

"We're ready to begin!"

A scientist shouts, pulling up his goggles over his eyes. Marcus Raith looks at a row of scientists scientists gathered in the concrete-walled observation bunker, uncertain of himself. The scientist nearest to Marcus grimaces and says, "I only have the one pair." Followed by a whispered, "I'm sorry."

Marcus rolls his eye and looks out the narrow window in the bunker to a battleship set in the nearby dock, the USS Eldridge. Soldiers run across the deck, getting into position. There's two sharp whistle blasts to indicate the experiment is about to take place and a palpable tension in the air—a sense of uncertainty and promise—but also a sense of wonder and discovery.

There is one final, long, whistle blast and workers in the harbor move clear of the Eldridge. Professor Tilton, the lead researcher on the project, looks at Marcus and says in a confident aside, "When this is over? We'll have the first invisible ship in the world."

Marcus slowly looks back to the Eldridge, waiting for something to happen. But for several agonizing minutes, nothing does. The scientists get restless, the colonel standing by Marcus gets anxious. But just as Marcus is losing his patience, sparks begin to glow around the hull of the Eldridge. First orange, one accompanied by an electrical hum and crackle that builds in the air.

Marcus' mouth slowly opens as green sparks replaces the orange ones. Arcs of emerald-colored lightning dance along the hull of the USS Eldridge, then along the gun turrets, then snapping up the ship's antenna like a Jacob's Ladder.

"Jesus Christ," Marcus whispers as the hull of the ship starts to dither and blur as if it were a heat mirage. The colonel gives Marcus a shit-eating grin, but that expression is quick to fade.

Something explodes inside the Eldridge. Fire erupts from inside the main cabin along with smoke at the same time a whistle blast sounds from the ship. Professor Tilton curses under his breath, but the green light surrounding the Eldridge doesn't diminish, it intensifies.

"Shut it off," the Colonel demands and two scientists are trying to contact the crew on the radio.

"Dead air, sir!" One scientist says. The rest of his sentence is drowned out by the discordant hum coming from the Eldridge. Marcus winces at the noise, then watches as the ship flickers and gutters once more like a mirage wreathed in neon green lightning. Soon an emerald haze begins bellowing up from below decks, rolls like a heavy fog over the sides of the ship, and in a thunderclap the USS Eldridge disappears from the harbor.

"Holy shit!" The colonel shouts, jumping away from the window. Marcus is instead emboldened, rushing past a scientist and throwing the door to the port open. He hurries out of the bunker, up a flight of stairs and out to where the USS Eldridge was docked, only to find water rippling away from where it was.

The colonel is soon to follow Marcus out. "I can't believe you did it," Marcus says, picking up a stone and hurling it in the direction the Eldridge was. The stone passes through the air, dips, and plops into the water.

Marcus looks confused, taking a step forward again. "Shouldn't the ship… still be there?" He looks back at the colonel. "You told me you were making it invisible, not— "

If the colonel was speechless then, three minutes later when the USS Eldridge appears in an eruption of green light and smoke, he is utterly dumbstruck. Colonel Stanley collapses onto his knees, eyes wide in disbelief with the thunderous return of the warship. But the distant, agonized cries of the soldiers on board temper a hard edge of the colonel's reaction.

"What… is that?" Marcus asks, slowly approaching the Eldridge. As he does, emerald snaps of electricity still leaping off the hull to the water, he finds the source of some of the screaming. Halfway down the hull, one of the ship's crew members is fused with the ship. A fire-blackened arm sticks out of the side of the ship and a muffled, pained cry reverberates through the hull.

Marcus takes a slow step back, shaking his head in disbelief. More cries are clearer now. Up on the deck he can see a midshipman fused from the waist up with the floor. Marcus' expression of horror slowly and gradually twists into something else as he scans the impossible wreckage.

A smile.

Seventy-Eight Years Later


June 20th

9:07 pm

Marcus Raith is not smiling.

He has been staring at a report on his tablet for more than two hours. So long that the lines of text on his screen blur together in an unintelligible mess. He slides the tablet across his desk, bringing one trembling hand up to the side of his face. He exhales, sharply, and the tremors get worse. Bolting to his feet, Marcus exhales a shuddering breath and steps over to a dimly-lit mini bar and shakily pours himself a finger of whiskey, which he downs in a single, joyless swallow. The tremors haven't abated, but they have lessened.

A knock at Marcus' door has him nearly jumping out of his skin. He turns toward the sound and uneasily says, "Enter."

When Sage Abernathy slips in from the other side, Marcus visibly relaxes and Sage can see his discomfort. "Should I come back, Sir?"

Marcus waves off her concern and motions to his desk. "Show me what you have."

Sage slips in and shuts the door behind herself and scurries over to Marcus' desk with an armful of paperwork that she sets down. "I went through everything we were able to salvage from Sunstone and Praxia and made hard copies of what was purely digital. Most of Monroe's most sensitive information was kept entirely in paper form, and most of that burned when the arcology caught fire on the inside. But what we have paints a… pretty incomplete picture of the question at hand."

Marcus pours himself another finger of whiskey, but this time nurses his glass as he walks over to his desk. "Walk me through it."

Sage starts sorting through the files based on color coded tabs she's applied. "So, this thread looks to start in 1977. About four months before Richard is killed by Samson Gray." Sage's mention of that name has Marcus' throat cottony and his mouth dry. "It looks like when you were reaching out to Richard, Richard was also trying to reach out to Charles Deveaux, right around the time the Company was in its most nascent stages. Richard appears to have been pretty cautious about all of this, but there's an indication that he wanted to let Charles in on the Institute's formation, about… everything."

Marcus' nostrils flare as he hears that and he takes a seat at his desk, taking a swig from his whiskey. "Did he?"

Sage looks up from the paperwork and stares at Marcus for a moment. "I'm… not sure."

Forty-Four Years Earlier

The Willard Hotel
Round Robin Bar

Washington, DC
March 16th

7:07 pm

"I'm sorry what did you say your name was?"

"Allard. Kent Allard."

Richard Cardinal—or, Kent Allard as he currently identifies—flashes a toothy smile from down the bar, holding a vodka and tonic in one hand like a charm. The middle-aged man seated next to him casts a side-long look at the wayward time traveler, unaware of precisely who he's really sitting next to.

"Sorry and you're in—computers?"

"Personal, home computers." Richard says with a smile, taking a sip of his drink. The balding politician beside him offers a lopsided smile, exhaling a breathy laugh.

"Good luck there," he says with a snorted laugh, making a feigned cheers with his own drink and intending to end the conversation there. But Richard isn't here to make small-talk.

"No luck needed, Senator Javits." Richard presses the issue. "Home computing is going to be where all the money is in twenty years. I'm talking billions." He takes another, confident sip of his drink. "We're entering an age where entrepreneurs are going to be able to make these things in their garage back home, sell them with a low overhead. It's going to change everything, from where I'm sitting."

Senator Javits narrows his eyes and looks Richard up and down, then sets his drink on the bar. "I suppose you're going to try and sell me a computer, Mr. Allard?"

Richard laughs, feigning a smile. "No. I'm not a salesman, I'm just a forward thinker. Because from where I'm sitting, I don't want to be behind the Russians when it comes time to be competitive." Senator Javits glances at Richard again, and he can tell he's starting to find purchase in the conversation. "But I figure you boys here in Washington are all over that like white on rice."

Senator Javits considers Richard again. This time as he takes a sip of his drink, the senator sees him in a new light. "Do you have a company?"

"Tandy." Richard says after finishing his drink. "Bought into them in the 60s, turned them around from a hobby company and showed them the possibilities of computing. You've heard of RadioShack, right?"

The Senator furrows his brow, then nods. "Yeah, yeah. The store?"

"We own that too." Richard says confidently. "Production and distribution, straight pipeline. Our first home PC is set to his shelves in August."

"RadioShack…" Senator Javits says, mulling something over. "Has your company ever done government contracting? We're working with this uh, these other folks. IBM?"

"I've heard of them," Richard admits, making a gesture for another drink to the bartender. "You looking to see what the other side could offer?"

Senator Javits shakes his head. "Not me, but I've got some contacts in the DOD who might be interested. Do you have a business card I could give my contacts?"

Richard, already reaching for a freshly printed card in his blazer pocket smiles brightly. "I do."

Present Day

"These records," Sage says, shifting to another stack of paperwork, "show that in 1990 Simon Broome revived a government contract that Richard had initiated in 1977 to construct a high-frequency radio station known as HAARP in Alaska, just fifty miles from Mount Natazhat. This is the program you said you were trying to get Richard involved with before his death, isn't it?"

Marcus nods slowly, cradling his glass in front of his mouth. "Back before the Company flushed me out, I was working with a group of senators to start the HAARP program in 77. Richard wound up getting in on the ground level and we met through mutual contacts. He was trying to do something similar on his own, running atmospheric projections on something with the processing power of a fucking calculator. I suggested there was a better way. A better way for a lot of things."

Sage looks up from the paperwork and meets Raith's eye. Her expression is a wordless question, and his choice to drink is a wordless refusal.

"These are transcripts from the Caspar Abraham pennies we've scraped for information," Sage says, handing some documents over to Marcus. "The highlighted lines are relevant. It suggests that Deveaux was looking into the HAARP with Richard Drucker in 1984, but the time to create it was too short and they turned to the radar dish atop Fort Hero for whatever it was they were working on." Sage searches Marcus' face for a reaction and finds none. "I have to imagine all that has to do with the Entity, but—how does that connect with what you wanted to use the HAARP for?"

Marcus takes another long sip from his glass.

Forty-Four Years Earlier

The Willard Hotel
Round Robin Bar

Washington, DC
April 22nd

6:46 pm

As Richard Cardinal enters the bar from the hotel lobby, he spots Marcus Raith from a long distance. He's the only man with an eyepatch in the entire establishment. Marcus waves Richard over to his private booth, and as Richard crosses the crowded bar floor, Marcus studies the way he maneuvers through the crowd.

"A fedora?" Marcus notes, motioning to Richard's head. "People call me old-fashioned."

Richard's smile is thin and careful as he takes off his hat and settles down into the both. "I bet they do. Do you still speak German, or did you fall out of practice when you let Volken slip through your fingers?"

Raith's back straightens, eye wide. His hands freeze on the glass held in them, the noise of the rest of the bar becomes a dull roar in the back of his mind. His heart races and he cannot see anything but Richard's smug smile.

"I thought you looked familiar. Hard to look you up, but I knew a couple of tricks." Richard says in a hushed voice. "I always had a question mark on your face in the group photo you took with Monroe and your other Nazi friends. You're looking very moisturized for someone pushing eighty. It's funny, the whole Royals thing. I didn't expect to run into you people. Let me guess, you're the King of Swords?"

Marcus says nothing, but his grip on his drink tightens.

"What's your trick, you a regenerator like Monroe? Life-sucker like Volken? Or are you a new flavor I haven't come across yet?" Richard wonders, leaning forward across the table with his hands folded in front of himself.

"You are very well informed for a computer salesman." Marcus says with a twitch of a smile.

"I'm not in sales." Richard reiterates. "I'm in futures."

Marcus' nostrils flare and he swallows down a cottony lump in his throat. "Fascinating." He says with a narrowing of his eye.

"That doesn't answer my question," Richard notes. "But, I'll let you keep a couple secrets. I just wanted you to know that I looked you up, and this?" Richard motions around himself. "Your whole deal? I'm not interested. And if you or your spooks so much as take one wrong step toward me, I will give you an up close and extremely personal demonstration of what it is I can do."

Threat made, Richard rises up from the table. Marcus, only then grappling back from a state of complete inner turmoil raises one hand up toward Richard and rasps out. "Wait."

Richard hesitates, looking back at Marcus with narrowed eyes.

"The offer stands, Mr. Allard. Should you change your mind and decide to give someone who made a series of… unfortunate choices a second chance." Marcus says with a tightness in his voice. "Sometimes it is hard to see the greater good unless you get close enough to the moment."

Richard tenses, and Marcus' words cut him in ways he doesn't think the old soul can see. He doesn't acknowledge the request, but he also doesn't dismiss it. This time when he makes his way through the crowd, when Marcus tries to follow his path. Richard simply disappears into the crowd. Marcus' hands clench into fists, jaw clenches, and he swallows down a scream of frustration into the back of his throat.

Present Day

"How does this connect to Charles?" Marcus asks, avoiding answering the question.

Sage rifles through some more documents. "Because I think he might have ratted you out to Mr. Deveaux." She says, holding up a document in one hand. "This is a photocopy from a partially intact journal Broome kept in the Arcology in Cambridge. In it, there's an entry dated August of 1977 informing Simon to leave Charles Deveaux alone and that he's, and I quote, 'Informed Deveaux about the ex-Nazi spy. He can do what he wants with him.'"

Marcus slides his tongue across the back of his teeth, setting his glass aside. "He… called me after that. September, the day he died. Said he'd reconsidered a partnership, that he wanted to meet. Deveaux came after me about a week later. I suppose that answers how he found me."

Sage, looking troubled, returns her attention to the documents. "So, lastly, I've got the notes here that started all of this. It's documentation we pulled from Alice Shaw's phone records indicating that she was using Deveaux Society resources to look for Charles Deveaux on Adam's orders, based off of some information we don't have that made Adam think Charles is alive and that Richard put him in protective custody."

"Charles Deveaux would be nearly eighty by now. Even if he was alive before 2011, the odds of him having survived the Civil War…" Marcus trails off, rubbing a hand at his brow, "…are about as good as Simon Broome doing the exact same thing. So Monroe knew something, Shaw knew something. Who else was she working with on this?"

"We only have one name," Sage says, setting down the paperwork. Her troubled expression makes Marcus nervous.

"Alphonse Baumann."

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