The Vault


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Scene Title The Vault
Synopsis It's been there since the start.
Date June 24, 2021

Lined up against factory walls, hands folded behind their heads and shoulders squared, Company Agents are being handcuffed by black-clad DHS counter-terrorism task force agents. Walking alongside them, a man in FRONTLINE styled armor with a heavier armor compositing barks orders to the men still standing. «Cristoff, Malinsky, Porter,» Lucas Edlridge's voice crackles through the warehouse over his helmet's external speakers as he holsters his side-arm at his hip. «Sitrep.»

"We're clean on this floor, agent Harper." Sargent Porter explains, slinging his AR-15 over his shoulder as he walks at Eldridge's side. "Cristoff and Malinsky are handling the detention of the captured agents, we're moving the wounded out to the field medical station to try and save as many of them as we can. The agents who had holed themselves up downstairs looked to have been trying to guard some kind of vault."

Eldridge stops, swiveling his visored countenance towards the DHS agent, reflecting the man's own face back muted and warped in the copper-colored visor. «A vault?» Eldridge turns his attention to the hallway that leads deeper into the Odessa facility.

«Show me.»

Eleven Years Later

The Reach
Lappland, Sweden

June 24th
7:28 pm Local Time

The sun has gone down in Sweden, nestled over the snowy mountain peaks. A shimmering aurora dances across the night sky, casting the verdant green of lower elevations in luminous hues of sapphire and emerald. Nestled in a forested valley, the once-home of another age's Richard Cardinal now stands sentinel over his enduring legacy. Simon Broome, the aging shepherd of that legacy, watches the shimmering curtain of the aurora from the second floor deck. The night air is crisp and cool at this elevation, the air smells of rain that came earlier in the day, and the song of night birds carries through the gloom.

"You're going to get a cold," comes the soft admonishment of Ruby as she steps up behind Simon's wheelchair. She rests her hands on his shoulders and he places his hands on hers. Together, they watch the aurora for a time. But as Simon gently squeezes her hands, she knows the time for stargazing has passed. "You should come in." She reaffirms, and he does not disagree.

"Richard will be gone by now," Simon says, directing his chair to take him back inside the house with a whirr of its electric motor. "We have much to do in order to prepare for his return."

Ruby follows along behind Simon, shutting the sliding door behind herself as they enter the sitting room. "You sound certain that he will."

Simon brings his wheelchair to a stop and pivots to face Ruby. "I have reason to be." He says without a hint of doubt in his voice. "Come, there's something you need to see." He says, turning his chair around again and heading for the ramp to the foyer. Ruby follows behind, casting a furtive glance over her shoulder to steal one last look at the aurora before its out of sight.

On their way to wherever Simon is leading them, he stops at the greenhouse entrance and looks at the orange and red flowers growing up the trellis. "Take one of the old blooms," he says with a gesture inside. Ruby nods, stepping into the greenhouse. She deftly trims one of the antediluvian flowers with her fingernails, mindful to pinch the stem shut as she does, then returns to Simon with the ancient blossom cradled in her hands. He takes it from her and sets it in his lap, then makes his way to the foyer elevator.

Ruby is quiet as she resumes her pace behind Simon, though her brow furrows with increasing depth as she tries to puzzle out where he's leading her. The elevator—as far as she knows—only goes up to the second floor where the bedrooms are, and down to the ground-level garage. Suddenly she begins doubting herself, and she can't stop imagining some hidden secret in the Reach. Simon, of course, does not disappoint.

"Not even Niklaus knows of this," Simon says as he rolls into the elevator and pulls open the keypad faceplate. In the wiring behind the keypad there is a small toggle switch, tucked inside the recessed panel. When he flips it, the doors to the elevator slide shut and it begins its descent. "One of Richard's final additions to the estate."

Ruby searches Simon's eyes, and he can see the unspoken question on her lips. "I couldn't risk telling you. Not with him around." Simon says. Though Ruby can feel the deep concern, it still stings her to have something hidden like this.

The elevator stops after a short descent and opens into a dimly lit concrete hallway. Simon wheels out into the hall and Ruby follows, looking at the exposed power conduits bolted to the concrete wall that terminate at a heavy vault door a short distance ahead.

"Simon…" Ruby starts, then makes a soft noise in the back of her throat. She could tell she was being impatient.

"There's something I've been keeping from you," Broome says with a look over his shoulder, stopping at the vault door to turn his chair around and face her. She finishes her approach and kneels down in front of him, laying her hands on his. She understands. She trusts. He gently squeezes her hands in return and sighs, then looks to the vault door.

"Before the end came, Richard…" Simon glances at Ruby, "our Richard," then back to the door, "was researching his family history. He had a deep desire to learn about his parents, and a distrust of the story he had always been told about their death in a drug deal. Richard learned about Michelle Cardinal, but lacked the resources of the current age to uncover the truth about her research. Instead, his influence and access led him down a different path, to the Sunspot Observatory where the Company had taken her machine. At the time, Erica Kravid was trying to make heads or tails of schematics Richard had unearthed to build a replica, not fully understanding what it was…"

Broome lets go of Ruby's hands and wheels over to the door and inputs a seven-digit code on the vault keypad. "An experiment with the device pulled a man from a parallel universe. Mateo Ruiz." Metal bolts begin sliding into the door. "Richard was stunned by this revelation, that the world Mateo had come from was not the past or the future, but a time that existed side-by-side with our own. It changed him, changed his plans. But nothing did more to push him in a different direction than a discovery made by one of our scientists from the San Francisco branch… Doctor Adrienne Allen."

The vault door slowly begins to open, swinging out into the hall, revealing an enormous room filled with glass-faced lockers. "Adrienne uncovered an origin of species, a pair of skeletons that are a proverbial Adam and Eve to Expressives, forever locked in a battle that killed them both. Bones that, while millennia old, showed evidence of genetic manipulation." Broome wheels into the vault, beckoning Ruby to follow. "But Richard did not live long enough to know what we now know, about an Entity that threatens out very existence. But he was starting to put together the pieces… he knew he was running out of time and had to pass on the torch."

Ruby looks at the glass-faced lockers, to dozens of strange antiquities held behind those doors. "What are these?" She asks, spotting a set of playing cards—the Queen of Hearts, the Queen of Spades, and the Queen of Diamonds—pressed under glass, a gold keys, a stone pyramid, a hand-carved wooden horse. She looks back to Simon, who wheels over to a specific case.

"These are legacies of the Company's fascination with this very story. History moves in circles, Ruby. The Nazis built this collection in the 1940s, the United States Government took it from them after the war, the Company took it from them in the sixties…" Broome says as he presses his finger to a thumb-print reader, unlocking one of the locker doors. "And then, it came into our possession while we searched for Richard decades later."

Eleven Years Earlier

Primatech Vault
Odessa, Texas

A sound of thunder resonates inside of an enclosed space, crackling electricity released in a spherical blast as Lucas Eldridge appears on the other side of a heavy vault door, smoldering pieces of concrete and floor tiles clattering to the ground around him when he appears, smoke rising off of his armor.

The vault around him is well lit and more like a display. Glass-faced cabinets show a wide variety of strange objects. Playing cards pressed between plates of glass, a kris-bladed dagger on a stand, a tiny wooden horse, several of the display cases are left open and empty, but one in particular catches Eldridge's attention.

There on one of the middle shelves is a glass jar, containing within it a clear fluid suspending a human brain in preservation. Across the top of the jar, there is a plate etched with a serial number. B037.

«Doctor Broome,» Eldridge offers into his comms, approaching the brain with slow, clunking steps.

«We found him.»

Present Day

"But while we were so distracted by finding the trophy Samson Gray made of Richard," Broome says, reaching inside the locker to retrieve something from a small stand, "we didn't realize that the secret to saving the world…"

Ruby's eyes lock on the kris-bladed dagger Broome now holds in his hand.

"…was right in front of our eyes from the very beginning."

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