The Way Things Were, Part I


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Scene Title The Way Things Were, Part I
Synopsis Break on through to the other side!
Date June 28, 2018

A single, steady drip of water falls from the same rusted support twenty-five feet overhead. Long ago the walls in this room were white, but the paint has since peeled off of the metal, leaving stready of once-was white mostly obscured by earthen shades of rust streaked with darker water stains. Most of the overhead lights in their circular, hanging metal sconces don't work anymore, though one sheds a cone of jaundiced light down on the water-slick steel floor.

This spacious room has but one entrance, a rounded doorway with a twist value to seal it off like the sections of a submarine. There is another exit, admittedly, by the enormous airlock door is rusted shut with age and disuse, though the four brick of C-4 placed around its edges seem newer, and are a precaution against the room's solitary inhabitant.

No, not the young blonde woman sleeping with his mouth gaping open in a folding chair.

The machine.

It is a cylindrical hulk, partly crusted in barnacles and warped from heat. Portions have been replaced with salvaged metal, visible welds holding it together. A triangular frame rests horizontal at the top of the cylinder, suspended on three thin arms. A circular ring of lasers rests like an iris at the center of the triangle, itself wrapped in a spiral of corroded copper piping.

Wires and cables spill from the machine like entrails, spooling across the floor to the open back of an old broadcast radio terminal, where switchboards and frequency modulators have been welded together with oscillators, an analog keyboard that looks like it may have come from a typewriter, and a cathode-ray tube monitor with a monochromatic green and black dispplay.

A weathered photograph sits on the console atop the keyboard, yellowed from age and the elements. The blonde women in the picture, both the older and the younger, aren't the same as th eone sleeping in the chair. The man in the picture, also not present, though for different reasons.

A light on the console turns from red to green.

A speaker crackles, and the tiny blonde sleeping nearby snorts noisily. Then, the speaker erupts with noise.

« —he day destroys the night»

«Night divides the day»

«Tried to run»

«Tried to hide»

«Break on through to the other side»

«Break on through to the other side»

«Break on through to the other side, yeah»

At the burst of music and static, the tiny blonde jolts awake in her chair, arms windmilling and eyes wide. "What?" She gasps out, teetering back on the chair's rear legs. "Oh my gosh!"

«We chased our pleasures here»

«Dug our treasures there»

«But can't you still recall»

«The time we cried»

«Break on through to the other side»

«Break on through to the other side!»

Scrambling out of her chair, the blone grasps for her headset atop he rhead and finds it missing. In a sudden scramble she's groping around at the console, panicked. "Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh! Um— um— where's the— oh no— oh bother." In her frenzy she knocks over a coffee cup that shatteres into five pieces on the floor. "Where's the microphone!?"

«Everybody loves my baby»

«Everybody loves my baby»

«She gets high»

"Oh no, oh no, oh gosh, oh no. Where is it!?" She mutters to herself, lifting up old, water stained magazines, newspaper clippings, and strings.

«She gets high»

Beneath another newspaper she finds a console-mounted microphone instead, dragging it over and plugging it in to the console. "Aha!" She exclaims, flipping switches as lights come on all around her. "Oh gosh oh gosh please please!"

«She gets high»

The tiny blonde depresses the call button on the microphone and leans in, hunched over the console. "H-Hello? Is— is someone broadcasting?"

«Break on through to the other side!»

She waits, eyes wide, lips parted in expectance. For a moment there's just a guitar beat, but then the music suddenly cuts out. The girl gasps, one hand clapped over her mouth, and then the unthinkable happens.

«This is Richard— this is Richard Cardinal broadcasting, are you receiving? Repeat, this is Richard Cardinal, please respond.»

The blonde leaps into the air and lands with a resounding clang. "Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh!" She screams, voice ringing off of the metal walls. Then, and only after that moment of exhuberant triumph, does she realize the name spoken from the other side. Quickly pressing the call button again she asks, "Richard who?" She had to have misheard.

But then, remembering the protocol for the device, she quickly hits the call button again. "Um, um, oh Gosh. This— my name’s Destiny? Oh good gosh. Director! Director!" Destiny turns toward the open door, screaming into the hall beyond.

Out in the hall, people are starting to come out of their rooms. Among them, a bearded man with wiry gray hair and a weathered face, tugging a sailor's cap on over his thinning hair. He glowers at the open door, then turns to go back into his room as another woman comes charging down the hall.

She skids to a stop, grabbing the door-frame to the machine chamber with both hands, then hurls herself inside. Blonde hair streaked with gray flutters around at jaw level and her dingy, white labcoat with its tattered hem flares out behind her. Wide-eyed, she stares at the machine, looks up to the radiant blue light spilling from the now-active triangular frame at its top and the scintillating waves of aurora light dancing above it.

"Director! We’ve got a broadcast!" Destiny calls out, and the Director turns and pulls the door shut behind herself. Then, with a twist of the valve, she forces the locking bars into place with a resounding and final clang of metal on metal…

…and locks herself in.


A small crowd has gathered in the hall; rough-looking men and women in tattered clothes stained with rust and grime. The man have scraggly beards and many look underfed. The oldest among them comes ambling out of his room again, motioning to the machine's containment room. "What the fuck is she shouting about?"

A young man not quite twenty shakes his head and follows the old man's eyeline. Lance Gerkin's brows come together, then slant a suspicious look over to the old man. "I don't know. But Director Cardinal just locked herself in the broadcast room with her."

Sliding his tongue over his lips, the old man looks to the door and narrows his eyes. "Did she?" There's suspicion in his tone, anger as well, though a simmering kind. "Huh. Okay." But from his tone, everyone can tell it isn't okay.

"You want us to make her open up?" Lance asks, one brow raised. But the old man just scrubs a hand through his wiry beard and looks at Lance with narrowed eyes, slowly removing a revolver from a holster at his hip.

"No." The old man resolutely decides. "No… but go get your boys. I want you on her as soon as they open that fucking door. I've had enough of this." Lance rankles at the order, looking back down the hall to where a few people his age are watching, then looks back again.

"Are you sure?" Lance asks with a look to the gun, then back again. "That's not gonna make people happy."

"Fuck people," the old man grumbles, "and fuck her people especially. Make sure you find her daughter or she'll cut a fucking hole in us for even thinking about this." Others in the crowd start nodding their heads, agreeing with a murmured chorus of bobbing heads.

Lance takes in a deep breath, then rakes his fingers through his hair and looks back to the old man, his gun, and then back. "With all due respect, sir," and he can already see the old man tensing as he talks, "she's still in charge. We live in a society, if we start… if we start just ignoring the rules when they don't— "

Lance's words are interrupted by a gunshot. Blood sprays on the hall wall and he collapses in a heap on the floor with a clang of metal. Others gasp in shock, some run immediately, but most stay frozen in silent fear. The old man looks down to the smoking barrel of his handgun, then to Lance's corpse, then up to another dark-haired man standing nearby.

"Ok." The old man says with a scowl. "I'll try that again. How about you, Rosen. You feeling like we live in a society?"

West Rosen, the man who up to a moment ago had been standing next to Lance shakes his head and squares his shoulders to the presumed task ahead. "No sir." He isn't upset by this change of events. "Not for a long time, sir."

"I want the Director," the old man begins barking out orders almost immediately, "Destiny, Edward, and Joy if she puts up any shit about it. I want them all locked the fuck up in the flooded ring." Some of th ebystanders start looking at one another, a few step into their rooms and return with handguns, knives, and clubs.

"What about Kjelstrom and Rianna?" West asks, unholstering a machete from a sheathe at his thigh.

The old man shrugs, waving a hand flippantly. "Gas 'em and put them out an airlock."

"Whatever you say, Don." West says to the old man, his lips downturning into a deepening frown. "I just want it back to normal around here."

"Oh yeah. Me too." Don agrees, stroking his bristly beard once more. "I want everything back the way it was."


As the door slams shut and the Director twists the valve to lock it from the inside, Destiny claps one hand over her mouth in fear. "D-Director? Did you just— "

"Don't look at me!" The Director shouts, "Respond to them!"

Startled into action, Destiny wheels around. "Oh! O-oh yes! Yes ma'am!" She quickly depresses the call button again, brows raised. "Hello? We read you!"

Silence and static come from the other side. The Director, moving over to the machine, pulls out a screwdriver and forces open a panel, then starts to adjust something inside the machine while cursing to herself.

"Hello?" Destiny asks again into the microphone. "Mister Cardinal? Are you still there?"

The Director drops the screwdriver with a clattering clang on the floor. Two scuffed footsteps bring her to the back side of the communication console and she leans over it, eyes wide and voice frantic. "Destiny who is on the other end of the line!?"

Recoiling, Destiny's eyes are saucer-wide as she stares at the Director's crazed expression. "I don't think he's there anymore. But, director, he said his name was Richard Cardinal. Do… you know him?" She suspects the answer must be yes.

All the Director can do in response is let out a strangled gasp and hurry around the end of the console, pushing Destiny aside as she moves to the microphone. At the same time, the machine flares up again with sound.

«This is Richard Cardinal broadcasting on one-twenty-six-point-two-two across the superstrings, attempting to reach the source of the Trenet signal. We may not have more than a few minutes - if that - due to the unpredictability of the solar storm. Destiny, are you receiving?»

The Director's hand freezes at the microphone, eyes wide and glassy with tears. Her hands start to shake, jaw unsteadies, and she clasps a hand over her mouth and struggles to maintain even the smallest semblance of composure.

«Have we reached the Flooded Earth?»

Someone else can be heard shouting on the far end of the transmission, a greeting perhaps, but its barely audible. The Director presses down the call button, but her throat refuses to form words. After a moment of dry gasping, she finally is able to say, "Richard?"

As her finger comes off the call button she breaks into a sob. Destiny comes over, resting a hand on the director's arm, looking at her with wide, confused eyes. The call button is pressed down again the moment she can speak through the tears. "Oh my god it worked. Oh my god. I'm Michelle Cardinal," the Director calls out into the microphone, though the static emitting from the machine is great. "M-Michelle Cardinal. I've— I've been…" She starts to sob again, but can't bear to move her hand from the call button.

Destiny steps closer, sliding an arm around Director Cardinal's waist and hugging her tightly, trying to be supportive of whatever it is she's going through. "I can't believe it's you!" Michelle croaks into the microphone. "I never gave up looking for you. I— oh my baby, I've to find a way to get to you. I will, I promise you!" Tears are now streaming down her face, and her throat feels as tight as a vice as she cries out. "I didn't abandon you!"

There's no response from the other side, and Destiny slips away from the embrace. "I think they're still receiving us," she says softly, "the signal is intermittent but strong. Just— just keep talking maybe?" She's tearing up now too, because seeing the Director so emotionally compromised is breaking her heart, even if she doesn't know why.

"Richard," Michelle whimpers into the microphone, "I'm so sorry." She isn't even sure if he can hear her anymore. "I'm so sorry I'm not there to tell you this in person. We never gave up hope on finding you. Your father loved you so much. We both did. Your sister Rianna is here, we’re in a subterranean facility called the Ark. We— " Michelle gasps out another sob and her knees buckle. "We’ve been trying to find you!" She turns, puffy eyes squared on Destiny.

"Destiny, go get Ria! Get her down here right now!" Michelle demands, waving a hand toward the locked door frantically. Destiny's eyes snap wide open and she bolts toward the door, sneakered foot clap-slapping across the wet metal.

As Destiny moves to the door, Michelle leans down in and speaks into the microphone again. "Richard, listen to me carefully." She breathes in deeply. "You need to go to the University of Kansas, see— see if there was a Michelle LeRoux staying there as a resident. Find her dorm, and— and there might be a schematic on the walls. They might have painted over it ot— or— "

Destiny struggles with the valve lock while the Director continus to talk to what sounds increasingly like dead air. "In the design, pay attention to the frame. The shape is important, and when the particles collide in the accelerator each collision creates a wave, I hadn't figured that out. The quantum waves they— they generate a frequency."

Nearly able to open the door, Destiny pauses briefly as Michelle drops down to her knees, cradling the microphone to her chest, desperately trying to give instructions across the divide of reality. "The… the frequency is what we were missing. You need a baseline to orient the device. If you can match one side's frequency to another… that's what we did, what we did on accident." Michelle hiccups a sob and a fit of terrified laughter.

"Richard, if you broadcast and receive the same quantum frequency you can create an overlay between two worlds." Michelle wrenches her eyes shut, a keening sound creaking in the back of her throat as she strangles back another sob. "Y-you can— you can make a bridge between both windows to make a door. Then I can get you. Then…"

The lock comes undone in the doorway, and Destiny starts to haul the huge metal door open. Once it swings wide, she is greeted by a half dozen men with guns and weapons, staring her down. She sucks in a sharp breath, and simply disappears like a frame cut from a film. Michelle, unaware of what is happening behind her and convinced that there's no one to hear her on the other end whispers softly into the microphone.

"I love you."

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