The Way Things Were, Part V


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Scene Title The Way Things Were, Part V
Synopsis Destiny, Edward, and Ria make a desperate bid to escape from the Ark with Michelle and Else.
Date August 17, 2018

Once, the Commonwealth Arcology was a dream of a better future. Somewhere along the way, that dream became polluted beyond recognition. Physically, the arcology was designed to evoke positive emotions and lighten spirits. Its walls were a sterile white, plants grew in climate-controlled alcoves to add a splash of natural decor. Everything was tailored to feel like a paradise away from the troubles of the real world.

That paradise is destroyed.

«Security Alert. Escapees on C-Ring.»

The warning has been echoing from loudspeakers since Ria Cardinal breached the wall of the B-Ring prison containing her mother. They weren’t immediately detected by security, however. Edward Ray did his job well and routed all security upstairs to A-Ring, giving the escapees time to maneuver into position for the D-Ring airlock at the reactor. But that was then, and this is now.

Once pristine white walls are streaked with rust from seawater intrusions. Blood pops brightly against the grimy, white tile floor. Corpses of security forces dressed in mismatched riot gear lay dismembered with cauterized limbs scattered in smoking heaps. Security lighting bathes most of the halls in flashing shades of warning red. The hallways are lined with locked doors, preventing egress into any of the flooded wings of C-Ring’s once vast fabrication labs.

«Security Alert. Escapees on C-Ring

“We have probably three minutes before security realizes what Edward did.” Michelle Cardinal, former head of Ark staff, more recently former prisoner, hustles down the grimy, rusting corridors, but her escape is slowed by one of her fellow escapees being injured. Else Kjelstrom limps along, held up by Edward Ray, her feet nearly dragging. Her eyes are bloodshot, dark circles around them. They’d pulled her out of the radio room where Don had her tied up, doing God knows what to her after they’d caught her trying to radio the Pelago for help.

“We need to be on that elevator before they call it up.” Edward looks over to Else as she mumbles to herself, head lolling from side to side, eyes rolling back in her head. “What the fuck did they do to her?

«Security Alert. Escapees on C-Ring

A riotous explosion of light erupts in front of the escapees, and Ria Cardinal appears from the manifestation of lights. “The hallway ahead’s clear. Hurry up!” Then, in the blink of an eye, she explodes into lights again and is gone.

Not all of us can move at the speed of light!” Michelle calls after her daughter, looking to the last of their daring crew to escape with them: Destiny.

“Oh gosh.”

No matter how many times Destiny witnesses Ria burst into pure light, the wonder of it refuses to fade. “It’d be super handy if we could,” she agrees with Michelle in a soft voice, casting a worried glance toward Else. It’d also be super handy if she could do something useful. Like stop time or something. For someone other than her, anyway. Infinite sleep isn’t going to help this situation, though. Even infinite time to ponder just how doomed they are isn’t exactly a boon.

“Ohh,” is a worried sort of moan as the young woman picks up her feet. “C’mon, Else! We’re almost there!” She’s been saying that for a while now, but someone told her once that her optimism was cute and encouraging. She’d like it to be the latter right now.

Else slurs her words in response to Des, nothing intelligible heard over the klaxon blare and the report of the loudspeakers. Edward looks across Else to Destiny, his brows furrowed and head shaking slowly. “How long had Don kept her tied up there?” His voice is shaky with uncertainty as he looks the blonde up and down, but then just reaffirms his grip on her arm draped over his shoulders and continues to haul her along.

Reaching a four-way junction in the corridors, Michelle steadies her right hand and grips her revolver tightly, stepping into the intersection and checking it in three directions just to be safe. “We’re almost there,” Michelle indicates, trying to piggyback on Destiny’s optimistic charm.

Back… and down… we won’t… walk home…” Else murmurs to herself, and Edward’s brows crease together with ever-increasing levels of worry.

“How did this happen? This wasn’t— we were supposed to find Mateo here, not…” Wide eyes focused back on Des, Edward seems to be struggling with the situation, with his own failures, with his own personal quest here. “Michelle,” Edward rasps, “she’s not doing well. We should— ”

“If we stop we’re dead.” Michelle is quick to reply, striding into the intersection and taking a right toward the elevators. Based on the way she’s leading with her handgun, she intends on making sure anyone but herself winds up in that description.

“I can help!” Des comes up along Else’s other side and loops her free arm around her narrow shoulders. “It’s okay, Mister Ray.” So long as she doesn’t look at any of the blood or the bodies behind them, she’ll continue to believe that. The light in her eyes says that she does have conviction that they can make it out of this place. Together.

“Just a little further.” She squeezes Else’s hand reassuringly. It also helps keep the two linked together. Fortunately, their height disparity isn’t terrible. “You’re right, Else. We aren’t going to walk home. We’re going to take a boat.” That’s what she meant, right?

The journey to the elevator is slow going, and Else doesn't seem to be getting any better as she walks. Up ahead, Michelle stops at the elevator and rapidly taps on the call button with one hand, watching behind herself warily as she does. The klaxons continue to blare, and security cameras long since dead stare blindly but unnervingly from their perched in the ceiling.

“Come on, come on, come on,” Michelle murmurs, hearing the chime of the elevator coming down from an upper level. Edward, hearing the sound, urges Destiny and Else against one of the walls and shields them with his small frame, in the event that death is waiting on the other side. Michelle takes a step back, aiming her pistol at the elevator doors, holding her breath.


When the doors slide open, Michelle nearly fires when she sees someone standing in the elevator, but she processes the face on the other side of the door with a quickness that would be lost on others.


Joy,” Michelle exhales breathlessly. For all her worth, Joy looks startled to see Michelle, anxiously threading a lock of blonde hair behind one ear. She flicks a look into the elevator, then back to the hallway and steps deeper inside, blue eyes anxious as she waves Michelle in.

Relieved, Edward hurried along helping Destiny and Else into the elevator as Ria explodes into being in a sizzling bolt of light inside of the elevator. “Found Joy,” Ria says with a jerk of her thumb to the taller blonde. “Don had her locked up in his office. I figured she was the only one who could get here as fast as I could.

“I'm sorry about this,” Joy says with a shake of her head. “All of this.” Blue eyes level on Else, nervously, then settle back on Michelle. “I had no idea what's happened to Don. I didn't know until it was too late, I…” Joy closes her eyes and makes a soft, uncomfortable sound in the back of her throat. “When I tried to confront him he just… I might've pushed him too— ”

“There’ll be time for apologies later,” Edward says as he helps prop Else up into the corner of the elevator as the doors close.

“Joy!” With Else propped up in the elevator, Des throws her arms around the other woman in a big hug. “I’m so glad you’re alright.” She flashes a grateful smile to Ria. “Thanks for finding her.” They need to stick together, after all. That’s what friends do.

“It’s not your fault Don went banana balls,” the teenager insists as she draws back, offering a brief reassuring smile. That smile fades slowly as she watches the elevator’s progress. Her fingers curl inward, fingertips brushing over her palms nervously. The phrase fish in a bucket leaps to mind and she slaps one hand over her mouth to muffle the nervous whimper that escapes her lips.

“Security is going apeshit,” Ria explains, “I did a zig and a zag and made them think I was headed to the machine. That might buy us some time.” She looks down to the floor. “Maybe.”

Michelle pops out her handgun’s magazine and checks the ammunition, then slaps it back into place. “Don’s insane but he's not an idiot. He's going to know we’ll try for the sub. I'm just hoping that we had enough of a head start.”

I see pillars of glass,” Else whispers to herself in the corner of the elevator, “where towers once stood. I see shimmering lights, dance on the water. I see the shadow of the beast, jaws wide, and it belches hellfire.” Her rhythmic and lyrical murmurations elicit a nervous look from Edward to Else and then over to Joy.

What did they do to her?” Edward whispers sharply, and Joy scrubs a hand at her face, then twirls a finger around a streak of gray in her hair.

“Don… had her listen to the machine. Non stop. For days.” Joy looks away, making a soft sound in the back of her throat. “With no sleep.” Edward is silent in horror, and as Joy nearly says something else the elevator comes to a stop and the light for Reactor Level is highlighted. Water is already intruding into the elevator before the doors open and a foot-high wave of water washes inside.

Ria exhales a sharp breath and flicker-blasts out into the flooded corridor to scout ahead. Edward tugs one of Else’s arms around his shoulders and waits for Destiny to grab the other. “Not much more now,” Edward says as reassuring as he can. Be he has no way to really know that. Nothing is certain.

“He did what?” Des’ eyes grow wide at the explanation of why Else is a bit more Else than usual. “It’s okay,” she whispers gently as she takes up her position at her side again. “We’re going to get out of here and then you can rest and feel better. I’ll even sing to you if you want.” Her brother always told her she had a beautiful voice. Ruiseñorita, he would call her. His nightingale. “There’s no beast where we’re going.”

As the water floods into the elevator car, Des lets out a quiet squeak of surprise at the suddenness of it. At least this might wash the blood off her shoes before it has a chance to set. Gathering her wits and her resolve, she curls Else’s arm more tightly around her shoulders and sloshes ahead out into the hall.

It’s clear!” Ria calls back from an adjacent room, her voice echoing hollow and metallic in the flooded chambers. Edward is hesitant as he steps forward with Else, watching every flickering shadow anxiously.

“This is… has no one been down here since we arrived?” Edward asks, noticing the depth of the water. “Doesn’t— anyone maintain the dock?” There’s a look up to Michelle, who offers a worried look to Edward, but continues ahead wordlessly, gun at the ready.

After a few snaking metal-walled corridors streaked with rust, the group emerges into an enormous hangar chamber similar to the one the device is kept in up on the A-Ring. There’s a blast door yawning wide open here, and inside a dingy once-white bodied submersible streaked with lines of rust around its circular windows. A faded logo on the side that reads Massachusetts Shipwreck Tours is still legible in spite of the scrapes, wear, and barnacles encrusting the vehicle.

“Thank God,” Michelle says as she turns to look back at Joy. “We’re getting the fuck off this— ” Michelle is lifted up into the air by a sudden hydraulic torrent of water and slammed into the far wall. Her gun flies from her hand, and stepping out from behind the submarine, Donald Kenner holds out hand in Michelle’s direction and another raises swiftly, creating a wall of water just as Rianna explodes into a bolt of light in his direction.


When Ria passes through the wall of water she refracts like light moving through the surface of the ocean, and manifests on the other side of the wall with a scream, clutching her sides and sliding through the water. “The only way you’re leaving this Ark,” Don says as he continues to hold Michelle down with a torrent of water, “is out an airlock without a suit.”

“I don’t think anyone’s had a reason to—” Des cuts her musing short, her head tilting sharply as she listens for sound. She’s no Carina, though, and dismisses her concern with a quick shake of her head. They’re all sloshing through the water. It’s bound to make sounds further down. That’s how ripples work.

Whether that’s the whole truth of it or not, the girl shrieks when Michelle is hauled off her feet just as they’ve found their salvation. “Director!” Simultaneously, she reaches out for the older woman and clutches Else tighter. She can only help one of them right now.

“Don, please! This isn’t you!” Destiny begs, tears welling up in her eyes. She darts a look between Michelle, then Ria, begging to whatever higher power might be listening that she’s in one piece, if okay is too much to ask for. “We’re friends!

She takes a deep breath and holds it, and herself very still, watching the impending chaos around her.

She was going to kill us all!” Don shouts in Michelle’s direction, without explaining a how or why around that. Joy is scrambling, hurrying on her hands and knees across the floor, fishing for something in the knee-keep water. Ria, struggling to get up, trembles and quakes as small bursts of light surge around her arms.

Edward, standing in front of Joy, found what she was looking for in the water.

Michelle’s gun.

The crack of a gunshot breaks the silence, but it’s Edward that crumples, not Don. Clutching his back, Edward fumbles Michelle’s pistol back into the water and falls face first into the brine. Joy, staring up in wide-eyed horror, watches as a tall and rail-thin blonde man steps through the doorway alongside the new chief of security. One of the two would be cause enough for panic, but Norton Trask and West Rosen imply what Edward had feared all along: this was a trap.

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Else is an island in the storm of this chaos; much like Destiny, still. Eyes half-lidded, her lips part to exhale a breathless gasp of something like words, and then she focuses on Don with sudden recognition. “Bright,” Else whispers, and then closes her eyes a split second before Ria rises up to stand and floods the room with a blinding flare of brilliant light.

Trask lets out a hollow scream, shielding his eyes and recoiling back with West. There’s blind gunfire, Don is shouting, and Destiny can feel a hand on her arm. It’s Else.

We have to go,” Else says in a strikingly lucid whisper, “now.

Destiny crumples to the floor at the sound of the gunshot, screaming and covering her head. There’s been too much of this today. Too much blood. Edward falls next to her and she sees what he’s lost.

We can’t leave him,” she whispers in a voice so soft she isn’t sure anyone else could hear it. They can’t just leave any of them, can they? Trembling hands plunge into the water and grasp the gun. Else’s words inspire her back to her feet, hauling her with. Numbly, she nods. They don’t have a choice.

It isn’t just Edward they’re leaving behind, either. While the mathematician come government agent struggles to keep his head above the shallow water, Joy sees through the bleary haze of vibrant lights the silhouettes of Else and Destiny retreating from her. “No!” Joy cries, starting to stand up until she’s struck in the back of the neck by the butt of Trask’s rifle.

Rianna, surging with solar-flares of light off of her illuminated body, sees Else and Destiny retreating into the hatch of the submarine, and looks to Don, then to Trask. As she feels the water swelling up at her ankles, Rianna explodes into a pillar of light, and Don raises another wall of water between she and him. But it isn’t Don that Ria is going for.


It’s the airlock controls.

Slamming the locking lever down, the airlock blast doors begin to close with a screeching grind of metal on metal. Else, inside the long and largely empty passenger submarine, hurries to the controls in the front. “Sit, sit!” Else calls back, and it’s only now that Destiny can see her eyes are milky white and seemingly blinded, like when she writes her music.

Gunshots ring out against the sub, and Don screams, “You idiots don’t shoot the fucking sub!” West lowers his handgun, looking to Trask who hauls Joy up by her hair with one hand. Rianna looks to her mother, trying to shield herself from the spray of water, and looks through the windshield of the sub and the narrowing gap of the closing blast doors at Destiny and Else. She could escape, right onto the submarine, but as she turns a wary eye back at Don, both of the women in the sub realize what she can’t leave.


With Else suddenly lucid and moving on her own, Destiny pauses in her scramble to climb into the sub. She could shoot him. Maybe that would end all of it. Maybe he’d let Michelle go and they could retrieve Edward, and with Ria and Joy, they could leave. Maybe they wouldn’t have to leave if she can stop him.

But she can’t. Because they’re supposed to be friends.

A shot pings off the submarine’s side, perilously close to where that blonde head had been peeking out. That’s her cue to listen to the prophet. Slamming the hatch shut, she puts herself into a seat, setting the gun on the edge of it beside her.

“Ria, come on!” she shouts, pressing one hand against the thick glass that once allowed tourists to wonder at the wrecks below the waves. “We have to go! Come on!”

But she knows this is goodbye.

And as the blast doors close and the rear doors behind the submarine begin to open and flood the chamber with seawater, the last thing Destiny sees of Ria, is a pillar of light in the shape of a person, slowly enclosed in on by Don’s security team.

Once again, the world she knows is thrown into chaos…

Without anything to show for it.

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