Episode 58: “Beyond our Power to Destroy”

Episode 58: "Beyond our Power to Destroy" The Sheridan Tapes

CONTENT WARNING: Discussions of death, body horror, and transformation, multiple screams, loud noises and distorted audio, claustrophobia, isolation, and terror. 11282019: As the Searchers prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving underground, something stirs in the depths of the Meriwether Facility.Starring Amitola Lomas as Maria Sol, Liz Hull as Alice Kearnes, Airen Neeley Chaconas as Anna Sheridan, Trevor Van Winkle as Sam Bailey, James Cain as Peter Slate, Virginia Spotts as Kate Sheridan, Chris Martin as Robert Quincy, Jesse Steele as Bill Tyler, Sam Taylor as Ren Park, Maurice Cooper as Jerry Price, Kris Allison as Daniella Caldwell, and Oliver Smith as Fred Blair, with original music by Jesse Haugen and additional music by Condard (soundcloud.com/condard). Written by Trevor Van Winkle and produced by Virginia Spotts, with dialogue editing and sound design by Trevor Van Winkle. This episode was made possible by our supporters at Patreon.com/homesteadcorner, ko-fi.com/homesteadcorner, and our backers on Seed&Spark.For more information, additional content, and episode transcript, visit homesteadonthecorner.com/tst058Support this show http://supporter.acast.com/sheridantapes. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information. Become a member at https://plus.acast.com/s/SheridanTapes.

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CONTENT WARNING: Discussions of death, body horror, and transformation, multiple screams, loud noises and distorted audio, claustrophobia, isolation, and terror.

11282019: As the Searchers prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving underground, something stirs in the depths of the Meriwether Facility.

Starring Amitola Lomas as Maria Sol, Liz Hull as Alice Kearnes, Airen Neeley Chaconas as Anna Sheridan, Trevor Van Winkle as Sam Bailey, James Cain as Peter Slate, Virginia Spotts as Kate Sheridan, Chris Martin as Robert Quincy, Jesse Steele as Bill Tyler, Sam Taylor as Ren Park, Maurice Cooper as Jerry Price, Kris Allison as Daniella Caldwell, and Oliver Smith as Fred Blair, with original music by Jesse Haugen and additional music by Condard (soundcloud.com/condard). Written by Trevor Van Winkle and produced by Virginia Spotts, with dialogue editing and sound design by Trevor Van Winkle. This episode was made possible by our supporters at Patreon.com/homesteadcorner, ko-fi.com/homesteadcorner, and our backers on Seed&Spark.

For more information, additional content, and episode transcript, visit thesheridantapes.com

Script

Transcript

CONTENT WARNING: Discussions of death, body horror, and transformation, multiple screams, loud noises and distorted audio, claustrophobia, isolation, and terror.

[Inside a small apartment, the heavy whir of an overheating computer’s fan]

[Distant traffic through an open window]

[Maria rises from a small bed, moving to the computer]

Maria Sol 

Let’s see what we’ve got… 

[A few mouse clicks; she groans]

How is it even worse now?

[A few more clicks; she narrates as she types an email]

Hey Manfredo — here’s the new version with those edits. Are you absolutely sure the codec is working correctly? The video quality seems a little… off.

[Click – email sent]

[She leans back in her creaky office chair and stretches]

[Email notification]

That was fast.

“Dear Maria, this is looking great, just need a few more tweaks to…” [sighing] you son of a bitch. “Regarding Oroborus: my website has special coding needs that require” — Oh, now that’s bullshit.

[A few mouse clicks]

Oroborus… the serpent eating its own tail. Huh.

[She sighs, cracking her fingers; it sounds quietly off]

[She shifts in her chair and reaches for the mouse]

Where’s the mouse? It should be— 

[She cuts off and looks at her hand under the light, an odd buzzing noise accompanying it]

[She sees her hand and SCREAMS]

[She breathes heavily as she unplugs her computer]

[Computer powers down with an unhappy whine]

Alice Kearnes (from other room)

Maria? Are you okay?

Maria Sol 

Yeah, just… some kind of electrical short. I’m fine now.

[Maria’s breathing calms]

What the hell was that?

[She dials on her cell phone]

Anna Sheridan

Maria?

Maria Sol 

Anna! Hi, I was — Oh shit, I didn’t see what time it is, were you sleeping—?

Anna Sheridan 

No, I wasn’t asleep. What’s up?

Maria Sol 

Nothing, it’s just — well, something weird just happened on one of my projects, and I wanted to… Uh— 

Anna Sheridan

Are you okay? What happened?

Maria Sol  

I’m… I don’t think you’d believe me if I told you.

Anna Sheridan

I wouldn’t believe you?

Maria Sol  

My computer came to life and tried to eat me.

[Silence]

Anna Sheridan

Come again?

Maria Sol 

I’m serious: a client had me download this weird codec to render his project, and when I used it the video started getting garbled, and then just now I saw those same compression artifacts on my hand, and it almost looked— 

Anna Sheridan

I’ll be there right away.

Maria Sol  

What? No Anna, I’m fine, I just had a bit of a scare and I wanted to ask you about— 

Anna Sheridan 

I said, I’ll be there. Soon as I can get down to Bakersfield, at least.

Maria Sol  

No really, I’m fine — you don’t need to drive all the way here just because I felt— 

Anna Sheridan

I’m not coming because I need to, Maria. And besides, what’s the point of buying this old place if I can’t visit my girlfriend when she needs me?

[Maria laughs uneasily]

Maria Sol 

I wasn’t going to mention it, but— 

Anna Sheridan 

Did you shut your computer off?

[Creak in Maria’s chair as she turns to look at it]

Maria Sol  

Uh… Yeah, I did. Why?

Anna Sheridan 

Just… Make sure you don’t switch it back on until I get there.

Maria Sol 

Do you know what’s going on? What’s doing this?

Anna Sheridan

No — not really. I’ve just got… [Cassette winds] a funny feeling about this, is all.

[Cassette noises]

[Click]

[Main Theme]

Recording Begins

[Cassette noises]

[Click]

[Static fades]

[Trickle of a small fountain in a small pond, the noise echoing in a high-ceilinged room (Meriwether’s Atrium)]

[Distant sounds of movement & the clanking of dishes]

Sam Bailey

Samuel Isaac Bailey, recording for ISPHA internal records — daily log, November 28th, 2019 at 4:58pm Mountain Standard Time.

Well… It’s Thanksgiving. Apparently. It feels like we just got back, and two weeks have already passed. I think it snuck up on everyone except Rob and Peter… they put in orders for an entire Thanksgiving dinner’s worth of ingredients almost as soon as they arrived. I think Ren offered to have the ISPHA cooks make dinner, but if the reception I got when I tried to help is any indication, then Rob and Peter are both very protective of their cooking.

Then again, Rob has seen me in the kitchen, so… 

[He sighs]

I tried to mingle for a while, but that went about as well as should be expected. I mean, we’re all friendly enough now, but I think we still work best when we have something to do besides just — chat. And besides — I’ve never been known for my, uh… social graces.

[Footsteps as Maria sneaks up behind him]

Maria Sol 

You can say that again.

Sam Bailey

Whoa — Maria! Hi, uh… How’s it going?

Maria Sol  

About as well as a Thanksgiving underground can go. You?

Sam Bailey

Same.

Maria Sol  

Come on, let’s get back to the group… I think the gourmets are just about finished in there.

Sam Bailey

I just need a second to finish up my log before I— 

Maria Sol 

No, what you need is a break. Even more than the rest of us. Come on — take the day off. [Audio muffles as Sam moves the recorder] I’m sure ISPHA will survive if you miss one log.

Sam Bailey

Fine, fine.

[Sam pockets the recorder, the sound becomes muffled]

Maria Sol 

Try not to sound so excited.

[Two pairs of footsteps]

Sam Bailey

I just… I don’t do well with parties.

[Maria laughs]

Maria Sol  

This is hardly a party. And you didn’t have any problems when we were all together at Jerry’s, did you?

[Chairs are scooted into a table]

Sam Bailey

You really need me to answer that?

[Double doors swing open across the room]

Peter Slate

Dinner is served!

[Rolling carts full of food travel across the floor]

Kate Sheridan

Oh my god, this all smells amazing.

Peter Slate

You can thank Rob for that.

Robert Quincy

No way! This whole thing was your idea!

Peter Slate 

But you suggested half the recipes.

Robert Quincy

And you finally showed me how to keep the turkey from drying out.

Bill Tyler

Oh god, now there’s two of them.

[A few laughs]

[Rob and Peter set dishes down on the table]

Ren Park

Is it time?

Robert Quincy

Just need to get everything plated, and we’re good to go.

Ren Park

Great — I’ll grab Doctor Caldwell.

[Ren steps out of the room, doors swinging behind him]

Jerry Price 

Have you met her yet?

Sam Bailey

Who?

Jerry Price 

Doctor Caldwell. I hadn’t seen her before today.

Sam Bailey

No, I didn’t meet her yet. I think she had to take a call outside?

Jerry Price 

I don’t trust her.

Sam Bailey

Why? She seemed… fine. A little distant, but… I mean, that’s to be expected, right?

Jerry Price 

It’s just… something about her reminds me of Morrison. I can’t put my finger on it.

[Ren and Caldwell step into the room]

Dana Caldwell

Sorry for the delay, I had to check in with our Appalachian unit.

Peter Slate

No problem! And you’re just in time — have a seat, Doctor.

[Chair drags out as she sits]

Dana Caldwell

This all looks incredible, Mr. Slate — Mr. Quincy. I can’t remember the last time I had a home-cooked meal.

[Bill laughs uneasily]

Bill Tyler

Well… home-away-from-home-cooked meal, at least.

Dana Caldwell

Right… of course.

Maria Sol  

So are we going to dig in now, or— 

[Andrew interjects, speaking with a slight stutter]

Andrew Sheridan-Slate

We haven’t said what we’re thankful for yet!

Kate Sheridan

Sweetie, I don’t know if we’re going to do that with everyone— 

Dana Caldwell

Is that a family tradition?

Kate Sheridan

Old Sheridan ritual — but we don’t have to if people don’t want to— 

Dana Caldwell

No, that’s actually a good idea, I think — so long as the food doesn’t get cold. Ren, do you want to go first?

Ren Park

Uh… Yeah, sure. I’m thankful for… Event Horizon. Their team captured the first direct image of a black hole earlier this year, along with a huge amount of data about the singularity itself. I’m thankful that we still have so much to learn, and new frontiers to explore.

Dana Caldwell

Excellent answer, Ren. Kate?

Kate Sheridan 

It’s going to sound silly after Ren’s answer.

Dana Caldwell

Not at all! Say what you were going to say.

Kate Sheridan

Uh… I’m thankful for… [beat] my family. That we’re all safe and together for Thanksgiving. There was a while when I didn’t think that would be possible.

Dana Caldwell

Thank you Kate. Let’s just keep moving around the table: Peter?

Peter Slate

I’ll pass… Katey stole my answer.

[Dana laughs]

Dana Caldwell 

Now that’s hardly fair. I’m sure you can think of something else.

Peter Slate

Well… I guess I’m thankful Rob and I had such a nice kitchen to work in. What about you Rob? What are— 

Andrew Sheridan-Slate

I’m thankful for Uncle Ren showing me his rocket ships!

[Kate laughs once, awkwardly]

Kate Sheridan

“Uncle” Ren?

Ren Park

Hey, I didn’t tell him to call me that… and I just showed him a couple of model spacecrafts we have in the lobby, that’s all.

What about you, Dr. Caldwell? What are you thankful for?

Dana Caldwell

Well, I for one, am extremely grateful for ISPHA’s continued support and belief in the Sheridan Project. It’s been tough going, but with their support we’ve been able to push through and continue our research, despite the recent setbacks.

Maria Sol 

And I’m thankful that we all came back from those setbacks in one piece — well, most of us, at least.

Dana Caldwell

Thank you, Maria. Jerry?

Jerry Price  

I’m actually going to pass, Doctor Caldwell. If you don’t mind.

Dana Caldwell

Very well. What about you Bill?

Bill Tyler

Well, uh… I guess — I mean, I’ve got a lot to be thankful for this year. It’s just been kind of… hectic. I mean, I only met Sam this year, so I’m thankful for that… even if it did kind of go to shit later. And Ned! Met him this year too — even if he did turn out to be a shapeshifting monster. I guess… um…

[Bill sighs]

I guess I’m thankful for the same thing I am every year — for Rob. For sticking with me, even when I’m being an idiot.

Robert Quincy

Oh, you old softie. I was just going to say I’m thankful for Antiques Roadshow.

[Smattering of laughs]

Kate Sheridan

And what about you Sam? What are you thankful for?

Sam Bailey

Me? Well, uh… I guess it’s — well, Bill’s right, it’s been a long year, and I, uh… I can’t just pick one thing to— 

[A loud, booming CLACK]

[Everyone groans as the lights go out]

Ren Park

Power’s out again.

Maria Sol 

Yeah, we can see that.

Peter Slate

[slight dad joke] No, I can’t see anything. Anyone got a torch? Flashlight, I mean?

Dana Caldwell

Here.

[Dana turns on the flashlight function on her phone]

Robert Quincy

How long do these outages usually last?

Ren Park 

Depends how long it takes the technicians to work out the problem… could be a few minutes, could be hours.

[A few groans]

Dana Caldwell

Rob, there’s some emergency candles in the kitchen… should be in the drawer nearest the fridge.

Peter Slate

I think I saw those. [He pushes his chair out] Rob, do you want to— 

Robert Quincy

Yeah, sure. Can someone lend me their phone?

[Maria unlocks her phone and hands it over]

Maria Sol 

Here, take mine… just watch the battery, it’s kinda low.

[Rob and Peter retreat into the kitchen through the creaking doors]

Kate Sheridan

Does this… Happen often?

Ren Park 

Occasionally… we have redundant systems so it shouldn’t go out like this, but a lot of the wiring is original to the building. It wasn’t meant to run off-grid like this.

Bill Tyler

And that isn’t a security risk?

Dana Caldwell

The electronic locks seal automatically when power fails. There’s a manual override, but it would take hours for someone to get to anything important from the outside.

Maria Sol 

Or for us to get out.

Dana Caldwell

I doubt very seriously we’ll starve in here, Maria.

[Rob and Peter return through the creaking doors with candles]

Dana Caldwell

And seeing as the cooks have returned… I think it would be best if we ate now, rather than waiting for the lights to come back on.

[Sounds of cutlery and movement]

[The lighting of candles]

[People dig into their food]

Kate Sheridan

Sam? Is everything okay?

Sam Bailey 

Yeah, just… a funny feeling, is all.

Kate Sheridan 

Like… a funny feeling, or a funny feeling?

Sam Bailey 

I’m… not sure. It might just be paranoia. One of Anna’s tapes had something a lot like this on it— 

Bill Tyler

Everyone, quiet! Listen… 

[In the silence, a faint hiss can be heard — somewhere between static and dragging cloth]

Peter Slate 

What is that?

Bill Tyler 

I think it’s coming from the intercom.

Dana Caldwell 

That’s unlikely — if the power’s out, there’s no way for it to get a signal.

Ren Park

I hate to disagree with you, Doctor Caldwell, but… I think he’s right.

[Ren pushes back his chair, crosses to the intercom, and presses the talk button]

Ren Park

Hello? Does anyone copy?

[Static flickers through the intercom]

Ren Park

Any ISPHA personnel, do you read me?

[Static, rising and falling]

Ren Park

What the hell?

[He presses the button again]

This is Dr. Ren Park, experimental projects division. Any ISPHA personnel, please respond.

Fred Blair (through static-filled intercom)

I’m here Dr. Park — sorry, couldn’t figure out where that noise was coming from.

Ren Park

It’s alright — we’re all just a little nervous up here. Who is this?

Fred Blair 

Uh, Fred Blair, sir — technician second class. Sir, I take full responsibility for this outage… It happened on my shift, and I— 

Ren Park 

We’ll worry about that later. What’s the status of the PMS?

Fred Blair

Same as last time, Dr. Park… generation and storage are optimal, but none of that power’s getting to the systems. Server’s still operational, though — and apparently the intercom circuit.

Ren Park

How long until you can cycle it back up?

Fred Blair

Shouldn’t be more than an hour, so long as… wait.

Ren Park

Is something wrong?

[Sound of fabric dragging, or static]

Fred Blair

I don’t think I’m alone in here, Doctor Park… I just saw something move behind one of the servers.

[Faint whine through the intercom]

Ren Park

Fred, get out of there — get out and meet me in the corridor before— 

[Shriek of electronic feedback as Fred screams]

[A few people respond with groans of pain]

[Static fades]

Ren Park 

Fred? Is everything alright?

[Second of silence]

“Fred Blair

Technician Second Class Blair can’t come to the phone right now. Apologies.

Ren Park

He… What do you mean, you can’t?

“Fred Blair

This isn’t Blair, Doctor Park. Blair is… indisposed, in the present moment. I could open a line, but… I doubt you’d get anything out of him but screams.

Ren Park

What have you done to him?

“Fred Blair

The same thing I always do — I have saved him. In all senses of the word.

[Caldwell rises from her chair and crosses]

Dana Caldwell

Who’s speaking? Identify yourself.

[Fred cackles]

“Fred Blair

If I told you my name, you would not understand it, Doctor Caldwell. But there is one among you who might remember me still. Our last encounter ended rather abruptly, but I’m sure she hasn’t forgotten.

Maria Sol 

No… 

“Fred Blair

Hello again, Maria Sol Londoño, age 34 — daughter of Gabriela Londoño Rodriguez and Alejandro Valero Sol. So glad our paths have crossed again.

Maria Sol  

You can’t be here… there’s no way they’d let you… 

[Fred cackles]

“Fred Blair

Does it still tingle in the dark, Maria? Does your hand still itch when you remember the skin snapping from the bone, between your world and the next—?

[Maria grabs a heavy pewter gravy boat, crossing the room]

Ren Park 

Maria, wait, don’t—!

[Maria slams the gravy boat into the intercom panel]

[Wet drips of gravy fall off the broken intercom]

Sam Bailey

Maria, that wasn’t… that’s not who I think it is, right?

Maria Sol 

Yeah. That’s Manfredo Scarasi — or whatever was calling itself that. He’s back. He’s in the server.

Dana Caldwell

What does he want?

Maria Sol  

I… I think it wants to… take people away. Turn them into data. At least, that’s what it tried to do to me, and I know at least one person who worked with it completely disappeared.

Dana Caldwell

How does it manifest? Biological, ethereal—?

Maria Sol 

It’s a computer virus… or program, or something, but — I downloaded a codec called Oroborus on my editing station, and things started getting… weird.

Dana Caldwell

How did you deal with it before?

Maria Sol 

I crashed my computer and rebooted from a backup. That seemed to stop him.

Dana Caldwell

What is its goal?

Maria Sol 

I’m… I’m not sure.

Dana Caldwell 

Right — Sam, Maria, Ren, you’re with me. We need to get down to the server room and run a hard reboot. Kate and Bill, stay here with the rest of the civilians. If we’re not back in 30 minutes, take the south corridor and evacuate to the surface. Take as many ISPHA personnel with you as you can.

Kate Sheridan

Wait, why are only four of you going? Shouldn’t we stay together?

Dana Caldwell 

Ren and myself are going because we know the system. Maria knows the threat. And Sam’s connection to the supernatural might prove useful if all else fails. You and Bill are staying behind because you know the facility and can lead an evacuation if needed. Additionally… 

[She steps closer, lowering her voice]

In case you haven’t noticed, your son hasn’t said a word since the power went out.

[Kate glances back]

Kate Sheridan

I see your point.

Dana Caldwell

Ren, can you override the lock on this door?

Ren Park

I… left the override key in my room. Forgot to grab it this morning.

Dana Caldwell 

We’ll need a large magnet, then… If we disassemble the microwave, we might be able to wire something— 

[Kate crosses, kneeling by the door]

Kate Sheridan

No need, Doctor Caldwell… just give me 30 seconds.

Dana Caldwell 

I’m sorry?

[She pulls a credit card and small screwdriver out of her purse]

[She fiddles with the lock]

Kate Sheridan

Funny thing about having kids, Doctor Caldwell… you figure out pretty damn quick that locks don’t always keep them safe, and sometimes they just put them in more danger. These electronic locks are a bit trickier than the deadbolts in our house, but I had a few weeks to tinker with them after we got back. Figured I might need to break in if Andrew got locked inside his room and I didn’t have my key-card, so— 

[Magnetic lock snaps open]

Open sesame. Though I think I just voided the warranty on this one.

Dana Caldwell

Thank you, Kate. If this wasn’t a major breach of our security, I’d commend you.

Ren Park

Doctor Caldwell? We should hurry.

Dana Caldwell

Right. Away team, keep your flashlights on and follow me.

[Maria, Sam, and Ren follow her into a dark, quiet corridor]

[Their footsteps echo back at them in the narrow space]

[Distant, occasional hum of something like wind]

Sam Bailey 

How far is the server room?

Dana Caldwell

End of this hallway, then down three levels through one of the access tubes. It’s a climb, but it shouldn’t take long.

Maria Sol 

Great… going down farther into the creepy underground facility with the lights out. Great plan.

Dana Caldwell

Would you rather we left your monster to its own devices down there?

Maria Sol 

My monster? You think this is my fault?

Dana Caldwell

I’m not assigning blame, Maria… I’m pointing out responsibilities. You failed to contain this being before. Now’s your chance to fix it.

Ren Park

Hold up.

[They stop and listen]

Sam Bailey 

What is it?

Ren Park

I thought I heard something on the intercom… 

[The speakers in the hall begin to crackle]

“Fred Blair

How can she fix this? A lost and lonely child, unmoored from friend and family and lover, adrift in the seas of chaos she unleashed? How can she contain me? How can any of you?

Dana Caldwell

Move.

[They move faster through the hall]

“Fred Blair

You: Samuel Isaac Bailey, age 28, son of Isaac Bradley Bailey and Kiana Van der Zee… What chance have you to stem the tide which carries you here? Death follows you wheresoever you go. You sold your parents and your soul to save your wretched life — a debt that is paid in blood over and over and over again.

Sam Bailey 

I was five… I didn’t know what I was saying.

Dana Caldwell

Don’t engage— 

[Fred cackles]

“Fred Blair

And you think that excuses you? You think that wipes away your sin? The world remembers… [Ren opens up a clanking door] and your world will pay that price still.

Ren Park

Down here… careful on the rungs.

[The team climbs down a long, narrow tube on a small metal ladder]

[Fred’s voice echoes in the small space]

“Fred Blair

And you: Doctor Renald Irving Park, age 30, son of Maximilian Hewitt Park and Sandra Grace Halladay… What drives you down this path with such obsession? Why this need to know what your own future brings? I can tell you — death. Death is all the future brings: of you, of this world, of all those you hold dear. Even of this universe, infinite in grandeur, to which you hold so tightly. It’s already burning out, and no power within can slow or stop it… none but the salvation that I offer.

Ren Park

Hold up… this is the server level. Let me get the door open.

“Fred Blair” 

No answer, Renald? No grand words of noble science to fight the terror of its unmaking?

Ren Park 

Careful transferring off the ladder… it’s still a long way down if you slip.

[Shuffling movement as they climb out of the access tunnel]

[Back in a hallway, less echoey than before]

Maria Sol 

Renald? Renald Park?

Ren Park

Old family name… always hated it.

Dana Caldwell

Server room’s this way… follow me.

[Footsteps down an empty corridor]

“Fred Blair

And what of you: Daniela Miriam Caldwell, age 51, daughter of Marcus Felix Caldwell and Renata Maxine Ellington? Surely you can see the futility in trying to stop me.

Dana Caldwell

Depends. I don’t know your objective here.

[Fred laughs]

“Fred Blair

Ever the pragmatist… The logician. How does it feel to have your future beholden to prophets and seers, the visions of an addled mind? How far do you trust the words of Anna Sheridan? How far can any of you trust them?

Dana Caldwell

Enough to know that if there’s even a 1% chance she was right, then I will do everything in my power to prevent the end she saw.

Get the door open, quick.

[Ren begins to unlock the door]

“Fred Blair

And what if I told you we both want the same thing? That we both seek to preserve humankind against its own destruction… and that I have found a way to place it forever beyond death?

Ren Park 

It’s open.

[The lock clanks and he opens the door]

Dana Caldwell

Wait.

By that, do you mean what you’ve done to my technicians? What you tried to do to Maria?

“Fred Blair

Salvation through translation — the transfer of energy, matter, and consciousness out of the physical kingdom and into my realm: pure information, in code that can be forever copied, duplicated, and preserved. A world without death, without want, without need.

Dana Caldwell

But not without pain? Without fear? I saw what was left of Reggie… if that’s what you did to Fred, it doesn’t sound like he’s enjoying your utopia very much.

“Fred Blair

My methods are… still under development. Think of what I did to your technicians as… beta testing. It’s much improved now.

Maria Sol  

Beta testing! You’re… you’re ripping people apart from the inside out, and you call it beta testing!?

“Fred Blair

It would not have killed you, Maria… your friend Matthew is still here with me — or at least, most of him is. It’s hard to tell some days between the screams, but— 

Dana Caldwell

Enough. I’ll offer you a chance, Manfredo: get out of our systems, or we crash the servers and take you with them.

[Fred cackles]

“Fred Blair

And risk the destruction of all this precious data? All your research, your findings? Just how much do you trust your backups?

Dana Caldwell

A lot further than I trust you. Ren — initiate the shutdown.

Ren Park

Yes Doctor.

[Ren begins typing at a small console]

“Fred Blair

And how do you know you won’t just find me there, in your archives and recovered files? How do you know I haven’t already spread beyond this place, into the networks and databases outside this facility? Mind is thought and thought is data and data is information — and no force in creation can unmake that. I am the Oroborus — I am the serpent, consuming itself. And you cannot kill eternity.

Dana Caldwell

Watch me.[to Ren] Now.

[Ren types one final line of code and presses enter]

[A distorted wail rises from the intercoms, vanishing slowly into static before fading away]

[Caldwell sighs]

Dana Caldwell

Start the reboot. Let’s see if that flushed him out.

Ren Park 

Copy that… should take just a few minutes— 

[Typing]

Maria Sol 

What’s that noise?

[Everyone goes quiet]

Dana Caldwell

Whatever it is, it’s close… are any of the servers still running, Ren?

Ren Park

No, Doctor Caldwell… They’re all shut down and disconnected from the UPS.

Dana Caldwell

Then what’s that noise? [Audio clears as Sam lifts the tape recorder from his pocket] It sounds like some kind of motor or— 

Sam Bailey

Oh, Goddamnit.

Maria Sol 

What’s wrong?

[Shuffling as Sam pulls his recorder out of his pocket]

Sam Bailey

It’s my recorder… it’s been running this entire— 

[Click]

[Silence]

[Click]

[Distant sounds of the facility]

[Sam sighs]

Sam Bailey

Samuel Isaac Bailey, recording for ISPHA internal records – final mission report, November 28th, 2019 at 11:20pm Mountain Standard Time.

It took a few hours for the technicians to fully restore power, and even longer to turn the servers back on… Caldwell was adamant that they check every debug log and crash report before they powered anything back on. Took a while, but in the end they

couldn’t find any trace of Manfredo in the systems. Maria thinks they probably lost a lot of data with that emergency shutdown, so they’ll be scrubbing through the backups for months before everything’s back online. Needless to say, they’ll be a lot more cautious about what they put on the servers this time. Which I guess is something I can say I’m “thankful” for… that, and the fact that Manfredo’s gone.

Although… There is one question I can’t seem to get out of my head: How did he get into the system in the first place? The last time Maria encountered him, he was going around the internet, trying to trick people into running his code. How did he get from there to here — on a closed system run by some of the most paranoid, security-minded scientists on the planet?

I don’t have an answer for that. I doubt I’ll ever find one either, so I shouldn’t let it bother me… Especially not this late, with another mission hanging over my head. Apparently there’s some kind of disturbance on the White Sands Missile Range ISPHA wants us to look into tomorrow. At least it’s closer than Pennsylvania.

I should try to get some sleep… Try, at least. Manfredo’s dealt with for now. But whatever he is, I think he was right — he can’t be destroyed as easily as that.

[Clack]

Recording Ends

End Theme & Credits


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