"The days ahead are bleak... The chaos is complete... All this death is the side-effect of man's hunger for power. Once more, we've defeated ourselves. Once more, our greed, our unquenchable thirst for more has turned it's knife against us. We, your unlikely guardians, will be torn away from you tonight. The fiends are waiting... We'd best not waste what short time they have left..."
- Cognition Vault first public broadcast. August 23, 2164
The two men stormed into the lobby of the facility, startling the already distressed receptionist. They grinned as they approached her, almost as if they were proud of something, and both placed their hands on the desk as they leaned in to speak.
"Have you been informed of what's going on?" The man on the left spoke first, still grinning like a schoolboy. Before she could reply, the other man interrupted. "The shit seems to have really hit the fan, you know, with all these protesters outside."
"I had to swat away a few bricks just to get inside without a head wound!"
By now, the woman was smiling nervously as she began shuffling around a stack of papers in her hands. The man on the right took his turn to quickly reply again.
"Have we found any suspects yet?"
"Now why would you ask her that, she's a damn receptionist!"
There was a silence as the two men stared at each other, and the receptionist stared on in confusion. Suddenly, the two burst into laughter, and turned back to her. They kept their eyes fixed on her as they began debating among themselves.
"Should we tell her?" The man on the left grinned again as he inquired to his companion.
"Why not, we've not got much time left anyways."
"Indeed." Both men, in a single synchronized movement, reached into the pockets of their jumpsuits and removed two identical objects from them. Sliding the objects over their faces, the woman gasped in fear as the most infamous items of recent history were revealed to her; the highly-stylized gas masks worn by underground industrial band, Cognition Vault.
"Do ya mind activating the elevator for us? We'd like to go to our lab and take care of a few things." The two spoke together, as if they had been planning this event for weeks.
The receptionist hesitated for a moment, then pressed the buzzer, granting them entry to the restricted area. They both gave her a thumbs-up and pulled open the plate-glass door, then marched towards the elevators.
"Carry on." said the man who was once on the left, now recognized as the infamous Theta, as he walked behind Zane. He stalled suddenly, and turned to her one last time. "And don't forget to call for security." He whispered, before disappearing into the elevator with his ally.
They both stood silently in the elevator as the dreadfully well-known music played through the speakers lining the ceiling. They tapped their feet in impatience, their arms crossed. Forty floors still lay between them and their destination. Zane finally lost his patience, threw his arms in the air, and began tapping the button signifying their destination wildly.
"Are you sure you're still up for this?" Theta hesitantly asked, looking towards the agitated Zane. Zane turned around, scratching the back of his head, and nodded.
"I signed my fate the second we walked into the building. This needs to be done, for everyone's safety." He put his arms back down and leaned against the wall.
"Indeed, it must be done, but we aren't signed to fate, we simply push our lives around through our every insignificant action. Anything is possible, my friend. You should know that after all that we have seen."
There was a silence as they both pondered the results of this day, neither of them finding any chance for survival.
"Can we remove these damn jumpsuits and get a bit more noticeable? Wearing two suits at once was a bad idea... I'm chafing!" Zane jumped about suddenly and nearly tore his engineers jumpsuit in half, revealing a black and red outfit beneath it.
* * *
The elevator doors pulled away from each other, and the infamous duo casually walked into the long hallway, which was now full of commotion. Scientists and engineers alike poured out of the many offices, carrying their belongings swiftly to the nearest emergency exit. The workers were scurrying about at such a hectic pace, that not one of them took notice to the two new occupants of the hallway. Zane stepped forward, striking a triumphant pose.
"Alright, you slimy sons of bitches!" he screamed, catching everyone's attention. "The cleaning crew is here! Strut, before we unleash all hell on your asses!"
The crowd simply stood in place, staring and in awe at what they were witnessing. These two men were unarmed and unequipped with any necessary tools to successfully frighten them, yet they stood as if they didn't need them. After a long silence, and a stare-down that felt even longer, an emergency alarm went off.
"Warning, all personnel please make your way to the nearest emergency exit. The facility has been compromised. I repeat, the facility has been compromised. If you are in the lab area in the next five minutes, you will be shot on sight. Please evacuate."
As the intercom deactivated, Theta stepped forward, joining his ally. "Boo..." he whispered, and instantly the crown turned in the opposite direction and charged to the stairwell exit.
"Well, that certainly worked to our advantage..." Zane grinned as he began walking once again.
"I love our luck." Theta followed.
* * *
They were in their office now, the door blockaded by their now empty desks, the floor littered with the papers and tidbits they once contained. Zane was hectically fiddling with a computer terminal, while Theta scrounged through the mess on the floor, searching for the three coin-drives they had stole and hidden previously. The terminal whirred and groaned, trying to keep up with Zane's continual commands. Suddenly a window shot up, signaling a connection had been established.
"Got it! Theta, get over here, I need your help!" Zane typed out a few commands swiftly, then looked back to the other man, who was still scrounging through the mess. "HI! HELP!"
"Don't distract me, I'm collecting coins, dammit!" Theta voiced sarcastically, throwing papers about as he hunted down the final coin-drive. "Collecting coins, I be! Coin-Collector, thaaaaaat's me!" He found the third drive, grabbed it, and instantly leaped across the room to Zane's side.
"Hold down... THIS button!" Zane pointed to a small green button, and almost as soon as he pointed, Theta's finger was on it. Zane then continued to forcefully punched the console.
"Did you just punch the computer?" Theta stared at his ally, grinning beneath his mask.
"That I did. I find it quicker, and more effective than scripting out some ridiculously long code to override the security check. A quick punch, and poor little computer forgets the security check."
"You do this a lot, don't you?"
"How else would I slack off at work? Sit around, smelling like a dead moose?"
Another screen popped up, a digital mirror of the two. The broadcast had begun. They looked to the screen after Theta inserted the drives into the computer, and spoke in unison as orders began to be barked from in the hall.
"Welcome, one and all, to Cognition Vault's first and final broadcast. We are low on time, sadly. As you are. As they are. Followers of our cause know what has been unfolding here, at C.I., and like us you are most displeased. You stand out there on the lawn of our demise, screaming for it to stop, a false hope forcing you to believe that your presence will make things better. Perhaps it will, but not right now. Things have gone too far. As the saying goes, 'Only after it all comes crashing down will we see the sunlight again.' This is the crash. We are the crash. It is our job to send our story as far out as possible before an unseen force drives it to a halt and it utterly dissolves.
What do we tell them, you may ask yourself. That a corporation grew so strong that it began tampering with natural order? That it began developing death? No. This must stretch further than C.I. if we are to make an impact. As we speak, we are uploading a message to every sector, every up-linked computer on the entire globe. Our message is this. Are you strong enough to overcome the darkness in yourself? Looking deep into yourself you will all see it. Greed. A virulent strain that has lived in our DNA since the dawn of humankind. It is unnecessary, yet it is a defining characteristic of every organism. Do not be defined by your greed. Do not cause the pain that these fiends at C.I. have willing caused to everyone. Break the chain.
The days ahead are bleak... The chaos is complete... All this death is the side-effect of man's hunger for power. Once more, we've defeated ourselves. Once more, our greed, our unquenchable thirst for more has turned it's knife against us. We, your unlikely guardians, will be torn away from you tonight. The fiends are waiting... We'd best not waste what short time they have left..."
The two men shut off the computer and stood as the door to the office was finally kicked down by the riot squad. They surrounded themselves around the two men, and a scientist, one everyone recognized, walked up to them. He spoke:
"You two want to play hero? Despise things you've helped create, do you? So be it; you're just as guilty as all of us. I would have you to shot right now, but I don't think that would do the justice I'm looking for. I think we all know where I'm going with this. Pick your poison, boys. And choose damn-fast, before I kill you both myself."
He held the guns to their heads, and they both spoke in unison once again:
* * *
They both stood in the padded room now, awaiting the machine's activation. They stared onward, at the one-way glass pane where behind it the scientist stood. They heard a tap on the glass, and suddenly the entire room began to hum and vibrate. A light shot through them and they reeled over, Zane removing his mask and holding his head in pain. Theta stumbled over to the glass pane and tried to keep himself standing as he laughed maniacally. Another light blast, and they both fell to the floor. Zane looked towards Theta and realized the rifting process was beginning to take place. The man's silhouette was dividing itself, pulling apart almost like a 3-D movie.
Zane collapsed onto the floor, then Theta. The rifting process had almost completely taken Theta, as now his body was beginning to dissolve. Zane was still conscious, but he could not move. He watched as his own hand began to rift, but he did not even have the energy to scream as the pain overwhelmed him. His vision blurred out, and all he saw was darkness. Theta had gone, not even a shred of clothing remained as evidence of his existence. Zane was dissolved, the silhouettes fading into nothingness.
Soon the room grew quiet, and it returned to its deactivated state. Not a corpse in sight, not a sound in this padded room. The lights shut off, and the room became, once again, what it used to be. It became nothing more than an old-world bank vault.