Episode 1: The Discovery

Nathan Cross, an ambitious and adventurous archaeologist, was on a dig site in the middle of the desert when he found something that would change his life forever. Nathan had heard tales of powerful treasures found in the ground from an early age. He made it his life’s ambition to become an archaeologist to find those treasures. His studies led him to a locale in the middle of the desert in Egypt. Nathan had been tracking clues to an artifact of unknown origin that had been discussed in many ancient texts.  He believed he had figured out the “where”, now he wanted to figure out the “what”.  Since the site held promise for several Egyptian findings, he was able to get a team together and the funds to establish a dig at that location.

The dig, however, was proving fruitless. Despite all his efforts, they could not find a single shred of evidence to go off of.  Then, all in one moment, things changed. As Nathan carefully brushed away the sand that covered what he assumed was yet another stone, he revealed a strange, circular shape. Further clearing revealed a carved stone beneath the sand. It was unlike anything he had ever seen before, and he was immediately invigorated.

This triggered an all hands on deck effort. After 2 weeks of furious digging and painstaking efforts to clear the earth, the ruin was uncovered. A large doorway or arch made out of stone with intricate details carved into the stone running up and down the sides. Symbols and characters of a civilization never before seen. Nathan was at a loss for words with each swipe of his brush.

As word of the finding spread, political figures, corporations, and scientists from all over the world were vying for control of it. It was a race to see who could study it first, and all of them had their own selfish motives for wanting it. In an effort to protect the site, an elite security team was called in.  Nathan knew who he could trust to protect their efforts. None other than his childhood partner in crime Jackson Reed. Jackson was a former member of the special forces. Upon retirement he started his own protective services team designed to handle the most difficult situations. Nathan knew with the continued efforts to capture control of his findings he would have difficulty trusting others. Jackson was a true “salt of the earth” individual. If anyone could keep things in order, it would be him.

Nathan’s team continued to uncover more of the site around the ruin. Not far from the ruin was an altar. The altar had similar markings to the ruin. There was definitely a connection between the two. Nathan spent the majority of his time collecting as much information about the symbols as he could. Attempting to find some type of pattern that could be understood. There was something about this archway that seemed more than just stone. When in its presence, he had a feeling like he was vibrating, only no vibration could be detected.

One evening, as the crew was calling it for the night, Nathan remained behind to investigate the altar further. The altar resembled a table top surface that mimicked those used for sacrifices in ancient religions.  The markings on the surface created a circle around an inlaid ornate gold cube in the center. The cube looked to be made of a gold metal with ornate details on each face. The cube was set into the surface, but appeared to be separate from the table, as if it was removable.  Nathan reached out to touch the cube itself. To possibly pry it out with his fingers. As soon as his fingers came in contact with the edges of the cube, a blue glow appeared from within the details. He jumped with a start and pulled away. The instant he released contact the glow disappeared.

Nathan, both stunned and intrigued, slowly stepped back to the altar. His mind raced with questions. “What the hell was that?” was the dominant thought. Ever the child who couldn’t keep his hands to himself, Nathan brought the cube to life again through touch. This time keeping contact. The cube suddenly was freed from its bindings to the surface of the altar. Nathan stepped back from the altar holding the glowing cube while looking at it in complete awe. Rolling it over in his hands.

As he stepped back from the altar he had closed the distance to the ruin. Suddenly there was a loud crack from behind him that was followed with a “Woosh”. Nathan turned to see what looked like shimmering water in the archway. It was as if there was a door made of water. The cube vibrated in his hands. Almost as if it was flowing with the water in the doorway.

The sudden light and sounds caught Jackson’s attention from a guard post some distance away. He watched with uncertainty of what he was seeing. It didn’t seem real from his position. Other members of Nathan’s archaeological team also became interested in where the lights and sounds were coming from.

Nathan stood staring at what could only be seen as a portal. Nathan reached out to touch the water. Eager to learn more. In an instant, Nathan disappeared as he leaned into the portal. The only thing remaining was the cube, which tumbled to the ground. All light disappeared and the portal went silent.

Jackson and the other archaeologists watched in shock as Nathan disappeared through the portal. They saw the cube artifact lying on the ground. Another one of the archaeologists picked it up. Nothing happened. Mass hysteria set in. The scientists continued to study the cube, assuming it held the key to unlocking the mystery of the portal. None could make it activate again.

Nathan’s disappearance had an immediate impact on Jackson. He was furious that more wasn’t being done to find out what had happened to his friend. Despite the fact that the military had been called in to cordon off the dig site and the portal, Jackson was unable to get anywhere near it. He was frustrated that the only information he could get was from the reports of the other archaeologists on site. They all told the same story, that Nathan had discovered the cube, activated the portal and disappeared into it.  Everything else was unknown.

As the days passed, Jackson grew increasingly angry and worried that nothing was being done to find out what had happened to Nathan. He made a desperate attempt to get access to the cube, but was unsuccessful in his efforts. He began to question whether the scientists were even trying to find his friend. Jackson established, in his own mind, that the only way to find out what had happened to Nathan was to go in after him. But how was he going to make that happen?

That’s when Jackson had an idea. He knew that Nathan was close with Ava Madison, a fellow scientist and college classmate. Ava worked in a similar field and could potentially help him. While he was at t he figured he should contact Sophie Khan, a software engineer and mutual friend, as well. Sophie, also a friend through Ava, had a knack of getting into things others couldn’t. Jackson hoped that Ava and Sophie could, in some way, help him to find Nathan. He believed that together, they could piece together what had happened and figure out how to get Nathan back.

Jackson contacted Ava, a research scientist who had been working at a large research facility with ties to several covert operations. She was initially skeptical of the story Jackson told her about the portal and Nathan’s disappearance, Luckily for Jackson, his team had set up cameras at the dig site. After seeing the footage of Nathan disappearing, Ava began to believe.

Next, Jackson reached out to Sophie Khan, a hacker and tech whiz who they had met in college. Sophie was reluctant to join the efforts.  She was currently in the middle of some shady dealings with a collection of information that “didn’t exist” for a major conglomerate. Ava was able to convince her to help. Sophie was uncertain how her skills could be used to locate Nathan, but he was a close friend and looked to be in some trouble .

Ava and Sophie met up with Jackson at the dig site. Jackson was able to bring them in as consultants on his security team. Together, they stuck their noses into all the research that was going on around the portal and altar.  The group came to the conclusion that the cube Nathan had found was the key to unlocking the portal and finding Nathan. They set out on a mission to retrieve the cube.

“We need to retrieve that cube,” Ava said, studying the research notes on the dig site. “It’s gotta be the key to unlocking the portal and finding Nathan.”

“I can try to locate where the cube is now, if they have it cataloged in their network,” Sophie added. “But we need to be careful. The military is still guarding the site and we don’t want to draw attention to ourselves.”

“I agree.” Jackson said. “I may be able to get my team to take guard duty there. They wouldn’t view me being there as unusual, but we need to be stealthy and get in and out as quickly as possible.”

They planned their way to get into the storage area, mapping out their route and deciding on the best approach. They left at night, when the guard detail was at its lowest, and least alert. Sophie hacked into the security camera system and altered them to ensure no evidence was collected. Rather than shutting them down, which would draw attention, she instead put them on a loop. With the low activity this late at night it would be easy to mistake a loop as real time.

Once they were inside the storage site, they quickly went to work, navigating the shelves to locate the cube. Jackson kept watch of his guards, making sure they weren’t discovered.  Ava found the case the cube was being stored in. It was locked with what appeared to be a fingerprint reader.  Sophie chuckled and said “They still use this trash?”

Ava looked at her with confusion. Sophie explained that these cases have a major flaw that makes them easy to open. The locks on these cases were failing and preventing the owners from removing whatever they stored in them. The manufacturers of the case added a fix that if the mechanism faulted, it would release the lock.

“All we need to do is shock it.” stated Sophie

“And how exactly do we do that in the middle of the desert?” questioned Ava.

Right at that moment an arm reached through between them. Held in Jackson’s hand was a taser.

“That’ll work!” Sophie chuckled as she plucked the taser from Jackson’s hand.

“Never had a use for one, until now” Jackson smirked.

Sophie placed the prods at two points on either side of the lock mechanism and pulled the trigger of the taser. After a brief second of smoke and blue electric sparks, the case popped open.

“Damn, these things suck” Sophie muttered.

“We did it!” Ava exclaimed, looking at the cube in amazement. “Now all we have to do is figure out how to use it to unlock the portal and find Nathan.”

Ava stared at the cube in the case saying. “We need to get it out of here.”

Jackson reached through again and grabbed the artifact and stuffed it in his pocket. “Let’s go” he said as he turned and left.

The team was filled with a renewed sense of hope as they left the dig site storage with the cube safely in their possession. They knew they still had a long road ahead of them, but they were determined to find Nathan and uncover the mysteries of the portal.

“We need to be careful,” Ava warns as they move forward, “there are powerful people who will do anything to get their hands on this cube. If we get found with it, who knows where or how we’ll end up.”

They head over to the portal location, which thankfully has no guard nearby. With the consistent threats from outside actors, the majority of guards are placed on the perimeter of the compound.

Upon reaching the portal’s location Jackson pulls the artifact from his pocket.

“I don’t know how it works though. When Nathan had it in his hands it was glowing.” Jackson said.

He turned the cube over in his hands, pressing and pulling to see if something moved on it.  Ava reached out asking to look at it. The instant Jackson placed the artifact in her hand it started to glow, and the portal cracked to life.  Ava quickly pulled back causing the cube to drop to the ground. As it left her hand, the cube went dark along with the portal.

“What the hell was that? How did it work?” Jackson exclaimed.

“We better hurry, I’m sure that got some attention” Sophie warned.

Sophie reached to pick up the cube. There was no response in the artifact. Looking it over she handed it back to Ava. Once again once she touched it, the cube and portal kicked to life.

As the portal came to life, Ava froze, holding the artifact out at arms length. Not sure why it was doing, whatever it was doing, but fearful that something was wrong.

Jackson yelled for Nathan into the portal. His voice drowned out by the noise of the turbulent water in front of him. Sophie walked over and touched the portal. Instantly disappearing as Jackson screamed “No! Don’t touch it”. He quickly reached to try and catch her but she was gone. Instead he pushed his arm through the portal and he disappeared.

Ava stood panicked. As she looked around she saw guards, and scientists running towards her. She felt there was only one thing left she could do. She broke free of her frozen stance and jumped into the portal. As she disappeared the artifact still remained. Falling to the ground next to the portal. Silent and dark once again.

After a brief moment of sheer terror, the world seemed to materialize in front of Sophie. Her eyes burn from the bright sunlight that beats down on her. She stands in the middle of a sand covered street. Both recognizable and not. As she turns to look at her surroundings she sees pyramids in the close distance, only they’re half done.

Sophie gaped at the sight. “Well… This is another nice mess you’ve gotten me into”