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The 1894 Empty Quarter expedition was a scientific expedition helmed by Lorenzo Cabot. The goal was the discovery and excavation of ancient civilizations hidden beneath the Rub' al Khali desert on the Arabian Peninsula. The expedition was successful in locating the Ubar civilization, but the discoveries unearthed would have a profound effect on Lorenzo Cabot's psyche and would rebury this discovery after donning an ancient artifact in the form of a headpiece.

Background

Long dismissed as a quack due to his seemingly wild theories about a progenitor civilization that predated humanity, Lorenzo Cabot decided to finance an expedition to the Empty Quarter on the Arabian Peninsula, to once and for all prove his theory. Working through immense amounts of red tape to secure the necessary permits and organize the crew to locate the ancient city beneath the sands, Cabot eventually set off from Cape Cod on February 8th, 1894, aboard SS Wakeful. Emogene and Wilhelmina saw him off, but Jack, his son, refused to.[1] A decision Jack would later regret.

Events

The expedition launched and enjoyed fine weather while crossing the Atlantic to Lisbon, Portugal. Equipped with permits from Omani authorities obtained by way of the Department of State and a reserve of local currency for bribes, Lorenzo was confident in his ability to placate the local governor. By February 21st, the Wakeful entered the western Mediterranean after picking up Metternich and his electrical sensing equipment at Lisbon. The equipment would greatly reduce the amount of time spent on locating the ruins, by weeks or even months.[1]

The Wakeful reached Suez in the Khedivate of Egypt (an autonomous vassal of the Ottoman Empire). Reluctant to rely on locals, Lorenzo elected to hire an experienced Egyptian team. By March 5th, the process was almost complete. Nine days later, on March 14th, the Wakeful arrived in Salalah, Oman, and unloaded at a feverish pace to complete excavations before the summer heat. Two days later, everything was ready and Lorenzo's expedition set out into the interior of the peninsula. In fact, the impenetrable desert and the secrets it hid felt like a welcome change from the endless delays and paper-shuffling bureaucrats.[1]

The expedition arrived in the Empty Quarter on March 29th, 1894. Lorenzo interpreted superstitious grumbling from his local guide as a good omen and immediately began scanning the area with Metternich the following day. Despite problems caused by the ever-present dust, the two obtained a favorable reading and began excavations on March 31st. Intense excavation produced the first results on April 3rd. Late in the afternoon, diggers struck worked stone, on the edge of a large circular structure. The guide's anxiety flared, proving Lorenzo's wisdom in hiring Egyptian workers. Three days of intense work uncovered several fragmentary inscriptions, with runes that matched the ancient texts. The entire site was part of what appeared to be a monumental plaza, and Lorenzo became convinced that he found the legendary Ubar.[1]

However, they were forced to abandon the site twelve days later, when a massive sandstorm hit the area on April 18th. The entire expedition was forced to huddle in tents in the lee of one of the large outcroppings, amidst pitch-black darkness even during the morning hours. The storm raged for four days, greatly agitating the working crews (primarily on account of the guide's tales of curses and forbidden secrets). Even the phlegmatic Metternich began to show signs of cracking under the strain. By the end of the storm, the cleared area was buried under several feet of new sand. The guide disappeared in the night, unsettling the workers, but Lorenzo was determined to press on.[1]

Over the next two weeks, the expedition uncovered stone and rubble that Lorenzo believed belonged to the Great Temple. Although much of what they located was destroyed, Lorenzo continued his work against the worsening weather and workmen's attitudes. Even Metternich began to suggest putting work off until the winter, but Lorenzo would hear nothing of it. His determination paid off when they uncovered an intact tomb beneath the ruins of the Great Temple on May 13th. A week-long work to clear a shaft beneath the Great Temple culminated in the discovery of a mass of cyclopean stone blocks sealing a tunnel leading into a dark, secluded chamber. It took them three days to clear a passage using pickaxes, but ultimately they broke through into the darkness. It was seemingly a burial crypt, with a dusty sarcophagus at the end of the chamber. As befitting intrepid explorers, Lorenzo and Metternich ordered the workers to open the sarcophagus.[1]

The resulting discovery shocked everyone. Metternich nearly suffered a heart attack, Lorenzo collapsed to the ground, while the workers helping them fled outright. All of the artifacts inside the sarcophagus were older than human civilization itself and clearly not made by human hands. Lorenzo removed a single artifact, a crown, then ordered the tomb sealed up to prevent looting (greed frequently bests fear) and prepare its contents for cataloging the following day. As he sat in his tent, pondering the crown and what was to come, he made a fatal mistake. He put the crown on his head. The crown immediately fused with his nervous system and revealed that the city of Ubar was not called as such, the building they excavated was not a temple, and the sealed chamber not a crypt. Bent on harnessing the secrets provided by the crown and bringing his family into the fold, he ordered the entire site buried the following day, against Metternich's protests, ensuring the secrets of the city remained safe with him until he was ready.[1]

Aftermath

Lorenzo did not publish his findings and never made another expedition to Ubar despite his initial plans.[2] The experimentation with the crown was the primary reason. He inadvertently caused it to fuse with his nervous system by extended use. In return, he gained various seemingly paranormal powers and became increasingly irrational and violent, culminating in paranoia and homicidal rage. After a crime streak that surely would have put him on death row, he was finally apprehended.[3]

To protect themselves and the public from him and him from himself, the Cabot clan elected to indefinitely confine him at Parsons State Insane Asylum in 1898,[4] using their influence to shield him from a death sentence.[5] In the course of Jack's attempts to cure him, he discovered that the artifact had introduced anomalies into his blood. The source of his insanity became the basis of a longevity serum that prolonged all of their lives.[6] The same substance was also responsible for making Lorenzo such a threat. Anyone could handle an elderly man in an asylum, but an elderly man with enhanced strength, resistance to most kinds of physical damage, and local telekinesis projected by the artifact itself? That was too much. Kept under a dampening field, Lorenzo was in isolation for centuries as his son tried to find a cure for his father's madness in vain.[7][8]

Behind the scenes

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Lorenzo Cabot's journal
  2. The Sole Survivor: "You said your father found a lost city?"
    Jack Cabot: "You wouldn't have. My father only made one expedition to the lost city, and his findings were never published. The clues were all there, scattered amongst the earliest civilizations... but he was the only one to understand what they meant. He followed them into the Empty Quarter of Arabia, to the nameless city buried in the sand like the mythical Atlantis beneath the waves..."
    (Jack Cabot's dialogue)
  3. The Sole Survivor: "What would he have done if he'd gotten free?"
    Jack Cabot: "Oh, he would have killed both of us. And then the rest of my family. And that would only have been the beginning. His crimes, back when he was free... It was only because of my family's influence that he ended up here rather than on Death Row. The world now... it's a world made for monsters. Nothing could have stopped him. No. I've answered my own question. We truly had no choice."
    (Jack Cabot's dialogue)
  4. The Sole Survivor: "How long have you been locked up in here?"
    Lorenzo Cabot: "My loving son trapped me here in the year of our lord 1898... so almost 400 years. I think you were about to agree to helping me kill Jack and the rest of my traitorous kin. Yes?"
    (Lorenzo Cabot's dialogue)
  5. The Sole Survivor: "You should know what we're going to be dealing with."
    Jack Cabot: "My father, Lorenzo Cabot, is confined here, in a specially constructed cell in the basement. He became dangerously unstable after handling an ancient artifact he brought back from a dig in Arabia. In the end, I had no choice but to confine him - for his own safety as well as ours."
    (Jack Cabot's dialogue)
  6. The Sole Survivor: "Where do you get this serum from?"
    Wilhelmina Cabot: "Jack! Are you sure it's wise, telling her all this?"
    Jack Cabot: "In the course of my attempts to cure him, I discovered that the artifact had introduced... anomalies into his blood. So, the source of his insanity is also the basis of the treatments that have prolonged all our lives. The irony isn't lost on me. But if he were to escape from Parsons, I would lose my father forever. I will not allow that to happen. Not to mention that the artifact has made him paranoid, homicidally violent, and endowed with extraordinary abilities."
    (Wilhelmina and Jack Cabot's dialogue)
  7. The Sole Survivor: "So this serum does more than halt aging?"
    Jack Cabot: "I suppose it's time you knew. The main benefit of the serum is to halt aging. My family and I are all over 400 years old. But it also confers other... side effects, especially in the undiluted form that the raiders stole. It increases strength and resistance to all kinds of physical damage. So at least some of these raiders may be much more dangerous than the ones you're used to dealing with. Hold on. Weren't you off looking for Emogene? Did you find her?"
    (Jack Cabot's dialogue)
  8. The Sole Survivor: "Exactly what abilities does he have?"
    Jack Cabot: "Enhanced strength. Unusual resistance to most kinds of physical damage. Oh, and a kind of local telekinesis, which appears to be projected by the artifact itself. That's why I've built a dampening field into his cell. Which is why we really need to stop these intruders before they turn it off."
    (Jack Cabot's dialogue)
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