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The subject of this article appeared in Call of Duty: Black Ops III. The subject of this article appears in Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 The subject of this article appears in Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War The subject of this article appears in Call of Duty: Vanguard The subject of this article appeared in Zombies mode
For the mastery camouflage, see Dark Aether Camouflage.

The Dark Aether intel logo in Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War

"Kronorium Excerpt 654371979
Once the Great War ended with the defeat of the Apothicons, the Keepers ascended to become the wards of all universes. The surviving Apothicons were cast out, banished to the Dark Aether beneath creation. After eons of exile in the Dark Aether, the Apothicons evolved into twisted creatures that now bear little resemblance to their keeper brethren. The Apothicons ceaseless desire is to reenter creation to consume and corrupt all the universes. It is the Keepers that guard against these perpetual attempts to reenter creation, and guard against any beings that may have fallen under the influence of the Apothicons.
"
— First mentioning of the Dark Aether, in a Gorod Krovi cipher.

The Dark Aether (alternatively spelled Dark Æther), also known as The Place Below Creation, Hell, the Dimension of Death or after the collapse of the Multiverse simply the Aether is a dimension that exists in parallel to that of our own. Having existed since the beginning of time, as with its opposite, its influence has repeatedly been felt - once such example being the corruption of a sect of Keepers, leading to the War of Agartha and, eventually, The Great War. Once separate from the Multiverse, the entirety of creation has been plunged into the Dark Aether as of Tag der Toten, save for one new, uncorrupted universe.

The Dark Aether is the major antagonistic force within Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War Zombies and Call of Duty: Vanguard Zombies, where it seeps into the new universe created at the end of Tag der Toten in the eponymous Dark Aether Story. It can be entered in the map Die Maschine, as well as Outbreak during the Holdout section, where it appears as a dark mirror of the map. With Der Anfang, more details about the power-structures and entities within the Dark Aether post-Tag Der Toten are set to be revealed.

Overview

Aether Story

At the beginning of time, a Keeper known as the First One used the Summoning Key in Agartha to seed the dimensions with life. However, a group of Keepers, which included one who would later be known as the Shadowman, began experimenting with the Dark Aether. As this group began to become corrupted by the realm, the being who would be known as Doctor Monty attempted to save his friend, but was corrupted himself in the process. During this time, the corrupted Keepers created a device known as the Aether Pyramid, that used the Dark Aether to give its user power over reality itself[1]. When the rogue Keepers became corrupted, a Civil War broke out between the corrupted and non-corrupted Keepers. The non-corrupted Keepers won the war, banishing the corrupted Keepers to the Dark Aether. During their banishment, the corrupted Keepers would mutate into beings known as the Apothicons.

Noting the existence of humanity, the Apothicons sent Divinium meteors to Earth, hoping that they would use it to fight each other. Their plans came to fruition in 1292, where humanity's use of the element opened a portal from the Dark Aether, allowing the Apothicons to invade. This would eventually spur into The Great War, where humanity assisted by a group of four mysterious robed warriors (known collectively as Primis) wielding Elemental Staffs. The war would end in 1299, with the Apothicons being once again banished to the Dark Aether.

Sometime later, a German scientist known as Edward Richtofen made contact with the Aether Pyramid, and began to hear the voices of the Apothicons (who were still within the Dark Aether) in his head, who encouraged him to enter the pyramid.

In another dimension known as Dimension 63, the Shadowman manipulated a reporter into retrieving the Summoning Key before the reporter was killed by an alternate version of Richtofen. In the same dimension, Apothicons manipulated 4 individuals within Morg City, Nero Blackstone, Jack Vincent, Jessica Rose, and Floyd Campbell into using the Summoning Key to open a portal from the Dark Aether into Dimension 63. The scheme succeeds, and the Apothicons invade the dimension, however, the Shadowman is trapped within the Summoning Key by the 4 individuals after the initial invasion. The Apothicons eventually consume and destroy the Dimension entirely.

When Primis arrived in Agartha, the Shadowman tricked Ludvig Maxis, who inhabited Agartha at the time into granting him a vessel. After being freed from the Key, the Shadowman opened a portal from the Dark Aether into Agartha and beginning a Second War of Agartha. Unfortunately for the Apothicons, Monty uses Primis to defeat the Shadowman, who, along with Maxis and S.O.P.H.I.A, subsequently use the Summoning Key to plunge the Apothicons back into the Dark Aether and to close Agartha off from the rest of the multiverse. Monty then sends Primis to the Great War, completing the Cycle.

In an altered version of the Cycle, the Warden of Alcatraz is manipulated by the Shadowman from the Dark Aether into using Alcatraz as a trap to use Primis Richtofen's blood to open a portal to Agartha. The scheme fails thanks to a version of Richtofen who had experienced the Great War, and the Warden is killed, and the Cycle is broken.

After being given leadership of the crew by post-Great War Richtofen, Nikolai Belinski, aided by Ultimis, Primis and Samantha Maxis gather the Elemental Shard, and use a group of civilians known as Victis to gather the Agarthan Device from a base in Siberia, where they are assisted by a Hermit. They then use both the Device and the Shard to destroy the Summoning Key, plunging the multiverse (including Monty, Agartha, and Victis) into the Dark Aether, solving the Paradox of the Multiverse.

Almost immediately after, the universe Primis and Ultimis were in is plunged in to the Dark Aether. Still alive, Samantha and a child version of Richtofen known as Eddie hold hands and walk out of the Dark Aether into a new universe.

Dark Aether Story

"A mysterious realm beyond the world we know, filled with untapped resources and nightmarish creatures. Proceed with caution, but listen and observe closely..."
— Background

After the Multiverse was banished into the Dark Aether, several various beings sprung up within the Dark Aether - most importantly the powerful entities who would be known as the Elder Gods. The Dark Aether was ruled by the Old Ones, who waged war against one another for power. One of the most powerful of these Elder Gods was Kortifex the Deathless, Lord of the Dark Aether. Alongside the Supreme Commander of the Night Legions, General Norticus the Conqueror, Kortifex waged the Netherwars in a bid to dominate the Dark Aether and crush his rivals. For a time, victory in the Deathless' name was all but assured. But his power would soon be rivaled by those he subjugated - including the likes of Saraxis the Shadow, Bellekar the Warlock, and Inviktor the Destroyer. This resistance against Kortifex would soon turn the tide of war in their favor, with Norticus himself defecting due to Kortifex' unmatched cruelty. He was soon deposed and stripped of his title as Lord of the Dark Aether. At some point, Kortifex, Norticus, Saraxis, Bellekar and Inviktor each became trapped in their own artifacts, and sent into the "realm of mortals" - Earth. Through these artifacts, the Elder Gods were able to influence mankind. These artifacts would be used by ancient priests and sorcerers to commune with "angels" and "demons". Soon after arriving on Earth, Kortifex once met a tyrannical Egyptian pharaoh who thought of himself as a god. Bellekar came into contact with the Mayans, who she attempted but failed to teach rune magic. Saraxis also had contact with early humanity, influencing their affairs to use humans as "playthings".

World War II

For a time, the new universe would remain separate from the Dark Aether, until a Nazi research base known as Projekt Endstation began operation. Intended to be a site to develop the Reich's nuclear program, the facility's particle collider accidentally tore open a gateway to the Dark Aether on March 7th, 1944; the radiation from the realm causing the men around the Cyclotron to become instantly necrotized. After informing Berlin of this development, and that the initial experiments yielded evidence of time passing at a different rate in the Dark Aether, Project Director Dr. Ulrich Vogel was given immediate permission to begin experimenting with the strange realm and the element that lay within. Due to this breaching of the Dimensional Membrane, long dormant artifacts, plundered by SS-Oberführer Wolfram Von List's Die Wahrheit division, activate[2]. As these five artifacts share bonds with Elder Gods of the Dark Aether, Von List enters into a symbiotic relationship with Kortifex, now stripped of his rank as a Lord of the Dark Aether, and gains his ability to raise the dead. Von List uses this to raise an army of zombies in service to the Third Reich. Gabriel Krafft, a demonologist blackmailed into working for Von List, used the Tome of Rituals to seal himself in a room and radio the Allies for help. Allied operatives would soon arrive, but would become trapped in a containment spell by Kortifex and forced to fight Von List's horrifying army of revenants. The other four artifacts, the Horn of Norticus, the Dragon of Saraxis, the Mask of Bellekar and the Sword of Inviktor would become bonded to these operatives, granting them a taste of their unholy power and tasking them with dangerous missions to weaken Kortifex' power.

As the Soviet Advance continues, Berlin commences Operation Baldr in conjunction with Endstation, with the idea of housing a Nazi Army in the dimension and having them emerge at Endstation's Berlin Facility a point in the future to reclaim the city and restart the Reich. Despite many scientists fleeing, Vogel stayed behind to monitor the Cyclotron and take essential readings - presumably dying sometime after.[3]. One week after, the Russian 8th Guards Army arrive at the site, but find it crawling with undead. Soon after that, on the orders of NKVD Colonel Pavel Lazarev, the 3rd Guards Tank Army arrive, with mechanic Kazimir Zykov being sealed into the facility with the aim of disabling the machine, and being told that his sacrifice would be in order to make the world a better place.

Being forced to enter the anomaly to shut the portal from the inside, Zykov found himself in the Dark Aether. After initial feelings of despair and rage subsided, he resolved to survive at all costs. He would slowly begin to ascend the hierarchy of the Dark Aether, killing and consuming gradually more powerful creatures, and enforcing order on the warring Elder Gods of the realm, including the Old Ones. Being able to get the occasional glimpse of his home dimension, however, he became disgusted with the petty squabbling of the world leaders, invalidating his sacrifice and the sacrifice of all those like him, and resolved to return. From this point, he was known as the "Forsaken". During his brutal conquest of the Dark Aether, he enslaved the Disciples of the Zealot Sparagmos who was aligned with the Old Ones. Seeking revenge, Sparagmos crafted the Chrysalax with the sole purpose of killing the Forsaken.

The Cold War

The Forsaken, under the guise of Ulrich Vogel, began to manipulate Angelika Vogel from childhood, eventually leading to her infiltrating Omega Group. Believing she was the key to concluding Operation Baldr, she devised Operation Undertaker and restarted the Cyclotron, instantly causing small-scale outbreaks across the globe. Within the coming days, the Deputy Director of the Department of Science and Technology of the CIA would get approval from President Reagan's cabinet for a new covert sub-office of the Department, the Office of Requiem, with them arriving at Endstation just days after. There would also be several unfortunate souls that would accidentally wind up within the Dark Aether, where they would encounter the various creatures that inhabit it including Zombies, Plaguehounds, ethereal jellyfish-like creatures and giant beasts roaming in the fog. The rift at Morasko would be closed by Requiem under the direction of Special Officer Grigori Weaver through the destruction of the Morasko facility thanks to the help and sacrifice of Orlov - a necrotized Omega Group member who helped re-activate the Cyclotron. During this, the Forsaken contacted Requiem under his old identity of Zykov, as well as starting to assistthem (as a form of amusement) by giving them Perks, a machine to upgrade their weapons, power-ups, among other things, in an attempt to gain their trust.

After the destruction of the Morasko facility, Omega Group began work on "Operatsiya Inversiya" (Operation Inversion) with the goal of weaponizing the Dark Aether to win the Cold War and defeat the West. They started at a Vietnamese facility known as Outpost 25, chosen for its fertility as a dimensional breach. There, Omega Group began to experiment with Aetherium and create new technologies. "Aethernauts" would be employed by Omega to venture into the Dark Aether and gather more Aetherium. More test sites would be established throughout the Soviet Union, with four of them successfully creating dimensional breaches. BND spy Samantha Maxis (who had survived the banishing of the Multiverse) began contacting an Omega-double agent named Sergei Ravenov, who informed her of Omega's plans. She then infiltrated Outpost 25 with the intent of meeting Ravenov and gathering intel to give to Requiem. However, Omega Group became aware of her plan, allowing her to be captured by Dr. William Peck who failed to interrogate her, and under the secret orders of Requiem's Director, throw Maxis into the Dark Aether. Ravenov, after realizing what happened, contacted Weaver, who soon began preparations of Operation Lost Property to rescue Maxis. As time flows differently in the Dark Aether, Samantha spent a considerable amount of time in the realm. In her struggle to survive, Samantha's memories and identity began to blur - with her unknowingly killing trapped Omega soldiers at one point. She would also meet Pyotr, a Russian trapped in the Dark Aether, and comfort him by telling him despite his appearance, he was not useless.

On June 15th, 1984, the dimensional breach at Outpost 25 released a massive burst of Aetherium creating a lethal phasic barrier around the facility and turning everyone into zombies and other creatures. Peck managed to hide in a safe room and contacted Omega Group HQ for rescue as he believed he was the sole survivor, not aware that Ravenov also survived in a nearby village. With the help of Ravenov, the Requiem Strike Team managed to enter the facility using one of the teleporters. The team reluctantly helped Peck restoring the facility power in exchange for Maxis, but unbeknown to them, they helped him send all the research back to Omega. After using the truth serum on him, Peck revealed that Maxis was lost in the Dark Aether. The serum soon wore off and Peck tricked the team into disrupting the dimensional rift destroying all electronics and intel stored in the facility. The team, however, used Requiem's Dimensional Disruptor satellite to open a new breach allowing Maxis to escape. They soon battled an Elder God known as an Orda, before Requiem and Maxis escaped with Raptor One - with Ravenov heading to the Ural Mountains, where a massive Dark Aether Outbreak had occurred. Maxis' time in the Dark Aether had unintentionally given her new powers, peaking the curiosity of Requiem's Senior Staff. Elizabeth Grey (with whom Maxis would form a special relationship), Mackenzie Carver, and Oskar Strauss would all interview her hoping to learn more of her powers.

Peck would then be sent to Ruka, where he would begin work on the "Reality Inversion Warheads" (as well as being contacted by the Forsaken as Zykov) with the intent of unleashing them against the West. Kravchenko would also learn of the existence of the Forsaken from, unknowingly, the Director of Requiem, who was at this point playing both sides. Valentina would also receive another vision of "her father". Requiem would soon began Operation Threshold in the Ural Mountains to combat the Dark Aether infestation in the area, being contacted again by Zykov who "revealed" himself to Requiem and informed them more of the Dark Aether. Maxis, Ravenov, and the Requiem Strike Team would infiltrate the Ruka missile silo where the Inversion Warheads were being held and fire them into the Pacific Ocean. They would also battle a massive Tempest known as Legion, and exfiltrate with Raptor One. One month after, Requiem would return to the Ural Mountains under the direction of Weaver and Ravenov to rescue Omega Group defectors, including one Hugo Jager, but were instead (along with Raptor One) captured by Omega Group after battling another Orda.

While the Requiem Strike Team was held by Omega, they soon discovered the truth behind Valentina's motives and her identity as Ulrich Vogel's daughter. Valentina then left Omega, fleeing to Berlin where she found the Endstation lab and began work on opening a portal to the Dark Aether. Requiem's Director, however, knew Valentina's plan and secretly sent an experimental robot, called Klaus, as well as a nuclear device to a CIA safehouse hidden beneath the Wall in order to stop her. Valentina would open the portal to the Dark Aether in 1985, unleashing the undead Task Force: Baldr onto a checkpoint in East Berlin. She would then travel to the Dark Aether and submit herself to the Forsaken, who granted her a new scarlet, crystallized form. The same day as Valentina's "ascension", Kravchenko would deploy the Requiem Strike Team to Berlin, ordering them to defeat Valentina and stop the Forsaken from entering their world. With the assistance of Klaus, Jager, Gorev, and Peck, Requiem crafted an Inversion Warhead to detonate in the Dark Aether portal to close it. They would soon battle Valentina, killing her to power up the warhead. Klaus would then take the warhead and personally detonate it in the Dark Aether himself as the Forsaken taunted that his arrival could not be stopped. Afterwards, the Strike Team and Raptor One would be rescued by Maxis (who was being held by the Director of Requiem at Block 8 for her actions at Ruka) using her Dark Aether powers.

After the incursion in Berlin, Zykov suggested to Peck that if he were to bring him into their world, he could help them defeat the Forsaken. Peck then came up with the idea of weaponizing the Forsaken against the West. Convincing Kravchenko, Omega would divert all of their resources towards "Operatsiya Izbavitel" to rescue Zykov and weaponize the Forsaken. This would occur at Test Site Anna, in the Ukrainian SSR. It was also around this time that new Outbreak zones in the North Atlantic Ocean and Algeria appeared, as well as the Ural Mountains Outbreak Zone collapsing entirely to the Dark Aether - becoming uninhabitable for human life. Smaller Outbreaks also occurred in Teufelsberg and Nebraska, where other people began hearing the Forsaken in the guise of their deceased relatives. The Forsaken had begun his retaliation for his defeat in Berlin.

On June 4th, 1985, Operation First Domino began as the Requiem strike-team was deployed to Test Site Anna in the Zakarpatska Oblast. Guided by Weaver and Ravenov, the strike-team infiltrated the facility to confront Kravchenko and Peck to stop them from weaponizing the Forsaken. After defeating an Abomination, the strike-team went to the Observation Tower, but they were too late. Peck and Kravchenko were already in the process of bringing Zykov into their world. Kravchenko, Peck, and the strike-team witnessed Zykov return from the Dark Aether. It was then that Zykov revealed the horrible truth - that Zykov was long gone, and only the Forsaken remained. After forty years (four centuries in the Dark Aether) of abandonment, he had survived by evolving into the Forsaken and consuming those more powerful than him. He then flaunted to Peck how he had tricked him into releasing him from the Dark Aether, and that he would now consume their realm. When it seemed that all was lost, however, Samantha Maxis manifested at Test Site Anna with her powers and attacked the Forsaken, holding him off. The strike-team would then build a make-shift Aetherium Neutralizer (assisted by Peck) to head to Main Street, where the Forsaken had made his dwelling. As the Aetherium Neutralizer was put together, Peck accidentally shot a gas-line in the Observation Tower, blowing it up, seemingly killing Kravchenko. The fate of the Earth was in Requiem's hands as the strike team and Samantha battled the Stealer of Souls. As Dark Aether outbreaks appeared rapidly across the globe, Samantha made the decision to sacrifice herself for the greater good. She flew into the Forsaken, locking herself in the Dark Aether. The Forsaken would then be captured by Peck's machine, severing the Dark Aether rifts to the world. Requiem had, at long last, contained the Dark Aether. Raptor One arrived at Test Site Anna and flew back to the United States, with Ravenov staying behind.

With the Forsaken secured, the outbreak zones collapsing, and Maxis locked in the Dark Aether, the Director made his move to begin Project Janus. He then gave the orders for his agents to arrest the Requiem Senior Staff (including Grey, Carver, Strauss, and Weaver), as well as the Requiem Strike Team and Raptor One. After witnessing the events unfold at his office, Director Edward Richtofen grabbed a briefcase from his desk and left. Peck would survive, and five years later, rent a boat in Japan to head to the Pacific Ocean where the Inversion Warheads lay.

Trivia

  • In Cold War Zombies, the final mastery camo is called "Dark Aether", and is based off of the color schemes of the Dark Aether. It has a similar appearance to the Black Ops III & Black Ops 4 mastery camo, similarly named "Dark Matter".

Gallery

References

  1. Tag Der Toten Wall Chalk
  2. https://www.callofduty.com/blog/2021/10/call-of-duty-vanguard-zombies-interview-treyarch-craig-houston
  3. "So I plotted my return. Valentina was first. So willing was she to believe the masquerade, to hold out hope that her father still lived." - The Forsaken, Forsaken radios
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