27 years after a virus wipes out most of humanity, scientists send a man back 2015 to stop the plague from ever happening. Cole's only lead is a virologist, who knows the dangerous source of the outbreak.
2013 EditCassandra Railly makes a presentation about epidemics and pandemics and the risks of failing to prepare for them. She gets in her car and talks by phone to her boyfriend Aaron Marker then tells Aaron to call the police when she sees a man in the back seat of her car. The man orders her to drive to an industrial area. He calls her by name and tells her things about her past. He finishes by telling her something she "did" in 2015. He says he needs to find Leland Frost and Cassandra denies knowing anyone by that name. The man identifies himself as Cole and explains that the present is 2043 and that 2013 is the past. He adds that most of the human race will die from a plague in 2017.
Cole shows Cassandra a watch and says it is her watch from his time. As she watches the timepiece Cole carried, he scratches the crystal of her timepiece and a scratch appears on the crystal of the timepiece he was carrying.
2015EditAt the John Adams Hotel, Cassandra is waiting for Cole, who is overdue. She gives up and is preparing to check out when Cole arrives, still bleeding from the gunshot wound he suffered two years earlier. Cassandra helps Cole up to her room and treats the wound. She tells him that he is late and he responds that time travel is not an exact science.
Cole wakes in Cassie's hotel room after three days. She has treated his wound and is surprised at how quickly he is healing. She has come to believe he is traveling in time. Cole is in a hurry, but Cassie wants answers. He takes time to explain that the plague killed seven billion people in 2017. Since then the virus has mutated and killed even more people. Very few have proved to be immune. Many of them became scavengers, preying on the weak. Cole says that Cassie sent a voice message that has been corrupted.Cassie is surprised that she mentioned Cole. She tells Cole that she was unable to identify Leland Frost and decided to ask a family friend for help. They visit Jeremy, who used to work for the National Security Agency and who had promised Cassie's father a favor. Jeremy tells them that Leland Frost is really Leland Goines, chief executive officer of the Markridge Group. Jeremy also says that Markridge is work on biological and chemical munitions for the military.
Cassandra arranges for her and Cole to attend a party in Washington, DC the next night. There she and Cole encounter Cassie's former lover, Aaron Marker, who is an aide to a senator. Wandering through the party, Cole disables a security guard and takes his weapon. In the meantime, Cassie has a terse moment with Aaron about his unwillingness to believe her account of her meeting with Cole two years earlier. Cole and Cassie soon meet Leland Goines and one of his scientists, Oliver Peters who describes himself as studying viruses and bacteria. Goines explains that Peters plays God. Cole attempts to kill Goines but is restrained.
Both Cole and Cassie are arrested but on a dark road are transferred to the custody of Markridge security officials. The pair are taken to a building controlled by Markridge. Peters examines Cole and says that his body is on overdrive and that his brain activity is like that of a person working on complex mathematics. Peters describes Cole as a "flesh-and-blood molecular computer" who is the product of advancement twenty years in the future.
Cole and Cassie are placed in the same room. He says he will be splintering soon and asks for her watch. Goines enters the room and tells Cole he saw him in 1987 and that Cole has not changed. Goines says that Cole was looking for the Army of the 12 Monkeys because they were going to end the world. Goines tells Cole he is going to have him dissected and tells his guards that Cassie is expendable. After Goines tells Cole that Cole will never make it to 1987, Cole offers Goines a demonstration. Goines agrees and Cole places the two iterations of Cassie's watch in contact; a temporal storm ensues and Cole carries Cassie out into the corridor. The storm causes objects to fly and tears a door off its hinges. Goines staggers out of the room carrying an automatic pistol. He attempts to kill Cole but misses and collapses. Cole uses Goines's weapon to kill him.
Neither Cole nor Cassie can understand why Cole did not cease to exist when Goines died. Cole sees a single watch and returns it to Cassie, telling her not to lose it because "it's gonna save our ass again a minute ago." He tells Cassie to get as far away as she can and hide. As she leaves the building, Cole splinters.
At the J. D. Peoples Mental Hospital a man visits Jennifer Goines and tells her that her father is dead because of an accident. The man says that are some papers to sign but that Goines left her a lot of money. Jennifer laughs and goes back to work on her large drawing of a monkey's face.Jones tells Cole that he will spend the rest of his life in a cell unless he agrees to help her change the world.
James Cole wanders the apocalyptic wasteland with his friend Jose Ramse, entering a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention facility. From the skeleton of a staff member, Cole retrieves a broken watch. Later, Cole returns and is greeted by Ramse. Jones challenges him about failing in his mission. He replies that he found and killed Goines but that he did not cease to exist. He looks at the project wall and realizes that there are several graphics that represent the Army of the 12 Monkeys.