Another Endgame — And All That Could Have Been, Part III


vf_cardinal_icon.gif vf_dave_icon.gif vf_denisa_icon.gif vf_elaine_icon.gif vf_elisabeth_icon.gif vf_elspeth_icon.gif vf_gillian_icon.gif vf_hana_icon.gif vf_isabelle_icon.gif vf_kain_icon.gif vf_kaylee_icon.gif kazimir5_icon.gif vf_ling_icon.gif vf_logan_icon.gif vf_mala_icon.gif vf_magnes_icon.gif vf_rickham2_icon.gif vf_ruiz_icon.gif vf_shaw_icon.gif vf_steve_icon.gif vf_ruia_icon.gif vf_ygraine_icon.gif

Scene Title Another Endgame — And All That Could Have Been, Part III
Synopsis "My loneliness is happy with that elegant hope."
Date January 16, 2012

It's been a long time since Richard Cardinal's felt the wind on his face.

"Fucking hell," Richard spits out as a horde of virus victims spills out into the street like ants swarming a carcass, his knuckles turning white where he clutches the weapon whose telescopic sight he's viewing this through from the rooftop of the Deveaux Building, Ellinka Dolukhanov's rifle reconstituted from shadow, "They've got company out there, they've— " He breaks off as he hears that low whistling - the rest of him swiftly matching the hue of his knuckles as he looks up just in time to catch sight of that blur moving through the air before it hits. "Oh, no."

Settled at the rooftop's edge, using one of the stone ledges as a brace for the rifle, he takes aim. A maddened Shanti-Rage host at the front of the horde lifts its hands, a ball of flame beginning to form between them to hurl at David - but before it can throw the incinerating sphere, its head explodes into a fine red mist with a shot from that rooftop, flame guttering and dying out as the mutant falls back to the pavement. The round continues on, tearing through another Shanti-Rage victim's chest and maiming another's leg before hitting the asphalt - but those behind just trample over them and surge forward. . One rifle isn't going to make much of a dent in the unstoppable flood of the not-quite-dead.

"I don't know if they're going to make it," he shouts back to Hana, a strain of panic in his tone of voice.

It's been a long time since Richard Cardinal's felt the wind on his face. He just wishes that today it didn't smell like blood and fire.

Fully powered, feeling in complete control of her ability for the first time in ages, Elisabeth is perhaps the only person not thrown to the ground by the concussion waves from the mortar — for after all, they are sound waves. She simply redirects them and adds them to the truly monstrous blast that she is constructing and holding in check. Her own grief and terror just flat-out has to wait til later.

She moves to a position next to David where he landed, putting the retreating refugees behind her and anything that's coming after us in front of her, waiting as long as she can until she is the last person in line except perhaps for David Cardinal, who is still firing backward. In an almost musical whisper, laced with a reverb that is terrible in its power, Elisabeth tells him softly, "~Run, David. I've got this.~"

The thing that David feels as he goes past her is a mere ruffling of air as she shapes her power. What hurtles down the street off the audiokinetic is a simple, forceful SHOVE. It's such a basic use of her power that it doesn't even require finesse. Once her wavefront is in place and her people are out of the area of effect, she simply lets it all go at once; the sonic wave is a cannon blast that pulses with a massive BOOM!, carefully directed in a street-wide vector to blow the zombies, whatever smaller structures and cars remain in the way, and whatever else is coming at them from behind straight to Hell.

Hana doesn't look up at the distinctive sound of artillery fire, for all that it's been a long, long time since she heard it. Wireless also heard the radio call summoning it. She brackets an unfamiliar face in the cross-hairs of her scope, fires; doesn't linger to see the bullet sink through the near-mindless man's torso, but immediately finds another. Fires again.

"Either they do, or they don't," is her grimly equanimous reply to Cardinal as someone down below acts to buy them all space — and time — by blasting the pursuers back. Hana takes that moment to settle her weight back where she kneels at the ledge, hands never leaving the rifle braced across the stone surface. She closes her eyes, draws in a breath that tastes of smoke and dust, even up here. There's a tension in her features that hints at pain being resolutely ignored; has been since Cardinal joined her on the rooftop.

"Find anything that tries to stick out and hammer it," Hana instructs, even as she sets her eye back to the scope, looks for the first 'zombie' to recover from Liz's blast. "Keep buying them time. Trust them to make use of it."

There's not much else they can do, from here.

A moment after the sonic blast knocks everything down, a moment in between the deafening shelling of the mortars coming from the Vanguard, there's an interrupting cough of a hoarse throat that has sucked in the concrete dust tossed up from the ground. A most unlikely duo reappears around the corner of the nearby buildings, popping up like daisies.

Only, these daisies lob an array of makeshift molotov cocktails into the midst of the Shanti-Rage victims, glass shattering against the ground and setting things alight. "Eanqa', I've only got two left," Shaw calls back behind him, holding the second to last bottle back so Isabelle can light the soaked rag sticking out of it. And when she does, he throws that bottle with as much strength as he can muster from his lean, lanky frame.

And then he jogs, slowly, mostly steadily, to the others to meet up. The man's face is pale beneath the brown, lips dry and dusty white. The way he holds the assault rifle in his hands speaks of the exhaustion he might be feeling, but they've survived this long outside of the Hub. He and Isabelle have followed the sounds using his senses. Upon seeing Elisabeth, despite the carnage and the still immediate danger around them, he manages a thin, mild smile. "We're back," he says, for all the world sounding like an indoor cat who's simply gone out for a stroll and has come back, tail tip twitching. It's his hand that twitches up as he waves Isabelle over. "We didn't miss the train, did we?"

There's a wail of rage in answer to the Shanti-Rage victims, Isabelle’s throat raw from the intensity of the scream before lobbing two fireballs into the crowd of ZOMBIES. Clad in that red trench coat that was gifted to her by Shaw, she quickly lights his Molotov cocktail for him with a wink, stopping a cough before it bubbles up from her chest. Her skin is ashen, there is sweat on her brow and unless she's negated.. she doesn't usually just break out into a sweat.

It had been a hard journey but they made it. Isabelle kicks a few rocks out of the way before stalking closer to Shaw upon seeing Liz and the others. Her hands are bathed in fire but she either can't make the flames consume her body like usual or she doesn't want to yet.

As she comes near to Shaw, “ISABELLE!!”

A pink haired woman bursts through the crowds to fling herself at Izzy who has to snuff out her flames to catch the woman in her arms. Brenda’s eyes are full of tears as she punches her friend in the chest, “You fucking bitch.”

Isa rolls her eyes but her face is soon full of regret, she did just storm off. “Listen, I'm sorry. But you can cuss my ass out when we’re out of this deadass universe. Come on.” Blue eyes staring into Brenda’s, both women smile and nod before placing their foreheads together. “Now let me do my thing God you're crowding me.” It's a tease but the flames roaring on her hands are not a tease and Brenda backs away with a nod before Isabelle is grunting before throwing another volley of flames towards any zombies she might have missed.

Mala initially takes the worst of it - the blastwave hitting her an instant before reaching Ygraine. But it’s the full-grown woman who gets to faceplant into the road with a weight on her back. Progress is resumed in a lurching scramble, until she manages to get her feet securely under herself once again. Awkwardly attempting to wipe blood from her face, she casts wildly around in search of the other children… and finds herself boggling at Elisabeth’s display of power, and what follows thereafter.

Closing her slack jaw and shaking her head, she manages to resume her own flight from terror - but does her best to direct ‘her’ cluster of children away from the front doors. Nearby adults are welcome to join them, but it’s the youngest who are her primary concern.

“This way! Round the corner. Here! Come on. We can cheat our way quickly to the top. Let the longer legs take the stairs, we can beat them up there!”

The accompanying smile is quite frankly desperate, but the idea’s based on the simple logic of the gravity-cheat’s three-dimensional version of parkour: why struggle up a couple of hundred steps and fight your way around many corners in a crowded stairwell, when you can run a mere hundred feet or so along a flat surface? Around the corner - in the little alleyway that saw so much of the developing history of the Evolved in the years before the world ended - she chivvies her charges into place. Sheltered from all save the most direct of hits by the lofty structures to either side, she sets about transferring the first group of children to the wall of the Deveaux Building.

“I’ll take you guys up to the top, then I’ll turn around and come right back down for more. You’ll be able to see me the whole time. Okay? I’ll be right up there above you. Those of you in the first group - come with me now. Stay low, and hurry. I’ll be right next to you all the way. It’s just like running along the ground.”

At the top - where past Heroes fell, jumped, and were pushed over the edge - she intends to lift them one by one the other way over the parapet to (comparative) safety on the roof, negating each charge of her power as its recipient sets foot on the level surface. The plan is for Mala to be deposited as part of that first group, her time as an honorary backpack brought to an end so that Ygraine can free up one more charge for bringing another person up the wall in the next group.

When the mortar hits, Kaylee is sent tumbling to the ground. A few more scrapes and bruises to add to the collection, no doubt. At this point, the pain was just part of her and the surge or adrenaline helps to dull it enough to allow her to function just enough. So after wiping fresh blood from the jagged cut on her face, she is already scrambling to her feet. “Mateo?!” she asks without really asking if he is okay. Seeing him getting up, knowing he is okay allows what just happened to click.

Panic sets in as it sinks in what just occurred. Oh no. The world seems to spin as she turns to look behind her at the carnage. Her mind doesn't want to register what she is seeing. What does register? Kain.

Despite what David says, Kaylee finds herself skidding to a halt next to blonde man, assessing him to make sure he is okay. Only then does she say, “We gotta go!” She is half shouting over her own ringing ears. What is the use of making it to the other side if there is no one there that she cared about. So she tugs at Kain’s arm, “Mourn later. If we die there ain't going to be anyone left to remember them.” Even Kaylee hasn't allowed the fact her father isn't there settle in, yet. What it ultimately meant. Maybe once they are on the other side.

Mourn later was good advice.

Ruiz, if anyone, knew what mourning now felt like. What it had led him to do. While the children began their ascent up the building the difficult way, a little blood rolling down Mala’s leg as Denisa and a few others made their way up the building, Ruiz seemed intent on not making Ygraine use more of her ability as he kicked debris out of the doorway, cat in hand, to make his way up the stairs the old fashioned way. One step at a time. And he made sure that Kaylee, at the very least, followed him.

Logan is still getting to his feet by the time Elisabeth lets loose a veritable wall of sonic energy, turning while still down to watch bodies crumple, rend apart, and metal buckle, and dust flurry and billow. His eyes grow dim, and that hotwire of energy withdraws from her system — which is probably a good thing, blood still singing her veins, heart still labouring as if she were in a war zone.

Oh, wait.

They are.

He claws his way onto his feet, hissing a curse, muttering something else — not like this is just audible — as his blunt nails scrape concrete and feet get under him, jacket flapping behind him as he picks up his run with a little less focus and elegance than before. Pale eyes clap on Ruiz disappearing into the building, and he takes a breath, and barrels in after. One instruction to follow is good enough for forward momentum, and Ruiz can hear Logan following nearby as echoing footfalls, hard breathing.

The audiokinetic who loosed that blast drops to her knees for a long moment in the road, sweat beading her forehead, breathing labored. Not because of the expenditure of power but because she honestly feels in this moment like her chest is being sat on. Her heart thunders in her ribcage and feels too big for the space and her lungs don't feel as if they have enough room to expand fully. And once the surge of amplification is withdrawn, she has the shakes as well. Wilting as she fights to breathe, she puts one hand on the ground and looks around at the huge mess. She's bought them… what? Moments? Her blue eyes skim blankly across the spot where Bowie, Peyton, and Ling stood only moments before… and she drops her head.

They knew it was going to be bad. Elisabeth puts her other hand down to push upward, slowly gaining her feet. Compartmentalize. Lock it up. Keep moving forward. We'll rest when we're through, whispers through her head. She's not through yet. So pull it together and get your ass moving, Harrison!

The sight of Shaw and Isabelle coming out of nowhere brings with it a surge of… hope? Relief? She can't even identify it. But the blonde nods slightly in their direction and spins, making her way far more slowly than she would like to the building itself.

"Brenda, wait…"

Shaw looks almost like he's about to stop the pink-haired bartender cutting through the crowd towards him and Isabelle, but it's only a verbal attempt. The rest of him physically leans, slouches at the shoulders as he's suddenly caught in a wave of exhaustion. The man shakes his head to clear the fog of tiredness away, half-managing to do so. He brings his focus back to his trenchcoated, flame-handed companion and newly reunited friend.

"Let's go," he tells them both, "we have a mission still." Isabelle will recognize the look in his dark circled, nearly black eyes. Scanning over the group, Shaw spots Ruiz as the other man presses on into the building. Puzzled, he glances up as if to acquaint and re-orient himself to just where they are. And why this building of all buildings? But when the next mortar slams into a nearby ruin with thunderous boom and a shower of debris, that gets him moving. "Isabelle, Brenda, let's go!"

The next mortar causes Isabelle to duck and as she begins to run forward she motions to Brenda to follow after Shaw with her taking up the rear of the trip. Her eyes reflect the the flames and the fire on her hands blazes brightly as she hustles in after the two. As she goes, the flames in the surrounding area wither and soar up into the air toward her, her eyes bright as they circle her hands making the flames grow bigger. There’s a satisfied sigh from the brunette as she tries her best to keep the flames from consuming the coat, a gift but the sleeves soon catch fire and soon she's wearing a sleeveless red trench coat, flapping open to reveal her pale skin.

Brenda yelps as she falls into the wall of the staircase, eyes wide as she tries to steady herself. “I'd really like, some more of your moonshine right now. Just to wet the whistle.” She calls behind her shoulder to Izzy who barks out a laugh, “I can't believe you didn't bring a bottle!!”

“Out of all the things to bring Isabelle, really?”

Their exchange is cut short by another rumble of mortar and the building shaking. “Fuck B, let’s move.”

Elaine’s done her best to keep whatever kids are near her moving forward. But at this point, without an ability to help, she’s doing whatever she can to get herself out as well. Stumbling forward and barely able to keep to her feet what with mortar shots and the sound of gunfire, she moves forward hoping that whatever kids Elspeth was helping see her and follow like they were instructed. Her focus, for the moment, is singular out of panic—get to the top of that building. She climbs the stairs towards the roof, doing her best to keep a quick pace, but ten floors is a lot for even someone remotely in shape. She slows, dragging her way up the last floors to relative safety. Once she’s up, she finally takes time to survey the scene. Shit.

The Deveaux Building was once an opulent place, possessing that “old world” grandeur. Art Deco friezes that once dominated the lobby are now in ruin, stripped of their copper by looters after the bomb. Time has not been kind to the old building, but it is yet stood against the onslaught of entropy with strength and resilience. When Ygraine reaches the roof with the first collection of children, she finds not pigeons among the coops, but the paired sniper team of Hana Gitelman and Richard Cardinal.

The children cover their ears, frantically scrambling as they move away from gunfire and the ledge. They cower among the tumbledown wreckage of the pigeon coops, some hunched beneath the sculptures of cherubs and a ring of stone that faces the dead heart of Midtown. Elaine is next onto the roof, even as Ygraine turns back to get others. The children at her side screaming in fear and sobbing.

Down below, another mortar round strikes the street and silences screams of panic. Kain, dazed by the violence and loss struggles to find Kaylee’s voice in the haze of smoke and stone dust. When he does, he sees her and Ruiz disappearing into the entrance of the Deveaux Building and starts into a galloped lope that quickly turns into a full sprint as another mortar strikes the roof of a nearby building, raining bricks down on the street.

Between Elisabeth’s sonic shockwave, Isabelle’s fire, and the gunfire popping from David Cardinal as he flees back it looks as though the infected are scattering. Some of them literally. Among the infected, some are crumbling into heaps of screaming, molten flesh and protoplasmic jelly. Their bodies no longer able to sustain what the virus has done to them.

“Liz!” David calls out as he turns to catch up with her. “We’re—

Elisabeth is blown off of her feet, flies backwards through the air and hits her back hard on the concrete, rolls head over heels and lands gently on her stomach. Her vision is blurred, ears are ringing, and she can feel the warmth of blood at them. Someone is pawing at her, pulling her to her feet. She sees Kain Zarek, of all motherfuckers, pulling her up. Blood paints one side of his face a bright red, and he looks away from the smoking crater that was once David Cardinal.

He says something to Elisabeth, and she can't—

No. She can.

C’mon!” Kain shouts, and suddenly Elisabeth’s hearing comes back into fine focus. The ringing stops. There's clarity. “C’mon Lizard, we ain't dyin’ here t’day!”

When one sense is lost, they say, another grows in strength to compensate. But much like Conrad Wozniak before her, Elisabeth Harrison doesn't need undamaged ears to hear.

WIth the stragglers of the kids in front of her, Elspeth continues to push them on ahead in some cases, literally. She seems pretty unwilling to look back, to let her focus be shaken by mortar, by sonic blast, by anything, solely focused on getting herself to the rooftop, and either dying once and for all with her friends, or getting the hell out of this crapsack world.

At least, until Isabella's fire scorches across the ruins of Midtown. Elspeth can't help but stop, look back, not watching as the last of the kids make their way into the Deveaux Building. Instead, her eyes are fixed on what amounts to a literal phoenix in the streets. Isa and Shaw had run off, they should be dead, or at least infected.

But if they were here, could that mean…?

She looks up and down, all around what she can see before her, for the twitch of a root as it moves to entange a member of the Vanguard, for a weave of weeds and vines that forms a wall, for any indication that, against all odds, what she hopes may be true.

But there's nothing. Just two people who should be dead, fighting to make sure they could leave. For a moment, the sounds of the chaos fade away, Elspeth left alone with her thoughts as she turns, stumbles into the doorway of the building, trying to hide tears that well up in the corners of her eyes.

Ling Chao is giving an encore of her performance at the Textile Factory, and anywhere smoke from mortar shells or from Izzy's seemingly indiscriminate flames rises, she is finding her way to it, leaping out knife in hand to carve her way to their destination, intention to leave as bloody a path as she can in her wake, uncaring if it's rage zombie or Vanguard soldier she strikes down in the process.

But she is always moving forward. Angry as she must be, it's tempered by the knowledge that there is a destination in mind, and that no amount of abject violence will matter or make up for what happens if she doesn't get there in time and at least mostly alive.

The heavy rifle jerks back against Richard Cardinal’s shoulder hard every time he fires it, and he’s no doubt already got a forming bruise there; it’s a weapon meant to kill things far heavier than the soft targets below, and he’s not experienced with the best ways to handle it.

But he can handle it well enough.

The sudden appearance of Ygraine on the rooftop has him nearly falling back before he recognizes her, breathing out a shuddering breath that had caught in his throat. “Jesus Christ, you— Peyton, Fitzroy, did Peyton make it through?”

He doesn’t wait for an answer, although his heart’s in his throat waiting for it, already leaning back to the sight. To find another soft target, and potentially a few behind it. Maybe giving someone another few seconds to get to them.

“I passed her to Bowie.” Ygraine didn’t look back to confirm quite what happened to Peyton, so sticks to a simple truth - and the shred of hope it contains, alongside the strong implication of a problem so dire that the medic was providing personal attention. Then, with a sympathetic glance to Richard and a deep gulp of air, she dives back over the parapet to snare more kids. Giving them a thirty-yard dash across a flat surface lets even the shortest of legs cope with the distance more easily than struggling up the crowded stairs could ever be.

She would join Elspeth in hoping against hope for Aislinn’s return, but running up and down the alley-side wall shields her from events unfolding in the street as well as from the falling mortar shells. For the time being, she does her best to focus simply upon trying to get everyone she can up to the roof before she runs out of either time or energy.

The moments between Dave calling her name and Kain hauling her to her feet, dazed, are just not there in her head. It happens so quickly and violently, Elisabeth is stunned. The world moves in strange fits and jerks, and it wavers around her like she's looking through water or a heat mirage. She hurts all over, her head hit the concrete hard enough to make her see stars before she tumbled arse over teakettle. She's not able to string together a coherent thought, though a shaft of fear cuts through her adrenaline and confusion like a lightning bolt.

The rough hands that help her up and the sound of the Cajun's voice coming into focus jar her a bit, pulling her back into the moment. Her balance is shot to hell, though, and she lists to one side as Kain hustles her along, stumbling over her own two feet. Like everyone else, she's bleeding profusely from various places — she doesn't comprehend that her ears are bleeding, though she has a moment to touch the gash on her arm from the rebar that burns like fire where Kain is gripping it. The bump on her head is gonna be massive, she thinks in confusion. Richard will bitch about her not wearing a helmet again.

The entrance to the Deveaux Building looms in front of them, and she finds herself grateful for Kain's presence when confronted by the stairs — going up them with her balance completely off-kilter would be otherwise beyond her. But she grimly keeps moving forward and upward. When they finally emerge onto the rooftop, she looks around wildly for Ruiz, Steve, and Logan. Without Magnes —


Shoving that thought firmly aside, because there is nothing she can do about his absence now, Elisabeth makes her way toward the three people on whom they've all pinned their hopes.

A sudden flash of white light erupts from the southwest. It illuminates the entirety of New York City, causes skyscrapers to cast long shadows. It is agony to Richard Cardinal in his physical form, and would have been fatal had he been transformed. Children recoil from the light, and for the barest of moments it feels like that was the end, a single atomic flash before the end of everything.

Except there’s just a flash. No bang.

The light recedes from the crown of the Empire State Building, where dark stormclouds are beginning to form in a wholly unnatural spiraling pattern. Lightning arcs down from the sky, thunder claps, and the towering skyscraper begins to wobble from side to side in subtle motion. Cracks split down from the top of the building for five floors.

A second flash comes a moment after the first, just as nuclear, just as cold. The wind near the Empire State Building, several blocks away, picks up in cyclonic fashion. It is strong enough that the top of the observation deck and the antenna at the top of the building are ripped off, cast into the wind and down to street level with a riotous crash. The wind around the Deveaux Building is likewise affected by the growing storm. The atmokinetic ability on display can only belong to two people, and Helena Dean never came back from Textile Factory 17.

The rocking of the building and the explosions make for hard maneuvering but eventually Isabelle pounds through the door of the roof with Brenda, hazel eyes scanning the skyline and wincing as the whole city lights up but there's no loud explosion that follows and she raises an eyebrow as the wind whips around chaotically. “The fuck…” her expression grim as she douses the flames on her hands, people near her would feel the air noticeably warmer. A hand goes out to grab at Brenda and Shaw, “Fuck… this.” She grunts as she squats down and tries to get behind cover.

Spotting Hana and Richard on the roof as well among the chaos that is them fleeing for their lives. She didn't think she’d make it here. “Card!” Her voice rings out but is likely drowned out by the winds. Izzy blinks up at the thunder and storm clouds when a thought makes her jump. She hasn't seen Magnes since she and Shaw has joined the others. “Magnes?”

“Where the fuck is Magnes?” She screams over the roar of the wind, hair and burnt red trench coat flying around.

Her companion Brenda looks nervous as she looks from Shaw to Isabelle. “Something about, sticking it up the man's ass to save Gillian! He left with Peter and that Vanguard bitch!” Her brow furrows and she clenches her fist.


Shaw tumbles out onto the rooftop of the Deveaux building, getting out of the way so others behind him can make it up too. He’s laying there with the assault rifle still clutched to his chest, eyes briefly closed as he just needs a moment, a breather after fighting all this way and climbing, laboring, up ten flights. Even with lids closed, the flash of light leaves a reddish imprint that lingers when he opens his eyes again to look around, gaze angled around at the legs and feet of other survivors.

Isabelle’s hand on his arm shakes him out of his unfocused delirium, and he struggles back up to a crouch, crawling with the pyrokinetic and Brenda to what bit of cover they manage to find. It’s the question she asks, where’s Magnes, that sends his own gaze darting around for other familiar faces. Ruiz, Lynette, Peyton,… the presence of or lack thereof in the case of the latter two makes his heart jump up to his throat and beat furiously there. The man scrambles back up to his feet then, looking over the edge of the roof with squinted, supersensing eyes as he searches for others in the fray down below. When he doesn’t find them, Shaw releases his power to the rush of the howling wind picking up on the rooftop and staggers back to Isabelle and Brenda. He shakes his head, throat too dry, too tight to speak.

People spill out onto the rooftop — first Ygraine and a gaggle of children, Elaine and more children, other familiar faces that follow. Hana gives them the briefest of glances, a passing acknowledgment that as much as anything ensures they're collecting elsewhere.

Although the rooftop feels much smaller now than it did just moments before.

Scanning the street below, the stragglers still making their way forward, the walking hazards behind them, Hana picks out a target and shoots it. In the same moment, blinding light washes across her vision, causing her to recoil, eyes squinting closed; for a moment, it seems related to her shot.

That moment passes quickly. Hana looks towards the distant, fracturing building just in time to flinch from the second shock of light. She glances towards Isabelle at the woman's shout, then returns her attention to the tableau below, settling back in at her rifle. There's not much she can do on the roof, but she can still cover the last few below.

Finally, stumbling out onto the rooftop, Kaylee is flush and a bit woozy. It was a long trip up those stairs. A hand grips Ruiz’s arm as she bends over, trying not to lose her lunch, while she catches her breath. Even though it feels like the side of her face is on fire, it has at least stopped bleeding. Like most of them, she looks like hell and feeling just as useless. Though a thought occurs to her, “Where’s my pack?” It had been important. It had negation shots in it. She pales at the thought that she lost it.

Then chaos erupts beyond them as the world turns white twice, forcing her to look away, pressing her face against Mateo’s arm. The light painful to her paler eyes. As the wind comes up and starts to whip around the woman’s hair, the worry gnaws at her.

There’s an incoherent cry of pain from Cardinal as that blinding light fills the sky, the heavy rifle left resting unmanned on the concrete edge of the rooftop as he throws himself backwards, as he does his best to flatten himself and guard his head and face with his arms. The wind’s roar has his coat flapping in the breeze, the rumbling of the floor under him as the building wobbles making his gut sink in fear. Faint wisps of steam rise where the mere light has left him with mild burns across his arms, and even once he shakily starts pushing himself up his face is splotched red with blistering skin, eyes blinking and squinting as he tries to see - blinded, for at least the moment.

“Someone— someone grab the rifle before it gets blown off,” he spits out, “I can’t aim like this— what was that?” Noise on the rooftop, fear, chatter, more people, blurry shapes only slowly coming into coherence again, “Peyton! You up here?” She has to be, right? She has to be. Where’s everyone else? A hint of doubt, of panic, creeps into his tone, “K-Mart? Ling?”


Like many of those who climbed up all those flights, Ruiz doesn’t look great when he finally makes it to the roof. A hint of sweat in his hair, a ruddiness to his cheeks that hadn’t been there when the whole thing started. And that noise in the back of his mind seemed to just… pulse. Or maybe that was his heart. Either way, he looks tired, worn. Emotionally and physically.

And then the flash. As Kaylee grasps him, he looks away, wincing at the potential implications and the way the sky begins to light up. Well— at least they likely won’t have to worry about energy, if the thunderclouds mean anything. “We might have to do this without him after all,” he whispers to himself. He’s not sure if Ygraine’s ability would work, walking up walls seemed different from the purple mess that made up the ability of the young man who he’d been practicing with.

He kneels down with the cat still held tightly in his arms, to try and catch his breath, to calm his heart, and to look at those that had made it up. “Ling.” he calls out, knowing he’d last left the pack with her. But the odds of her hearing him are probably small.

They’d left the Hub with less than a hundred people. And most of them did not make it to the rooftop. They would have time to mourn later. He would have time to react to Shaw being there later. Or— maybe he wouldn’t.

Maybe he wouldn't.

There's the sound of a small gasp for air and Denisa crumbles to her hands and knees. Vör stands behind her, yanking a large knife out of the child's back. The hilt is leather wrapped, the blade is wide and colored like bone would be. And dripping with blood.

"Hello little rabbits."

The woman grins, stalking forward a few steps before she disappears from the spot and reappears beside Liz. The audiokinetic feels the bite of a blade in her thigh, followed by the odd sensation of the woman and the weapon disappearing again. The blade never pulls out, it is just suddenly gone.

Vör reappears near the edge of the building, her free hand reaching out toward the crowd of Hub survivors. One of the other children, a young boy named William DeLuca, disappears, then reappears next to the Vanguard huntress. And then she gives him a firm shove.

Over the edge.

Of the building.

And then she disappears again.

There's a growl from Isabelle as Vör pops onto the scene and her eyes become alight with the need for vengeance, justice. Letting go of Brenda and Shaw’s hand she stands up and flexes her arms as fire blooms from the center of her palms, spiraling up to her shoulder, the red trenchcoat whipping in the wind. Poor Denisa, Isabelle looks at the girl and it only makes her more mad.

Gripping her knife, Vör’s knife, the sister blade to the knife the Vanguard huntress was currently holding Isabelle stands and watches as William is pushed over the edge after being teleported over to the woman. “Fucking.. Brenda stay back!” Izzy gives Shaw a worried glance. The fire licks at the hilt of the killer’s knife and Isabelle readjusts her grip.

“Is that the bitch you said was hopping around like a damn rabbit?!” Brenda's shrill scream as she watches Vör wreck havoc. Pink hair flying in the wind, Brenda tries to stay crouched and make herself not a target but that doesn't seem right to her it seems because she's charging towards Isabelle the next second holding her gun out.

It’s truly chaos up atop the rooftop, and the appearance of Vör tips it that much closer to the edge. Shaw lifts his rifle, but the teleporter’s too quick or he doesn’t want to accidentally shoot a friendly. He’s heard Cardinal’s call for someone to grab the rifle on the edge of the rooftop, making his way over in time to witness the young DeLuca boy be sent screaming over the edge.

But he remembers a plan. Isabelle’s and his plan, that they had conjured up in fevered moments of their trek back towards the Hub. He hoofs it back towards the pyrokinetic, to Brenda, calling as loudly as he can over the swirling winds, “Stay close! Back to back!” And be ready, it’s implied. And then he tells Isabelle, “Ok! Do it.” Maybe the plan works and maybe it doesn’t, to lure the huntress to them.

Gaining her footing near Ruiz, Elisabeth leans on a piece of stone to keep herself from tipping sideways. The mess up here is more than a little chaotic and the blast of lightning from the other building causes her to flinch visibly. Now she's seeing spots and stars. Christ! The second light flash she's at least not looking toward, telling Ruiz quietly, "You have to get it open. I don't know if that lightning can be drawn to help… to power it? But… I don't know what else to do but try."

Turning to see how many made it, the audiokinetic doesn't even realize that she's not actually hearing anything, that her power is still active, the drug having been apparently burned out of her system when Logan amped her. She flinches at Cardinal's shout for… well, two out of three of the names are dead. She's got pieces of things she won't want to think about in her hair to prove that David Cardinal was all but completely obliterated on the ground.

The next thing she knows, there's… what the fuck?? The kids are attacked in quick succession and it actually takes her about a second and a half — eternity in a moment like this — to look down and realize that what she's feeling is a knife so deep in her leg that it probably nicks bone. Elisabeth stares uncomprehendingly at the injury and the teleporter is gone as fast as she struck. Looking up, it seems to Liz that she's falling in slow motion again, her hands flying down to where her thigh is soaked in her own blood pretty much immediately. When she goes down this time, she doesn't get back up, awash in pain. So this is what the end of the world looks like, she thinks rather randomly in those slow-motion moments of shock. Huh…

The thing about being smoke is that it lets you be in the most unexpected places at the most unexpected times. Ling moves from body to body, between Vanguard and rage-zombie, taking a knife to each one, until finally she staggers back as someone with either a gun or a good kinetic ability finally sends her stumbling back as someone gets lucky and lodges something into her shoulder.

In a puff of smoke, she's gone, flitting across the ground - and just close enough to Ruiz to hear him when he calls her name. The next thing he knows, she's next to him, wincing as she offers him the pack that she had been holding for him. She offers him a flat expression, punctuated with a nod, before her form begins to drift away into smoke again.

This time, her smoke rises, carries up the front of the Deveaux Building as she rides plume of smoke from the carnage around them up, up, up all the way to the roof where the others wait. She practically spills out of the rising cloud, falling to the group in a corporal form, coughing and bleeding from being in close quarters with things she has no business fighting.

But at least she doesn't look as bad off as some others - smoke doesn't make Ling Chao cough though, which even she finds worrisome.

"Richard," she rasps out, pulling herself up to her feet. There's a small cut on her cheek, a gash on her arm where her suit has been torn through, and an exit wound in her left shoulder. She frowns, realising that he out of sorts. Still, she is determined to play her part as messenger - something not relished on any level. "Where is Kain?" she asks, looking down at him with a surprisingly sorrowful expression.

As he cries out, her expression flattens. the hand not grasping her knife clenches tight, which elicits a wince of pain as injured muscles tense. "She didn't make it," is offered quietly. "She wanted you to know she loves you." There's genuine sadness behind those words - Ling Chao isn't one to make friends, but Peyton was one of the closest things she had to that. A crewmember, if nothing else.

Busy with the task of shuttling the last of the children from the alleway up to the roof, Ygraine caught only the wrap-around effects of the flashes that managed to reach the alleyway - and is more than a little startled to see one of the already-delivered children coming the other way. Jerking fully upright, she extends her arms and starts pivoting, attempting to turn her charging and shifting of William DeLuca’s gravity into something controlled. Unfortunately, as ever with her power, her target retains his prior momentum… making for a crunchingly hard landing even as she tries to cushion and roll with him. Still, better for him to have a slightly-softened five-yard fall onto the wall than an uncontrolled plummet down the full ten storeys to the ground.

Returning to the other children on the wall, she deposits the crying boy with them, before scuttling up the little distance more that’s required to risk a peek over the parapet and try to learn what on Earth is happening on the roof.

"Ling," Richard pushes himself back to his feet, stumbling a bit - the woman coming into focus, if blurry focus, as he steps closer, reaching out to grab her shoulder. Reassurance that she's actually there, maybe, a hint of relief. If she's there, then…

"I don't know," he shakes his head, "I haven't seen him, where's…" He trails off, then, as he stares in horror at the smoke mimic when she speaks, as the news of his lover's death begins to sink in. "No," he breathes out, his hand falling back to his side, "No, she was supposed to make it, we were— we were supposed to— "

As if the weight of it was too much to bear, he drops back down to his knees on the rooftop. Years spent without a body, without hope, and as soon as he risked believing, risked hoping, risked loving… everything was gone. In the moment, he doesn't even really hear the screams, notice the rampage of Vör across the rooftop.

And it is a rampage. When Vör reappears, she slices the throat of a man they all knew to be one of the scavengers. He barely lets out a sound before he drops and Vör is off again, porting across the rooftop. She pops in front of one of the teenagers— Maureen Humbert— and plunges her knife into the girl's chest. Not just once, either. She follows the girl down to the ground, stabbing her over and over and leaving a mess behind when she ports away again.

Ygraine nabs William on the way down, saving him an equally brutal death. The kids scramble up to the edge of the roof, grabbing onto the ledge to peek over as well. They don't see when Vör appears, this time gripping onto Ygraine's shoulder. The Brit can feel the weight of her, of course, but has a much bigger concern when the knife finds purchase in her back, slamming between ribs and hitting lung before it withdraws again.

It's likely Vör was planning to follow up on that move, but the heat from the rooftop— from her very favorite pyro— gets her attention. She pushes off Ygraine, flipping off the building like she plans on sending herself down the side. But no. She disappears from view, then reappears back on the rooftop, her backflip finishing in a crouch behind Brenda. And she grabs her by the hair, wrapping it around her fist and yanking her back. The blade comes against the woman's throat.

She doesn't say anything, just looks over at Isabelle with a cheshire grin.

So much seemed to be happening. Ruiz continued to hold onto the cat, and the backpack full of negation drugs sat against his knees on the rooftop. But even if they did stab the teleporter with one, it would take ten or twenty minutes to take effect. They didn’t have that long. Looking up at the sky for a moment, he took in a breath, reaching up to touch the necklace that held the wedding ring. Shaw might have recognized that. He had found them, after all. One ring around his finger— the other around his neck. It could only mean one thing.

The cat continues to squirm in his arms, almost as if he wanted to break free and go to one of his owners, a young girl now staring out with dying eyes as she bled from a knife wound in her spine. Mala had pulled herself over to the girl, and laid with her head against her shoulder crying.

Fingers clutching the ring, he began to focus on that something in the back of his mind. That voice. The wind. The fire. The thunder. He focused on it and pulled on that single spot. The electricity in the sky above was too far away. Steve wasn’t on the roof yet. But for a moment, a small spiral starts to form in the air where he focused.

Instead of licked in darkness and lightning as normal, this one pulled on something else entirely. It drew on the flames around Isabelle, creating a small spiral of red and yellow and gold, diminishing the heat around her. It takes him by surprise, so he pulls back.

Time seems to slow for the pyrokinetic as she sees the teleporter reappear and yank Brenda by the hair. “NO!!” Isabelle screams as the flames on her arms burn brighter, hazel eyes wide with fear and shaking her head wildly from side to side. “Put that fucking knife DOWN!” She's tense because she's not sure what to do. She can't charge at Vör without hurting Brenda, she wouldn't be fast enough to stop her from silting her throat. There's a growl that builds from the pit of her belly as the flames swirl upwards around her face and hair, flames and hair a nimbus above her, that growl becomes a full on scream of rage as Brenda’s eyes are wide and she looks at Isabelle with regret.

“Don’t! Fucking don't Izzy! I..” there are tears in Brenda's eyes and the two women share a look before Brenda smiles a slow, sly smile, crying had always been her favorite thing to fake. Got her everything she wanted, con woman that she is.

There’s the smallest nod given to Isabelle drawing a trickle of blood before she simultaneously stomps her foot down on Vör’s and throws her head back to slam it into the huntress’ nose in an effort to escape. Blood can be seen spilling from Brenda's neck at the sudden movements while having a knife pressed into her neck. This was a mistake.

Brenda!!” Izzy runs forward with a yell, Vör’s knife held high as she begins to leap before she feels something in her chest that makes her stop, the heat around her lowers and her flames begin to be pulled away from her, towards Ruiz, towards.. “Fuck.. me..” She whispers as her red and orange flames spiral from her arms to the portal, she's frantic between looking at Vör and Brenda to Mateo and the portal. Her body starts to tremble with rage at this impasse of sorts. Closing her eyes briefly, she begins to walk forward clutching the knife tight in her fingertips as she dives after Vör with a cry, fire reflecting in her eyes.

As Kain Zarek bursts forth from the stairwell, blood spattered on his face and hair disheveled, he looks around with wide-eyed horror and confusion at what’s happening on the rooftop. He pivots, turning to see Elisabeth with the knife-wound in her leg, looks to see Richard with the sniper rifle, Hana, bleeding children. Then there is a cacophonous thunderclap that sends Kain reeling, covering his head.

Less than a mile away, lightning strikes the ruined top of the Empire State Building. There is a storm of ravens circling the structure, moving like a flock of starlings rather than the birds they are. They weave in and out of the path of oncoming lightning strikes, other birds now, too, find themselves landing on the rooftop of the stairwell and the old pigeon coops. Cawing in warning. Something is wrong.

“Somebody kill that crazy bitch!” Kain shouts, raising his rifle and trying to train a bead on her, blonde hair matted to one side of his face by blood. “Where the fuck is Magnes!?

Ygraine would be very glad indeed to oblige Kain, but is too busy reeling from the crazy bitch’s efforts to do anything overly productive herself. Being stabbed from behind while peeking over the top of a wall ten storeys up was not something she had even considered as a possibility. Initially, it just felt like a rather narrowly-focused punch… but now, she’s aware of something going horribly wrong in that side of her chest.

Wide-eyed and desperately fighting the urge to panic, she looks to the nearest children alongside her on the outside of the wall, points a couple of times to William in the hope that they’ll remember to look after him, and then scrambles up and over to slither onto the rooftop. Though her ability’s charges should hold for another ten minutes or more, passing out on the wrong side of the wall strikes her as a very bad idea indeed. What to do once on the ‘right’ side, she’s not at all certain of - and finds herself wholly losing what coherence of thought had remained as she takes in the increasingly apocalyptic view, and the flames-versus-hostage standoff in the foreground.

She is still recovering from the stairs, taking back her pack when the attacks begin. Blue eyes go wide as the first child falls to the ground. There is only shock for Kaylee. When Vor pop-up next to Liz, she scrambles back, tripping and going down heavily. Finding herself winded, as her back connects with the rooftop, arms clutching her bag.

Boots scrape on the rooftop to get away from the attacks until Kaylee’s back connects with a wall behind her. Huddled there, with her pack against her chest, feeling completely useless without her ability or any way to defend herself. This is when she remembers what her back contains. A filled needle is retrieved with a trembling hand, even if it is useless.

Kaylee can only watch in horror and hate herself for her weakness; while clutching that needle in her fist. .

It’s all going to shit.

And that isn’t even an understatement. Ruiz looks across at Kaylee, shaking his head as she grabs the needle, knowing it won’t work, but understanding why she thought about using it— he had to. “Izzy,” he yells out suddenly, voice hoarse. He had seen that spiral of fire. He could guess what it meant. “More fire.”

And more fire she gives him.

Yeah, that’s possibly the last thing anyone would ask of Isabelle, but he asks for it now. The lightning from a mile away was too far, but there was still an ambience in the air. However— the vortex had briefly, ever so briefly, been red, with fire instead of lightning and sparks. Maybe energy didn’t matter. Maybe before he’d always had more electricity than anything else. Raising a hand, he waits for the teleporter to appear again, waiting for an exact moment.

This is one aspect of his ability he never wanted to use in front of people. It had earned him his name in the time he’d been in Vanguard. A name that meant Hatred. A name that would be destined to devour the moon itself. When she appears next, suddenly a raging firestorm can be heard from a tiny, single point in space. The air all begins to rush into it. Only it’s small. The size of his hand.

And he created it right on top of the teleporter.

The stomp connects and Vör lets out a pained grunt. But she also leans out of the way of the incoming headbutt. The blood on Brenda's throat grows thicker as the Huntress digs her knife into the woman's neck.

She grins at Isabelle. And disappears.

When she appears again, she's far enough to be out of the heat Izzy generates. She waves her fingers at the other woman. Taunting. Her eyes scan the crowd until she finds Shaw. And grins as if to promise the pyrokinetic that he's next.

But he isn't next.

She hears the storm, feels the pull, and she starts to lift off the ground. Frantic— for once— she lashes out with her knife, trying to find purchase to keep her from the vortex. It finds Ling's already wounded shoulder, digging in and cutting deep while a panicking Vör tries to keep herself here.

It doesn't last, it barely lasts at all, in fact. The knife's angle changes under her grip and her hand slips off, sending her up toward a hole that is too small for her to fit through. But it is determined to make her fit. And the crowd hears bones crunch undercutting the woman's agonized screams.

And worse, the portal closes before she's completely through, cutting her in half. A head connected to shoulders and one arm lands on the rooftop, bloody and twisted. Her face especially, as it's locked in her final moments. Horror, pain, fear.

There's a look of triumph on Izzy’s face for a moment as Vör is destroyed. But it quickly changes to a look of outright horror.

A strangled gasp is all Brenda manages as the blood thickens and the blade slices her throat. The woman’s blue eyes widen as she sinks to her knees with a thud. Pink hair is tousled by the wind and then the woman is falling to the ground on her back. Isabelle's scream is drowned out by the roar of the spiral and her flames merging.

The woman runs over her face one of horror as she falls to Brenda’s side, trying to stop the bleeding with a now pale hand, the flames doused. Brenda coughs but her last vocal moments are just a ragged rasp. “No no no B, just hold on, just hold on.” Isabelle’s voice cracks as tears fall down her cheek. “Just.. hold-.”

Brenda’s eyes go dark and lifeless and her head lolls, laying on Isabelle’s shoulder. There's a whine in the back of Izzy’s throat, like a wounded animal and slowly her body begins to ignite, arms spiraling with fire, her hair, face, the bottoms of her calves. She cries as she holds Brenda close, the flames consuming them both, Brenda's body burning with the intensity of the flames.

The smell of burnt flesh fills the air but as the wind continues, ash leaves Brenda’s body. Floating up to the stormy sky.

As the knife finds purchase in her shoulder, already wounded as it is, those around Ling - including Cardinal - hear something they've probably never heard from the smoke mimic: A cry of genuine pain, and a look of sudden horror on her face as her eyes wide and hands tremble.

Her reaction isn't instantaneous, but it makes her an unwise choice for something to anchor oneself with, as she vapor begins practically spilling off her body as though she were a living piece of dry ice, her entire form suddenly exploding into smoke - and taking the knife Vor is hold on to with it.

She reforms on her hands and knees next to Elspeth, who has just stepped through the door to the roof - and has largely managed to avoid seeing the chaos and the death that has transpired up there. But when Ling appears before her, she shrieks, spotting the knife still sticking out of her shoulder.

"O-Oh God," she breathes, at first taking a half step back, before - thinking it a good idea, or not thinking at all, she leans forward and takes the hilt of the knife still buried in Ling's shoulder and yanks it out, eliciting another cry of pain from the Chinese woman as blood begins to pour even more from the already existing wound. It'll take her some time to bleed out, but she's struggling to keep herself on her knees as she gives Elspeth a nasty look.

Elspeth clutches the knife close, looking around at the others gathered on the roof, at the despair in their eyes, and begins to feel all of it overwhelm her as tears slip down her cheek.

Something is coming.

The birds gathered on the roof scatter. The storm that had been growing at the Empire State Building begins to dissipate. The upper third of that iconic skyscraper begins to pitch, steel beams bending, stone facing crumbling away. The building sags and twists under its own weight and starts a slow process of collapse.

But there is something coming.

A bead of violet light burns in the air, crackling white at its center. It streaks through the rainy sky, backlit by flickering flashes of lightning. Whatever it is, it is screaming. The light grows nearer and larger with each passing moment, and Kain pauses his evasion of the knife-wielding psychopath long enough to notice John Logan had edged his way out of the fight. And then past him, looking to the light as it comes barreling toward the sound of detonating mortars, plumes of fire, and screams.

It was the only beacon he needed.

Magnes Varlane rockets through the air, arms wound around Gillian Childs — dressed in an ash-smudged and dirty gown like some kind of doll. The momentum of Magnes’ flight sends him on a meteoric path toward the roof, colliding with the pigeon coop and obliterating it when he lands, sending chicken wire and wood flinders in every direction. In the distance, another shape is rapidly approaching.

A blot of darkness.

It’s not until Isabelle screams - until Ling cries out - that Richard Cardinal comes back to the here and now, the ringing silence in his ears that is the death of his family - or what he considered family - fading for the cries of pain and fear, for the rumbling of stone, the shaking of the building beneath them. Skin still reddish and blistered, he pushes himself up, stumbling a few steps before dropping down again to a knee beside Ling.

Shift,” he hisses out as blood spills from the knife-wound, “Turn to smoke. Now. Stay that way until there’s a way out, until there are doctors. I’m not— losing you on top of everyone else.” She was a friend, an ally, even if they weren’t that close in some ways. She was closer than he let most people. And now only her, Kain, and Isabelle are left.

He lifts his head, then, just in time for the chicken coop to explode, shifting to guard Ling with his body as he brings an arm up to protect his face from shrapnel.

Slowly standing up straight once the debris of the chicken coop dissipates, Magnes' eyes and mouth glow a white-purple from the energy of Gillian's augmentation. His cheeks are covered in still-damp tears, with a somber expression on his face.

He carefully sits Gillian down onto her feet, looking around to assess the situation. If he sees people fighting his people, he whips his hand and sends that person flying directly into the sky.

He didn't come here for this, he's tired of fighting tonight, he's ready to go, ready to leave this wretched world behind.

"I'm here." is all he says, straightening his leather jacket that was still rather disheveled from the fight earlier.

Having never really seen his ability like this, Kaylee can only stare in disbelief as pieces of Vor fall to the ground. That same look, it turned upward to Mateo himself, though there is more awe. He won’t see any judgement from her. Who was she to judge? She could make people kill themselves and others for her. Looking at the needle in her hand, Kaylee frowns and shoves it back in the pack. Useless. That is what she is right now.

Magnes’ arrival comes around the time that she is getting to her feet again. The pack is held up to shield her face from flying debris, not that there is much more damage she could do in her mind. There is surprise when she sees Gillian, relief really. Though… it’s dashed away when she notices that Peter wasn’t there. “Where’s Peter?” she counters Magnes with her own question.

"He's Kazimir now. We're not waiting, I'm sorry." Magnes immediately answers, with a cold, measured emotion in his tone. He's staring at Denisa's body, and Mala next to it. He can't react now, he can't break now, he has to keep going, he has to get everyone out.

Shock does strange things to the perception. Elisabeth sees Magnes come blasting to a landing, still feeling as if she's watching the world from underwater. There's so much happening all at once, and the world is still tilted on its axis and spinning from the inner ear damage she's taken. So all in all, it's pretty surreal in the world that she's currently sitting in. She's managed to pull herself sideways against one of the waist-height walls up here, and her hands are shaking badly as she looks around blankly for something to wrap around her leg to perhaps slow the bleeding. Her wits are scattered to the four winds right now, though, so she's definitely only partially aware of what exactly is happening. The sight of the rift, surrounded by Isabelle's fire is actually rather fascinating and she stops to simply watch it.

Steam rises off from Isabelle’s face as her tears meet flames becoming steaming almost immediately. Hazel eyes are closed as she holds onto now what is a mound of ashes that blows away in the fierce winds. She's kneeling there for a moment before opening her eyes to stare at the group of people running around and just making it onto the roof.

Shaw gets a stare, she looks dead in the eyes as she rises slowly and stops as she sees purple and white light speeding towards them with a big dark shadow following behind. As the shapes come into focus..


Once he lands, Izzy walks slowly over to him. Wind whipping her hair around, the flames emitting a orange gold glow on the roof. Isabelle finally comes to stand next to Magnes with a grunt. “Brenda didn't make it.” A cough wrecks her body and she grits her teeth, the last of Brenda’s ashes having swirling away from her. “Let's go.”

Shaw keeps trying to get a bead on Vör as the teleporter appears and disappears, landing on an aim towards the woman as she appears behind Brenda. He can't pull the trigger. And so he stares, frozen in inaction and helpless, only to bear witness to the death of the huntress by a most gruesome manner. From his standpoint, never having actually seen the effect of Ruiz's power first hand, it's horrific. And yet.

That's enough to get him moving again, starting to reach for Isabelle but stopping as the pyrokinetic wreathes herself and her departed friend in flames. His hand draws back, shielding his eyes and face from the intense heat. It helps also keep his gaze off the blinding purple-white that suddenly explodes onto the rooftop with the rest of them. The appearance of Magnes with Gillian is signal enough.

He nods to Isabelle. And to Ruiz, finding the other man amidst the chaos of the fight, a significant stop of his dark eyes on the man's rings. Both of them. "Time to go," he utters, words lost to the chaos of sound and fray. Shaw shoulders the assault rifle in his hands and turns back to Isabelle, newly freed hand held out to her, palm up to receive hers.

Elaine is hugging her arms, overwhelmed by everything going on. For a few minutes, she thought they weren’t going to make it, that they had survived all this way for nothing. But, as he promised, Magnes is there with Gillian. And, true to her word, she had survived this long. She doesn’t move from her spot on the roof, she just stares, waiting for their salvation. She won’t believe that it’s safe until they’ve all gone to whatever might meet them on the other side.

Ygraine casts around, head groggily swaying, as she searches for Ruiz and Elisabeth. The former’s portal is stared at with blank incomprehension, as is Isabelle’s spectacular immolation of Brenda, while the Briton’s wheezing worsens with every breath as her damaged lung struggles to function in spite of the stab-wound.

Managing to half-pivot, she dazedly fails to register the significance of Magnes and Gillian’s arrival. Waving unsteadily at the children peeking over the top of the parapet from the outside of the wall, she tries to beckon them forward - hoping that they’re tight enough as a group to make sure that they leave no one behind. The gravitic bonds, she leaves in place: the kids can scramble around to the inside of the parapet easily enough, and from there they can either be picked up by adults or figure out how to break the ties themselves.

Supervising such things presently feels beyond her. Instead, she crawls alongside the parapet towards Elisabeth, with the vague notion of trying to perform first aid. A puncture wound in a limb, she knows how to try to help with. Admittedly, passing out by - or on - her friend seems increasingly more likely than managing to do anything useful. On her back, the dark stain spreads as more and more of her top clings wetly to the tattooed skin beneath.

And Logan is here too.

No weapons, no power, not like fire and vortexes and crushing gravity. Not to mention the fact that he just ran up ten flights of stairs, and so by the time that Logan emerges onto the rooftop, the fight is already in progress. He slinks aside, breathing laboured, ducking into a crouch by the bricked edge of the building at the sight of a former Vanguard colleague in desperate battle, of forms flung off the edge, flashing knives, and then the fiery ring of crushing gravity that drags Vor away and leaves pieces behind.

Logan is here, but not completely here, exhausted laboured breathing having never quite evened out from hyperventilation. His face is white where his skin is visible through water-smudged dust and dirt, escaping attention up until the point that the pigeon coop he was hiding behind explodes.

"Fuck— "

Startled out of hiding, he backs away, eyes snapping to Gillian with sharp focus and confusion, a defensive curl to his posture. Brittle with tension, he tracks his focus towards where Magnes came from, and his expression immediately hollows out, empty of even fear.

As Magnes finally moves forward, he spots Elaine and crouches down to her briefly, whispering, "Don't move too far away from me.", then finally heads over to Ruiz.

"Ygraine!" he calls out, motioning her over whenever she's done with the kids, even though she doesn't seem to be in a particularly good state, most of the people here don't. Then he motions for Logan as well, even though it briefly crossed his mind to toss Logan into the air. "Let's all do this together, we'll raise our chances of success. We're opening a wormhole, more power will only benefit us."

That's when he reaches out with his arms, hands extended, though he doesn't do anything yet, he's still very defensive, looking around, ready to toss people into the air if anyone shows up to try anything. He's waiting for people to get into position, waiting for Ygraine to get the kids, waiting for others to catch up. "Isabelle, get our backs, just in case, we'll have to concentrate. But try not to use any unnecessary energy, I see what you're doing here."

The windswept rooftop is crowded and chaotic, painted just as much with fire and blood as with tension and fear; an environment familiar and unfamiliar for the woman who's been alone so long. At the edge of the gathering, Hana has left her rifle behind, the sniper's weapon of less use now that she's no longer targeting the streets below. She has a knife in hand, steel blade glinting in the light of Isabelle's flames, remnant of intentions no longer necessary as the teleporter problem has been resolved. Dark eyes glance to Logan as he emerges from what is no longer shelter, then follow his look into the greater expanse of the sky. That, too. Hana breathes out, a breath that hovers just shy of becoming a cough, and simply settles into place — poised, alert, waiting.

Hana will watch the group's collective back, too. It's the only thing she can do.

Izzy’s hand clasps Shaw’s with a look, she can't cry anymore now. She’ll just end up being all steamy anyway, but Brenda.. Isabelle's head turns towards where Vör’s dismembered body lays and she spits at it. The hand that holds Shaw has no flames but is very warm, her other arm blazes still but the flames are not as bright as they were earlier. Due to Magnes’ instruction and the sickness working its way through her body.

A curt nod is given to Magnes as she steps back with Shaw not too far from Hana. The technopath receives a once over from the pyrokinetic. She didn't get to get close too Hana but she respects the woman’s abilities, you'd be a fool not to.

Staring down at her one hand that is covered in flames. Izzy’s expression is sad, defeated. She just wants to leave this terrible place. There’s a flicker of flame in her hazel eyes as she buries herself in the anger that she usually tries to keep at bay.

Boots slam on steps and, eventually, against the rooftop as Stephanie Rickham emerges. Her eyes blaze too bright to see the red puffiness that rims them, but there’s plenty of other evidence of her tears in the form of the dirty streaks down her cheeks. There’s blood too, most of it her own, and from the wound in her shoulder.

“Somebody call for more power?” Jesus, it’s a mess up here. But if there was ever a timely entrance, this might be it. She takes a moment to stop near Isabelle and give her a shaky nod of gratitude. It’s good to see her still alive, for however long any of them remains it. It’s not looking so good for many of them, which spurs her to hurry through the chaos to where Mateo intends to open a black hole that will either hasten this all along, or bring them to another world.

For all that he is tired, Shaw has enough energy to spare of his own that he leans to plant a quick sympathy kiss on Isabelle’s steaming cheekbone. A reassuring one as well. Amidst the chaos and fervor with the newest arrivals, he adds in whisper to the pyrokinetic’s ear some encouragement. Steve’s reappearance only adds to it as Shaw bobs his head at the First Lady. Yep, they’re still alive. It’s a sharp reminder though, of who isn’t and who soon will not be.

But then he’s looking to the gathering as well, waiting in anticipation of what comes next.

The shelling has stopped, perhaps they’d run out of ammunition. But the claps of thunder in the distance signal something worse. On rapid approach, a black-clad figure streaks through the sky, leaving an ashen trail of soot in his wake. He is but a point of darkness in the gray sky, save for two bright points of light burning white-hot at either side of his body. His hands seethe with an internal radiance, like the flashes that had come before. But his bones glow both hot and bright.

Kazimir Volken will have his revenge, and there will be nothing left but a radioactive crater in his wake.

Everyone is gathering. A reverence seems to sweep across the rooftop, an unplanned, unnegotiated ritual about to commence, and Logan looks on. Looks to the interloper, with his arms spread, ready and defensive, and to Ygraine, helping the children. The roll of thunder draws more focus than just his own towards that figure coming in like an angel, like a storm, and the trembling in Logan's body, thrumming down to his fingers, seems as borne of soul-deep terror as it is from his exhaustion.

Then, he breathes. Stops shaking. Gathers himself. There's only one way out of this, after all.

He looks towards where Stephanie Rickham has emerged, catching her eye. They don't know each other, they only know what they came here to do, which is more or less his relationship with any number of people on this rooftop. He moves towards her, his eyes starting to glow a familiar cat-bright green, enough that she can brace for the only somewhat familiar thrum of adrenaline, of untethered energy.

She doesn't feel that. She doesn't feel anything. She does feel his hand reach for her arm — just flesh, no snap of electricity — just as he flicks his other hand, and a long blade slides out from where it was hidden in his sleeve. It actually draws blood against his wrist, held fast and fine and deadly sharp, so that when he draws it across her throat, it sinks into her flesh like a hot knife in butter, no resistance. It's a single, deft movement, almost easy, and his hand on her arm shoves her in the path of whoever is nearest to him as he slips through the crowd.

Magnes, for his part, identified as protector, suddenly feels negation like a heavy blanket.

Logan moves, as slippery and expert as a panther through a jungle, deadly sharp blade extending his reach by a solid twelve inches as he slices his way towards where Ruiz has come forward. His glowing eyes are wide in his face, but his expression is as closed as a steel trap. One hand reaches out, to grab him by shirt, and to slide blade somewhere vital.

Hana glances towards the stairwell as one last noisy tread approaches, then — recognizing Steve — back out to the figure getting closer. That movement, she expects. What she doesn't expect in the tense anticipation humming through the gathering — what flags as wrong — is when Logan moves in on Steve's wake, too furtive, too intent, and with telltale glitter just visible in the moment before it's overcome by red.

She's already moving before that moment, but too late by far to save the electrokinetic. Her quarry filters deeper into the knot of people as she surges across it; no exclamation, no outrage, only the crackling silence of sheer ferocious intent. She'd throw her knife at him, but the crowd and the way he moves through it denies a clear line of flight; by the time she could, there's no point.

Hana sinks the knife into his shoulder instead, the moment she's jostled her way into range, other hand reaching out to grab Logan and yank him back — the better to get that other blade away from Ruiz, if Logan hasn't dropped it first.

She's prepared for a boost. An adrenaline rush that would probably kill her with the amount of electrical charge she's housing within her body that feels far too small for all this power. She does not expect cold steel across her throat.

Eyes go wide in shock just as the shove sends her staggering back. She hits the ground after bouncing off an unsuspecting body – living for now. Her hands grasp at her throat and Steve feels her life slipping out between her fingers. The tears that stream down her face are for herself now, not just her husband. For now, her eyes can still see. They search wildly for something, anything that can provide salvation.

There's a glint out of the top of her vision, where she's seeing the world upside-down. Rolling onto her stomach from her back, she brings it into focus.

The transformer.

Trembling hands leave bloody prints as Steve drags herself toward the metal housing. It's determination that keeps her moving when all she wants to do is lay down and rest. Die.

I'll be with you soon, my love.

She tried to whisper the words, but found her voice failing her. The knife cut too deep. Soon, there will be nothing left. Too, too soon.

Steve stretches out her arm and brushes her red-tacked fingertips against the metal hull of the transformer. Then, she gives it everything she has. Sparks form, growing to a steady current that leaps from skin to metal, bathing Steve's prone form and everything around her in brilliant blue light. The entire Deveaux Building suddenly lights up with energy. Everything the Hub had to give her is now in this place.

Everything she was is now inside of this building, waiting for Mateo to draw from it and save them. She goes still, finally feels cold. So very, very cold.

Another world waits for them.

It does not wait for Stephanie Rickham.

If she has any luck left at all, Allen and Lynette do.

No longer feeling like a threat to anyone except herself, Ygraine’s viewpoint is decidedly limited - on hands and knees by the parapet, she can see precious little save for a swirling confusion of moving legs and feet. Her unconventional sense, however, is screaming at her about the extreme oddity of Magnes’s ability-using arrival, and after a moment she manages to put one and one together to make two.

A lingering look of concern for Elisabeth confirms that her friend is moving and attempting to stay the bleeding herself; then the gravity-cheat pivots and starts towards the locus of gravitational impossibility that marked Magnes’s landing point. That things are going (even more) wrong swiftly becomes evident en route, and she forces herself to stagger back to her feet - swaying dramatically as she tries to force air into her punctured lung, while wide eyes try to find something that will help her make sense of the latest blood-drenched chapter of the day’s events.

There’s a flicker of impulse to finally test Conrad’s “inverse mass driver” theory - but she, too, works in inches and the treacherous man she tried to rescue is out of her tiny range. Thus, for the moment she manages nothing more than swaying, bleeding, and gawping while gasping for breath.

Ling doesn't immediately listen to Richard. Her vision blurs a bit as she coughs - thankfully, she isn't coughing up blood like some among them probably are. She is only partially aware of the events transpiring around her. "Don't," is all she breathes out to Richard, a raspy, smoky breath as wisps of vapor begin to rise off of her back. SHe's determined to survive this, but it's going to be a hard fight.

Elspeth, on the other hand, is perfectly aware of what's happening, and when she sees Logan tear into Steve's throat, she shrieks out a "NO!". Eyes wide, she pulls Vor's knife up close - and then remembers she's holding it.

She doesn't even notice when she's suddenly stumbling around Ling and Richard, bounding across the rooftop. She doesn't know what to do. She's scared, she's horrified, and she's barely able to contain a further scream.

But, she knows what Aislinn would do, always the stronger of the two of them.

And that is what carries her forward. She only realises what's happening when she's right upon Logan, having to drive forward and around Hana. She hits the ground hard, but even as she does, she's scrambling to her knees, reaching up so that she can-

Shove one Vanguard murderer's knife into another's side, hand shaking as she thrusts the blade between ribs, letting out a pent up scream tinged with both sadness and anger as she does.

Elaine is out of her element by a lot. She never expected to be in a situation like this, never fearing for her life and the lives of others. When Magnes promised they’d escape, this wasn’t what she had envisioned. Then again, she wasn’t sure what she envisioned. Magnes’ request to stay close is heard in the back of her head, but her eyes are on her friend.


Suddenly, her friend is in the fray, charging forward in an act Elaine couldn’t have anticipated. She bites on her lower lip, unable to help, unable to do anything but just watch and hope that Elspeth’s actions pay off. She only hopes no more of the people she called friends would die on this rooftop.

One moment, Shaw is turned towards Isabelle and whispering words of encouragment to try and keep her going amidst the grief and anger, the loss of Brenda fresh and hollowing. He doesn't notice Logan's slipping through the crowd until it's far too late to act. But he does witness the draw of the knife across Steve's throat, the spilling of scarlet down the front. His jaw drops open in shock. Somehow, the knife is a much more brutal method of delivering death in this manner than any gun. He lets go of Isabelle's hand, scrambling, stumbling, getting blocked by the milling of people around the newest arrivals.

He too tries to track John Logan, but the man eludes his sights until he sees him again in front of Ruiz. And right behind Logan, Hana. Below, Elspeth. All Shaw really sees are the flashes of the blades. One sinking into Logan's shoulder, the other cutting a wicked slash open from ribcage to stomach on Ruiz, the Vanguard huntress' bone knife held in Elspeth's hand stabbing upward. "NO!" cries out Shaw, finally finding voice again. "No no no no, MOVE!" The man practically slams his rifle in hand against people standing in his way between where he is and Ruiz's side.

He grabs for the other man to pull him out of further harm's way, whatever strength lent to support Ruiz unlikely enough to keep them both upright. Especially, not when he sees up close the gleaming ring that loosely dangles from a chain over the other man's neck. The ring that belongs on his wife's finger, on a woman who should be here but distinctly is not. Shaw sees the ring, and tears well in bloodshot eyes. "Lynette, no…" The words are uttered with a strangled, stutter-breathed whisper as Shaw's knees start to buckle.

But they don't. Not yet. What reserves he has in the form of sheer stubbornness to survive, he draws upon them now. "Ruiz, akhi, I can…" he gasps for breath through infected lungs that feel both frozen and on fire at the same time. His power stutters as he draws upon it, hoping to dull the pain on the man so vital to their ultimate survival, enough so Ruiz can focus. His gaze finally catches the incoming white-hot lights, and Shaw's features darken with an expression hardly anyone has ever seen even in the years he's been in the Hub. Unadulterated anger. The man's teeth grit and he steps around to assume a protective position over Ruiz, assault rifle lifted and aimed at the oncoming storm of darkness swirling with light around.

Everything has been moving in slow motion since Brenda’s murder, closing her eyes as Shaw whispers in her ear, there's another steamy tear before there's more commotion and Steve is next, they’re just being picked off.. one by one. Tracking Logan’s movements she spots as Hana and Elspeth’s knives find purchase in the traitor’s body, Isabelle’s hazel eyes widen as she sees the damage done to Ruiz, one half of their ticket out of there.


Bounding forward to stand next to Shaw to protect Ruiz, Izzy’s hair and trench coat whip in the wind as she raises her arms with a cry and starts to throw a fireball towards that inky, smoky darkness speeding towards them in the sky. Biting her lip, there's a low growl in the back of her throat. They’ve lost enough people and they’re getting off this fucking dead rock of a universe or else none of this would be worth it.

The unsuspecting body in the way of Logan and Steve, is Kaylee herself. By time she registers what is happening, she finds herself on the ground as well, balance thrown off by the weight of the other woman. It, unfortunately, does the job opening up a way and giving the vanguard agent freedom to attack Mateo. The world swims and the breath is knocked out, leaving her unable to defend the man that was going to save everyone. Thankfully, there are others to take up his defense.

Pushing herself up to where she is at least sitting up, Kaylee’s eyes come into focus and just happens to catch the sight of two points of light. Her stomach drops, a panic starts to gnaw at it, especially since things like that rarely are a good thing. Reaching, out to someone next to her, Kaylee gives a hard tug of a sleeve to get their attention and points. “Shit… What is that?” There is no hiding the panic there.

“Fuck you,” Cardinal spits right back at Ling, “You’re the one of us I knew would survive no matter what. Don’t you fuckin’ make me think less of you now. You turn your fucking ass to smoke right goddamn now— ”

There’s screaming. More people are dying. Fear is thick in the air, and he doesn’t know how much time any of them have, or if the portal will even be opened. But the K-Mart crew - what’s left of it - is literally all he has left in the world, and he has to have faith.

“— and you get through that portal when it opens with Kain, and you fuckin’ live it up in the next world, do you fucking get me?” Then he’s pushing himself straight, “Don’t you fucking disappoint me, Ling Chao.”

There’s something coming - there are people fighting on the rooftop, but some others are looking out into the distance, and his head turns, skin blistered and eyes watering and red, but he can still make out that darkness moving their way. And he can see Isabelle’s fire roaring out. “Izzy— !”

Each thing that adds to the chaos seems like a snapshot to Elisabeth in these moments of stunned dissociation. It has literally only been seconds, but in those seconds… at least half a dozen people have been stabbed by the teleporter, who is then sliced in two by Ruiz's portal. And then someone else is running around stabbing people too! Time snaps brutally back into focus as the whole building lights up with Steve's last gasp of energy, and Elisabeth struggles to her feet and ignores the blood sluicing down her pants-leg. The pistol that she has in her waistband actually made it all the way to the roof, but it's not going to do her a damn bit of good. And other people are stabbing that sonuvabitch Logan anyway.

Blue eyes turn to the sky and Liz calls, "Magnes, hurry!!! INCOMING!!"

When he realizes what Logan is doing, everything Magnes feared and suspected is confirmed.

John Logan cannot be trusted, and he should have shot him the second they even suggested that he help them.

Never give this man a chance again, in any universe.

He immediately raises his hand, intending to send Logan rocketing into the sky, but then he's negated… shit. Does Gillian even have the energy to augment him again? That's the first thing that crosses his mind.

Or does he remain augmented? He doesn't quite understand how this interaction of abilities works…

He starts to reach for his gun, but then people are jumping onto Logan, almost like rabid animals, and Magnes can feel the desperation. The field of negation goes down as knives pierce one of his most hated enemies, and he once again feels his eyes and mouth glow purple-white.

"Gillian! We're getting out of here, I need you to get yourself together. I know this is difficult, but we're leaving, all of this, we're not coming back. Augment me, with everything, do not hold back, I need you to give me everything, like you never have before!" Then he snaps his gaze to Ruiz, knowing that man is wounded.

"I know that this is going to hurt, this is going to strain you more than you ever have been in your life, but you have to open this portal. For everyone that we've lost, for Lynette, for Steve…" He closes his eyes briefly, because for a moment, Steve's death registers, but he opens his eyes again, he has to steel himself, he has to believe in himself, he has to believe in his ability.

Then, finally, to Isabelle, "Isabelle, give Ruiz absolutely everything, surround yourself in flames. Everyone, move away from Isabelle! We're doing this!"

The knife wielded by John Logan did not miss. But it also did not penetrate as much as he’d intended. The efforts of those who had attacked him had caused the knife to deflect, dragging a bleeding line down Ruiz’s ribcage, but not deeper than the layers of muscle and bone. The cat falls out of his grasp. Kal El hisses at Logan and then runs over to Mala’s arms, where she holds him close and looks on in horror at all that seemed to be happening around them.

The pain of the cut, the pain of exertion, everything starts to fade away as one of his best friends from the Hub turns off that sense. With a nod, he holds onto Shaw’s shoulder and looks back toward where Steve had poured the last of the Hub’s electricity into the building, toward the fire that surrounded Isabelle as she raged against what approached them.

“He’s coming,” Gillian whispers sadly, before looking back at Magnes, shaking her head about one of the things he’d said, but he probably won’t know which. Closing her eyes, she gathers up what strength remained and pushed it into him.

At the same time, Ruiz raises his hands and all the electricity that had lit up the building, all the fire on the rooftop, all of it draws inwards, draws together, creating a burning spiral of fire and lightning and blackness. This time— it’s much bigger than the one he’d used against Vor, bigger even than the ones they had opened in the Hub. The lack of pain thanks to Shaw helped. The desperation to give everything in this one last, final chance did the rest. The air pressure around them changed.

Once the portal opens, and the ring of fire from Isabelle surrounds it, Magnes raises his arms, and hairline fractures form around his feet on the ground. Purple energy and lightning swirl into the vortex, stretching it, pushing beyond the boundaries of time and space. "The Void… I can feel it, again, the hunger it feels, the need to devour everything…"

The vortex changes as it swirls and expands, the lightning and fire taking on the purple tones of Magnes’ ability. But it also stops pulling. It no longer draws in the air around them, no longer threatens to rip them all off the rooftop. It begins to slicken, as if oil had drawn across the surface, reflecting colors and lights and a million sparks of light and rimmed in fire and lightning, toned in purple.

Even with the pain pushed away, Ruiz still stumbles against Shaw, blood dripping from his nose as Magnes speaks.

And then the vortex seems to become less and less violent, gravity beginning to subjugate it, to transform it. "But I can subdue its hunger, I can expand the Void, calm it down, push through. I can feel everything… I can feel… I can feel… I feel…"

"Kazimir… I can feel you, I can see you, with a sight that you can't even imagine…" He stares deeply into the vortex, lost in it, and yet the overwhelming gravity seems to replicate the zen tone of his mood. "You are not a miracle, everything in this world eventually returns to the Void, you are just as equal as any other thing that exists here." he speaks as though Kazimir can hear him, blocking out the chaos around him, the glow of his eyes going from purple-white to pure white.

"But you, Kazimir, for what you did to so many people, for what you did to Abby, you'll stay in this hell, you'll be tormented for eternity, until all that exists is you and dust, and eventually, when all the stars burn out, the only thing to keep you company will be the Void." He breathes, a white, glowing vapor of energy escaping his mouth. "Do you hear me, Kazimir? Everything in this world feels so close, space has no meaning… you have no meaning, Kazimir."

"Hold on, Isabelle, I believe in you! I can feel my consciousness expanding the longer I'm connected to this thing, it's difficult to remain coherent…" he says back to Isabelle in a moment of lucidity. "I can feel the mass building up inside of you, Kazimir. Are you angry? Is that why you're going to explode? You're so powerful, but you're a child. You could do so much more, I told you that, but you squander it."

"I guess that's what you saw in me." he says, tone empty, distant. "You saw my childishness, you saw my vindictiveness. You saw the core aspects of who and what you are. But I won't be you, because I have the capacity to grow, to change, to evolve. You're nothing but entropy, you stagnate and decay, and that's all you know, all you understand."

"But the Void…" he says, hand outstretched, glowing eyes longing. "It's so beautiful… it's beautiful like Elaine…"

"Do the other Magni hear me, beyond the Void? Can any of you hear me? Can you feel this? Everything is connected… we're all connected…" he says as he seems to maintain a bizarrely stable level of control over his ability, while seemingly moving further and further away from his natural consciousness.

"We can do this… we can get everyone out of here… we've worked too hard for this, believe in yourselves!" he shouts, in another moment of lucidity.

With a small shove at Shaw, Ruiz pushes him toward the portal, since vortex no longer seemed like an appropriate descriptor. “Go.” He gestures toward Kaylee, toward everyone. “Go. I don’t know how long I can hold this.” Cause while Magnes is pushing it into another form, he’s the one holding it open. “Hurry, I’ll be right behind you.”

He knows deep down that he needed to be the last to go. If he goes at all. And he looks back toward the darkness headed their way.

Which also happens to be where Gillian looks, rather than the portal that was held open. And instead of heading toward that portal, she starts to move toward the black smoke headed their way.

The portal Ruiz creates is a horrible thing, even in its majestic beauty and energetic silence. The black disc he conjures offers no truth to what may be on the other side, no evidence that there even is another side. In the shadow of this swirling gateway, some forty people are huddled together with the other survivors on the roof, faces wholly unfamiliar to Magnes and Elisabeth, survivors of the virus and of the doom upon all worlds that is barreling toward them. But Ruiz has his gateway and—

Something’s closing it.

The portal fluctuates, wobbles, and destabilizes like the surface of an unstill pond. The matte plane of darkness soon reflects like water the energy swirling around its edges, and Magnes can feel what has gone wrong. He can feel another source of gravity manipulating his own, one also augmented. His eyes snap up to the glowing bolt of darkness screaming down from the sky and he realizes what this new dread is. Kazimir is in Peter’s body, and Peter has been exposed to Gillian, Ruiz, and Magnes’ abilities.

O, woe is me,” Peter’s voice cuts through the night, but it is Kazimir Volken’s inflection. There is a wild, frenzied look in his vibrant blue eyes. “T'have seen what I have seen…” Those huddled on the roof are screaming, and those closest to where Kazimir lands on the far end of the roof begin to crumple to their knees, flesh cracking as black veins race beneath their skin, crumbling away to ash and bones. “See what I see!

In each glowing hand, Kazimir drops a dusty skull. He had tried to save Munin and even her father, but he no longer has control over his ability. The emotional strain is taxing Peter’s empathic mimicry, and Kazimir’s anger and loss are doing nothing but heightening his entropy. The ashen skull of Munin rolls to a stop, and that is enough for some of the panicked survivors. Four break away from where they were cowering by the wall, running toward Ruiz’s unstable portal.

When they reach it, they find no release into another world, but are instead disassembled by a swirling vortex of energy. Their bodies are twisted, stretched, and torn apart until they are consumed by the howling void entirely. Kain, having witnessed this and so much other horror, turns and stares at Volken as he steps down off of the far parapet onto the rooftop.

“Fuckin’… Fuckin’— fuck you y’dusty fuckin’ vampire!” Raising his rifle, Kain fires a shot point-blank at Kazimir, but the round deflects away with a resonating clang of god knows what ability. Kain scrambles back, locking another round in and watching as another person crumbles to ashes. He grabs Kaylee by the wrist as he passes her, dragging her away from Kazimir and toward the certain death of Ruiz’s portal. Now pinned between the two and a thinning crowd of terrified adults and children. The end has never seemed so certain.

“Oh, woe is me.” Kazimir quotes as he raises one hand, and the bones beneath his skin start to radiate a terrifying white light, even as his skin turns golden and heat pushes away from his body in a thermal wind. Ted Sprague’s ability charges the air with a static electric tingle, and there is but one end that can come from this.

With everyone’s shadows burned into the ruined stone for all time by the flash of atomic fire.

Richard Cardinal stands beside Ling there upon the rooftop, staring in shell-shocked horror at the death that has come for them, for all of them. The death of the hope that had been rekindled when Elisabeth Harrison told him things about himself no-one else could know, was fanned when he saw the tears on Peyton Whitney's face at the thought of losing him. Was it all for nothing?

Then four die screaming in the door that should have led to salvation, and then Kain's shouting and firing his rifle in defiance, as others crumble to ash and dust, the very essence of their life torn away. Was it all for nothing?


"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death," he draws in a slow breath, exhaling a barely-spoken prayer, his gaze focusing on Peter Petrelli, on Kazimir Volken but no longer in horror. Unclouded by fear, by grief, by pain. Clear and sharp as crystal. "I will fear no evil."

One foot slides back, knees bending slightly, a hand resting down to one knee as he braces himself. "For you are with me. Your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies…"

He pushes off, and breaks into a dead sprint for the edge of the building. For Kazimir Volken.

I loved you Peyton. Dad. I'm sorry I never got to-

And Richard Cardinal explodes into a swirling storm of shadows in mid-step—

Another January 16th. Somewhere else. Somewhen else.

The shadowman's teeth grit as he focuses past the pain, flesh bleeding away into shadow; a rippling darkness that twists along the scaffolding, up along the chain and spills down it like a faucet's release of pure darkness down to the bomb in the blink of an eye before he peels away from it. Flesh once more, panting with pain, his broken arm wrapped about the chain to keep him steady as it sways and groans unsteadily upon the tether, the braided metal cable already screaming as if about to snap, his good hand splayed out against the bomb's metal surface.

A breath's drawn in carefully, and his voice hisses over the comm, «This is Redbird. Implementing Failsafe.»

— slivered strips of darkness twisting past those dying in uncoiling ribbons, those already dead and crumbling, swarming in towards Kazimir, steaming black as they bleed in the brilliant, radioactive light of Ted Sprague's ability. The hungering void that is Richard Cardinal is merciless, however, tendrils of tenebrous not-light blackening the nuclear fire, washing over golden skin to turn it silver and then grey, struggling to rend apart Kazimir Volken's very corporeality into nothing.

“Sorry Magnes,” Gillian whispers quietly as she watches the horror that befalls all of them on the rooftop. Death in front of, death behind. She doesn’t know exactly what the man who explodes into shadow might be doing, but she knows it’s something. Knows it is probably meant to slow him down, stop him, kill him. She hopes it will kill him. But she’s not willing to wait to find out. “I’ve already given everything,” she adds quietly, dropping the book that she’d held the entire time until it tumbles and falls across the rooftop filled with people.

La Biblioteca de Babel.

In her ripped dress, smeared makeup and windblown hair, she moves toward the thing that remained of the one who had held her captive, who had kept her as a prize, a prisoner, a toy. That purple and white glow that had been in her eyes fade away to become something similar— but different.

It looks like lightning.

Violet colored lightning, tinged with white. But it isn’t light, doesn’t function as a light. It is energy. An energy that feeds. That draws upon.

Lightning that dances off her fingers as she approaches, that pulls against the black tendrils as the shadows start to engulf. Her hands come into contact with the face of a man she once thought she might have felt something for. A man who she would never know if she had, never know if she had not. A man now trapped as she had been trapped, a vessel for something far more terrible. That lightning pulls, draws upon, draining energy as it touches, transferring that energy into power— power that slams into Magnes again.

Only her hands already start to decay, her skin seems to be melting. But she doesn’t cry out. She doesn’t scream.

Or maybe she can’t cause her mouth opens as if she might want to.

Meanwhile, Ruiz, with a pain deep in his chest he’s trying his best to ignore and that not even Shaw can black him out from completely, looks back at the portal and both he and Magnes can feel it change back. It becomes slick and sparkly once again, expanding, but never quite reaching the full height that it had before. Tall enough, big enough. But no one seems that quick into falling through.

Mala, however, loses her grip on Kal El, who doesn’t like the sudden crush of people all around him and the gray cat bounds and jumps into the portal. He doesn’t stretch out into an infinite mess of limbs and fur. He impacts the liquid like surface and it ripples outward where he disappears through it.

The last cat in Virus becomes the first living thing to leave.

“Go— Go.” Mateo yells again, as one of the kids, William DeLuca, whom Ygraine had saved from a certain death, helps Mala up and the two of them vanish in the same manner the cat did, leaving even larger ripples.

Time to escape, while the princess and the shadow distract the thing that would seek to kill them all.

The thing that had been responsible for the deaths of everyone they’d ever known, pretty much. “Go. I promise I’ll be right behind you,” he says, even as he continues to look as if he can barely stand. Each body that goes through feels like a knife in his chest, but he doesn’t let it fall apart.

Not yet.

The book that Gillian Childs had dropped falls open, the pages turning in the disturbance of feet and movement as people try to, finally, escape.

Attack and defense from all sides carries Logan's momentum away like a tide. As Hana's blade slams home, Logan's knife falls from Ruiz's flesh but not from Logan's grip, even as a second blade slips warm into flesh, between bone. Less than Elspeth would want, ideally, the angle being a strange one and the layers of rough canvas he's wearing doing something to snag against the blade's sharp edge. He moves like an injured, wild animal, that over-long blade making an arc in the air that spattering the warm, mingled gore of Steve and Ruiz both.

It will take a second or two to realise that Elspeth is also bleeding — from a hair-fine but deceptively deep slash across her face. It starts bleeding in earnest moments later, feeling like a strip of fire.

That it's not worse is because Logan is on his way to his current target, movement wrenching both blades from his person as he rounds on Hana Gitelman. Injured but very vital, he attacks.

Nearby, there is some hideous battle going on. Shadows, lightning, necrotic energy. For a few seconds on the rooftop of the Deveaux Building, it's contained to a few square feet of space, and the flashing of knives. Logan presses in on her like he expects this to be simple, the arm attached to injured shoulder crossed tight around him while he brings sharp steel around to slash at her defenses.

Portal, flames, the hungry reach of Volken's power — Hana notices them in the most fundamental sense, but her true awareness narrows to the gleam of steel in a weasel's hands just inches away from her. It may not be the most intrinsically lethal of the hazards to be found on this rooftop, in this moment; it is the most immediate… and the most personal.

In wrenching Logan back from Ruiz, Hana gave no thought to herself; anything that might follow after was less important than enabling the portal-maker to do his job. A flash of motion draws scarlet fire across her chest, keen blade slicing clothing as easily as the skin beneath. Her own weapon slashes at his face as Hana surges aggressively forward; yet it's not the knife that's meant to strike, but rather the foot aimed at his knee.

Logan's eyes are dull, no focus spared for the use of his ability as he avoids the worst of sharp edges and tries to deliver the worst in return. He turns in time for her knife to tear his ear, which is better than his eye, or the twitching, sensitive network of nerve and muscle beneath the skin of his face. Blind spots expand, and within them, Hana's boot strikes the side of his knee, buckling it, finally getting a sound of him where somewhere cutting blades did not.

Teeth bared, he deflects incoming attack from his off-balance with a wild slash of steel, reclaiming balance as he puts the hilt of his blade in both hands in a practiced fold of blood-slicked fingers, and moves to drive it across and forward in spite of the screaming of muscle around his shoulder, his torso.

The ash from desiccated corpses blows in thick around them. It's very metal. That Logan even notices the appearance of his master can only be communicated in the urgency with which his movements grow wilder.

The struck knee yields and Hana pushes bodily forward into the opening presented, following through not with blade but with the whole of her weight — taking this clash from the arena of arm's-length slashes to close-contact grapple, distance measured not in feet or inches but the span of a breath, the width of a hair.

She pays for that choice in blood. In the stinging line that cuts across forehead and scalp; in the blood that wells, trickles, drips into one eye. In the stab, low and desperate, that finds purchase sufficient within yielding flesh to swallow the blade's length whole. That doesn't bleed quite yet, but it will. It will.

Consequence, ramification, is parsed, understood, accepted even as her tackle drives Logan forcefully to the concrete, denies distance between one body and the other, denies further flailing desperation, denies the leverage needed to pull that knife back out. Eye to eye, teeth bared in feral snarl, her own goes for his throat — for the soft flesh bracketed by the point of his jaw, for the so-very vital organ behind it, seat of mind and will.

Logan slams into concrete, Hana bearing down over him, and the expulsion of breath from his lungs is the last one he takes as Hana drives sharp steel up through his jaw. White shows around his eyes in that initial shock, and his hands lock around the hilt of the blade he'd only been able to jostle rather than free from Hana's torso.

Tension leaves him. Hands loosen, leaving his weapon to Hana, lodged as it is in muscle and vitals. The open gasp of his expression denies any chance of poetic peace in his final moments as life and instinct and control slowly leak from him, reducing him to something pain-wracked and twitching on the cold concrete.

Ygraine confronts impending death by standing still with her eyes closed - or, at the least, swaying gently while her eyelids flutter and her flanks heave with the effort of dragging air into her wounded lung. She mumbles a few half-formed syllables, one hand coming up to gesture vaguely towards the portal as her brow furrows.

“It’s real. Can feel it,” she gasps out, only able to manage a few hasty words at a time - and half-oblivious to the bloody mayhem and swirling corpse-ash nearby. “When it’s stable. When it’s like this. I can tell. There’s real matter. On the other side. It’s there.”

She just has to hope that they get there before any of the assorted modes of doom consume them in this world… and that on the far side the lack of discernible mass above the unseen but felt ground is filled with Earth-bound air rather than the hard vacuum of space.

Though dying in vacuum frankly doesn’t seem so bad as some of the alternatives she’s trying to leave behind.

Volken's landing and the subsequent chaos causes her to get shoved toward the wavering portal, but there is nothing she can do as she is pushed across the event horizon.

And just like how it takes a moment or two for Elspeth to notice the burning cut across her face, it takes a moment or two further before what's happened settles in. She jerks back from Logan, pulling Vor's knife with her as she lets out another high pitched shriek, this time more pained and distraught than before.

Her hand moves to her face reflexively, only reacting in another cry of pain as blood flows over her hand. She doesn't even really notice that the portal is open at last, waiting for them to make their way through it. She steps back, looking at Logan, Hana, Ygraine, Magnes, before falling backwards to the ground.

She isn't the only one who doesn't notice something - Richard Cardinal hadn't noticed when Ling had reached up as he lectured her - the nerve! - that she had taken his St. Jude's Medallion. She had intended to wave it front of him as incentive to follow her into the portal. But as she watches him in stunned silence as he suddenly envelops Peter- Kazimir?- in a expanding wave of shadow, she realises a terrible truth.

Her incentive has become a memento, to be placed along the necklace she had taken from Peyton.

And in that moment, even Ling Chao feels something, two of the few people she had ever trusted had been claimed by the Vanguard. Remorse, mixed with anger. But as the portal opens and the way forward is revealed, Ling's hands tighten into fists. "Kain! she screams, trying to draw her other friend along with her. In an instant, Ling gasps out a breath and finally listens to Richard. Her form explodes into smoke, filling the rooftop, obscuring vision for what feels like an overlong moment, before suddenly it rushes forward, filtering through Ruiz's portal just like Kal-El had, vanishing to whatever awaits them on the other side.

Elspeth watches as the smoke form of Ling rushes past her, and waits no longer to scramble up to her feet. Knife in hand, she sprints ahead towards the salvation her and her sister were promised, past lingering flecks of smoke, a flash of red hair, a drop of blood. Everything around her blurs as she jumps in, leaving a trail of blood the entire way from start to end.

Elaine’s too scared to run like a chicken with its head chopped off. To be honest she’s afraid to move. There’s so much going on that she’s having problems keeping up. What she does know is that she is doing no good being on that rooftop in the way of more capable people. And people are dying on that rooftop. She takes a step forward, ducking her head as if there was a low ceiling or she was expecting to get hit. Then she takes off, scrambling towards the portal after assuring herself that going into it was indeed the best possible thing she could do.

Just before she slips away in the portal, she steals one last glance out at what was her world, and prays that on the other side is something.

The light shove from Ruiz to push him towards the portal gets a cough of protest from Shaw, enough to distract him from the well of protective anger he aims towards the inky black monster approaching the rooftop. In a way, Isabelle's fireballs are that manifest. He turns back to Ruiz, dark eyes pinning the man with a worried look. Will he be right behind him? Will he be alright? Because, Shaw knows, the bloodied slash from Logan's knife isn't the only pain that the man whose power is saving their lives right now suffers from. Reluctantly, Shaw releases his power, the effort to keep it steady more than he can focus on with all the things happening. He starts for the portal, starts towards the door to leave the sickened world behind.

That is, until it falters. Shaw balks as the portal shifts in nature, pulling back to stare with terror and dread, an instinctual this is wrong locking his legs from forward progress. Terror and dread, these are common emotions in the world Shaw knows. But nothing can truly match the shock and awe of Kazimir's landing, the extraordinary sight of the man's power. Shaw scoots back even closer to Ruiz, uncertainty mixed with fear. His head swims, trying to understand like a mortal trying to comprehend the manifestation of a death god. And that is truly what Kazimir seems to represent when Munin's skull drops from his hand onto the rooftop and rolls towards the survivors.

Shaw side steps out of the way of the breakaway rush for the unstable portal, his arm moving to pull Isabelle with him. And he, like many others, bears witness to Ruiz's void horrifically swallow - no, disassemble - the small group without so much as a scream, like what happened to Vör. Worse than what happened to Vör. Six of one, half a dozen of the other. And like Kain, Shaw whips back to Kazimir, aiming his assault rifle and firing a number of full-auto rounds out towards the seeming demi-god of death… to no effect.

His smoking gun barrel dips along with a sinking feeling of hope dissipating like the people who tried to go into the portal. Shaw glances over at Isabelle, at Ruiz, and then he stares in Kazimir's direction once more. Accusingly. It's all this guy's fault, isn't it? And as Kazimir goes on with his 'woe is me', Shaw returns to the original emotion of anger. Really? Woe? "Shut up," he utters, the words lost in the swirl of chaos. Then, louder, "Shut up!" He forces his power into the fray, dropping a curtain of audial negation radiating out as far as he can make it go as he stalks towards the irradiated man. And if Shaw's going to die, at least it'll be with the thought that he'll make this egotistical sonnuvabitch unable to hear himself talk. Or unable to hear anything, for that matter. No self-satisfaction to be had in the screams of the terrified and the dying. And then maybe, just maybe, Kazimir will get a little taste of that terror and dread when he sees Gillian's purple lightning amplify Magnes and shift the void back into a portal, to see his plan to destroy the hope of the world fail, and that'll be the last thing he sees before Richard Cardinal's shadow reach out to overwhelm the deathly light.

Only when Kazimir's gone from view, enveloped in darkness, does Shaw let go. Twin streams of blood trickle down from his nose, and he coughs roughly into a hand, pulling away to see spots of red on his palm. He turns to Isabelle and Ruiz once more, slipping back to them. "You said you'd be right behind us," he reminds Ruiz with a pointed look. Don't forget. And then he's grabbing for Isabelle's hand again, lurching for the opened portal before it's too late.

The arrival of death incarnate doesn't do much else to sour her already shattered mood. Isabelle is tired and the sight of Kazimir landing with the skulls of whoever it is, to Richard’s suicide run which is the only thing that gets a blink from the woman. “I need a drink.” She says softly as she watches body parts fly around the rooftop in a mess of blood and gore, more to be added to the already growing pile. Allowing herself to be swept out of the way by Shaw as the stampede rushes to their death through Ruiz’s unstable portal, her hazel eyes are wide and she shakes her head from side to side the shock of seeing Brenda murdered and now Richard is all she needs to effectively shut down.

Losing her fire momentarily to help power the portal, Izzy’s defenseless save for Vör’s knife which she looks down at with a narrowed gaze that slowly fades blank. Her head snaps up, brown hair partially covering her face as she takes a step back as Shaw screams at Kazimir and then uses his ability on him.. she looks on with pride.. tears falling from her eyes but she's slowly pulling him back towards the portal with her, once Gillian is running forward and literally falling apart in front of their eyes the pyrokinetic closes her eyes and turns back towards the swirling mass of orange and blue light.

A look is given to Magnes and Ruiz and Izzy nods towards the portal. “I'll check on Elaine, come right after.” it's all the fire she has left in her to deliver that last command to her best friend and Ruiz. Head down, she jogs after Shaw with one last look towards the scorch marks that indicate where Brenda's body was lying.

“Fuck you.” She says to nobody softly and then she's moving through with Shaw.

By time Peter… no… Kazimir arrives panic, for the unknown, bleeds away into shock and horror. Kaylee can only stare, like a deer in the headlights, as someone she had really cared about had become something horrifying. Rooted in place, she doesn’t register that people crumble before for her, she can only see him.

Then suddenly someone is grabbing her wrist and it pulls her around, turns her away from the sight of Kazimir and breaking whatever momentary shock she felt. The action yanks her back to her senses and forcing her away from that thing, she is mildly surprised to see it is Kain. At the same time she is thankful, letting him guide her to whatever safety there is, which isn’t really much of anything.

Looking past him to Mateo, worry grips at her as he struggles. There isn’t much she can do, but stay near one man and watch the other try to save their lives. While chaos broils around them, it is enough that for the moment she barely feels the pain of the ragged gash along the side of her face or the deep ache from the virus ravaging her body.

The tears don’t really start to fall again, until people started attacking Kazimir. Richard… she still barely knew him, much like Peyton… but her and her father had talked about him. Her vision is blurry with tears, at a lost opportunity to know her adopted brother. Around her people are making a commotion as the portal steadies and people start pouring through. It’s the smoky form of Ling that has her turning to look behind her and Kain, she notices the portal. “Kain,” she gasps out, fingers catching his shoulder to force him to look, too. “We gotta go.” Grabbing his hand, much like he did her wrist, Kaylee pulling him towards the portal. She’d make sure that the sacrifices of those closest to Kain were not in vain.

Before she drags the tall blonde through the portal with her, Kaylee turns back to her friend. “Mateo,” she calls out. “I’ll be watching for you.” Meaning, don’t disappoint her by staying behind. With that, her hand gripping Kain’s tightly, the other hand gripping the strap of her pack to make sure it can’t slip away; she pulls them into the portal, flinching a little as they plunge through the surface and out of that hell hole… With hope, not into another one.

It's like standing inside of a nightmare — the roiling black mass of Kazimir Volken in Peter Petrelli's body, turning people in front of her to dust even as the portal opens. Skulls are dropping from his hands and he's speaking, but she just cannot comprehend. Elisabeth's seen plenty of people killed in the past several years, even obliterating a few with her own power or a firearm. There is a moment where she feels a kind of acceptance that this is where it will all end, all of us dying at the hands of Peter Petrelli. There's a symmetry in that, she realizes blankly. The Midtown blast killed her mother… and now the same man (albeit possessed by a madman) will kill her too.

But like all nightmares, there's a twist. She hears, even though she really shouldn't be able to, the prayers for the dead. Automatically, she whispers in sync with the voice saying the prayer — "I will fear no evil, for you are with me. Your rod and staff, they comfort me…" — before she even comprehends WHY he's saying it.

And then the figure sprints into her field of view and explodes into shadows, hurtling into the writhing mass of power. The past and the present collide in that instant.

It is January 16th.

A tsunami of memories of Antarctica — the last time she, Cardinal, and Gillian were all in one place — crashes over her and drags her under to a different place and time.

«This is Redbird. Implementing Failsafe.»

The words echo in her mind over and over and over again, the ricochet triggering a shattering flashback, a vivid three-dimensional clarion call of horrors. Moments seared into her mind's eye over an Antarctic wasteland are juxtaposed with what she sees now, the power augmentor and the shadowmorph absorbing this blast.

What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from. …

And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning.*

For the first time in her life, Elisabeth slams full speed into the inner wall of Self-preservation, the point at which her mind cannot compartmentalize any more shock and horror and simply shuts down, refusing to function. Blue eyes go blank and her knees literally turn to water, dropping her where she stands.

Magnes doesn't move.

He doesn't move, he doesn't turn around, not yet, not even when the portal closes.

The portal closing doesn't suddenly cause his mind to snap back, he can still feel everything happening around him.

He feels the people scrambling, he sees those people who are killed in their desperate attempts to escape, he feels… Eileen's skull, he knows that's Eileen's skull, it couldn't be anyone else's, he knows how it feels, he knows the specific gravity-feel of so many things…


And then he feels the sudden shift in Cardinal, the quick movement of blades, the return of the vortex, and then the sudden surge of power that Gillian sends coursing through his body.

It's even more, it's so much, his glowing white eyes can no longer see, not in this moment, it's simply too bright, his vision is flushed out by… whatever that energy is. Gravity? Gillian? It's hard to tell, really.

But he can't properly see, he sees everything through gravity. The death, the dozens of frantic heartbeats, the way Gillian's body is clearly beginning to suffer from Kazimir's ability. His oldest friend, the possibility of her death, it weighs on his mind, one of the many things that weighs on his mind.

The Void, it pushes his feelings back so deeply, and yet they refuse to leave completely, they refuse to fall back into the complete Nihilism of Rupert's programming. It's not like the time he was a black hole.

It feels like truly being divine, being connected to the universe, feeling the sheer possibility of the Void, feeling for the suffering of friends and loved ones, feeling the uncertainty of the woman he loves passing into that Void.

Perhaps the Void is more than simply a black hole, or a portal…

This feeling, the mixture of both hope and hopelessness, of failure and success, agony and relief. In this moment, he truly feels the difference between himself and Kazimir, a man he has his back turned to in order to face the future, to usher these people towards a better life.

Kazimir, like the entropy of a dying star, continues to try and burn away at everything around him, tries to assert what it is to be meaningful, what it is to be a miracle. But a dying thing, a dead thing like him, he shows no capacity to create, this is Magnes' thought…

And these things, these dying stars, they inevitably burn out, or they're swallowed by black holes. They refuse to burn brightly enough to become one themselves, or simply lack the capacity to return to being a thing capable of creating life.

"Gillian, Cardinal." he finally speaks, his voice seemingly vibrating through the air as that white glowing mist of energy escapes his lips, carried through the bizarre and fluctuating physics around them. "This wasn't for nothing, never forget that. This wasn't for nothing, they all have a future now, because of you, because of everyone we lost, they all have a future."

"Peter, I still believe in you." he says, full of belief, the very thing, in addition to Gillian, that is fueling his ability in this moment. "You were able to control this before, and I know that you can control this again. Kazimir is not a god, and he is not a miracle. He is energy, an extra amount of weight in your body, just like anything else.

"And… I'm sorry."

He finally turns around, his eyes not focused on anything, unseeing, and yet, he sees.

Stepping forward, he reaches down to lift Denisa's body into his arm, but her corpse crumbles like paper and dust, flesh crumbling down to blackened bone, wind carrying her ashen remains across the rooftop. There wouldn’t be enough left of her to bury.

The hopelessness of Kazimir's entropy once more takes something away, and is once again buried to a deep corner of his expanded mind, the only thing that he can do to continue functioning.

He doesn't look at Isabelle, but simply says, "I'll catch up, just make sure Elaine's safe."

Continuing to walk, he finally reaches down to Elisabeth, his heart rate steady, his mind feeling as if it's right here, everywhere, and nowhere, all at once. He's reached some sort of stabilized place, simultaneously lucid and no lucid seeing and unseeing.

His mind is truly something of a metaphorical void right now, lacking both the negative and the positive, things simply are, and he's acting in the ways he knows he has to act. "It'll be okay, Elisabeth, I promise." before he wraps an arm around her waist, lowering her weight to carry her with him in a single arm's embrace.

He finally turns back to the portal, then begins to walk towards it once all of the refugees have gotten through.

"Ruiz, it's time to go." he states, without looking at the man, and then simply steps through the portal, continuing to stabilize it while on the other side, something he knows that he can do due to the nature of his original arrival.

There will be time to break, time for his mind to snap back in on itself from its current state, time for reality to hit him later.

Though not every Magnes makes it back from this experience unscathed.

The roiling mass of shadow and energy crumbles and churns like an ink black sea. Richard Cardinal can barely contain the battle that is happening inside of himself. Even consumed as he is, Kazimir’s entropic force still drains outward. The portal is collapsing as Gillian Childs dies, her arms crumbling away like fire-blackened pieces of wood, bone and flesh turning to windblown ash as much as Denisa’s corpse had. Her eyes close, the wind of the growing storm overhead blows layers of dusty flesh from her body. The purple aura around her begins to flicker and fade, and the integrity of that doorway begins to falter.

The other survivors have scrambled through, thirty some-odd people, refugees from a dying world. Magnes stands on the threshold of the door, and he can see the agony in Ruiz’ eyes at holding the portal open any longer. Behind them, Gillian drops to her knees and her legs crumble like twin columns of thin cigarette ash. Her skeleton, slightly less degenerated than the rest of her body, falls out of her back and crumbles into caked chunks of bone-white powder. The darkness that has been seething and roaring together finally begins to settle.

Tattered blackness rises from the roof of the Deveaux Building like a piece of cloth, and as it solidifies into the form of a person, there is nothing left to do but see the futility in this battle. Richard Cardinal stares back at Mateo and Magnes, brows furrowed and eyes an icy blue. His flesh is charred on one side, veins of scar tissue lace up along his brow and through where hair is missing, as if he had been exposed to an intense heat and light. Just as in Magnes’ home world, Richard’s body had survived a nuclear explosion.

His mind, however.

No.” Richard — Kazimir — defies them, reaching out for Ruiz and Magnes from across the roof.

A flash is the answer to Richard's reaching hand, purely mundane steel glinting in restored sunlight as a knife flies across the span of the roof.

On the far side of what had been shadow, Hana kneels across the body of a dead man, not so very far from that state herself. But far enough to see the body of a changed man and recognize what those changes mean. It's sheer stubborn spite that sees her pick herself up, moving with less than her accustomed grace into the line between the man who had been Richard and the man holding the portal open.

"Go, Ruiz."

The sights before him, the feeling of so much energy, all of it threaten to cripple what little determination he might have to keep his various promises. He had people waiting for him on the other side. He had people waiting for him in a very different place as well.

The gambit had failed. But Ruiz had not been alone on the rooftop. The former glorified garbage man sees Hana, looks at her back, hears her words. She could not hold him back, he knew that. She knew that. But even a few seconds would be enough. He steps backward.

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry, I couldn’t help anymore.”

Including her. Including those who did not make it to the roof. Including those who did and died there.

Including someone he’d made sure would never leave with them.

The pain hits him one last time as he falls backward through the rippling gateway. As he disappears through it, the book that Gillian had dropped comes to a stop on the final page of the title story. The last words.

Mi soledad se alegra con esa elegante esperanza.


Somewhere Else

Those who emerge from the portal find themselves in the very same place, under the very same morning sun… except not. There are no new sootmarks adorning decaying brick, no fresh pools of blood staining eroded concrete; the pigeon coops endure, damaged but not yet demolished. The ambient sounds of a living, thriving city fill the air — the rumble of engines, the susurrus of rubber rushing over asphalt, the clarion call of a distant siren. The view beyond iconic stonework arch is more foreign still, a tableau of devastation rehabilitated into verdant paradise, lush green growth softening concrete skeletons and the rusting hulks of abandoned cars. In this reality, the heart of Midtown has been restored, albeit in a manner not quite in keeping with its former self.

Everything here is wrong

…and they are not alone in this place.

bf_kathleen_icon.gif bf_tamara_icon.gif

Two women stand near the arch, set just off to one side. Both are blond, dressed practically; similar in age, there is familial kinship to their features. They regard the newcomers with expressions curiously deficit in surprise for having just witnessed a crowd's arrival by sudden wormhole. One carries a small, cheap basket that at a glance appears to mostly contain rolls of gauze; a cat carrier rests on the ground between them, clearly occupied. It's the other woman who steps forward, her unencumbered hands held low and open. There's an underlying urgency in her manner, but no projection of either threat or apprehension towards those she approaches.

Blue eyes scan the gathering, coming to rest on two in particular.

"Hello, Liz, Magnes," Tamara greets, offering both them and their company a rueful smile.

Beyond her, a great tower looms over the southern edge of Central Park, just across the street; it provides the clearest way marker yet. More than a hundred stories tall, the tower is a cylindrical skyscraper of pale green glass crowned with a green-and-blue double helix: the symbol of the Pinehearst Corporation.

"I'm sorry this wasn't where you wanted to be."

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