Curtain Call


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Also Featuring:

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Scene Title Curtain Call
Synopsis Verse finally gets what he wants from Alexander, at the expense of the young man's mind. But in the end, what good will all the secrets in the world be?
Date April 7, 2009

It's hard to remember when he started running, when one foot in front of another became faster than a brisk walking pace, and why running was so important.

Every other step is skipped on the way up, shoulder smashing into the brick wall when he rounds a landing, boots slamming down on the concrete steps as he passed by one dirty window after another, having an ever-ascending view of New York City on the way to the roof. Life has never truly been easy for Officer Knight, and this particularly warm day in the middle of May is one of the harder ones.

By the time he reaches the top of the stairs, there's no slowing down, just plowing into the steel door's push-bar latch with all his weight, sending the door swinging open. Bright sunlight assails eyes used to the gloom of a stairwell, and as vision focuses again, he can see Officer Hall walking slowly away from him with both arms raised, "…it's okay, see? I don't even have a gun." Aside from the one holstered on his hip, but the words aren't directed at Officer Knight, they're directed to the blonde girl standing on the ledge looking down at the street eight stories below. "Why don't— " his words hitch as he feet edge back, "why don't you come on down, talk about this? I'm pretty sure you won't have enough time to think about it on the way down— then it'll be too late to change your mind, you know?"

Midtown Manhattan

Saturday, May 8th. 2006

"Don't you fucking come any closer goddamnit!" Her voice is shrill against the distant honking of cars below and the occasional tweep of a police siren. "I— I don't want to talk about it!" But here she is, shouting those very words on the edge of a building, not having just hauled herself off to make a strawberry colored mess on the sidewalk topped with some blonde cream. "Just— just stay the fuck away or I'll jump!" Wavy blonde hair is tossed by the strong winds, arms held out to her sides to feel it pass through her fingers. This isn't exactly how Alexander remembers Helena Dean, but for the moment, this is exactly how he remembers her.

Because this is what is needed.

Oh, shit, oh, shit. Al has a reputation with jumpers. That somehow, when he's there, they don't quite manage to spatter themselves into really ugly sidewalk graffitti. He comes out onto the roof as soft as he can, feet crunching on the gravel as he comes to a halt. And reaches out with his power to hold her. Urge her back. Whatever happens now, she doesn't get to fling herself to her death. The warmth of the day and the run up the stairs already has him warm, and this effort has the sweat breaking on the redhead's pale brow. He pauses, takes a few paces obliquely towards her. "Hey," he says, lifting his hands, soothingly. "Hey. Whatever's gotten you to this point, we can help you."

Hall turns, glancing over his shoulder to Officer Knight with a relieved expression. Taking a few steps back, he motions to the young woman with one hand, "Listen to Jesse, here. He might sound like a hick, but he's got all that Southern sensibility you hear about, right?" There's a meager smile offered by Hall, trying to keep an obviously tense mood light.

The girl's reaction is confused, the feeling of pressure on her back keeping her in place, those firm and yet unseen hands gripping her shoulder to prevent her from just flinging herself down into road-pizza. "H-hey wh— " her eyes settle on Jesse, and she struggles to try and move closer to the edge of the roof, breathing in a slow and steady breath as her hands tremble. "You— stop playing along! You— you know this is all just a dream!" That tone of voice, so familiar and yet at the same time so alien, "If I just— if I jump it's all over— freedom— escape!" Indignant defiance grows as her pale brows lower into a furious expression, "Don't tell me you like it here, Alex!"

It's like that trick they use in the theatre - they change the lighting to make what looked like a solid background to reveal itself as a transparent scrim and show what's behind it. And that's sort of what's happened to Al. He hesitates, looking to Hall, looking to Helena. "Death isn't the way out," he says, to the past illusion and the present reality. "It's never the solution," he insists, pulling her slowly backwards. C'mon. Back on the roof with you. How does she know his middle name?

It's that same directorial control that changes the perspective, takes away control where it had once been held, just as the curtain is being drawn back to reveal all of the players and the corners of the sets. "Life isn't ever a solution, Alex. Not mine, not ours. Cam' was one of the lucky ones— " There's a brief flash, the world changing around Alexander like a spliced frame on a film reel, showing a close up view of an ashy and blackened skeleton wearing Cameron's clothing, missing it's lower jaw. "What use was any of this!" Her voice snaps the film back to the proper reel, a jarring return to the windy rooftop, and the horrifying loss of friction and grip on Helena that Alexander has.

Like soap through wet fingers, she just slips out of his grasp, that once familiar sense of not quite having control of his gift, losing the grip and focus as she throws her arms to the side and begins to plummet away wordlessly. Hall shouts out in protest, already in mid-sprint as he rushes to the edge of the ledge, "Goddamnit!"

Oh, no. Nononono. The words are on his lips, airless and unspoken. He's lost so many already, not this. Not here. His power rises, comes with him, erratic, raising a cloud of gravel on the roof. And then he's after her, putting up a hand to vault over the edge of the roof. Hall's astounded face is visible for an instant out of the corner of his eye. Maybe, just maybe he can catch her. SLow her before she hits the ground. He's done it to himself…..perhaps he can manage both at once, with the strength of adrenaline driving him. Let them fall like feathers, like the confetti at that triumphal parade they'll never see. Rather than a pair of foolish mortal stones.

When he vaults over the edge, though, it isn't the plummet from several stories up that greets him. Instead his feet just hit ground about five feet away from the edge of the roof, followed by a sudden and sharp cry of "Cut!" The soft, blue padding on the other side of the wall squishes down under Alexander's feet, and there Helena lays on her back, staring up at the stage lighting and the painted canvas of a faux New York skyline.

"Knight, what the fuck are you doing?" Comes a shout from across the large soundstage, and while Hall shakes his head and reaches for a pack of cigarettes tucked away in his uniform, a tall man with dark hair and sunglasses approaches from a bank of monitors and cameras. "The script says you 'scream out Helena's name' and then watch as she falls to her death. Jesus christ Knight can you stop ad-libbing this?"

It's Verse, Director Steven Verse, and the script he waves around like a police baton seems all the more awkward given Alexander's positioning. "Look, you want to go fuck about — do it on someone else's dime." Verse looks over to a man holding up one of the boom mic's, a crookedly smiling man with a blue floral-print hawaiian shirt. "Jesus fuck, are we calling Lunch?" Conrad asks with a heft of the microphone away from the pair. Verse looks over his shoulder to him, rubbing his forehead.

"Fine, fine we'll call it Lunch. Knight," Verse looks up to Alexander, "I want you to rehearse the stuff from scene seven with a couple people, so we won't have any more of this when we flash back to the present. Sound good?"

What the hell.

Really, the only possible sound effect is the sproing of watch springs popping out of their casing. Al's face is a study in confusion, a little bit slack jawed, as he stares at Verse. The rare Southern Yokel, far off its usual migratory pattern, and in New York city. "I….uh. I need a break. I think," he says, stumbling over the words, looking around. This is an act? Do I have a trailer? Where was I? He glances down again. Blue uniform, belt. Gun, holster. Not an orange prison uniform. Not whatever threadbare clothes he wears to drive the cab.

"Yeah, you look like you do." Verse pats Alexander on the back, and when he does the world freeze-frames into another jarringly placed still spliced into the reel — a silhouette of an apartment building gutted by fire and an explosion, the sound of sirens, screaming and crumbling walls silhouetted by out of control fires. The day the bomb happened.

It passes in but a moment, but even the sound and smell of that horrible day clings to Alexander's ears and nostrils like an unwanted passenger. "Alright people, that's a wrap. We'll be back in an hour," Verse shouts out, waving his hands in the air with a mock sigh and a roll of his eyes. Helena groans, getting up from the blue impact cushion, pulling off her blonde wig to reveal short brown hair, running a hand through it.

"Way to fuck it up again, Knight." She says with a sharp tone of voice. Conrad merely smirks, walking over to her after laying down his equipment. One arm slinks around her shoulder, drawing the short woman close.

"So Claire, babe, where're we goin' out to eat, huh?" Claire's eyes upturn to Conrad, and a snort is shot out of her nose as the pair walk towards the bright light coming in through open bay doors of the soundstage. Agent Hall approaches, running a hand through his hair, looking Alexander up and down disapprovingly.

"Man, this is the third time in as many weeks. You going to be alright?" When he speaks, those words are echoed in Alexande'rs ears by a man in a NYFD uniform, face covered in soot and ash, a respirator mask muffling his voice. The image flickers away again, and there's Hall, standing with his hands on his hips. "You wanna' go outside for a smoke or somethin?"

"Yeah, please," Al says, weakly. "Listen. I don't feel so great. I, uh, need some air," HE tucks his hat under his arm - he may no longer be entitled to truly wear the uniform, but even ersatz, it deserves respect. And then he trudges after Hall, mentally reeling. Reaching out, like a blind man groping for something solid to touch. Where's out?

"Man you've been screwed up ever since you got that divorce, you know?" Hall shakes his head slowly, settling his cigarette between his lips, before knocking another out of the pack and offering it between pinched fingers to Alexander as they walk towards the doors. "Look, your little Itallian Stallion ain't no reason to get all fucked up about work, you know?"

Images are spliced into the reality, jarringly placed moments of sweaty flesh pressed together, deep and heavy breathing, darkly lit bedroom sheets and an open window letting in cool air. Hissing breaths, panting, the texture of damp flesh and warm bodies, then it is ripped away to the reality here again.

"If you ask me, you're better off without that sack a' shit, right?" Hall reaches for a lighter in his pocket, flicking a tongue of flame up from it to light the tip of his cigarette.

Alexander's gaze cuts to Hall, a quick motion. "Never refer to him that way again," he says, voice low, and all the more reverberant with threat because of it. Never the kind to threaten by raising his voice. "Though I don't know what you're talking about," He waves away the cigarette for now, still trying to focus - putting out a hand to trail along the wall that leads out.

Hall gives Alexander a crooked look, then shakes his head again slowly, "Man you're just a basket of issues, ain't ya?" There's a moment while Hall talks, that Alexander can see the member of the NYFD again, crouched down in rubble, trying to remove debris from something, he's speaking, but his voice is a muffled din of drowned out words. When it snaps back to Hall, both he and Alexander are standing on the back lot of the studio, where stage crew move pieces of sets, and the warm sun of the California skies shines brightly overhead.

"So you wanna' go over the lines? Once we finish the roof jumper scene, we'll be doing the big raid on Phoenix." There's a crook of Hall's mouth, "That's your big damn hero scene, so you best not fuck it up, you know? My script doesn't have the pages with that, I think yours is," he motions to a pink copy of the script laying on a case of sound equipment by the door, "over there. Why don't you go read off of it, tell me the setting an' I'll try and get into character and we can run through the lines dry once."

Another skip in the film reel, this time of a pair of charred skeletal remains and several FDNY and NYPD officers all surrounding them. What little remains of Alexander's grandparents from their death in the aftermath of the fires that ravaged Manhattan after the bomb. These broken, fleshless remains are a haunting — almost screaming — depiction of a past and future buried deep in Alexander's subconscious.

Al's sweating, confused, the dissonance threatening to overwhelm. "I'm not gonna be back today," he says. "I'm sick," he says, picking up the sheaf of papers that is the script. That's putting it mildly. "I gotta go home," Where is that, now? He doesn't wait for Hall to answer, trying to remember - looking around . "I'm not supposed to be here," That last isn't so much addressed to Hall, as to someone who might be listening - prayer, supplication, confirmation? He's reaching for his power, like it can shield him from anything that's coming.

I'm not supposed to be here.

Alexander's own words echo in his mind as the world snaps black, as if the sun was blotted out with a flick of a switch.

I'm not supposed to be here.

When the darkness parts, Alexander finds himself in the middle of a dusty desert city, wind blowing through smoking buildings crackling with fire, sand brushing over his face. A sudden, horrible numbness wracks his body, tracing up from his legs as he struggles up from the ground. Tacky, salty wetness covers his face, and as he rises up to look blearily at the world around him, a pair of bloodied pieces of flesh with boots and camouflage cloth over them lie several feet away. It's the day his Hum-Vee hit the IED in Iraq.

Turning, Alexander struggles to get up, only to feel a dull, aching pain and the tremors of shock as he falls over. Looking back, he can't feel something, his eyes settle down and where his legs should be, there's is only a jagged and broken bloody mess below the knees, where the IED had stripped them from his body.

I'm not even supposed to be here.

"No," he says, quietly, through teeth chattering with the chill of shock, despite the grinding heat of the desert sun. "No. This is wrong. I came back from Iraq whole. I did." Those are my -feet- over there. What the hell? "I walked away from that explosion," Tottering and with blood running from his side, but walked nonetheless. "I'm not here, either. Next channel," he says, voice gathering strength, as anger begins to kindle. Who, precisely, is fucking with him?

A flicker and a flash, the film reel spliced with another to reveal a street corner at night under a hanging lamp. A charred and ash-covered body lies just away from the front steps of the Ferryman Safehouse known as the Hangar, and Alexander can feel the fingers of Verse's mental hand prying at the inside of his mind to learn just that information. "Fuck, fuck!" Brian shouts out, backing away from the body as part of it crumbles away, "Jesus fuck!"

But there stands Cameron, on the steps with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth, looking to Helena, Anselm and Helena, and then back to the mess on the stoop. It isn't Cameron's charred remains, but what is left of the withered and dessicated face — sand its lower jaw — bears the effects of a life more familiar to Alexander. The tatoo visible on one portion of withered flesh, the clothing, and just some sense of preternatural knowing.

Knowing that it is Teodoro Laudani's ashen remains he is looking at.

It's not real. Poor Cameron is the one who died. The first of the martyrs to the cause. But that doesn't stop Al from making a terrible strangled sound, not quite a whimper or a moan, "No," he whispers, sagging to his knees. "No. Fucking STOP THIS," he rages, grief transmuted to fury. "I don't know where he is. But he's -alive," And now he turns, with that ferretish quickness, trying to find Verse, to come to grips with him. Tired of being driven like a sheep through the contours of his own nightmares.

When Alexander turns, he sees an outdoor garden, feels warm sunlight on his cheeks. For the briefest moment he sees a flash of a scenario that played out in someone else's mind — a cottage in a rolling field surrounded by a lush garden. An older, blonde woman with a gunshot wound to the back of her head, bleeding out in a bed of roses. There, on her knees, Helena is crying, hunched over while Verse stands behind her with a gun to his head. Alexander views through this the gauzy curtains of the cabin's window, and slowly, Verse raises one hand, waving with his fingers.

The sound of a gunshot causes the world to go black, claustrophobicly so.

"I can leave you here. Buried alive. Do you know how horrible it is to be buried alive?"

There's a sound of something thumping on wood, dirt landing on the cover of a coffin, followed by the scraping grate of a shovel digging into more soil, and the thump of it again. Alexander can feel the lack of breath, feel the closeness of the plush upholstry inside of the casket, and he can hear Verse's voice resonating like some voice from beyond inside its confines.

"Tell me what I want to know."

Another shovel full of dirt.

"Where is Phoenix?"

That was always one of his childhood nightmares. The weight of the earth over him. Too many funerals, when he was little. The long grass waving on the graves, the stones too worn to be read. "I don't remember," he says. But it lacks conviction. Teo, Cameron. Helena. Those faces are no longer blanks in his memory. Cracks have begun to spider through that facade. "I don't KNOW." He shoves with his power, trying to splinter the wood, burst the earth out from within. But the drugs are still there, and instead it's only pain between the eyes, making him cry out. Back in reality, it echoes off the concrete walls in Moab, down the hall. "Let me out," It's not quite a plea, but that weakness is there, threaded into his voice.

The weight of another shovel, and the sensation of movement in the casket, as if Alexander were suddenly not alone inside of the coffin. Writhing, squirming, scrambling forms squeezing their way in to the lightless darkness, a minagerie of insects the likes of which were seen to be so effective when Verse viewed Lucrezia's mind, viewed the thread that connects her past to Alexander's, one they may never become mutually aware of.


The rebuking is like the sound of thunder, even as the tiny legs of millipedes squirming over Alexander's bare legs can be felt, even as the touch of a thousand spider's tiny, hairy legs brush over his forehead, threatening the sanctity of his nostrils and mouth. The chitinous shells of beetles squirm beneath his back, the walls of the coffin move with the pulsing undulation of a thousand centipedes all moving at once. Too many bugs in one space coming in from spaces that are impossibly small.

"Tell me where Phoenix is!"

There. There it is. Al's in no condition to tell anyone anything, being on the edge of gibbering incoherence. But that leaves his mental defenses momentarily unmanned, easy prey for Verse. He's nearly blind with pain, power fighting the drug for all its worth. Not even screaming anymore - in the cold confines of Moab, his body spasms and writhes against the bonds that hold him to the chair, breath stuttering and uneven. The monitoring equipment has begun to keen in protest at a body pushed to the edge of endurance.

The beeping comes unrelenting, the heart-rate monitor franticly chirping as Verse pulls his hand away from Alexander's forehead. Looking down to the man strapped to the table, heavy under sedation, he can see the look of torment painted across his face and frowns slowly. "Staten Island…" Verse lets those words roll off of his lips as he looks down to Alexander's swearing face, "I'm sorry it had to be that way, Mister Knight."

Retrieving gloves from the interior pockets of his long jacket, Verse pulls them down over slender fingers, flexing his hands open and closed after he does. "It was a remarkable pleasure working with you, Mister Knight. But now I have everything I need," his head tilts to the side, "Nathan Petrelli, the Company, and Phoenix. I'll bring them all down, and it's all thanks to you, Peter and Miss Sanders."

Turning dark eyes to the door, Verse closes his eyes, "Your sacrifices will not be in vain." A pause, momentary in consideration as he looks back to Alexander, reaching out to brush a hand over the man's forehead, and the devices calm, the beeping growing more steady. "Sleep, and dream of a better tomorrow, Mister Knight." His brow tenses for a moment, "you've served your country well."

And as Verse turns towards the doors, he feels for once a sense of completion and purpose flowing through him. "Now it's my turn to do the same."

<date>: previous log

Previously in this storyline…
What Time They Had

Next in this storyline…
When Lightning Strikes, Part I

<date>: next log
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