Endgame - Tripwire


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Scene Title Endgame - Tripwire
Synopsis Phoenix heads to Jersey City to take on the forces of the Vanguard and dispose of the virus, but nothing goes according to plan.
Date January 28, 2009

Jersey City, Irradiated Zone — Vanguard Warehouses

When the darkest hour is upon us, when all hope seems crushed by the hand of tyranny, it is those with the strength of will and determination, of conviction and faith that dare stand against the tide of stagnation and corruption.

Gusty winds blow freezing cold off of the harbor, carrying with it the driving and wet snow of a blizzard. The ground here is packed tight with snow and ice, no plow trucks maintain these streets, no courteous residents shovel the sidewalks. Jersey City has been forgotten, but it is the very presence of winter's icy grasp that emphasizes this truth.

The strength to face seemingly overwhelming opposition for the truths one believes in is one of the greatest merits of humanity. But even something as basic as hope and determination has its limits, as fragile an ideal as our own mortality makes us.

Miles of abandoned city whistle hollowly with the whipping winds passing through abandoned streets lined with derelict vehicles half buried in snow. Most of the buildings in this waterfront district are old, brick structures, encrusted with the browned and leafless remains of crawling ivy. Arched roofs plated with metal shingles are decked with thick layers of snow, long and sharp icicles hanging from the eaves.

What can we do as people, as humans, when even our hope is threatened? When the idea that a better tomorrow is possible, is crushed in front of our very eyes?

Three warehouses rest silently amidst the driving snow and glittering ice, set against gray skies and white streets. Visible from the waterfront where a small motorboat pulls up to the old wooden pier, these old and crumbling buildings likely were in poor condition before Jersey City was abandoned — now they are a testament to the decay eating away at this country in the wake of the bomb.

Do we look away; cast our aspirations aside and go with the flow of history?

Even with the few hundred feet to the warehouses it is from the piers, the noise of gunfire is unmistakable. The slow and rhythmic pop-pop-pop of handguns, and the rattling crack of automatic weapons fire. As the motorboat pulls up to the pier, muzzle-flashes can be seen through the blowing snow, and the silence of the city is shattered by the sounds of conflict.

Do we move to the sidelines, and resign ourselves to our fate?

Flashing blue lights down the street are indicative of what has happened. Several police cruisers with New Jersey identifications on them are haphazardly parked around the warehouses, but there are no signs of police officers around the six cars. There is only shouting, gunfire, and screams that rise up into the wintry chill.

Or do we stand and fight, no matter what the odds?

Several explosions in rapid succession shake the streets, causing the nearest warehouse to shudder and groan as bricks and glass are sent showering away. The building strains under the structural damage, and finally gives way as a portion of the roof collapses and half of the building slides down onto itself in a rising cloud of debris and dust mixed with windblown snow and smoke.

No matter what the cost?

Al's pale. Well, AL's always pale. This is nothing new. But even more so than usual. He's in his usual street thug garb - parka, watchcap, gloves, jeans. Totally ordinary. And there they come up the water. Only to find New Jersey's Finest already on the scene. "Oh, fuck," he says, oh so eloquently, then winces reflexively against an Abby-scolding that doesn't come. He's got a little mini-Uzi tucked under his parka like a women being cagey about her purse in a crowd, and a pistol at the small of his back.

"Looks like the cops already caught wind. This is bad. We gotta get in there and get that damned thing destroyed before the Vanguard sets it off. I'll bet they got no idea what they're up against, poor bastards." He scans the sky quickly, as if cocking an ear for the sound of chopper blades. "Well. This is gonna be tough because we -don't- kill cops so we can't just roll in there and slaughter everything that moves. Try to disable, if you can. Keep your eyes sharp. We clear?"

She stands somewhere to one side of the leader as they reach the piers and spot the flashing lights, the police cruisers they came from. Clad in all black, body armor in place, she has a few grenades taped to the outside of her heavy winter coat. One silencer-equipped pistol is in a pocket of that coat, the other in a gloved hand. One shoulder has her M16 slung over it with two taped together magazines for ammo. Radio gear is also in play, the piece in her ear and microphone placed where she can easily speak into it. The other shoulder holds a pair of binoculars for scoping the targets at distance. Cat pushes back the hood of her coat and slips a ski mask on, to make sure her features are hidden, given the law enforcement presence. These are brought to her eyes in attempt to see the field they're entering and learn as much as she can before they get there.

"Got you, Al," Cat replies."

Bad is something of an understatement. Brian's face doesn't have much more colour in its cheeks than Alexander's does, and when the other man speaks he simply nods, content to listen. Only after he's finished making his point does Brian open his mouth, gaze turning back to the warehouses. "We're clear," he murmurs.

The gunfire continues down the street, and smoke drifts up in billowing plumes from the collapsed warehouse, the one closest to the motorboat's point of approach. Wisps of flame rise up between broken blocks of crumbled stone and broken bricks, along with the groaning cries of pain as a police officer stumbles and trips from the still standing portion of the warehouse, out onto the street. Blood covers one side of his body, and with each limping step he makes there's a howl of pain, one leg dragging motionless behind him, twisted at an angle that is not natural, dark pants soaked wet. He collapses in the street, rolling onto his back as steam rises up from his body amidst the falling snow, staining the ground red beneath him.

It literally tears against Alex's cop instincts to leave a brother officer lying on the street. Nevermind he never worked with this guy, and got run off the force. Even as he's heading for the back entrance to the nearest warehouse, he's got his cellphone in his free hand - and he's on the line with 911, giving a clipped description of the situation in the bitten off syllables of cop jargon. Officer down. But he doesn't stop to aid him. The mission is so much more than one life. He crams the cellphone down in the pocket of his parka, and swings the uzi into position. "In we go. Once more into the breach," he says. The snowflakes have already begun to whorl and arc around him, as his power comes up.

She has a slightly different thought than Alex as she comes upon where the officer lies staining snow with his blood. Not so much to help him, but another purpose. The warehouses they're headed into have firefights happening and her binoculars haven't shown her anything of advantage. Once the fallen man is reached, Cat bends to check if he's alive or dead, and if alive she speaks clearly with a tone that suggests she means business. "Officer. We're here to stop the people in these buildings from what they're planning. Tell me the situation inside. Where are the police, and where are the enemies? Help for you is coming."

An incredulous look crosses Brian's features as Cat crouches down beside the fallen officer and begins speaking to him. He doesn't protest, though. He's too busy keeping an eye out while his copy flanks Alexander, one hand resting on the leather strap of his assault rifle, which he wears slung across his shoulder.

"I'm not sure he can hear you, Xena," he says to Cat, tone soft and not at all chiding in spite of his peculiar choice in nicknames. "And even if he can—" He trails off, uncertain. "It sounds like it's a fucking zoo in there."

She has a slightly different thought than Alex as she comes upon where the officer lies staining snow with his blood. Not so much to help him, but another purpose. The warehouses they're headed into have firefights happening and her binoculars haven't shown her anything of advantage. Once the fallen man is reached, Cat bends to check if he's alive or dead, and if alive she speaks clearly with a tone that suggests she means business. "Officer. We're here to stop the people in these buildings from what they're planning. Tell me the situation inside. Where are the police, and where are the enemies? Help for you is coming."

An incredulous look crosses Brian's features as Cat crouches down beside the fallen officer and begins speaking to him. He doesn't protest, though. He's too busy keeping an eye out while his copy flanks Alexander, one hand resting on the leather strap of his assault rifle, which he wears slung across his shoulder.

Choking, the officer looks up through bleary vision to Cat, snow clinging to his cheeks as he works his mouth open and closed, trying to speak. He's been struck by shrapnel from whatever explosion blew up the third warehouse, clutching his side where large pieces of metal and stone have perforated his body, a particularly jagged piece of steel embedded an inch deep in his knee. Gagging for a moment, he tries to sit up, yowls in pain and lies back down, eyes forced shut, "I — I don't know, I don't know… W-we just got here — officer called for backup, spotted a guy with a gun w-when he was patrolling the border, c-chased him in…" He exhales a shuddering breath, turning his head to spit blood in the snow, "Oh god, they — Jiminez hit a tripwire, t-they — there's explosives all over the place, God, oh fucking Christ…" His jaw clenches shut, "Last we were radioed, they thought they found — found — terrorists, I — Oh god, fuck, what the fuck…"

Around the back of the nearest standing warehouse, Alexander spots another police officer lying face down in the snow in a dark stain of red snow. Gunfire rattles off inside of the building, and as he bursts in through the open door, his eyes scan around the structure. It is a spacious and wide-open warehouse, no shelving units or storage crates to be found. In the center of the warehouse is an empty metal scaffolding, the kind painters would use on the side of a building, but arranged around empty space. Leading from the inside of that scaffolding and out towards the closed rear bay doors are wide-spread tread tracks…

A second floor catwalk overhead is where the majority of the gunfight is taking place. Ten soldiers in urban camouflage rushing across the catwalk at the far end of the warehouse, crouched low, to join another soldier who is firing down to the lower floor. His target are a pair of men ducked behind a tall rolling tool chest. One of them is slumped up against the chest, arms limp at his side, and the other is crouched next to him, both hands pressing down hard on the prone man's abdomen, hands red with blood.

Eyes flicking back up to the second floor, Alexander spots a pair of metal staircases that drop down to ground level, along with a door on the second floor that looks to lead to the outside, probably a connecting walkway to the adjacent standing warehouse, the noise of gunfire echoes from that direction as well.

"Thanks, officer," Cat tells him as she straightens. "Hang in there. Help is coming for you. She moves away from him and toward where Al went in, speaking into her radio mike. "Al. Police and enemy locations unknown. Building is boobytrapped, wired to explode. I repeat, boobytrapped. Watch for tripwires." She unslings the M16 from her shoulder and sets it to semi along the way, also glancing at Brian. Calmly she states "That's why you ask questions of someone who was inside before entering a firefight."

Al pauses only a moment to listen to the cop's report, eyes darting around swiftly. It's horrible. And all too reminiscent of Iraq. The hairs on the back of his neck are up, but there's that terrible exaltation rising, that weird state where everything is simultaneously too close and strangely distant. He strides in, and lets the gun fall on its strap to bounce against his hip. Power will work more effectively now.

He reaches up to the soldier firing on the cops and summarily yanks him down over the railing. (Cue the Wilhelm scream.) And then he's tearing at the soldiers rushing to join the shooter. Reaching to trip some, yank them off their feet, or rip their weapons from their hands. It's faster work than he's used to, with heavy, live humans - his teeth are bared in a grimace.

"I never said you shouldn't ask," Brian says, and leaves it at that. Now isn't the time to be arguing with Cat, much as he might want to. It isn't the time for her to be preaching at him either, however, and he does his best to ignore the barb as he follows her inside.

Inside the warehouse, Brian's copy fires off two quick shots with his rifle, cleanly taking down one of the disabled soldiers in a spray of blood — just because Alexander has relieved them of their weapons doesn't make them any less dangerous.

Bodies go flying, and to Alexander the strain of managing his power this quickly only adds to the pressure in the back of his mind, not one of pain or discomfort, but emotional fatigue. Men pinned down, automatic gunfire, urban environment — it's only the bitter chill of winter that reminds him that this is not Fallujiah, and that he is in the here and the now, and that he has to keep it together.

Two Vanguard soldiers are ripped from their feet, tossed like ragdolls with the power of telekinesis over the edge of the railing. One smashes into the scaffolding, tearing it apart as his body mangles metal and metal breaks bones. One side of the metal pipework collapses in a noisy clatter of aluminum. The second soldier merely falls one floor down, landing on his neck with a crack and a pop before flailing on the ground for a few moments before going limp. One soldier's gun goes flying over the edge, a moment before the rattle of Brian's gunfire sends him staggering back to the wall with a spray of blood. Another soldier has his rifle ripped from his hands, sent spinning through the air before it simple stops in place, pivots in mid-air, and opens fire on the soldier's legs, sending him dropping to the ground with a sharp cry.

"Jesus Christ! Finally!" One of the cops shouts, the one holding his hands over his partner's wound shouts, "Rameirez is bad! He's lost a lot of blood, fuck — Everybody else is pinned down in the other warehouse, how'd you get in here anyway?!"

Outside, one of the two Brians shakes his head, following Cat, "Hey, Cat, look I just wanted to — " Suddenly Brian is gone, there is no sound to accompany the disappearance, only an eruption of blood as his body explodes from the chest outwards, a hold punched through his chest so large that is seems to separate him entirely. Gore showers the street and the building, and Brian's body — what remains of it — sprays down against the snow. Another moment later the wall near Cat erupts, and her eyes catch a gleam of yellow-white light comes at an angle from the sky, streaking through the air, whizzing past her close enough to cause her hair to shift.

In the warehouse, the Brian helping Alexander lurches and clutches at his chest, the hollow and terrible sensation of having a part of his body severed from him wrenching at his heart. "There's a fucking sniper out there somewhere, I — Jesus Christ, it took out one of our cars, we ducked in here for cover, and that's when — when these fuckers showed up!" The conscious officer shouts, trying to explain his situation.

Over a mile away, on the rooftop of the Goldman Sachs tower, a snow-covered form lays prone amidst the storm, one eye pressed up to the scope of an enormous anti-tank rifle. "Hans, this is Ellinka." She speaks into a headset, "The storm is hampering my visibility — We have additional feet on the ground at the primary site." She squeezes the trigger of the gun, and from here the sound of the smooth-bore gun firing is like the blast of a tank's turret firing as a tracer round rips through the heavens. "I will supply cover."

«Affirmative, we have some problems here at Eagle Electric, I'm doing — » The transmission cuts out, and Ellinka's brow furrows together.

"Sir?" Her lips downturn into a scowl, strained sigh pressed out of her nostrils. "Shit."

She turns partly back toward Brian as she reaches the building entrance, just in time to see him cut down, and the apparent cause of it nearly get her too before making a mess of the wall, and that sound. Cat's feet move faster, she clears the doorway without looking for tripwires, because Al came this way and didn't get blown up, and… Into the radio she speaks the rest of that thought. "Tank gun! Tank gun in play. Cannot locate and return fire. Is mortar and biohazard in view?" Once inside, Cat is quickly scanning the interior for any sign of her objective, or an enemy to interrogate if she can't spot it fast without getting shot.

"Well, fuck me," says Alex, before lapsing into that dry reporter's tone. "No. Objective not yet in sight. Multiple hostiles, but I'm dealing with them." He looks to the cop, even as he throws around more soldiers. There's the crack of bone, more than once. He's not trying for stuns, but instant kills. "Listen," he says to the two cops. "Have you seen anything that looks like a mortar?"

"Mortar? Jesus fuck, no." The cop stutters, and Alexander spots his name on the badge pinned to his uniform — Simmons. "I didn't see shit, I pulled up to the sound of gunfire, and the fucking light of God came out from the skies and blew out the engine of my car. Me — " His eyes dart back to the man he's holding the wound of, "Me and my partner came in, barely avoiding that shit, it left holes in the street the size of fucking manhole covers!" Breathing heavily, adrenaline surging, the cop looks up to the doorway on the second floor to the adjoining warehouse as Alexander yanks two soldiers out from the doorway, sending one up and crashing through the warehoouse skylight, and what goes up does not come down — at least not here. The other soldier is smashed repeatedly into the wall by the door by the head, one arm bending, snapping and twisting as the telekinetic twists him like a wrung-out towel.

Then, there is only the distant sound of gunfire and…

As Cat comes barreling into the warehouse, feet skidding on concrete from the snow on her boots, there is an explosion of brick as Ellinka's rifle blows a foot wide hole in the wall, showering the ground with bricks and mortar, "Oh shit! Oh shit!" The cop shouts, ducking and covering the other wounded officer. Ducking out of the gunfire, another round detonates the dingy windows that overlook the blown up warehouse outside, sending glass showering down inside.

On the roof of the Goldman Sachs tower, Ellinka lets out a hissed breath, one hand moving to change the lens of her scope, like the rotating lenses of a microscope. Her vision, changed to thermals, views nothing but a haze of blue and yellow. "Fucking snow." She spits out, changing the lens back. Across the snow nearby, small black forms begin to skitter and stir, then gently moving forms of a carpet of crawling spiders, unfelt as they delicately tread over the snow that covers her body.

She drops to one knee as the wall comes apart nearby, covering her head to shield against flying bits tat might do serious damage. Cat doesn't know where her target is, and there's a tank gun blasting at the building. She remains in that position, realizing the building has to be searched, and possibly the other two as well before the mortar can be found. The Situation is, to use a term coined during the first time Americans fought Nazis, Normal. All Fucked Up. But is isn't Fucked Up Beyond All Repair; she has an edge. The warehouse layouts were shown during Edward's briefing, and this is what she calls into her mind's eye now. It's scanned to see where the most likely place to keep that mortar and fire it at Manhattan would be.

"Where we headed, girl, it ain't in here," Al says, having taken cover with the two cops, though that's sort of like hiding behind a veil of Kleenex, considering what that thing can do. "I can't divert tank rounds." Bullets are beyond him, really. He occasionally pops a head up to make sure there are no more Vanguard goons up and moving. And then he's scooting across the floor in the direction of the next of the warehouses. So much work to do, so little time to do it in, scuttling as fast as he can.

Brian remains where he is, crouched beside the two officers, rifle at the ready. It's not that he doesn't intend to follow Alexander, but he's still reeling from the loss of his copy outside — until his legs feel like something a little more solid than jelly, he'll cover the telekinetic from his present position. As Alexander moves across the warehouse floor, he keeps his weapon trained on the shadows, ready to squeeze the trigger if something so much twitches in his ally's general direction.

Alexander hurries out the front doors of the warehouse, back out into the swirling blizzard. Up the street he can see the police cruisers parked, lights flashing on all but one of them, no cops to be seen. The sound of gunfire fills the next building, and from here he can see the raised walkway that connects the two, watching as one cop comes limping out of the warehouse, hobbling along the walkway, looking over his shoulder in panic.

As he crosses the span between the buildings, something rolls out the door and bounces along the metal beneath his feet. Before Alexander can react to the visual stimuli, there is a piercing explosion as a grenade detonates on the walkway, blowing metal and flesh apart with equal ease, raining pieces of the bridge and the officer down to the alley between the two buildings.

Inside, Cat and Brian can hear the explosion, the windows on the side facing that direction blown out by the blast, a plume of smoke and debris drifting in through the second floor door. The cop Alexander left behind at the tool chest looks up pleadingly to the two, "H-Hey wait, where are you going! He — he needs help!" Dawning on him after a moment, he realizes the way they're dressed, the way they're acting, "W-who the… fuck are you people?" Why has the sniper fire stopped?

On the roof of Goldman Sachs, screaming fills the air. Where once there was snow, there is now a depression where someone was laying, a woman flailing wildly as she runs along the rooftop, shaking black spiders from her body. She comes to a stop, back slamming up against the railing on the roof's edge, leveling her rifle with wide, panicked eyes, blood running from tiny bite marks all over her face. "Fuck, fuck, fuck…" She hisses out, hearing the sound of a quiet buzzing on the roof, raising the rifle to shoulder level — she knows she can't fire it without bracing it, the kick would rip her arms out of the sockets. But it's all she has to defend herself with.

She's on the radio again and speaking as she goes on the move, answering Al's question. "Estimate target will be under skylight at eight zero degree angle, I say again, under skylight." The presence of apparent tank gun fire from outside prompts Cat to take a course across the building's interior, remaining low to avoid being shot by weapons in the building, but the explosion makes her hold position. "Al! Advise of condition and situation." Al has hit the deck. And Cat gets a bellow, once he's recovered. "Had a grenade detonate above me. Got a cop," he reports, even though he's covered with blood and has a few shrapnel nicks himself. "I'm half-deaf, you're gonna have to shout. I read you. Skylight, eight degree angle. Firefight going on in this ware house," He creeps for a window, to peek in.

Thankfully, with most of the glass blown out, the view in from the window gives a clear look of the interior. It's the complete inverse of the other warehouse, four cops are pinned down up on the catwalk, one of them has taken an AK-47 from one of the soldiers, the others armed with pistols, huddled behind ammo boxes and crates on the upper level. On the first floor, there's bodies everywhere. Nine soldiers lay on the ground, bleeding out — some in urban camo, others in these weird matte gray uniforms with black collars and no badges or insignias, just like the uniforms in that picture that Edward supposedly received from the future.

This warehouse looks like a munitions depot, filled with olive-green metal cases of ammunition, mostly empty racks of guns, and ten living members of the Vanguard, all ducked down behind a concrete half-wall. With his eyes flicking back up to the second floor, Alexander can see the mortar launcher set into position by the cops, pointed up and out the open skylight at an angle. But it's what he spots back down on the first floor, by the soldiers, that really catches his attention — a black plastic case seated on the top of the half-wall, marked with a red and black biohazard symbol, and the cops are shooting in the direction of it to try and shoot at the Vanguard soldiers.

The shooting has stopped. It might resume, and there could be boobytraps, so Cat goes careful and keeps her eyes focused ahead of her to avoid such dangers along the way to the next location. Her voice speaks loudly into the radio to make the volume hopefully sufficient to be heard over the effects of that grenade. "En route to location now! Must clear path to target!" She keeps the M16 at the ready as she moves, to eliminate any threat between her and there which might pop up.

And Al's heart leaps into his throat. "Oh, shit," he says, softly. "I see the launcher. But we got cops up on the catwalk now, and they're shooting down. Looks like we got the Vanguard holed up, and they have the virus in hand. Before he can think, before he can ponder the wisest course…..the virus. That's what matters. So Al looks to Cat. "I got no idea what to do," he says, as she comes up to him. "I can try and snatch it, but they'll both of them come after us. I can disable the launcher, but…it's the virus that matters. They shatter that case, we're all dead."

Brian brings up the rear, sweeping his rifle left to right and then back again, and although he's careful enough not to point it in an 'unsafe' direction, he maybe looks a bit sillier doing it than he hoped. He's no professional, after all. "Any amazing ideas, Cat?"

Gunshots continue to ring out in the warehouse, and Alexander watches as one of the crouching Vanguard soldiers is handed a grenade. Yanking out the pin, he steps up to hurl it over the wall and up to the catwalk, but one of the cops is ready, firing a shot that strikes him square in the chest, dead center of his tactical vest. Knocked off of his feet, the soldier flies back and crashes into a pile of ammo crates, his grenade coming loose and rolling to the base of the wall that the biohazard case is seated on top of. The other soldiers simply panic and dive out of the way of the grenade, leaving it sitting there beneath the case containing the virus.

"Don't come any closer!" Ellinka shouts out, a mile away on the rooftop gun raised as a black form lurches across the rooftop towards her, a haze of buzzing and humming as a cloud thousands of bees swirl and twist, moving and coalescing before taking on a vague and humanoid shaped form, as if assembling into the amalgamate shape of a curvy woman. Ellinka's eyes grow wide, fearful as the buzzing shape draws closer, "N-No — No!" The amorphous form raises an arm of insects, and Ellinka screams, pulling the trigger of her rifle reflexively, and the kick not only dislocates her shoulder as the bullet harmlessly passes through a hole that forms in the cloud of bees, but the momentum of the rifle sends her flying off of her feet, flipping up and over backwards, smashing her shoulders onto the roof's ledge.

She bounces, rolling down to strike a glass wall that slopes down towards the edge of the rooftop, boots and hands scuffing glass as she slides down, her rifle falling away as it bounces off of the roof and plummets into the snowy abyss below.

She stops when she gets near Al and hears his description of the situation at hand. Cat looks at him, then the building, and her eyes go distant, the sign she's engaged in recall of something. How to proceed here and accomplish the objective, with the virus insecure and Al saying he's got no idea. She flashes back to the briefing at the once grand theater, and Doctor Ray onstage describing the plan.

Edward breathes out a heavy sigh, finally letting that tension go some. "Find the mortar launcher at the facility, and
prevent the canister from being launched. Once it has been secured, I have taken the liberty of procuring a handful of thermite grenades through one of Phoenix's arms-dealing contact. The burning temperature of thermite will ensure that the canister and virus are wholly destroyed; not even an unusually robust virus such as Shanti should be able to survive those conditions, and by my estimates it will not. Proper care must be taken in the use of the thermite, and I was only able to secure one thermite grenade for each team, which means you have the one chance to get this right. Catherine will pass out some safety pamphlets for the handling of thermite once were through here. This is the standardized plan of virus disposal for all groups, so please take note."

That tells her what needs to happen, getting the virus into the mortar as it smolders and burns by thermite. Further thought on how to proceed, with Brian not responded to, leads her eyes to reopen and focus on Alexander. He's telekinetic. No need to snatch the virus to him, or disable the launcher. She hopes. Really hopes. He can see the targets, so he can guide things between here and there. He has to guide things between here and there. She pulls out the thermite grenade and holds it in hand.

"Al!" she shouts, to ensure his grenade-induced deafness isn't an issue, "use your telekinesis! Make the package go into the launcher so it's safe from gunfire! Then," she holds up the thermite, "make this go across the building to enter the mortar and set it off!"

"Not putting in the launcher," Al says, staunchly. "Not a fucking chance," And then there's the grenade. He summarily grabs that grenade and flings it away, towards the farthest point he can. And then he's pulling the canister -to- him. They can destroy it out here.

Alexander's quick thinking picks up the grenade with a telekinetic tug, sending it bouncing across the warehouse and towards one of the retreating Vanguard. The plastic case yanks off of the wall, grabbed by and unseen hand before flying straight through the window, knocking a loose piece of glass out as it comes to settle in Alexander's outstretched hand, gripped by its flipped up handle. The case is heavy, about the size of a laptop but eight inches thick, large enough to house a mortar shell.

The grenade explodes in mid telekinetic flight, detonating next to the fleeing Vanguard, sending him blasting ahead and into the wall, but the explosion, that detonation of the grenade in a munitions depot is far larger than the police would have imagined. Boxes of ammunition and explosives all rupture at once, and the blast sends a concussive wave of force out through the front of the building so powerful it knocks Alexander, Cat and Brian off of their feet and across the street, ears ringing and world spinning. The plastic case bounces harmlessly in the snow, skidding to a stop in the middle of the road.

Hanging on to the edge of the roof a mile away, Ellinka's breathing hitches in the back of her throat as the hazy silhouette of a woman made from flying insects approaches the building's ledge. She walks through the railing, her amorphous insectile form shifting around the bars. One figment of a hand raises, chastisingly shaking a finger back and forth. Ellinka trembles, fingers catching the lip of the roof, legs kicking slick against glass, struggling to pull herself up.

But as the bees discorporate, funneling down towards the sniper, her screams rise up in the air as she slips from the rooftop, letting go as the swarm of wasps cover her body, for the long drop down to the plaza below.

The fall gives her time to think about her life.

Right before it ends.

Compression waves are not an everyday experience, and there's nothing that Brian can do when the blast and sound and heat reach him except to be knocked down and almost out, ears ringing and world around him spinning. Dazed and bruised from his fall, but alive, he'll be ready for action again just as soon as he can get off the roller coaster he's found himself living in.

There it is, the case coming out and directly to Al as he takes just part of her recommendation. Cat hadn't thought there'd be time for him to snatch the virus and bring it out then set off the thermite before gunfire came at them and made hunkering down necessary, she's also recalling Edward's instructions to take out both mortar and virus by the same means. Before she can speak anything in response, make any further suggestion, there's the explosion and the concussive force which sends her airborne. She has the M16 in one hand, and the thermite grenade in the other as she goes flying to land hard on her backside and be dazed. Munitions in her pockets are jostled but undamaged. The more immediate problem is to not drop the virus destroyer and lose it. So she lets go of the rifle just before hitting ground and places both hands on the thermite, bringing it into her body and covering up.

As she lies there, working to recover, that most important of grenades is held onto and safe.

"Throw the thermite," Al gasps, once he's recovered enough to realize what's doing on. "NOW!" Well, it's out of anyone's immediate reach but his, and that's the important part. He's bleeding from nose and ears, but aware, still with it. He's going to have an imprint in the shape of an Uzi on his flank, he won't be able to hear right for days…..but what does that matter, at this point?

It's hard to hear, over the sound of ringing in their ears, a low and throbbing sound that almost matches the hasty pace of blood rushing in everyone's ears. But the sound is something more rythmic, something more mechanical. Thorugh the haze of snow and blurred vision, there are a pair of dark forms approaching in the snowy skies, two oblong and black shapes moving against the wind. As they draw closer, these black shapes start to make sense to Alexander — helicopters.

Down the street, further from the pier than the warehouses, a pair of black SUVs pull up to the sidewalk, back doors opening as man in full riot gear storm out, clear plastic shields raised, helmets, gas masks and pistols. From another street a third SUV comes skidding to a stop, not far from where the three lay. The back doors open, and two more riot-gear wearing men come charging out. At this distance, he labels on their uniforms are clear. White block-text on black — Homeland Security.

Behind them walks another agent of Homeland Security, taking long and confident strides through the snow; a tall and bald man in the same black uniforms as the emergency response team.

The moment he draws close, there is a horrible throb that pulses outwards from his mind, a nauseating wave of debilitating numbness and vertigo setting in on Alexander as the telekinetic struggles to his feet. To Brian, who landed closer to where the vehicle pulled up, the throbbing sensation is suffocating, his mind swimming in delirious vertigo, until his knees buckle beneath himself and he collapses to the ground. A low, moaning gurgle comes from his throat, and he slumps over to his side, motionless. Cat, the furthest away from the man's approach, feels a prickling sensation in her extremities, a growing numbness as if from some form of anesthetic.

"Agent Carmichael!" One of the officers shouts over the snow, the group not yet having spotted the Phoenix operatives on the ground. "We should wait for reinforcements!" The black case lays on the ground, just out of sight of the approaching HomeSec agents, and inside of the warehouse the sound of gunfire has stopped, only smoke billowing out through the blown out windows and cracked front walls, crashing debris still falling inside.

The case, close enough that Cat could move to detonate the thermite and it, and then there's Alexander, struggling to move, and Brian even further away and incapacitated by that strange throbbing feeling she experiences in her head.

There's little choice. She feels whatever it is in her extremities, which makes it hard to move. She has the thermite grenade, and her rifle is between her and the case which must be destroyed. If she can get up and walk, she will, or even run. But if she can't, Cat will crawl to the case. On the way she grabs the rifle and brings it with her. Once she reaches the case, her lingering dazedness making it obscure that Homeland Satan is on the scene, she takes the thermite grenade and places it directly atop the case. In her mind she calls up the procedures for handling and using it. They're followed to the letter, and soon the device will begin to do its work.

Her next goal is to get away, well away, from the burning case. Cat has no desire to be still atop it as the function it was designed for takes hold.

Helicopters. Once that sound used to be something he welcomed, the harbinger of reinforcements or evacuation. Back when he lived on the right side of the law. He should surrender, raise his hands to show his peaceable intent.

Al, however, does not. He pulls the pistol, which has remained safely holstered until now, and quickly checks the chamber. Once Cat's dealt with it, he yanks the case away, giving her more time to move, more distance, though he holds the explosive to it. He's panting, too fast, eyes skipping at the approaching men in riot gear.

Raising a weakening arm, Alexander staggers to one side, legs weakening under the telepathic throb of Carmichael's evolved ability. The bald agent's eyes focus on the floating case in the air, eyes widening before he grabs the soldier near him and shouts, "Fire in the hole!" And drags him to the ground. The one standing Homeland Security officer that was out of arm's reach goes to move, but the bright flare of the thermite detonating is a blinding white flash, like that of a welding torch, and he lets out a pained scream behind his gas-mask as he falls to his knees, dropping his shield and gun as his gloved hands move to shield his eyes.

It is these moments of choice, that can change lives in an instant. The choice one must make for life, for freedom, for conviction. The hard choices.

The weakness in her extremities fades as she gets further away from the agent who caused it. Cat finds her legs work better now, as the thermite commences to burn behind her, and only now does she become more fully aware of the situation. She was successful, the virus will be no more, but there's Homeland Satan on the ground. She can't help Al or Brian, they're down, she knows something back there may have caused her difficulty moving, the numbness. There is nothing to be gained in trying to aid them, for that matter, and Cat is not the altruistic sort. She fought once before to avoid being darkholed, and can only assume that will happen here too. The things she knows, about Peter Petrelli nuking the city and now about this virus make that the likely outcome, she doesn't doubt they'll want to suppress the truth. And to be at the mercy of whatever telepaths they bring to bear… Her course is clear.

Doctor Catherine Chesterfield runs, using the blizzard as cover.

The choices we make to save lives, at the sacrifice of others are done out of nobility.

When the thermite goes, it burns, and it burns white hot, welding a hole through the plastic case and the metal canister, burning at a temperature hot enough to turn steel into liquid, and destroy the contained virus. Shakily raising a gun, Alexander chambers the round and brings the pistol up to his head as he feels his eyelids slouching. He's not going to end up a prisoner, not going to go into one of their dark and concrete internment camps.

His finger squeezes the trigger.

A nobility in the belief that the value of one life…


Is not outweighed by the value of many, that there is some honor in dying for a cause.

His hand goes limp, not enough finger strength to get the gun to fire. The two unblinded HomeSec agents are up on their feet, and the others approaching from the street are moving on the warehouse while the helicopters circle in the storm, trying not to be blinded by driving snow. Carmichael winds around the parked car where Brian is slouched, motioning to the officer at his side, and that gas-masked agent crouches down, grabbing the unconscious man and slings him over his shoulder.

It is in making these decisions, that we find the measure of our own bravery… and our own fear.

Alexander staggers, gun falling from his hand as Carmichael draws closer, eyelids closing, legs weakening, and with a buckling motion he slouches forward and falls paralyzed to the ground. Through the snow, the agent scans the street, spotting someone in dark clothing running through the snow, too far away. He reaches down to his side, pulling up a cell phone to his ear, eyes moving back to the smoking warehouses.

But in every sacrifice, there are those left behind, who will carry on and remember the sacrifices that were made so that they could live…

"Mister Goodman," Carmichael turns his head away from the helicopters, covering one ear with his hand, "Yes, we've hit a lucky break I believe." His eyes drift down, focused on Alexander's prone form, "Yes, of course Mister Goodman." Agent Carmichael looks back at the warehouse, "No, we had no idea what was going on, but I think you'll be interested in seeing who it is we've found. Very interested."

…live to fight another day.

January 28th: Endgame - Resonance
January 28th: Endgame - To Die At Sea
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