From Such Great Heights, Part I


gabriel_icon.gif knox_icon.gif stef_icon.gif west_icon.gif

Scene Title From Such Great Heights, Part I
Synopsis While the battle to stop Norman White surges above, Stef takes the low route to try and rescue trapped workers and meets her ultimate fate.
Date November 19, 2009

Liberty Island

Liberty is the ideal of Freedom, the notion of sanctity and safety without oppression…

An explosions sends a cloud of dust and debris out from the foundation of the concrete basement. Water trickles from cracks in the ceiling, dripping down in thin rivulets. The dust is thick and choking as danger-yellow lights glow eerily through the dust. Feet stamp angrily away from the blown out hollow in the ground, rushing towards a barely visible set of stairs. "Sparrow! Get topside! Do whatever you can to stop the quake!"

Freedom is the dominion of choice. Freedom to choose, to decide, to take into our own hands our actions.

It's Shard's voice, Shard's instructions, Shard's plan. The shadow nipping at his heels belongs to Richard Cardinal, the man who will see this tragedy through to its end. From the tunnel that Sparrow Redhouse burrowed beneath Liberty Island, another of Shard's trusted can barely see through the haze of dust. She calls herself Stef now, short for Stephanie Winters, the name she should have been born with. Not Gillian Childs, not now, not anymore.

Choice is the ability to decide our own fates, be they good, or be they bad. It is the ability to make mistakes, to learn from them…

"Stef…" Cardinal's disembodied voice echoes in the stairwell, "Norman has security staff from the grounds trapped down here, get them to the tunnel and off the island. Get everyone out of here!" She can see his silhouette linger, then swim up the stairs behind Shard's slamming footfalls. All around her, the concrete basement passages creak and groan, evena s tremors from a building quake grow all around her. She can't see where Sparrow went, presumably up to the surface. But her job, her task, her destiny is down here in these dark tunnels.

…or perhaps to repeat them.

In many ways, Stef only held on for this one night. Every step should be much harder than it is, but she still makes them. It would be easier to choose to give up and lay down somewhere, but that's never been her— not as long as she's been in existence. However short or long that may be. Skin pale, it's difficult to tell with the dust and dirt covering up much of it. She wipes it out of her eyes, and yells back at the shadow, "I'm on it. Make sure Shard doesn't do anything stupid!"

Her voice had always been raspy, so most people wouldn't notice any difference. To those who don't know her, though, she sounds quite ill.

No attempt is made to take anything slow. All or nothing. Get the security staff out. If she could smell fear in the air, she might think such a thing would be beneath her abilities, she would want to be fighting beside them. But the scent of fear gives her a lot less energy than it should, sometimes nothing at all. It's like being alone, even when surrounded by what should make her stronger.

It's closer to being how she should be.

Quick steps, that should be taken slower, draw her along the grounds, searching out the trapped staff. And whoever might be keeping them there.

It's like being in a bunker during a bombing raid during the second world war, sounds above of something breaking or exploding are muffled by the concrete overhead, and only the telltale flicker of lights and trails of dust and dirt flowing from cracks in the stone give any indication that something is terrible wrong here. These access tunnels beneath Liberty Island twist and extend like a labyrinth, if Cardinal thinks there's hostages down here that White's keeping, they could be anywhere in the mile of tunnels and passages that riddle the dot of land.

Metal security doors should pose a deterrent for anyone attempting to get through them, doors that lead to maintenance rooms for the steam pipes and electricity grid running through the island. For the first few doors, Stef is impeded by their simple lock and latch system. But as she delves deeper down the tunnels, a certain scent on the wind makes the next doorknob twist off in her hand. Someone here is afraid.

The door doesn't lead far, just to some power conduits, nothing White looked to screw with. Her breathing is hard down here, damp and moldy air making each inhalation of breath wheezing; or it could be that onset of death approaching. Fuck you Edward.

Down a shallow flight of stairs, Stef is using the wall to support herself with one hand as she moves. It's hard, keeping up this energy, even with the fear reinforcing her now. As she makes her way towards the source of the scent, voices can be heard on the edges of her periphery. "…the fuck does it matter, let's just get out of here!" It's not a voice she's familiar with. "Man, let's just leave 'em and get the hell out!" That's the fear, that's what she feels, some young man pleading in order to svae his own life.

"Screw you, now keep gettin' scared, I think I almost got this thing." That voice is more familiar, the memory of her tutor, the memory of a man who shouldn't be her enemy. As Stef rounds the corner and comes into view of the hallway, she can see Benjamin Washington — Knox — crouched down where a portion of the concrete tunnel has collapsed, blocking off a section of hall. He's trying to lift it up, pull the stone aside, but there's not enough to give him that strength.

Beside him, a younger and whiter man with shaggy, brown hair stands in a dark hoodie, waving his hands frantically at Knox. "Let's just go! We can't save them, come on you got what we needed!"

That voice. The one whose power she's been gifted with— the only power she's had. The smell of fear increases as she gets closer to the frantic young man. Feet shift on the dirty ground. "Keep flailing like you're going to die, because you probably fucking are," she says raspily, voice loud enough to carry in the enclosed spaces. Last time she saw him, they'd yelled at each other. When she said she would be at Shard's side when this all went down, he did ask one thing of her:

Think you can handle Knox?

She said she could handle him. And she meant it. But she never expected this kind of situation. It's not like she can beat him in the face while he's trying to lift rubble. Well, she could, but… "Are the people from the security staff behind that?" she asks, taking in another breath, before she moves up beside him. This wasn't what she thought would happen at all… Cardinal told her to get them out.

Her own fear begins to show through as she gets closer, fear that she can't help but feel, even if she's accepted what's going to happen to her. Fear for Shard. Fear for the weakness she feels growing inside her, despite the strength. Fear of failing in the task given to her.

Knox and the stranger both turn at the voice, a spike of wariness jumping through them both. Knox's brows knit together in a consternated look of uncertainty as he sees Stef, as if the last person he expected to see here. Then, even as his wiry little friend moves to hide behind him, Knox shakes his head and relaxes his tense posture "Playtime's over, Gillybean." He still calls her Gillian, after all this time. "M'sorry for pissing you off and flipping you out, but this ain't what it looks like." He turns around, swatting the young man behind him lightly on the back of the head, fluffing out his hair.

Ducking his head down, the dark-haired young man furrows his brows and scowls, shuffling away from Knox with a side-long stare to the super-strong man. "Knox has been infiltrating White's gang for months now. We were trying to get a roster of people he knows escaped Moab and where they are, so we can deliver them to someone." There's an awkward smile and the wiry young man steps aside and motions to the rocks. "I'm uh, West, by the way." There's a crooked smile on his face as he point-point-points towards the debris. "There's some people stuck behind these rocks, so— its not my bag. Could— "

"I ain't got time t'prove to you that I ain't no psycho workin' for Norman, you just gotta' trust me." Knox implores, resting a hand on his chest. "This whole tunnel's gonna come down, and there's people trapped on the other side of these rocks, and that area back there was fillin' up with water before we even got here. I can't lift this shit alone."

"That's good," Stef says as she pulls up her sleeves and moves closer. There's bruises all up and down her arms as if she's been straining herself doing things the last month. Since she heard the news, she started trying to get stronger without needing fear. "Cause if you weren't infiltrating I'd have to rip your nutsack off."

But no need to do any ripping, it would seem, and no need to explain further. There's a hint of a memory from the Catabase that causes her to recognize the boy, West. Awkward, too tall, but his face was in a list of people who were formerly Phoenix. Though she couldn't say she had the pleasure before.

Being shorter gives leverage, so she goes lower, bending her knees and trying to get shoulder as well as hands under it.

"And… my name… is Stef," she adds on between sharp and harsh breaths as she starts to push and pull against the slab.

Dark eyes level side-long at Stef, and Knox watches her as she braces herself down and begins to lift at the slab. "Stef it is then, girlie." His hands wrap around grips on the upper piece of rubble. "On'a count of three. We pull it an' old, then the people get the fuck out an' we let it go. If we pull the whole chunk out at once, this big ol' goddamned tunnel's gonna collapse on us all." Nodding to Stef once he's given her the instructions, Knox looks over to West and narrow shis eyes.

"And I swear if you run before we get everyone out I'ma find you and pin your ass t'your forehead!" That little threat causes West to jerkily step back with a grimace, that little extra trill of fear compounded with the muffled voices and fear of the trapped workers on the other side of the rubble is what Knox needs to help him move the rebar-bristled rubble. At first their combined efforts produce little more than grinding noises and splintering rock, but then slowly, and with each wiggling motion, the massive pieces of fallen concrete starts to lift up.

Water is the first thing that expels out from the bottom of those stones, a torrent of saltwater that rushes around Stef and Knox's ankles. West jumps up in the air away from it, and just hangs there motionlessly, crossing ihs legs midair and resting his hands on his knees. "Wow, that's— "

"Less gawking more rescuing!" Knox interjects with a growling quality to his voice, straining to manage keeping the debris up with Stef's help. The weight is tremendous, coupled by the water pushing down on top of the stones, it's a miracle the pair can even lift it up the few feet they have. "Go!"

Without another word, West is dropping into the water and rocketing under the debris in a half-swim, half-flight. Muffled screams of thanks come from the workers, even as Wets grabs one and tries to help him out beneath the rubble.

Stef can feel her arms shaking, sweat beading down her forehead, fingers trembling and arms tired. She can barely hold this up, she can barely keep things maintained. Edward Ray was right, she's going to fall apart at the seams. But what's worse, is that she may not even be able to save these people.

The entire island shakes, violently, and the debris begins to fall. A huge piece of concrete topples down from the pile Stef and Knox have lifted, landing down on the ground, blocking West off from the remainder of the trapped workers. He's helped three out, but there are five more inside. "Lift— lift it up again!" The panic helps, but only helps so much.

Shoes soak in water like socks only can. Not everyone gets to be Peter Pan. If Stef had all the abilities she once had, she knew she could do more— even with the original she could double his power in a much more efficent and less hands on way. Not that she'd admit it. The panic might help— but they only have four hands. They can only do so much.

"This is the last— fucking thing— that I need to do, and I'm not going to fucking fail," she growls loudly as she moves in further, toward the new rock. Leverage might help, pushing it up against the old one— but it will be harder for her to get out safely. Not that she intended to walk off the island once she got here. The rock digs into her hands, blood gashes. She's fighting against her own body, as well as the rock. And she knows it.

"Fucking shit. Why didn't you just— punch his face in while he slept— after you got the god damn list," she curses as she continues, a question she knows they don't really have time to answer. The list had better have been worth it.

Skidding his feet across the slicked concrete wet with saltwater, Knox struggles to lift the rocks again, veins in his neck bulging as his teeth clench together. "Fucker— never got afraid!" Arms tremble, and the wiry man struggles to lift the debris, pieces splitting off at the edges, dropping back down. He holds his grip, loosing a hand so he can slide around and crouch down beneath the rocks, pushing up with his back to try and brace the stones with his body. "West!"

Knox's scream is all West needs, and as the frightened maintence and security workers watch on, the young flyboy zips under the rubble again, getting a face full of saltwater. Screams echo from the flooding tunnel, some people crawling on their own out of the hole, others dragged out arm in arm by West as he flies backwards. The moment West gets out of the flooded hall, the ceiling behind Stef and Knox splits open as the chamber gives another violent shake. Salt water comes spilling down thorugh in a torrent, knocking Knox off of his feet and sending him collapsing to the ground.

The lack of his added strength causes Stef's grip on the rubble to slip, dumping thousands of pounds of stone into the hallway. "Shit!" West screams, about to fly forward before the hall cracks down the middle like a snapped wafer-cracker, revealing ruptured pipes and dividing the hallway ina curtain of water. Knox is pinned, trapped halfway beneath a pile of debris, struggling to pull himself out, but not strong enough to do it on his own. "Run!" He shouts to Stef, "Get out of here! West has the list! Go!"

"I didn't come down here to save no fucking list!" Stef says, pushing herself up off the ground and dusting the rubble off of her. Bloody streaks get left behind on her arms, from the tears in her palms and open wounds on her skin. All by himself, Knox may not be able to move the rubble he's pinned under, with the ruptured pipes and the salt water rising up. That's cleaning off some of the blood and the dirt. Soaking through to remind her how cold it gets in November. And how much she doesn't like water. Ever since that bridge, incident.

"You need to get out of here," she says, pulling at the rubble and shoving what she can aside to help out. "Now push and get yourself out or I'll carry you out myself. There's a set of tunnels that might get you off the island. If they haven't fucking collapsed too." She's going to hope they're still there.

"I hope Shard kills him before he drops the whole damn island on top of us."

"You stubborn son of a— " Pushing up on the rocks, Knox lifts the debris up and off of himself with a growl, feet barely able to move as his arms lift the rubble up and over. Much to his shock, he's not the only one lifting. Movement comes through the wall of water, hands, gloves, all grasping the stone. The rescued maintenance crew move in and try to help, prying at the stone that pins their rescuer. West even reluctantly moves in, pulling and prying at the rocks feebly, getting a grip and flying up, trying to leverage the stones enough so that Knox can slip free.

Another rumbling creak strikes the hall, water spilling more and more into the tunnels. When Knox finally wedges out, West grabs a hold of him and drags him to wobbly feet. Blood trails down both of Knox's legs from where the stone pinned him, and wrestled free, he gives a screaming cry, "Go! Go! Get out!"

West pulls him back, the rescued maintenance crew offer a confused look to Stef, eyes wide with thanks and fright. They turn, dashing through the wall of water as pieces of stone fall from that fissure opening. But then, as Stef begins to turn towards where Knox is fleeing with West, another thunder-crack of tectonic movement shatters the hallway, and Stef feels the sudden, horrifying sensation of weightlessness as the ground underfoot gives way, followed by the feeling of falling.

"Stef!" Knox screams, reaching out from over West's shoulder. "Put me down! Put me down! Go back for her!" A deluge of saltwater explodes from the ceiling, a flooding wave of tremendous water that smashes down atop the clone of Gillian Childs, battering her against the ground and tossing her body upon the rocks and rebar. Knox's voice is a muffled murmur, a burbling scream as an enormous portion of Liberty Island is cast off into the sea.


Is this what it's like to die?

It's cold, wet, dark.

This has happened before.

Moonlight shines pale in the sky, the sound of waves and surf crashing up over a pebbly beach. Stars are clear in the heavens overhead, blurry eyes able to focus on them, able to focus on the blue of the night sky. There is a sound of seagulls in the air. Breathe, Stef, her body tells her, and a lungful of water comes up.

She can barely move, blood flowing freely from wounds on her body. How long has she been unconscious, where did she wash up?


Someone is coming…

Soon it will begin to rain, making gasping for air even harder than it already is. The smell of storm and water is like electricity, copper and salt in the air, or maybe that's just Stef, the sickly salt of water scorching her throat as she vomits it up from where it's swollen her insides, and the blood— how can one person produce this much blood

And the sound. Boots crunching through bones. Mainly gravel, but the long dead carcas of a seabird splinters beneath a heel too, brittle feathers crumpling along with a fine ribcage. Staten Island coasts smell like decay.


The name is compulsively spoken, though the long strides of the Midtown Man don't break until he's before her, legs like pillars in her vision before he's crouching down, his face moon pale in the night time setting, shadowed, eyes glimmering. He's upside down from the vantage point, making his expression even harder to read even without eyes that blur. A hand, surprisingly warm, comes to cup her chin.

Perhaps breathing had been a bad idea. It hurts, in more places than she knew she could hurt, honestly. All other deaths had been much quicker, transmitted over a link to a central body. But hers won't have to be felt by anyone except her— But apparently, unlike she thought for a moment, she won't be dying alone.

Stef's vision blurs around the edges, doesn't adjust to the new darkness well. There's so much pain she's surprised it's not really red. Instead it's just dark— and cold. Cold due to the water, cold cause of lack of blood inside her. The weakness doesn't eb, the job is done. Her body feels limp and weak, but she still blinks upwards, listens to the voice.

The voice saying a name she no longer considers her own. Her own name had been the only thing giving her identity, making her her own person, despite the same foundation, the same appearance. Darker hair, much as it'd been the first time they'd met, tattoos covered in blood— but in many ways, the same person, the same history. Up until a few months ago.

Speaking isn't easy, but she still tries. "Gabe— Gabriel— What— what are you doing here…?" Her chin shakes as it's held, the arm trying to push her up some, shivers as if it may buckle. The only thing warm is where he touches her, and there's no move to pull away. Not that she really could if she tried. She'd been told her survived Pinehearst, but she'd never seen him after that.

It's been a long time for both of them, and though shadow floods his eye sockets, throwing dark eyes into further depth of blackness, Stef can probably tell that she's being studied and scrutinised. Cold wind beats at his curved back when he gargoyle-crouches over her, and in one swift movement, he draws his hand away as if it were scalded, a twist of confusion and affront rippling over his expression. Gabriel doesn't acknowledge it with words - instead, his tone weighs heavy when he answers her; "I live here."

Not here, presumably. Close by. The island. The world and everything in it. The next time something touches her, it's ice cold. The roaring of blood as a heart pounds weakly in its final throes meant she didn't heat the snikt of a blade unfolding, and coming to touch her jaw, angle her head up to make sure she's looking at him.

"You're dying." Like she didn't already know. "I can't heal you. I can't even take away the pain. I've changed. Do you understand?"

"Been… dying my whole life," Stef says almost as a joke, perhaps not fiding the knife as scary as she should in this case. Those people she went down the tunnel to save had been saved— they're out. Hopefully by this time Shard has killed White, and everything is fine. The last few weeks have been stolen time, as far as she's concerned. Additional time that's done now.

Air burns as it goes down through her nose, through her throat, trying to find lungs that once held water and blood. The breath is a weeze, the air gives her no strength, no warmth. The aches continue as she tries to move, but can't do much more than weakly shift. She can't move away from the blade— but she manages not to drag her skin against it. Skin that'd already been smashed up against rocks and busted pipes, pushed around in water.

"Do you— do you know what time it is?" Her raspy voice seems far away, made even more far away to her by the roaring of blood with each beat of her heart. One would wonder if she even knows exactly what she's asking, or why. But if nothing else she does know— and she knows who she's asking.

His hand moves under the beck of her neck, drawing her up off the gravel to sprawl half in his lap, allow battered limbs to fall as they may as he cradles her head in his hand. Gabriel knows dying delirium. He'd spoken fancies, too, when he'd been almost as broken up and lying on gravel, with someone he loved looming over him having split apart his injuries. This wasn't his work, however, and love is a very strong word. Despite the distance in her voice, he angles his wrist, glances at the watch face's gleaming circle of glass on its sedate strap. "Too early," he deems is an adequate answer, as he sets the edge of the knife to her forehead.

If he never saw it before, the thing that's killing her even worse than the array of injury she's retained, Gabriel doesn't question why he sees it now. The blade's edge brushes smooth and painless, at first, over the slope of her forehead as if christening, or tracing the line he's about to draw. Tracing the line he'd almost drawn before.

There's no pain, at first, when it sinks in, the blade incorporeal when he measures it against skull and the softer things beneath. He leans over her, head tilted and bird-like, and the last thing she sees before the real pain starts is a slice of a sneer, or so it could be interpreted. Resolve. Anticipation. But the last thing he is is angry to be the one to do it. There is a reason clocks end and start at the number twelve - everything comes full circle. Pain starbursts out when the knife becomes solid, a crack sound of bone riveting from where the knife sticks in place. She sees stars, more than the smattering of pixie dust on the sky above, and then the terrible, impossibly loud sound of sawing as it's drawn across her forehead with glimmers and unfinished flickers of phasing that allows him to slice like a butterknife through spread.

Blood flows warm, streaks her face, dampens his clothing, and he lets it run a little faster as if to urge along the dimming of her eyes.

There's always been pain, some of it numb, some harsh, but Stef hadn't started to scream. Even as her half-blind vision realizes exactly what he's doing. The first thought is out of sync, not understanding. Why is he using a knife? He'd not used a knife before. The scar from the first forceful incision on her forehead still stands out, long healed, but still visible in the indent on her forehead, the pale smooth flesh. An unfinished cut that never got too far. The pain that suddenly drives into her nerves causes a twitch.

Her legs kick out once, her arms move. The broken pieces of her body, broken bones, broken skin, it can't help but twinge slightly in the pain.

Over the loud beating of blood in her ears, she doesn't hear the hoarse whimper that passes her lips as blood drops down from her forehead. It would have been a yell, if her body had more strength and air to make it. Even with all the blood lost, there's plenty more to flow, especially with added assistance to speed along the process. It draws dark lines over her nose, down her cheeks, covering up her beauty mark in darkness. Then the sound can be heard more easily, as the blood flows faster, as the beats of her heart become further apart.

Hazel eyes remain open, watching, even after vision fades. The wheezing whimper stops with her breathing, and the heartbeat fades off soon after.

She can kick, struggle, scream. As long as Gabriel has a good grip on her hair and a knife making fast work through her head, there's little else she can do. And he certainly isn't scared. By the time she's twitched to a stop, he lets the knife drop, grips her head between both hands and draws her up high enough so that he can touch his forehead to her sluggishly bleeding one, angles of cheekbones and nose fitting together for a moment as her eyes sit glassy and useless in sockets, and his shut for the time he takes there.

They rock once, together, before she's falling back, and dark red lines his own face, exchanged as easily as a kiss might have been. He runs the back of his hand across his cheekbone, picks up his knife, twirls it once.

Time to open her up.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License