The World Is Still Here


cat_icon.gif elisabeth2_icon.gif magnes2_icon.gif

Scene Title The World Is Still Here
Synopsis But once again, the effects of the war are felt.
Date Jan 17, 2010

USS George Washington

"I have to go back for Cardinal, he can't fly in shadow form…"

"Cardinal didn't come with you guys?"

«This is Redbird. Implementing Failsafe.»

A sudden eruption of shadow explodes up from the ice like a breath of smoke from the bowels of the earth.

A strange whispering scream like a strong breeze blowing thorugh a narrow crack in stone.

A mushroom cloud of monochromatic illumination, a pure explosion of nothing tangible, merely shadow and darkness brought into that transsubstantiation by what could only possibly be one man.

She hasn't spoken in hours. The eerie silence that accompanied the shadow blast persisted in the helicopter all the way back to the aircraft carrier, and Elisabeth spent the time elbow-deep in Noriko's blood trying to keep the woman alive. Relieved of her burden as they landed on the deck, the between that last radio call and now is nothing more than a series of moments in strobe-effect for her. She doesn't even remember the debriefing. She did her job. The world's not ending.

Or is it?

Seeking the solitude of the fantail observation deck, Elisabeth stands at the rail in the section of deck that the teams have pretty much taken over for themselves since they came aboard and looks out over the sea.

Magnes has slept, for as long as he could manage before suddenly worrying. He has no idea what he's worried about, he's just worried, even a little anxious. What will he do when they return to New York? Will Claire blame him for Cardinal's death? He'll never know if Cardinal's opinion changed… But the world isn't going to flood, and, well, that counts for something.

He's been flying around the ship, having rested up and eaten a ton to get his energy back. The sailors are likely used to this by now, and he's finally out of that body armor. His loose gray NAVY shirt flows in the ice cold Arctic air along with his blue jeans and white sneakers. It's freezing, something that made him feel alive until, well, he realized it was freezing.

Floating down in front of that observation deck, he moves forward, then lands near Elisabeth, leaning on the rail and silently looking over at her.

She's been here before. Both physically, the location overlooking flight deck of this naval vessel and mentally. Almost a year before, when Conrad Wozniak sacrificed himself to prevent viral release at Consolidated Edison. The memory floods back into her mind, causing Cat's steps to cease while she stares at some spot but doesn't seem focused on it. It plays out, set on January 31, 2009 at Elisabeth's place in Dorchester Towers.

"I met up with Ygraine," Cat replies, coming to the point, "and learned some details of the Consolidated Edison operation. It went seriously sideways." Her voice is quiet, features grim. "Not everyone made it out of there." Her fingers don't yet curl around the mug, she just eyes it briefly. Slide into it, prepare the blow, let her get the meaning on her own if possible, that's the method.

Elisabeth's cup is set slowly down on the counter, her blue eyes steady on Cat. "Who'd we lose besides Wozniak?"

"He was the one," Cat replies. It's so much better when delivering news that's already known. It really is. But that doesn't make her less grim. "They had to battle a tank, and heard them decide to switch from launching by the mortar on the roof to the steam tunnels, so he told them all to run and brought the building down on himself. She told me the last word she heard him say over the radio was 'groovy'."

That makes Elisabeth laugh. There's a glisten of tears for him, and she turns back around ostensibly to put the milk away to hide them. "Sounds like him," she says huskily. When she turns back around, she's got herself under control again. "I think he probably went out the way he wanted to," she tells Cat quietly. "He said one time that even if he wasn't part of Phoenix, he'd want to help people. He just didn't want to be responsible if it turned into a clusterfuck. So I think making sure the clusterfuck was stopped? He'd figure that was as good a way to go as any." She glances at Cat, clenching her jaw tightly together for a long moment. "Thank you. For coming to tell me in person."

From there she draws herself to another memory, one just as crystally clear as the older one, despite the much shorter passage of time. Back to the helicopter, to the moment she saw the shadow rise over the drill site, the way that detonation was contained in shadows and eradicated the source of that containment. A comparison is made in her head of how this was handled with how she received the news of Conrad's sacrifice.

«Failsafe Implemented.» The instant those words crossed the radio, Elisabeth head jerked up from Noriko's bleeding body, blue eyes seeking the open ramp at the back of the helicopter. "NO!" The scream is ripped from her involuntarily, and she hauled herself to her feet racing for the open door. It was the echoing scream from Claire and the regenerator's arm around her waist that brought Liz up short to stare in horror at the tableau outside the helicopter. She hadn't been about to throw herself out of the chopper or anything, but she certainly had been a bit reckless about trying to get to the door. And then all were thrown about the chopper as the shockwave hit.

There is a flicker of eyelashes as Magnes sets down next to her, a half-formed awareness that someone else — no, make that two someone elses as Cat stops behind her — has joined her at the rail. Elisabeth's blue eyes are on the horizon where the twilight is just beginning to give way to actual sunrise as it exists at the poles of the world. The sky is moving from that peculiar shade of lavender to lighter shades of rose and soft blue. "Did you need me for something?" she asks of either or both of them quietly. Whatever reaction she is having this time is carefully contained… or maybe, just maybe, the full force of what's happened hasn't even begun to hit the blond yet.

There's no reply from Cat, not even a sign of realizing Elisabeth spotted and spoke to her. She remains still, the expression she's showing one which those most familiar with her can easily recognize as letting herself drift in the playback path made by one of her flawless memories. In that state, she's still replaying those moments just after Richard Cardinal's sacrifice, reviewing Elisabeth's reaction to it.

"I was just thinking, is all…" Magnes looks distantly sad, different from how he's been brooding about Claire for the past few weeks. "I don't know why I always said I didn't like Cardinal, I didn't have a really good reason. I mean, I always hated how he treated me like a kid, and like I couldn't do anything right, but everyone does that, and I like them just fine…" He slumps down a bit, just staring down at the water. "I trusted him, I always thought he knew what he was doing more than anyone, and I always tried to get his approval for whatever reason, I don't know why, I just did. Now I'll never know if this trip changed how he saw me at all, and I'll never be able to say I really did like him…"

Climbing to her feet when the helicopter veers off from the mushroom cloud, the stark darkness of that explosion rivets Elisabeth to the door. And there is a moment there of raw anguish in her features before the shutters come down over her expression and carry it into cop-neutrality. Soldier-neutrality. The job at hand needs to be done. She rips her eyes from the view and goes back to Noriko, her face stark white with shock and her mouth in a grim line.

Magnes's words spark a reaction. "Do you honestly think he fucking cared whether you liked him? SO far, this trip didn't change a damn thing about how he saw you," Elisabeth says viciously, unable to find the tact that she would normally at least attempt to use. "The fact that you would have abandoned the rest of us to go after Claire basically would have proven to him that you hadn't changed a single little bit. Too busy living in your dreamworld reality where the hero always saves the fucking day and rescues the damsel in distress for a happily ever fucking after."

Angry tones snap her from the grip of remembering that moment, of having observed the reaction, and Cat's eyes blink a few times while the conversation at hand finally registers in her mind. It's all drawn out her own feelings of grief which due to that sharp memory are at times as present as they had been when the loss occurred. But for all that, what she shows is a calmly somber expression and quietly spoken words. "Some things are more important than love, and someone you love. They just have to be done."

"It's all about choices, and consequences of choices. Those of us who remain pick up and carry on, to honor the memory and the sacrifice."

"I wasn't abandoning you, do you honestly think I'm that kind of person? I thought you were all escaping, I thought you'd all be going back to the ship. I was choosing to stay behind…" Magnes frowns, climbing up to sit with his legs dangling over the rail, hunched over in a way that might make one worried about him falling to his death if he were anyone else. "I thought you were all safe. I'd have gladly died with Claire if I knew it meant I at least tried. But Francois, someone else we shouldn't forget today, told me that you weren't leaving, so I got on the chopper. I'm sorry, I just, I thought you were leaving her behind and… I couldn't. There's no way I could, I know enough about physics to know that she wouldn't survive that explosion."

He's biting his bottom lip, eyes shut tightly. "I'm sorry, I'm not some soldier. God, I've killed all these people, and I'm expected to just… push it all aside, accept that my girlfriend is gonna die and I should just move on and remember her and not do anything. Well I can't, that's not who I fucking am!" he exclaims back at Cat, apparently more angry at her than Elisabeth.

As she turns to look toward the speaking brunette, it might occur to Cat to notice that Elisabeth is still wearing the blood-stained black pants and body armor that she wore out onto the ice, her hair still pulled back in the ponytail, her fingernails still crusted with black where she couldn't get the blood off. The only thing different is that she's wearing a different coat — someone took the one drenched in Noriko's blood and gave her a new one, but in the hours that he's slept, she apparently hasn't even changed clothes. And she's been out here long enough by now that her skin has gone beyond the pink of cold from the freezing wind to the ashy dryness that comes from having been out too long. She's nowhere near frostbite, but she's cold enough that she's not even shivering as she stands out here anymore. There is a faint sneer to her tone as she replies, "Don't give me the 'pick up and carry on for their sacrifice' lecture, Catherine, or I'm going to throw you over the fucking rail." The rage — the pain — in that retort is deep. Deeper than her reaction to Wozniak's death, deeper even than her reaction to Norton Trask's disappearance and supposed death. She is fighting against feeling the pain of this one as if it will break her altogether if she allows it in.

"Don't you begin to lecture me on whose deaths not to forget," Liz fires at him. "Francois, Richard, even Claire…. we are all soldiers in this fight, Varlane. We all knew the risks. We lost more than half of the teams we took down there. And I'll remember each of them. Their faces will haunt my dreams at night. And in spite of that, I still let the man I love turn into a mushroom cloud of shadows without leaving the rest of the team in the lurch. So yes. I do expect that if you're going to live this life? You figure the fuck out how to push it aside."

"That was actually for his benefit," Cat replies without a twitch to her expression, "in support of your position." She says nothing more regarding the attack it drew as a response. She recognizes the fight as one she routinely wages, manifested in staying busy, becoming so driven. The focus on making new memories to hold attention away from those which can fill her mind at the slightest trigger.

Magnes is then faced, the words spoken to him delivered in a subdued voice. "It sucks, but the truth is in doing what we do, what we've done, sometimes the mission requires ripping the heart from your own chest." Is she speaking of his decisions and actions regarding Claire, or her own in some other case? She isn't elaborating. And presently, as her eyes remain on the man to quietly assess, she wonders if he'll soon associate the vehemence of words Elisabeth speaks with the depth of her connection to Richard Cardinal and stop digging himself a deeper hole.

In time, a span of only seconds which may seem far more to others, Cat has apparently chosen not to speak on any of this further now. She's one who prefers to keep such things private, to not betray anything other than poise, and so the blonde is left that option. Slow footsteps mark her departure from the area.

Some time later, when and if Elisabeth opts to shower and change clothing, she'll find fresh garments laid out in their shared accomodations.

"I'm never going to stop feeling, I'm never going to just… feel nothing for killing someone, even horrible people. I pushed myself as hard as I possibly could, what more do you want from me, Elisabeth?" Magnes is too upset to really register that she loves Cardinal, finally looking over at her with an almost pleadingly exhausted expression.

"I killed who I had to kill, I protected who I had to protect, I gave and gave and fucking gave! I put my faith in people I barely know, over people that I trust. I am not living in a dreamland. How can I even go home and look at myself in the mirror, live a normal life, knowing all the crap I had to do, all the things I saw? I'm not even sure if I can talk to the one person who understood me, who I trusted the most in the world." He swings around on the rail and steps down so he's standing next to her again, facing her. "Don't tell me I haven't changed, don't tell me that I'm just some kid and everything is alright and you're suffering more than anyone else. What am I going back home to, Elisabeth? My life is never gonna be what it was, none of ours are. Don't just… fucking… look down on everything I had to lose too…"

He clutches his chest, trying to somehow regain his composure, or keep what little of it he has left, then floats up to the top of the rails, standing on them now. "You know what? I don't care anymore, I really don't, it doesn't matter, at all. You people don't like me, you never have and you never will. Claire's gonna be the same, because she's gonna get to know me from the outside in instead of inside out, and, I just have to accept that. None of this matters…" He closes his eyes, taking a deep breath, just standing there and peacefully takes in the breeze. "There's nothing to gain, nothing to get back. I don't know what you're all going through, it'd probably just make you angry if I tried, but this trip destroyed me. I'm just… I can't do it anymore, I can't take anymore loss, anymore hate, seeing myself do things I wouldn't normally do. I'm just completely done."

He starts to slowly float from the rail, as if he intends to fly away. "When you're back in New York, even though I know it won't really matter or anything, just tell Claire I love her, alright? And tell everyone else I'm thinking about them."

She hasn't tried to tell him her suffering. It's brutally clear to Elisabeth in this moment that even if she tried, he wouldn't get it. Richard was right… the kid will never, ever get a clue. Not even after all he's seen, he still doesn't get the clue. He would never have survived being a cop. There is nothing left in her for him but pity. "I never disliked you," she finally comments to him. "I've stuck up for you, rescued you when you needed it, and even tried to understand. But I don't have it in me to do right now, Magnes. You don't know the meaning of being destroyed," she says quietly. "I'll tell them. I'll tell them all." And then she goes silent once more, looking out over the water and retreating back into her shell. Talking makes it real — it's easier to simply be silent and watch the sun come up.

Footsteps halt moments later, Cat still being in earshot. She turns on her heel and approaches the man, her head shaking slowly. "Magnes," she calmly commences, "step back and think. What does it tell you when you see a woman on a helicopter scream about what we saw, and need to be kept from the door? Go think about that, and leave her in privacy now. Please."

Afterward, she once again turns. Departure resumes, soon she's gone beyond line of sight.

"I'm sick of comforting everyone when all I ever get told is to suck it up and not feel. It's my turn to be callus." Magnes ascends from the rail, flying over the ship. He'll return to the room and get his things, probably pack some food and water, but then he'll be gone, at least for now.

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