2010-01-29: No Liberty (Phantasm)



Posting Date: January 29th, 2010


They say you can never go home again. They're right.

"No Liberty"

Staten Island Detention Centre, Staten Island, NYC

Staten Island, the most remote and least populated of New York City's five boroughs. Once, it held museums, ballparks, beaches and the sort of views found on postcards around the world. It was a refuge, a destination, a beautiful place to live for both the law-abiding citizens of the city as well as those seeking to hide.

Now, under a charcoal-streaked sky, it has been converted into a prison camp.

Not the entire island, of course. The little suburbs still exist, housing guards and officials, as well as their families. But the island's purpose is to support its own weight in barbed wire, chain link, watch towers and spotlights. Where Latourette Park once stood, there is now a multi-acre enclosure of naked earth and vigilant guards. Patrols around the double-fenced perimeter are frequent— or they should be. But the prisoners held here are those classified as "low priority/potential use". New terrorists arrive on a daily basis, and just as frequently are removed again. Where they go is the subject of soft and fearful speculation amongst the detainees.

They aren't provided with much. Thick canvas tents, blankets, bright orange jumpsuits and of course, the newest in terrorist technology, thick metal collars complete with blinking light. In the constant gloom, it makes the field look like a gathering of angry red fireflies. One will'o'the'wisp lingers near the perimeter fence, a ragged figure in orange on one knee, fingers straining through the chain-link for a few blades of grass clinging stubbornly to life. Just that tiny hint of green. It seems important to reach them, to feel the color under dirty fingertips again. To remember life.

The angry fireflies attract less attention then the fence itself. Never would he have imagined such a ghetto to exist in the country he grew up on. But part of him knows… it's happened before. He shouldn't be surprised by anything he finds anymore. Peter will just have to stop it from happening when he wakes up.

There's a crunch of footsteps moving closer, but no one is seen where they are heard. A crumble of gravel rocks, a sturring of dirt. The sounds evidence someone should be there, even if sight betrays.

It stops, a few feet away, and as he bends down to get a better look, he fades into sight, the invisibility slipping away from him. He looks ragged. His clothes are dark and torn, with blood stains on the white, leaving the fabric looking red in those places. Blood stains should look brown, but the dream decided to leave them red. Stubble stands out on his cheeks, his face is dirty, his hair growing long, but…

"What is this place?" he asks, not recognizing the dirty figure trying to reach for some blades of grass.

The hand is snatched back; beaten down she might be, but Lena's instincts for self-preservation are still deeply entrenched. And it is Lena, although a gaunt and hungry version of the girl he'd known, back when the sun existed. The hair's the same though, wild and dark around her pale face. Fear and suspicion shift gradually to recognition.

And then horror.

"Pete?!" Lena hisses, pulling herself to her feet by climbing it with her hands and then clinging there to stare at him. "Pete, what are…you can't be here, they'll see you."

As if summoned by the threat, a spotlight from one of the looming towers ripples over the ground in their direction. Lena hunkers down again, shoulders hunched and arms curled to her chest until it passes. But her eyes remain locked on the man on the other side, outside of the wire, drinking in the battered details of him. When the light moves on, she draws a shuddery breath.

"Staten Island Detention Centre. This place. You're…you can't be here. They keep the weak ones here. The folks who can't do shit, except maybe help them…they keep taking folks, and…Pete. What happened to you? Where did you go?" Try as she might, a whining plea creeps into her voice with the questions.

"Don't worry about me. I'll get out of here before…" Before they catch him. The spotlight passes by, not quite hitting him, but close. It may get closer on the next sweep, though. There can't possibly be any hope of him getting away. But he knows he will. Peter's escaped death, he's seen the dream rebuild. He's not really here… And if he does get caught, maybe he'll learn some of what's going to happen. How this happened.

And what he has to do to stop it.

"Lena…" his hand goes onto the fence, touching her fingers through the wires. Such a grip usually isn't safe for many people, but he understands how her ability works, now, and he knows he can counter it. And that collar around her neck…

It will most likely keep her from using the ability on him at all.

"It doesn't matter where I went, I'm back now, and… you're going to be okay now." There's a promise in his voice, spoken or not.

It is safe. Whether she's found control, or that collar has forced it on her, there's none of the euphoria that might be expected from even passing contact. And this is hardly that; her fingers lace through his, palms separated by the metal. It's cold, and so is she.

Lena wants to believe him. The hunger for it is there, writ plain in the eyes searching his. But there's a sour twist to her mouth. Faith isn't coming easy. "It does matter. It matters to me. We waited for you…and…nothing's okay anymore. Look at this. Look at it, Pete." The fence is given a shake to make the links rattle but that burst of anger, focused on her confinement, dies quickly. A nervous look darts over her shoulder, towards the tower and its huge light. Then light eyes shift up again to find dark ones.

"You have to go, Pete. You have to go before they find you here," she whispers urgently. Her fingers press hard against his. "They can't catch you."

While she's cold, he's unnaturally warm. Which makes her feel even more cold to him, rather than really giving much comfort. Peter moves closer to the fence, touching it with his fingers. It shouldn't be too hard to break it, to cut through, to be able to wrap her up in a coat and carry her out of this place.

There's so many of them, from the angry fireflies he can see past her, but… she's personal. She's a friend.

Daphne's words about how he can't save everyone ring out in his mind. There's another voice too, one that's paternal and disappointed, but it's grown quieter lately.

"I'm sorry. I didn't— I shouldn't have disappeared. I should have been here to help you." He doesn't know where he went, he doesn't know why he wasn't there. But he knows he should have been. "I'll get you out of here."

The free hand flicks at the fence, an invisible force snapping the metal wire, beginning to create a hole.

"No…no. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have…it's not your fault." This is an argument they've had before. It's like riding a bike; hopping back onto the guilt train. Lena's almost able to summon a pale smile for the man but that lasts only until those metal links begin to separate. Her eyes widen, and one hand creeps to her throat. Touching, or hiding, the thick band circling it.

A siren goes off in the distant, a wailing alarm to signal the breach in the fence. Of course. Next will be barking dogs, the shouts of guards. Gunfire, perhaps. It's a soundtrack he's heard before, and likely will again.

The spotlights are swinging towards the fence again, all of them.

And Lena is backing up, stepping away from her savior. "Pete, no. You have to run! I can't leave, they put these on us when we get here," she lifts her chin to show the collar, the words a mad and frantic tumble, "so we can't get out but you have to go! Run! Fly! Go, godamnit!"

"I'm not leaving you here," Peter says, having heard the sirens and the spotlights swing all before. They land on him and cause him to flinch away for a moment, so bright they're nearly blinding, but he keeps his hand outstretched. The links break all the way to the top, and he reaches in after her. The hand that held her before, reaches straight through, hand offered out, expression as gentle as he can be while squinting against the light.

Come with him. He'll protect her. He'll help her.

His other hand goes up, reaching through the air to grab the collar. Two invisible hands, stop enough to push an armored van. Strong enough to break this collar. And then he pulls. With great force on either side.

He won't leave her here.

"Peter, no—!"

She might have had time to explain, had he settled for taking her wrist and trying to pull her forward through the fence. Past the poles, past the sensors. Panicked, stuttering, Lena still might have found the words.

But there's no time.

The collar's seal cracks, the red light pulsing in its window going dark. There is a sharp thud, the sound of a baseball thrown at high speed connecting with a body. A rush of hot air, enveloping his hands, taking her throat with it. And then blood. There's always so much blood.

Lena doesn't fall to the ground so much as she's thrown there. No surprise on the blood-flecked face turned up to the sky; just fear.

He didn't know.

The blood splatters on his face, on his hands, on the front of his clothes. Fresh and brighter than it should be, thanks in part to the light that shines down from above. While she wasn't surprised, Peter was. Surprised and horrified. The gesture had been an attempt to save her. He'd wanted to help her, to get her out of this place.

Instead he killed her.

It wasn't a bullet. It wasn't anything external. It had been the collar. And he had pulled it off.

The body lifts off the ground, lifeless. Floating toward him, until he holds it in his arms, eyes closing as they disappear. No where is safe. No where is secure.

But he teleports to one of the more beautiful places, even if the city itself is ravaged and destroyed. The crown of Lady Liberty. In a land where there is none. Where he can hold the young woman and say the only thing he can, over and over, while he tries (and fails) to fight back tears.

"I'm sorry."

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