DAY ONE (Praimfaya)
“We don’t break. We don’t show fear. Death can be an act of unity too. The people will remember.”
* * * * *
“Forgive me,” he whispered, touching her soft brown hair one last time. Then he inhaled deeply, clenched his fists to steel himself, and walked upstairs to die.
His people would be safe, now. Octavia and Indra and Thelonious would lead them. Abby would never forgive him – either for saving her against her wishes, or for choosing his own death – but that was a weight he would only have to bear for a few more hours, and then it would all be over. The important thing was that Abby would live.
Marcus Kane had stood by and done nothing when Clarke Griffin lost her father. He would not let her lose her mother too.
He had hoped she might be back by now, with Bellamy and Raven, so at least he could have given his goodbye to Abby by way of her daughter. And there were so many things to say to Bellamy, too, that he’d never be able to say now - things he'd tried to say before, but he'd done it badly, it was the wrong time, Bellamy hadn't been ready to hear it. And then he'd waited too long; there wouldn't be another chance, now. But Clarke and Bellamy would be all right without him. They all would. This was the end of the line for him, they were all each walking along their own road, and his stopped here but the others would still go on. He had taken them as far as he could; it was up to them, now.
It felt, to him, as though he had been living on borrowed time since the moment he had offered to sacrifice himself to stay behind on the Ark and send Abby and the others down to Earth without him. He'd been given a reprieve, then. And another when Jaha refused to kill him in Lexa's prison cell. And another at Mount Weather. And another when he was spared from Charles Pike's bullet. He had been ready for this moment, over and over and over again. In a way, he'd been expecting it. As though Death were - if not exactly an old friend - at least an intimately familiar nemesis. Marcus Kane had been waiting for his number to come up for a long time. It seemed cruel and ironic that Death should wait until now, when he had Abby, when he had a family, when he had so much to live for - the choice on the Ark had not been nearly this difficult - but still, he was ready. As long as he kept thoughts of Abby carefully locked away, he was all right. He did not embrace Death with any great enthusiasm, but he went with his head held high. He felt no fear. He felt no sorrow. He felt almost nothing at all.
. . . that is, as long as he did not let himself look at Abby.
But he shot one last parting look at the others – at Jackson, at Nathan Miller, at the guards he’d served with since the Ark, at people he’d known all his life – before turning his back to leave them behind. He followed the long, long line of Grounders carrying unconscious bodies out into the temple, where his last act as Chancellor of the Sky People awaited him.
The gas in the canisters was potent, and though everyone responded to it differently, on average it could take several hours to wear off. Weakened by increased radiation, most of his people would be incinerated by the death wave while still unconscious. They would feel nothing. They would not know.
But some of them, he knew, might wake. They might open their eyes to find themselves on the wrong side of the door, and realize what happened, and panic. Someone they recognized and trusted needed to be there to ease their fear, to hold their hands, to pray with them, to listen. Someone they trusted must be there with them when they woke up, and remain with them until the end.
And Chancellor Kane’s name was not on Clarke’s list. Which meant his place was in the temple, with the rest of his people, to give them whatever comfort he could, for as long as they had left.
It was not what he wanted. But it was the right thing to do.
Indra and Thelonious escorted him as far as the steel door leading to the airlock, and said their somber goodbyes there. Thelonious embraced him first, handing him a radio. “We will stay with you until the end, Marcus,” he said, warmth in his low, rich voice, and they embraced with deep affection. So much darkness in their past, all forgotten. No point, now, in holding onto all that anger. No point in going to his death with anything in his heart but love for all these people. There had been a time, long before any of this happened, when Thelonious was one of his closest friends; Kane much preferred to spend his remaining hours remembering him like that.
Since, after all, this was his last day on earth.
“In peace may you leave this shore,” his friend said quietly into his ear, his arms around Kane strong and comforting. “In love, may you find the next.” Tears sprang to Kane’s eyes at his words, remembering all the people he had said them for, and now they were being said for him. “Callie will be waiting for you,” Thelonious went on, eyes shining, voice kind. “And Charles Pike. Jacopo Sinclair. All the people we lost in the Culling, all those we lost when the Ark came to earth. All the people we have loved.” He pulled back, hands on Kane’s shoulders. “You will be with your mother again soon, Marcus. She will see you, and know what you have become, and she will be proud.” Then he stepped back, and let Indra take her turn to embrace him.
“You have seen much loss, Marcus of the Sky People,” she said, voice unexpectedly gentle. “When you reach the sacred place, there will be many arrayed to greet you. Lexa and Lincoln among them.”
“That’s a comforting thought,” Kane replied, managing a weak smile. “'As it is above, so it is below,' my mother used to say. Perhaps, after all we have done here on earth to unite our people into one clan, we shall now find them united after death as well."
“I believe it,” said Indra, dark eyes shining with emotion. “You have fought well for your people. It is time to lay down your sword, and rest.” She rested her hand on his shoulder. “I will watch over Octavia for you,” she promised him soberly. “I know that she is as dear to you as she is to me.”
“She could ask for no better guidance than yours,” Kane told her sincerely. “Thank you, friend. For everything you have done.” Then he pressed a kiss against her cheek - a liberty that would have earned him a sword through the chest six months ago, he reflected with some amusement - and stepped back, towards the door.
And then, because it was all over now, because this was the last hard thing so what harm could it do, he turned and gave one last look at the crowd of fallen bodies on the floor, at all that was left of the Sky People.
Abby had reached out for Jackson as she fell. He could see them lying side by side. She was holding his hand.
Go, now, before it’s too late, said an urgent voice in his mind, and so he turned away. She had been frightened, she had reached out for Jackson as she fell, she had known exactly what was happening to her and when she woke she would know who had done it, and why.
He wished they had gotten a better goodbye than this. He hoped she would not stay angry at him forever.
He hoped, someday, she could learn to forgive him.
“I was hoping to say goodbye to Clarke and the others,” he said, swallowing hard, distracting himself, desperate to turn his mind away from thoughts of Abby grieving for him. “But in case I don’t have the chance, in case –"
He stopped short, but both Indra and Thelonious nodded heavily, understanding what he meant.
In case I’m already dead by the time they get back.
“We’ll pass on any message you need,” said Jaha firmly. “We promise.”
“Tell Octavia I have faith in her,” he told Indra. “Tell her whatever doesn’t kill her makes her stronger. She’ll know what it means.” She nodded, eyes shining with emotion, as he turned to Jaha. “Tell Clarke that I love her," he said softly. "Tell her how much I wanted to be her family, how much I wish we had more time. Tell her I forgive her, tell her she made the right list. And tell Bellamy . . . tell him even though he wasn’t ready to hear it when I said it to him before, that I am proud of him. Of the man he’s become. Tell him I love him, too. And tell Abby –"
Tell Abby what?
There was so much to say that there was nothing to say. There was no way to put it into words. How she had changed him, what she meant to him, how he would walk into the fire a hundred times, a thousand times, and gladly, if it meant that she had the chance to live.
“Tell her she was everything to me,” he finally murmured, then took a deep breath and opened the airlock door.
“Yu gonplei ste odon, ai bro,” came Indra’s voice from behind him, and “Goodbye, old friend,” said Thelonious, as the door closed behind him, leaving him alone in front of the stairs to the temple.
Alone, that is, except the slender figure who disentangled herself from the shadows and moved forward to block his way, arms folded, eyes blazing with fury.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Octavia demanded, anger so palpable it radiated off her body in waves. “Get back inside.”
“My place is with them,” he explained as gently as he could manage. “It’s all right, Octavia. This is where I need to be.”
“You’re the damn Chancellor, Kane. Your place is here.”
“The lottery didn’t work, Octavia. The only fair way to do it was to use the system we agreed on before, back in Arkadia. We used Clarke’s list.”
Octavia stared at him, eyes wide, shock etched all over her face. “You’re fucking kidding me,” she exclaimed. “Clarke didn’t put you on the list?”
“I told her not to,” he reassured her. “We talked about it. Over and over. We had three Chancellors, and that was more than we needed. A doctor, an engineer, and a soldier. I was the expendable one,” he shrugged, trying to smile. “It was the choice that made the most sense.”
“Yeah? You think Abby would agree with that?" She stopped suddenly. "Kane," she said slowly, realization dawning, horror in her voice. "Kane, does she know?"
"We agreed it was best if she didn't see the list," he said, the memory of those painful conversations with Clarke still fresh in his mind. "She believes I'm listed as 'essential personnel,' and we didn't think we would ever have to use the list, so we just . . . didn't correct her. I know," he went on firmly, raising his hand to silence the objection he could see forming on her lips, "I know, Octavia. But if you don’t think I’ve been over this from every angle –"
“Kane, when she wakes up, and you're not here –"
“We need you,” she said, something new in her voice, something vulnerable, reminding him suddenly that she was still just barely seventeen years old. “I need you, Kane. I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. I was counting on having you here. You were supposed to be here.”
He put his hands on her shoulders. “You won the conclave,” he reminded her gently. “You’ll have Indra, and Gaia, and Jaha, and Bellamy, and Clarke, and Abby, and dozens of others who will give you any help you need.” He kissed her forehead. “You can do this, Octavia,” he whispered. “I have faith in you.”
“Kane, please don’t do this.”
He shook his head. “It’s a bulletproof list,” he said, smiling sadly. “I didn't want it to end like this either, Octavia, but she did a good job. There’s no one else we can spare. I can’t ask someone else to give up their spot for me. Everyone lost someone they loved. Everyone has someone they care about on the opposite side of this door. Abby and I don't deserve special treatment just for that."
“Don’t do to her what he did to me,” she said in a hoarse, miserable voice, and Kane looked up sharply to see her eyes bright with tears. “What you all did to me.”
“I woke up on the back of my horse, Kane, he shot me with a damn Reaper stick to keep me from being able to stop him, and then all I could do was stand there and watch, I couldn’t do anything, he made his choice without me, he didn’t even let me try –"
“Octavia,” he said firmly, squeezing her shoulders. “Octavia, it isn’t the same. We can’t stop the death wave from coming. There’s no one to blame here. There’s no one to be angry at. Pike pulled the trigger. Pike made that choice. This isn’t the same.”
“It’s exactly the same,” Octavia insisted furiously. “She loves you, and she’s going to wake up and it’s going to be too late, and after everything she and Bellamy did to try and save us –"
“You were there, Kane, you remember how terrified she was! You saw her face when that door opened, she was reliving Jake, she's done this before, she was willing to do anything to save your life. And Bellamy, too, did you think about that? About how he's going to feel when he comes back and after everything he did to get us both back inside the bunker, you're just walking back out again?”
“Then tell me what to do, Octavia!” he exploded, his veneer of control finally beginning to shatter. He drew away from her to meet her eyes, plaintive, pleading, hands wide open in surrender. “Give me a better plan. Anything. I’ll take anything. Does someone from another Grounder clan want to sacrifice themselves just so the chancellor of Skaikru can live? Shall we all just take turns breathing so we don’t run out of oxygen, because we went over the mandatory population limit? Who should I kick off the Skaikru list, one of the farmers or one of the engineers?” Octavia was silent. "I'm sorry," he said finally, moving towards the stairs. "But there's no other choice." She didn't look up at him, but she didn't block his way either. She just stood there, rooted to the spot, staring down at the cold concrete floor. She did not cry, though her jaw clenched and unclenched as though she were fighting to hold the tears back. “There’s three hours left before the death wave, and I have a radio,” he said gently. She didn't look up. “If you somehow came up with a workable solution in the next three hours, I would come back in a heartbeat. But I promise you, I wouldn't be doing this if I hadn't already considered every other option. This time there was no other way."
“Goodbye, Octavia,” he said finally. “Take care of our people.” Then he made his way up the stairs, pushed open the door into the temple, and heard it slam closed behind him.
Goodbye, Abby, he said to himself, and sat down amidst the sea of motionless bodies to wait.
* * * * *
The other clans awaited the death wave inside their embassies, performing their last rites among the symbols of their people. But the Skaikru embassy was too far from the bunker, and the atmospheric radiation made it too dangerous to brave the elements for long; instead, Octavia’s guards had deposited all the unconscious bodies in the temple of the first commander. Which was fitting, in its own way. At least, Kane thought, running his hand over the Polaris shuttle, they would die among things that had come from space. Things that felt, maybe at least a little, like home.
He was not alone for long; a shape moving in the far recesses of the room caught his eye, and revealed himself to be David Miller.
“Nate?” he said immediately, face drawn with concern, scanning the room for his son's body.
Kane shook his head. “Inside,” he reassured him, watching the man’s shoulders slump in relief. “Safe. I promise.”
“Jackson with him?”
“Yes, he is.”
“Good,” said David, rising heavily to his feet and stepping with care over the unconscious bodies to make his way over to where Kane sat. “I like that kid. He’ll be good for Nate. He’s steady, I like that in a person. Abby seems crazy about him. And she’s a good judge of character.” He raised his eyebrow at Kane. “Present company excepted.”
Kane hadn’t expected to laugh today, but there it was.
David Miller dropped a hand on Kane's shoulder as he eased himself down onto the cold floor beside him and pulled a flask out of his pocket. “No point in being grim about it,” he remarked, looking around the room at the bodies and shaking his head. “Gas canisters, that was smart,” he added, taking a long swig and passing Kane the flask. “Grounders would have taken out the whole lot of us if they’d opened the door and seen fighting. Sorry you lost the lottery, though.”
There seemed no point in explaining about the list, so Kane merely shrugged and let this pass, and took the moonshine David offered him. They sat there in amicable silence for a long time, passing the flask back and forth.
“This is how it’s supposed to be,” David finally said, certainty in his voice. “Parents are supposed to go first. We don’t have to like it, but that’s the way the world works. Our kids are safe, that’s what matters. This is what fathers do.”
“I don’t remember my father,” Kane said, rather unexpectedly. It seemed an odd time for personal revelations, but perhaps the end of your life is as good a time as any to reflect on the beginning of it. “I was only two when he died.”
“What happened to him?”
“Floated for getting in a fight over moonshine rations. He was a drunk.”
David took this in with a nod, neither judging nor offering insincere sympathy, just absorbing it as a new piece of information about the man sitting next to him. “I had both of mine until I was ten, and then there was a chemical explosion in Factory Station while they were on shift together. So the way I look at it,” he added, with something almost like cheerfulness as he took another swig of moonshine, “I already gave my own son better than my parents could give me. Nate had me almost twice as long. And maybe, whatever happens after this, whatever world they build in five years when that door opens again, he’ll get to have his own kids for a good long life. Grandkids, even, imagine that.” He looked over at Kane. “This is how it’s supposed to be,” he told him again, his hand on Kane's shoulder, warm, reassuring. “You were a father to a lot of kids who needed a father, and you gave them as much time as you had left. That’s not nothing. That’s a lot. You made a good man out of Bellamy Blake, Marcus. He won’t forget you after you’re gone. None of them will.”
“Thank you,” said Kane in a low voice, and meant it.
They were silent for a long time.
“I don’t know what to say about Abby,” David finally murmured, shaking his head. “I don’t know what to say.”
“There’s nothing to say,” Kane said flatly, and took another long drink of moonshine to try and keep himself from thinking. He was spared the need to say anything further when the sound of a body stirring, and a quiet whimpering rising into a howl, came from the hallway.
David rose to his feet. “Someone else is waking up. I’ll go bring them in.” He looked down at Marcus with half a smile. “Good thing Vera Kane’s son is here,” he said dryly. “You remember all the words?”
Marcus nodded. “I remember all the words."
“Good,” said David, making his way back through the crowd of bodies. “I’m sorry you’re not inside the bunker, Marcus,” he added sincerely, looking back as he passed through the doorway, “but I’m sure glad you’re here.”
Then the shadows swallowed him up, and he was gone.
* * * * *
The first hour was chaos.
Of the three hundred or so Sky People carried up to the temple to wait for the death wave, at least twenty-five, besides David Miller, had awoken as the effects of the gas wore off, which was enough to create the very real risk of a stampede and a mass panic. It took all Kane had left in him to stand between the crowd and the door, voice calming but strong, and make himself heard.
“I know you are angry,” he said to them, holding out his hands. “Angry at the people still inside. Angry at forces we cannot control. Angry at the Grounders. Angry at me. And I know that anger is rooted in fear. None of us wished for this. None of us desired this fate. Many choices we might once have made have been taken from us, and you may call that injustice, and I won't argue with you about that. But be that as it may, the choice we have now – the only choice left to us – is this: what will we do with the last that remains of our time?”
“You’re saying we should just roll over and give up?” he heard someone shout, as a figure elbowed its way through the small crowd of muttering, furious people and revealed itself to be a girl in a blue dress with a tightly-drawn, angry face. “Why don’t we fucking fight? Why aren’t we gathering every weapon we can find, to break down that door?”
Kane could not remember the girl’s name, but he knew who she was; only a few young women of childbearing years had been left off Clarke’s list, and this girl, whose face bore the telltale scars of a wasting childhood illness, had been omitted based on her medical records. The chances of successfully conceiving were less than ten percent, and she had been condemned to die based on that. Her anger was nothing if not just. He felt nothing but compassion for her.
“You cannot fight radiation with weapons,” he said simply. “There is no one left to fight. It would bring you nothing. It would accomplish nothing.”
“It sure as hell will,” she retorted. “I don’t want to have to kill Grounders, but I will if I have to. When they open that door to let you back inside, we’ll be ready for them.”
“I’m not going back inside,” he said, and the whole crowd stared. So did she.
“What do you mean?”
“I’m not going back inside,” he repeated. “I’m here with you until the end. I’m staying.”
“But you’ll die.”
“You’re the Chancellor.”
“By tomorrow, someone else will be.”
The girl stared at him, astonished, some of her fury beginning to fade into confusion. “You could have forced them to make a place for you,” she demanded. “Why didn’t you?”
“Because it was a good list," he said, shrugging. "Doing the right thing is often unpopular and usually difficult, but Clarke Griffin did the right thing. She made a list based on painful, complicated calculations about our survival. Who would be most likely to bear children? Who would have the skills needed to maintain and repair the machinery we would need to survive? Abby Griffin is a doctor and Thelonious Jaha is an engineer, and the Grounders elected Octavia Blake to lead the clans. I'm not needed."
The girl was watching him with suspicion, like this was a trick, like the idea of embracing such a fate with patient resignation was alien to her. He took a risk, then, and sat back down on the ground, motioning her to join him. After a moment, she did . . . and the others, one by one, did too.
“What’s your name?” he asked her.
“Vera,” she told him, and smiled a little at his expression of shock. "My parents went to your mom's church," she explained. "They thought my mother couldn't have a child. Your mom prayed with them nearly every day. When I was born, they told her she'd made a miracle happen."
"We'll all be with her soon," he said softly, and felt something inside his chest loosen. It was the first thought that had brought him real comfort since he'd made his decision an hour ago.
The girl looked up at him. "Aren't you scared?" she demanded suddenly. "Why aren't you more scared?"
"I am scared," he told her frankly. "And I'm angry. And sad. And I'm thinking about the people I love who are on the other side of that door, who I'll never see again. None of us wants to be here. None of us chose this ending. But the fact that we're out there means other people will get to live. It means that the human race will survive. Did my mother ever tell you about Moses?" The girl nodded. "I grew up on those stories," Kane told her, feeling the crowd draw closer, listening, feeling the heated anger drain out of the room, feeling something like peace begin to slowly, slowly chip its way through.
David Miller's eyes met his from across the room, and he gave an approving nod. Keep going, David mouthed to him, and Kane looked around and realized that the whole crowd of furious people had sat down on the floor. Some were embracing, some holding hands, but most were watching Kane, listening with keen attention to hear what he said to the girl named Vera.
"Moses led his people towards a Promised Land he didn't live to see himself," he told her. "That was the deal. That was the contract he made with God. He led them out of the place where they were imprisoned, towards hope and freedom, and he took them as far as he could, and then they went on without him the rest of the way. We are Moses, now. That's all of us. None of us wished to die, none of us wished to be here, but our presence here in this temple means that others will get to live. It means our people will survive. It means that in five years, this door will open again and the people we love will come back outside and they will remake the world." He reached out and took the girl's hand. "We all die, eventually," he reminded her gently. "At least all of us know that our death has meaning. That it has a purpose. It isn't what we chose, and it isn't what we wanted, but it's not nothing. They will remember us," he tells her, lifting his head, raising his voice a little, feeling the others sit up and listen, knowing he is speaking to us all. "They will remember all of our names. They will know that others died so that they could live. Children will be born, because we died here today. They will come back up out of the dark, five years from now, and they will build homes and plant green things and build a home that will last. All the wars are over. All the storms will be over. This is the Promised Land, Vera," he says, squeezing her hand. "What they make in five years will be the home that lasts. This time, it's real. And you're a part of that. All of us are a part of that. All of us are building the Promised Land with them."
He heard the radio crackle, and felt a pang in his heart. Thelonious was there, on the other end of the line. Thelonious was listening.
He felt the girl named Vera begin to grow calmer, felt her panic and fury subside, as she squeezed his hand back, and something like peace began to flow over him. It wouldn't be long now. Two hours, at most. He was already beginning to feel a little warm, a little faint, like he'd been out in the hot sun too long - the very gentle early signs of radiation sickness beginning to show. Mild, yet, not even unpleasant. It would be peaceful, when it came. He was ready.
They were ready.
I'm coming, Mother, he thought to himself, and closed his eyes.
* * * * *
Dying, Kane thought sleepily, was not really so bad.
He could feel David Miller’s hand gripping his left, and the girl named Vera on his right. There were now only about a dozen people left conscious – the heat had weakened several more, who the others had gently laid down to rest – and all those remaining had formed a circle around the metal bunker door, holding each other’s hands to send their prayers down to their loved ones in the bunker below.
Thoughts of Abby were still too painful, so as they went around the circle and spoke the names of their families and friends, Kane had chosen to send his prayers to Octavia. It was after the prayer circle that he had begun to feel drowsy – fatigue was one of the earliest signs of radiation sickness, he remembered, which meant if he was lucky, all of this would be over before the death wave came.
He felt his head loll forward, drowsy from the heat as radiation seeped into his bones and Vera’s hand tightened in his, and he thought about Octavia. He remembered watching her fight in the rain, bruised and bloody and caked with mud, but still unrelenting, desperate to prove to Indra – and maybe to herself – that she was stronger than anyone believed. He remembered all the times she spoke Trigedasleng with him, and the time she and Lincoln had tried to teach him to ride Helios. He remembered the first time he watched her duck inside the wall to slip outside the gates of Arkadia, and how he worried every single minute of the day until she was safely back inside again. He remembered how she had moved heaven and earth to save him and Lincoln and Sinclair, and he remembered the devastating way her face crumpled as he held her in the rain and they watched Charles Pike raise his gun to Lincoln’s head. He remembered the way it felt like a knife through his heart when Echo told them she was dead, and the sheer exultation of relief when he realized she was alive. He remembered the fierce ache of endless worry he felt during the conclave and the swell of pride and affection and relief in his chest when he watched her walk into the throne room and knew she had won.
He had no more than an hour left to live – maybe less, if the radiation took him first – so everything he had left, he sent to Octavia. He had not thought, on the Ark, that he would ever be a man who wanted children, or was suited to be anyone’s father. He had lived nearly all his adult life believing that. And then he had met Bellamy and Octavia Blake, and at first they had found one another mutually infuriating, and even a truce had seemed impossible. And yet somewhere along the way – he had no idea how or why or when – they had become, in some unaccountable way, his.
He would never be a father, not truly. Not the way Thelonious was, or the way Jake had been. But maybe this was a little window into what it felt like, to leave the younger generation behind you and hope that all the things you tried to say had reached them. Maybe once he was gone, Octavia would remember the person he had believed she could become, and it would be as though she carried a piece of him with her still.
He liked the thought of that. That was something he could hold onto.
Goodbye, Octavia, he said silently, as his eyes sank heavily closed, and then heard her voice calling his name.
In the hot, sweltering silence, as he began to slowly drift away, he wondered if her voice was coming from his mind, if perhaps he had prayed for her so long and so intently that he had begun to hallucinate her presence. Maybe this was the beginning of the end. Maybe this was how dying felt. Maybe Octavia was the figure his half-conscious brain had concocted to take him by the hand and guide him from this life into the next.
“Kane! Kane, come in! For fuck’s sake, Kane, pick up the goddamn radio!”
He opened his eyes.
David Miller, leaning heavily against a pillar but slightly more conscious than Kane was, nodded towards the radio sitting next to the bunker door. “It’s for you,” he said dryly.
“Kane, please tell me you’re still alive up there. Pick up. For the love of God, pick up.”
He picked the radio up. “I’m here, Octavia,” he said, a little blearily, forcing the words to form in his mouth. “What’s wrong? Are you okay? Is everyone okay?” Is Abby okay?, he meant but couldn’t bring himself to ask.
“Kane!” He heard a scuffle and voices in the background – Octavia was with Indra and Thelonious and . . . was that Jackson? What was he doing in the office, with a hundred patients recovering from the gas canisters?
“Kane, I’m opening the door. You’re coming back inside.”
He sighed. “There’s an hour left, Octavia,” he said wearily, rubbing his temples. “I don’t want to spend it arguing with you.”
“You promised me you would come back if I found a way. I found a way.”
“No, Kane!” Her voice was ferocious. “You promised. You said if I came up with a workable solution in the next three hours, you would come back inside. And I have one. Stand back, we’re unlocking the door.”
“Octavia, I told you – “
“They’re going to space,” she interrupted him. Kane’s head snapped up, astonished, and met David Miller’s eyes. The others were rousing now, and beginning to move closer to listen.
“They’re what? Who is? Octavia, what are you –“
“There isn’t time to explain,” she said impatiently. “Bellamy, Murphy and Emori left with Clarke to go fetch Raven. They picked up Harper and Monty on the way. And Echo, apparently. They got delayed on the way and there wasn’t time to make it back here before the death wave hit, so they’re taking Becca’s rocket to the Ark.”
“To the Ark?” he exclaimed. “My God, that’s insane. Whose lunatic idea was that?”
“Whose do you think?” he heard Jackson mutter in the background, but Octavia pressed on.
“Kane, listen to me,” she said urgently. “Clarke and Bellamy and Raven were all on the list. We only have ninety-seven people to fill a hundred slots. We have three people’s worth of oxygen left.”
Kane set down the radio and looked around the room. There were eleven people left conscious, including himself and David Miller and Vera, and all of them were now listening intently, too afraid to commit to hope with the end so close, but beginning at least to consider it. Oh, this was cruel. Eleven people for three slots. No, he was done making lists. She could not ask him to decide this.
“Octavia,” he said gently, “there are more than ten of us still conscious up here, and all of them can hear you. I can’t make that choice again. I can’t decide who will live and who will die. I already did that once today, and I won’t do it again.”
“I already chose,” she said decisively, “and it’s you. Just you.”
“The other two spots are spoken for,” she said, something strange in her voice.
Kane shook his head. “There are good people up here,” he said, looking at David Miller, looking at Vera, “they should get to live, there are people younger than I am, more useful than I am, there are hundreds of people still up here that you’ll need more than you would ever need me.”
“No. It has to be you.”
“Octavia – “
“I can’t – it’s not my thing to tell you, I wasn’t supposed to – She should get to tell you herself, it shouldn’t be like this, over the radio, with everyone listening – “
He heard a scuffle in the background, like a muffled argument, and the sound of someone else grabbing the radio out of Octavia’s hands. “We don’t have time for this,” Jackson snapped. “Abby’s pregnant, Kane. It wasn’t brain damage from ALIE’s chip. Her brain is fine. It’s going to be hard enough when she wakes up to break the news to her that Clarke is going to space; if you make me tell her she’s eight weeks pregnant and the father of her children didn’t come back inside even after we told him he could – “
“Children?” repeated David Miller, who was far more articulate at the moment than Kane was. He sat staring, openmouthed, at the radio, unable to process the magnitude of the thing Jackson and Octavia were trying to tell him.
“Twins,” said Jackson. Then, hesitantly, “Nate said to tell you that he loves you.”
“Keep him out of trouble,” said David, and Jackson gave a sad laugh.
“Not sure that’s possible,” he told him, “but I’ll try.”
“Kane, please,” Octavia’s voice came back through the speaker. “We voted, and we all agreed. We have three spots left, and they’re for you and your children. To keep your family together. Kane, you’re going to be a father.” Silence. He was still too stunned to move or speak. “I promised Clarke,” she added desperately. “She knows about Abby. She made me swear that I would make sure her spot in the bunker went to you. Please, Kane. You have to come back inside.”
Kane couldn’t move. His mouth moved, but no sound came out.
Abby’s pregnant, Kane.
Kane, you’re going to be a father.
But how could he leave these people, after he’d promised to stay with them until the very end? How could he take the only life raft, and leave them behind without looking back? How could he save himself if there wasn’t a way to save the rest of them, too?
“Open the door,” said David Miller, taking the radio gently out of Kane’s hands. “He’s coming back inside.” Kane stared at him. “I see what you’re thinking,” David said firmly, “and the answer is no. No, wanting to live doesn’t make you selfish. It makes you human. And in this case, it makes you a dad.”
“David – “
“No, Kane, you’re not abandoning us. No, we aren’t going to rise up in revolt and smash down the door if they open it up to let you in.” Kane was silent. “Your kids need you,” David told him. “All our kids need you.”
A dull metallic scrape sounded beneath their feet, the round door etched with the Second Dawn logo now unlocked. But still, Kane didn’t move. “I only have three minutes before I have to seal the door again,” came Octavia’s voice from the radio. “Hurry. Say your goodbyes and come back into the airlock. After this, the door seals for good.”
The girl named Vera reached out unexpectedly, and took Kane’s hand in hers. “Maybe you got your mother’s stories wrong,” she said, with something like a ghost of a smile on her lovely scarred face. “Maybe you’re not Moses, Chancellor. You’re Joshua. You’re the one who carries on, after all those years in the desert and the wilderness, all those years thinking they’d never reach their home. Joshua was the one who never lost faith. Who led their people to the Promised Land he had never seen, but believed in anyway.” She squeezed his hand. “That’s you,” she told him. “And if you’re Joshua, you still have work to do. Your story doesn’t end here. Go back inside.”
“Your first act of fatherhood,” Miller agreed, kneeling down to lift open the hatch. “You’re going to go down those steps, and you’re going to close this door behind you, and you’re going to live.”
“We’ll take care of each other,” said Vera, looking around at the others, who nodded. “It won’t be long now.”
“You came with them to give them comfort,” said David Miller, dropping a warm, comforting hand on Kane’s shoulder. “You did that. You haven’t broken a promise, Marcus. But Abby and your children need you more.”
Abby’s pregnant, Kane.
Kane, you’re going to be a father.
“You’re out of time,” David said, voice urgent, brooking no dispute. “Go, Kane. It’s okay.”
Most of the others were too weak by now to rise from their places on the floor, but those who were able rose to their feet and reached out to Kane as he passed them, squeezing his hand as he made his way to the opening of the bunker. Miller was the last. “Tell my son I love him,” he said, embracing him. “Now go be with your family.”
Kane gave one last look around the room, saying a final silent goodbye to the rest of the Sky People, then stepped inside and descended the staircase. The last thing he saw, as he looked up behind him, was the girl named Vera smiling down at him, peace and benediction in her bright green eyes.
Then the door closed, and they were gone.
* * * * *
Octavia greeted him at the door with a syringe, which she jammed unceremoniously into his arm before he even had a moment to protest. “That’s from Jackson,” she said. “For the radiation. He said as long as you were still conscious and had no visible burns on your skin, the dosage is strong enough to clear it up completely.” Kane hardly heard her. “Kane,” she said, shaking his shoulder. “Kane. Snap out of it. You’re alive. You’re going to be fine.”
But everything was still blurry and there were too many things to think and feel and he still didn’t know how to turn thoughts into words again, and the reality of the situation had not yet fully sunk in yet. He had spent hours and hours convincing his mind to prepare for the inevitability of death, and the reprieve had come so quickly it didn’t feel real to him yet.
Octavia, sensing that he wasn’t entirely there with her yet, put her hand on his arm. “I have to seal the airlock,” she told him. “Abby’s down in Med Bay. She’s all right, just unconscious. Jackson hasn’t been able to revive her yet. We have seven minutes until the death wave hits. You should go be with her.” Then she opened the bunker door and followed him out as the airlock sealed shut behind them for the very last time.
The next time that door opened, the whole world would be different.
The next time he saw the girl named Vera, there would be nothing left of her but the ash of white bones.
None of it felt real.
He walked on, numb and hazy, anti-radiation meds slowly taking effect and beginning to push away the fog. Abby inside him, in his bloodstream, forcing him back to life. He went down and down and down, deaf to the clamor of voices around him, bubbling forth out of every room as the residents of the bunker watched Marcus Kane come back from death. He saw nothing, heard nothing, felt nothing. He just followed the inexorable pull of the thing stronger than gravity which had wrapped around his heart and was tugging him downwards, toward the long cold hallway outside Med Bay, where most impossible thing in the world lay waiting for him, unconscious in a hospital bed.
It was moderately-controlled chaos inside. Jackson had returned to his post already, with Niylah and a few others who must have been clan healers scrambling to tend to the myriad cuts, scrapes and bruises that the brief, aborted Skaikru uprising had caused, and the handful of concussions caused by anyone who hit the ground too hard after the gas canisters dropped. Many of them looked up, startled, as Kane entered, but no one spoke. The feelings in the room were ambivalent, which was fair. They were grateful to be alive, but they all had someone they loved on the wrong side of that door. Not all of them believed that saving the Grounders was worth losing the rest of their own people, and not all of them, given the choice, would have assigned Skaikru’s three remaining places to Marcus Kane.
Peace would take time.
But that was a problem for tomorrow. The only thing that mattered to him now was the hospital bed in the far corner of Med Bay, tucked away from the chaos and the noise, where Nathan Miller sat beside a still shape draped in a thick wool blanket, watching the screen of a heart monitor.
He rose to his feet as Kane approached. “He wrote my name on his own paper, didn’t he?” Miller said without preamble, and reached up with his sleeves to scrub the tears from his eyes as Kane nodded. “I knew it. I fucking knew he would. I told him not to.”
Kane wanted to tell Nathan Miller his father was a hero. He wanted to tell him about the people upstairs and the girl in the blue dress and how they had sat hand in hand around the circular door to pray over the people they loved and how David’s voice had ached with raw, desperate love as he spoke his son’s name. And someday he would. But he couldn’t do it right now. So instead he just wrapped his arms around the boy’s back in a firm embrace, and pretended not to see as Miller dashed away the tears from his eyes the moment he thought Kane wasn’t looking.
“I’m just with her while Jackson finishes up setting the broken bones,” he explained, suddenly grateful for a distraction, a change of subject, and stepped back to let Kane in closer to the bed. “He comes back over to check in every few minutes, don’t worry. She’s fine, she’s stable - and babies are fine too - but he wanted someone at the monitor the whole time just in case. There are only a handful of people who haven’t woken up yet, and he was worried.” He pulled up a metal chair from the corner and motioned Kane towards it. “I’m gonna go see if I can help,” he said, nodding to where Niylah was examining someone for a concussion. “We’ll be nearby if you need anything, or if she wakes up. Just call.”
Kane nodded wordlessly, not looking up from Abby’s still, sleeping face, and felt Miller’s hand on his shoulder as the boy walked away.
He reached out his finger to brush against the glass of the monitor. Three jagged yellow lines on a green background. Three heartbeats, chiming in unison. Clarke and Raven and Bellamy were on a rocket bound for space, and he was here, alive, and two new hearts were beating inside Abby’s body, and there was only one minute and forty seconds left until the end of the world.
“Then Moses summoned Joshua,” he heard Vera Kane’s gentle voice whisper in his mind, “and said to him in the sight of all the people, ‘Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land that the Lord has promised to their ancestors, and it shall belong to you. You will neither be abandoned nor forsaken, for the Lord goes with you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor give into fear.”
His mother had always wanted a grandchild. And she’d always liked Abby.
The lights flickered once, twice, and a faint, faraway rumbling began in the difference, like the sound of stone collapsing. Jericho, he thought distantly. Maybe the girl named Vera had been right, maybe he was in the right story after all. This part he remembered: Joshua watching the walls of the great city come crashing down around him.
On the other side of the bunker door, where Kane no longer was, a wall of fire swept through Polis, taking the buildings with it; somewhere far, far above, he could hear the clamor and rumble of towers falling down around them.
Twelve stories below the surface of the earth, he reached out and took Abby’s hand.