2003 – Location: Remote Island in the Aegean Sea
The fire crackled and snapped as the inferno raged around her. The heat was oppressive, forcing her to recoil away from the walls, and shield her face. The heat was so intense it dried her tears. In her haste to avoid the flames, she bumped into the dead body of the hired thug she'd just been forced to shoot. Her first kill. Her throat constricted and her heart palpated in her chest as she relived every second of the last ten minutes. It had been in self-defense. He'd left her no choice. It was either kill or be killed. Still, that did not mean it didn't affect her all the same.
"God," she whimpered, staring down at the ruined mess that had been the man's face. Her hands shook and her entire body trembled. "Oh God." She coughed, and ducked her head down, closing her eyes as she wept for the terrible deed she'd been forced to commit. Nothing was ever going to be the same after this. Nothing.
Hot flames licked at her skin, and she snapped out of her thoughts, jerking into motion.
Ignoring the risks, and focusing on what she had to do to survive, Kate Beckett checked to ensure her messenger bag was still securely fashioned to her side, before she pushed up from her crouch and ran for the doorway. She held her hands up as she reached the threshold, coming to a skidding halt. The hall beyond was ablaze, necessitating a retreat back into the main chamber of the ancient monastery. Somewhere off in the distance an explosion caused the ancient timber beams above her head to rattle. The old wood creaked and groaned.
Gritting her teeth, she carefully shifted her feet along the floorboards, wincing when the weakened wood creaked under her weight. Kate wiped at her brow, and brushed the stray strands of hair that had fallen across her face.
The situation was desperate, and she needed a way out.
Arching her neck, she glanced around the chamber, searching for another exit. Narrowing her eyes, she spotted her escape, though it was behind a wall of flame. Steeling herself, Kate tucked her arms in closer to her chest and dove through the flames. Her feet landed with a hard thud on the other side. The floorboards groaned in protest at the impact, and Kate quickly dashed forward before the floor could give way. Making a jump for it, she tumbled into the clear hallway just as the eaves above splintered and came crashing down into the chamber.
"Shit," she hissed out, scrambling onward down the hall.
It wasn't over, and she knew that. The flames were in hot pursuit.
Cursing again, she pushed herself back up to her feet, and darted down the hallway, using her momentum to carry her forward as the building started falling apart. Bouncing off the walls, Kate dodged burning bits of debris and shrapnel that lay strewn in her path. A wooden beam had been lowered across the door at the end of the hall, blocking her escape. She grunted as she kicked at the rotting piece of wood. She cried out when a jagged piece cut into her ankle. Ignoring the pain, she kicked again and again. It took her several tries before it gave way.
The door flew open, and Kate had to watch herself, least her momentum carry her over the edge of the rocky promontory. The wind and rain roared around her in an almost unnatural storm. Her heart pumped wildly beneath her breast as she glanced down at the ruined village below. Just like the monastery, it had been set ablaze.
"Ganz, you bastard," she cursed under her breath. That man had no respect for the past. He was nothing but a thug, hired to acquire rare artifacts, most of which found their way onto the black market. He had never cared about the history of what he took. Unlike Kate and her friends, Ganz was in it for the money.
The rhythmic whirl of helicopter rotors snapped her back to the present. Flicking her gaze up, she spotted the chopper. The blades cut through the rough air, rotating the flying craft towards her. The door slide open and there, in the passenger bay, Kate saw him… Russell Ganz.
The man gave her a smug grin as he tugged his hand back, pulling another man into view. Kate's eyes went wide with horror and shock.
"NO!" she cried, futilely reaching out for him.
Ganz smiled with a wicked gleam in his eye. "Give it to me!" he shouted over the combined cacophony of the helicopter motor, storm, and the raging fire.
"Don't do it, Ka—"
"Shut up!" Ganz jabbed his knee into his prisoner's back, effectively silencing him. The villain looked back up at Kate with dark eyes. "Give me the chalice and the old man lives."
Kate hesitated, eyes locked on the man doubled over on his knees, coughing up blood. She'd never seen Mike Royce in such a state. Since the day they'd met, she had been in awe of him. He'd been larger than life, capable of anything.
Swallowing her fear, Kate steadied her trembling form, and shot a glare straight at Ganz. "You know I can't do that," she growled, barely hearing her own voice over the hammering of her heart.
"Tsk-tsk," Ganz shook his head disapprovingly. He adjusted his footing as the helicopter shifted to compensate for a sudden gust of wind. Ganz pulled out a revolver and pressed the barrel to the back of Royce's head. "Are you really willing to make the sacrifice, Kate?"
Pursing her lips, she flicked her eyes down to her mentor. He stared back at her with piercing eyes, telegraphing his wishes. She gulped and shook her head. No. He couldn't be serious. Nothing… not even the legendary Chalice of King Minos was worth it.
Ganz clocked the hammer back. "Don't think I won't do it," he insisted. "It's just a damn cup. Hand it over."
Kate glanced back and forth between the two men, her resolve weakening. Mike Royce had been her rock for the last two years. He understood her need and drive, her obsession. And he hadn't judged her for it, like others had. Instead, he'd taken her under his wing, taught her the tools of the trade, help to mold her into the woman she'd become. He was everything to her. She couldn't just watch Ganz shoot him, especially not from some ancient piece of treasure.
"I'm growing impatient!" Ganz snarled.
"Okay… okay," Kate held up her hands in surrender. She adjusted the straps of her green messenger bag, and pulled it around to her front. Opening the flap, she carefully removed the tarnished gold chalice. "It's right here… just… just let him go."
Ganz eyed the artifact with a hungry look, letting go of the handle on the side of the helicopter door, and holding his hand out. "Toss it over."
"I said," Kate asserted, putting emphasis on the word, "let him go."
Ganz stared at her for a long moment, before a wicked smirk creased his arrogant mug. "Fine." And then, without any warning, he pulled his leg back and kicked Royce out of the hovering chopper.
"NO!" Kate screamed, watching helplessly as Royce tumbled through the swirling wind and rain, disappearing into the abyss below. She dropped to her knees as her anguish consumed her, letting the chalice fall from her hands. Tears immediately ran down her cheeks, paving pathways through the dirt and grime that covered her skin. Her chest heaved as she felt her heart burst with agony. Channeling her grief into rage, she glared across the distance at the man responsible for causing it.
Ganz gripped the handhold as the chopper jerked violently in the storm. He twisted around to shout at the pilot. There seemed to be a brief argument between the two before the rotors tilted and the helicopter started to move closer to the ledge.
Sensing what he was after, Kate grabbed the chalice and carefully tucked it back into her messenger bag. She wasn't going to allow Mike Royce's sacrifice to be in vain. Slinging it back over her shoulder, she locked the straps in place, and stood up defiantly. The monastery was falling apart behind her, the flames consuming the ancient wood with gusto. Momentarily suppressing her grief, she arched her neck up and took in the intensifying storm. She closed her eyes, and lowered her hands to her waist.
"Don't be a fool, Kate!" Ganz shouted.
Opening her eyes, she gazed at him with fierce determination and a flash of hatred. And then she was off, digging the balls of her feet into the crumbling ground beneath her, Kate pumped her legs and ran forward, rushing toward the edge of the cliff. With one final push, she jumped, hoping and praying momentum would carry her the rest of the way. She was taking a big risk, but with Royce gone, she didn't really have much left to lose.
Ganz let out a startled curse as she collided with him inside the passenger compartment of the helicopter, just barely making the jump. She gritted her teeth and held on. Ganz tried to shove her off, but she latched on, kicking and punching, sending the larger man stumbling backwards into the bulkhead. He hit his head and let out a groan of pain, slumping to the compartment's metal floor. The helicopter pilot turned to watch the struggle, just as surprised at her actions as his boss was. The chopper shook as the storm hit it with turbulence. Alarm klaxons blared. And red lights flashed in warning.
Using all her last residual strength, Kate pushed off Ganz, and crawled across the shaking passenger bed until she could grab one of the black parachute bags hanging on the bulkhead behind the pilot's seat. Ganz fumbled after her as the helicopter bounced violently in the choppy wind, grabbing at her arm, attempting to yank her back. With a quick jab of her elbow to his solar plexus, she got him off her, and then she spun around, lifting her climbing pick. With one swift move, she stabbed the point into his meaty shoulder. Ganz howled in pain. Gritting her teeth, she twisted the point around in his flesh before withdrawing and clipping it back onto her belt loop.
Kate pulled the straps of the parachute over her shoulders and locked them in place. She gave Ganz one last glance before holding her messenger bag close to her chest with one hand and diving out over the helicopter.
2010 – Location: New York City
Kate Beckett woke with a start, gasping for breath. She blinked her eyes and swallowed thickly as her heart pumped wildly beneath her breast. Her hands were shaking and her brow was beaded in sweat. She sat up, hugging her legs into her chest, slowly rocking back and forth as she worked at taking deep, calming breaths. It had been nearly seven years, yet the events of those grueling few days were still fresh and vivid in her mind.
Closing her eyes, she breathed through her nose, following the steps her therapist had coached her with for when these anxiety attacks hit. It took her a couple minutes, but eventually her heart settled and her breathing returned to normal. Squeezing her arms around her legs, she rested her chin on top of her knees and stared out at her bedroom, illuminated by the pale moonlight that filtered through the window slats.
A shiver ran up her spine a moment later, and it was then that Kate realized just how cold it was. Climbing out of the bed, she padded across to the dresser, and pulled on a pair of sweatpants and an old Stanford sweatshirt. Crawling back onto the mattress, Kate adjusted the covers around her, and snuggled into the warmth, trying to block out the images from her nightmares. She was just beginning to fall asleep again when the shrill ring of her cellphone broke through the comforting silence of the bedroom.
Groaning, Kate sat up and stretched out to snatch the offending device off her nightstand. She slid her thumb across the screen and answered.
"Do you have any idea what time it is?" she grumbled, scrubbing a hand down her face. When all she heard was heavy breathing, she pulled the phone back to check the caller ID. The screen read: Caller Unknown. Holding the cell back to her ear, she listened to what sound like heavy footsteps running through an echoing chamber. "Hello?" she tried again.
"God, it's good to hear your voice," came a gravelly voice.
"Mike?" she gasped out, nearly a sob, shocked and stunned. This couldn't be real. Mike Royce had died seven years ago when Russell Ganz had pushed him out of a helicopter. She'd seen him fall into the abyss. He… he'd been dead.
"It's me, kid," he breathed out, voice heavy with apology. "Look, I don't have time to explain, I wish I did, but I don't. I'm so sorry, Kate. I never meant for any of this to happen. I wanted…"
"Royce!" she cut him off, nearly shouting his name. "This can't be happening. This… this has got to be a dream."
"I'm sorry, kid, it's not. This is very much real."
"But… I searched for days! All over that damn island!" she let out a heart-wrenching sob. "God, Mike… I was in love with you."
He released a heavy sigh. "I know, kid, and I'm sorry. I never meant to hurt you. But it was a sacrifice I had to make."
"I know all about sacrifice, Mike," Kate asserted. "More than most."
"No, kid. You know about loss. Sacrifice is a choice you make. Loss is a choice made for you."
She pursed her lips and swallowed past the lump in her throat. "Why now?"
"Because I found something," he asserted. "I know letting you think I was dead was wrong, but I still had to do right by you, Kate. Especially after what happened in Santorini."
"Mike, please… don't do this," she all but sobbed.
"I'm sorry, kid," he spoke softly, his gravelly voice warm and sincere. "I just had to hear your voice one last time befor—"
Royce was abruptly cut off by a gunshot. Followed by another, and another… and then silence. Kate clutched the phone to her chest and sobbed, weeping once again for a man whom she'd thought had died long ago.