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Scene Title Conductivity
Synopsis Noah pays Phoenix's latest little girl prisoner a visit, to share a few horrific truths about her history with the Company and her own father. Of the two in the cell, he walks away the more skeptical, and Elle is left to think hard about where manipulation ends and what she wants begins.
Date May 22, 2009

Queens — Safehouse

Government scrutiny and public paranoia means that the Ferry has its hands more than full, tasked to the guardianship and transportation of dozens of Evolved refugees. Not that that's likely the full occupation of Noah Bennet's time, of course— God knows who or what he's been following or puppeteering or murdering in the interim. A man never tells.

Unless it particularly suits the politics and mechanics of his motivation, of course, which is why he's here tonight. This Ferrymen safehouse is a ramshackle apartment complex in Queens, its gutted outdoor swimming pool receptacle to an array of unimaginable supplies underneath a layer of concrete and tarp, its hollow-eyed windows belying the teeming circuitry of the reappropriated sewer system and the basement space interconnected by it. It's in one of these austere cells that Elle finds herself shut up in.

There's a window on one side, a door with a portal on the other, leaving no corner unwatched. A cot is set up on one corner, a shower over a tiny, rusted grille, and Norton Trask on the lurk. Ordinarily, these are her circumstances without embellishment. For the evening of the ex-agent's visit, however, Elle — lucky girl that she is — has extra one metal chair, and conductive epoxy smeared along the duct tape that's holding both her ankles and her wrists against them.

"Have they been feeding you what you like?" Noah asks. He is seated on the cot across from her, his clean suit holding stark lines down his broad-shouldered frame and glasses seated neatly on his face.

Oh good grief. Suffice to say Elle hadn't been happy to be hauled to an unknown location and then cornered, seated, and trussed up like meat sacking. With Trask watching, too. The look she gives Noah in return is one of patient murderousness, the blonde briefly straining one wrist against its confine, then letting it relax. It's a pointless exercise.

"What kind of question is that?" she returns, trying to ignore Bennet's gaze on her face. However darkly displeased her expression may be, there's an aura about her that conveys dry, unsurprised exasperation. She's spent entirely too much time over the past few months bound, in some way or another.

"Not a sarcastic one," Noah replies with an arch of an eyebrow that looks damn near fatherly above the rim of his spectacles. He shifts his weight slightly, redistributes it across the stiff, polished leather of the shoes laced to his feet as if the minute adjustment of fractioned inches and degrees would constitute an actual difference in comfort levels. Maybe it does.

What with the murderess being bound up like so much indignant sow right there in steel, exasperation, and everything. "I assume Phoenix is treating you as humanely as they think is possible. Which is probably the same kind of style they'd murder you if they decide to." He laces big hands in together, leans over his elbows. "You aren't the first killer they've locked up in a bunker in the hope they could win your loyalties with avacado slices, ideals, and personal interests."

Sniff. "I've gotten by," is the extent of Elle's testy response, plus an experimental, disinterested curl of her fingertips. Funny that Trask is standing just out of earshot X feet that way, because he's the one who has been making a point of asking what her favorite meals are so he can deliberately cook them. Noah may be acting fatherly at the moment, but Trask has been nothing short of motherly.

She flicks her eyes up at Noah a second later, a good portion of her lips disappearing as they press against each other, thinning. "However they've treated me, they're not going to win my loyalties with avacado slices. Though, I assume you're here to do something about the last two."

Nor does the moment of Noah's misappropriated fatherliness last long. He smiles with his eyes first and his mouth second, crows feet easing in at the corners of his face and his lips thinning out to the edge of a twisted scimitar. "That's what Helena would like to think," he acknowledges, glancing through the wall behind which Trask doubtlessly remains posted. "She's young.

"The truth is, I've read your entire file. I know as much about what the Company did to you as a child as I know about what it's turned you into. A lot." The fluorescent light strips off the ceiling twin accents across the lenses of his glasses, momentarily blanking out the irises and pupils in Noah's eyes. If the weight of Mr. Bennet's regard weren't palpable and practically bladed, Elle couldn't tell that she had it at all. "You're not only a sociopath, Miss Bishop.

"You're a codependent one.

"Which partially undermines the first diagnosis," he says, clinically, as if he were diagramming the rivets and weaknesses in the make of some suit of kevlar armor, "but mostly means that anything I say to you goes right out the window the instant Daddy says jump. You have the luxury and the curse of taking orders from someone you love, and you'll never have to make the choice I did. Isn't that right?" His head shifts finally, blinking his eyes in, dark, and no warmer than the expression weighing the girl's own face.

Though the defiance doesn't leave, something else in Elle's expression does drain away as she narrows her eyes, Noah's words intriguing her more deeply than she'd like to show. The restlessness, perhaps. She comes to a standstill in all the other minute, constrained, restless shifts of her body too— and if her stance wasn't radiating a kind of unwilling and muted curiosity, it would be utterly contemptuous.


And if by codependent… "If all you're saying is I've turned into what I am today because of my dad, you're being captain obvious." She actually looks a little baffled, if still dark. "Yeah, I've been daddy's little trooper for— practically most of my life. I know that, thanks. What—" her head moves a little to one side as she eyes him more critically, hair straightening and settling against her shoulder. "Choice are you talking about? The one where you left the Company because of Claire?"

"Yes, that's exactly the choice I'm talking about." Contrary to one dead Sprague, not everything Noah says comes out like a lie. He's in equal parts capable of telling it straight and weaving entire operas of fiction around his princess, and it's the former he's engaged in now, his gaze squared on Elle watchfully, picking up that strange mineral trace of fascination in among the bedrock of arrogant distrust.

"It has to be obvious Phoenix wants you out of the Company's pocket." She's in the dark; not dim, after all. Noah straightens and rises to his feet, flattening the left panel of his coat with his hand. "Codependent.

"You crave Bob's approval and he keeps you in line by withholding it. Anything that happened to you before the age of eight," a tidbit. A deliberate one, "isn't going to undo the following eighteen years of systematic, emotional brainwashing. I know it. You know it." Or it's a convenient assumption for him to throw in her face. "Helena and your boyfriend haven't figured it out yet." 'Boyfriend.' He slants a gaze toward Trask's wall, treads closer, halting in front of Elle's silver throne, anything but a supplicant.

"What surprises me is that you want to know. Why? It's never bothered you before that the Company shits where they expect you to work."

The set of Elle's lower jaw staying dour and square, she lets several silent, sullen moments pass by before she deigns to answer. It's the brooding and concentrated light inside her eyes (and an ugly, gimlet sneer) that signifies to Noah that she has thought about it. The comparison of eighteen years versus four, even before she knew about the lost four, hasn't escaped her.

Meeting Noah's multiple assertions with a single vague, responsive snort, she tries again to pull her ankles against the tape binding them to the chair, wincing when her application of pressure abruptly comes up short against a very solid restriction. Her eyes flash. "It's not like it's never occurred to me. I'm not stupid. But why it's 'never bothered me'? I think you can guess why that might be." Glower, glower. Given who she's talking to, she really doesn't need to elaborate on this although she could, and so she doesn't. She does swallow, bringing with it an increase in vexed tension, if possible.

"I know that's what Phoenix wants from me. It's a no-brainer, isn't it? But it's what you're after, too — it's why I'm here —" She can't imagine another reason, anyway, "—and I'm not really sure I should be listening to this." A tongue of silver, Noah has. He's already succeeded in making her distinctly uneasy, even if she hadn't already progressed that way on her own. Way to not just exploit a weakness, but pound it into a million bits of submission.

A metaphorical forefinger stirs through the shattered pieces of this deconstructed weakness. Sift razor-thin edges and broken powder and tiny, triangled mirrors. Noah can even see his smile reflected in them in miniature: two even rows of white teeth, as clinically immaculate as every other sentiment he affords the golden-tressed girl in her ramshackle silver throne. "I'm here to be Phoenix's safety blanket. And because I'm curious," he corrects, after a moment, stepping across the floor.

Noah swivels on one hard-edged heel, click, and ends up standing beside the young sociopath, as if he were merely another soldier in the ranks. Once upon a time, he had been. She's probably right. She shouldn't be listening to this, and she was right: she didn't have to elaborate.

"It's true," he says, in a voice so flatly noncommittal it almost passes for non-sequitur. "For whatever it's worth. Your Daddy subjected you to all of the experiments you'd heard about, imagined, and didn't. Pushed your limits of voltage and duration, growth over time. Your father was the one who discovered that you weren't resistant to close-circuiting of your own electricity and requested the experiments where I got the practical pointers for your seating situation today. I'd say it could bring back memories, if you tried shocking your way out of this, but the retrograde amnesia was pretty thorough. 'Organically based,' they said.

"You're brain-damaged, Elle."

"Yeah, really? Thanks." Though she remains aware of Noah's path across the floor before her, Elle abstains from following it with her eyes. A dead, sulky stare directly forward is what she tries to maintain instead, a long, tight exhalation squeezing its way out of a gritted jaw.

Even when he's right beside her, looming over her from the side, all she does is clench her teeth and try and subtly look the other way. 'Subtly' doesn't work so well.

"So what do want me to do about it?" she murmurs as her gaze moves back up at him at last, coldly, through loathing-lidded eyelids. The next assertion is almost painful for her to make; a talented manipulator Noah might be, but it's in a way much, much worse that he doesn't even have to deviate from the truth for the purposes of it right now. Her lip curls all the more tightly in answer to his warning. "If what I saw wasn't just another lie, you were there. For all of it. So I don't know how I can deny it, much as I -hate- you for it." Unless he's working in cahoots with Arthur Petrelli from the future, and that's… impossible?

There's a wordless accusation in her voice, too - he was there, watching it like a movie, and he let it happen.

Flattering, isn't he? "You're welcome." Silver tongue isn't usually supposed to describe poisonous mercury. Leaving off the scintillating insults for a moment, however, Noah arches an eyebrow at the orbiting sattelite cloud of paranoid possibilities that Elle summons up. It reminds him rather poignantly of a man he used to know. The one who replaced him is gravitationally tethered to the comet tail trajectory of his daughter.

Not something that he expects Elle to understand yet. Perhaps not ever. Love is not a prize that is accompanied by the luxury of conscience as often as civilians would like to think.

"I don't want anything from you. Especially not your forgiveness, since I figure I already have your understanding."

His eyes flatten, sharpen again. He puts his large hands into the pockets of his jacket. "I want you to look at yourself and this situation you're in. The truth is, what Bob did to you when you were four wasn't the worst of it. What was worse was that he got away with it. He destroyed all hope you had for a normal childhood, and then went straight on to wreck all hope you had for a normal adulthood. You've never been to school, enjoyed the companionship of your peers. Or had a real boyfriend," real boyfriend, he has the gall to remind, "career options, an education in art.

"Your father has made you completely dependent on him. That is the apology you get. The protection, because the world supposedly needs protection from you." It's a lot to say, but Noah doesn't seem to suffer from the faintest figment of thirst from mechanistic speech or runoff tension from weaving this web of words.

"You know the work I do with the Ferry and you know what Phoenix stands for. Freedom, self-sufficiency, trust you earn, the good fight. That idealistic fluff that you would understand better than I ever could. More victories than the Company would ever admit their ragtag band of rivals could pull off.

"You know what, Elle? If nothing else, I want you to be a little embarrassed when you choose your programming over this." He reaches up to shift his glasses up the strong bridge of his nose a fraction of an inch, despite that they are— were secure there. He steps forward, giving the girl his departing back.

It also might help if Elle's personal definition of 'love' hadn't been corroded into a mangled and inaccurate wreck. Old dogs mightn't learn new tricks, but retraining over twenty years of developmental veering over a schism that's just gotten wider and wider — well, that will take doing, too. It's also exactly what Noah had been talking about, and her renewed tenseness is a tribute to the fact that she's realizing it. Slowly, but it's coming.

"Why do you think I would — I didn't say I — wait, you can't just leave." The protest is insolent, dumbfounded. Well actually, yes he can, since he's doing it right now. But how -dare- he just get up and abruptly close their (admittedly one-sided) conversation?

Whatever the case, it's a bewildered and turmoil-filled Elle now sitting silent in the chair, her lips slightly parted as she exhales shortly and presses them back together. Either he'll come back to collect the remnants of what he's left hanging, or Phoenix will come and do the same thing, but physically.

One way or the other, it doesn't really matter, does it?

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