If At First You Don't Succeed


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Scene Title If At First You Don't Succeed
Synopsis …start all over again.
Date November 1, 2011

"Can you remember the last time you saw your grandmother?" Bob's question is rhetorical, lobbed over the back of his chair as he circles around it again, coming to stand at the side of his desk with that letter in his hand. "You were six Elle, you were six years old and you burned down her house. You remember when I asked you about how the fire started… but have you ever wondered what happened to Nana?"

There's a measurable coldness in Bob's tone of voice when he looks down to the floor, then follows a crack in the concrete towards the wall; anywhere but looking her in the eyes. "Elle, she died in that fire you started." Bob's stare comes back to Elle, brows knitted together and jaw set. "What was I supposed to do with a six year old who watched her own grandmother die in a fire she started. I had Charles go in and clean things up…" in her head, he means. "When I was asking you what you remembered about the fire, it wasn't because I didn't know you'd started it… it was because I was seeing if it worked."

Guilt weighs Bob down, but right now he's doing what she asked. "There are some things that are kept secret for a reason, Elle. What was I supposed to do? Would it have been more merciful to let a child remember something that terrible? What would you have done if it was your daughter?"

A small, strangled sound escapes Elle's throat as the color drains from her face, the girl staring up at her father with wide eyes. Her mouth opens and closes a few times, but it seems she can't make any words come out, let alone a sound. Then, her eyes cast back down to the ground, absorbing that information. She shrinks into herself again, staring at the invisible patterns in the floor.

Thoughts race their way through her mind, barraging her. She killed her own grandmother. When she was six. She lifts her hands, staring at them with glistening eyes. Maybe she really is a monster after all, and she deserved everything that happened to her.

Mount Natazhat Complex


Elle Bishop awakens from a nightmare of the past into a nightmare of the present. Her entire body aches, throbs, and screams with a pain that goes bone-deep. Her vision is blurry at first, but she can see that she's in a hospital of some kind. There's bright, blinding lights, beeping, moving shapes.

“She's awake, vitals are steady…” The voice is unfamiliar. Blinking reflexively, she can see a doctor in white scrubs with a cloth mask over his mouth. But there's someone else in the room, sitting on a stool by her bedside. At first, for just a moment, it's her father. But then —

“Good morning, Elle.” Tyler Case’s voice and face carry the cadence and expressions of Richard Cardinal. The weight of what's transpired hits her like a hammer and her first instinct is to move — run, kill. Jerking her hands up, Elle finds them restrained, and the motion causes radiating pain from her forearms ame elbows down through her hands. They're bandaged, completely covered.

“You… might want to relax. I'm sorry it came to this, I really am.” Cardinal’s brows furrow, head dipped down and one hand scrubs his mouth. “I imagine this is a lot to take in all at once. So… take your time.”

Perhaps she is a monster. Perhaps Elle Bishop still deserves all of the bad things that come her way — and lots of bad things seem to come her way. She’s tried to turn things around, tried to do good, because she likes how she feels when she does good things. But perhaps she is beyond redemption. Perhaps it will never come.

The pain is the first thing that Elle notices, before her eyes even open. Her jaw clenches, fingers curling into fists as a few subconscious coping methods kick in. Shaking her head slowly, long eyelashes flutter over blue eyes that frantically cast about, confusion and pain shining against the blue as she takes in her new surroundings.

“You weren't ever supposed to be here,” Cardinal explains, pulling his stool closer to Elle’s bedside. “Doctor Zimmerman was adamant against it. So, as a compromise, we had your power swapped with Aric.” Looking down to his folded hands, Cardinal frowns. “Aric didn't survive. So, we find ourselves backed into a corner and running out of time. Our window of opportunity is rapidly approaching, and…” There's a shrug at that, head tilting to one side. “We had to make concessions.”

Reaching down to the foot of Elle’s bed, Cardinal grabs a clip board and rests it in his lap. “I… figure you probably have questions. So,” he glances down at the clip board. “Don't let me stop you.”

Her son who hasn’t been born yet…is dead. So she knows how that one ends up. She’s here, betrayed by a man who she implicitly trusted, in pain after…some kind of surgery. Probably the same one her son had to endure. She’s set to be a battery now.

Despite all she’s been trying to do to redeem herself, it seems as though she is getting her just desserts. Her comeuppance for killing her Nana all those years ago. For the multiple other deaths that have bloodied her hands. Looks like you can’t come back from a good quarter of a century as a monster. She deserves every last bit of this pain.

So for a moment, she all but basks in the exquisite agony that consumes her being.

Finally, blue eyes focus blearily on Cardinal, though words do not come just yet. She just…stares at his borrowed face, a haunted look on her own pained features. The tears…don’t come. She won’t let them. She doesn’t deserve them. He doesn’t deserve them, either.

There are certainly plenty of questions running through her brain. She could ask questions all day if she wanted to. But she won’t even give him that satisfaction. No, only one question is posed to Richard Cardinal, hidden in his Tyler Case suit as he is. In an breathy tone, the pain seeping in at its edges, Elle only needs one word:


That question elicits a long, slow sigh from Cardinal. He nods a few times, folds his hands atop the clipboard and takes a moment to collect his thoughts. “I guess I'd have to start from the top,” comes a little wearily. “You know I'm from the future, some two and a half decades from now. But I don't wager you know much more than that.”

Moving the clip board aside, Richard looks to Elle for a moment, then down to his folded hands. “In my time, the Department of Evolved affairs committed genocide against our kind. World War Three scorched the entire planet into a wasteland, and… everyone I cared about was dead or — gone.”

“I'd been mislead by Edward. Bought into his madness, killed Liz because of my fanaticism. Brought her back to life out of desperation, only to watch her pull away from me and die. But… I'm resourceful.” Cardinal looks back to Elle, brows furrowed. “I had been devising a way to undo all the hurt. To set everything back to zero — a message through time, a message that could change everything.”

Standing up from the stool, Cardinal moves over to Elle’s side and lays a hand on the bed’s railing. “I failed the first time, but I found myself given a second chance. Here, now. I need you to power the device I intend to use to undo all of this. With your help, none of this will have happened. No Company, no Institute, no DoEA.” He rests a hand on one of her bandaged arms.

“That's why, Elle.” Cardinal’s voice is nothing if not sincere. “We all deserve better than this.”

The tiny blonde’s gaze slowly wanders down, looking at her bandaged arms…her bandaged everything, and her jaw clenches. Her stare then sluggishly swings back up to the ceiling, coming to rest upon the lights above.

It takes a while for the electrokinetic to respond. When she does, her voice is barely above a whisper…and defeat weighs heavily on her words. “Go ahead, then.” She pauses, clenching her fists a few times. Her eyes close, then, and she breathes out quietly.

“I’ve been a monster for most of my life. I only just started feeling…empathy? I wouldn’t even call it that. It’s selfish. I don’t even know what’s good or bad, and half of the time I just make things worse.” Blue eyes remain closed. “I don’t deserve to have the son that your men killed. I don’t deserve happiness. I killed my Nana when I was six…I sold my dad out to the Institute twenty years later….”

When her eyes open again, a tear springs free, rolling down her cheek. “If I can help stop…all of this…” She grits her teeth, staring up at Cardinal in his Tyler suit. “Then just get it over with.” She sneers, hating the fact that this is happening despite her acceptance of the situation.

Cardinal says nothing. He does nothing. He stares at Elle, intently for a moment. Then, squinting, he rises up off of his stool and puts the clip board back in the slot at the foot of the bed. Something she said shook him, something she knows brought trouble into his eyes.

“Get some rest, Elle,” Cardinal says in a flat, wary tone of voice.

“It's going to get worse before it gets better.”

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