Suffer The Children


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Scene Title Suffer the Children
Synopsis Elle Bishop is contacted by Arthur Petrelli, and given an offer she never expected.
Date May 2, 2019

Pinehearst Tower

Suffer little children, and forbid them not to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.

The tick-tock of a clock on the wall comes as something of an anachronism. With so many electronic devices scattered about this well appointed room, a single grandfather clock resting against one wall seems so out of place. Ornate in its design, the polished cherry oak case contrasts delicately with the brass and gold fixtures on it, and the rough coppery hands that slowly move closer and closer towards noon. It's subtle touches like this that make the prolonged wait in Arthur Petrelli's personal office seem like less of a chore.

This quote from the Gospel of Matthew is so often misconstrued to indicate suffering towards children, rather than the ideal of their salvation. Children, after all, are the future of any civilization. They are the ones who we will pass down all of our triumphs, and our mistakes…

A glass wall that divides half of the office serves as the other distraction, doubling as some form of television screen, the wall displays local news broadcasts from around the globe, segmented up into twelve distinct screens, each with a seperate audio channel controlled by the remote sitting in Elle Bishop's lap. Here on the top floor of the Pinehearst tower, her attention and patience is tried not only by the ticking of the clock, but by how perfect a world without her seems to have become.

It is our children that will pass on the lessons we have learned, our children who will grow from our mistakes and strive not to repeat them.

After nearly a half an hour of watching the channels flick by, the door to the office creaks open to allow the tail end of a conversation to spill out into the room, "No, no… it's nothing important, just my twelve o'clock meeting, Peter. Why don't you take a little time off, you look like you could use the rest… all things considered." The voice comes from a man Elle had only seen in blurry pictures before, a man that — despite his status as one of the Company founders was rarely ever even spoken of within the confines of the organization. Now — here — he hardly looks to have aged a day since those photographs were taken.

But what if our children were not told of our mistakes, of our past transgressions? How would they come to learn of them, to learn from them? Would they be doomed to repeat the same errors we made in our own lives?

Arthur turns, stepping into the office after a mumbled response from his son, making eye contact with Elle before closing the office door with a click. He's not as tall as she'd imagined, just shy of six feet. The salt and pepper color of his hair makes him look somewhat younger than he really is, though the wear of age on his face isn't so easily hidden as he draws closer with a slow, meandering pace. "It's been a long time, Elle…" His voice is rich, textured like an old man's should be, but with a certain snap and strength of youth.

Worse yet, what if our greatest mistake ever made was one perpetrated on our own children? If we were not to enlighten them to our own disgrace…

Circling around the glass wall, Arthur slides his hands into the pockets of his slacks, a broad smile slowly spreading across his lips. It's a smile that doesn't reach his eyes, one Elle had seen almost identically on Angela Petrelli once, in her younger years, "…you look just like I remember you." He adds, a touch of something more gentle, maybe more honest, coming over him.

…would they be doomed to repeat the same mistakes, on their own children?

It was probably stupid for Elle to have come here. Probably really, really stupid, given the information that's out in the open concerning Goodman betraying the Company in order for Pinehearst to supplant it. Couple that with the electrokinetic's existing suspicions about what the Scooby Doo gang has been whispering about her behind her back, and if this isn't a recipe for a trap, then this really is her first day.

On the other hand, the representative from Pinehearst who had come for her at Abby's had mentioned a topic that had completely thrown her off in surprise. Her father? What on earth could anyone here, ten years after her normal and rightful time, have to say about her father? Other than the fact that he's jailbait, but she already knows that.

But it's too late for speculating. She's here, genuine curiosity having played its part as much as anything else, and her expression is both reserved and sullen as she fingers the remote lying in her lap, turning it over and over.

The arrival of Arthur Petrelli is almost a relief.

Her eyes flicker up to Arthur's face when he addresses her, and she pauses in her diddling for a moment. "I don't remember you," she says in a matter-of-fact response, and that's all. Mentally, she sizes up the figure of one of her father's former close colleagues, the apprehensive set of her jaw belying her otherwise insolently cool posture.

"Of course you wouldn't…" Arthur says in a hushed tone of voice, making his way over to the low-backed, plush chair Elle's seated in. "You were younger, and under a great deal of stress then, Elle." Averting his eyes to the floor for a moment, Arthur's posture almost seems to slack, as though letting down his guard for a moment. "I know you've probably heard about what happened to the Company — to your Father — by now," he turns from her chair, wandering over towards his desk, turning only to settle down and sit on the edge of the smooth glass top, "but I want you to know that I'm sorry for the way things had to happen."

Reaching up to rub one hand over his face, Arthur takes a moment to consider something, still staring down at the floor. When his eyes finally do track to Elle, there's a softness in them that wasn't there before. "I never thought that I'd get the chance to have this talk with you Elle, about Robert. There were so many things that went left unsaid in the end, and perhaps this is some sort've reprieve for the remorse I've felt about not being able to…" With a shake of his head, Arthur lets his words trail off, and when he speaks again, the tone has changed some. "I figure you're probably very upset with me… aren't you?"

"If you're talking about one of your people giving away the Company, I should hope you're sorry," is Elle's response, subtly sinking towards a growl in tone. She looks half-taken aback that he would presume to apologize, ingratiatingly, after such an obvious fact. How dare he. Also way to go Elle, running off your mouth to one of the most powerful people in this world. If she's trying not to end up mind-wiped, this is certainly not the best way to be going about it.

There's a lot of things he could certainly do to her right now, at any rate. In this office, there are very few places to run or hide.

"Yes. I've heard. But why do you care whether I'm upset with you?" What's this whole deal about remorse and reprieve, and—? The look on Elle's face remains hard, though it's clear she is now slightly perplexed. No less suspicious; if anything, she's even moreso.

There's a look on Arthur's face, one Elle'd seen all too often in her own father before, a look of disappointment. "What I did to the Company was… necessary. The Company had long strayed from what it was originally created for, it had become too full of itself, too entrenched with the very government that we created it to protect our own kind from." Rising up off of his desk, Arthur turns to face it, pressing his fingers over the touch-surface as a soft blue illumination comes from the digital display below his fingertips. With that touch, all of the silenced news broadcasts cut off, replaced with an empty black screen that scales from a widescreen display to an older resolution.

"You might see things differently," he motions out the window, "about the world we live in now, about the hard choices that had to be made in order to ensure it." Swallowing dryly, Arthur looks away from Elle and down to the floor. "Your father and I were good friends, Elle. We were close, but friendship has it's limits, and for far too long I— " there's a subtle shake of Arthur's head as he looks up to Elle.

"I know you might not believe much of what I'm saying," his eyes turn to the darkened screen, "I'm just hoping that maybe… you'll have an open mind about things after you watch this." One touch of his fingers on the glass surface of the desk, and that dark screen is replaced by something else. A small, grainy image im low resolution with a timestamp on the bottom reading OCT 18. 1991 - 16:33. In the first few minutes of the video footage, there is a display of a Primatech Research holding cell, a familiar concrete block with a mirrored glass window. At the center of the room is a single wooden chair surrounded by machinery, and seated in the chair is a girl no older than ten in a white medical gown with electrodes taped to her forehead, neck and chest.

A crackling voice comes over the video, «Electrical Output Test Six, Observing Scientist Doctor Lewis Zimmerman, Observing Agent Noah Bennet.» There's a moment of silence on the tape, and the panicked young girl restrained by leather straps to the chair breathes in and out feverishly, her mouth opening in unheard cries just moments before there is a bright blue flash, and electricity begins to arc and flicker all over her body, striking conductors on the walls, striking grounded and shielded equipment.

All the while, Arthur's expression is an impassive mask of stoic silence, eyes transfixed on the screen in front of him.

As Elle watches Arthur move about and settle into his new position by his desk, vibes of distrust still radiate from her. Her fingers tense on the armrest of her chair, then relax, as though unsure what to do with themselves. In the meantime her gaze remains firmly and coldly tilted towards the man's face, never leaving it for an instant.

Never leaving it, that is, until the dead screen comes alive and her attention is diverted against her will. Whatever impudent retort she had been about to say freezes in her mouth, and she forgets to move.

All manner of dumb and immediately answerable statements of denial rise in her throat as she watches, ranging from '…that can't be me', to 'how did you get these tapes?', but the one that finally makes it through her mental logic filter (numb though it is): "Stop that." A gesture is made towards the screen as soon as this falls from her lips, as though actually demanding he stop the tape this instant. "I know what you're playing at. My dad wouldn't let anything like that happen to me, and you know it." She has pushed herself back to her feet by now, her eyes transfixed on the still-moving footage. Her tone is derisive, concealing uneasiness. Somebody made that tape just to spite her. Of course.

No motion is made to stop the tape, just the horrible and silenced screams of a young girl writhing in a chair as thousands of volts of electricity are forced out of her body and into the walls. Moment after moment of tortured expression on her face comes as she the screen plays on, and replacing what should be her screams is the emotionless voice of the man recording the footage, not her father though from the sound of it. After seven minutes — according to the timestamp — the young girl's body finally gives way and she collapses in the chair, smoke rising off from frazzled hair and reddened skin, spots of the white gown she wears spotted with black burn marks.

Arthur looks down, finally, as the door to the cell opens in the video. Through the door, two men walk, one of them the tall and lanky form of Noah Bennet — sans the glasses that make his features more distinct, and beside that is a man Elle has come to know affectionately as daddy. Though a little slimmer around the waist, and a little fuller in the hair atop his head. Behind the pair, a much older man in a white labcoat walks in, holding a clip board. Here, Arthur presses the surface of his desk and pauses the video on a frame where Bob is crouched by the chair, one hand on the unconscious girl's knee, and Noah merely stands in silence at the back of the room.

"The archived footage goes up to test thirty seven before Doctor Zimmerman finally resigned."

Turning his focus from the floor to Elle, Arthur watches the young woman with a silent stare. "You don't remember any of this for a number of reasons… it all boils down to the physical and mental trauma an eight year old girl was forced to go through." Narrowing his eyes, Arthur swallows tightly, "This footage was shown during Doctor Zimmerman's trial for crimes against humanity. I presume you can imagine how the court may have ruled in that case…" looking away and back to the screen, there's an awkward silence before Arthur adds, "it played during your father's trial as well. He was the executor behind the entire experiment… Zimmerman wanted to stop once you reached your limits, but Robert was insistant that 'his little girl' could do better."

A half-hearted shrug comes over Arthur as he turns to look back at Elle, one dark brow raised, "So, yes… I do know you Elle. You just— " he motions to the screen, "there's plenty of things you don't remember."

If Arthur glances over towards Elle anytime during the course of those paused moments, he'll find that deer-in-the-headlights doesn't quite fully express the stunned look in her eyes.

One doesn't need to be a telepath to view the internal anguish taking place in Elle right about now. The agent takes a single stumbling step backwards, and as she does, she knocks into the chair and sends it backwards onto the floor with a crash. That? That is the sound of a life turning upside-down. Right there. Proverbial house of cards.

"No. I—" From her dead-stare on the screen, she turns to eye Arthur as though trying to put physical distance between them by force of will alone. As though he's a predator or some kind of dangerous madman, and she'll be forced to defend herself in a moment. What can she do? She could pull the denial card again, say Arthur's making the whole thing up; but that Bob would insist upon such a thing in his daughter… it sounds completely like him, coming from his mouth. She can even mentally hear him saying it. If Arthur is fabricating all of this, he's a very clever man indeed.

She swallows not long after he does, unable to peel her stare away. There's plenty of things you don't remember. "How much did I lose?" she demands somewhat shakily. "How long did I lose?" Months? Years?

All Arthur does is lower his head, voice dropping to a low, regretful tone. "I can't honestly say, I was only tangentally aware of Bob's experiments back then," he shakes his head, breathing in a slow breath that allows him to straighten up some, lift his head enough so that he can view the touch surface on his desk, closing the video entirely. "There's so much psychological and physical trauma, you may never know. I think, though, that the experiments stopped some time when you were around the age of twelve…"

Judging from the date on the screen, that would imply four years of that, four years of intense and traumatic experimentation. "What exactly did your father tell you, when you asked him why you couldn't remember your childhood?" A dark brow rises as Arthur moves away from the desk, not to close the distance to Elle, but instead to move towards the plate glass windows overlooking the verdant Unity Park and its vine encrusted skyscrapers in the distance.

No wonder Elle is the way she is today. No bloody wonder. As Arthur heads towards the sprawling view of the window, she remains frozen where she is, watching his back. Her bottom lip curls— but less from derision than from a serious lack of anything else to do. Doubtless, Arthur fully understands what he has just done to her.

"I've never put it to him as such," she answers after a hesitant second. "I didn't remember any of that, what you just showed me—" she indicates the video by a moment of silence, knowing he can't see her— "But there were some other things I do remember crystal-clear. Like, starting my house on fire. Knocking out a power line." That's slightly drier, said with a light toss of her head. Each word, each collective phrase, is hesitant to come out; she's still not 100 percent sure this whole thing is clean, and besides she's never been this honest with anybody before. Certainly not with a known enemy.

A rather hollow laugh comes from her. "I was dangerous. My dad made sure I knew that. And… I guess I thought it was normal for a little kid not to remember certain things."

Arthur stares out the window with his hands folded behind his back, the muted reflection of his face in the glass the only thing staring back at him; that and his memories. "Normal had very little to do with your life, Elle." He turns to look over his shoulder, "But you did start that fire, but did you deserve four years of that," he nods towards the black screen, "for it? I'm hard on Peter, but…" Though Arthur speaks nothing of Nathan, the son he comitted to prison for the remainder of his life.

"The Company authorized things worst than that to be done, Elle. Horrible, inhuman experiments… all to the end of understanding better. The Company became, right around me, something I was ashamed of. This… is why I did what I did, and why the people who were responsible for those acts were forced to confront their deeds." turning fully now, putting his back to the window, Arthur watches Elle quietly for a time, then looks down to the floor again. "I have an offer for you, Elle. One I think may interest you…"

In response to this first reminder of how perfectly abnormal her life is been, Elle is silent. In response to the question posed, she seems to tense again, biting her lip in dawning defensiveness, this time directed inwards towards herself. She does not quite say 'I understand', but her posture is visibly more acclimating than it had been at the start of the meeting.

There is still doubt. Some part of her still gives off a feel of reluctance; one can't just throw away everything that's been integral to their life after a seven-minute video. But whatever else Arthur has to say to her, he's definitely found the right way to go about making her interested. "Yeah?"

"I want you to go home." For all the eloquence of his speech, Arthur may have as well said get out. But instead of inviting Elle to leave his office, he's inviting her to leave this end of time. "I'm putting together a team of special individuals to go back to your time, in order to capture a group of… malcontents," he gives a nod of his head to that word, "who escaped into your time when you were sent forward to this one. They're dangerous individuals, ones that are quite capable of undoing all of the good that has come here…"

Tilting his head to the side, Arthur regards Elle carefully, "I'd like to give you a chance to seek closure with your father, Elle. Closure that you can't ever get here." For a moment, Arthur begins to take a few steps towards Elle, then hesitates, shifting his weight to one foot more so than the other instead. "You're a criminal, here, but there's a chance that you could have an opportunity to put things right where you belong. The others— " one hand is waved into the air, "they'd do far too much damage, going back. But you, Elle… I'd like to think that all of this may have put a perspective on things."

And Elle actually does look somewhat stunned by the order to 'go home', though it doesn't take long for her to assume that Arthur means something else. She's right. "So you do have a way for me to get home." Here it is, then, after all the speculation and meetings Helena and her group have held. But more importantly than that—

"You want me to be the one who backstabs the Company," she interprets, folding her arms across her stomach. Well, there's a stretch for her. "Not Goodman, or anyone else." If there's any elaboration as to what else Arthur might be expecting her to do, if this interpretation is somehow wrong, she is open to hearing it.

"No, Roger's role is his to fill out." Arthur looks Elle up and down slowly, "But there's nothing saying he can't have help. Besides, if I wanted to send you back, I wouldn't put you on what amounted to a suicide mission for Mister Goodman. Your job would be, rather specifically, to help my team round up the people who escaped from this time, and… well, sending them back won't exactly be an option, so I think you can use a little creativity to fill in the blanks."

Now deciding to move forward, Arthur's slow pace takes him a few steps closer to Elle. "All you need to do, is make sure that the people you're hunting don't screw everything up. Whatever else you do, is up to you Elle… but you have to remember, the Company did to you what they did to countless other children. How many more girls like yourself do you want to see end up…" he nods to the screen, then looks back to Elle. "That isn't what you signed up for, now is it?"

At that, something like a tiny smirk appears on Elle's face. Her arms stay folded impassively, but Arthur's words hardly need much further explanation. "Not that I actually signed up," she murmurs under her breath, though audible to Arthur. Her eyes snap upwards towards his as he approaches her, and there's a quirk of inconsequential nonchalance in that motion.

Mentioning the plight of countless other children was unnecessary. Bob may have made Elle a lot of things, and some of those illusions may have been lifted by the work of this meeting, but there's some things nobody can ever change. Her raw personality is one of them.

"Just tell me who they are. Start me down the right trail, and you can count on me. Just do one thing for me—" She shifts her weight a little, growing deadly earnest all of a sudden as she hones in her gaze. "Make a copy of that tape so I can take it back."

There are many ways to define our fragile existence, many ways to give it meaning. But it is our memories that shape its purpose and give it context: the private assortment of images, fears, loves, regrets.

"I'll put together a dossier you can look over, and I'll make sure it's discreetly delivered to you within a day or two." Arthur seems to be hesitant to explain the details of those eight individuals here, "But I assure you when you read the list, you might raise one eyebrow."

For it is the cruel irony of life that we are destined to hold the dark with the light, the good with the evil, success with disappointment.

Arthur motions towards the door, and when his fingers curl back the latch turns and unlocks. "I'll give you the original VHS copy of the tape, it's hardly of any use to me at this point anyway." Looking to the black screen, then back to Elle, Arthur's lips creep up into a ghost of a smile.

This is what separates us, what makes us human.

"I'm glad we were able to come to something of an understanding, Elle. For what it's worth…" his eyes divert to the windows, "I am sorry for what happened to you. But there's nothing I can do now to change that," when he looks back, both brows lower and his tone becomes something more intense. "Making right the wrongs that were done to you… is going to be your responsibility."

And in the end, we must fight to hold on to.

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