The Beginning Of The End, Part I


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Also Featuring:

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Scene Title The Beginning of the End, Part I
Synopsis Bob Bishop and his daughter's combustive relationship finally comes to a head when the Company is falling apart at the seams, and one loyal agent discovers where Elle's true allegiances lie.
Date August 31, 2010

When I was a boy, my life was ruined forever…

A car door slams shut in the parking lot. Perched on the deactivated street lamps bristling up from the asphalt, sea gull make sharp noises against the clear blue skies of early morning. Exhaling a sigh as he checks his watch, the time of 8:22 is reflected in the lenses of Bob Bishop's glasses. Lowering his hand, he looks up towards the body silhouette of the concrete gray building looming nearby. Crested by a gigantic radar dish that slowly turns on a regular cycle, Fort Hero looks old and out-dated, in a way it is the perfect analogy for the organization that utilizes it.

I was a detainee at a place called Coyote Sands, a relocation center. Not for any one ethnic or national group, but for people… special people.

The soft shade of camel-tan belogning to Bob's suit pops out against the faded gray of an old parking lot, the chestnut brown of his leather briefcase held fast in one hand by its dark handle. Reaching down to his side, Bob withdraws a cell phoen from his jacket pocket, popping it open and bringing it up to one ear. Over the long wait for someone to pick up on the other end, Bob makes his approach to the building he sees in this light every morning, every day, for over a year now.

We were lab rats, prisoners, and we ran. Just a handful of us ran and survived what came next, survived the government's culling of the camp, survived the deaths of everyone we knew and loved.

Walking up the path towards the front doors, Bob is greeted by one of the receptionists on the ground floor when he shoulders his way through the front glass doors. "Good morning Mister Bishop!" She's what the Company would call a facade, an employee designed to play a role and cover the services actually performed here. The cover of a government intelligence agency operating out of a military installation isn't the most subtle, it isn't what Bob is used to.

We made a promise that day, Angela, Daniel, Charles and I. We would never let this happen again.

Moving towards the elevator, Bob exhales a sigh and closes his cell phone when the person he was calling doesn't pick up. The phone is traded for a security card, swiped near the elevator doors in the same moment they're chiming and swishing open. When those metal doors slide apart, Bryan Buckley is revealed along with a short, blonde, daughter of Bob's at his side. Posture tenses, Bob freezes in place, and after their argument the other night it is an unfortunately awkward scenario that they find themselves in now.

I wouldn't ever let my daughter be a prisoner. I wouldn't ever let my baby girl sit in a cell for her whole life, like they wanted for us.

"Elle," is measured in tone as its said, voice tense, "Buckley," comes off just a bit more warning, as if to say did you touch my daughter in a way that is only partly joking. "Like two ships in the night, huh?" The joke comes with a weary laugh, and Bob slowly steps aside for the pair.

What we want for our children and what we get, aren't always the same thing.

Bob's tone may not be completely serious, but he's still the boss, and it still makes Elle the boss's daughter. While their relationship has had it's moments of tension that only two relatively young people trained to harness deadly abilities can have, such embers have long since cooled for a handful of undefinable reasons. Still, the bald agent's eyebrows furrow slightly at the tenor of his name, and he nods stiffly. It may be he's touchy about Elle, or her father for that matter. But from the look of his slightly wrinkled suit and the shadow of stubble on his jaw, it's more likely that the fanged agent is simply in need of sleep after much too long a 'shift' on the ol' factory floor.

When Elle ran into Bryan this morning, she was staring at her cell phone screen with a bit of a confused look on her face, shaking her head slowly. Once he edged up next to her, the cell phone was put away, and Elle offered a rather tired greeting, sipping at her freshly obtained coffee. Most of the ride up the elevator was quiet, at least on Elle's behalf, the tiny blonde agent appearing a bit too tired to make any noteworthy conversation.

Elle Bishop, wearing a nicely cut pinstripe dress suit today (complete with those designer shoes she always loved so much), is about to step off of the elevator, when her eyes land on her father's face. If tension were a palpable force, it would be impossible to breathe right now, the look that Elle gives to her father saying far more than any words could possibly say.

Relations between Elle and her father are really bad right now.

After a moment, the little blondes steps off of the elevator, her eyes cast toward the ground. "Daddy," This is about the best Bob is going to get from his daughter. A sullen greeting, offered only because Bryan is in the room, and masks must remain upheld for the time being. It doesn't look like she's going to stop, either, attempting to skirt around her father. Apparently, the little blonde is quite dead set on her destination: getting the hell out of Fort Hero.

"Elle," sounds more chiding now as Bob turns to look back at the blonde as she exits the elevator, only for whatever strain was in his voice to falter when he thinks back on what Bryan offered in passing. There's a mirror of Bryan's wan smile, then a sulk as Bob turns back towards the elevator doors, pausing not because of something to say, but something heard.

"Hannah, is your internet working?" There's an askance glance ot the front desk, one male technician from the second floor leaning over the desk and conversing with the receptionist. Bob's brows furrow and he flashes a look to one of the filing clerks coming downstairs, looking at her phone with a frustrated expression, holding it up in the pantomime that means searching for a signal.

"No the entire network just went down, I thought you guys were doing maintenance or something?" Bob's throat tightens as he looks back to Elle's retreating form, her heels clicking on the tile floor towards the front door, then over to Bryan Buckley, when Bob opens his mouth to say something, the sound of chopping helicopter rotors comes out instead. It isn't that Bob is suddenly a gifted ventriloquist, but that the noise drowns out his words.

Activity suddenly buzzes ont he ground floor as secretaries and internet technicians looks around confusedly, a filing clerk closes her phoen and leans over to peek out a window. Through the front doors of the building, a black helicopter can be seen descending down into the parking lot, followed by the approach of broad-framed and visibly armored white vans, ten in total, approaching Fort Hero from the main gate entrance.

Bob immediately drops his briefcase, letting it fall from his hand to clatter on the floor, locks coming undone and paperwork flowing out as the briefcase snaps open. Taking a step back towards the elevator, Bob shouts over the noise of the approaching choppers, "Buckley! Elle! We need to get downstairs now!"

Outside, the sliding door of the helicopter is opening and a man in a plated suit of matte black body armor reminiscent of FRONTLINE is exiting the helicopter, along with a squad of men in SWAT gear. Elle's cell phone chirps with a text message:

Are you out? Hammerdown is commencing. — Harper

"Elle!" Bryan calls out, but his voice is drowned by the din of the descending chopper. He grits his teeth and holds his hand up to Bob in a pantomime to hold the door to the elevator. Then he sprints forward, his long legs carrying him across the lobby to catch up with Elle. He grabs at the back of Elle's suit unceremoniously, barely bracing himself from the electric shock that is almost certain to come in this breech of protocol.

But he doesn't really care.

The priority is to get on their home turf - downstairs in the bowels of Fort Hero - and not walk into the open and waiting arms of Harper's goons. Who else could it be, after all?

Elle stops at the doorway, her eyes raising to the black helicopter as it descends from the heavens, her eyes widening. It's as if time slows for the little blonde, pulling out her cell phone and quickly tapping out a message.

At front door. Dad and Buckley are here. Stop them? — Elle

The message is just barely sent off as she feels Bryan's grip on the back of the suit, the phone tumbling to the ground as she's jerked back. Her eyes widen as she stares out at that looming vision, at the choppers and the vans. This is what they were hinting at, all this time. A hand reaches back, pushing at Bryan's arm.

And the inevitable shock that Bryan expects is delivered. But it's not the muted one she normally reserves for him. No…this one is a burst that practically explodes off of the little blonde, intending to send Bryan flying back, away from her. This is the dangerous side of Elle that was never turned on Buckley.

In but another instant, it looks as if Elle Bishop is about to turn her electricity on her father, a ball of lightning crackling in her hand…but it is instead directed at the elevator console, purposely missing Bob by mere inches.

"No." Elle says this through gritted teeth, electricity still crackling over her fingertips.

The power surge that runs through the elevator sends crackling bolts of lightning surging thorugh the entire framework, flickers the lights and fries the circuits on the elevator. Bob recoils with a yelp and the clerical staff scream and dive for cover behind the front desk and reception center. Bob turns around, bewildered, eyes wide. "E— Elle." He's looked disappointed in her before, looked overwrought with feelings of frustration, but never has Bob actually looked so physically broken by something his daughter has done. All the suspicions, all the fears, all confirmed when she turns on her father in favor of the approaching intruders.

"Elle… Elle this is wrong," one steady hand slowly rises as Bob tries to back his daughter down from what he perceives as a cliff. Outside, the counter-terrorism task force is approaching the building, rushing across the parking lot with weapons drawn, even as the sounds of another helicopter approaching has all of the displaced sound of a roof landing at the helipad.

"Elle, don't— don't do this. The Company is all you know, Elle. Elle don't— don't do this because of me. Think about all the people you could get killed. Think— think about what's going to happen!" Bob's attention moves to the glass doors, watching the DHS counter-terrorism team approach, and between their black-clad frames, watching the armored man striding through the parking lot. "There's still time to turn this around Elle," Bob shakily urges, looking askance to Bryan.

But Bryan is still trying to put himself back together after flying several feet and falling to the floor before the electricity found a home in the ground. He groans at the pain of the blast, gritting his teeth together and doing his best to push away the pain. The shock wasn't enough to kill him, but the fire in his veins is so excruciating, he can't even waive it off with the study of it.

"Ungrateful bitch," he snarls. As much as he may have intended for the epithet to stay under his breath, Bob is sure to hear the words borne of agony. He may not know much when it comes to blood relatives, but the Company is the closest thing he ever had to a family. And that betrayal tastes just as sour.

Electricity continues to course over the blonde's hands as she glares daggers at her father, her lip curling in a sneer. The mask is gone, again…replaced by only hatred. Resent. Yet at the same time…there's a sense of satisfaction behind her glare. "Who are you to decide what's wrong, Daddy?!" She almost screams this out, raw emotion showing for the first time in the girl.

"You and the fucking Company killed my mother, defamed her. She was murdered. And you honor her memory by erasing my memory of her and telling me for twenty-six years that she abandoned us, that she was nothing more than a fucking bum!" The electricity swells as she makes sure she is not standing in the way of the door, crackling as if it wants nothing more than to leap out and take the life of the man she shouts her hatred to.

She seems to grow in stature, somehow, as the blue light flickers over her features. Tears have begun to flow. "You tortured me, you manipulated me, you made sure that I would never want to leave your side, didn't you? I was just your little puppet, Daddy." She raises her hands. Her focus is more on Bob than it is on Bryan. "Not any more. I'm not going to take the fall for all that you've done, Daddy. I'm not going to be put on death row. I will not bear the burden of your karma, Daddy. YOU did this. YOU made all of this happen. I am not the one to blame for people who die today. You are."

She glances once to Bryan, a warning look. Please don't make me hurt you, I didn't want you to see this. The sorrowful look she gives to her one-time partner likely doesn't take the sting away. Then, her hateful glare is returned to her father.

A breaching round from a combat shotgun blasts the front doors open in a shower of glass and twisted metal. A firm slam of a boot comes next, kicking the doors open as the DHS Counter Terrorism operatives storm the building, fanning out one by one and filing into the lobby. "Federal agents down on the ground! Down on the ground now!"

Elle is sparking with electricity, snapping arcs leaping from her hands and arms down to the floor with the pop and snap of high voltage. Threads of electricity arc between her legs, crackling up between them like a Jacob's Ladder while static crackles pop in her hair and around her shoulders.

Bob does exactly as he's told, folding his hands behind his head as he takes a knee and then another, then lays face down on the floor after giving an apologetic look to Elle. Laying on his stomach, Bob offers a look to Bryan, followed by a subtle nod as both of Bob's hands come to press flat against the floor.

Outside, the black armored figure is slowly approaching the building, unholstering a heavy-looking revolver from his hip and checking the cylinder, looking up one end of the hallway and down another. One floor above, there's the sound of a breaching round going off and doors being blown in, shouting everywhere.

What the security team doesn't notice quick enough is what Bob is doing to the floor. White tile is changing color, bleeding out like ink on paper, turning gold beneath their feet, then creeping up the wall behind them. It avoids Elle, at least at first, if only so that Bob has time to complete the circuit.

Gold is a fantastic conductor of electricity, after all.

The moment the cold under Elle's feet forms, so too do her heels begin to turn to gold. Once her shoes turn metallic there's a surge of electricity and Bob is pushing himself up off of the floor and away from the metal he's made there. Guns are raised, the abortive beginnings of a shout is formed, and then lightning surges thorugh Elle's body and into the floor, then leaps up into the guards through the solid gold soles of their shoes. Electricity snaps and pops over their bodies, arcs back towards the door and crackles angrily.

The DHS operatives fall backwards as their clothing ignites from the charge, smoke sent up towards the ceiling as they lay, extremities twitching, gasping for breath. From the smoke, the internal fire alarm is triggered, followed by the noise of an alarm and the pop of sprinkler heads all activating at once, sending a cascading shower of water down on Bob, Bryan and Elle. Electricity wracks Elle's form as the water hits her, knees buckle from the surge, sending her collapsing down to her hands and knees with a tingle running through her palms and sparks popping up and down her body like a battery that has lost its charge.

This is a terrible, familiar sensation.

"I… am so disappointed in you." Bob chides with a near choked tone as his attention is focused on Elle, missing the armored figure sidestepping the doorway and getting out of sight after the massive electrical discharge from Elle. "Buckley, are you alright?" Upstairs the sounds of shouting are getting louder, there isn't much time.

It's quite the display, even if Buckley had a few seconds to prepare for it between Bob's nod and the the completion of the circuit. He too assumes the appropriate position, only to spring back to his feet with as much speed as his still aching body can muster. Bryan is hurt. Bryan is unhappy.

Still, the sight of Elle vanquished by the sprinkler system that soaks his own slightly singed suit isn't as comforting as it might be. She's still Elle, and there is a moment where Bryan hesitates. She's still a kindred spirit in more ways than one. She's still the boss's daughter, Benedict Arnold or no. Bryan sets he jaw and bares his teeth in a brief moment of uncharacteristic rage. His hands balled into fists at his sides, he turns to look over the plane of his shoulder to Bob for approval.

Ever the Company's man.

The arrival of the operatives works in Bob's favor, the blonde not noticing the gold creeping across the floor. "I'm Institute!" She calls this out to the men, unsuspecting of the pain that is to come. It is as she is turning once more to see her father push himself off the floor that his plan is completed; for a moment, she can only watch as her ability is turned against the ones on her side, her eyes widening. Then…the water hits her.

A pained scream rips from Elle's throat as the water turns her ability against her, dropping to the ground with sobs and coughs from the pain. She stares for a long moment in her reflection cast in the now golden floor that she rests on, twitching as electricity pops over her body. It takes a long moment for her to regain her composure, her control, to stop herself from sparking.

Then, a hateful glare is turned up to Bob, his daughter baring her teeth toward him in an angry sneer. In a hoarse voice, she responds, grasping around in her purse. "It's over, Daddy…" She glares up at her father, hate burning behind those blue eyes of hers. "You can try to run…but sooner or later, you're going to be in one of those coma coffins." Suddenly, a frightening grin forms over the quivering blonde's features. "And when they bring you in…I will laugh as I watch the effects of your actions in the past crash down on you."

She suddenly spits in her father's direction. "I hate you, Robert Bishop. I hate you for stealing my life. For stealing my dreams. You only ever had your interests in mind…fuck you, Daddy."

"Take her with us," Bob says with a tightness in his throat, reaching inside of his jacket for a plastic case he keeps inside of the left breast of his coat. Unfolding it, there's a pair of syringes tucked into loops in the leather. Sliding one out of the folio, Bob plucks the cap off with his teeth, hastily walking over towards Elle while she's soaked by the water. Spitting the cap to the floor, Bob holds the syringe up and scowls. "I will not give up on you this easy Elean— "

A gunshot rings out in the lobby, a raucous explosion from a high-caliber firearm. There's an explosion of red from Bob's shoulder as a bullet punches through his body at his collar and blasts out past his shoulder. Lifted up off of his feet from the force of the ground, Bob is thrown backwards by the blast, landing down on the floor even as the click-snap of a cylinder cycling a new chamber is heard.

Whining and whirring hydraulics come up from behind Elle, and the black-clad figure that had ducked behind the wall by the entrance to Fort Hero comes striding through the doorway. Donned in a heavier suit of armor reminiscent of those that FRONTLINE wears, marked only with the designation 00-01, the man leveling a .50 caliber revolver at Bob Bishop is at first a stranger.

Laying on his back, one hand clutching his bloodied shoulder and sweat slicking his brow, Bob lets out a whine of pain, staring up at his daughter for help, mouthing the name Eleanor as he looks up at her. But the voice that comes synthesized from the armor is familiar. Her manipulative white knight.

«Bishop, are you okay?» Desmond Harper's voice crackles through the speakers of the helmet, though as he steps fully into the building, he only then realizes that there's another monster waiting in his periphery. He hadn't seen Bryan Buckley at all.

As Bob approaches, Elle scoots back on the floor, a look of pure, intense hatred crinkling her features. Blue eyes travel from the syringe to his face, and the girl spits on his shoes, even as she's trying to push herself away from Bob. "No, get away from me!!!" Her hand is still in her purse as she does her best to get away from her father. There are no more masks between Elle and her father, now, and the pure, seething rage that boils in her chest shows on her face.

Then, her hand comes free from the designer bag, holding a gun. The gun she vowed to keep with her at all times, just in case something like this happened. This is leveled at Bob with a shaky, unsteady hand as he nears her, the girl's lips curling away from her teeth. "I'm not going anywhere with you, ever again! I'm not your little puppet any more, and I'm not going to let you control me! You can burn in hell, you piece of shit!" The safety is clicked off…but she can't seem to bring herself to pull the trigger. Not when the end of the gun is pointed at her own father. The metal of the gun rattles as she stares up at her own father with a suddenly unreadable expression.

It is the armored man who pulls it for her, the gun clattering out of her hands and to the golden tile floor as if she was the one who just shot Bob. Elle's eyes widen as she watches her father fall to the ground from the force of the freshly established bullet wound in his shoulder. Her hand reaches toward him almost instinctively, her mouth beginning to form the word 'Daddy', the years of conditioning hard to break. But then, she stops herself, simply staring at the man as he writhes on the ground, her hand still held toward him, an almost tortured look on her face. Does she comfort her father in what could be her last moments with him…or does she continue the betrayal, turn her back on him when he finally does need her?

No. She's not Daddy's Little Girl any longer. No more is the little girl who came running every time her father called, who would have given her life for her father, who kept trying so hard for just a lick of respect and praise from the most important person in her world, even though she never received it.

This much is evident as Harper's voice comes from the armored man, the little blonde turning an almost adoring gaze up to the man. "Desmond…" This is whispered in an airy intonation, and the expression on her face coupled with the tone of her voice is more than enough to betray the cold, bitter truth of it all.

Desmond Harper has Elle Bishop wrapped tightly around his little finger. Where once it was her father who pulled the electric blonde's strings, this armored man has moved in to assume the role, and has succeeded in ways that her father never could. So well, in fact, that for a moment, it's like her father isn't laying on the floor, writhing in pain and silently begging her for help; like Bryan isn't even in the same room, and it's just her and Harper. She would do anything for him…even turn her back on her own flesh and blood.

And all it took was the truth…

"I'm fine."

She raises to her feet…and picks up the gun, training it on Bob with narrowed eyes, her hand shaking, tears in her eyes. "I…I should kill you…you stole my life…maybe it would be fitting if I stole yours!" She grabs the gun with the other hand, steadying her aim as she stares her father down. Then, she sobs out. "Why shouldn't I?!"

While the tableau plays out, Buckley watches, his eyes snapping from one player to the next, and always coming back to Elle. He breathes in deeply, the air hissing in through his bared teeth. Harper's ignorance to his presence is a blessing - one Bryan isn't about to take for granted. He slinks around behind Elle, using every bit of stealth the Company ever taught him, every skill they ever honed in him to make him the instrument he is.

They didn't do a bad job of it either.

It's how Bryan is able to get within inches of Elle before he makes his presence known with a hissing growl, his teeth still held tightly together, his brow furrowed and eyes narrowed in anger. Traitor doesn't carry enough venom.

"Because whatever else he did, he made you what you are. He made all of us what we are," Bryan finally says, close enough to breath down her neck if he wanted to. "But he didn't make you a traitor. He he didn't make you this." This comes out in a hiss, and Bryan reaches up to grab the jacket of Elle's suit rather than her arms, curling the fabric into his hands to hold it and therefore here as tightly as he can. He leans in and turns his head to whisper in her ear then, his voice dripping with loathing.

"I thought we had something in common once, Elle. But you're just cruel." He snarls the last word even as he lifts Elle off her feet - off the gold floor - and dips his head to sink his teeth into her neck, pushing easily past her pale skin and into the blood vessels beneath.

Harper's reaction times are too slow to halt Bryan's apprehension of Elle, and the practical cannon of a handgun he wields is leveled back at Bryan and wavers from side to side trying ot get a clear shot, «Bishop!» Harper shouts with a crackling quality through his helmet. Stepping forward with one hand moving from his gun with the intention of ripping Buckley off of her in their struggling tangle, Harper falters when he notices something.


As blood runs down the side of Elle's neck, running clear in spots from venom spilling out from Buckley's mouth, Elle's body begins sparking with uncontrolled levels of electricity. Eyes wide behind his visor, Harper can hear klaxons blaring in his helmet, warning of the electrical charge building in front of him. He doesn't move to save Elle — he could have — instead he moves to save himself.

Diving to the side, Harper throws himself towards the reception desk, landing on one armored shoulder and skidding across the floor, even as crackling arcs of electricity rise up off of Elle's body and strike the ceiling and the gold-plated floor as the blonde's throat constricts and a strangled scream rises up from her.

"B— Buckley— no!" is Bob's whine of protest, one hand held out and fingers splayed, sweat rolling down his brow and blood soaking into his suit jacket and pooling beneath him. She was going to murder him, and yet Bob Bishop still begged for the life of his daughter to be saved.

Adam Monroe once said that humanity is at its best when presented with its worst. Bob Bishop was no adherant to Monroe's sopciopathic ideology, but in that one phrase… perhaps there was some kernel of truth.

The little blonde's eyes widen as she feels Bryan's hands clasp around her jacket and holds tight to her, those blue orbs raising up to the ceiling as he hisses into her ear. Time goes slow for Elle as he lifts her off of her feet, and whispers that final farewell. She intakes a sharp breath as his fangs pierce her skin, her eyes widening as she feels the hemotoxin enter her veins, even as she hears and feels that scream rip out of her throat.

So this is how I'm going to die…

She feels her control over her body slip away, first, her form relaxing against Bryan. She sees the electricity that flows off of her…and she makes a decision. If she's going to die…then she'll bring Buckley with her. It's strangely clear in her mind right now, even as drooping eyes drop down to Bob as he begs for her life to be spared. She uses this clarity she has been afforded in her final moments, directing the current into Bryan at deadly volumes.

Daddy, I could never have pulled that trigger…

Elle only stares at her father as Bryan's hemotoxin is pumped into her, as she feels her life slipping away from her. She stares at the man who, for nearly all of her 26 years on this earth, was the most important person in her entire world, tears flowing down her cheeks even as the electricity pours off of her body.

Daddy, I love you…

It doesn't take much to do the trick.

Buckley holds on as long as he can, out of jealousy, determination, and just blind rage, but when Elle's sparks become arcing bolts of current, the bite becomes more than a passionate hold. His jaw clamps down, bruising the skin around the puncture wounds as the coursing energy makes his muscles contract.

He doesn't hear Bob's order.

His nerves fry quickly, but with no ability to loosen his deathgrip, Bryan takes Elle with him as he crumples to the ground. His eyelids, held tightly shut, break their seal to send their liquefied contents spilling like opaque tears onto his dark cheeks, only to crackle and pop like frying eggs. Bryan's skin darkens and chars, the skin on his face and hands breaking away into ashen flakes and drifting away.

It doesn't take long for the poison to run its course in Elle Bishop. Her vision is beginning to fade as Bryan drops to the ground with her atop him…but she's still staring at her father. Despite the death that she can feel only moments away, she can still manage to cry, the tears pushing themselves sluggishly out of her eyes.

They say that life flashes before your eyes when you die. Elle is no exception. Moments after Bryan's liquefied eyes spill onto his cheeks, Elle's eyes are losing focus, sluggishly traveling over a scene that only she can see as the lids draw down over them.

It goes backwards, for Elle. Her time with Warren, her time spent working behind the Company's back with the Institute, her time spent in Chicago with the dead man her useless body is draped over. The future. Her time with Gabriel, her time spent under the torture of the Company and their methods of raising her. Her ninth 'birthday', spent in a glass room with an IV of Lithium attached to her arm, her childhood, and what little memories she has of it.

As the life begins to fade from her half-lidded eyes, Elle sees something that makes death not seem so horrible. She sees herself, digging in the sand of the Bishop's summer home, but a tiny little child of perhaps three or four. Next to her is a blonde-haired middle-aged woman, speaking in a soft, sweet voice to her daughter as they build a sandcastle together. The little girl is happy, smiling and laughing to her mother as they play together.

I'm coming home, Mommy…

And then, Elle is gone.

I wanted a better life for my family, it's what made the difficult choices I made in the Company possible to make.

The darkness that consumes Elle Bishop is one of life's greatest mysteries. What happens after death? From her perspective, there is only the slowing of her heart, the blurring of her vision from muscle failure and tears, and the eventual paralysis that robs her of breath and drives her into shock, and then ultimately death.

But somewhere along the way, I lost sight of what was important, and so did the Company.

Dreamless sleep abruptly ends violently and painfully. Green floods Elle Bishop's vision, violent and sickly green light flowing like visible radiation all around her, scintillating waves of lime green smoke and flames that boil in the air and churn like an ethereal sea, burning lemon yellow at its center where the particles are their most dense, until somewhere in the center of that vitriolic-looking cloud there is the silhouette of skeletal hands, of bones moving as if they were possessed with life, surrounded by luminous flesh.

The Company was supposed to protect our kind from a terrible future, we were supposed to be our own man-made saviors.

The noise is otherworldly, a low electrical humming and crackling, and the wheezing breath that sucks into Elle's lungs comes a moment later, her back arching, fingers curling, dusty-dry mouth sucking back a painfully tight swallow. Surging luminiscent radiation boils over Elle's body and the skeletal arms weaving it are draped in white cloth, like some sort of sinister saint working God's will like Jesus unto Lazarus.

Who will fill our role? Who will be the ones to rise where we failed?

As the energy begins to die down, a blonde man with a clean cut beard of stubbled hair stares with glowing lime-light irises down at Elle, his hair slicked back over his head, white lab-coat buttoned closed. As the green light begins to fade, receeds back into Darren Stevens' luminous hands, Elle Bishop feels her muscles burn and ache. Looming in the shadows of the room, an Elderly Man is partly lit by the green light, his weathered and wrinkled brow creased like old leather, one black eyebrow raised and dark eyes looking like a starless night's sky in this light.

What if there is no one to take our place?

As Darren lowers his hands and Elle's hyperventillating begins to come to an end, the dark-eyed old man slowly steps into the ambient green glow radiating out from Darren's still cooling hands, a smile creeping up on his lips. Simon Broome offers only the raise of a single eyebrow in greeting to Elle, back like Odessa from the world of the dead to the land of the living.

What if what fills the void we leave behind, is something far worse than what we had become?

"Welcome back, Elle…" Simon croons as his wrinkled lips pull back into a half-smile. "You still have work to do."

And what if they cannot be stopped?

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