Disclaimer: Characters and situations owned by NBC.

Thanks to: Kathy for beta-reading.

Spoilers: Powerless (2.11).


Players

It was impossible to work with them on a daily basis and not to wonder, every now and then, what it would be like to have one of their gifts. Noah had never envied them, and was actually fairly sure that if anything, such an advantage would render him hubristic and sloppy, but sometimes, he did wonder.

As it turned out, returning from the dead left a bitter aftertaste. He did not wish to repeat the experience any time soon.

"That's unfortunate," Bob said in his mild voice, "because now we're going to have to take measures to keep your daughter quiet."

Noah tried to figure out what Bob's angle was. A gleeful "we're going to send someone after your daughter and you'll be powerless to stop us" routine was utterly unlike the man. So was resurrecting Noah in the first place if it wasn't for a specific purpose. Bob was many things, most of them enough to merit a bullet in his head, but he wasn't a sadist, and definitely not a waster of time and energy.

"It must have been hell for you," Bob said. "Actually working in the paper business. Given that you couldn't even manage to suffer your fool of a manager quietly. The man tried to find you under the FBI's most wanted list. A psychiatrist might interpret that little stunt with him you pulled as a cry for help, Noah. "

The suspicion that started to grow in Noah made him snort in disbelief.

"You can't be serious," he said. "Tell me this isn't a recruitment speech."

Bob leaned back against the door. "What this is," he said, "is a wake-up call. You seem to be under the impression that my own death would have solved all your problems. And really, Noah, you should know better."

"I'm familiar with the 'strike me down, and someone else will take my place' speech, too, Bob."

"Undoubtedly, someone would," Bob said. "As I took Linderman's. But you are an intelligent man, and you always were one of our best operatives. I'm amazed the glaringly obvious hasn't occurred to you before, given that you recruited dear Dr. Suresh with a 'let's bring the Company down from the inside' pitch. Why shouldn't that someone who eventually replaces me be you?"

If Bob had told him this while they were both at the beach, Noah would have been able to dismiss it as yet another ploy without giving it a second's thought. The problem now was that Bob already had him dead, so whatever the endgame was, Noah's death couldn't be it. Not even Claire, because if getting Claire into their power had been all Bob wanted, this conversation was superfluous, too. He could have simply sent a team to California to kidnap her again.

"You want your family to be safe. Say I'm dead tomorrow, and all the Company with me by some miracle. Look at me, Noah, and tell me they would be safe if Claire actually goes public with whatever evidence she has. She'd be lucky if it's the CIA that gets its hands on her. And on every single one of us afterwards."

The use of "us" jarred Noah. In theory, he knew Bob had the genetic marker, he even knew which ability Robert Bishop had, but he had never seen him use it. It had been easy to forget that unlike Thompson, Bob actually was one of them.

"Allow me to doubt you're actually offering to abdicate," he said, stalling and considering. The obvious course of action would be to play along with Bob for now, get out of here, grab his family and go into hiding again. After using the first time he had access to a weapon to shoot Bob. Which must have occurred to Bob as well.

"Not now," Bob replied. "Besides, given your more recent actions, you're not in a position to win popularity contests here, Noah. You weren't the only protégé of Ivan's. What I'm offering is simple. You don't have to go through a complicated escape plan. You don't have to go into hiding again. Your family gets that normal life you want for them. No recruitment attempts for Claire, no kidnappings, nothing."

"Your generosity is overwhelming. And in return?"

"No more threats of exposure from your daughter, obviously. And some clarity of mind from you. If you had really wanted the family life for yourself, Noah, you wouldn't have started that little game with Suresh. You wouldn't have started to work for us to begin with, and you certainly wouldn't have continued for all those years. You're good at your work, and we need that. Now more than ever."

"I'm still not hearing any incentive for your own continued survival," Noah said. "Indulge my curiosity."

Unexpectedly, Bob smiled.

"The big picture," he said.

"As in?"

"As in, I see it, and you don't. Not yet. The world doesn't consist just of you and your family. And as I said… in a few years, you could be in a position to take over the entire Company from me, which would depend on my surviving until then. It certainly would solidify your family's safety, but it should be more than that to you. Remember the greater good, Noah? You will."

The ball in his hand, which had been in the cell as an example of Bob's peculiar sense of humor, hit the wall again.

"Oh, I remember it," Noah said. "The greater good. Down to the last experiment. Do you?"

Bob's face grew very still.

"Yes," he said.

As far as plans went, manipulating Elle into taking her father down with a few choice revelations was the first one that had come to mind for Noah. He still intended to pursue it, but he found himself considering what Bob had said. Not the doctrine about the greater good, of course. Still, there it was: becoming head of the Company might indeed be the only way to ensure long term safety. The perfect infiltration, indeed.

Offered on a silver plate, which was why he shouldn't take it. And yet. And yet. What were the alternatives? Make Elle kill her father, get out of here and return to his family. Live for a few more months in safety and then restart the cycle with Bob's inevitable successor. And potentially the American government, if Claire did go public before Noah managed to turn Elle.

He looked at Bob. What made Bob simultaneously better and worse than Thompson as an opponent was that he in all likelihood believed his sales pitches, and rarely went for the simple approach. There was no way Thompson would have gambled with his own life; Thompson simply would have left Noah dead and would have sent a hit squad after Claire, taking her body with them.

"We all live with what we created, Noah," Bob said. "Or we die because of it, as the case might be. When my time comes, there won't be resurrections; I know that. But I still think I will be able to say that what I did had more long term benefits than damages for a large number of people. Now, will you continue to plan the Company's demise and my own from this cell or from your new office?"

"If you put it that way," Noah said. Bob's success with turning Suresh might have made him hubristic enough to believe that after a while back working for the Company, Noah would adopt the mentality again as well, or he could need Noah for some yet unrevealed gain, but either way, there really was no time to waste in a cell. Noah had been given another chance at life, a life that otherwise would have ended in a defeat on a beach and utter failure to protect his family from the consequences. He had to use it.