Liberate Yourself from Hell
Disclaimer: I don't own these characters. Now that we're on break and everyone is locked in place for a while I decided it would be a good time to start this. R/R.
(Author's Note): This means dream sequence and/or flashback.
Elle forgot what the laughter of children sounded like. She realizes she never fully took time to appreciate it. She hears it now and wonders where exactly it's coming from. That's when she sees the little, blond girl in a pretty, blue dress run up to her and hug her. Elle thinks this is strange because she doesn't play nice with children or with anyone in general. Elle frowns as she suddenly realizes the little girl is crying instead of laughing.
"What's wrong?" asks Elle as she kneels down to bring herself eye-to-eye with the girl.
"Mommy left me," sniffles the girl, "I can't find her." Elle feels a certain sadness she hasn't felt in a long time. She's heard it's called "empathy" but she never really got the concept of it.
"Hey," says Elle softly, "I can help. That's what I do now. I help people."
"Like a hero?" asks the girl hopefully, her tears momentarily gone at the promise of salvation.
"Just like a hero," assures Elle. It feels strange to think of herself as a hero. All her life, Elle's ability has caused nothing but trouble and pain for her and those around her. It's so foreign to think that she saved someone with it. It gave her a nice feeling though, a feeling she wouldn't mind feeling again. There's a noise in the distance. Elle reaches for the girl's hand but the hand slips through her fingers.
"Daddy's mad," says the girl before she fades away like a ghost. Elle stands up and looks around. She sees something new now. She can feel her heart speed up and her palms become sweaty. It's a big, glass box like the one she was put in at age nine. Elle cautiously approaches it and presses against the glass. She sees a woman inside the box, a familiar woman.
"Mommy?" asks Elle as the woman looks at her, "Mommy!" She bangs on the glass and desperately searches for a door.
"Save me," pleads Elle's mother.
"I can get you out," promises Elle as she pounds on the glass, trying to break it. She's a hero now. Isn't this what heroes do?
"Save me," repeats Elle's mother.
"I don't know how!" whines Elle, "I'll try harder, Mom. I'll save you!"
"No, you won't," says Bob. Elle turns to see her father simply standing there staring at her. What did he do? What did he do to her and her family?
"Let her out," orders Elle, "Daddy, please let her out."
"You can't save anyone, Elle," states Bob, "You're not tough enough to be a hero. You're just a disappointment."
"I'm a hero!" cries Elle as she pounds on the glass, "I can save her!" She tries to get her sparks going but they won't turn on. She feels strong hands grab her and start to drag her away. Elle tries to claw and fight her way free so she can help her mother but she can't get her power to turn on. She's not a hero. She's a monster, a weapon.
"I'm a hero!" cries Elle again as the men in white coats drag her away, "I'm a hero!"
Elle woke up and barely restrained the urge to scream. Her breath came in short, heavy gasps and she shivered uncontrollably. She rubbed her arm and found that it still felt a little numb. Two days ago, that arm had been in a sling and it was still sore.
"Mommy," whispered Elle as she shivered again. She got out of bed and moved towards the door. She was still dazed from her nightmare and she slowly wandered the halls of the Hartsdale facility like an aimless ghost. It was the same nightmare again, the same one she had been having for weeks. The presentation was always different but the content and message were the same.
"What did you do?" asked Elle as she slowly and quietly snuck into her father's office. It was the new game she had created. Every time she had a nightmare, Elle would go into her father's office. Sometimes she would harmlessly surf the internet until she was relaxed enough to give sleep another try but most of the time she would dig into files. Lately, Elle had been restless. She was starting to question things, things that she never would've questioned before. Elle turned on her father's laptop and logged into The Company's network under his account. She didn't expect to find much. The hard copies of her file weren't around but she knew there had to be records somewhere.
"That's odd," said Elle as she clicked on a folder bearing her name. She had spent most of her time digging through the network but lately she had turned to the files that were on the computer itself. She hadn't seen this folder before. The computer prompted her to provide a password but her father's usual one wasn't correct. Elle decided there was something very private about her in that folder that her father didn't want anyone to know about. This instantly made her want to open it.
"What would it be?" asked Elle aloud as she quietly searched her father's desk drawers for a clue as to what the password might be. She cautiously took out a photograph and stared at it. Elle recognized her parents as well as Noah Bennet. She assumed the other woman was Bennet's wife. All four of them looked happy in the picture, as if they were lifelong friends. Elle felt a gnawing need suddenly grip her. Her nightmares were becoming more frequent and more vivid. She needed to know about what happened to her mother. Elle could barely remember the woman at all and her father never spoke of her.
"Burning the midnight oil doesn't seem like your style." Elle rolled her eyes and swiveled around in her chair to see Noah Bennet come into the room.
"Couldn't sleep," said Elle curtly.
"You'll hurt your eyes if you stare at that thing in the dark," warned Bennet.
"You're not my father," reminded Elle.
"Something that I am eternally grateful for," assured Bennet as he sat down on the leather couch and simply stared at Elle, "So really, Elle, what are you doing here?"
"Couldn't sleep," repeated Elle as she held up the picture she had been studying, "Do you remember my mother?" Bennet squinted and got up so he could get a better look at the picture. He remembered Mary Bishop. Noah and Bob had been friends for a very long time until things started getting . . . complicated. Bob chose to use his daughter as a lab rat and while that never really sat well with Bennet things turned especially ugly when he received Claire. Having a daughter of his own changed Bennet and since then he could never look at Bob the same way.
"Company Christmas party circa 1989," recited Bennet as he stared at the picture fondly, "You were, what, six years old then?"
"You and Daddy look like best friends," mentioned Elle.
"We were best friends," admitted Bennet, "I remember your mother, Elle. She was a kind, decent person who loved you and your father. She was too good for him."
"I thought you didn't meet Daddy until after she left us," said Elle.
"I said I was there when he brought you in," corrected Bennet, "I never said that was the first time we ever met." Elle sat in silence and let this new information sink in. Her memory had been spotty lately. She felt as if she was remembering things she should forget and forgetting things she should remember.
"There are files on here but they have a different password," explained Elle, "Do you know it?"
"Can't help you there, kiddo," admitted Bennet as he took a pen and scribbled something on a piece of paper, "Send an email to that address and tell her I sent you. She'll help you get to those files if you really want to see what's in them."
"Who is she?" asked Elle, "Where can I find her?"
"She finds you," replied Bennet, "I never know where she is exactly but she sends me emails from time to time. It's a shame to be forgotten."
"I could tell Daddy on you," reminded Elle.
"I could do the same," countered Bennet, "We both know that won't happen. You're too curious to end the game now when it's just starting." Elle frowned and turned away. She knew Bennet was right. She had to know the truth. Some irresistible force compelled her. Who was her mother and what had happened to her? Was she possibly still alive? Did her departure have anything to do with what Elle's father might've done to her?
"Let me know if you ever feel like talking about the good, old days," said Bennet as he headed for the door, "Pleasant dreams, Elle."
"Wait, why were you up in the first place?" asked Elle.
"Couldn't sleep," replied Bennet with a grin, "You know how it is." With that, Bennet left Elle alone in the dark. She turned back to the computer and stared at the password prompt. She wasn't going to get any answers from her father. Elle stared at the email address Bennet had written down. Could she trust him? Could she really trust anyone?
"What did you do?" asked Elle as she searched for a new file. She called up the Haitian's file. It was short on personal history but they had done numerous tests with his ability. That was what Elle wanted to see. His power effectively damaged the brain, specifically the areas dealing with memory. Prolonged or frequent use could cause unwanted side effects but the damage could be repaired. Of course that kind of extensive damage would take decades to heal on its own but if someone somehow had something that could heal it faster then it would take only a matter of days.
"Something like this," finished Elle aloud as she opened up Claire's file and stared at the two side by side. She couldn't find the Haitian but she knew exactly where to find Claire. Slowly the pieces were beginning to fall into place and Elle was concocting a scheme. She couldn't trust anything but her own memories. If she could get those back then she could know beyond all doubt whether or not her father was truly a monster. Once she had that squared away, Elle could try to find out what happened to her mother. It was risky and Elle knew she would be stepping into a very dangerous game if she tried this.
"What should I do?" asked Elle as she stared at the picture of her mother. Her mother was very pretty with nice eyes and a beautiful smile. Elle remembered her mother's voice, soft and sweet like candy. Oh how her mother could sing. Elle remembered listening to that warm, soft voice lull her to sleep every night. Her mother's voice was like a big, warm blanket that Elle wrapped herself in. Now though that voice was fading away. Elle struggled to hang on to the memory but it slipped away into the dark.
"It's a shame to be forgotten," whispered Elle as she closed down the laptop and started to unplug it. She stuffed the email address into a pocket on the laptop's travel case after putting the machine in the bag. She had to travel light but she had to make sure she took everything she needed. There would be no coming back from this.
"I'll find out what you did," hissed Elle as she looked at her father's face in the photograph, "Then I'll kill you for it if I have to."
The more Claire Bennet thought about this whole "normal life" thing, the more she really hated it. Of course, Claire supposed she never really gave it much of a chance. She was basically doomed since birth, cursed to never really have a normal life no matter how much her father fought to change that. Now Claire's father was basically a Company hostage and worse yet her biological father had been murdered. Claire hated seeing the replays of it on TV. It had been a month and there were no new developments with that case, at least none that the media was willing to share with the unwashed masses.
"Claire Butler," said a voice over the intercom, "Please report to the front office." Claire still couldn't get used to her new last name so it took her a second longer than it should've to react. She passed it off as a lack of attention as she got up from her desk and headed out of the classroom. Claire quickly moved through the courtyard until she reached the main office building. She opened the door, stepped inside, and felt her blood turn cold.
"Your cousin's here," said the secretary.
"I'm afraid I have some rather terrible news," explained Elle sadly, "Can we have a moment alone please?"
"Can't let you take her out of the building unless you sign her out," explained the secretary, "Can't let you sign her out without her consent."
"One second," said Elle as she took Claire aside and leaned to whisper something in her ear, "Play along or I will kill your father." Not missing a beat, Claire worked up some fake tears and started to cry.
"Oh it's so terrible!" wailed Claire melodramatically, "I hope Uncle Bob is okay."
"I'm sure he will be," assured Elle as she held Claire's hand, "C'mon, we need to get to the hospital. Your father's already there. He sent me to get you."
"You understand, right?" asked Claire as she looked at the secretary, "I mean family's important."
"Of course, dear," assured the secretary, "Just sign this and have your cousin sign it too." Claire and Elle did as requested and then Elle led Claire out of the building.
"Just keep walking and get in the car," ordered Elle, "Don't do anything stupid."
"I thought that was your job," retorted Claire bitterly, "Your father and my father made a deal. No more coming after each other's families."
"Just get in the car and I'll explain," assured Elle. Claire got into the car Elle gestured to while Elle went around to the other side and got into the driver's seat.
"Where's my dad?" asked Claire.
"I only said I'd kill him," reminded Elle as she suddenly grabbed Claire's arm, "I never said he was actually with me." Before Claire could react, Elle zapped her with enough voltage to fry a normal person. The shock only knocked Claire out and left tiny wisps of smoke rising from her skin. Elle knew that wouldn't last. She couldn't believe it was this easy. She had taken the first available flight to as close to Costa Verde as she could get. She had slept until time for the flight and had also slept most of the way there. The extra electricity in her body kept her wired enough to get by with less sleep than a normal person required. She had taken some clothes, the photograph, her father's laptop bag along with all contents in said bag, and a medical kit with her complete with everything one could need in order to draw blood from someone. Her wallet had enough fake IDs, cash, and Company cards to get her through this little adventure. She'd worry about the rest after this was over.
"Cheerleaders," muttered Elle as she buckled Claire in and then started the car, "So damn naïve."
Noah Bennet prided himself on being a man who could deal well with any crisis. Bennet was a professional, practically a legend in the books of Company history. He achieved this vaunted status by always allowing reason and sensibility to prevail over emotion and sentimentality. Yet there were certain instances when his emotions got the upper hand. This was almost one of them.
"She fried the entire security grid," stated Bob wearily as he started making mental notes of exactly how much money this would cost and how quickly they could repair it.
"Quite a step up from powering a flashlight," remarked Bennet with a grin, "And you said she'd never amount to anything."
"Now is not the time, Noah," reminded Bob, "She's taken my laptop and she still has her Company cards. Given the fact that they're hard to trace, it will take at least a day to get them all canceled."
"Should've thought about that beforehand," said Bennet, "Why disrupt my sleep for this, Bob?"
"Did you say something to her?" asked Bob, "Did you tell her?"
"You know I really can't keep track of your lies, Bob," replied Bennet, "You'll have to be a bit more specific." Bennet noticed Bob was getting visibly agitated. Of course, it wasn't as if this fact bothered Bennet. Realistically speaking, there was very little Bob could do to hurt Bennet.
"If I find out you've turned her against me," began Bob.
"You'll hurt my family," finished Bennet, "I'd say you have enough problems right now with your own so let's give that broken record a rest." Bennet noticed a red light suddenly blink. Bob's mood noticeably improved as he studied the tracker.
"Apparently I won't have to carry out such threats," said Bob, "My daughter might just be doing it for me."
"What does that mean?" asked Bennet.
"My laptop just turned up in Costa Verde," explained Bob, "There's a tracker program in it that lets me know where it is if someone should steal it. The thing starts up with the rest of the operating system."
"So you're going to bring me along for the ride?" asked Bennet.
"It's either that or leave you here with a defenseless facility full of secrets you could use against us," reminded Bob, "This way, I can keep an eye on you."
"Always was an advocate of our 'buddy system'," remarked Bennet, "I suppose I don't really have a choice."
"Think of it as an unexpected chance to see your family again," suggested Bob, "Grab your gear. We need to get going."
Claire shifted uncomfortably as she regained consciousness. She tried to move but found her legs and arms taped to the chair. She struggled a bit and then tried to get a sense of where she might be. She knew it was a hotel but Claire still wasn't familiar enough with Costa Verde to accurately guess which hotel it might be. She saw Elle sitting at a desk doing something on a laptop. It looked as if she was writing down directions. Elle suddenly turned and saw that Claire was awake.
"Hi," chirped Elle as she bounced down onto the bed next to Claire, "I need a favor."
"Right," said Claire sarcastically, "I'll totally be willing to help you." She yelped as Elle shocked her.
"I tried to be nice," reminded Elle with a frown, "All you have to do is give me what I want and I'm gone. Is that really so hard?"
"Being nice doesn't involve tying people to a damn chair!" snapped Claire, "Do you really think I'm going to help you? Last time I checked, you tried to kill me and my boyfriend and your buddies killed my father then brought him back to life." Claire whimpered as Elle shocked her again.
"I need your blood," explained Elle, "It's very, very important."
"What for?" asked Claire as Elle went over to the table and opened up the medical kit. She took out a needle and connected it to a plastic bag via a rubber hose.
"It's personal," stated Elle as she jammed the needle in Claire's arm and began extracting blood, "You wouldn't understand."
"What I understand is that you kidnapped me," said Claire, "What I understand is that you're a psycho." Elle shocked Claire for a third time.
"I've tried to be reasonable but you're making that very hard," said Elle with a cruel grin, "Please, oh pretty please, keep talking like that. I want to make sure this hurts you."