Author's Notes: This was written for the Heroes Big Boom challenge on Livejournal. This story is a supposed future after Nathan's press conference at the end of Season 2 leading up to the events of "I am Become Death" in Season 3.
Warnings: character death, violence, torture, implied incest
Pairings: Peter/Claire, Sylar/Elle, Noah/Sandra, Claire/Rene (Haitian)
Thank you to my beta rtwofan and the contributing artist rebelle_elle.
Grave New World
Part One: Freedom is Not Free
Fear opened and spread across the nation like a fresh bullet wound. Some prayed that it was a hoax, but evidence dictated otherwise. People with special abilities lived among us, and anything could happen. They could do anything, and people had no faith in others. Hope faded like a murmur in the ether, and the United States government took Nathan Petrelli's revelation in the only way they knew they could gain results.
They hunted people down and imprisoned them. Then, the experiments started.
Months rolled by, and anyone with any ability who did not register went to hiding, picking rural areas in Montana and Alaska to circumvent the inevitable. When the census worker came to their door for a blood sample, it was all over. They wouldn't even have time to shut the door, run upstairs to grab a bag, and run. The suits would be waiting with the dreaded white van, and they'd be taken away, separated from their families, and if they prayed hard, they'd be stuck in an internment camp instead of strapped to a steel table.
The Company was sieged. Many of the remaining staff escaped in time, but their files were taken by the government and used against them. It made finding people easier, and the most powerful ones were the biggest targets, their faces plastered on television, websites, and bulletin boards everywhere.
Sylar figured he was skilled enough at outsmarting the Company and the FBI before, so he made the mistake of underestimating the vigilance of the government this time. His powers were undoubtedly incredible, and if he'd had the chance to poke inside Claire Bennet's brain, he may have had a chance against them. He never figured the harmless old lady who spotted him in her neighborhood that day would call the police, and they were on him like a terrorist. In fact, that was what they called him, and he felt insulted. He'd rather be called a murderer than a traitor to his own country.
The government agents were smart, led by the infamous Special Agent Emile Danko, Sylar barely had a chance. Not many of Danko's underlings walked away from trying to capture him, but Danko had the upper hand. He had done his homework on Sylar, and he found his weakness.
Danko sent his first wave of agents after Sylar. They weren't his best agents of course, and he was willing to sacrifice them. When they were obliterated, Danko sent him another wave, and then another, still keeping track of Sylar's movements. When the serial killer figured the government was giving up on him, Danko found him, hiding out in an abandoned house in the desert, safe asleep with his own confidence and arrogance. When he came awake, it was too late. The place was surrounded, bombs had been set loose, and he put up a lackluster fight as his body shut down to the strong tear gas in the air. His last memory was of being bound, the face of his captor smirking down at him.
Captured specials were often handed around from facility to facility. Sylar was particularly dangerous, so he was given special treatment at the government's most covert and guarded facility in a place called Coyote Sands, once a forgotten compound for the government's experiments. His cell was so far underground the desert it took three floors by elevator to reach him. But Sylar didn't know any of this. They barely kept him conscious long enough to realize he was even still alive.
He'd been awake enough to meet one of his caretakers, a Dr. Horus Crabtree who took special interest in him, an odious man who made it one of his hobbies to mock him, tell him his stupid life history, and proclaim all the future breakthroughs Sylar was going to help him make.
Sylar met him long enough to hate him, to fantasize and wish for his death; however, as he faded in and out of consciousness, he started to doubt he'd ever have the chance.
When they take you, you are little more than a dog. If they treat you as one, you consider yourself more than lucky.
First, they drug you and strap you to a table. The room is sterile, shiny with florescent lights and metal cabinets and tools. Their goal is clear; they will find your threshold no matter the costs. If your ability is weak and you die, that is your loss, not theirs. They don't concern themselves with the weak, so when they take you, they know that you aren't a lost cause. They know you will bring results.
Injection, Injection, Injection - they pump you with so many different drugs, you think you're head's going to spin clear off. They clean blood from your nose and ears, and you soil yourself so often you hope it stinks worse the next time, to annoy them, to delay their torture just that much longer.
Extraction, Extraction, Extraction - blood, brain matter, spinal fluid, they rip away pieces of you, so often you almost welcome death. You welcome the possibility the doctor will screw up and steal too much, sending you in cardiac arrest - sending you to finality that you've come to believe is your only solace.
You die a couple times, but they bring you back, while you resist and fight your place in their world. He grins at you, and you can only wish for terrible things to happen to him. You begin to believe in karma, just a little, because you know this is why you're suffering. You think of kinder doctors of other days, the doctors that gave you drugged tea and only strapped you to a chair to mock you.
Those were the halcyon days, but they are gone.
They bring him for the first time. You wonder if this is their last test. Probably not, but that doesn't mean it isn't the worst.
He's like you, but he's a traitor - like you once were, but you see things differently now. You almost feel compassion, remorse. Or maybe all pain is stronger now that you're here, the victim, the eternal lab rat.
He's special, and you almost crave his power. You think that your old life may not matter, but you wonder idly if things had been different, and if you had met this monster sooner. You could have had his power. You could have done so many things, but now it's too late. He's the one in control.
He can take your body and put your soul away, elsewhere - into a deep black unknown where your skeletons and demons dwell. Gabriel is there. He's like a friend you haven't seen since the last time you attended church. He asks you to pray, and while that monster is using your body, delighting in their experiments just so they can control you further, you close your eyes and somehow you remember the Lord's Prayer.
On the outside, he lets you feel every blood curdling rip and tear. He laughs while you bleed. Your body oozes and burns, bruised and bloody and broken.
You become scared. You think God has abandoned you. Maybe he has.
The monster leaves, but they use him again, sporadically so you don't anticipate it. But the doctor is always there, leaning over you, promising you there's more to come like it's delicious candy.
You know the candy is always poisoned. Always.
Then, somewhere in the midst of it all, you start to lose your ability to feel the comfort of sleep. All you do is dream now, dreams that are not yours, of blood and ghosts that even if you did die, you could never ever hope to escape them.
The Bennet household was almost back to normal, except for the absence of one family member. In the wake of Claire Bennet's disappearance, Lyle Bennet was pampered more than usual. "Mom!" he would protest, as Sandra Bennet ran her fingers through his hair and made sure to monitor every moment of his life. Sometimes Lyle expressed his wishes that Claire would come back to take the attention away from him, just so things would be normal again.
Noah Bennet would come home from his job at Staples, a rather low-key job for him, which he hated, but he wanted his involvement with the Company to be over. The government offered him many jobs, and he refused all of them. He was done with that business, and he didn't agree with the camps or the experimentation. He couldn't do it anymore because if he went on trying to catch specials again, every one of them would remind him of Claire. And he didn't want to be in the position to bag her if he did come across her. Like Sylar, Claire had been on top of the most wanted list for people with special abilities.
However, Sandra was always worried. "Do you think Claire is okay?" Her hands would tremble while holding her tea cup as she asked him.
"Sandra, Angela assured me that Nathan and Peter would keep her safe," Noah assured her, for like the hundredth time. Sandra couldn't get past those maternal instincts, though. If Claire wasn't in her sight, she'd worry regardless.
"I know," she said harshly. "Can you trust her, though?"
Noah Bennet knew better than anyone that Angela loved her family, but she was duplicitous enough to sell them out if it meant saving her own hide, or for some plan of hers that seemed ideal at the moment. Noah bit his lip and sighed. He put on his mask that even his wife couldn't get past. "Honey, you may not trust Angela, but please, trust Peter. If anyone will keep Claire safe, it's him. You know this. You met him."
Sandra's worries seemed to subside for the moment. Yes, they counted on Peter a lot. Nathan and Angela had the Devil's blood in them, and they were unreliable. Peter was different. If they had any hope during these times, it was because of Peter.
"Hey, Dad, you got another letter from this Pinehearst Company," Lyle said, coming through the door with his light backpack and mp3 player booming through the headphones around his neck. He handed Noah the starched white envelope, and both he and Sandra stared at Noah for his reaction.
Noah looked at the envelope and sighed. He turned to his family and gave them a forced smile. "They sure are persistent."
"Maybe you should think about it, dear," Sandra said, even though Noah warned her that Pinehearst was the Company that caused the downfall of Primatech. He knew very well they were behind more than scientific research and lobbying for the government. He tossed the envelope in the trash, which contained about three other ones from the last couple of days.
"I have, Sandra, and the answer is still no. No matter how much money they offer, I won't do that again."
"Yeah, because working as a Staples monkey is such an awesome job," Lyle said with a snort. His father's dangerous glare was reason enough for him to leave, and even stay in hiding through dinner.
"We've got another one for you, Dr. Crabtree," said an agent who approached him from behind. Horus Crabtree was drawing more blood from Sylar, and he turned around when he was through with his task and met the officer with excited eyes.
"Oh?" he asked. The agent smiled toothily.
"You ever heard of an Elle Bishop? Her father was in charge of that defunct company." The agent glanced and Sylar, unconscious and strapped to the table. "This one here killed her father. She doesn't know about it yet, but the government found him dead, in Sylar's style, before they raided the Company."
"Ah yes, Elle Bishop - electrical manipulation," he mused aloud. He stroked the white stubble on his chin. He stared down at Sylar in stark contemplation, and an idea seemed to slither into his head. He mumbled to himself, sniffing and then clearing his throat. "She will be interesting to study. Bring her down here." He pointed to the empty table next to his other patient. "Put her there."
"Sir, the subject needs to be doused with water so she does not use her powers," he said.
"That will not be necessary. I will barely keep her conscious, like this one." He furrowed his brow as he lifted his chin in unwavering confidence. As usual, the doctor moved about the facility with stoic air, as if he didn't have an ounce of fear in his whole body for these specials or what they could do. "This one is more powerful than she is, and I have had no problems with him. She will be easy, like a little kitten." He snorted with a superior laugh as the agent nodded and turned.
Peter and Claire were constantly on the run. It was funny, but before they prevented New York from blowing up, Claire had always imagined this. It was better than traveling with Rene and Angela to Canada or France. Anywhere Peter went Claire wanted to be there with him. It was the only time she felt safe, and Peter's reassuring smile made her feel human to have such absurd fears. She was the girl who could never get hurt, but if the government was experimenting on people, Peter assured her that she could.
Nathan and Angela used their connections to hide them now; however, Nathan had made too many deals to save himself from experimentation, and he served as national symbol of a subjugated special, cooperative and collared at the President's side. A lot of special people were doing this, but they were only safe if they had money behind them.
Angela had enough money to help Nathan, but not for Peter and Claire. Peter wasn't even sure where the money came from, but he heard from a reluctant Rene that it an anonymous source.
Even Rene had to go on the run, but Claire knew him well and prayed for his safety. She took comfort knowing the mysterious Haitian was good at blending into the shadows.
"Dollar for your thoughts?" Peter said to her, bringing her out of her trance. The two of them were settling down in a local Bed & Breakfast in Kansas for the night. The town they found, Riley, was fairly small, and Peter was confident they were safe from any government officials, even though Claire disagreed with him. She seemed to think hiding out in a more populous city like Los Angeles or Chicago would drown them out in a sea of people, unnoticed.
"A whole dollar, wow," Claire said with a giggle. She met her uncle's eyes, and as usual, he watched her with noble concern.
"Well, you look hungry... as well as preoccupied." He paused, and Claire shook her head. "I promise you. We'll be fine here. "
"Is that Peter with or without powers talking?" she asked.
"With," he answered sheepishly, and he tapped his skull. "I'm keeping the lines open thanks to Matt Parkman. I think I'm starting to get better with his abilities."
"Well, good, I just hope you don't go crazy with all those voices in your head," Claire said, taking a quick peek out of the thick brown curtains of the hotel room. She drew them back quickly.
"That makes two of us," Peter said with a sigh. "Let's get some sleep tonight. We're checking out tonight though. I still don't trust the motel manager. His thoughts are... greedy, and he's been watching the news a lot. I say we ship out and head north, toward Montana. I have a buddy there that lives in the middle of nowhere."
"Is he like us?" Claire asked, instantly cautious.
Peter nodded. "Yeah. He was lucky though. The moment they started rounding up people, he called me and said he'd be moving out there to his family's ranch. He's originally from New York. He'll help us for sure."
"So what does he do?" Claire asked curiously, and Peter shot her a warning glare.
"Never mind. Time for bed," he said, becoming instantly cold to her. Claire stared at him with a pout as the lights went out, and he rolled over on his bed, with his back facing her.
"Good, good, this is very good," Dr. Crabtree said, turning to his assistant Mika. "Ms. Bishop is very powerful, and her body is very healthy," he said, looking her down. He pulled the thin white sheet over her naked body, and he moved around her confidently, knowing full well if she wasn't so drugged, she'd fry him to a crisp for violating her so much.
"Will you perform your ultimate experiment on her, Doctor?" Mika asked. Mika was no mere lab flunky, and Dr. Horus Crabtree took a special interest in him because he had a special ability. The doctor had bargained for the government to keep Mika from the camps and experiments (even though Crabtree did indulge him in other ways, and Mika had let him).
"Yes, I think I shall," he said, turning his dark gaze from Elle to Sylar. "These two, they would make a perfect match, don't you think?" Mika nodded with a neutral expression. "Horrible parents but excellent breeding stock." Dr. Crabtree was actually grinning, and Ivan's placidity transformed into cautious mirth. "Yes, they will be perfect. Mika!" He softly rested his hand on his assistant's shoulder, who jumped slightly in surprise. "I will do what The Company succeeded in doing, but failed in containing. I will create the perfect superhuman soldier."
His expression turned brighter, painted with excitement for the insidious things to come, but Mika's smile thinned when Dr. Crabtree gave the order for an extremely large needle.
Peter thought he was dreaming that night, but soon he realized he wasn't, not really, as lucid dreams turned into recent memory of when he was talking with his brother.
"You have to come with me, Nathan. I won't leave you," Peter said determined. He still couldn't believe his brother had outed them all, and he only hoped that Nathan knew what he was doing.
Nathan put a comforting hand on his shoulder and smiled; it was a smile that Peter could never deny. "Pete, you have to. This is what I'm good at doing. I can reach the public, and I can try to give us a better name."
Peter frowned. "I don't believe you. What can you possibly do? They're going to start hunting us, Nathan. I've seen this future! I fought, you... you too, we fought to stop this from happening."
Nathan shook his head. "It won't be that future, Pete. I promise you. I have a plan, and the President's administration is working with me on it." His hand squeezed Peter's arm and let go. He straightened his tie, and Peter glanced outside his office door with their mother waiting for him. "Now get going. You have a head start; they gave me that at least."
Peter glared at Nathan and then at Angela. He stalked out the door, trying to hold back the sobs. He felt Nathan watching him, and when a tear escaped his eye, Peter turned around, making sure his brother had seen it.
Nathan's expression did not change. He nodded once and Peter turned his heel. He cried as he started running.
Peter felt Claire stir behind him. He wiped the wetness from his eyes, and took a deep breath. He heard her whisper in the bed beside his. "Are you okay, Peter?"
"Yeah," he said, his whisper louder than hers. "I just had a dream."
"I hope it was a good one," Claire said, and he could feel her shudder, even in the other bed.
"Neither good or bad," he said sighing, staring at the ceiling. "Not really a dream either. A memory."
Silence drowned the room. Then, one of his many pre-paid phones rang, and he didn't know if he should be grateful for it breaking up the awkwardness between them, or dreading who was calling him. Only a few people had access to the numbers of his piles of phones.
"Yes?" he asked, after quickly fishing out the noisy, flashing phone.
"Peter, it's your mother," said the voice, and his spirits wilted. This couldn't be good.
"What do you want? You know you should only use this phone for emergencies," Peter snapped at her. Suddenly he felt a weight on his bed, and Claire was climbing over to sit next to him and hear the conversation.
"And it is," she said with her usual cold tone. "It's time, Peter. We need to get the government's attention and start rescuing specials." She paused, and Peter was respectful not to interrupt; however, he didn't like where this was going. "The experiments are going to get uglier."
"What do you mean?" Peter asked. He didn't know how it could get worse. From the things he'd heard, the experiments were brutal, even fatal in some cases. Many specials had their rights taken away from them, split from their families and tortured to their worst limits. How could it possibly get worse than that?
"The Pinehearst lobbyists are recruiting the strongest specials. Your brother is one of them. They're working on something secret, something he won't even tell me. I'm just supposed to stay at home and be a good mother, without interfering. But he doesn't know my sources. A lot of money has been funneling into this Pinehearst division and signs point to more experimentation." Peter gasped, but his mother continued. "The experimentation isn't the part that worries me, Peter. What worries me is the recruitment. High-level specials are disappearing from the camps and it only could mean that Pinehearst is going to use them."
"For what? They can't convince them to work for them after torturing them! Maybe some, but most people wouldn't agree to that," Peter said, and he heard his mother sigh with exasperation on the other end.
"You really think you know people that well, Peter?" Angela asked, and Peter bit his lip. He could feel Claire staring at him from the side, but he didn't dare look. She was probably giving him that usual look of pity. "Regardless, it's time to start springing people."
"What about Claire? I can't just leave her. We haven't even made it to Wyoming yet. I have a friend there," Peter said, but he was cut short.
"Cancel it. You both are going to start rescuing people," Angela said, and immediately Peter protested.
"No, mom. I'm not bringing Claire into this. She's not going to fight," Peter said, and quickly, he felt Claire yank the phone from his hand.
"I'll do it," she said, and he met Claire's glare. "I can't get hurt, so I'll help Peter in whatever way I can."
"Claire…" Peter started, and she shot him a warning look.
"I'm going. I'm tired of running," she said, her voice hard with determination. "It's time to fight and start helping people. We have these powers, so we should be using them."
Peter didn't say another word. He knew he couldn't argue with Claire not any more than he could argue with Angela. They both pushed him into a corner, and not even his golden ideas could save him from this.
Deep down he knew that both of them were right.