A Divided Front


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Scene Title A Divided Front
Synopsis Faced with the very real threat of the November 8th riots, the Department of Homeland Security struggles to make the necessary precautions, while Matt Parkman makes a dangerous play to catch Vice President Mitchell in a trap.
Date November 7, 2010

DHS Facility

It's after lunch before Matt Parkman arrives back in the Battery Park City office of the Department of Homeland Security, but with a rather annoyed Miriam meeting him at the door in order to perform the usual, if a bit more hurried, triage, he moves from the lobby to his office in a whirlwind. That's not to say that the building isn't already buzzing with an industry that would rival the most efficient hive of honeybees. Before Parkman shuts himself in his office, one order is passed to Miriam - find Jason Pierce, regardless of what he's doing. His presence is required.

Inside the office that has been his second home for the last few months, Parkman hangs up his coat and sinks into his chair. He is still for a moment before he pulls an innocuous looking flash drive from a pocket. Holding it between thumb and forefinger, he studies it, brows furrowed in thought.

It takes two hours for Jason Pierce to finally arrive at the door to Matt's office, having given him ample time to handle the morning's paperwork, go over reports from the incident in Raleigh and curse the name Nakamura with the passion of a thousand fiery suns. It figures, with so little time left before the most trying hour in DHS' short history, everything that could possibly go wrong has been.

When the door opens, Jason Pierce looks flustered and exhausted. Dark circles ring his eyes, his dress shirt looks wrinkled and slept in, even if his suit jacket seems to have fared better. Without a tie and top button of his shirt undone, he strides into Parkman's office with a deep breath and an apologetic expression.

"You pulled me out of a meeting with the Under Secretary for the Department of Evolved Affairs," Pierce states flatly, thin brows furrowed and eyes flicking to the clock behind Matt's desk, then back to the Secretary again. "In DC."

That explains his lateness.

"Because I need you here," is Parkman's dry reply. The flash drive has long since disappared from sight, and from the look of the various files spread across his desk, Peirce's superior is entrenched in tomorrow's possibilities. Each open jacket reveals a different individual's vision, as collected by various agencies.

Parkman gets up from his chair, his eyes on a file for a moment longer before he flicks it closed. News of where Pierce has been distracts him from his own agenda, and Parkman narrows his eyes when he finally does look up at the Operations Director. To assume that the meeting wasn't important would be foolish, but Parkman does lift an eyebrow. "Well, report, Pierce," he says after a moment of silence.

A strained sigh slips past Pierce as he rubs one hand over his stubbled jaw and folds himself down into the chair opposite Parkman's desk. "We're spread too thin right now. I've got assets from out of state coming in to handle DHS operations in the city, but we're still undermanned to cover every borough. FBI and ATF are poised and ready, we're using FRONTLINE's headquarters in Red Hook and the air port on Staten as rally points…"

Pierce leans back in the chair, bracing his brow on splayed fingers at his temple. "Secretary Rutland is leaning on the President to approve emergency declaration of Martial Law if things get out of control, so that we can call in the Army and National Guard to supplement the police force. Every surrounding state and most of upstate New York has sent in additional police and emergency assets… we're as prepared as we can get, but it's a big city, and having Midtown cutting off lower Manhattan is a blocked artery we're not going to be able to unclog if we need to."

Parkman watches Pierce as he relays the information, unable to shake the resemblance. It's like looking into a mirror. But just as he couldn't tell himself then, Parkman can't give Pierce the advice he should have listened to himself when he held the other man's title. "We're still investigating the broadcast hijack lead - moving in on something tonight. Depending on how that pans out, we might be looking at clear skies tomorrow, and you can go back to tracking down Nakamura." But speaking of tomorrow.

Matt takes a deep breath and narrows his eyes at Pierce, leaning over to place his palms on the desk. His head tilts just slightly as he slips into his employee's mind - a place he's regretably visited before - but today, for now, it's just to ensure he has the other man's undivided attention. He pushes Pierce's distractions to one side to harness control of the frontal lobe.

It's the mental equivelent of putting someone's nuts in a vice, without the threat of sterility or even pain.

"I need you to listen to me," Parkman says steadily, his voice reverberating inside Pierce's head as the mental command pushes even further down into the man's mind. "If something happens to me tomorrow, and you take command, I need you to keep a record of every order you're given from D.C. It's protocol, but it's a silent one." Parkman pulls out the desk drawer and withdraws the flash drive again, all without taking his eyes off of Pierce. He holds it up, and his eyebrows lift slightly. "All you have to do is plug this in, write your report, hit send, close the program, and take it out again. And for the love of your nuts, don't lose it. You understand?"

"Perfectly clear, sir," Pierce smoothly affirms as he leans forward and takes the thumb drive between two fingers, then curls it into his palm. "I got the report from SIGINT about the broadcast earlier today, passedit forward to your desk. They're looking into the possibility of trying to shut down communications and satellite broadcasts but— they don't really think it's possible. Not without a few years of planning, not without crippling the city's telecommunications infrastructure — which they're going to need in the event of a riot."

Exhaling a sigh as he exchanges the flash drive into the breast pocket of his suit jacket, Pierce slouches back into his chair and rubs one hand over his forehead. "Off the record, sir?" Pierce looks over his shoulder to the door behind himself,then slouches forward and looks up to Matt.

"What do you make of the shit in the Times? The Whistleblowing? Christ that— the information there, sir, is the kind of black-level secret that people below the two of us don't even know. What kind of goddamned security leaks do we have for all of that to get out? How much of it was even real? I— I sure as hell didn't know some of it."

Parkman sighs both at the change of subject and as he slips out of Pierce's mind, momentarily thankful for the malleability of the other man's subconscious. "I was hoping that was part of what you were meeting in D.C. about," he admits with a small shrug. "If Praeger can't handle Larazzo in a timely manner, we'll have to move in. Could have been any of the high-level Company people still running around out there. They would have all had access to that information, if they weren't involved in the whole thing."

Taking a moment to rub at his jaw, Parkman's eyes narrow on the array of files strewn across his desk. There's an opportunity to take down two birds with one stone. "Get Strauss on the line - tell her to pin it all on the Company. The Institute too. There are a lot of people the Institute brought in that used to work for the Company. Bad move on Harper's part. He's your scapegoat. Harper and Ryans."

Never let it be said that Parkman hasn't learned how to play politics.

"Sir, with all due respect, that's first and foremost not my decision to make, and secondly from where I sit a bad tactical one. The Commonwealth Institute ties directly to the Department of Defense, there's paper trails going back to it. Right now there's only a tenuous line tying what was in the Post and what actually exists."

Brows furrowed, Pierce rubs one hand at his forehead. "I dislike them as much as the next man, but you don't have to like someone to do your job, Sir. I can make recommendations, but ultimately this falls on Secretary Rutland and the joint chiefs to make this call. The NSA is looking into the leak, but like I said I was in DC discussing it before you pulled me out…"

Rubbing one hand at the back of his neck, Pierce casts an askance look to the clock, then back to Parkman. "No one in the cabinet is going to be willing to sever the Institute, especially not the President. That thing has been his and Mitchell's sandbox for too long now. We'd lose our entire R&D."

Sliding his tongue over his lips, Pierce casts a wary look up to Matt, brows furrowed. "Sir, have you considered that you might need to take some time off? You've been running yourself ragged for the last two months. You've had some rough patches since Hicks was killed, I know the timing isn't good but— maybe if the 8th just blows over, you should think about taking some time off?"

A grimace spreads across Pierce's lips. "You aren't going to do anyone any good if you can't collect your strength. Hell, I'd say take the rest of the day off, at least. Let me handle things, and when we really need you — if the hammer drops — then you'll be rested to help direct us."

The Institute as Mitchell's sandbox is exactly why Parkman wants to cut ties to it. "The Institute has been, from day one, a security risk." Parkman's tone stiffens, and he sets a leveling stare on his subordinate. He inhales as if to add to this statement, to perhaps clarify and quantify it, but something stops the words from spilling out from his lips. Instead, he lifts a hand to pinch the bridge of his nose.

"I'm fine," he lies, though relatively well. His own state of mind and general health is a lie he's been keeping up for years, and he's well practiced at maintaining it. "Rutland will see reason. If he knows Harper pulled in people from the Company, or that Lazzaro is digging through government secrets with the help of some fugitive, he won't be able to ignore it." Old Marines are all the same - whether they be duty-bound or warmongers, they're not quick to let blame fall from where it's due.

As clear as it's becoming that Parkman's own presence in D.C. may be necessary, he knows he can't let himself be that close to that many important people - not when everyone is going to be tuning in to hear the President's speech. Not when they can't be sure what the hijack's radius will be.

"Losing R&D that strips American citizens of their civil liberties can't be a bad thing, Pierce. If you have to, you pull the card that reminds those uniforms what their granddaddies did in Germany and Japan sixty years ago."

Clearing his throat, Pierce slowly rises from his seat and sweeps a hand over his brow. "All due respect, Sir… Jews and Japanese didn't spit fire, lasers, and atomic fire." Well, law of odds say some of them probably did, but that's neither here nor there. "You convince the President and his cabinet that the world doesn't have to sit in another pit of nuclear fire the next time the wrong kid gets angry, and we'll talk."

As he looks down to the chair on standing, shifts uncomfortably, Pierce looks back up to Parkman. "If these riots happen, and Messiah's to blame? There won't be a single tear shed in any eye in this administration about razorwire fences going up in every suburb in the USA if it keeps us safe."

Therein lies the horrible truth.

"Was…" One that even leaves a bitter taste in Pierce's mouth. "Was that all, Sir?"


Parkman all but spits the word out as he looks into some middle-distant point over Pierce's left shoulder. It may be too late to pin anything on who is really to blame in all of this. All the cards have been dealt, and all the balls are in place, ready to roll. The likelihood that past deeds will be revealed in the course of one's regular duty is unlikely. But Parkman can't give up that hope. Not now.

Clearing his throat, Parkman shakes his head. "That's all, Pierce. But I expect you back here tomorrow morning - before the broadcast."

"Yes," Pierce states flatly, tipping his brow down and patting the pocket of his jacket where the flash drive is located, "sir. I'll be here tomorrow."

Bright and early.

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