Born In The U.S.A


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Scene Title Born in the U.S.A
Synopsis As the sharp edge of an elongated winter fades away, as the blizzards pull back from obscuring visibility and as the lights come back on, there is something to see as men and women across New York City take stock of what's to come and what has been. There is also something to hear — you need only listen.
Date May 22, 2010

Port Ivory: Little Green House

She'd gotten the radio working. Melissa couldn't be happier. Finally some noise, since the batteries died in her portable DVD player and phone. So it was the radio that a dead guy had used after getting bricked up, but still, it was a radio.

Born down in a dead man's town, the first kick I took was when I hit the ground. You end up like a dog that's been beat too much 'til you spend half your life just covering up.

She takes it upstairs and turns it on, quietly so she doesn't disturb Kendall who was sleeping in his room, no doubt with Jerry curled up on his feet. But there was a room she hasn't cleaned, and it's annoying the hell out of her. She kneels and starts scrubbing, letting her mind wander. Life had certainly changed for her in the past few months.

Born in the U. S. A. Born in the U. S. A. Born in the U. S. A. Born in the U. S. A.

She still can't believe all that had happened. With the virus, Kendall had gotten kicked out of his house, and ended up in her care. And she still doesn't know how she's going to make that work now that the storm is dying. She's only twenty-six, and not much of a parental figure. If it was a child it might have been different, but a teenager? Nearly an adult? Mel chews slightly on her lip and shakes her head.

I got in a little hometown jam and so they put a rifle in my hands. Sent me off to Vietnam to go and kill the yellow man.

Born in the U. S. A…

That head starts to move lightly as the music playing penetrates her consciousness, but doesn't interrupt her thoughts. If finding herself a foster mom hadn't been bad enough, the crap on Roosevelt was the icing on the cake. She'd barely lived there for what, two months? Then had to move. All because the government was poking its fingers where it wasn't wanted. Again. And of course she couldn't get her stuff since the snow made it nearly impossible to go anywhere without freezing to death. She'd seen Day After Tomorrow, dammit.

She knew what happened when people went out in this kind of weather. No Mel-popsicle thankyouverymuch.

Come back home to the refinery, hiring man says, "Son if it was up to me." I go down to see the V.A. man, he said "Son don't you understand?"

Born in the U. S. A…

She pauses and sits back on her heels, glancing in the direction of Kendall's room, then around the one she currently resides in. Still, all in all, the changes weren't all for the worst. They were just different. Something to adjust to. Besides, now? Now she has a real family.

Smiling, Mel goes back to work, singing along with the music, not minding that she's offkey. As usual.

Down in the shadow of the penitentiary, out by the gas fires of the refinery. I'm ten years burning down the road, nowhere to run, ain't got nowhere to go.

The song's dying is a prelude, leaving Melissa alone with her thoughts, the snap and crackle of the broadcast filling the space until words are able to rattle through the radiowaves, some host she won't know the name of, and then a voice that might be remotely familiar, connected then to an even more familiar name that creates a shadow over optimism, or the silver-lining version of such.

All at once, she's listening to Raymond Praeger.

Grand Central Terminal

"…and I'm really glad to be back. The past six months have been a changing time not only for America, but for the Department of Evolved Affairs."

There's a mural on the wall, and a radio crackling out dregs of a station that can only barely be received down here.

But it's more than anyone has been able to get, since the storm, and whitenoise is left alone, reverently untouched upon the dining table that looks so out of place and yet somehow inseparable from the abandoned station concourse. The storm has died, the clouds parting to let in the sunlight and fractionally lift the numbing temperatures. All the Grand Central Terminal workers care about is the flooding. For now, the earth is still too frozen to worry about. They've done what they can.

Joseph had been painting a fish of green and cyan when Neil Milburn's calls for help had echoed through the concourse. The paintbrush lies congealing on tile, and a streak of dripping paint warps the simple shape, elongates its fin.

Bundled in his arms, Terry Milburn is a small package, head lolling on the stalk of his spine and face flushed with fever. Neil is matter of factly lying him down on the table by the time the pastor is nearing — not a doctor, not a healer, just like everyone else in the Ferry, he only desires to help how he can. "He's not talking to me," Neil is saying, brown eyes wide as his hands try to clutch his son's, whose bluer eyes have gone glassier. "I dunno— he can't be sick— "

"We're facing trials we haven't seen before — since 2006, I think we can all say that the last few years…"

"There a medic nearby?" is Joseph's muttered query, and uncertain silence temporarily stills the echoes in the hallways, save for the distant chatter of the radio.

A book in hand, Kaylee straightens on the couch, looking over the top of it as Neil shows up. She had been trying to distract herself with the written words of a popular fantasy writer. Tossing it aside, Kaylee quickly pushes up off the couch, pulling her sweater jacket tighter around her. The safehouse operator and his son familiar to the young telepath, so concern is etched on her face and she hurries around the couch. "Terry's sick?" She asks with concern, long legs quickly carrying her to the table, brushing past Joseph, to stand at the young boy's head.

Brows tilt upward with worry as Kaylee reaches out to press a gentle hand to the young boys forehead. "He's burning up." She murmurs softly, glancing across the table at the pastor, brows furrowing a little. "It… couldn't be… 510?" Her hand comes away from the boys forehead and she bites her lip. "I'll get some water and a cloth. See if we can cool him down a little." She states softly, motioning towards the makeshift kitchen, taking a step back.

Dark gloves peel back to expose long, tapered fingers belonging to someone who — in another life — could have been a professional violinist, but these days Eileen Ruskin's small hands are more often juxtaposed against the harder handle of her utility knife than a flexible ebony and horsehair bow. Surgical equipment too, sometimes, should the need arise, and when Joseph's voice echoes soft in the rafters of the concourse where a flock of subterranean pigeons has been waiting out the storm, the Englishwoman's slim figure appears in an open doorway a few moments later in the process of freeing them from the soft leather material she wears to protect her frostnipped skin from the cold.

"…the last few months, have been an extraordinary kind of time."

"Keep the water at room temperature," she tells Kaylee as she approaches the table, her strides brisk but purposeful. "There should be some Ibuprofen and a real thermometer in one of the kits. Let's see what he's running."

Neil is still a broad-shouldered presence at the table, standing front row and centre in the most unhelpful way possible, so Joseph is putting a hand on the man's arm and near forcibly steering him away with a muttered reassurance, ones he can't back up with certified truth, such as: he'll pull through. There are others who haven't — there are children that haven't, but those aren't facts that Neil needs to think about right now as he's urged to clear the table, hands up to scrubs through the dark tangles of his hair.

Below lukewarm water makes clear streams down Terry's temples when Kaylee presses the cloth to the slope of his forehead, and the boy only shuts his eyes, the keening quality of his breathing finally silencing. His fever is high for a child, and by the time Eileen is coming to stand adjacent to the telepath, she'll see the tinges of blood caking delicately in the lines of his lower lip, though from no mark she can see.

"It can't be the 510," Neil says, steering his attention back to Kaylee. "He's not— he's not like that— "

"Things we did not think were possible now are."

"I hope not either, Neil." Kaylee murmurs softly, looking up at the boys father, unable to hide the worry. The symptoms are all too familiar to the young woman. The tip of her tongue wets her lower lip, her eyes lifting to look at the one with medical knowledge. "Eileen?" She queries the woman softly, the question if it is unasked.

Fingertip touch the cloth, checking for warmth, before removing it long enough to dip it slowly into the bowl to cool it down again. Wringing it out, ignoring the way the water saps the warmth from her own fingers, Kaylee reapplies the wrap while she waits for Eileen's assessment.

Eileen uses the pad of her thumb to wipe the blood from Terry's lower lip, but does not move her eyes from his gaunt little face when she rubs it between her fingers as if its very texture might contain the clue she needs to give an accurate diagnosis. It doesn't, of course. Few things are ever that easy.

Her hand moves to cradle his chin in its palm, fingers splayed across a tear-soaked cheek gone ashen and pale, and angles his face to get a better look at his eyes and whether or not his pupils respond when the overhead lights wash across it, draining away what little colour his features have left save for a wet smear of blood mixed with saliva along his jawbone, glistening and pink.

Her next words aren't the ones that an anxious father fears the most, but they might as well be. "Was he ever tested?"

"Issues and dangers we did not expect are now real concerns, and as leaders and thinkers, it's our job to shape the present and make our future a better time than our past."

The only response Eileen receives is a huff of a breath, pending denial, before Neil is opting to walk away before he can admit that he never got his son tested. Only stepping aside, Joseph shoves his hands into his pockets and watches the Terminal leader make his exit before looking back to the two women crowding around the young boy. "C'mon, let's get 'im somewhere— "

More private, than one of the beating hearts of the GCT, where people can see, where disease in the underground is feared, where they only have a couple of crates worth of vaccine.

"The last thing I want to see is this country becoming divi-"

Joseph's plants a hand down on the tinny-sounding radio, flicking if off with a brisk push of his fingertips.

Roosevelt Island: Summer Meadows

When the lights come back on in Summer Meadows, it's a quiet affair, unlike so much of what happens here.

In the dark afternoon, the lights of Coler-Goldwater shine solo on the north end of the island, and with the gradual reveal of stars, street lamps blink on, almost one by one, street by street, to shine down on icy-white snow slowly turning into something greyer and softer, the gradual decay of winter as the sunlight struggles through an overcast sky. It travels down the sliver of isle like water soaking through paper, until Summer Meadows shows it lights across the rivers that separate it from the darker sprawls of Manhattan and Queens.

"The last thing I want to see is this country becoming divided."

In the loneliness of a long since abandoned apartment complex, a radio suddenly sputters to life, sound warped and crackling, but there. That no one is around to hear it is meaningless.

"When I stepped into politics in the advent of the Evolved becoming a major concern, what I set out to champion was equality and rationality."

The Verb

Of all the things she could be reading in bed while recovering from her injuries, Odessa never expected to be reading a pro-registration pamphlet. She's not considering registering, for obvious reasons, but registration has been a hot button issue, as they say on the CNBC, and so the blonde is attempting to get a better grasp of the nature of the beast. Blue eyes roam over text and pictures alike, brows furrowing in concern and a little disgust.

"There are too many perfectly innocent citizens out there who would suffer from the moral panic that would come in the wake of the New York disaster, and that continues to threaten to arise unless we can manipulate policy and generate discussion to ensure that there is no divide between Evolved and Non-Evolved. Not on any scale, not politically, legally, or socially."

Odessa doesn't get very many visitors, and apart from the assertive voice crackling tinny over the radio at her bedside, the only company she has is the sound of loosening ice and snow thawing on the other side of the windowpane.

Footsteps, too. Heels on hardwood, the silken swish of stylish navy slacks hanging off long, slender legs attached to the lissome figure that appears in her doorway a moment later. Pearl earrings and vibrant red hair twisted back into a tidy bun at the top of the stranger's head are the first things to catch Odessa's eye, followed by the bundle Susan Ball holds cradled in her willowy arms.

Peeking out from beneath the folds of a white cotton blanket is a small, squashed face with elongated whiskers and a pair of fluffy ears set far apart.

"That's just one of the reasons that congress has amended the Linderman Act to ensure that there isn't a class of citizens being singled out and discriminated against."

Odessa studies first the woman come to visit her in her sharp attire and sleek hair and - Didn't I steal a pair of earrings like that once? But it's the bundle that makes her eyes grow wide and the gasp escape her lips. "Schroedinger!" she cries out, relief and joy colouring her voice in equal measure. The pamphlet is set aside quickly in favour of holding out her arms. "Oh, where did you find her?"

New Jersey

Cold air blows through the open doors of the warehouse. New Jersey is just as bleak as New York. Maybe bleaker, in some respects, certainly quieter. Save for the quiet voices of the Company agents whispering echoes off the warehouse ceiling, save for the natter of the truck’s radio whining tinny out its speakers from where its engine idles and purrs and sends fumes into the air, there is no city-sounds out this way. The explosion of 2006 turned the NYC-side end of New Jersey into something like a ghost town, and no one really cared enough to put it back together.

Caring and neglect remain today’s themes. The Company might relate — the few representatives out here tonight have been told to journey out here for their far too late share of H5N10 vaccine, and the man with the Homeland Security badge talking to his pal over there are in no rush to sign over the crates as they stand away from the group and talk quiet amongst themselves.

Occasionally, Matt Parkman might glance to the loose cluster of agents by their truck, before turning his back with a cellphone pressed to his ear.

"One of the major problems we had when the H5N10 hit us…"

Brand spanking new to his position, Assistant Director Benjamin Ryans stands at the front of the truck, in charge of the band of Company Agents there to pick up the shipment. The cold wind, makes the hem of his brown duster shift lazily around his legs, as he waits, jaw set in irritation that only those that know him best would recognize it as such. The rest of tall agents form seems relaxed, even his hands are tucked into his pockets to keep them warm. Blue eyes are narrowed at Parkman, shadowed by the brim of his ever present fedora, pulled low on his head. His own Homeland badge rests around his neck on a chain, out in plain sight.

He says something softly to the agent next to him, the words unheard beyond his own people, his head turning towards them, though his gaze stays on the people with the vaccines. It almost has the feel of two forces standing off across a frozen battlefield, it makes the older man anxious.

Bundled in a snow parka that she hopes she will soon be able to pack and forget about for the next several months, Veronica Sawyer shakes her head as she watches with tired and wary eyes. She sighs in irritation at the holdup.

"…was being unable to effectively help the Evolved population. The fact of the matter is is that the Registry, as it stands, is flawed."

Just two days ago, this would have been just another Company errand; the fact that the US government didn’t consider the Company important enough for the vaccinations was upsetting in principle, on a theoretical and business level. Now it’s personal — for the first time, Agent Sawyer feels threatened by the virus and personally offended by the lack of concern for the Evolved agents, as she has suddenly become one. She clears her throat — perhaps due to the cold she is fighting, the laryngitis that makes her barely able to speak above a whisper, or perhaps to hint to the men to hurry.

Standing a little apart from the group, Agent Eric Thompson watches not the stalemate going on behind him, but the desolate outskirt suburban territory before him. His usually suit-shaped silhouette is muddled by the heavier winter jacket he has over the top of it, making the distinguished line of his shoulders bulkier and rounded.

He is not Evolved. This does not concern him.

But it concerns his company.

"There are too many cracks to slip through and absolutely no surefire way to guarantee that we can ensure that all Evolved citizens are Registered — not unless they, heaven forbid, wind up in hospital or get arrested."

At the sound of the rolling metal doors from the van that had cruised in here just a few moments ago, Thompson’s hand drifts to his tie to keep it straight, as he casts a steely look over his padded shoulder, lined face impassive.

From the back of the truck they emerge, haunting in appearance but familiar to the Company. The Institute calls them “retrievers” and that is perhaps the most simplistic term for their occupation. They are to to the Institute what bag and tag agents are to the Company, and in some ways that overlap is not flattering to the latter organization.

Dressed in white bio-hazard suits with black plastic visors and hissing respirators, two by two they carry deep plastic cases across the divide between where Parkman stands on his phone and where assistant-director Ryans and agent Sawyer are. They stop in the middle, bending at the knees to settle down the crates.

When the other agents move to approach, one of the retrievers lifts a gloved hand, his voice crackle-hissing out of the voice modulator on the respirator. «Hold. There’s more.»

Not more vaccine, no.

“Good afternoon agents!” Comes cheerily from the back of the truck, where a tall and darkly dressed man in a buttoned down black wool coat and gloves steps into line of sight. His hair is clipped short and ink black, a headset clipped in one ear and glowing with a blue light and a shit-eating grin plastered across his face.

“Sorry to drop this one on you,” he notes with a flick of his wrist, offering out a piece of paper to Ryans. The document, when seized, reveals an official induction to the Company of an “operations oversight and management appraiser” from the Institute to work as a liaison to the Company.

“You know, I’m looking forward to this, I really am.” The agent offers with arms spread wide, as if offering a hug to both agents. The name at the bottom of the paper:

Agent Desmond Harper, Institute Retriever.

Linderman Building: Board Room

The sky doesn’t know what season it’s supposed to be, and so the hazy afternoon light that filters into the expansive board room is vague and tinged with pollution tones. The view from up here is equally dirty — long winters are not kind.

The long, rectangular table that steals up so much room is polished, empty of anything save for the radio sitting in its middle. It does not play music, only the mildly spoken words of a politician and the easy host who lets him speak. Most of the chairs are taken up, with some gaping spaces here and there, and no one is speaking — there is a formality and a ceremony to this, a meeting of the future, and the first person who will speak has not taken his place at the head of the table just yet.

"So what happened is that when we attempted to secure safe locations — such as Roosevelt Island in New York City — there was no possible way we could guarantee that any given person going in or out was an Evolved who might be carrying the sickness, or risk infection by not being inoculated against it."

Leaning right back in his chair, though not enough to lift any of its legs up from the carpet, John Logan is preoccupied only with listening and keeping himself listening. He likes politics. There is dirt in it. These ones are a little out of his scope, but he listens, fingers clasped together for wont of having no lit cigarette to fidget with. He’s in three-piece pinstripes, silk scarlet at his throat, and pale eyes shift from radio to door and down the table.

Nicole’s profile briefly studied, Ling’s searching eyes connected with, before Logan finds a place to rest his attention — the reflective surface of the table’s high sheen. He crosses a leg over a knee, and waits.

Ling sits quiet and straight, looking around the room, stoic as she can possibly manage to be despite the anxiety she feels. Still, her moments of fidgeting and her occasionally shifting expression relay a rare sense of uneasiness, unsure if it was even a meeting she should be attending. Her hands steepled in front of her, her gaze wanders from person to person, few of whom she had actually met before. She remains quiet and professional, waiting. Watching. Seeing what is in store as she listens, wondering what the next opportunity will be.

As far as any nonstandard guest list goes, Vincent Lazzaro is a pretty good candidate for least likely suit at the sprawling span of table he’s slouched behind. But there’s a certain looming inevitability to his being here: his obdurate presence as blackly at odds with scarlet silk as it is prostitution, loan sharking, bribes, substance abuse and sodomy.

Not to point any fingers.

It’s not the first time he’s seen the inside of this room. Currently, he is turning an expensive metal pen over in one hand, and he is paying very close attention. …Insofar as he is making certain that everyone else is paying very close attention, dark eyes drilling from one averted face to the next beneath the sheen of his skull and the low level of his brows. No bullshit yet. Fine for him.

The less the better.

"Anyone can say that they're Non-Evolved by denying that they carry a card. This way, they cannot — not even accidentally!"

It’s enough to make Kain’s skin crawl, sitting in this board room like this despite what he’s doing with Cardinal. It’s hard not to see something at this table that no one else does, the collection of faces here is nearly all of the individuals included in Roderick’s painting.

Those that know Kain well enough, the old-timers here at the Linderman Group, they all know that something is eating at him. His sullenness can often come off as a disinterested or blase look, but the tells of the worry lines deepening at his brow and the way he works his jaw from side to side reveal the truth.

He doesn’t like the fact that he has no idea what this meeting is about either. Very few things like this go on at the Linderman Group, few enough that Kain can count the number of times on one hand that Linderman has called a meeting like this, and the last time was before the Linderman Act was revealed.

Kain’s blue eyes on Vincent are searching ones. He’s looking for the strings attached to that suit, and wonders if their being pulled or pulling. To his credit, the stare only lasts a moment, long enough to let his eyes settle on Ina Anderson instead. She’s a prettier object of distraction than Vincent at least.

Ina doesn’t lounge in her seat, no back making contact with the fabric of the chair that she’s seated in. Straight backed, legs crossed at the ankles and just to the left while her own fingers run over the silver cross pen that lays angled on the legal pad of yellow paper in it’s leather portfolio.

Left, right, meeting the eyes of those who look her way with half lidded hazel gaze, a lingering glance to Lazzaro and his presence, Logan to take in his suit, Ling, Nicole, people that she doesn’t run into, or doesn’t run into often. She waits, with others, listens.

"We're looking to really work hard on the implementation of the Registry come summer. We won't only be amending some words and technicalities, but the Department of Evolved Affairs will now be an active participant in making sure that every American citizen is Registered."

Nicole remains stoic as she so often does at these sorts of things, even before they've begun. Polite and perfunctory greetings are exchanged with each person gathered before she takes her place at the seat to what will be Daniel Linderman's right, once he's arrived. Only Logan receives a second glance after she's settled and thumbing through pages in an organiser. A second glance and a secret smile, evident only in the way the corners of her mouth shift slightly, and a light in her eyes. There and gone again so quickly that it may have only registered as a twitch of annoyance before she's engrossing herself in the agenda for today's discussion.

Her attention is brought up from her notes and to the radio, listening so intently to its broadcast that she even allows the portable thing to hold her gaze when no other person in the room speaking had been able to.

It’s the click of a cane that heralds the old man’s arrival. Gripped between worn and callused fingers, it clicks gently against the doorway as Daniel Linderman’s large frame emerges from the hallway to fill it, and when he moves into the room it’s with a slow sort of tediousness, each step painstakingly thorough. His path carries him around the table, past Logan and Vincent, Ling and Nicole, to the head of the table where an empty chair is waiting.

"Before, when it was being handled by the Department of Homeland Security, I think we were all given the wrong impression. The Registry, and any policies to do with the Evolved, should not be seen as counter-terrorism."

At his heels, dressed in pin stripes with a woolen greatcoat worn overtop with softer leather gloves on hands considerably younger-looking than Linderman’s, is Robert Caliban. He pulls the door shut behind him, leaving a pair of nondescript shadows to linger in the hall outside like straight-backed gargoyles, tall and broad-shouldered.

The sound it creates is one filled with heavy finality.

Linderman sinks into his seat, cane set aside. That he doesn’t draw attention to his apparent disability is a sign that he either expects or demands that attention remain elsewhere, and lest it stray below his waist to the bulging shape of arthritic knees beneath dark slacks, he inclines his chin and — quietly — clears the gravel from his throat.

"That just simply is not honest."

Staten Island Hospital

Dr. Sheridan rises to her feet as soon as Mohinder enters. She not only wishes to make a good impression, but is happy to have any excuse to put the mind-numbing work of data analysis aside for the moment. She smiles at Dr. Suresh brilliantly, brows arching as he summons them over. She moves with greater steadiness and equality of footing than she has in quite some time, standing at an angle to the geneticist so as to let him display his offerings more easily.

"Anything and everything is useful," Isabella says, noting the age and anachronism of what she expected to be a 'new find', "What are they, though? It hardly looks like fresh research." There's a touch of humor in her last comment, but nothing too jovial.

There is a particularly cavernous corner where there is a setup of screens horizontal along a desk facing outward- Doctor Cong, while seated behind there, is able to observe everything else in tandem with doing his current work. He prefers knowing what is going on in his domain. Old habits die hard. Or often, not at all. The older man looks up when the door slides open, a piqued crease coming to his brows as Mohinder Suresh pays them a timely, rare visit.

Bao-Wei does not hesitate to raise a faint palming of greeting, though his difficulty in prying himself away from whatever he was doing is much too obvious. By the time that he makes it to the desk Mohinder has taken over with his works, chances are that he is already a short way into explaining. He had nothing to add, outside of what Bella has said.

"Well, I had a talk with the director of the Institute," Mohinder begins, sliding back a few of the binders to find a particular iteration of the stacks of hand-written journals, "and we came to an agreement that with the direction your research is taking, some of the more— ah— classified information that we've been withholding could be of value to you." On finding the battered, gray hardcover journal, Mohinder offers up a small smile, hefting the thick book up before laying it down on the corner of the desk by the two doctors.

"This is the research journal of doctor Otto Brum, one of the founders of Project Icarus back in the forties. He was a student of infectious diseases and their effects on people who, at the time, were called "Specials."

Tapping two fingers on the journal cover, Mohinder looks back and forth between Bella and Bao-Wei, then notices the portable radio on Amber's desk. There's a lift of Mohinder's brows as he sidesteps doctor Cong and begins making his way for the radio without explanation.

Dr. Sheridan frowns to herself, peering at this peculiar bit of history that has just been placed before them. That information was withheld… that seems sensible. But something so old, and now suddenly vital? Mohinder's wandering interest draws Isabella's attention for a moment, but it is the journal that comprises her first priority. She reaches down, almost picks it up, recalls that Dr. Cong should have access as well, and opens the journal to its first page.

If Bella had not picked one up first while Mohinder turned his back, Bao-Wei would have. He hesitated all the same, just like her, and so when she takes it upon herself, Cong passes her and the book an interested glance, before he turns his head towards Suresh.

"No relation to Otto Braum?" The doctor asks, passively, partially testing to see if Mohinder is on his toes. While he speaks, he reaches down towards the table for one of the more yellowed logs of paper, held together quite gingerly by what remains of the spine. "…Diseases like the five-ten?

Mohinder looks back to Bao-Wei for a moment, then grimaces silently. "Something like that…" he admits iwth a heavy tone of voice, and then as he starts to turn towards Amber's desk again distracts himself with the radio. "I hope you don't mind this but, Secretary Praeger's announcement should be coming on or— maybe it already is on, I've been anxious to hear what he's going to say." It's non-sequitur, but Mohinder's attention is delivered to the radio, clicking it on and wincing when the high volume blaring of an old Bruce Springsteen song comes screeching out from the radio. Adjusting the volume sheepishly, Mohinder switches the radio to an AM band and slides thorugh the channels until secretary Praeger's distinctive voice carries out over the speakers.

"The Department of Evolved Affairs won't stand idle…"

Making a soft sound of interest, Mohinder looks back over his shoulder and notices Bella looking down into the journal. As Mohinder straightens up and moves away from the radio, his dark brows lift and a smile crosses his lips. "These other binders here contain some additional work of Brum's regarding his hypothesis on the relation between neurological diseases and their affects on the Evolved…"

Coming up beside doctor Cong, Mohinder offers him a sideways glance. "Hopefully you'll both understand when I say that… this research was critical to the Institute's development of a control system for the Evolved. A method of…" Mohinder seems a bit hesitant to admit the term, "social engineering through genetic engineering. Given that your research is leaning towards the use of the H5N10 virus, I… thought it might be prudent to let a particularly black cat out of the bag."

Mohinder's eyes divert to the table, and he pulls out a plastic jewel case containing a DVD, then slides it next to the old journal. "We designed the H5N10 virus, in a lab. It has been spread in a controlled manner, contained and managed. We've had the vaccine as long as we've had the virus, and none of it would've been possible without both Brum's research and…" Mohinder finally taps the jewel case.

"The Shanti Virus…" there's a furrow of Mohinder's brows at the word, "and all that research, is now yours."

"…while the world tries to spin and make sense of what's happened to it."

What do you say to this? Not so long ago, Dr. Sheridan was compared to the Dark Angel of Auschwitz. She snorted at the label then, but now… to be continuing actual Nazi research? The psychiatrist blinks, rendered speechless as an unfamiliar feeling, one of cold water spreading inside her, halts her motions and leaves her hand hovering over the page.

And it keeps getting worse. Isabella stands straight, her hands clasping before her, the fingers of one squeezing the fingers of the other. "Might I ask the purpose of spreading such a disease?" she says, her tone level, her interest presented as purely intellectual, "And was it in any way linked to the extreme weather effects?" It is a strange coincidence, she feels, that this information would come just as the cold seems to be waning.

While Mohinder permeates the room with the static feedback of turning the radio stations, Bao-Wei gently opens the book in his own hand to investigate it. Bella's tone does not surprise him in the least; her clasped hands on the other hand, are nigh unmistakable to him from being around her for so long. Hiding reservation on the work was not a strong suit. Doctor Cong takes a breath and tilts his head to look sidelong at both of them in turn, Mohinder second. His voice starts at a low pitch, levelling out some. "I am unamazed that it was engineered-"

"Though I am quite interested in how it was executed. A difficult task, to release it and control its spread. What if it had mutated?" He does not ask what Bella asks, just quite- but somehow he does make himself sound academic. Truthfully, he would have been very displeased if it had mutated out of control. Bad news is bad news.

"Without interference, we're left with the same kind of prejudice we've seen so many times before in our history, and these lines of division truly run deep. I want to see that we, as a people, are capable of learning from our mistakes, to not simply repeat history."

"Thank you, Suresh. This will be invaluable research." There is no real time for Mohinder to answer, and so Bao-Wei comes off to sound like a headmaster reprimanding his star quarterback- yet really doing absolutely nothing i.e. punishment. A warning, at best.

"It is tactical social engineering," is Mohinder's quiet answer to Bella, "also widespread research in a real-world environment. I know this may come as a surprise to you both, but the data we've collected from countless hospitals and facilities around the country has given us a wealth of information regarding the Evolved and the relation between their abilities and nervous systems. All of that data," he motions to the jewel case, "is contained here. Thanks to the controlled outbreak of the H5N10 virus, we now are a decade ahead of where we would've been. This was a necessary and highly calculated risk designed to give us the knowledge base we needed to be able to more effectively understand the Evolved population and devise more permanent ways of neutralizing dangerous Evolved."

There's a crease of Mohinder's brows, dark eyes looking between Bella and Bao-Wei quietly. The weather, that has no real answer, not one that Mohinder is comfortable delivering at any rate. He merely turns to look towards the radio, hands folded behind his back. "Invaluable," he offers a dit distractedly, staring at the radio, "well…" brown eyes divert back to Bao-Wei, then Bella. "I hope so, anyway."

"We have that knowledge to do better."

Rundown Apartment

The blinds come closed together with a paranoid jerk of his hand, making dimmer the small, boxish apartment, filled as it is with the sound of Praeger's voice, with the TV turned to mute where advertisements play promos of American Idol's finale. It only takes the bright lights and colour in Nathan's periphery for him to switch it off completely, left alone with a crouching desk lamp, the static-riddled radio, peeling wallpaper, and the things on his desk lit of in that nauseous golden illumination.

He didn't steal them. Going into your own home to take what's yours is not stealing. Both his sons are taller now than they were when these pictures were taken, and from what he saw on the TV, Heidi's cut her hair again. But it's his family, in high-gloss definition, slipped from the plastic pockets of albums during when the Petrelli mansion was empty.

Angela, of course, had found him. Let him go. Given him the next item on the agenda.

"There's a lovely little proverb, regarding how useful insight can be in times of struggle and confusion. I believe it goes something like…"

Picking up his half-filled glass of whiskey, Nathan brushes aside the photographs as he regards the file set out in front of him, which may or may not contain everything he would need. Easing back the cover, he narrows dark eyes down on the images before him, the loose sheaths of paper, and takes a bracing breath as he looks back up towards the radio.

"In the land of the blind…"

The shadow of Nathan's facetiously raised glass crosses over the images of Emile Danko's skull-like visage.

"…the one eyed man is king."


It's cleaner than she imagined, this place. With the rusting metal stairs at her back, Claire Bennet's dark-haired figure emerges into an arch-ceilinged concrete tunnel, where wires are run over her head and metal caged lamps shed a pale light down from above. Leading the way ahead of her, Benjamin Washington — Knox — is a stoic guide thorugh these subterranean passages.

When the pair emerge through an arched doorway, everything changes in appearance. The concrete walls are painted a rich, deep crimson color to hide the smell of mold and seal out mositure. The cracked stone floor has a burgundy and chocolate brown patterned throw rug covering much of the center, while an old and well worn by still comfortable looking leather armchair sits beside an angled chaise lounge with some patches on the fabric and a scuffed old wooden coffee table.

The bottle of Scotch on the table has been dipped into, and there's a glass clinking in the hand of the man seated in the chair watching her arrival. He's slight of build, bookish and eminently familiar. Black hair is swept to one side and his goatee is neatly trimmed. Rupert Carmichael is a ghost of Claire's past she never thought she'd see again, yet here he sits, sipping Scotch on the rocks and watching Knox lead his once blonde soldier back to him.

"Claire…" Rupert offers with a lopsided smile and a bow of his head as he rises up from the chair to try and clear some of the distance between them, proffering out a hand in greeting, "it's so good to see you again."

There is only a small touch of hesitation before a hand comes out, of the black leather jacket she's been wearing, and clasps it with his own. Claire studies him mutely, for a long moment, with eyes heavily lines with black, before her mouth tugs a little to one side in a bit of a smile. "Rupert." She finally offers politely, her voice soft, "Good to see you. Last time I saw you was over a year ago." A glance goes to Knox, before she adds, her chin tilting up some, "A lot has changed since you and I were in the same room together."

Dark brows till upwards slightly, a small look of feeling abandoned, as that tough exterior fades a little at the edges. "What… what happened to you?" He was a man she placed faith in only to have him vanish, leaving her to flounder and find her place again, and now here he was again.

"A lot, and nothing…" Rupert offers in comment with a crooked smile. His brows lift and he sways a little, and from a doorway beyond where the reunion is taking place, there's the sound of a metal door creaking open. Rupert's eyes flick to Knox, then over to Claire as he settles back down in his seat. "There'll be plenty of time for catching up, but right now I know Benjamin here's told you that you were coming here to meet the leader of Messiah?" There's a tiny crook to the corners of his mouth as he lifts up that glass of Scotch and takes a sip.

"It's not you?" Claire asks a touch surprised, brows furrowing in confusion, her head giving a small shake. When she had seen him it made sense, it clicked together for her. He had picked up the pieces after PARIAH died, why not again? She turns her confused look to Knox, as well, a question in it.

Then she finally notices the sound, the scrape of the metal door telling her that someone else has joined them. A glance to those already with her, curiosity takes over and Claire slowly turns to see who it is who it is, her breath catching as she turns to finally face Messiah's leader.

"Me?" Rupert asks with wide eyes, "Oh— oh no. Not me, no. I'm no leader, I learned my lesson trying to organize Shedda Dinu, trying to… keep all of those egos and minds together." Rupert's eyes move from Claire to Knox, then as he sits up straight and looks to the opposite doorway, the sound of feet clomping down metal stairs begins to become more and more obvious. "No, I found us a leader… someone who's been at this whole— thing longer than I have, someone that knows the lay of the land better than anyone."

Heavy boots carry a darkly dressed man down the stairs, and the fabric of a long, dark jacket brushes across his legs and flares out behind him as he reaches the bottom of the steps and emerges into the doorway. With a coil of red cloth wound tightly around his throat, he steps into the light of the room, a black balaclava covering his face, dark eyes peering out across the furnished expanse to Claire.

Snow dusts and flecks his black jacket, the collar lifted up to the back of his neck and ice crusting the mask covering his face. "Claire…" comes the familiar voice from beneath, and curling his fingers at the underside of the balaclava, the man beneath is a tired and weary-eyed one, dark and sleepless circles showing his fatigue. He's grown a full beard since Claire last saw him, but there's no mistaking the familiar lines of his face, weary as they are.

Even without his scar, he's still Peter.


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