Make The Right Choice


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Scene Title Make the Right Choice
Synopsis When Melissa Pierce confronts her uncle, the Operations Director of the Department of Homeland Security, she is confronted in turn by a choice.
Date September 29, 2010

Little Italy

A brief return of summer's warm weather has brought life back to Little Italy's crowded streets. The noise of traffic, pedestrians and streetside music fills the air in an urban cacophony unlike any other. New York has her own heartbeat, and this city's pulse is throbbing with renewed vigor now that fall's chilly touch seems to have abated for the time being.

No restaurant in Little Italy is as busy as Picolli's Delicatessen during the lunch rush, and under the hot noonday sun, the outdiir patio is crowded with people enjoying some of the finest Italian subs and sandwiches on their lunch breaks. One of these men looks as non-descript as the others, though gauging his importance isn't as easy as looking for a badge or a seal of office.

Jason Pierce is the operations director for the Department of Homeland Security's New York division, a taciturn man with a clear-cut demeanor and appearance. Casual, though, on his time off of work, Jason's jeans and t-shirt styling makes him look more every-man than a suit and tie would. Short brown hair is cut close to his head in a regulation military hair style that he has never quite shaken, though the lines on his face as far deeper than they were when he first enlisted.

Beyond being an integral cog in the machine of Homeland Security, Jason Pierce is also a family man, or intends to be one of these days. While he has no wife or children of his own, looking after the children of his sister Janey has become a passtime he has taken to with whole-hearted enthusiasm, though the long distance he has from the rest of the Pierce family means that seeing his neice and nephew have become fewer and further between in opportunity.

That today has meant seeing a relative from his brother's side of the family means more to him than most people might imagine. Melissa Pierce hasn't seen her uncle Jason since she was eight in any prolonged capacity, right before he shipped off to boot camp. Intermittant appearances at family gatherings were about as far as he'd gone since.

The smile on Jason's face isn't because of the positively fantastic Reuben he's eating, but because his little neice actually wants anything to do with him. Family is, after all, important.

Unfortunately, given how Melissa's homelife was when she was growing up, her blood relatives aren't usually something that gets her excited. She loves her family, yes, but recently that's mainly consisted of three mismatched people who share nothing in common but a gene and address. And a dog. Still, Jason is her uncle, and if talking to him means that he doesn't have to go on Messiah's hit list, then she'll do it. Family is still family.

She steps into the deli, dressed in black jeans and a black tank top, not even thinking that it'll show scars that she'd rather not explain to someone who works for DHS, family or not. But her paranoia has led her to leave all her electronics in the car. Rebel may not necessarily be Rupert's lackey, but there's no point in taking chances.

A quick look around has her zeroing in on Jason. It may have been a while since she's seen him in person, but the news does do some good. An uncertain smile crosses her face as she heads towards his table. "Uncle Jason?"

"Well now," comes with a tell-tale touch of Southern accent, but only in the faintest of echoes. "I have it on good reason to believe that your mother doesn't know about what you have done, does she?" Both of Jason's brows lift as he considers Melissa with a crooked smile, breaking into a laugh as he rises up from the chair at his table and offers her a hand, motioning with his nose to her hair belatedly. "I mean, you know, with your hair. She'd blow a gasket if she saw that."

All toothy smiles, Jason seems torn between the notion of handshake and hug and is erring on the former, it's slightly less presumptuous. "Lissy, you've gone and turned yourself into a woman. That is something else," he adds with a crack of a smile and a slow shake of his head. "You're not daddy's little tomboy anymore…"

What she's done? There's a moment of mental panicking, before his next words relax Melissa and make her grin. "I live for making mom blow a gasket though. And I haven't been daddy's little anything in a long while." She looks at his hand for a moment, hesitates, then shakes her head. "Family doesn't shake hands," she says before giving him a hug.

"And god, no one's called me Lissy in ages. Lots of Missy, but no Lissy." A genuine smile curves her lips. "It's good to see you, though. Haven't seen mom and dad in a few years, and we're all happy with that arrangement. But I have kinda wanted to see you and Aunt Janey. Didn't know where either of you were, though."

A little reluctantly sinking into the hug, Jason rests his hand on Melissa's back and exhales a sigh of relief, bobbing his head into a slow nod as he leans back from the embrace, hands on her shoulders and head cast in an assessing angle. "Look at you, spitting image of your mother, even if you've got your dad's chin." There's a snort from Jason as he cracks a wider smile and motions for Melissa to join him at his table, sinking down to sit as he does.

"I've been all over the place the last few years. I retired from the Army Rangers in 05 and was recommended for a position at Langley working with the FBI, then… Midtown happened and just…" there's a faint smile replacing his once brighter one. "I've been busy, things… things have been busy, God knows I'm sure you've seen it on the news." His sandwich, nearly finished, is all but forgotten as Jason's attention squares on Melissa.

"What're you doing all the way up here in New York, though? This is a terrible place to be, Lis— Melissa. I mean, I don't want to sound like your dad does sometimes, but you need to take better care've yourself. This is a dangerous, dangerous city to live in these days. You…" Jason faintly smiles, "you were always a really gentle girl too, under all the dirt and bruises from playing with the boys. You weren't cut out for this city."

Melissa sits down, nose wrinkling a little at the comparison in looks. It may be true, but she doesn't have to like it. "You can call me Lissy. And dad doesn't care if I'm taking care of myself. If I call them, they just ask if I need money or if I've gotten myself into trouble. So trust me, you care a hell of a lot more than either of them," she says, shaking her head.

She rubs lightly at her neck, unconsciously rubbing over the tracking mark. "I know it's dangerous here, but I like the city. I wouldn't be happy in some small town or anything. And dangerous or not, New York has it all. More to the point, if you consider the evolved the danger, then no city is safe. I'm pretty sure that aside from maybe Antarctica there's no where that doesn't have at least a few around." Maybe this time her fishing will go well.

"Saw one of your press conferences though. After some explosion. You're Homeland Security now? Surprised me. Guess I figured you'd just always be an Army guy. You know, one of those guys who retires at like sixty with a bunch of brass on his collar."

Brows furrowed, Jason's expression becomes a sharp one, assessing Melissa more carefully as she talks. "Yeah I'm… my job's changed, but I'm still protecting my country. There's more Sylars out there, more people like the Vanguard, I'm not just going to sit back and watch this world fall apart because some hard decisions have to be made. Breathing in deeply, Jason closes his eyes and rests his hands in his lap, shoulders slouched forward and brows furrowed.

"An' don't say that about your folks. They care about you more than you know, they worry themselves sick about you, they just don't show it." Looking down to his sandwitch, Jason's jaw tenses and his eyes alight back up to Melissa. "Lissy…" his lips shift, smiling, then frowning, uncertain of how to express himself.

"Lissy you need to turn yourself in," is offered with a whisper, Jason's eyes squared on hers as he leans across the table to keep others from overhearing. "Lissy you're a wanted woman. I don't know what you did, but your name is on a list of fugitives being actively pursued by the government. By my people."

No guns yet. No sirens.

Arguments about Melissa's parents may have come next, but the warning has her glancing towards towards the windows, around the room, then back towards him. She leans forward, arms folding on the surface as she speaks to him in a returned whisper. "You wanna know what I did, Jason? I was born. I was born and had the wrong gene. I got picked up one day just for existing. I hadn't done anything wrong. No bank robberies, no bombings, no murders, nothing illegal. Just me living my life. Eating, sleeping, working. That's all. I was shoved in a secret prison, a concentration camp, because I was different."

Her expression changes, no longer quite as fierce or proud, but sad, concerned. "Are you going to take me in, Uncle Jason? Are you going to arrest me because the government decided I wasn't fit to live with everyone else? …Are you going to turn your back on me just like mom and dad did? Because if I had any family I would've thought might have actually cared about me, you would've been it. And what's been done to me, to others like me, it isn't right. I don't deserve jail.

"I deserve a normal life, just like everyone else. A family, a home, a job I love."

"Stop being so overdramatic Melissa," Jason whispers with a shake of his head and brows furrowed. "You can't— you dodged Registration with a dangerous ability. Pain infliction? You can't have expected to get away with that. You may not like the laws but until they get chanced you have to abide by them or face the consequences. I can't— I'm not going to tell anyone I met you here. I can't or I'd lose my job, Melissa. I don't know your whole situation, I can't…" Jason closes his eyes and exhales a sigh, rubbing his hand over his forehead before he looks back up to Melissa across the table, offering out one hand to her.

"Lissy," he implores, "if you turn yourself in, I can see about pulling some strings. I'm in good with Secretary Parkman, we can work something out. Probationary time, get your name cleared. People aren't as scared now as they were right after the bomb. Please…" Jason's brows furrow as his head shakes slowly.

"Come in with me, we'll handle this together. Your parents miss you, but they know you're a wanted woman. DHS turned their house upside down looking for signs of you. My— you don't know how hard it is to not tell them I'm seeing you today."

"Pain manipulation," Melissa corrects, since there's no reason not to. "I can eliminate pain, Jason. And I have. When Humanis First blew up an ice cream cart by a registration center, I gave myself a headache and nosebleed making sure that no one was suffering. Does that sound like the type of person who belongs in jail because of her ability?"

She sighs and rubs a hand across her forehead. "Look, I didn't register at first, because I was scared. I knew how people saw my ability, and it didn't matter that I didn't use it. The fact that I could was the important part." She shakes her head slowly. "And Jason…you can't promise anything. You might try to pull strings, you might be in good with Secretary Parkman, but you can't guarantee that I won't end up in the new version of Moab. Believe me, I'd love it if I could get my name cleared. I dream of being able to be myself without worrying that the…that someone is going to recognize my name and pick me up. But I can't forget the time I spent there. I can't forget that I have scars that will never fade from where they injected us with negation drugs and trackers. I can't forget the faces of the people in there who were as innocent as me."

She smiles sadly. "And I know my parents don't miss me. I called them a few weeks ago. Mom just demanded to know how much trouble I was in, when I wasn't. I just wanted to talk to them. You're the only one of the family who does give a damn about me."

"Pain manipulation," Jason reiterates, "that's good, that's… Lissy, don't throw your life away because you're too stubborn. Please, don't— put your parents through any more of this. I don't know what it is you think, but they do love you. I can't… I can't say for certain if I could get your sentence lightened, but there's a chance, and that has to be worth something, doesn't it?" Both of Pierce's brows raise as he considers Melissa again, his voice staying a hushed whisper.

"A normal life, a chance to… start over again. Lissy, Secretary Parkman has a close relationship with the President, there's a good chance, a chance worth taking." Both of her uncle's brows raise, his expression a weary one of worry. "What else do you have to lose, Lissy. Think about your future."

Melissa's brow furrows as though she's thinking about it all, then he mentions the president and she can't help but laugh. "The president? The president?" Except she can't tell him about her relationships with the president's family. She wouldn't betray them like that. "Jason, I love you too, I really do. But you say there's a chance it could be lightened. There's also a chance that I might spend the rest of my life behind bars for something I didn't do rather than something I did do. Is that what you want for me? I have to come visit me in prison?" she asks, no longer looking like she wants to laugh, but rather like she wants to cry.

"I can't spend my life in jail, Jason. I have people who depend on me. People who need me. I can't let them down. I do want my name cleared, I honestly do, but prison would wreck more than just my life. Now, if you wanna call up Parkman, and ask. Tell him you saw my name or something, not that you ran into me, and ask him. Because I didn't deserve Moab. Hell, the past few months I've been volunteering at the Suresh Center to help people."

"The— the Suresh Center?" Jason almost says something, but stays quiet on the topic, instead choosing to explain, "that's reckless. Using a false ID there, it— someone will be on to you eventually and then what? Lissy, we can fight this together, we can try and do ths side by side. I can't force you to come with me, but if you leave here today…"

Jason slowly shakes his head, "Lissy I don't want to wind up on the other side of my job from you, but if you give me no choice— I made a promise, I swore an oath to protect this country and to serve this administration. I'm… I won't back down on that, but by God Lissy I have to give you a chance to do the right thing."

There's a certain tone of desperation in Jason Pierce's voice, as if he knows that the time he has here, as if he knows this attempt to get Melissa to do the right thing in his own eyes, may be the one chance he has to get through to her.

"How would putting me in jail protect this country?" Melissa asks softly. Sure, she knows how, but even then she's advising Peter not to let Rupert blow up things he shouldn't. "Me going to jail isn't the right thing, Jason. It's a tragedy. This is just another holocaust, only it's evolved rather than jews who are being persecuted."

She leans back, eyes closing as she rubs her hands over her face, thinking as quickly as she can. "This hurts. It really does. I can't believe that you're sitting there telling me you love me with one breath, and talking about putting me in jail in the other. If our positions were reversed, I'd be trying to help you, not trying to stick you into another cage."

Her eyes open and she leans her head back, showing the injection scar. "See this? It's where your government pumped me full of drugs on a regular basis, because they were afraid of someone who was little more than a child. Does that really seem right to you?"

Her tone, her expression are sad and hurt. "But fine. Take me in. Try to get me let off with probation. Tell them about the Suresh Center. There are plenty of people there who'll vouch for my work. But I'll tell you this, Jason. If I end up an experiment for the Institution, if I end up rotting in prison…I'll never forgive you."

For all thatsome of Melissa's ideals make Jason Pierce cringe, her agreement changes everything. There's a thankful smile, an exhalation of breath, and Jason lays his hand down on top of Melissa's, squeezing it gently. "Thank God for you seeing wisdom and trusting me. I won't make you regret it, Melissa, I won't. We can try and fight this together, we can do… we can figure this out." Letting go of her hand, Pierce's brows rise slowly, his other hand coming to hold hers as well.

"Why don't you make any calls you've gotta' make, let people that might be looking for you know you've got some things to do. I'll put in a call up the chain and see what I can do. We'll go from here, down to the DHS offices and I'll explain that you've agreed to turn yourself in and we'll get this figured out."

Now this is a leap of faith.

"I already regret it," Melissa says, sighing even as she lets him take her hand. "And I left my phone at home. I'll call my lawyer and let her pass the word on to the right people." Though everyone at the Little Green House is going to kill her when they find out. And only Ling knows that Mel was meeting Pierce.

She rises, shaking her head and muttering under her breath. "Let's just get this done with. I wanna know as soon as possible whether I'm going to be able to go home or if I'm gonna rot in jail."

"Home… won't be right away," Jason admits as he reaches down from the table, then pulls out a crumbled ten dollar bill from his pocket, flattens it out and lays it on the table before rising up to stand and offering a hand out to Melissa. "This won't be easy, but we'll look at the circumstances surrounding your case and we'll figure this out. That you came willingly will say a lot, and… I'd definitely call your lawyer." There's a crack of a smile as Jason reaches down into his jeans to withdraw his cell phone.

"Here," he says with an apologetic smile. "It's going to be a long day."

"Home… won't be right away," Jason admits as he reaches down from the table, then pulls out a crumbled ten dollar bill from his pocket, flattens it out and lays it on the table before rising up to stand and offering a hand out to Melissa. "This won't be easy, but we'll look at the circumstances surrounding your case and we'll figure this out. That you came willingly will say a lot, and… I'd definitely call your lawyer." There's a crack of a smile as Jason reaches down into his jeans to withdraw his cell phone.

"Here," he says with an apologetic smile. Then, wrapping an arm around Melissa's shoulders, Pierce furrows his brows.

"I'm proud've you, kid."

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