2007-09-24: Broken Moral Compasses


Niki_icon.gif Mohinder_icon.gif

Summary: Mohinder encounters Niki some time after arranging part of her memory to be erased. Tensions rise in Chinatown.

Date It Happened: September 24th, 2007

Broken Moral Compasses

Chinatown, New York City

"Watches! Watches! You look at watches!"

A colourful bustle of people travel in every direction on this particular, crowded street, including the numerous vendors, trying to convince every face they see to buy their wares. Steam drifts out of a Korean restaurant's window beside a tiny store selling knock-off handbags, almost identical to its neighbour. In other words, Chinatown is its typical self on this bright September afternoon. The sky is blue and clear, and even the tall buildings lining every street can't block out the sun.

Niki Sanders is one of the many in the crowd ignoring the attempts of the vendors; her brisk walk suggests she's just going from point A to point B. Typically tight jeans and a fitted red, zip-up hoodie, the white of a tanktop peeking here and there, are enough to fend off the mild crispness in the air. The blonde's hair is pulled into a slender ponytail, leaving plenty of room for her earrings. Along with several other strangers, she crosses a street.

Normally, Mohinder doesn't have the time to be out and about, but today, he's working out of his lab in the city. The schedule can be toyed around with as needed. Chinatown's colorful atmosphere isn't exactly what's drawn him to this part of town today.. more like the import of teas from the East, and lunch. Perhaps a few gifts for Molly as well. (She's not spoiled, not in the slightest.) When his cellphone beeps, he pulls it out and checks the message, navigating the crowded sidewalk as he weaves through the throng of people.

Niki is forced to hesitate when a crowd of people block the sidewalk coming in the other direction before she can veer around them and plough ahead. It's around lunchtime— people everywhere. Her long strides take her into the shadow underneath a jutting roof supported by various metal poles; construction, maybe. It's then that it becomes apparent (to her, anyway) that she's headed straight for Mohinder Suresh — in fact, she's about to pass him. Their shoulders touching as they head in opposite directions, Niki whirls around, wide-eyed, to make sure she's not imagining things.

Mohinder meanders towards the side of a building to get out of the way so that he can type a return message on his phone's keypad. So intent on this, he doesn't notice Niki. A little bit of a one track mind here, no? For a man so observant in the lab, when he's distracted, he's distracted.

Slowing down - and getting out of the way, off to the side herself - Niki turns around all the way. She's over several feet away by now, at the edge of the overhang above. Yeah, that's him, alright. The question is, should she care? Caught in a moment of indecision, leaning hard toward avoiding him altogether, she stands and watches him.

Message typed and sent, Mohinder pockets the phone and steps away from the side of the building. Now that one distraction is down, another surfaces.. "Niki?" Oh he's spotted the woman and feel that in the air? Awkwardness it is. He's not sure if he should approach her or not. He isn't aware that the memory alteration has been undone.. but it is a bit awkward to talk to a person that you ordered such a thing on..

"Dr. Suresh!" Seeming surprised, but polite - to the point of using his last name - Niki turns back around after having just been about to try to disappear into the crowd. It would have been easy, if she hadn't hesitated for those few moments.
Hesitation proved to be a most unwise choice. This could get ugly. Mohinder tries to smile politely, as if nothing was wrong, "It's good to see you Niki. How have you been?" There's a pained attempt at keeping the conversation light and to small talk. "Molly's ecstatic that she's going to school with Micah now, thank you again for the school recommendation."

He doesn't know that she knows. That much is obvious. Right? "You're welcome. It's a good school," Niki answers the second topic without touching the first, keeping up the same light tone of politeness. She holds a bit too tightly onto the strap of her purse where it lays over one slim shoulder. She smiles, friendly, bright, but it doesn't quite reach her eyes — eyes which watch Mohinder carefully.

Mohinder doesn't know that Niki knows that he doesn't know.. wait.. nevermind. He's oblivious, he trusts that /Niki/ won't act out. "She's doing remarkably well. It was a good decision to put her back in a classroom with her peers. Of course, being in a class with Micah helps immensely. The familiar face does wonders." He /should/ be paying attention to Niki's physical state, but again, he's far too trusting.

How long can this awkward little dance go on? Niki steps aside again to let a man pushing a cart pass and winds up closer to the geneticist. "Micah was thrilled when he saw that he had a class with Molly," she replies, and the fond smile and laugh is earnest — but it's followed by a darker look of misgivings. "…Look," she starts in, her pleasant expression dropping away. Fast. "I don't mind that Micah and Molly are friends; it's good for them. I don't even mind if she comes to visit," Holding even tighter onto that purse of hers, Niki edges in closer. Is she purposefully seeming to trap Mohinder against the storefront behind them? Hard to say. She keeps her voice low, laced with warning. "But I don't want you around us anymore."

Mohinder smiles a little, and it's genuine. It makes him happy to see Molly happy. At the darker look from Niki, a warning bell sounds in the geneticist's mind. "I see.." Before he can get out more than that, he's practically cornered. "Niki.. I understand your misgivings about me these days." Even as he's getting backed against the wall, he doesn't reach for the Company issued taser he has on his person. Not yet. Is Niki still home? "But I won't hurt you or Micah."

"It's not you that I'm worried about." Niki doesn't back down. "I should never have trusted you. The people you work for— " Conflicted, she glances down the street, setting her jaw before eyeing Mohinder once more. She doesn't touch him, but when she points a finger in the short space between them, it almost jabs his shirt. "I know you did something to me. To my memories."

Mohinder blinks, realizing that his back is hitting the wall of the storefront. This is not going so well. "The people I work for.. they want to /help/. Help only works when you want it to." His throat visibly works as he swallows nervously. So long as Niki stays Niki, all should be fine. Right? "It was for your own safety. There was a security breach. I didn't want you to help take part in something that could have gotten you hurt or killed." The same applies to Lachlan and Cass.

"I know what they do," Niki expels in a rush, seeming to be losing patience - but not her grasp on her sense of self, her mind. It's Niki alone that corners Mohinder against the wall, in his face. "How am I supposed to trust that you won't get an order and follow through with it? Something worse, maybe? Against me? Or Micah? I have too much at stake."

Mohinder holds what little ground he has, the best he can. "Niki.. I don't want to see anything happen to you, or to Micah. That's why that memory was taken away." He tries to keep his voice down, level and calm. There's no need to attract attention on the public street. "I thought if you acted on the information you had, that you would have gotten hurt. I was trying to protect you," he says, a heated insistence creeping into his tone.

It's hard to defend your actions when you can't remember them. You know what else it is? To Niki, it's familiar. "I can protect myself," she matches the geneticist's heated insistence with her own. Blue eyes flicker with hostility; it comes from a good place, a well-meaning place, to make things right, but it's still there. That threat. "I've had my mind screwed over one too many times, to have you take away— " Niki's aggressive visage cracks to let slip a more vulnerable look in her eyes: hurt, even though she doesn't know Mohinder very well, it's still betrayal.

"I'm well aware of that Niki.. I still wanted to try. I didn't want to see you get into a worse position," Mohinder states, trying to remain firm on his stance. It's a little hard when there's a woman in your face who has super-strength and MPD. ".. I'm sorry Niki.. I won't have it happen again.." The apology is genuine, as well as the expression going along with it. He's seen the woman's file at the Company. He knows how badly she's been toyed with.

"That's what's wrong with the people you work for," Niki accuses, grouping Mohinder in with them now, though she never really did before. "They think they can make decisions for everybody else." Finally, the woman steps back; she doesn't go far, however, just gives the man a few more inches of breathing room. She regards him warily, as if trying to figure out how sincere he is, but softening, bit by bit.

Mohinder is grateful for the breathing room, but takes a step forward. Which could be a mistake. "Niki.. I didn't think past wanting to keep you from getting hurt. I thought about your welfare and Micah's. If that was the wrong thing, then so be it. It wasn't making a decision for you." Essentially, it was, when you think about it. "I'm sorry. I did what I thought was right."

"Maybe you should rethink what you think is right." Niki has said her piece. She regards Mohinder evenly for a few silent seconds before she just turns on her heel and starts to stride down the sidewalk.

"Niki, that's hardly fair." Mohinder says. He should just let her walk away, that would be the smart thing to do. But no. He's not finished, he can't let the conversation end that way. The geneticist steps hurriedly after the woman and reaches out to put a hand on her shoulder. "Who are we to say what is right and what is wrong these days?" In other words, his moral compass has been broken and confused.

When Niki turned around, that was it. Done. Next. She wasn't counting on Suresh to follow, to keep trying to make things right — whatever that is. Good question. Is it right or wrong when she spins around in a fit of rash behaviour and shoves at Mohinder? "We aren't to say, Mohinder!" she says through a disbelieving laugh, face alight with the flare of anger. "That's my point!"

Not expecting Niki to shove him.. Mohinder is of course pushed back into people crowding the sidewalk. It's okay, the lady behind him broke the geneticist's fall! Profuse apologies are given as the man uprights himself and assists the person he fell on.. It takes a few moments, as there's a lot of anger in the air. When he turns to face Niki, his expression is wary. "Niki.. calm down.." He holds his hands up, palms out, pleading.

Niki gapes in surprise at just how far Mohinder goes and the lady he takes with him. Surprise wastes no time in changing to horror with the obvious pang of guilt. Even so, she stands her ground, her hands fists brushing the sides of her jeans. People continue to whisk by, just trying to avoid tripping over something in the scuffle.

Mohinder reaches into his jacket pocket for his taser, hand on the weapon as he approaches. The taser isn't pulled out. Not on the street corner in broad daylight. Unless it becomes necessary. He doesn't mean to be provoking Niki, not when she's easily provoked. Although, he should know better. "I didn't mean to hurt you Niki. As I said, I only wanted to protect you. It was wrong, and I apologize."

"I'm sorry, I shouldn't have shoved you like that," Niki does her own apologizing. While she sounds sincere, painfully so, there's an edginess to her stance that suggests she might do it again — especially as she watches Mohinder's movements in that jacket pocket closely. She starts to backpedal down the busy street. If Mohinder is holding out for an 'apology accepted', he might be disappointed. "I believe you! I do. I just— I can't take these risks anymore, okay? I dunno where I stand with the Company anymore."

Seeing no other violence forthcoming, for now, Mohinder's hand slides away from the taser and is visible again. Nothing there. See? "We shouldn't talk about this here," he says as he goes in for the approach. Again. For such a brilliant man, he is a slow learner. "For starters, they don't want you dead or behind bars," he says once he is back within earshot. "Beyond that? I have no clue either."

'We shouldn't talk about this anywhere' is the general vibe Niki is giving off, but she hears Mohinder out. Some more. As he approaches, she doesn't move. "No, maybe they don't want me at all," she spits out. Whatever that means.

Mohinder is far too persistent for his own good. He's determined to try and set this right. "Maybe it's not you in particular they want. I don't know. My security access is still fairly restricted. It wouldn't surprise me if they wanted Jessica." Or whatever alter ego inhabiting the dark recesses of Niki's mind. "If you were to trust me again, I could try and help you with that problem, and there would be no more worry about the Company wanting her."

A few words aren't going to change Niki's distrust, but at least one of her walls starts to crumble with Mohinder's persistence. She hesitates… "'Help me,'" she repeats, open mouth curving into a half-smile, cynical, and she laughs, doubtful. Someone caught Ms. Sanders on a bad day! Or, more likely, Mohinder touched a few sore spots. "Everyone's trying to help me! God, Mohinder, you have no idea. If you really wanna help— " She glances sidelong at a group of people leaving one of the innumerable Chinese restaurants, lowering her voice as they pass. "Get me more meds."

"Niki.. the drugs alone might not be helping. I would need to get you into my lab, run some bloodwork.. You might require something different. A strong dosage." Mohinder looks alarmed by the slight change in Niki's behavior. "And of course people want to help you."

"You can just look in the database or whatever, can't you? They've got files one me. I'm sure it's all in there," Niki suggests helpfully. …okay, more like commands. She shakes her head slowly, gently, and turns an apologetic look on Mohiner. "I'm sorry, doctor. I can't let you help me any more than that."

"I understand.. and you know where to find me if you need me Niki." There's no promise of sneaking her the medication from Mohinder. "I will look at the files on hand, but if I'm to know what proper dosage you will need to keep Jessica at bay.. I might need current tests.. and if that's the case, then I'm sorry." Leaving it at that, feeling they are at an impasse, the doctor finally turns and walks away from Niki.

Saying nothing, Niki watches Mohinder walk away, her gaze stormy. After a few moments, she turns to leave herself. In her distraction, she accidentally shoulders a shopowner on her way past and murmurs an apology with a smile before widing her way toward the nearest subway staton.

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