2008-03-24: Thou Aren't God


Charlotte_icon.gif Niki_icon.gif

Summary: Two ladies of Pinehearst, once friends, have a major disagreement over point of view and worthy sacrifice.

Date It Happened: March 24th, 2008

Thou Aren't God

Pinehearst Research

Fort Lee, NJ

Charlotte has been scarce. Scarce is an understatement - there's several people she's been dodging the hell out of. Niki? Totally one of them. She's going through some paperwork as she walks, holding a stack of files against her body with one arm, a half-empty cup of coffee in the other as she goes. Her steps pause for a yawn - it's still early - but then she keeps going, flipping a page with her teeth as she reads on.

The early morning brings Niki to Pinehearst for reasons that have nothing to do with her purported job. By all appearances, though, she’s playing the part; or at least some amped up version of "the part", nice workwear having long since replaced by the more bold. A black, sleeveless collared shirt with a V-neck, a pair of grey pants that could pass as dressy, a sleek black phone in one hand. Like her former roommate, she's focused on something other than where she's going as she saunters down a different hall — a hall that opens up right in front of Charlotte. As Niki steps into sight, her sternly focused expression shifts to complete and tragic confusion at whatever it is she's looking at on the screen of her phone.

Surprise! There is no collision, at least for Charlotte's part. She's clumsy, but she manages to look up at the last moment, starting to a stop. "Oh, Niki. Good…good morning." It takes her a moment to remember that she has no desire to see Niki. Whatsoever. "Sorry, I didn't mean to…you know." Almost run you down. Eager to dodge, she makes a sidestep to hopefully slip by without getting a word from the other woman.

The sound of close-by footsteps and Charlotte's voice prevent Niki from a more literal form of run-in; she comes to a fast stop, so jarring that her hair sways. She clutches the phone to her chest in surprise, trying to overcome the distinctly deer-in-the-headlights face she gets on seeing Charlotte there. "Don’t worry about it." But she swivels slightly, tracking the other woman’s sidestep. "Charlotte— "

Charlotte lifts her head, letting her files fall against her chest (because it's not as big as it could be and the files can cover it). "Mmm?" She asks politely, lifting her head with a little smile. "Yes? Did you need something?" Because why else would this Niki ever speak to her, if not because she needed something.

Before she can reply, there’s a glint in the blonde's eyes — worry, maybe? Concern? It looks suspiciously like regret. What she was going to say gets shifted around before the words ever exist for hearing. Instead, she smiles a dismissive, cardboard smile and lifts the phone away from her skin to look down at it. "Do you know where the security room is?"

Charlotte doesn't even take a moment to think. Security room? If Niki were on the up and up about it, she'd just ask someone who really knew. If she's asking Charlotte…well to their knowledge Charlotte keeps quiet. And she does! But for some reason, she shakes her head. "No, I'm sorry. I don't." She reaches up, pushing a loose brown lock of hair back behind her ear.

True, Niki could easily ask, oh, one of the security staff and get the answer. She glances down at her phone display once more — there's obviously something on it. Something that has nothing to do with the security room, as it turns out. "Right. I guess that's not really your department, huh." Awkward.

Charlotte can already figure something out here. What, she doesn't know, but did she ever? "What are you doing, Niki?" She asks, her voice a bit smoother, this one not hindered by the tint of being awkward. This one simply asking truthfully: Charlotte can guess you're up to no good - because being against Pinehearst now is, in her book, no good - and it's all a matter of figuring out why. No one will ever tell her why.

"The Senator wanted me to review some tapes." That's not a lie — it's just not what Niki was going to do right now. She folds her arms, the phone clutched protectively in her hand, and tosses a glance over her shoulder around a wave of blonde hair.

"Right." She says, not believing this Niki. Had it been her own Niki, maybe, but this isn't her Niki. But it's what Niki wanted. "Just…." She steps a bit closer, looking up at the prettier blonde woman. "Don't do anything that might make me have to say something, okay?" She shakes her head, a sort of defeatist look on her face. "I don't want to have to do that. Please."

And with those words (which are a little heart-breaking, all told), Charlotte becomes a risk. Affected, Niki starts to frown, a soft expression, more like the person Charlotte knew — but then she seizes up, becomes colder, harder. "I wouldn't want you to have to do that either." There's an underlying current of reluctant threat there, just barely; an unspoken 'or else I'll have to do something about it' tagged on the end. She says, very slowly and evenly, "I'm just going to do what the Senator told me to." Okay, so change of plans. Eyebrows raise, a hint of imploring breaking her severe look. "You can even come with me."

Charlotte shakes her head a little. She looks rather hurt herself. "Niki…" But…no, she can't. She promised, but she can't…not like this. But how? "I didn't mean it like that, I just…" There's so much she would say if they weren't standing in the middle of Pinehearst. Maybe she'd say it to Niki someplace privately, like a home, if she weren't afraid to go there. But she is. "Whatever you want." She finally says, almost defeated. "You know I'll always do whatever you want." The last sentence is said like an embarrassed little sigh.

Everything is different outside of Pinehearst. But even so, it extends beyond these walls, changes things. "Don't…" Niki, little lines of sincere stress marring her brow, shakes her head pleadingly at Charlotte. "You shouldn't say that." Still with that look settled on her ex-roomie, save for the few seconds it takes to navigate her phone somewhere useful, to dial a number, she brings it to her ear. "Security? Hi, it's Niki Sanders for the Senator— " A pause. "…Right. Can you tell me what floor your main room is on? The one with all the cameras."

Charlotte throws her coffee cup away - the caffeine is starting to make her feel unwell - and just hugs her files to her chest in a closed body position while she waits. She could always just walk away from Pinehearst and Niki and stupid Peter Petrelli - boy she'd love that. But she never does, and so situations like these is where she'll continue to find herself. So much she can't say right now, its' frustrating

Niki shuts the phone with no thanks or otherwise, looking faintly irritated at whoever was on the other line. "It's downstairs. Above the basement." She turns to move down the hall — the direction Charlotte was coming from, before this little encounter. Cue quiet elevator ride?

Very quiet elevator ride. After all, cameras are everywhere. "I don't think you really need me here for this." She murmers, glancing up quickly at Niki and then down again. At the very least, there won't be any security cams in the security room. Maybe that will count for something.

Inside the elevator that carries them downward, Niki has the same thought at the same time. She doesn’t answer Charlotte, just glancing her way and back at the closed doors of the elevator as if willing them to open — but as her power is far from her sons, she has to wait it out. Down, down, down, halt.

The doors slide open, and Niki wastes no time in heading down the hall in search of something that looks like a security room. Thank God for lettering on the door. She knocks once before barging in and proceeds to eye the techie in front of the multitude of security camera screens until he gets out of his chair.

Charlotte follows along slowly, slipping inside of the room and standing by the door. She remains quiet - like a child waiting in the principal's office, knowing she's about to get reamed out for throwing spitballs or something equally useless. But she stands.

But when they're left alone in the room, all the eyes of the cameras looking outward instead of in at them, a reaming is not exactly what happens. Niki makes sure the door is shut — locks it, in fact — and looks to Charlotte. "Look. Charlotte, I…" She sighs tensely, moving to spin the chair in front of the console around to sit in it. "You know too much about me already. When I got my memory back, I told you what I did 'cause … you're a good person. But this — you, me, Pinehearst, what we're doing here … what they're doing here — it's all so complicated."

Charlotte waits until the door is closed. "And the dumb little hick can't keep up? Niki…." She lowers her arms, and finally slaps the files down on a nearby flat surface. "If I were the screaming type…my god, you'd be getting every sour word that I learned working third shift at a podunk diner. Your friend comes to me, asks me to help with his brother. I do what I can for you - which granted, wasn't really anything - but between you and him you found a way to help the brother. But you haven't helped the brother. You're both still here, and then I bend over backwards for over a month trying to find that little….Petrelli." She really wants to say bad words. "For over a month, and I get nothing. You want absolutely nothing to do with me until you both can use me for something without telling me why. All the while, this company that you claim to hate so much, do you know what they've had me doing? Working with an orphanage, for starving children in Africa. You want to talk about complicated problems, go to the Congo and watch little boys just like your Micah starving to death and being murdered or coked up. Then talk to me about all the problems you're going to fix by tearing apart this company."

"It's not— " Niki starts off strong but looks down suddenly as if struck, emotion welling up in her eyes. The sensitive side battles with the tough, but as her jaw sets, as she pushes up out of the chair, they merge — determination wins out. Conviction. "That. That’s exactly why I haven't let you in on everything, Charlotte — 'cause you're what’s good in Pinehearst. You do good. You see good, you always have! I don't know if I can trust you to think we're the bad guys in all of this mess. I wouldn't regret for a minute what this place's done for those kids in Africa, or wherever … but there is always something terrible hiding behind something pretty. There's always a price."

Charlotte shrugs softly, clearly very angry. "So you're willing to sacrifice all those kids who are getting food and education now in search of a future that's better for the people here? It must be something amazing, Niki. But to be perfectly honest, I don't know if you're the evil ones. I haven't seen Pinehearst do anything bad, just good. And I can't get any answers from you or from your friend. All I know is that there's some good work being done, and you're trying to stop it. That's all I know. And if that's all you're going to tell me, then that's your choice. But don't expect me to support you, and don't expect me not to be against you. I'm not going to be your ignorant little….tool." Corny line, she knows it, and she sort of flinches at the line itself. But it's how she feels.

Niki bristles, her shoulders all sorts of tense as she watches Charlotte. "Do you think I would be doing any of this if I didn’t think it was worth it? That I'd ruin so much— " Emotion getting the better of her again, she shakes her head, looking away, up to a corner. She tones her voice down, levelling a more composed, serious gaze on the brunette. "I could tell you that the future Pinehearst is making is worse than what they're saving. It … has to be." She looks distant for a moment, but snaps back. "But the more you know, the more dangerous it is for you, Charlotte. And … I don't want to see you hurt."

Charlotte shakes her head softly. "Niki, we don't know each other. You're … yourself now and I never knew that person." And you're wicked scary. "I thought I knew what this was about; Nathan Petrelli. But it's not, and that means you and Peter lied to me when you told me it was. You're here trying to change the future, for what? So the people you see can have it better? By changing that future, you're sacrificing other people, who could have it better with Pinehearst here. You and Peter aren't God or anything: you have no right to decide that you didn't like that your people got it bad in the future, so other people should die so that you can have it good. And if you won't tell me, then … I'm going to protect the people you're trying to sacrifice."

Niki, too, shakes her head, as if to say no, it's not like that. But she realizes there's not much she can say to shift Charlotte's point of view, not without the grisly details. "I had it easier back then," she says quietly, an out-of-place moment of reflection. "I was like you. I didn't see the whole picture, I wanted to be … good, to make a difference." A smile slips past, comes and goes. "I'm still making a difference. It's just not what I thought it would be. So I guess that's it." Niki sits back down in the chair and turns it toward the screens, experimenting with the controls at the computer to try to find a date and time, pretending, or at least making a concerted effort, to focus quietly on the task.

Charlotte looks down at her files. "Don't sit here and point at me as the 'too ignorant to know any better little hick,' Niki. For all I know, you and Peter would be more than happy to sacrifice me to get what you want too - which is a fact I've considered that you've considered more than once," They only use her when she's needed, after all. "Niki, leave the computer alone." What now? "Go home. Write up a resignation letter to Senator Petrelli. Go home to your family, if that's what you want. Leave us alone." She goes quiet for a moment, then looks up at Niki again. "You've never seen those kids, Niki. Dark, just like Micah. I'd like to at least pretend that if you ever saw them, you'd care what happened to them." But she has a sneaking suspicion that Niki wouldn't care. This Niki, anyway. "Go home and leave us alone, Niki."

Niki starts to breathe just a little more strenuously and clicks fiercely at the computer for about three seconds before whirling around to face Charlotte. "No!" she very nearly shouts, springing out of her chair to step in close to the woman with a burst of temper and determination, basically talking in her face. "If you think I don't care about any of that, then maybe you are an ignorant little hick. I'm doing this to save them. Everyone!" Someone's been around Peter a bit too much, it seems. "To make sure the world is one I'd want Micah to live in. You don't know, Charlotte! You don't know what they're doing!"

Charlotte makes a face - pure hurt that she's actualy being called a little hick, but even deeper as she feels the truth in it. "You know why I don't know, Niki. Because you won't tell me. Like I said, that's your choice. But I have no reason to believe you, you and Peter Petrelli have lied to me about what you're doing here. And I know this might come as a surprise to you, but I hate lying. I'm tired of lying." That line goes deeper into her past than Niki knows. "I can't lie for you any more if this is how it's going to be. I'm asking you to go home and take care of Micah. Having a mother in his life might be something tangible that you can help him with."

"I am in his life," Niki snaps with steadfast defensiveness. "Every day." She steps back a bit, barely at all, and can't help but glare at Charlotte for the things shes said. They sting. "We didn't lie to you, Charlotte. We are helping Nathan. He tied up in all of this." She glances to the door, seeming to consider. "I can't let you go out there if you're going to report me." As if she could stop Charlotte. "If you're so tired of lying, why don't you look up the guy you get your assignments from. Old guy, white hair, looks kind of like Santa Claus, right? Goes by the name of Linderman?"

Charlotte folds her arms, looking at Niki. Words sting, but Charlotte's been stinging for weeks with the lack of words. "You found a way to help him. I was there for at least that. You want to help him, then help him. But you won't, you won't touch him." She rolls her eyes back, shaking her head. "I'm not listening to any more of your lies, you've never shown me one ounce of proof for anything. I'm not going to wander around, half in the dark, protecting you and protecting this place. I took Peter for face-value and that wound me up protecting everyone. I can't protect everyone. I know what's happening here Niki, I have access. The studies, the new research and still, the only person I'm being threatened by is you. Go home, get Micah and your family and I won't report you. But if you won't tell me anything, if you won't trust me, then I can't trust you." And she begins to fizzle out, teleporting off.

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