I knew long before we got there that Michael had lied to me. I just couldn't figure out why.
He'd kept the conversation light as he maneuvered the company SUV through the crowded streets. Michael can be a splendid conversationalist when he's putting on a front. But when he's being himself, he's far less garrulous. On the drive out, he was uncharacteristically talkative. I knew something was up.
And then he pulls into this abandoned garage in the middle of nowhere, and stops the car. I was feeling dreadfully nervous. I could be sure we weren't there to meet with Oversight. I just wanted to know what Michael had up his sleeve before I was completely blindsided.
"What are we doing here?" I asked, interrupting his philosophical dissertation on the benefits of celery. "This isn't Oversight."
I had called him on it. Did he think I wouldn't notice where we were?
"No, it's not," he admitted. He sighed, hastily unfastening his seatbelt as his eyes burned into mine. "If I had told you the truth, you wouldn't have come."
A million alarm bells sounded in my head. I did my best to remain composed. Michael wouldn't hurt me. He wouldn't lead me into a trap. He's my self-appointed protector, for heaven's sake! I hadn't asked him to guard me, but he always had. If there was anyone I was safe with, surely it was him...
"So who are we meeting?" My voice squeaked a little, even though I fought to keep it casual. I swallowed over the growing lump in my throat, nervously.
Michael didn't answer for a very long time. And when he did, he couldn't bring himself to look at me. "Philo." He said.
I knew I'd heard wrong. I must have heard wrong. There was no way Michael was the mole. "Philo's Red Cell, Michael." I hoped to God he would correct me--tell me I needed a hearing aid and that he'd said something completely not like what I thought he'd said. But he said nothing. His silence was an admission of his guilt.
I leaned back into my seat and closed my eyes. The earth was suddenly a very ugly place. All goodness had fled from me. Michael, my dearest Michael was not the man I'd built my world around. That man did not exist. Life is a cruel, sick joke.
"So it was you." I forced the tears back in. They would not spill over. Not now. Michael wasn't worthy of my sorrow. I would feel no mourning for him. I was better off without him. "All along, you compromised Operations."
His voice was a whisper. "Yes."
I expected some degree of shame--some sense of moral wrong from him. I thought I had known him. I was beginning to realize I knew nothing about him. He was capable of far darker things than I ever imagined. And I had played the fool's accomplice.
My voice shook a little when I finally spoke. "He might die."
Michael's voice was cold, his eyes like icy steel. "That's the point."
I sat in shock. How could this man be such a stranger to me? I had shared his soul. I had known him.
He cut me off by opening his door and stepping out. I wasn't about to let him go. I never would. He had used me, convinced me he was honorable and worthy, when in fact he was nothing of the sort. I climbed out after him.
"I don't understand." My voice echoed forlornly through the empty caverns of the garage.
Michael's voice was measured, mechanical as he turned and walked toward me. "I have an agreement with Philo. He'll feed us certain operations, I'll do the same. And he'll protect my leadership." He looked at me meaningfully. "Our leadership."
The flattery-tactic may have worked when I was a younger, more na´ve op. I might have been able to blindly trust him in the early days, when he was my bronzed god, my revered mentor. But I had seen too much. I knew what Red Cell was capable of. I knew their methods, their ruthless means. I'd seen their victims, witnessed the mayhem and destruction that resulted from their rampages. I could not be party to that. I could not love a man who had chosen to become that kind of animal.
I shook my head as I looked at him, my heart breaking in two. "I can't go along with this." My voice sounded strangled and foreign, even to my own ears. "Not with Red Cell. No."
I turned and walked away from him. I had no idea where I was going. I had no idea what my next course of action would be. To be honest, I didn't give either much thought. I felt tears burning in my eyes, grief and the deepest excruciating sorrow stabbing into my chest. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't think. Michael, my precious Michael was gone. Death would have been easier to bear than this deception. My life was nothing. I had fought for so long to keep Section from depravity, and had ended up perpetrating its corruption. I wished in that moment the earth would split open and swallow me up.
"Nikita." His voice echoed through the hollows of my soul. I would never escape that voice, not if I lived to be a hundred years old.
I turned, my eyes bleary with my tears. He was a hazy figure looming against the darkness, but even then I could make out the gun in his hand. He raised the weapon and pointed it at my chest. Even as I stared down the barrel of that gun, I didn't believe he'd fallen so far that he could bring himself kill me.
I was wrong.
My world exploded in a million stars with blast of his weapon. A hot, driving force hit me dead in the chest. I remember thinking my heart had once been there. It was good he had filled the empty space with his lead--the void would be less painful. I fell forward, my eyes intent on his stony face. Why, oh why, Michael? How could you pretend to love me so exquisitely and kill me as if you had no heart? I reached for him, in one final plea as the darkness loomed up at me. I felt myself crumple, my face against the icy pavement, and then...