Operations was seated behind the desk in his office, seldom used since he spent most of his waking hours pacing out the entire rectangular pattern of the Observation Deck he occasionally slipped in here for moments of undisturbed quite and meditation. "Medlab" he flipped a switch that gave him direct access to the surgical floor without going through communications.
"Yes, sir?" a soft feminine voice answered quickly. "Any change in Michael's status?" he drummed his fingers slowly while contemplating the next moves needed to deal with the entire mess now placed before him. "No sir, unchanged I'm afraid." Not good news, not bad just hanging in the balance. Operations couldn't have been anymore confused. When they had brought in Michael, Nikita had been distraught and almost incoherent thinking he was doing her a favor he had instructed the tech to sedate her, upon waking he couldn't understand why she couldn't remember anything. She obviously remembered him, Madeline and Section but she couldn't recall anything from the immediate past and this troubled him greatly.
He had left his desk and made his way to Level 10. He had decided to follow up on some of the information that Michael had been working on before leaving for Chicago to hunt down Madeline. Birkoff had been kind enough to fill him in on the fact that one of the people, a Ms. Annie Baxter had designed the machine that Madeline had used on Nikita but had since switched sides and had been willing working on a reversal of procedures for Michael. He only hoped that she had made some progress in the last month or so.
Annie was busy talking to a group of tech huddled tightly together discussing a machine that they were surrounding. Operations wondered if this was the same one used on Nikita. "Excuse me?" he raised his voice slightly. "Could one of you tell me who Annie Baxter is?" he waited as all eyes turned to the dark haired woman who had been leading the group.
"Yes, I'm Annie," she stepped through the parted crowd, reached out her hand toward him waiting to shake his. "May I help you sir?" she thought she recognized him but wanted to be sure.
"I'm Operations I'm working with Michael to help Nikita." he shook her hand and smiled. "Have you made any progress?"
Annie nodded slightly. "I have managed to recreate the program that Madeline used on her, but so far the solution to undo it has eluded all attempts to reverse it," she flipped several sheets on the clipboard she held against her chest. "However..." she motioned him to follow her.
The entered her office, a comfortable room filled with momentos of home and rich leather upholstered chairs. She slipped around the large oak desk and indicated a seat across from her "Won't you please sit down?" she flopped down and stretched her spine. "I'm afraid I have been so busy I haven't managed to keep Michael up to date on my progress," she smiled apologetically. "I have found that the procedure is interfered with when certain drugs are introduced into the subjects" she smiled again.
"Interfered with?" he leaned in closer and saw her nod.
"There are marked moments of increased forgetfulness with certain sedatives and the opposite also seems to be true," she sat back waiting for him to digest this information. "The opposite?" he continued. "The test subjects started recalling things they had forgotten whenever they were given a short duration sedative like Ambutal 45, it's a new fast acting sedative, only it's working span is minimal. Section usually uses it when transporting dangerous people or subjects."
"Tell me Annie, Abm..." he looked for help.
"Ambutal 45" she finished for him. "Yes that, is this liquid," she nodded. "Is it blue?" she nodded once more. "That had to be what Michael gave Nikita the first time," she looked confused. "I'm sorry, Michael tried to keep Nikita from interfering with his mission and had her injected with a blue liquid." he started filling her in.
"Ambutal 45, of course." she chewed her lower lip unaware she was doing so. "She started recalling things that she couldn't the day before and yesterday when she came in with Michael she was so upset that I had Medlab sedate her and now she can't recall the past 48 hours." He was relieved that he at least had an answer for her amnesia. "Medlab doesn't use Ambutal 45 as far as I know."
Annie punched in some information on the computer to her left. "No, just like I thought, they use something entirely different and you say it has erased her memory?"
Operations nodded. "Do you think if we gave her Ambutal 45 it might." he sat up as Annie picked up the telephone.
"Get me an IV of Lactated Ringers with 50 cc's of Ambutal 45 diluted." she instructed whomever was on the other side of the phone. "It's certainly worth a try. You say she's in Medlab now?" she rose from behind the desk and waited for him to lead the way.
They arrived in medlab and noticed that Nikita had wrist and ankle restraints keeping her secured to the gurney. "You let me go do you hear me?" she screamed as she strained against the heavy leather straps. "I'm warning you all, I swear I'll kill you!" she turned toward Operations and both he and Annie were taken back by the pure evil that was written on her features. "You, you son of a ... " she fought harder rocking the gurney dangerously from side to side.
"Settle down Nikita" Operations moved closer to her side assured that the strong bonds would hold tight. "Now just lay back like a good girl and I promise we will make everything better" he reached to push against her forehead and came darn near getting bit by her.
"I'm warning you to back off Mr." she screamed her voice already hoarse from her constant roaring.
"I'm sorry Operations she's been like this since you left" one of the technicians began preparing a syringe to inject into the IV bag connected to her arm. "What has she been given so far?" Annie inquired as the tech turned and looked rather annoyed. "Nothing yet, but this will knock her out," she reached for the tube as Nikita struggled to pull her arm away.
"No, No you are not putting me out again, I swear I'll kill you get away from me!" Operations stepped between Nikita and the Tech. "That won't be necessary" he halted her progress. Nikita quieted down for a moment wondering if the gray haired man standing beside her was really on her side. "You haven't had to listen to her all day." the tech snapped as she attempted to move around him.
"I said, that won't be necessary!" his stern voice and demanding demeanor stopped her in her tracks.
"Fine, you deal with her." she dropped the syringe into a wastebasket and moved away.
"Nikita, listen to me, I am not trying to hurt you," he turned and touched her arm feeling the muscles tighten under his hand. "We have something that should help you remember everything but we have to put it through the IV." he explained patiently.
"No, I don't want to be sedated again," she spoke this time in a softer pleading tone. "This won't make you sleep Nikita" Annie moved to her side and began hanging the IV bag that she had brought with her. "Maybe it will make you a little groggy but I promise that you will remain aware of everything going on around you," she waited for Nikita's permission to continue.
Nikita studied the IV bag in the strange woman's hands then looked back at the gray haired man that everyone called Operations. "Will you stay will me?" she pleaded. "If you leave they'll drug me again." she raised her head up to motion to the various techs and doctors roaming around Medlab.
"I, we both will stay with you and if you fall asleep, I promise that when you wake I will still be here." he gently moved the hair from around her eyes and tried to smooth it gently backwards. "I will stay to Nikita, by the way, my name is Annie." she smiled soothingly as Nikita relaxed and allowed her to hook up the bag. All three watched as the lightly tinted liquid made it's way like a pale blue snake through the plastic IV tube and into the vein where it was hooked to.
"It burns a little." Nikita explained as she attempted to readjust her arm.
"That is the IV fluid, it should subside in a minute." Annie explained. Nikita felt a warm rush gently taking over her entire body, first starting at the needle site and quickly moving to encompass her entire body a few moments later and she drifted off into a relaxed but light slumber.
Operations and Annie exchanged glances and watched for the next 20 minutes as the IV bag emptied its content. "I hope this works," he sighed as he loosened the tie that felt as if it were beginning to strangle him. "So do I. Operations, I have felt so guilty since Michael first told me what Madeline had done to Nikita," he understood, the guilt he carried was that he was not as aware as he should have been of just what Madeline had planned.
Nikita remained asleep for the better part of the afternoon. Operations had taken the liberty of having her moved from her gurney onto a bed directly along side where Michael's still form remained hooked to various machines and monitors. The doctors had assured him that Michael although it didn't seem so was actually continuing to make progress although he hadn't regained consciousness since coming out of surgery. Operations thought it would be a good test to see if the Ambutal 45 had helped in the slightest way.
Madeline had made it through the Christmas season, happily she decided she had been mistaken about being followed by Section. Her reasoning was simply that if they had indeed found her then they would certainly not have waited this long to bring her in so as far as she was concerned life remained as near normal as she could possibly allow.
Her job at Althorpe Commodities fulfilled her need to keep busy and her boss Alan constantly reminded her that there was life outside of the office. He of course was unaware that her entire grown up life had been centered upon living in an "office" that being Section. She was growing surprisingly comfortable with the women she worked with and had even joined them occasionally for a lunch or early dinner. But the habit of being safety indoors by dark was one that she found increasing hard to break and she had declined several offers of dinners with Alan yet he never gave up asking. Tonight she decided she would surprise him if he as and finally accept.
True to his habits, Alan found her pouring her attention over the company books searching facts and figures for the tax season that was quickly coming up. "Hey gorgeous." he leaned against her open office door fiddling with his tie, it was a gift that she had handpicked for him for Christmas. She had bought little trinkets for everyone in the office and was genuinely surprised that they had reciprocated in kind.
"Hello Alan" she smiled, not as tight lipped as she had once been. "What can I do for you?" she already knew and could barely contain the excitement she felt wondering what his reaction would be.
"How about joining me for dinner at Gibson Steakhouse?" he was already sure that she would decline but true to his word he had told her he wasn't giving up until he wore her down.
"Sure" she smiled and brought her attention back to the paperwork in front of her.
"Excuse me," he came back to the door "did you just say yes?" his face was a mixture of shock and confusion.
"Yes, Alan, I said that I would," she laughed.
He loved her smile. When she wasn't calculating her every move and he caught the rare glimpse of her actually laughing or smile he found himself more and more attracted to her. "Say 8 o'clock?" he was afraid she was joking with him.
"Shall I meet you there?" she put the pencil down, folded her hands and enjoyed the display he unintentionally gave her.
"Yeah, yes um well sure" he stuttered. Madeline broke out in a full-fledged smile.
"Okay, well see you then," she really needed to balance her flow charts before she could leave for the evening.
"I could pick you up?" now he was pressing his luck.
Madeline hadn't allowed anyone access to her apartment and she wasn't sure that she was quite ready to start now so she shook her head. "I will probably just head there directly from here I really have to get these finished," she waved her hands over the expanse of her desk.
"Okay, well I better let you get back to work," he smiled, shrugged and headed off. If Madeline had looked up, she might have even noticed a slight skip in his step. Instead, she resumed her studies of the paper piles that she still had to get through before their dinner date.
Michael continued to show slight improvements but had not yet regained consciousness. Operations, true to his promise to Nikita had remained faithfully by her side along with Annie as the Ambutal IV continued dripping into the tube in her arm. Blissfully unaware, Nikita had slept right through a change in bags as Annie and Operations discussed the possibilities if this worked or didn't.
"I am still working on back tracking the method that Madeline used but there is something missing and I can't put my finger on it, I just wish that I wasn't the one who created that damned machine," she slammed her fist into the palm of the other. "I feel so responsible for all of this."
Operations had the chance to study the woman sitting across from him. Her concerns were genuine and he found it amazing that given the time she had worked for Section and the things that she had worked on, she still maintained concern for human lives. He wondered when he had stopped caring. When the outcome of each mission became the bottom line. He also wondered at what point he had let control of Section slip away from him.
Madeline had put him in this position going over his head or behind his back to destroy Nikita's love for Michael. Somehow he had missed the fact that she was doing things on her own without permission from him it didn't sit well with him and when his two best Operatives were back to normal, or at least back on their feet, he intended to continue his crusade to retrieve Madeline. Until then, he would keep her under surveillance and hit when she least expected it.
Nikita started to stir. "Um.... Where? What?" she struggled to sit up but from the look on her face was suddenly hit with a wave of nausea.
"Don't move around too much Nikita, unfortunately the side effect of this is motion sickness." Annie rested a gentle hand against Nikita's shoulder to restrain her. While she had been sleeping, Operations had insisted on the removal of all the restraints that had been put on her.
"I will handle her when she wakes up." he had been on the border of losing his temper when the technician had questioned his sensibility at removing them.
"Fine, but that one is a handful." he had tossed his hands in the air at losing the battle of will and turned on his heels and walked away. Operations smiled at that one, describing Nikita as a "handful" if he only knew the real her.
"Why am I here?" she slowly sat up with the aid of Annie. She turned her head and noticed Michael's still form. "What happened to Michael?" she quickly turned to get off the bed and was hit with yet another wave of nausea. Quickly she covered her mouth to stop the bitter taste of bile. "Who did this?" she slowly continued to his side. "Michael it's Nikita can you hear me?"
Operations still didn't know what she remembered. "Nikita?" he called to her.
"Yes," she simply turned her head to acknowledge him.
"Michael was shot," he gauged her reactions.
"Shot? Shot by whom?" she leaned over and lovingly traced a finger across his forehead. "Was he on a mission?" she felt the smoothness of his cool skin. "Was he trying to find Madeline?" she turned. So many questions ran through her head. "Michael please can you hear me?" she took his hand in hers. She wanted to lean over and kiss his lips but didn't think that Operations would approve.
"Why would he have been after Madeline?" Operations decided to test her memory.
"Because she tried to alter my memory and she escaped Section?" the second part came out more in the form of a question.
Annie and Operations exchanged glances. "Nikita what do you remember?" Annie moved closer.
"I remember that..." she stopped to gather her thoughts and Operations stood up at the hesitation.
"What Nikita? What do you remember?"