Michael slipped into his office, tilted the blinds that covered both the door and the window to make seeing in more difficult.... First taking the disk from his pocket, he quickly tossed his jacket on the back of the chair, slid in place and inserted the disk into the computer...The first part was a tour of Level 10. Michael had never even been aware of its existence until now. All about the room, technicians appeared to be working on various machines, weapons and whatnots as Supervisors leaned over each person, taking notes by hand and whispering memos into hand held recorders...The next part showed Madeline. And Michael told himself that he had to remember to thank Birkoff for the disk.... Apparently the recordings were unknown even to her...Michael assumed that they came from a combination of overhead surveillance cameras because they panned over the complete area. There had to be some sort of sensors since the camera never left Madeline...unless someone had planned ahead..."Tell me Ms. Baxter, has the machine been fully tested?"
Madeline ran an admiring finger across what appeared to be a rather large, casket like device. Michael thought it could have easily passed for an MRI machine but he continued to watch with great interest. Ms Baxter turned to Madeline and smiled "Our preliminary tests indicate that it is running at acceptable levels and should perform as designed.... May I ask what you're planning to do with this?"...She waited for Madeline's answer.
"Well, Ms. Baxter...if this machine works the way you say...." She smiled but couldn't contain the underlying excitement in her voice "I'm going to make two of my operatives very unhappy.... actually one in particular, but the other won't remember a thing" she chuckled "Are there any noted side effects or can it be adapted to remove only what I choose?"...Ms. Baxter looked equally as excited as she began describing how to program the machine. "If you want the person to forget everything.... Do you want this person to forget everything?" She turned hoping Madeline might share the name of this person...
"No, not everything, we have too much invested in her training...I simply want Nikita to ... forget her feelings for Michael" she leaned in closer to take a look at the various knobs, buttons and dials..."Then you press this, this and finally you turn this.... She will probably resist you know." the technician again stepped back on her heels and waited for the answer...."No, she's scheduled to be on a mission, I will need this delivered on sight, will this be a problem?"
The technician shook her head, "I am sure Housekeeping can get it installed wherever you need it"...
"Good, will this work if Nikita is sedated?"...Madeline looked more and more devious...
"Just make sure she is not completely out... otherwise I can't guarantee the permanency of the adjustment." The tech replied..."How quickly will you be returning this to us?" she passed a hand over the machine lovingly, like a mother admiring a sleeping child...
"Housekeeping must remove it immediately after the adjustment.... And Ms. Baxter...I am assuming you will keep this between us... Operations doesn't need to know about any of this...." The tone was more of a threat than one might have at first thought...
"Of course" she looked at the floor.
"I warn you... Ms. Baxter, one word, you will get a personal look at the inside of this contraption!'' with that, Madeline turned, gave the machine a final pat "Oh, I am so going to enjoy this..." she laughed and exited the room.
Michael sat back, the anger turning his green eyes to hatred filled gray. "So Madeline, you did this all by yourself...and that is how you will die." ...he clicked the CD drawer open, removed the disk, placed it back in his jacket pocket, slipped the jacket on and left his office.... There was much work to be done...
Michael's confident strut returned as he left his office and headed first to Medlab where he immediately made his way to Nikita's bed. Softly he kissed her forehead and pressed his head against her cheek bringing his lips within inches of her ear..."Kita, I am going to fix everything.... I know what they did." he nuzzled closer "Birkoff found out that Madeline did this to you.... She has to pay Nikita." his eyes misted over. "I want you back, and if I have to kill her..." his words were silenced by the feeling of Nikita's cheek pressing back against his...
"Nikita? Nikita? Come on Kita, come back to me." He ran a tentative finger over her lips and was rewarded by the slightest quiver...quickly he stood up and scanned the room for the nearest technician..."You, over there," he called trying to get the woman's attention "Hey, I am talking to you" ...finally she turned.
"Sir, you have to keep it..." but she stopped mid-sentence as she noticed Nikita's head move against the pillows. "Is she waking up?" She trotted over, checked the monitors, placed a stethoscope in her ears and listened to Nikita's breathing and her heart...."It's stronger." she smiled, still listening..."Both her heartbeat and her breathing are clearer and stronger". She removed the stethoscope from her ears returning it to its positions around her neck..."I'll be right back as soon as I find Dr. Mason." she patted Michael’s' arm, momentarily forgetting what she had heard about him not welcoming human contact...
About 20 minutes later, Dr. Mason, upon completing his cursory exam, smiled at Michael and said, "It's true, all her readings have improved. She's breathing on her own and her heart sounds much stronger."...He jotted some notes into the clipboard holding Nikita's medical records. "I'll inform Operations and Madeline of this as soon as I am..." but Michael stopped him...his eyes flashed before the Dr.’s face. "You will tell no one...nor will any of your staff mention any improvements to ANYONE...is that clear?" ...He kept his hand against the Doctors forearm...squeezing ever so slightly to get his point across.
"I was instructed by...." but again he was stopped...
"I don't care who instructed you to do anything... I have told you, speak of this to no one...do you understand?" Michael waited for his reply, his eyes scanning the doctors' entire face. "If you or any of your staff so much as hint about any improvement of Nikita's condition... I will personally cancel them... is that clear?" He squeezed just a bit harder...
The doctor nodded. "Of course." He didn't feel like having his life ended over such small improvements... and wasn't about to argue the point with someone he knew was quite capable of keeping his word.
"Not a word" Michael released his arm, turned and placed the lightest of kisses on Nikita's lips "I will be back in a little while Kita" with that he gave the doctor an evil smile...turned and left Medlab.
The next place Michael intended to head was to Level 10. Earlier he had done the necessary procedures that would gain him access to this secretive place and he had made it his personal mission to be sure that Ms. Baxter would be in attendance this afternoon.... Birkoff had been more than willing to supply any and all the needed information and Michael promised to try to do something to thank both he and Walter who had happily supplied the key to the elevator that would take Michael to his destination.
"Birkoff are you reading me?" Michael whispered as he made his way to the elevator that would take him to Level 10.
"Loud and clear, Michael" Birkoff responded..."There are 15 bodies in Level 10 right now...." he turned and scanned the communications area to insure privacy...
"Where are Madeline and Operations right now?" Michael inquired...
"Madeline is in her office, she just got another stack of reports from the head technician... Ms. Baxter, she should be approaching the elevator about the same time you get there." he smiled, wishing he could watch what was about to transpire. Earlier he had found a way to disconnect the surveillance cameras in and around the elevators and the entire 10th floor...there would be no witnesses this time.
"And Operations?" He slowed his pace so that he and Ms. Baxter would meet at the elevator just seconds apart. "He had a meeting with some of the newly promoted operatives, should keep him busy boasting about the how’s and why of Section...ya know the spiel..." Birkoff chuckled, doing his best imitation of Operations. "We serve the greater good of humanity... above all you must remember this first and foremost.... Section MUST COME BEFORE ANYTHING ELSE!" He practically shouted the last part of that statement...
"Birkoff, get your mind back on the job at hand" Michael reprimanded the computer genius but inwardly he had to laugh at the younger mans grasp of Operations voice and mannerisms.
Michael saw Ms. Baxter, seven paces ahead, clipboard leaning against her ample bosom, pen pushed behind her ear nestled beside the carefully styled bun at the top of her head. For some reason, Michael had the urge to draw his weapon and shoot the darn thing from it's perch on top of her pointy head. Earlier he had donned a lab coat complete with Level 10 high security patches placed on either shoulder as to not stand out and draw attention to himself. He thought the black thick rimmed glasses were the perfect touch...when he pressed the temple, Birkoff’s' monitor showed what Michael was seeing...
"Thanks Michael." he smiled, crossed his arms in front of his chest and leaned in to watch the goings on...careful to block the view from any roving eyes.
"ER...Ms. Baxter?" Michael put on his sweetest voice and waited for the woman ahead of him to turn.
"Yes?" a fast curt reply as if he had interrupted her deepest thoughts. "May I have a word with you?" He continued closing the distance between them...Ms. Baxter had never seen Michael since she rarely left Level 10 except to return to her sparse apartment farther uptown..."I'm really in a bit of a hurry...." She looked up, noticed the sea-green eyes behind the glasses and the soft full lips drawing closer to her "But," she swallowed "I guess I could...um.. what is it you need?" She pressed her security key against the access panel to the right of the elevator doors "Going up?" She smiled a careful smile as to cover the smoke stained teeth that she now cursed herself for not having whitened.
"Of course" he smiled, signaling her to enter the now open door ahead of himself "after you." he bit his tongue reminding himself that he had to play this part to help Nikita "Have you done something with your hair?" He asked, blanching at the way she twisted her rather sturdy frame and brought her hand to the bun.
"Just trying something new." She giggled the little schoolgirl giggle of a girl just discovering boys
"It's very becoming" Michael returned her smile. A big toothy grin made to melt the strongest heart.
For the next few Levels, they rode in silence. Michael carefully came around her, the smile on his face never changing as he leaned against the command panel and brought the elevator to a grinding halt. "Oh my" she assumed the next step as Michael drew closer, his voice changing to Mission Mode Michael "Just do as I say, answer my questions and you will live to see tomorrow." he pressed his body against hers, pinning her to the elevator wall.
The change in his presence and the intensity of his gaze made her swallow hard "What do you want?" She hoped he wouldn't rape her...
"Madeline paid you a visit earlier in the week." Ms. Baxter shook her head in denial "Yes, I have a copy of the surveillance tape...shall we continue?" He cut her off from denying anything. "I know that Madeline borrowed your machine... and I know why."
Ms. Baxter’s' head now bobbed up and down as she bit her lower lip and started to cry. "She said she would hurt me, she would erase..." but Michael didn't allow her to finish the statement before he wrapped his hand around her throat.
"Trust me Ms. Baxter, NOTHING Madeline could do to you will compare to what I will do TO YOU...if you don't cooperate." He squeezed to drive home his point. Ms. Baxter felt a trickle of urine and squeezed herself to refrain from messing her panties any further.
"I will tell you what you want to know." she swallowed hard.
"Good" Michael relaxed his grasp around her wrinkled neck. "Shall we start from the beginning?" she nodded silently.
Michael kept his hand around the throat of Ms. Baxter as they exited the elevator. He carefully scanned the perimeter for anyone that might notice the two of them together, brought his lips close to her ear and said, "Where is your office?" She pointed down the corridor to the left.
"Just act natural, I won't hurt you if you do as you are told, but believe me...I won't hesitate to kill you if you don't." She nodded her head to show she understood, stepped off the elevator and made her way down the hallway to the fifth door on the right. As she reached into her coat pocket for the keycard, Michael brought his gun up to the small of her back.
"No games Ms. Baxter" he pushed her forward as soon as the door opened, then using the heel of his foot he pushed it closed behind them. Only then did her remove his hand from her neck. "Sit down and keep your hands on the desk at all times so I can see them. Is that clear?" Again she nodded. Michael noticed the beads of sweat that began gathering at her hairline.
"What is it you want from me exactly.... Um. Mr.? I don't know what to call you." She stated a quizzical look on her face. "You can call me Michael!"...He waited for it to register and was soon rewarded with the renewed look of shock and recognition that crossed her worried face. "I take it you are the Michael that Madeline was referring to when she made her plans?" He turned, looked her in the eye.
"The very one indeed"... and he sat down on the chair directly across from her.
"How did Madeline come to discover your machine?" Michael leaned in closer as he waited for the answer.
"She came here because this is where we invent things.... She asked if there was anything that could erase someone's memory and I was only too happy to show her.... until....well, until I realize that she had someone in mind to use the machine on...I am sorry, Michael" she apologized and he realized that she was sincere. "I take it that is why you are here? She actually went through with her plans?" The sadness that displayed itself on Michael's face gave her the answer "The girl she planned on using this on?"
"Nikita" he filled in blank.
"Nikita, has she been adjusted?" She looked genuinely concerned. Michael simply nodded than sat back and sunk into the chair. He realized that this woman was not a threat and might just in fact become a very important ally.
"She seems like herself. or should I say seemed.."
Ms. Baxter's head shot up. "Seemed? She's not dead? Please, tell me she didn't die because of this machine? My machine?" She brought her hands to her face, covering her eyes. "I never designed it to destroy our people. I was led to believe that it would improve new recruits by taking away the memories of their past and installing new profiles." She sat back, looking suddenly older than her years.
Michael's eyes shown bright as he quickly sat up and moved closer to the desk again. "Install new profiles? What exactly or should I say how exactly is that done?" He asked with renewed interest.
"Well, you take away the memories that hold them back, such as their pasts, then you give them a scenario, a made up past. Something like, this is where they "wanted" to join...that Section is a great entity, stuff like that." She suddenly began to realize what he was driving at..."By the way, Michael, the names' Annie...Annie Baxter". She smiled "You can put the gun away, I am no threat to you, in fact, I will be more than happy to help you any way I can."
Michael sighed "I don't know if you can... Is there someway to restore the memory that was originally erased?" he asked, praying that the answer would give him the peace he needed right now.
"Well, as I explained to Madeline, if you, she, sedated Nikita?" She made sure the name was right. To which Michael nodded "Nikita, if Nikita were sedated and she was under too far, it's quite possible that her memory will return on its own." She hesitated, waiting for Michael to grasp her meaning, "However, the machine was never tested to see if you could restore what was lost." She reached across the desk and touched Michael's hand "I am sorry but, if I had some time to run a few tests...." She left her hand on his until he drew back and leaned against the chair back.
"How much time?" Michael pinched the bridge of his nose, then placing the gun in his lap, ran both his hands over his face and back through his hair "How much time are we talking about? Nikita is in Medlab as we speak, something went wrong during the last mission...I don't even know if she's strong enough to be put through these test." He sadly stated.
Annie sat back then leaned forward, "No Michael, I have a better idea." she motioned him to come closer. "Why not test it on someone else?" The evil smile that played across her lips was not lost on Michael.
"Madeline?" he laughed "Now that could be interesting".
"Yes, it could be, especially since she made it a point to stress that Operations wasn't to know about her plans." Michael reached into his coat and touched the disk buried in his pocket, "If Operations was made aware..." but she suddenly shook her head.
"That won't work, he would never believe us, you.... Me". Then she saw the disk in his hand "Unless we had proof right?" He smiled that big toothy grin. "Unless we had proof, which I am taking that is what that disk contains?" When he nodded she suddenly realized how easily she could fall for him...if she were younger.
Michael stood up, leaned across the desk and kissed her cheek. "I shall be back later, speak of this to no one and I guarantee you will be safe, in fact, if all goes as planned, Madeline will never... shall we say 'remember' that you had anything to do with this." and with that he was gone.