(13)

Michael felt strangely out of place sitting in the darkened corner of the Kelso bar and grill, but he felt sure that this was the only safe place he would be able to carry on the needed conversation with Walter and Birkoff. Fifteen minutes later, Walter, black denim jacket pulled tight against the outside air, red bandana in its usual place came through the front door, blew a breath between his cold reddened hands and swiftly scanned the room. Spotting Michael safely tucked in the back corner. He nodded then made his way over followed very closely behind by Birkoff who had been delayed while parking his car.

Michael looked tired but there was an unexplainable spark to him that did not go unnoticed by either man who quickly exchanged glances. "What's up Michael?" Walter briefly touched the younger operatives shoulder "Is it Nikita?" He worried about them both...this entire situation had gotten out of hand and he knew Michael was quickly reaching his breaking point.

"No, Walter, She was fine, better when I left her." 'Not too much info Michael' he tried to remind himself in the event that Walter or Birkoff were later questioned by Madeline." She was resting comfortably.... Whatever that means". He looked at the two men sitting across from him, hunched in close to avoid any unwanted ears from hearing them.

"I found out what was done to Nikita" he nodded to his left. "Thanks to Birkoff, I have the proof I need when the time comes." then he turned to Walter and handed him an envelope. "Inside are the machine coordinates and the schematic of the program Madeline used on Nikita." He waited for Walter to acknowledge what he was saying. "I need to know if it can be reversed, if you can come up with the sequence to undo the program and Walter, I need it as soon as you can get it." he touched the older mans arm "And not a word to anyone!" he warned.

"Right Michael, like I'd be on the next phone call to Operations...?" He kinda chuckled trying to relax the young man he knew was wound tighter than anything he could imagine "That's just it guys.... Operations didn't okay this, this adjustment of Nikita. Madeline was working alone, she admitted it on the tape when she told Annie..." both men looked confusingly at each other.

"Annie?" Both whispered. "Annie Baxter, she designed the machine, not for what Madeline used it for but, " Walter nodded "Doesn't she know if this can be undone?"

Michael shook his head and Walter realized that would have been the first thing Michael would have asked her "She's not sure, said she needed time, I want you to work with her but, separately," Michael motioned them closer, "She's on our side, we have to protect her. She's going to make my job a lot easier after all this is taken care of an Nikita's memory is restored!" The grin that pasted itself across Michael's face sent a chill up both menís spines.

************

(14)

After leaving Birkoff and Walter at the bar, Michael quickly exited and headed back to Section. He hated leaving Nikita for any great length of time, especially if she were to come to and Operations or Madeline were made aware of it before himself. His first stop was in his office where he noticed a plain brown envelope tucked under the seat of his chair, only a corner peaking out. Carefully he lifted it, turned it over and over in his hands then placing it carefully on his desk, he turned to close the blinds and disconnect the surveillance cameras. Next he removed his jacket and tossed it on the empty chair across the room, pausing to think of all the times Nikita sat across from him. Spinning her hair in her fingers or just silently staring at him.

He missed her so much that he sometimes regretted regaining his feelings...but he loved her and he promised himself that he would never let a day go by without telling her as much if she regained consciousness. The envelope was securely sealed and he needed his letter opener to rip open the flap. Inside was a note 'I think there's a way.... Signed A.' nothing more, nothing less but his insides felt like Jell-O as he put the letter through the shredder in the corner of his office. Making doubly sure no one could piece it together, he pulled the long slivers of paper out of the trash and put them through once again until all that remained was confetti. Picking up his jacket, he quickly put it on and left the office fully intending to see Annie after he made a check on Nikita in Medlab.

She was still lying on the hospital bed but there seemed to be far less tubes and wires attached to her now and he didn't know if it was wishful thinking or actual fact that she had regained some of her color. Michael made his way to the head of Medlabs' office and was grateful to find him sitting behind his desk. Quietly he knocked at the door and waited for admittance. "Good afternoon Michael" Dr. Mason smiled "please sit down" he motioned to the chair next to his desk. "How is Nikita?" Michael whispered as he slumped into the chair... It felt good to stretch his legs and sit for a few minutes...

"All her readings appear to be in the normal range, the cuts and bruises are healing nicely and she appears to be in a sort of twilight sleep." He jotted down a few notes. Michael waited until he finished writing. "Will she wake up soon?" He asked but knew that the Dr. probably wouldn't be able to answer that question.

"Michael she really should have woken up by now, I don't know why she hasn't. We have done CT scans and MRIís on her and everything appears to be within a normal range based on her medical records. I really wish I had more to tell you." he looked squarely into Michael's sea-green eyes and noted the sadness the younger man tried to hide. "She is very important to you isn't she?" The Dr. didn't know if the Operative sitting next to him would answer honestly and he was taken back by Michael's reply.

"She is everything to me Dr. Mason, my life, my world. She is the only one in Section still alive, if you can believe that now" he suddenly ran his hands through his hair and released a very heavy sigh. "I never told her that, I guess I should have, but I was.... Many things have happened in my life here at Section and until Nikita. I had managed to build walls that no one could penetrate." Michael didn't know why he was sharing so much of himself with a Doctor he hardly knew but for the first time in a long time...he realized he had to let it out in the open. And this man who had been responsible for saving Nikita's life made him feel safe enough to tell him.

The Doctor knew that no matter what Michael told him, he would never betray the confidence that the young Operative had just placed in him. "Perhaps Nikita can hear you now, have you told her any of this?" Michael nodded "Keep trying to reach her, she knows you love her...." Before he could finish, he noticed something flash behind Michael's eyes "She does love you right?" He touched Michael's shoulder.

"I don't know, she did..." he could barely finish.

"Amnesia isn't always permanent" the Doctor put his pen down and ran his finger across the spiral metal holding Nikitaís' chart together.

"She didn't remember before the accident... if it was an accident" he suddenly sounded bitter. "I have to check on her before I take care of things...." he quickly stood up "Dr. Mason?" He waited to get the full undivided attention of the Doctor sitting behind the desk "I hope you won't share what I just told you?" he waited, his eyes pleading with the Doctor. "Michael, whatever you have told me shall remain between us. But I get the feeling that you don't want any information regarding Nikita shared with Paul or Madeline?"

Michael nodded, shook his hand then left the office. Dr. Mason spun in his chair and watched the young man make his way to Nikita's bed, take her hand in his and gently place a kiss on the palm. He knew that whatever happened to Nikita, she would be safe with this man who obviously loved her beyond words.

************

(15)

As Michael made his way across the Communications room, he briefly looked up and his eyes met with those of Operations who didn't look one bit happy. Noticing his number one Operative, Operations quickly pressed the intercom without taking his eyes from Michael's "I would like to see you now Michael" he tried to sound authoritative as he stood there waiting for a response. Michael first turned to leave, but thinking better of it he quickly returned to the stairway leading up to the observation deck.

"What is it you want?" he hissed as he entered the deck. Operations turned, a bit taken back by the tone of the younger mans' voice.

"We have missions that need attending to..." he began but quickly realized that Michaelís' attention was not directed at him but at the sight of Madeline walking below. "Michael! He just about shouted. "I am getting very tired of your attitude and I won't..." but he never got to finish before Michael moved directly into his field of vision.

"I don't care about any of your damned missions, get Davenport to handle them." Their eyes locked and for the very first time Operations began to realize just how dangerous Michael might really be. "If you don't like my attitude, then cancel me." He waited for the response he knew would be forthcoming.

"Don't think that I am not considering doing just that Michael, I am warning you...." Michael simply moved closer "Warning me? Youíre warning me?" he laughed "What are you warning me about?" He stepped back, leaned his hip against the COM panel and crossed his arms in front of him "About the games you have played with my life? About how you hurt, kill or make the people in my life disappear?" He sat there defiantly. "What more can you do to me?" He sneered.

Operations was losing ground rapidly, he really wanted to kill Madeline for putting him in this position, but he didn't want to tell Michael that it was she who had decided to do the "adjustment" on Nikita by herself. "Perhaps you need some...." but again Michael cut him off.

"What I needed, I couldn't have, you Paul, wouldn't allow that" he stood again, inches from Operations' face "Were you and Madeline so jealous of me and Nikita that you had to destroy her?" He waited "Why her, why not me?" He stepped closer still. Operations was force to step back and realized his mistake, he had just given Michael the upper hand.

************

(16)

Michael continued to lean against the COM panel, fully aware that he was making Operations uncomfortable. Once again Madeline passed through the Communications room and looking up, locked eyes first with Operations and then with Michael. the look he gave her made the hairs on the back of her neck stand up. Swiftly she shifted her glance and made her way to her office.

"She's so damned smug!" Michael spat out the words, holding back the threat against her life that threatened to free itself from his lips. His attention shifted back to Operations who had not missed the challenge between Michael and Madeline. "Yes she is, that's her job Michael." he turned to the young Operative sitting in front of him. "And she's very good at what she does." he added.

Michael turned his head and stared at Operations "But her days are numbered" he whispered, just low enough that Paul would hear "And yours are likewise" Michael once again made eye contact and saw the older man blanch "Are you prepared to back up your threats Michael?" Operations decided to see just where this might be leading. "With my life if I have to!" was the simple reply that came without a break in his stare "What life I have left without Nikita" he waited again, feeling like a master in a chess game. Operations swallowed hard, removed his jacket and slowly rolled up each sleeve, purposely taking his time to regroup his thoughts. He knew now that if he didn't do something, first Madeline and then more than likely himself would be made to pay and he didn't doubt that Michael might just have the ways and means to dispose of both of them.

"What is it you want from me Michael?" He decided that bargaining might be in order so he waited for the younger man to put his demands on the table.

"The truth for starters...." he looked up, trying hard to hide the overwhelming sadness he felt whenever discussing the situation with Nikita. "Are you capable of that much?" He stated. Operations knew that if he lied, Michael might very well catch on. If he told the truth, he risked losing Madeline but under the circumstances he really didn't see a way out. "Were you both in on this?" Michael waited.

Paul started to nod his head but something in the younger mans' demeanor told him that this was the beginning of a test. "No, I'll admit that I wanted the relationship between you and Nikita ended...at first I was willing to let it run its course and only interfere if it effected your performances." He answered honestly for the first time in a long time. "Madeline..." he heard the sharp intake of breath come from Michael "Madeline decided that it should be ended altogether." He steadied himself against the wall directly across from where Michael was still leaning on the COM panel, totally unaware that Michael had opened the channel leading directly to Madelines' office.

"Are you saying that you knew nothing of what Madeline was planning?" He made sure to hide the little green light that might have alerted Operations that the COM channel was open.

"Yes Michael, that is exactly what I am saying...I didn't know, I swear to you, I didn't know what she had planned for Nikita."

Michael nodded while taking in this information "What exactly did she do?" He knew that Paul probably didn't have the answer but wanted to see if Madeline had confided in him about her doings.

"Again I would have to say I don't know...I told her I wanted a full report, all she told me was that she had made some "adjustments". I wanted it reversed as soon as Nikita was conscious. I swear to you Michael, if I had known, I would have stopped her myself!" he rubbed his eyes which were quite red to begin with due to the lack of sleep he had been missing since this whole situation had started.

Michael stood, cracked his knuckles and looked into Operations' eyes "You know that I can't let her get away with this don't you?"

Operations nodded, swallowing hard, "I know Michael, but she is the only one that might know if it can be reversed." he was buying time.

"Maybe she would be willing to trade, her life for Nikita's memory?" He decided to give the Operative the chance to make the decision on his own. "If she doesn't know or is unwilling to help me.... I will kill her!" He simply stated.

"I don't blame you." Was all he could answer. Michael turned to leave, turned back as if to say something, tapped the COM panel bringing Operations attention to the green light, smiled and walked out.

************

(17)

Madeline sat behind her desk, drumming her fingers on the intercom system and wondering "what to do? What to do?" Inside she was both a mixture of seething rage and confusion mixed with a dread she hadn't known since her days as an operative. "Damn you Paul for doing this to me!" She started to rise from behind the desk, paused and sat back down.

Every creak, the smallest noise from outside her office made Madeline's insides jump and her hair stand on edge. Would it be Paul coming to tell her that she was being cancelled? Would it be Michael? She knew he would more than willingly cancel her if given the opportunity. The knock on the door made her jump up from behind the desk, hitting her knee on the slightly opened drawer and putting a nice gash in her leg. This was the least of her worries, if Michael got his hands on her, she was more than sure the next gash might just be across her skinny little neck. "I have to find a way to undo this, or at least get Michael on my side...." She waited and was greatly relieved to see Walter coming through the door. "Walter..." she stammered "What can I do for you?" She leaned a hip against the desk and lifted her leg to examine the damage she had done. "Nice cut Madeline."

Walter smiled to himself, first because it was obviously painful, but also because with her leg up and cocked in that particular position, he was given a nice view of some pink lacey panties. "I was just wondering if you know what is going on with Nikita?" Walter had earlier that day decided to see how eager Madeline might be to get him to assist her with readjusting Nikita. "I know she was brought in from a failed mission in critical condition...." she dabbed a tissue on the tender skin that oozed bright red blood down the front of her leg.

Walter turned his back to her, pretending to take interest in her various flowers and plants. "Nice Venus flytrap, personal favorite?" He couldn't resist. Madeline didn't miss the inside "humor". "It does what it has to to survive Walter," she said in a noncommittal type of way. "We all do!" she returned to her seat behind her desk and waited for the older man to turn around. "What exactly did you come here for Walter? What are you hoping to find?" She tapped her slender fingers against the vase of lilac flowers that sat at the corner of her desk.

"Okay, I'll level with you." He turned excitedly "I know something was done on the last mission, not the one where she was hurt, the one before that...she's not the same.... Somethingís different but I can't quite put my finger on it." He wasn't giving all of it away. "I just want to find a way to bring her back Madeline, that's all." He turned, crossed the room and sat down without being asked. "Got any ideas what happened?" He liked making her squirm. Madelines' eyes roamed everywhere except on Walter and he realized she reminded him of a rat in a maze.


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