The tension inside the vehicle could have easily been cut with a knife and Birkoff felt as if he were suffocating him as they drove in silence. He felt uneasiness as he contemplated what exactly he could now tell George that would appease him and keep a need for retaliation to a minimum.
"Where is Adrian now?" George assumed that Operations would have been intelligent enough not to risk keeping her in Section. "I don't know for sure," he answered with the utmost honesty. "Michael got her out of Section a while ago" it was vague but truly all he knew. "Michael?" he turned almost colliding with the car directly in front of them. "How is Michael involved in this?" his voice was raising in crescendo.
"He took Adrian to protect her but also to try and make Madeline reprogram Nikita," he knew it didn't make sense to hear it and that George was going to need a complete debrief but he surely didn't know where exactly to start.
"Reprogram?" his head was twisting and turning trying to keep with the conversation at the same time he tried to keep the vehicle in his lane. "Okay, this is all I know" Birkoff's hands were flying in time with his words. "Apparently Michael and Nikita were having a relationship of some sorts and Madeline and Operations decided to end it so it didn't interfere with their numbers." he began. "She decided to reprogram Nikita using something called the Gelman process, whatever that is." He didn't want to sound as if he were rambling. "She wanted the memory of Michael erased from Nikita's mind to make her a more efficient operative but something wasn't quite right. Nikita was more like a killer zombie if you ask me," he turned toward the man making sure he had his attention.
"Continue," was all George said as he concentrated on what he was being told. "Anyway, Michael not only found out what Madeline had done, he found out she had previously attempted to reprogram Adrian as well." he saw the frown on the older man's face.
"And?" he hoped that Adrian was still alive for both his and her sake along with Operations and Madeline when they realized what he now knew.
"Michael took her from Section to help him reprogram Nikita but after that I don't really know," he sounded genuinely disappointed. "Michael was, is," he corrected himself, "after Madeline because he wants to make sure Nikita is 100%." He sat back and sighed knowing what he had just told George would probably get him canceled when Operations found out.
They stopped for lunch a short time later and Birkoff had to force himself to eat. "Mr. Birkoff, I know you took a huge chance contacting Oversight," he began as he stirred a cup of coffee. "You'll never know how much this means to me," he reached to touch the younger man's hand. "I don't know if you are aware but Adrian was my boss once and my lover." He smiled to reassure the young man that what he was sharing was his way of saying that he wanted Birkoff to trust him.
"So relationships are allowed in Sections?" he stared at the elderly man.
"Well, I don't know if you can say allowed although they do occur from time to time," he sipped the piping hot liquid. "Take Madeline and Operations." He chuckled, "For years I assumed they were an item, she was his material at one time but I could never confirm it." He shrugged, "It didn't seem that important, their numbers were high, they got the job done so I really didn't see a reason to interfere." He set the cup on the saucer and decided to dig into the salad he had ordered.
"Please, relax, what you've told me will stay between us for now" Birkoff gulped loudly "What I mean Mr. Seymour is that as far as Operations is concerned," he chewed at a piece of lettuce, "I'm sure he'll want a complete debrief when you return?" Birkoff nodded. "We'll give you something plausible to tell him and keep him happy" he smiled reassuringly. "I promise you young man, nothing will happen to you because of this." Birkoff sighed a great sigh of relief and dug into the hamburger he had ordered but so far had only picked at.
"Tell me more." George smiled as they continued to chat through lunch.....
During lunch, Birkoff filled George in on everything he knew about Madeline's disappearance and whatever Operations appeared to be doing to rectify the unfortunate situation.
"But do you really think he is giving 100% to get her back in Section?" he toyed with the pie they'd each ordered along with another cup of coffee.
"He's not complete without her, kinda like Michael," he sipped the hot liquid and studied the weather worn face before him.
"And Nikita?" George smiled after finishing Birkoff's thought.
"Yeah, I was there when he lost his wife Simone and until Nikita came," he paused and shuddered when he thought back to how Michael not only seemed to shut off any emotions but also how lethal he had become on missions.
"His numbers have never really gone down even with the arrival of Nikita." George reassured him. He had been caught off guard for a moment by the revelation that Oversight really did watch their operatives so closely. "Don't look so surprised Seymour, there's not much that gets past me," he took another bite of the delicious Dutch Apple pie. "Do you think Oversight and Section could have survived all these years being anything but less than 100% efficient?" he finished the pie, dabbed at the corner of his mouth and took one last sip of coffee. "Well, now on to Oversight" he smiled and both men rose. Birkoff started to reach into a pants pocket but was stopped by George "Lunch is on me," he put the amount plus a generous tip on the tray the waitress had provided.
Michael and Davenport had everything laid out on paper and rechecked each other's figures and facts to be sure that nothing was missing. Nikita and Elena came into the study a short time later to check on any progress the two were making. "How's it going?" she smiled as she stood beside Michael looking over his shoulder at the plans they had been working over.
"We're almost set here, how are your operatives?" he knew that she had been working them hard. The woman seemed almost more prepared then some of the male operatives and this bothered Michael.
"I'll have them ready." Davenport had reassured him on more than once occasion.
"They'd better be and you had better remind them this is no amateur we're going up against." he wanted everyone prepared for anything that Madeline might have in store for them.
"I understand Michael," he backed away to leave Michael and the two women to talk.
"I know you do, do they?" the face was blank which told Davenport that Michael would not settle for anything less than full containment on this mission. Failure was not an option and Davenport made a mental note to remind his men.
"I've got a training session set up in less than fifteen minutes, I'd better go" he thumbed a motion toward the door and excused himself. He didn't like the Mission Mode Michael much except when it came to having someone watching his back, then he wouldn't trade this side of Michael for anything. It was true, when Michael led missions, they were successful and the loss of lives was minimal.
"Michael, are you truly ready to go up against Madeline?" Elena sat on the leather sofa across from the desk. Nikita had taken a seat on the edge of the wooden furniture and sat swinging her legs back and forth waiting for his answer.
"I sure hope so." Nikita smiled trying to reassure Elena that nothing would be overlooked by either of them.
"No!" the answer shocked them both.
"No?" Nikita's eyebrows rose as she turned her head and stared at him with disbelief. "No?" she repeated.
"We could use a few more days but we have to be ready to move when she calls," he returned her stare.
"And what makes you so sure she's going to?" Nikita looked first at him then back at Elena who for all intents and purposes could have been absent for as much as his answer was directed at her.
"She calls every two weeks like clock work." Elena assured them. "If she stays true to form, she'll be calling sometime tomorrow."
Nikita bit her lip trying to decide if they hadn't bitten off more than they could chew. Michael studied her and was sure he knew what she was thinking. Perhaps he should have lied and simply said they were and could handle the situation.
Elena had left them to talk amongst themselves after realizing that Michael's answer had put Nikita in a mood. She couldn't ever remember Michael not being sure of a situation. Not that many came up during the time they were together but the job he held had sometimes required split second decisions on his part and from what she did remember, he'd always been in charge of the situations that seemed to crop up.
"NO?" Nikita shouted at him now, her arms swinging in an animated way. "Michael, we can't go into this if we are not prepared!" talk about stating the obvious.
"We have no choice," he sat there silently studying her movements.
"Michael, surely we have enough operatives to handle Madeline?" she wanted an answer that he couldn't give her.
"Perhaps," was the most he had to offer.
"Tell me the truth Michael?" she spun around "Do you think Madeline is that untouchable?" she watched each nuance of his motions as he struggled to explain.
"She's not afraid to die" he looked at her with the most straight forward glance "That makes her untouchable" he knew that unless Nikita could openly admit that she herself was not afraid to die, she would never understand it.
"Everyone's afraid to die, they know they are going to one day but it's the fear of how that everyone shares," she was so sure of herself until she saw Michael shaking his head. "You're going to tell me that you are not afraid to die? Not afraid of how your are going to die?" she stared in total disbelief.
"No, I'm not afraid of dying!" he stood up and came around the desk to where she stood. "I know that I will one day die" he took her face in his hands to make her look directly at him. "I know it will most likely be by the hands of Section or an enemy of Section but Nikita, I died when I lost Simone. I died when I lost Adam and most of all, I died when I believed that Madeline had succeeded in erasing me from not only your memory but your heart!" She saw tears welling within the emerald pools of his eyes. "Any death other than what I've been through might just be a blessing" he kissed her gently on the lips then drew her tightly to him. She was snuggled against his chest as she thought about what he had just shared with her and she couldn't be sure but she thought she felt him tremble and give a huge sigh.
"I won't let you die," she whispered into the heavy material of the sweater he was wearing.
Davenport was quite satisfied with the way his recruits were training. They exchanged blow after blow in hand to hand combat and no one gave and inch. "That's enough for now!" he called them to the center of the training floor.
"We can do better" one of the men reported.
"No, you've done good and as long as each of you remember that this is Madeline we are going up against, I think we can succeed with our goals" they nodded in agreement. "Tomorrow I think we'll hold a training session with Nikita's team," he laughed knowing that she had been working overtime with them. "And fellas" they turned as they were leaving, "No holds barred, they have to be ready for the real thing," he knew that some would be holding back but wanted them to be assured he wasn't expecting it.
The two groups stood in the training room sizing each other up. The men outnumbered the women so Davenport had split them according to size and apparent temperament. Michael was standing overhead on the bridge watching Nikita and her team carefully measuring up the situation at hand. Davenport looked up only enough to let Michael know he was aware of his presence. "Ladies, gentlemen let's get started" and before two of the men knew what hit them, two of Nikita's teams delivered well times abdominal blows and brought them down to the mat gasping for air. As the two lay struggling to breathe, the two women simply spun in mid air waiting for the next line of attackers to approach.
Nikita smiled to show she was impressed but missed the attacker who had made a running start at her from behind her back. She was momentarily stunned as he delivered a blow to her back that sent her flying forward into two more of Davenport's team. She recovered well enough to ward one of them off and when she'd finished subduing him, she turned her attention to the other who was taking a combat stance that would have ordinarily made it difficult to take him off his feet. Nikita curled on the ground as if she were still in pain and when she saw a brief window of opportunity, she spun around uncurling her long legs and swept his out from under him. Immediately she twisted and wound up with his neck and arms pinned between her ankles.
"Enough" he yelled slamming his foot into the mat to get her to release her hold but she wasn't done yet. As she wiggled her foot, she managed to get him into a sleeper hold and he was unconscious in a matter of seconds.
"Nikita" she heard Michael's voice from overhead and she stopped along with the other teammates to look up at him. "Train them, don't kill them" he smiled as he surveyed the damage. So far, four of Davenport's team lay on the ground either out cold or writhing in pain.
"Sorry" she snickered as Davenport made an attempt to reach out his hand to help her up. Instead she brought her feet up into his stomach and yanked her quickly over her head. He hit the mat with such force that she heard the him exhale as his body hit the ground.
"Nikita!" Michael was smiling. He had certainly trained her well. Davenport had no intention of being overpowered by a woman but having been winded momentarily, Nikita managed to crawl on top of him and pin him to the floor.
"Say uncle," she laughed in his face.
"NEVER!" she felt him recoiling under her grasp.
"Uncle?" she teased but he had other plans.
He simply twisted and rolled pinning her underneath his body. He locked his ankles around her feet to keep her stationary "What do you think Michael? Should I steal a kiss?" he laughed inches from her face.
She was not amused as she looked up and saw him laughing. "Don't even think it" she hissed having a hard time breathing under his weight. "I'll kill you first!" she struggled but could not free herself.
"Say uncle" he teased feeling her energy welling up beneath him. "Say uncle or I get a kiss" he puckered up and he felt her pushing harder against him. "Struggling only turns me on," he smiled inches from her lips.
"Don't do it Davenport." Michael's voice held a lightness neither Davenport nor Nikita had heard in a while.
"Just a little kiss for me?" he moved closer as she finally freed one leg and brought it up to his groin.
"Kiss me and you won't want another woman for a while," she seethed.
"She's getting angry Michael," he would not relent in his teasing. "I think she needs a new man," he looked at her, "what do you think?"
She brought her knee up hard and the pain quickly registered on his face, as he had no choice but to release his grip on her. "Oh," he struggled for air. "Sorry, I'm happy with my man," she rolled out from under him, spun on top and pinned him once more. "Uncle?" she laughed as he nodded. They had done enough for today.
All in all, Michael, Davenport and Nikita were very happy with the way the operatives had trained. The men had not held back and the women had not been afraid to initiate combat with them. The three sat together in the study discussing what had transpired today. "I think they will be able to handle themselves." Nikita ran a finger through her still sweat damp mane.
"I agree, they showed marked improvement in all areas" Davenport agreed as he sipped from a bottle of ice water. "
How are their shooting scores?" Michael wanted to make sure every aspect of their accelerated training schedule had been covered.
"The men show 98% efficiency and the women are right behind with about 96%."
Michael liked the numbers. "We might just be able to pull this off" he smiled and continued studying the layout of the area. "We've got to get some of the mines in place and I want this place wired, no escape routes and no surprises" they both nodded in agreement.
"Well, shall we have a group dinner tonight?" Michael smiled at Nikita's suggestion.
"Elena is already taking care of that."