Belinda stood before Madeline two days after having returned from her original scouting mission. "I don't understand." Madeline was sitting, legs crossed while doing some sort of meditation ritual. "I assumed that you scouted the entire camp when you returned?" her voice held a question that Belinda hoped she could lie her way out of.
"I scouted the entrance and the main compound but I'd like to get a better feel for the terrain it would give us an advantage if we had a confirmed egress" she stood, arms at her sides waiting. "Just covering our assets Madeline." It must have struck a cord.
"Fine, who will you be taking with you?" she started to unwind her legs and rise.
"No one, I didn't need anyone last time and I'm going in for a quick look see," she hoped Madeline wouldn't push the issue.
"I can't risk losing even one of you right now Belinda," she stretched then stood directly in front of the operative.
"I understand Madeline but it's easier if I don't have to worry about someone else, you understand that don't you Madeline?" she knew that she was laying it on thick.
"Fine when will you be leaving?" she checked the clock on the wall as they moved nearer to the door. "In the hour if that's okay with you?" she didn't want to tip Madeline's hand. "Fine" and with that the older woman left her to take a shower.
"I want a shadow team to follow Belinda," she sat, towel wrapped firmly around her damn hair. "She's leaving within the hour and I'd like Kevin and Troy to follow her, make sure she does her scouting mission and nothing else." She really didn't think Belinda was up to anything but she simply wanted to be sure. Both men nodded then quickly left the room.
"You really have to learn to trust people Madeline" Alan toyed with her.
"When I want to die, I'll trust people Alan, until then, I've learned it's better not to take people at face value." She sat toweling her hair. "You trust me right?" he leaned in closer as if to kiss her. "Alan, I wouldn't even trust my own Mother," she quickly stood up and left the room. Alan felt as if he'd been slapped.
Whoever was following her wasn't doing much of a job at hiding it. She turned, they turned...she could make out only the fact that the jeep behind her had more than one occupant. She reached into her pocket for the two-way, plugged in the ear piece and returned to two hands on the wheel. "Jeffrey, come on Jeffrey, can you hear me?" she kept a steady distance between the two vehicles. "Belinda?" she heard a voice that sounded familiar but it certainly wasn't Jeffrey. "Belinda is that you?"...her heart started beating faster... it couldn't be... could it?...But how?... she found herself unable to answer... "Belinda please, if it's really you... talk to me?" the voice pleaded, breaking her heart....
She couldn't answer, she couldn't risk it although it took every ounce of strength she had not to respond to the voice that sounded so desperate and sad. "Belinda please?" she could just picture his face, tears streaming down his cheeks as he attempted to remain stoic. She stared at the two-way in her hand, her finger momentarily placed against the respond button. God how she wanted to simply tell him it was true, that she was alive, well and looking forward to the time when they could be together again. But she couldn't.
Walter was sure of the voice. It had been some time since the last time he heard it but he knew it better than he knew his own. "Belinda, it's me, Walter please just tell me it's you, tell me you're alive and I'm not cracking up? Please? One word, just one word?" she of course didn't' respond. Walter was beyond pacing. He crumbled against the back wall of Munitions as he shouted into the handheld. "Belinda for God sake please just tell me it's really you!" but still the silence was deafening. He dropped the unit and wrapped his arms around his knees and began to cry. Life at Section was cruel but even that couldn't compare to how he was feeling right now.
Birkoff was glad to have heard from Michael. He was even happier that Operations was still being kept medicated and unconscious in Medlab which would make Michael's request for a satellite up-link that much easier. He wanted to finish the downloads and forward the link to Michael before anyone realized what he was up to. His desire to let Walter know that the team was still alive and much closer to their target made him risk walking away from his com panel for the moment. He was just about whistling as he walked into Munitions, unaware that in a moment, he would see his friend in such an UN-Walter like state.
He found him, curled in a ball crying. His body was racked with sobs and Birkoff quickly knelt beside his friend. "Walter?" he gently touched him. "Walter what's wrong?" he didn't know. "Birkoff, it's Belinda," he pointed toward the discarded two-way. "Walter that's impossible, she was killed on that mission." But Walter was violently shaking his head. "No, I overheard her on that radio, she's alive Seymour," he wrapped his hands in the soft material of Birkoff's black sweater. "She's alive, I'm not crazy Birkoff, I heard her voice, I don't know how but she's alive!"....he struggled to his feet....
Birkoff tried to peel Walter from the front of his sweater. "Call down Walter, Belinda is dead," he grasped the old man's wrists and finally managed to not only pull himself free from his clenched fists but to gently guide him to a chair. "Tell me what you thought you heard?" but he could tell from the reaction on Walter's face this wasn't just something he thought. Walter's ashen face turned to him, eyes bloodshot and tearstains down his cheeks.
"I heard her Birkoff, I really did," his voice pleaded for belief. "I'm not crazy, I was checking the two-way and I heard her calling for someone named Jeffrey." he wanted his friend to understand.
"Jeffrey?" Why did the name sound so familiar to him?" he couldn't quite put his finger on it but something about the name nagged at his brain. "Then what?" he walked over and picked up the two-way.
"That was it, I called her name, begged and pleaded with her just for a simple response," he hoped Birkoff would believe him now.
"She wouldn't answer, maybe she couldn't?" he didn't want to think of the many reasons that Belinda failed to respond, it was bad enough that she hadn't.
Belinda sat in the vehicle after finally losing the shadow team and simply starred at the radio in her hand. "I'm so sorry Walter," she pressed her head against the steering wheel. "I'm so sorry my love," great sobs escaped and echoed inside the vehicle. She hoped that whoever was back at Madeline's didn't' hear Walter on the two-way. She was puzzled as to why there had been a shadow team placed on her and decided that just in case, she would drive to the compound and at the very least give the appearance of a scouting mission. Maybe then the shadow team would show their faces again.
Birkoff tried to contact the person Walter obviously thought was Belinda but all he got was static before the unit went completely dead. "I'm sorry Walter, nothing," he held it up. Walter looked crushed and as he rose, seemed to be rather unsteady on his feet. Birkoff was worried about the older man.
"Medlab," he punched a button on the COM unit in Munitions. "I need a stretcher in Munitions, NOW!" he closed the channel and barely managed to keep Walter from collapsing on the floor. "Hold on Walter, they're coming." he pushed him against the wall wedging him against his own hip.
Medlab sent two medics down to retrieve Walter. "What happened?" one of them punched in his hand unit.
"I don't know, I think he got a shock when he was working on the amp units" Birkoff felt a strong need to cover for his friend. "He's unsteady on his feet and he's been babbling" he hoped Walter wouldn't mention Belinda on the trip to Medlab. He knew that anything he said would be documented by the medics and eventually turned in to Operations.
The carried the stretcher into Medlab, carefully placed it on one table then gently lifted Walter to the gurney. The doctor came over and checked his pulse "Why's Walter here?" he looked first at one man then the other yet neither seemed to have the answer.
"Birkoff thinks he got an electric shock somehow, said he was incoherent and unstable on his feet." The doctor pulled a light from his breast pocket then proceeded to check Walter's reaction to light. "Hmmm, he seems reactive," he checked his breathing. "Breathing is a bit shallow," he started jotting notes down in the file a nurse had handed him. "I'd better run some blood tests and such," he reached for the tourniquet and gently rolled up Walter's sleeve "This will only take a minute Walter," he smiled but something inside told him that whatever was wrong with Walter, medicine wasn't going to help.
After the initial checkup, the doctor had Walter wheeled into the only available space which just happened to be next to the sleeping form of Operations. At first he didn't notice as he laid there, eyes closed going over the thoughts running through his mind. "I know it was Belinda," the tears began to fall. He didn't know where he was when he finally opened his eyes and saw the light gray ceiling tiles and bright white lights overhead. He shielded his eyes best he could then tried to sit up to take a look around. His eyes fell on Operations lying unconscious on the Gurney across the room. "It's your fault you son of a bitch!" he lunged off the table and nearly managed to topple Operation's still form off the gurney where he was laying. "I'll kill you!" he screamed as he was wrestled to the ground and given an injection to calm him down. "I mean it, I'll kill you" his voice began to sound muffled "You took her from me!" was the last thing he said before drifting off somewhere.
The doctor and medics exchanged glances, lifted him to the gurney and strapped him down. "This will keep him quiet for a while" he looked at the bottle in his hand, shook his head and walked away.
Birkoff returned to his station after securing Munitions. He knew that Walter wouldn't be returning to his area anytime that day and since there were no missions up, it was safe to close the gates, lock up and turn out the lights. Sitting directly across the opening, it was odd to see only a black space instead of the occasional glimpse of Walter hurriedly working back and forth across the expanse of the room. Funny what became normal to you.
He didn't know what to do next. He'd managed to finish connecting the up-link, downloading it to each addressed panel that Michael had supplied then erased any possibility of his work being traced. Now he simply sat, head in hand worrying about his friend. The name that Walter had mentioned still bothered him and just for something to do, he began running profiles of Operatives in Section. When he could find no one that matched the name living, he decided to check the Abeyance records, which again told him absolutely nothing. It was only after he had given the computer the date of Belinda's death that something began to make sense. The list that the computer supplied were names of operatives on the same mission as Belinda, all past Abeyance operatives and all supposedly accounted for. There were five in all. Belinda, Marshall, Shannon, Thomas, Lance and finally Jeffrey.
The name might as well have been surrounded by clanging bells with the reaction it drew from Birkoff. "BINGO!" he shouted before realizing he wasn't alone. "Sorry," he laughed trying to cover the monitor from prying eyes. It was just a start but something inside told Birkoff he'd just uncovered the identity of Jeffrey although why he was supposedly still alive was something that wasn't' clear. Maybe Walter isn't so crazy after all he thought to himself.
The only thing left to do was contact Michael. He'd have the answers, or so Birkoff hoped and since Operations was still in Medlab, Birkoff felt relatively safe doing so. It took a few minutes but he was finally able to secure a line. "Michael?" he waited. "Michael it's Birkoff" he knew that the senior Operative would know something was wrong just by him taking a risk in contacting him again so soon.
Michael sounded shocked and irritated. "Birkoff, why are you contacting me so soon?"
Birkoff swallowed hard. "Well, I got the up-link like you asked," he started off on what he hoped was good news. "Naturally" he knew Michael would have been monitoring his handiwork by now.
"What else Birkoff?" Nothing got past Michael.
"There's been a problem Michael," he held his breath gain.
"What is it Birkoff?" he knew that there was no pussy footing around with him.
"Walter's had a nervous breakdown!" there, he'd said it and now that it was out in the open the tears welled in his eyes. He was forced to remove his glasses to dab a tissue to his eyes. "He thinks he heard Belinda on a two-way radio" he added then waited in unbearable silence.
"He's not crazy Birkoff, she's alive," was the simple statement. "But she's not the only one" Michael added.
"I know," was Birkoff's reply...
"I have five Abeyance operatives that are supposed to be dead." Birkoff sounded stunned that Michael already knew... "You know? How?" he found himself running off at the mouth with little hope of stopping himself. "Who would have kept them alive?" his questions continued to roll "Operations obviously doesn't know about this right?" Birkoff was giving Michael little chance to reply.
"Birkoff," came the steady drone of Michael's unemotional voice. "What?" he couldn't seem to keep himself from sounding hurt for not being kept in the loop. "Birkoff shut up!" was the response. "We just found out about this ourselves so let's keep it that way okay?" he never sounded angry, hurt, happy, sad but somehow, Birkoff knew when he meant what he said.
"Who's behind this Michael?" he simply had to know.
"Madeline, she's been planning her break for some time it appears" Michael knew that the info would definitely go no further. "How many in all?" Birkoff could account for only five. "There are ten total, she siphoned one or two off the last several missions then got brave when she realized that Nikita might not be permanently altered like she thought and took the last five," that really was all he knew.
"So, Belinda's alive? What am I supposed to tell Walter when he wakes up?" he sat tapping a pencil on the comm panel. "Birkoff, put the pencil down, tell Walter only that Belinda is alive and he will hopefully see her soon," and with that the transmission between the two men was broken. Birkoff erased any trace of the transmission found someone to cover for him and raced off to Medlab.
"Why is Walter restrained?" he noticed that both wrists and ankles were shackled to the gurney.
"Because he tried to strangle Operations" the doctor didn't sound totally surprised. "We had to keep him sedated as well, more for his own protection" the smile didn't leave the older man's face, "He should be coming around soon though" he turned and left the two friends together.
"Walter?" Birkoff lightly slapped his cheek to get some response and when there was none, proceeded to slap his friend a bit harder. "Slap me again and I'll break your arm Amigo" he whispered. Birkoff was relieved. "Walter, you're not crazy," he wanted to be the first to tell him although thinking about the what the doctor had just told him Walter had attempted made him wonder. "I'm not?" his voice still sounded heavy and slow. "No, Belinda is alive," he leaned in closer, "apparently Madeline kept her and some others alive for some reason," he didn't want to go any further.
"I want to see her," the older man attempted to sit up but was stopped by the restraints "Take these damn things off of me!" his voice raised.
"I uh, hmmm I'd better see what the doctor says" Birkoff didn't want to be held accountable for Walter's actions...