Davenport realized that Nikita had been on target with her assessment. Everyone seemed more relaxed after an evening spent playing various games. At one point, Operations had managed to stumble into the room with the assistance of one of the operatives who had chosen not to play their games. "Just what the hell is going on?" He looked around the entire room, giving each person the same disgusted look. Michael, Nikita and Davenport tried quickly to untangle themselves from each other having just gotten into a game of Twister. If Operations had any sense of humor, he might have felt the picture of three of his top operatives tangled in a heap on the floor was something to laugh at. Instead he found himself growing increasingly irate. "Is this the way you were taught to prepare for an upcoming mission?" His voice was stronger than it had been the previous day. Davenport was the first off the floor, trying hard to straighten his T-shirt, he looked the most guilty of the three.

"Sorry sir, we were just trying to relieve some of the tension," he hurriedly tucked his shirt into his pants. Nikita was the next one off the floor. She looked nowhere near as guilty as Davenport had. "Everyone has been at each other's throats, what could the possible harm be in playing a few games?" She stood before Operations waiting for his reply but all he did was stare at her causing her to swallow hard. Michael took his time rising from the floor. No longer feeling the need to slip into Mission Mode, he stood before Operations "Maybe this is not the way that Section trains its operatives for missions but this is the way that I choose to do it!"

Operations appeared almost stunned. He was not used to having someone stand up to him especially in front of other operatives. "The rest of you are dismissed," he ordered in a low rough tone. No one moved, instead they all turned toward Michael and waited for any forthcoming orders. "I said," his voice raised in anger "you are all dismissed as of right now!" Still no one moved but all eyes were Michael. Operations did not like what was happening. Michael simply stood there, arms across his chest defying Operations to do something about the situation at hand. Operations did not know what to do next. Without his beloved Madeline by his side, Operations had never before had to face down an operative of Michael caliber. "Michael I would like to see you alone, please?" If Operations had been paying closer attention, he might have seen this snicker on several of the other operative's faces.

Michael turned to the others of the room "we can finish this came later." Everyone nodded and left the room silently. "Nikita, Davenport I would like you both to stay." Operations opened his mouth as if to say something, saw the chiding look from Michael and thought better of it.



The door had no sooner closed behind the other operatives who had exited the room and Operations started screaming. "Do any of you care to tell me just what the hell is going on around here?" He had to steady himself against the arm of the overstuffed leather chair to maintain his balance. When Michael turned around, the look on his face caused Operations to pause for a moment. Michael's arms were crossed and he rested a finger against his lips as if in thought. Davenport and Nikita exchanged worried glances and wondered what was going to come out of Michael's mouth. Michael paced the perimeter of the room, slowly circling the man he had once been so afraid of. Operations could do little more than watch his top operative gather his thoughts and wait for what ever was to come.

Michael stopped directly in front of him but still he said nothing. When his eyes finally met Operations the look in them was a mixture of pure hates and contempt. "What is going on around here? Is that I am finally going to do, is that we, my team, we are going to do something that you have been unable to or unwilling to do." he moved a step closer "we are going to finally bring Madeline in and turn her over to George." Michael enjoyed the flash of fear and uncertainty that raced across Operations face.

Operations sat down with a sigh, "If you do that George will surely have Madeline canceled," he looked up and Michael and for the first time it appeared that the years had finally caught up with him. "Michael, I'm begging you not to do that?"

Davenport waited for his team leader's next response "You are begging me?" Operations nodded "Why? What right do you have to ask something like that of me?" The tone of his voice told Operations that he was walking a very thin line where Michael was concerned. "You take me off the streets, you turn me into an assassin? You take away the woman I loved, the child I fathered and his mother, the woman that you forced me to marry." He began pacing, "you willingly allowed that woman to nearly destroy the only other woman that I will ever love and you think that you have any right to ask me to spare her life?"

Both Davenport and Nikita were too stunned by Michael's revelations. Nikita knew that it had been festering deep within Michael since the day that she had found out the truth about Simone. That had been the start of Michael's doubts about Section. If they had lied to him about Simone why then would they have not lied about everything else? Michael chided himself for ever having doubted Nikita when she had once told him "I am not who you think I am, I never killed anyone!" It all came rushing back to him and he had all to do to control his temper. Operations looked to Davenport and then Nikita for any assistance, both turned their backs on him.

Davenport took it all in. Up until now he had only known bits and pieces of Michael's life but now that he knew the truth, his admiration for his leader's ability to control his temper and not simply killed man seated before him proved his worthiness to one day take over Section.

Nikita walked over to where Michael stood, gently she reached out and pulled Michael away. "You have a whole lot of nerve to beg for Madeline's life," she turned and glared at him. "If you really think about it Paul," she dragged out his name. "Madeline did not give a damned what would become of you either." She stood between Michael and Operations "She knew that George would be breathing down your neck to find her. She also knew that George would hold you personally responsible for her ability to escape Section in the first place. You didn't see her begging for your life!" With that she took Michael's arm and left Operations alone with his thoughts. Davenport quietly slipped out behind them.



Davenport dutifully followed Michael and Nikita down the corridor toward the Com Center. From the discrete distance he carefully held between them, he could tell that they were discussing what had just occurred. It amazed him still that Michael had calmly stated his case when Davenport probably would have found it more rewarding to beat the living daylights out of the man that screwed with all of their lives. "Michael, Nikita you'd better get to Com now!" came the harried voice of Birkoff. "What is it Birkoff?" Michael's voice quickly reverted to his usual calm. "Sensors are picking up incoming hostiles" he slipped into his tactical mode and Nikita sensed that this was not merely a drill of some sorts. "We're on our way" Nikita replied as the trio took off at a run toward the center of the building.

Birkoff and Walter were monitoring the viewing screens laid out in an arc around them. Neither looked up as the doors swooshed open and Michael, Nikita and Davenport hurried in. "How many?" Michael slipped into the spot where Walter had been standing. "First readings indicated three vehicles with 8 occupants" he looked up at Michael. "Second readings? Can you tell who they are?" Birkoff knew that Michael was hoping they could get a read if one of the occupants was Madeline but he had to shake his head. "She had her thermal tracker removed before she'd left Section" he pointed to their obvious point of attack "Are we ready for this?" Davenport directed his question to Walter. The other operatives had been notified and were quickly taking up positions around the COM unit. "We're ready" he smiled and the assurance that one movement brought was enough to slightly settle the growing fear within Nikita.

Michael moved the entire group into Walter's area. "I'll expect full reports before any shots are exchanged" the command came out unmistakable in its meaning. "Sir, what is our goal?" one of the female operatives was assisting in unloading weaponry from it's storage units. "Our goal is to take Madeline alive" Michael looked at her. "And the others?" she noticed Walter stop his movements "Acceptable collateral" he looked up then saw Walter standing back, mouth agape "You were all aware of an Operative named Belinda?" they nodded one by one. "She is NOT, and I am repeating that she is NOT acceptable collateral. She's one of us and under no circumstances is she to be harmed" he paused for effect "not one hair on her head is that understood?" he saw Walter heave a sigh of relief "Thank you" he mouthed. Michael simply nodded.

Madeline was sure that her decision to make an unannounced visit to Jurgen was the right thing to do. Belinda wasn't so sure. She knew that whoever Michael had assigned to Com would be quickly aware of any approaching vehicles and might take it as a hostile maneuver. "You told him you'd call him first," she argued valiantly. "This is only going to cause problems if he already doesn't trust you" she pointed out the obvious but was once again rewarded with that dam smile "He'll have to get over it!" The statement summed up all the time Madeline's actions had hurt others. "You're asking for a war Madeline" she hoped that she didn't sound to sure "from what you told me, you need Jurgen to keep free of Section or did I read something from our conversations?" Madeline turned around and starred at her "I need Jurgen's base of operations" she was loading the weapon she now had in her hand "I have never needed Jurgen" she smiled and leveled the weapon at Belinda. "You are with me aren't you?" Belinda backed away while nodding.